This was the fourth Landmark series classic I have read (Thucydides, Xenophon, and Herodotus being the others), and it, too, did not disappoint. This is another finely assembled edition, especially for those reading Arrian on their own. All of the good features present in the other editions are also present here.
In addition to the text itself, a large number of short (generally 4-8 pages) appendices written by subject matter experts are included to provide the reader with background detail on ancient Greek and Persian culture, as well as other short subjects providing background that Arrian readers in ancient Rome were probably already familiar with.
In the main text, each small chapter has a sidebar with a short, succinct one or two sentence summary of the chapter. (These ‘chapters’ are generally one or two to a page—very short.) It is nice to be able to read the summaries before going through the stories themselves; this gives a reader the big picture and thus minimizes the chance of losing the thread of the narrative. Since, unlike with Herodotus, the writing is largely chronological, it may not be quite as important, but it allows the reader to easily review what was already read and quickly pick up at the point last left. I found these sidebars really helpful, especially when picking the book up again after leaving off in the middle somewhere.
The top of each page has a banner with the year, the place, and the event of interest, a further aid to keeping one’s place as the action moves around from one place to another. There is also a very nice timeline in table form at the beginning of the book, summarizing what happened each year in multiple locations.
One of the biggest pluses for me was the countless outstanding maps, each of which shows just enough detail to be useful; usually only the places directly related to the surrounding text are marked, to keep from cluttering the map. Two additional graphics unique to the Landmark Arrian are the maps at the beginning of each of the seven “books” showing the path(s) of Alexander’s army during the period covered by that book, and the detailed battle diagrams showing troop deployments. The battle diagrams are extremely helpful in visualizing what is not always easy to see from the textual descriptions. This is especially true around 5.16, where the battle with Poros at the Hydapses River in India is covered.
Most of the place names in the text are tagged to footnotes at the bottom of the page that point to the proper map and its map coordinates. Other footnotes occasionally contain brief text to help illuminate a point the editor feels might be a little unclear to the uninitiated or the less historically informed.
I highly recommend giving this edition consideration, particularly if reading this classic on one’s own. Arrian is decidedly pro-Alexander, but while recognizing that fact, it is still possible to say that this is probably one of the best ancient narratives on Alexander’s journey of conquest. As a sampling of interesting content, consider the following (some of which may sound vaguely familiar?):
- 1.7.2: Discusses an attempted anti-Macedonian revolt in Thebes where the orators attempting to incite the crowd invoke what the author, a citizen of the Roman Empire, puts in quotes sarcastically as “... Freedom and Autonomy--noble old words..." Just afterwards, the orators put about the rumor that Alexander has been killed, leading the author to make the pithy observation that "the result was just what usually happens under such circumstances: in the absence of accurate information, people formed conjectures in keeping with their wishes."
- 2.3.7: Tells Arrian’s version of the story about Alexander and the Gordian knot, at the time Alexander reaches Gordion.
- 2.5.4: The statue of Ashurbanipal, ruler of 7th century Assyrian Empire, is described as holding his hands in a clapping pose. The inscription is in Assyrian, but is translated in legend as "Eat, drink, and be merry, friend, since all other human things are not worth this", where “this” means a hand-clap. Arrian goes on to say that the Assyrian word translated as "be merry" is supposedly more vulgar in the original.
- 4.7.5: "... one need look no farther than Alexander's great successes for proof that neither physical strength nor illustrious birth nor uninterrupted success in war even greater than Alexander's...can gain a man happiness unless that man, whose achievements are seemingly so great, should at the same time possess the power to govern his passions."
- 7.12.1: Here and elsewhere, the view of Medes (to the Greeks this also means Persians) as inferior to Macedonians is advanced, and the tensions introduced by their mixing is mooted. Alexander continuously attempts to combine Persians and Greeks, and blend their cultural styles, to the ongoing resentment of his original faithful Macedonian followers. Interesting parallel with modern times.
- 7.12.6: In an amusing anecdote about the difficulty Alexander continued to have with his mother Olympias, “he (Alexander) was said to have stated that she was charging him heavy rent for having housed him for 10 months.”
As a final comment, this is not a book that should EVER be in a Kindle edition. (As of the date of this review, I do not see one listed.) As a permanent addition to one’s library, the Hardcover would have been preferable, but by the time I purchased this it was just too expensive; however, the softcover held together better than I expected with only reasonable care.
- Paperback: 503 pages
- Publisher: RANDOM HOUSE GROUP; 1 edition (15 February 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781400079674
- ISBN-13: 978-1400079674
- ASIN: 1400079675
- Product Dimensions: 18.5 x 2.5 x 23.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 930 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)