01. Ancient Alexandrographs + Comments, 1.2 Arrian, Alexander - Non Fiction Book, Alexander's Alexandria

English Book Review: “The Anabasis of Alexander the Great” by Arrian

Recensione in italiano: QUI

Good day everyone, thanks to be here on Alessandro III di Macedonia- your source about Alexander the Great! Today I’m sharing the english review of a book I read in italian. I’m talking about:

The Anabasis of Alexander the Great by Arrian

Italian Edition by Rizzoli

On the feat of Alexander the Great, the young king of Macedonia who, having departed from Greece in 334 BC, conquered the boundless Persian empire in ten years, arriving as far as India to die at 33 in Babylon, many works were written immediately, in half between the historical story and the adventure novel. Among the few that have come down to us, the Anabasis of Alexander, written five centuries after the death of its protagonist and still today at the base of the modern historiography on Macedonian. The fascination of this book is due not so much to the story of the battles, of the expedients, of the camp life, as to the sense of openness to different and unknown worlds, to the wonder in front of the immensity of the earth and the variety of its inhabitants, to the experiences and encounters with the most diverse peoples lived without ethnic prejudice, to the story of the great project – left unfinished due to the untimely death of the conqueror – of fusion between peoples, which would unite the whole known world into a single homeland.

5 stars

Reading time: from 27th July to 10th August 2018

This book is essential for every Alexander fan because it’s complete and comprehensive. I have not found, at least so far, other works so detailed, full of names of cities that Alexander found in his journey and of peoples with whom he fought. As many will know, Arrian doesn’t tell the whole life of the young leader, but he begins his account from the departure for the invasion of Asia, in fact, anabasis means precisely “expedition from the sea coast to the interior of a country.”

Arrian is an admirer of Alexander, he writes several times that he praises him for what he did.

“I consider the great deeds of Alexander as proof of the fact that neither a powerful physicist for those who have it, nor an illustrious origin, nor having even more luck than Alexander in war, even if one circumnavigating Libya conquered it by adding it, as he thought he would do, not even if he added Europe as a third to Asia and Libya, to Asia, none of this happiness of man, if at the same time there is no wisdom in this man who has performed , as it seems, great deeds.”

and yet this sentence demonstrates how much he valued him:

“I know, however, that only Alexander, at least among the ancient kings, came to repent of his mistakes because of his nobility of spirit.”

but despite this he does’t exempt himself from criticizing or pointing out when Alexander was wrong

“On that occasion he showed himself to be overwhelmed by two vices, one and the other of which it is not appropriate for a wise man to let himself be overcome, anger and drunkenness.”

Arrian clearly demonstrates that Alexander was not a stingy king, but rather tried to help his men as much as possible:

“unwilling to spend money on his own pleasure, very generous for the benefit of others.”

The author refers mainly to two sources now alas lost, those of Ptolemy and of Aristobulus and often they don’t coincide, so Arrian tries to be always objective, explains why he inclines for one rather than the other, but the ugly is that unfortunately we aren’t sure about many events. Arrian, however, also reports the rumors or the least accredited versions for completeness (and does it well) Sometimes he writes that he doesn’t know if something happened exactly that way or that one and that he doesn’t care anyway, in those places he made me smile because unfortunately he did his best and it’s not his fault that no full story of Alexander’s direct witnesses survived, but it’s bad that certain facts and events will remain obscure about such a great person.

Towards the middle of the book, Arrian begins to use direct speech more often and is beautiful because the text gains more emphasis and incision.

The ugly of the books on Alexander is that they all end badly, with him dying at the height of his success and youth, but perhaps that is precisely why he is admired so much even today, more than 2000 years later.

Arrian’s work is monumental and, I repeat, it’s indispensable for every fan of Alexander. It’s not a beach reading but it’s worth it.

Thanks for reading! Greetins

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