Back to top

Arrian the Historian

Arrian the Historian
Writing the Greek Past in the Roman Empire

The most comprehensive study to date of Arrian of Nicomedia as a historical thinker, this book enriches broader understandings of the way history is written and sheds new light on intellectual culture in the Roman Empire.

Series: Classics and the Ancient World Endowment

April 2021
Add to cart
192 pages | 6 x 9 |

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.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Note on Texts and Translations
  • Introduction
  • 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
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix: The Date of the Anabasis
  • Abbreviations in the Notes and Bibliography
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index Locorum
  • General Index

Daniel W. Leon is an assistant professor of classics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


“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, coauthor of Demetrius the Besieger

“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, author of Empire and Memory: The Representation of the Roman Republic in Imperial Culture


Available for Kindle
Available on Google Play
Available on Kobo
Available for Nook
Available on the Apple Store

This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca