Monday, April 18, 2011

Discussion questions for Arrian's The Campaigns of Alexander

I wanted share the first few discussion questions on Book I for Reading Odyssey, Inc.'s book group on The Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian. The page numbers refer to The Landmark Series' version of the book. If you're interested in joining the group, see this post for the schedule and a link to the Reading Odyssey's website.

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?

Update (3 May 2011): A little after the fact, but anyone interested in all the discussion questions, which provide a good framework on how to read Arrian, can find them here.

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