The great wealth of Arrian’s (AR-ree-uhn) family allowed him to follow interests in literature, rhetoric, and philosophy as well as in hunting and generalship. As a youth, he studied Stoicism under the charismatic teacher Epictetus and recorded Epictetus’s classroom lectures as he imagined Xenophon recorded Socrates’ words. Under Hadrian, he became a Roman senator and governor of Cappadocia. There he defeated the Alani, who had invaded in 135 c.e. In 145/146 c.e., he was archon in Athens.

A man of action, he took time, however, to write up accounts of interests and exploits. Extant are The Anabasis of Alexander (translation 1971), On India (translation 1976), On Hunting (translation 1964), Circumnavigation of the Black Sea (translation 1805), Taktika (c. 136-137; Tactics, 1994), Battle Formation Against the Alans (translation 1973), and Enchiridion (n.d.; known as the Manual of Epictetus, 1916). Four of the eight books of Arrian’s collection of Epictetus’s Discourses (translation 1916) have survived as well as portions of Parthica (fragments, translation 1994), and Events After Alexander (fragments, translation 1989). The lost works include Dion, Timoleon, Tillorobus, Bithyniaca, On the Alans, On the Nature of Comets, and On Infantry Exercises.


Arrian was well acclaimed during his lifetime. He preserved Epictetus’s teachings and left the most accurate and accessible of all the histories of Alexander the Great. He strove to achieve a notable prose style and to use as much detail as possible.

Additional Resources

Grant, Michael, ed. Readings in the Classical Historians. New York: Scribner’s, 1992.

Stadter, Philip. Arrian of Nicomedia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980.