Arrian the Historian
Writing the Greek Past in the Roman Empire
192 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.00 in
Sales Date: April 20, 2021
During the first centuries of the Roman Empire, Greek intellectuals wrote a great many texts modeled on the dialect and literature of Classical Athens, some 500 years prior. Among the most successful of these literary figures were sophists, whose highly influential display oratory has been the prevailing focus of scholarship on Roman Greece over the past fifty years. Often overlooked are the period’s historians, who spurned sophistic oral performance in favor of written accounts. One such author is Arrian of Nicomedia.
Daniel W. Leon examines the works of Arrian to show how the era's historians responded to their sophistic peers’ claims of authority and played a crucial role in theorizing the past at a time when knowledge of history was central to defining Greek cultural identity. Best known for his history of Alexander the Great, Arrian articulated a methodical approach to the study of the past and a notion of historical progress that established a continuous line of human activity leading to his present and imparting moral and political lessons. Using Arrian as a case study in Greek historiography, Leon demonstrates how the genre functioned during the Imperial Period and what it brings to the study of the Roman world in the second century.
Leon weaves the role of Arrian as a seminal historiographer and practitioner of intertextuality into the understanding of “modern” classicists and historians. Heady stuff and an impressive—and subtle—proposition, taking a scalpel to our comprehension of Arrian’s life and works; skipping over the traditional, well-trodden source-analysis route; and thoroughly justifying the ensuing text as well as illuminating the complicated intellectualism of Imperial Rome. This book is clearly and dynamically argued and will be a worthwhile addition to modern scholarship on Arrian’s ancient Greek history as it was perceived in and affected the Imperial Roman world. This is a seriously important book.~Pat Wheatley
In contrast to other contemporary (or roughly contemporary) historians, such as Appian and Cassius Dio, Arrian is quite understudied and even underappreciated. Leon nicely situates this study in the context of past and current work on the Second Sophistic, demonstrating the need for this book. It has the potential to make a significant contribution not only to our appreciation of Arrian but also to our understanding of attitudes toward history and historical writing during this period.~Alain M. Gowing
[Leon] notes from the outset that previous scholars have tended to focus more on Arrian's body of work rather than the man himself, often overlooking his literary outputs. [Leon] seeks to remedy that, comparing Arrian's work to that of his predecessors, such as Thucydides and Plutarch, to argue that literary criticism was part of Arrian's aim...Throughout the text, the author provides ample examples of ancient authors' writings in the original Greek alongside translations...Recommended.~CHOICE
[Arrian the Historian] is a welcome addition to a growing number of works examining the intellectualism of previously neglected ancient historians, offering a clear and concise analysis of Arrian’s historical thought and historiographical purpose.~Ancient History Bulletin
Leon’s book is a welcome contribution to the field of Arrianic studies, as it constitutes an original, thorough and successful effort to contextualise Arrian’s compositional strategies ...within the prism of literary and intellectual trends of the Second Sophistic...[Arrian the Historian is] cohesively argued and attractively produced. Leon vigorously and in an unprecedented way invites us to speculate on the ways in which imperial readership could have read Arrian’s oeuvre...as part of Arrian’s dialogue with current intellectual and literary trends. In this way he unearths an abundance of facets of the relationship between Arrian and the Second Sophistic.~The Classical Review
[A] brief but excellent book…Leon has produced an important contribution to the study of Arrian, of Greek historiography, and of the intellectual culture of the second century CE. The book is well written and enjoyable to read.~Histos
[Leon's] focus on how Arrian operated as a historian in the context of Greek historiography is one of [Arrian the Historian's] most significant contributions, not least because Leon’s detection of hitherto unnoticed patterns enriches our understanding of Arrian and the genre...[Arrian the Historian] raises important questions about the nature of historiography and historical education in the imperial period...Arrian the Historian should assist in stimulating further discussion about the intellectual climate of the second century AD.~Bryn Mawr Classical Review
Note on Texts and Translations
Chapter 1. Amateurs, Experts, and History
Chapter 2. Novelty and Revision in the Works of Arrian
Chapter 3. Alexander among the Kings of History
Chapter 4. Sickness, Death, and Virtue
Appendix: The Date of the Anabasis
Abbreviations in the Notes and Bibliography
The publication of Arrian the Historian was made possible by the support of the Classics and the Ancient World Endowment (NEH).