Introduced by Annabel Lyon
Written in the 2nd century AD and featuring a new preface by Annabel Lyon, this account of Alexander's conquests is a classic of ancient military history.
Since the first accounts written by his companions appeared, the life of Alexander the Great has provided food for historians, but also for writers keen to enliven their version with romantic details or scurrilous pieces of gossip. Of all the records of the ancient world, however, the history written by Arrian in the second century AD is the most even-handed and thorough. This Folio edition features a new preface by award-winning historian Annabel Lyon.
‘When risks had to be taken, he took them with the utmost boldness,
and his ability to seize the moment for a swift blow, before his enemy
had any suspicion of what was coming, was beyond praise’
Alexander the Great, the conqueror who subjugated all of Greece, then swept from his native Macedonia to defeat the Persian superpower and create an empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Himalayas, acquired a fame which reverberated throughout the classical world. Even today his feats continue to astound us. Since the first accounts written by his companions appeared, Alexander’s life has provided food for historians, but also for writers keen to enliven their version with romantic details or scurrilous pieces of gossip. Of all the records of the ancient world, however, the history written by Arrian in the second century AD is the most even-handed and thorough. Arrian wrote that ‘this book is, and has been since my youth, more precious than country and kin and public advancement’.
Arrian himself had served with distinction as a military commander and had written on both cavalry and infantry tactics. His experience enabled him to comment authoritatively on Alexander’s campaigns, equally able to explain tactical manoeuvres or campaign strategy. Arrian’s rich, colourful narrative also includes intimate, telling anecdotes. We see Alexander receive a note warning that his doctor is trying to poison him. Ignoring it, he swallows the doctor’s medicine fearlessly: ‘he was firm in his refusal to suspect treachery in friends and could look unmoved upon death’. We learn that Alexander often treats his captured foes with magnanimity (Darius fears his wife and daughters will be raped or killed and is amazed by Alexander’s respectful behaviour towards them). But Arrian never hides Alexander’s ruthlessness: when his favourite horse, Bucephalus, is stolen, Alexander threatens to kill every man in the country unless he is returned.
For this edition The Folio Society uses the acclaimed translation by Aubrey de Sélincourt, along with an essay by J. R. Hamilton which discusses Arrian’s sources and approach. The book is illustrated with numerous images, including specially commissioned photographs of artefacts from the British Museum. We have also commissioned a preface by Annabel Lyon, author of the awardwinning novel The Golden Mean about Alexander’s boyhood, in which she describes our enduring fascination with Alexander, ‘most protean of heroes’.
‘A serious and painstaking attempt to discover the truth about Alexander’
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Review by AbbyDaddy on 15th Feb 2014
"The usual fantastic job in FS production. Very interesting history of Alexander. I consider this the last volume in the history of a dramatic era for Greece (if you consider Herodotus, Thucydides, Xen..." [read more]