Arrian – Book VII Discussion Questions
1. Life after the East [7.1-7.3 , pp. 273-278]
What were Alexander’s long range goals after exploring the Persian gulf? What would have made the most sense at this point? Arrian’s assertion that Alexander “would have sought beyond the known for something unknown, vying with himself in the absence of any other rival” (p. 274) suggests two things. What drove Alexander to seek for the most? making the unknown known? or being challenged by someone at his level (i.e. consider how he regarded Darius)? This early part of book VII is concerned with mortality and how one should live. What do the examples of Indian sages like Dandamis and Kalanos bring up with respect to Alexander and his character? How does Arrian himself seem to blend eastern and western customs, somewhat like the pictures on p. 277 suggest?
2. Macedonian-Persian tensions [7.4- 7.6, pp. 278-282]
Arrian’s historical narrative resumes here where the end of Book VI left off as Alexander discovers how his subordinates have been administering their respective satrapies while he was away in the East. Punishment of irresponsible administrators is contrasted with generous rewards to others, including lavish wedding ceremonies uniting Macedonian men with Asian brides. What are Alexander’s intentions for re-gaining power at this point (7.4)? How are these intentions received by his people? In 7.5, Alexander’s generosity of offering to pay all his soldiers’ debts is met with skepticism. Why? In 7.6, how do Alexander’s decisions to integrate Persian and Macedonian troops fit into his overall strategy to either maintain his empire or expand it? What criticism could be made about Alexander’s judgment at this point? Overall, is Alexander’s identity more Persian or Macedonian at this point?
3. Soothing the Macedonian rancor [7.7-7.12, pp. 282-291]
In 7.7, Alexander is concerned with the waterways in Babylonia. Coupled with the decommissioning of Macedonian veterans in 7.8, how might these decisions fall into line with a larger strategy for future operations? Why are the Macedonian veterans still reluctant to trust Alexander’s judgment? Do you believe that Alexander is trying to reward these veterans or get rid of them (or both)? Sections 7.9-7.10 record a speech that is an effective overview of Philip’s and Alexander’s achievements as kings of Macedonia. What is the main theme of this speech and what does that tell us about Alexander’s goal in trying to win over his men? Based on Alexander’s main concerns in this speech, what did Alexander believe his men were most unsure about? In the concluding paragraphs (7.10.5-7), what do you suppose Alexander is most concerned with concerning his discharged troops? After the speech, what does Alexander do to help win over his troops the most? What does the celebration banquet (7.11.8-9) do to re-emphasize Alexander’s main goal for his empire?
4. Hephaistion’s death [7.13-7.14, pp. 291- 294]
After Hephaistion’s death at Ecbatana, Arrian relates many stories about Alexander’s reaction and grief (7.14.1-7). Whether true or false, the plethora of stories alone seems to testify to a certain public importance that Hephaistion had for Alexander. Which (if any) of these stories does Arrian endorse and why? How did Alexander’s closest companions react to Hephaistion’s death? Did they do this out of reverence for Hephaistion or for Alexander?
5. Alexander’s entrance into Bablyon [7.15-7.18, pp.294-302]
Alexander’s reverence for the Babylonian seers is quite a different matter. For instance, he is said to have quoted Euripides: “The best of seers is he who guesses well” (296). Does Arrian hold Alexander’s disavowal of the prophets to blame for Alexander’s death? How does Arrian characterize Alexander’s upcoming death in the greater scheme of things? How much stock does Arrian put into prophecies like Peithagoras’ (7.18.1-5) and Kalanos’ (7.18.6)?
6. Preparations for Arabia [7.19-7.21 , pp. 302-306]
How does Arrian characterize the military plans and preparations for a supposed campaign against Arabia? On the other hand, how does Arrian explain Alexander’s judgment concerning the gods with respect to this upcoming Arabian campaign? Why is Arabia so difficult to circumnavigate? How is it proving as difficult to conquer or discover as perhaps India had been? Are Alexander’s efforts with the Pallacotta canal at all helpful towards the goal of invading Arabia?
7. Alexander’s Death [7.22- 7.30, pp. 307-315]
How does the omen of the diadem (7.22.2-5) read symbolically of Alexander’s upcoming death? How close is Alexander getting towards deification as he nears his death? Does Arrian believe in just punishment for man’s hubris? How does the omen of the unknown criminal sitting on the throne relate (if at all) to the omen of the diadem in terms of Alexander’s death? How does the account of Alexander’s fever and illness sound in terms of his almost superhuman reputation and power? According to Arrian, how effective would it have been to put Alexander in the temple of Sarapis? How can we read his “better” comment? How objective is Arrian in terms of the final description of Alexander’s character? his legacy?
8. After Alexander [Epilogue, pp. 317-324]
After reading James Romm’s epilogue, how efficiently managed was Alexander’s empire? Was there any difference in the level of management after Alexander’s death? How could the empire have been administered differently? How much better than the Persians did Alexander administer the empire? How well had Alexander managed to integrate the Greeks back in Europe with Macedonia? Were the chances good that a blood relation to Alexander could have taken over Alexander’s throne? Was it possible for any of the surviving generals to have taken Alexander’s place of authority?