Comparing two historians - History Essay Example


Alexander the Great was the Macedonian King between 356-323 B.C - Comparing two historians introduction. He incorporated the Greek ideology in the nations the conquered which were developed at the time. The history of Alexander the great was put to record by two historical writers; Quintus Curtius Rufus and Arrian. The two writers had different backgrounds resulting to their analysis on the life of Alexander varied. The paper aims at highlighting the different perspectives that the writers analyze the history of Alexander and their choice of source materials. The paper will also give the background of the writers and show to what extent has it impacted on their works.


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Alexander the great was born in the town of Pella, Macedonia to Philip and Olympias. Philip, his father was the king of Macedon and an excellent organizer and general while his mother, Olympias was a princess of Eprius. Olympias was hot tempered and brilliant in her activities. For Alexander he acquired the best qualities from his parents that enabled him to strategize on his conquests and easily manage his followers.

As a teenager, Alexander was mentored by Aristotle who inspired him on the love of literature and involved him in physical exercise to build his physique. Aristotle was a great scholar who had influence on other leaders globally. His father was also a respected army general and this led to Alexander meeting with world leaders and using them to increase on his knowledge. Aristotle inspired Alexander to learn about the cultures of other nations and the different races in the world. On attaining the majority age, he was involved in his father’s battle and acted as an ambassador to Athens on behalf of his father.

Alexander became the king of Macedonia at the age of 20. He led the soldiers towards conquering the cities of Thebes and Persia in 334 B.C. With an army of 35,000 soldiers he conquered Persia, a battle that was planned by his father. This opened up the rest of Asia to his rule. His conquest of Tyre in 333 B.C. is considered the greatest achievement of his life where he built a causeway to make it accessible. After the simultaneous conquests, Alexander went further into Egypt, India and Saudi Arabia. Alexander died in 323 B.C. and his death led to the disintegration of the nations he had conquered. His leading generals fought among themselves as they sought to attain control of the nations[1].

Background of Writers.

            Quintus Curtius Rufus, the author of The History of Alexander the Great, was a historian of Roman origin whose works are believed to have been written during 41-54 A.D. He was a son of an ordinary member of the society and member of the Roman senate; a body that legitimized power in the ancient Rome. Most of the information on his early life is not made available including details on his family. Information available pertains to his adult life where on the attainment of his majority age, he was involved with a roman official who was in charge of fiscal administration known as a questor, in Africa. As a roman national, he returned to Rome and attained the position of a questor through the support of his friends who had the financial ability. He was later elected to the position of the roman magistrate responsible for the administration of justice referred to as the praetor by the emperor Tiberius. He later ascended to occupy the office of the consulship an office comparable to the present day president or prime ministers’. Before ascending to have the power of a consul, he joined the army under the protection of the Seianus who was praetor chosen by Tiberius. Curtius’ career in the army ended for a while after the fall of Seianus but resumed under the commandership of Claudius. Curtius is believed to have composed the book during the end years of Tiberius.

            Flavius Arrianus Xenophon (Arrianus), author of the Campaign of Alexander, was a roman historian belonging to the Greek ethnic community. He assumed several careers as a military commander, philosopher and public servant during the roman period. Arrian was born in the city of Nicodemia, the capital of Bithynia Province. His family was involved with the churches where Arrian served as a priest in the Demeter and Kore churches. He was a roman citizen by birth which allowed him to choose a career in the imperial service which necessarily served the rulers.  He studied literature and rhetoric before deciding to study philosophy in 108 under the mentorship of Epictetus. Epictetus based his teachings mainly on ethics and their relation to the Christian religion. Together with his involvement with the church in his early years, this informs us that Arrian practiced the Christian faith.

            Through his philosophical mentor, Arrian acquired high moral standards that were in line with the Christian faith. Having joined the imperial service, he worked as a junior advisor to the governor of Achaea, 111-114. In 130 he was elected consul and subsequently appointed governor of Cappadocia in 131. This position came with the power of a commander of the roman legions where he noticed his capability in the administrative and military functions. Arrian conducted some successful battles that led to the victory of the Greeks. During his period as governor, Arrian wrote articles on military tactics which contained the details of his successful battles. In 145 he was appointed as the ruler of Athens and devoted most of his time to recording history. During this time he became a citizen of the Athens where he held the position of the chief magistrate in 145/6. His death is believed to have died in the 180.

Effect of their Background on their Works.

