01. Ancient Alexandrographs + Comments, 1.2 Arrian, Alexander - Non Fiction Book, Reviews

English Book Review: “L’India. Testo greco a fronte” by Arrian

Quotes in italian: HERE.

Recensione in italiano: QUI.

Good day everyone, thank you for being once again on Alessandro III di Macedonia- your source on Alexander the Great. Today I review the second of the fundamental readings of the “classics” on Alexander that I still lacked to read and that I am recovering. Today I tell you about:

L’India – testo greco a fronte

by Arriano

Introductory essay by Dino Ambaglio

Introduction, translation and notes by Alessandra Oliva

Bur Rizzoli, 2000, 160 pages

ISBN: 978-8817173230

Alexander the Great in his expedition to conquer the world had reached the fabulous India when his soldiers, exhausted by years of continuous wars, forced him to retire.

Arrian, who had already narrated the Macedonian parable in The Anabasis of Alexander, decided to dedicate a work also to the description of that unknown and mysterious land based essentially on the travel diaries of Nearchus, the admiral of Alexander, and of Megasthenes, Seleucus Nicator ambassador to the Indian king Chandragupta. And despite being the only monograph on the Indian subcontinent that has come down to us from the classical world, more than a true ethnographic and geographical treatise India is a celebration of Hellenic value and heroism in an adverse and dangerous land.

The introduction by Dino Ambaglio analyzes the sources of Arrian and the characteristics and purposes of the treatise.

By ARRIANO (ca. 90 – after 150 AD), high imperial official and officer of the army of Trajan, BUR also published The Anabasis of Alexander.
DINO AMBAGLIO (1950-2008) taught Epigraphy and Greek History at the University of Pavia.

Classificazione: 4 su 5.

Reading time: from 16th to 17th May 2020.

I’d like to have read this quick book immediately after The Anabasis of Alexander because Arrian makes many references to the main text and is to be read if you want to have a more complete view of Alexander’s Asian expedition.

Indica represents one of the few examples of travel and exploration books that came to us from antiquity which is integral even if it is not accompanied by maps. The main differences with Anabasis are in the sources and in the language in which they are written: Anabasis is written in the attic and uses Ptolemy and Aristobulus as major sources; Indica is in the Ionian dialect and has Nearchus and Eratosthens as sources, to which is added Megasthens, diplomat of Seleucus I Necator to the Indian king Chandragupta. It is divided into two parts: from chapter 1 to 17 is a geo-ethnographic description of India, while from chapters 18 to 43 there is the real narration of the coastal journey of Nearchus from the mouths of the Indus to the Persian Gulf.

The part I liked the most, although it’s written in a very telegraphic, concise, essential and didactic way, is the second one, that of the logbook of Alexander’s navarch, while the first more descriptive part, also tells of places not visited by Alexander and his army, although useful for getting to know those populations so far from Greek customs and customs a little better. Here we also understand how Nearchus was chosen by Alexander as admiral of his fleet.

It’s a reading that those who want completeness must do, many consider it the eighth book of Anabasis and, although there are substantial differences, in my opinion it deserves to be more emphasized. If this were published together with the major work it would probably be read more.

As always, I’m unable to comment on Alessandra Oliva’s translation because I don’t know Greek, but what I can say about the edition of the BUR in the Classici greci e latini series is that is accurate and excellent!

I hope to be useful, good day to all,

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