Arrian – Book VI Discussion Questions
1. The trip downriver begins [6.1-6.5, pp. 237-241]
Alexander seems interested in exploring the Indus river valleys as his army travels southward toward the Indian Ocean. What is his interest in the geography of India at this point? Does his curiosity about new lands or military goals seem more important to him? Does Alexander’s army seem to be retreating in despair or gallantly marching forward as they begin their way back west? Why is the god Dionysos mentioned again in 6.3-5? What threats does Alexander’s army still have to face even though they are supposedly returning home? What seems to be more of a threat at this point, the geography or the tribes of India?
2. Alexander the hero [6.6-6.10, pp. 241-245]
When encountering the Malloi, Arrian portrays Alexander as personally leading assaults and even sanctioning the massacre of enemy forces. How do Alexander’s Macedonian troops perform with respect to other forces under Alexander’s command? What do Alexander’s personal heroics accomplish with respect to his men? Why does Alexander continue to risk his own personal safety? Is Alexander being more or less reckless at this point?
3. The telling of Alexander’s exploits [6.11, pp. 246-249]
What do Arrian’s questions about historical accuracy tell us about his own reliance on sources? What are his primary concerns about the accuracy in telling Alexander’s story? Are we in any way convinced about Arrian’s argument and conclusions concerning the “real” story?
4. Alexander’s mortality [6.12-6.16, pp. 249-252]
Alexander’s close encounter with death brings out grave concern in his men. What are his men most concerned about? Why is Alexander unable to keep himself safe in the midst of battle? How are diplomatic relations with Indian tribes different after the campaign against the Malloi? What legacy does Alexander intend to leave in the Indus river valley? Why did Alexander feel the need to kill the Brahmans?
5. Indus delta exploration [6.17- 6.20, pp. 253-256]
After dealing with resistance from the delta tribes, Alexander must have felt secure enough to “draw down” his forces by sending off Krateros with some of the Macedonian army westward along an inland route. Meanwhile, Alexander leads the rest of his army and as well as his navy toward the Indian Ocean coast. What do you suppose the reasons are for this split up of the army? Why does Alexander insist on taking a different route? Why is Alexander’s encounter with the Indian Ocean marked with ceremony and what could it symbolize with respect to his campaign intentions? Why is Alexander concerned with establishing cities in this region in particular? Does it seem that he is in any way planning to return to India relatively soon?
6. Campaign against coastal tribes [6.21-6.23, pp. 256-259]
How does Arrian describe the tribes that Alexander encounters along the coast (i.e. Oreitae, Arabitai, Gedrosians)? What do they have, if anything, that is of value to Alexander in this coastal region as his army continues west? Which is more formidable here, the unsubdued tribes or the geography itself? Do you suppose that Alexander’s judgment is in any way in question concerning army and navy operations in this area? How difficult is it becoming to supply both land and naval forces while traversing this region?
7. Water [6.24-6.26, pp. 260-262]
Many speculations have been written as to why Alexander chose this coastal route to travel with this part of his army as well as his whole navy. What does Arrian think about Alexander’s motives for crossing this Indian Ocean coastal region on his way back West? How does Arrian assess Alexander’s strategy at this point? Does Arrian condemn Alexander for making a bad decision or does he sympathize with him and his army for having to undergo such a trial by necessity? How is Alexander’s ability to lead his troops affected by the hardships of this route? Why was even an abundance of fresh water a liability as well as its periodic scarcity?
8. Out of the desert [6.27-6.30, pp. 262-270]
It seems that even in the desert Alexander had adequate communications with his subordinates elsewhere in the empire. Once he and his army have cleared the worst of the desert march, what new threats does Alexander face? Based on his decisions regarding his subordinates and satraps, how does Alexander view the well-being of his subjects in these eastern regions? What stories are being circulated about him at this point? Does Alexander still seem Macedonian or does he seem to be more of a Persian king? How do Alexander’s decisions regarding Cyrus’ tomb and the palace complex at Persepolis support your answer?