            Both authors show considerable difference on their background and this went a long way in determining their works. Arrian who was a staunch Christian attended philosophical school and was mentored by Epictetus believed in the Christian faith. Arrian therefore knew what was right and what was wrong under the guidance of his mentor. This could have given Arrian a better judgmental mind on the deeds of Alexander the great as compared to Rufus. Rufus on the other hand did not receive any basic education and most of his knowledge was acquired practically through exercising power. This gives him a different perspective by seeing Alexander’s actions as more directed towards impressing his followers including the governor’s.

            Most of the information used in writing these books was recorded after the death of Alexander and the interpretation of these two authors differed heavily due to their different levels of understanding. Rufus preferred viewing Alexander’s conquests from a military perspective where he focuses on the sequence of Alexander’s battles. Arrian is able to sieve through the information to get the real picture on what decided Alexander’s actions and conquests. Rufus projects Alexander as a person who did what was necessary to protect his position as king. This is evident in his works where Alexander killed all his fathers’ assassins who were against his rule. This way Alexander could have full authority over his followers and avoid an uprising.

“The king now returned to Macedonia to prepare for the expedition against Persia. His

      political enemies at home had been silenced by swift action………” p22.

Arrian’s work is clear and easy to understand due to his learning experience where he learned literature and rhetoric. This enables him to properly record the events that surround Alexander and how they impacted on his leadership. Due to his school attendance, he was aware of the philosophical schools of thought mainly the stoicism and the rhetoricism. The stoics argued that the cause of erroneous judgment is the involvement of emotions and that individual who poised intellectual perfection would not have passionate emotions. They believed in the analysis of an individual’s behavior as the best indicator of individual philosophy as opposed to their utterances. Rhetoricians involved themselves in the study of many subjects so that they could familiarize themselves with social matters. Classical rhetoric trained individuals on being effective in public speaking so as to convince their audience[2].

            Arrian therefore was conversant with the role played by Alexander’s officials for he had wide knowledge and was in a better position to draw conclusions on Alexander. Rufus served in high positions in the Roman Empire and played a part in the roman army. Like his counterpart Arrian, he was aware of the activities on the battlefield. However, his military role was not based on merit but rather through involvement by the higher authorities. His analysis of the life and events of Alexander adopt a military view where he refers to his successes as a result of gathering adequate military intelligence and motivating his forces. The book by Rufus concentrates on the physical development of Alexander the great. It analyses the mental capability he inherited from his parents and how his mentor, Aristotle improved on his physiological and physical abilities. Rufus defines this as the major contributor to Alexander’s success in his battles. He is able to inform his readers on the reasons that led Alexander to attack Asia. Arrian’s views all the factors that surrounded Alexander from his years as a child. He was ambitious and he always mourned his father’s successes stating that he will leave nothing great for him to do. This improved on his psychological ability and was able to learn from his father. His constant reading of the deeds of Iliad helped to build him mentally and think strategically to win battles. He always wanted to lead and achieve great things. He frequently met with global leaders from whom he could acquire knowledge and understand the world and the composition of its people. Arrian therefore views Alexander as an individual who equipped himself with the necessary skills and knowledge with an aim to lead. He obtained help from other leaders who would help him in conducting attacks in other nations.

            The choice of source materials by the authors also gives different accounts of the life of Alexander. Arrian sources his material from Ptolemy and Aristobulus. Ptolemy was a soldier within Alexander’s force and later became a king after his death. Aristobulus was a geographer was more interested in geographical boundaries and natural history. He found their records valid since by the time they recorded the events they were kings and did not care if they told the truth or not. It was however disgraceful for the kings not to tell the truth given their positions.

“Moreover, Alexander was dead when these men wrote; so there was no sort of pressure                         upon either of them, and they could not profit from falsification of the facts.”

Aristobulus was an expert on the geographical locations and could thus provide a good account of areas Alexander had conquered. Rufus bases his book on the History of Alexander of Cleitarchus as its source. Cleitarchus was Alexander’s press man who would record his battles and the circumstances surrounding them and send favorable reports for publishing. Cleitarchus accompanied Alexander to battles where he could account for every event that took place in the battle field. His reports were therefore enriched with ‘Greek flavor’ to favor Alexander in the eyes of both his followers and opponents. The ability to interpret information led to the different choice of material. Arrian was able to read and write and thus he felt more comfortable with secondary sources of information. Ptolemy was a soldier and therefore recorded events from a soldier’s perspective. Arrian was also a soldier and could therefore understand the article and analyze it carefully. Rufus had little education although he could be able to interpret information. He was not good at translating symbolic language used in the documentation of the reports. He therefore felt that using the primary sources of data could assist in helping him portray the right circumstances surrounding the king Alexander.

