Arrian Book I Discussion Questions
1. In the Editor’s Preface (p. xxxiv), James Romm quotes P. A. Brunt’s assessment of Arrian: “He was a simple, honest soul, but no historian.” After reading Arrian’s preface on p. 3, what is your first impression? What do we consider to be an historian today? How does Arrian account for sources for this history? How does Arrian’s preface strike you in terms of the validity of his efforts?
2. [Sections 1.1-1.6, pp. 4-13] As Alexander begins his campaign into the Balkans, north of Macedonia, what does each account against hostile forces (i.e. Thracians, Triballoi, Getae, Illyrians, Taulantians) reveal about Alexander? his army? What tactics are included by Arrian in these accounts? What do we learn about Alexander’s leadership in each of these encounters?
3. [Sections 1.7-1.10, pp. 13-21] While Alexander is occupied with events north of Macedonia, intrigues south of Macedonia at Thebes soon force him to deal with uprisings among the Greeks. Why were events at Thebes so significant with respect to the rest of Greece? What are the pros and cons to Alexander’s handling of the revolt at Thebes? How impartial do you think Arrian is in handling the events at Thebes?
4. [Sections 1.11-1.12, pp. 22-26] How significant are Alexander’s first actions as he steps onto Asia from Europe? How significant is the site of these actions? What does Arrian’s second preface [I.12.2-5] reveal, being placed right after Alexander’s entrance onto Asia?
5. [Sections 1.13-1.16, pp. 27-33] How do the Persians react to Alexander at this first encounter? Do the Persians underestimate or overestimate the Macedonians? Which plan do you think would have worked better, Parmenion’s or Alexander’s? Why? What are Alexander’s most valuable traits as his army makes contact with the Persians at the Granicus river? What are his mistakes?
6. [Sections 1.17-1.19, pp. 34-40] As Alexander moves further into Persian territory, capturing Sardis, Ephesus, Miletus, he has to deal with ways of keeping this area secure. What solutions are Alexander reported to have devised? How effective are these measures?
7. [Sections 1.20-1.23, pp. 40-45] Arrian spends a noteworthy amount of time narrating the siege of Halicarnassus, a Greek port-city on the western shore of Asia Minor. How can we explain Alexander’s difficulties at this point of his campaign? What are the problems Alexander faces at sea? on land? How does Alexander’s relationship with the Carian Queen Ada figure into his dilemma at Halicarnassus?
8. [Sections 1.24-29, pp. 45-53] As Alexander’s army mops up Ionia and prepares to push further east along the southern coast of Asia Minor, he encounters cities of non-Greek origin who alternately make treaties or resist his advance. Does Alexander rely more on diplomacy or military force in dealing with these various tribes and city-states? What is Alexander’s main concern at this point in his Asian campaign? Is Alexander portrayed as surprised in any way with his army’s progress so far?