The World of Alexander in Perspective: Contextualizing Arrian

The World of Alexander in Perspective: Contextualizing Arrian

Robert Rollinger, LFU Innsbruck; Julian Degen, LFU Innsbruck
vorarlberg museum, Kornmarktplatz 1, 6900 Bregenz, Austria
Vom - Bis
02.12.2019 - 06.12.2019
Institut für Alte Geschichte und Altorientalistik Innsbruck

The 2nd century CE author Lucius Flavius Arrianus is our most detailed source about Alexander the Great’s reign. By reading the seven books of his Anabasis Alexandrou, Arrian leaves the reader with the impression, that his work is the most reliable of the many accounts about the Macedonian conqueror. Quotations of sources, fundamental criticism of traditions as well as contrasting juxtaposition with his own experiences as military officer, statesman and trained philosopher lend credence to his work. For that reason, scholarship emphasises the value of Anabasis as the most important source for reconstructing Alexander’s reign from 336 to 323. Especially his usage of the now lost works of Ptolemy and Aristobulos as sources, is one of scholarship’s main arguments for attributing high trustworthiness to the Anabasis, because both authors were participants of the conquest and thus their reports have the character of eyewitness accounts. In addition, the so-called “two sources-theory” in Arrian-scholarship provides that Arrian unalteredly echoed Ptolemy and Aristobulos as models. For this reason, his account is believed to be the closest to the historical Alexander. Furthermore, research attributes such a high value to the Anabasis as a source, that it is criterion to classify all sources about Alexander in two traditions. On the one hand, there is the less plausible “Vulgata”-tradition represented by Diodorus, Trogus-Justin, Curtius Rufus and Plutarch, on the other hand there is Arrian, whose Anabasis is supposed to have the quality of a corrective for the “Vulgata”. Recent research is still defending this point of view.

Anyhow, modern research scrutinises both the existence of a coherent “Vulgata Tradition” and the “two-sources-theory”. A.B. Bosworth in his vast commentary, as well in his monographies, underlined to a special degree, that Arrian was eager to provide a new literary presentation of the already existing tradition about Alexander, which was known to his audience. For that reason, he used his full repertoire of literary skills as a famous author of his time to write a forceful account about Alexander. Hence, Arrian was not merely copying the works of Ptolemy and Aristoboulos (and also Nearchus), but rather creating a new account about the Macedonian ruler and as a consequence he also created a new Alexander. Recent research is aware of these problematic issues and therefore investigates the literary creative power of Arrian. In this case, the so-called Second Sophistic, as an intellectual movement in Arrian’s time, and its impact on the author is of high interest for modern scholarship. This is also true for the impact of Greek historiographers as role models. Recent research does not question the Anabasis’ significance as a source but emphasises the importance to reappraise Arrian’s creative power as an author.

Since the fundamental publications of A.B. Bosworth in the 1980s and early 1990s, research on Alexander has broken new grounds. Through the last 30 years, the Macedonian conqueror has become the object of studies of many different subjects, wherefore different approaches are able to cast new light on the Anabasis. Two reasons may be found to justify a conference with a new look on Arrian’s presentation of Alexander and his world. Firstly, until now no conference brought neither ancient historians nor scholars from other subjects together to discuss new ways in research related to Arrian. The reason for this is, that research on Alexander is still focused on historical “facts”. This can be seen in the high number of proceedings of conferences related to the “historical” or even “factual” Alexander. However, this approach largely neglects the literary dimensions of the different accounts on Alexander. Furthermore, so far research has shown little to no interest in putting a single Alexander-author at the centre of a conference. Only one workshop focused on Quintus Curtius Rufus, which proceedings have already been published. A conference on Arrian would function as a landmark publication, which would attract the attention of worldwide scholarship. Secondly, in the last 30 years many new insights have been made in different research fields that are related to Alexander’s reign. These studies do not only affect Greek historiography, epigraphy and numismatics, but also Achaemenid studies. Especially ancient Near Eastern studies focusing on the Achaemenids bring new evidence into discussion, which offer the opportunity to compare Arrian’s statements about the Persian empire with indigenous sources. A new “Eastern” perspective on the Anabasis as source for the Macedonian conquest of Asia will yield new answers to the still open question how Arrian and his sources presented Alexander and his policy towards the Persian empire. To the same extent, research on Ptolemy and his dynasty is breaking new ground. This is why a reassessment of Ptolemaic influence on Arrian is also a real desideratum. The same also applies to Alexander’s Macedonian background, which becomes more and more central. All these new ways in researching Alexander justify a reappraisal of the Anabasis by uniting specialists from different disciplines. For this reason, an interdisciplinary conference of world-wide experts on Arrian and his views of the world of Alexander is highly needed.