            The authors adopt different writing styles for their materials. Arrian provides footnotes for his works while Rufus uses the essay form of writing. Arrian uses the modern scholarship practices in presenting information where he uses endnotes to indicate the source of his materials. The endnotes provide further information that cannot be contained in the book but should be clarified to ensure the reader understands. These notes ensure clarity of the material contained therein. The use of these notes in his work may be an impact of his literature lessons that he gained while in school. Rufus adopts the traditional essay mode of writing which is not interactive with the reader. The provision of further information where individuals can access the information used is necessary for further information search and understanding of the material. This way the reader can be able to maintain the flow of Alexander’s events.

Forces Active in History.

            The authors identify the military as a major force in the historic times. The success of Alexander’s battle was due to the large number of soldiers that backed him. As a charismatic leader, he was able to motivate the soldiers and convince them on the need to win the battle. He would then allow the soldiers to have fun after their successful battles and engage with them in their drinking sprees. He also visited the wounded soldiers and informed himself with their progress and recovery. The presence of strong forces enabled Alexander to conquer nations wide and far. The forces would remain strong even if some were wounded and thus he had a strong force at all times. The economic forces also played a large part in the making of history. Not all regions were equally prosperous and some provided higher returns than others. This led to confrontation among nations as they rose to either conquer other nations or defend their nation. Conquering other nations provided prosperity in the nation since labor force was available and would work as slaves in the conquered nation. The slaves would work in several sectors of the nation including agriculture and construction. This would later lead to economic prosperity and the nation would be more involved in trade with other nations. This would increase their participation in the global affairs which would lead to the nation’s supremacy. Demographics were also a force to be considered since nations with a high population was in a position to have a large number of soldiers. The soldiers would be trained on how to defeat the enemy and in most cases outnumber the opponent’s soldiers. This led to peaceful surrender where the enemy surrendered without engaging in battle confrontations.

            As nation’s conquered others, they increased their population since the inhabitants of the conquered nation were taken as slaves. The slaves could be absorbed in the military or labor forces and provide their services towards ensuring the improvement of operations by the ruling authority. The ecological forces were active as nation’s offered different ecological sceneries which the kings could build their fortresses. The geographical scenario could result into the area being marked as a possible target which could fall under attack. The king would aim at ousting the present king and acquire their wealth. The kings preferred an open area where they could notice any attacks approaching and marshal their forces within a short period of time as a response to the attack.

            Personal causation refers to the primary trigger of an individual’s action that is in line with human personality. The individuals internally trigger their actions towards others in a human perspective. This allows the individuals to act in a human manner observing the impact of their actions towards other human beings. Impersonal causation refers to the external forces that result to the immediate cause of an individual’s actions. These actions do have underlying causes that are of a personal nature. Causation is derived from the word causality which refers to the relationship between analysis, cause and effect[3]. Both authors analyze through historical material in the writing of their books. The authors credit the success of Alexander in battles to his psychological development in his early years. He was mentally prepared to assume leadership from his father once he passed on or was unable to lead the nation any longer. Alexander was mentored by Aristotle who equipped in him the nature of knowing much more about nations and the composition of its peoples.

            By reading the deeds of Iliad, he was able to acquire key skills that could lead to successful battles. Alexander was overly ambitious and wanted to achieve more than his father and make history. He was also able to inspire and motivate other individuals especially those who went to battles with him. Before any battles he would assemble his troops and lead them into war. The two authors appreciate the role played by individuals who participated in the events of King Alexander. Rufus sources his material from Aristotle’s nephew, Cleitarchus who accompanied Alexander in his expeditions to ensure that his adventures were recorded and published. The author also borrows some material from Ptolemy who was a soldier during the time Alexander was king. This enables the author to acquire a military perspective on the times of Alexander since he analyzed most of his battle activities. Arrian on the other hand utilizes memos by Ptolemy and Aristobulus. Aristobulus was a geographer and would detail the routes Alexander would follow to gain entry into enemy territory and surprise them. Arrian was therefore able to gain an adventurous perspective of Alexander. Through analyzing information provided by the two historical individuals ensured he could identify the route he followed. He could also get information on the reasons that led to the invasion of nations that made him go further to unfamiliar territories like Egypt.

