Like a brick and mortar course in which you have to get used to the teacher's style, there are stylistic issues when using these really excellent all-in-1-text-courses. Some issues are insurmountable, like the awkward-to-hold shape of the books and their heft; others take a small period of adjustment. The notes are copious. The numbers are minuscule and confusing, but that's because they are SO detailed. On a page I flipped open to, the 9 footnotes are numbered
The editors or translators use the notes to explain just about everything you might wonder about and they pinpoint Arrian's errors. For instance, in note 1.11.1c, the editor says that Arrian has gotten his geography confused -- the reference Arrian makes to Olympic Games is really to a different set of games. Such notes are valuable; otherwise, one might blithely cite Arrian as a source on multiple locations for the Olympic games.
Arrian's "The Campaigns of Alexander" -- at least in Pamela Mensch's translation, makes pleasant reading: Arrian deservedly thought highly of his literary ability. Romm writes:
"Remarkably for a military and political leader, Arrian was accounted a major writer by his contemporaries; the essayist and satirist Lucian, who lived a generation later than Arrian, refers to him as a man celebrated for his paideia, a Greek word that combines ideas of education and literary sophistication. ...He took great pride in the mastery he had achieved as a writer...."With battle maps showing strategy to supplement Arrian's limited battle field descriptions, the reader gets the gist without too much gore, although Arrian keeps a running tally of Alexander's injuries, so that in Arrian's final book, Arrian can show Alexander exhorting his men at Opis, saying:
"Come on, then -- let any of you strip and show his wounds, and I will show mine. For in my own case, there is no part of my body, at least not in front, that has been left unwounded, and there is no weapon, held or hurled, whose marks I do not carry."
If, like me, you have never before read more than an excerpt or two from Arrian's "The Campaign of Alexander" (Anabasis Alexandrou), but have read many modern accounts of the Macedonian king, you really should read this book. Much of it will be covering old ground, but that's because modern writers on Alexander the Great have made liberal use of Arrian.
Arrian's contribution to the book ends at page 315. Although you may not need to use all the supplements in the 503 page book, there is a lot to cover, especially if you read the section summaries and footnotes.Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.