Sponsored by:

Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Land Vorarlberg
Vizerektorat für Forschung LFU
Kanadazentrum LFU
Frankreichschwerpunkt LFU
Italienzentrum LFU
Interanational Relations Office LFU


Day 1 Monday, Dec 2nd, 2019
15:30–16:30 Reception and Registration
16:30–17:00 Opening (Land Vorarlberg, Uni Innsbruck, ÖAW, vorarlberg museum, organizers)
17:00–18:00 Key Lecture M. Rahim Shayegan (Pourdavoud Center for the Study of the Iranian World, University of California Los Angeles)

Day 2 Tuesday, Dec 3rd, 2019

09:00–12:30 Panel 1: Arrian as Source for Alexander, chair: Hendrik Stanway (Innsbruck)

Ian Worthington (Sydney) Arrian and some (significant) Silences
Krzysztof Nawotka (Wrocław) Arrian on the last days and the death of Alexander

Coffee break 10:30–11:00

Federicomaria Muccioli (Bologna) Arrian’s Alexander between History and Intentional History. Some Remarks
Pierre-Olivier Leroy (Reims) Historiography and tactics : some thoughts about the dating of Arrian’s Anabasis

Lunch 12:30–14:00

14:00–17:30 Panel 2: Intellectual Background I: Arrian, Second Sophistic and Rome, chair: tba

Sabine Müller (Marburg) Arrian and the ideal Commander in his socio-cultural Context
Richard Stoneman (Exeter) Arrian’s Indica in its second-century Context

Coffee break 15:30–16:00

Alexander Free (München) Between Mimesis and Innovation. Arrian in the Context of the Literary Tendencies of his Time
Pascal Mathéus (Zürich) From Epictetus to Arrian and beyond – How Stoicism influenced the Anabasis

Day 3 Wednesday, Dec 4th, 2019

09:00–12:30 Panel 3: Intellectual Background II: Arrian, Second Sophistic and Greek Historiography, chair: Christoph Schäfer (Trier)

Guendalina Taietti (Liverpool) Arrian’s Historiae. The Anabasis beyond Military History
Bogdan Burliga (Gdańsk) Arrianus Plutarchi aemulus, or what was engraved on Cyrus’ Tomb?

Coffee break 10:30–11:00

Reinhold Bichler (Innsbruck) Arrian and the Battle of Gaugamela
Lennart Gilhaus (Utrecht/Bonn) Arrian on the Violence of Alexander – Literary Models and Motifs

Lunch 12:30–14:00

Excursion with Dinner

Day 4 Thursday, Dec 5th, 2019

09:00–12:30 Panel 4: Arrian’s Propinquity to his Sources, chair: Bernhard Palme (Wien)

Joseph Roisman (Waterville) Arrian and his Sources: Omissions and Manipulations
Frances Pownall (Alberta) Arrian’s Propinquity to Ptolemy and Aristobulus: A Reassessment

Coffee break 10:30–11:00

Julian Degen (Innsbruck) Source and Criticism: Traces of Alexander’s Official Language in Arrian
Timothy Howe (Northfield) Alexander at Troy: Arrian’s Sources for the Lead-up to the Second Preface

Lunch 12:30–14:00

14:00–16:15 Panel 5: Arrian and Empire, chair: Clemens Steinwender (Innsbruck)

Robert Rollinger (Innsbruck) Alexander and Empire: Contextualizing Arrian
Rolf Strootman (Utrecht) Arrian on Universal Rule: Achaemenid, Hellenistic or Roman?
Brigitte Truschnegg (Innsbruck) The Cities in Arrian and their Significance for Arrian’s Alexander Presentation

Conference Dinner

Day 5 Friday, Dec 6th, 2019
09:00–12:30 Panel 6: Arrian and the Achaemenid Empire, chair: tba

Jan M. Olbrycht (Rzeszów/Princeton) Alexander, Achaemenid Insignia and Royal Costume in Arrian
Hilmar Klinkott (Kiel) Near Eastern Royal Legitimization in Arrian’s Anabasis – Alexander as Great King?

Coffee break 10:30–11:00

Touraj Daryaee (Irvine) Alexander and Paraphernalia of Persian Kingship
Kai Ruffing (Kassel) Arrian, the Persians and Sparta

Concluding Remarks

End of conference


Julian Degen
Institut für Alte Geschichte und Altorientalistik

Zentrum für Alte Kulturen. Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck. Langer Weg 11. 6020 Innsbruck

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