            Both authors identify the path of conquests by Alexander. They write in detail about the geographical location where battles took place in a bid to provide individuals with a clear picture of the event. They bring the reader closer by providing the locations of their victorious battles and the kings ruling the region at the time. Both authors provide much information on the battles of Persia and Tyre which were commercial regions due to their accessibility through the sea. The regions were prosperous and were economically better off than the inland nations. The authors provide details on how Alexander prepared his forces and when he conquered Persia he retained the wife and daughters of King Darius. The authors closely analyze the events that occurred in most commercial hubs as Alexander was concerned with conquering most of these nations. Both authors address the economic impact that the success of Alexander’s battles had on the nations. They focused on the ability of the king to improve the economic performance of the nations by taking the inhabitants as slaves. They would provide cheap labor where they could improve the economic performance of the nation. He allowed the slaves to work in their respective nations under his authority.

            According to the authors, most of the nations that the king attacked where heavily populated and the population was largely composed of men. The authors insist on the need for Alexander to have more men soldiers in his force so that he could continue his intention of spreading the Greek culture over Asia.

“But we are not told what Alexander’s motives were, military or economic or, as some scholars believe, part of his mission to spread Greek culture throughout Asia” Arrian 32.

  The strength behind King Alexander was the presence of a large force which could be replaced if soldiers were hurt or killed. The authors clearly show the concern of the king on his hurt forces where he paid them visits in their beds. Once he conquered a nation he would recruit a relative number of men in the forces to replace the ailing soldiers. The rest of the men were employed to provide construction activities where they could construct primary infrastructure to facilitate the movement of goods and services in the nation. The authors also show the concern of Alexander to have the numbers to ensure victory in his battles. The authors fully focus on the role played by the population in ensuring prosperity of the nation.

            The authors analyze the events surrounding the activities of Alexander in conquering nations. The authors note that most of the conquered nations where near water bodies mostly oceans and seas. These nations provided a great environment especially the rain forests which most of the time turned into battle fields. Alexander was successful in battles staged in forests and this was the reason he conquered most of these nations that offered a rich ecological environment. These environments also provided rich pasture that was necessary for the feed of his horses. The authors highlight the usefulness of the horse as an accessory for successful victory. To ensure the continued victories he had to conquer nations that had rich pasture to feed his horses in preparation for the next battle. The forest also provided cover from enemies which could also ensure the time for recovery of the ill soldiers. The rest of the soldiers could also rest and engage in merry making following their victory. These nations also provided a favorable climate which ensured the growth of forest cover as the authors note. The authors noted that the climatic conditions favored Alexander and were crucial to his victorious battles. Nations along the coastline provided a great climate where the king would relax and strategize on his next battle. The environmental climate would provide a great training ground for the soldiers perfectly replicating the conditions to be faced in the battle field.

            The two historians use relatively the same sources of basic information on the history of Alexander. Rufus derives basic information from Cleitarchus who was an information officer for the king Alexander. Cleitarchus recorded his publication in a book known as the life of Alexander the great of cleitarchus. He was later arrested and executed on charges of treason. The choice of Rufus to use materials from cleitarchus was because he provided first hand information on the events surrounding the battles of Alexander the great. He accompanied Alexander on his missions so as to record the events and issue them for publication. However, the information provided by Cleitarchus could not be fully reliable since he was writing about the king and was therefore bound towards writing favorably about the king. This could lead to the misconception about the life of Alexander. To overcome this effect, Rufus integrated the material with information provided by Ptolemy. Ptolemy was a soldier serving in the army of Alexander and later became a king after Alexander’s death. Ptolemy also provided firsthand information since he was high in the ranks of Alexander’s army. Ptolemy was neither obligated to either tell the truth or not. But at the time he wrote the memoirs, he was already a king and he had no consequences to worry about. This could be the fact that Rufus considered and therefore referred to the information as valid[4].

            Analysis of this information provided by the two officials during the king’s rule should provide a good analysis of Alexander. Alexander was mostly involved in battles whether actually fighting or strategizing on the next battle. This makes the two suitable resources since they spent most of their time around him. They engaged with him in preparation and undertaking of battles. The author, Rufus, had a short stint with the military and these could help him analyze the life of the king who was mainly involved in military confrontations. The writer tries to give the reader a sketch of the characters involved in describing the life of Alexander. By this he allows the reader to imagine the character by providing his behavior and role played. The writer therefore presents himself as a seasoned writer who uses the writing tools to make the life story more interesting and understandable to the reader by criticizing Alexander’s actions.

            Arrian uses materials provided by Ptolemy and Aristobulus. Ptolemy was a military man who served under the king Alexander. He provided first hand information about the activities of Alexander in the battle field. Aristobulus was a geographer who provided details on the routes followed by Alexander. Aristobulus was able to identify routes that Alexander would use to conquer nations. He could explore areas and identify areas which the king would capture in time to ensure his victory. Aristobulus handed to the King, key routes which the kings would escape and stage an attack to reclaim their territory. These routes had to be closed to ensure the success of the attack. The use of materials by Ptolemy and Aristobulus ensured that the writer got the clear picture on how Alexander staged his battles to ensure victory. The writer was able to integrate material from Ptolemy and Cleitarchus who provided primary information about the life of the king. Aristobulus provides the geographical locations of the battles and he had more influence in deciding the king’s next attack. He was to provide information on the geographical conditions that would make the nation a prospective country. The king would later consider the impact that the nation would have on his soldiers and what the nation had to offer him. He also needed to understand the inhabitants of the nation to avoid an uprising after his conquest. The writer integrates all these aspects into his work and brings the real close to understanding the drive behind King Alexander. The writer having learnt literature in his early childhood years is able to analyze the events as provided and replicate them in his work. The writer also served as a military and administrative official and thus was able to understand the events and reasons surrounding the attacks by Alexander.

            Rufus writes his book as a member of a senate and a roman citizen who judges the actions of others who belong to the same class as he is. He conducts the same actions like the rest of his colleagues but judges them as if he was not one of them. In writing the book the writer lets the reader know what he thinks and how he views the actions of Alexander. He engages in criticism where he criticizes some of the king’s actions. For example he criticizes the engagement of the king in drinking as loss of self control which led to murderous actions. Alexander mostly engaged in drinking sprees with his fellow soldiers after victory where he could get drank and result into violent behavior with his fellow soldiers. According to Rufus, an individual of his status was not supposed to engage in irresponsible drinking and should have let the soldiers drink as they are the ones who played the biggest role. They sacrificed their lives to secure victory for the king. The king should have taken the time to relax and rest. Most of these drinking parties resulted into violence where the king threatened his fellow soldiers and this could have led to disrespect between the king and the soldiers. The threatening could also lead to the soldiers input being unappreciated leading to revolution uprising among the soldiers.

            Rufus portrays Alexander as a young ruler who had achieved much that he did not know what to do with it (12). This results to the king changing his conduct and demanding to be referred as Jupiter’s son. “…. Alexander not only allows himself to be addressed as Jupiter’s son but actually orders it, since fortune has given him a desire for glory greater than his capacity to handle it.” 12.

            The writer uses rhetoric where he hides his opinions and views behind statements. The use of rhetoric allows the reader to understand the views of the writer without necessarily putting them in words. This also allows for criticisms where the reader can adopt a different view from that of the reader. The writer tries as much as possible to provide the reader with the character of the various officials. He defines their behavior, actions and contribution towards the victories of Alexander. This allows the reader to identify with the characters and understand better the life of Alexander. The readers are able to understand the roles played by the individuals and are able to understand how the king related with his subjects. The writer makes a few comments that are racist where he refers to the Persians as “eunuchs whose most of the women where more courageous than their men” 68. The writer comes out as a sensational writer with his creation of suspense. The writer uses suspense to make the story more interesting and create suspension in the reader. This way the reader is not in a position to know what will happen next thus they read on further. The writer also uses speeches where he gives the reader the actual exchange of words between Alexander and his subjects. The speech enables the reader to understand the life story of Alexander and be able to relate the events. The speech also enables the writer to give the reader the real picture of what was happening at the time of the event. The writer displays actually the events without any distortion thus ensuring he does not contradict the events. He intentionally causes hesitations and deliberations to capture the interest of the reader. The writer goes out of his way to explain to the reader about formalities that existed in the Roman Empire when a king had captured a nation. This is coupled with the fact that the writer is in a position to relate to Alexander’s events since he had served in the military.

            Arrian does not really make his opinions known and portrays the image and conduct as open to criticism. Arrian just takes information from the sources and replicates it in his book where he does not deviate from writing about Alexander. This is because the writer has a volume of material to combine thus leaving him with little room for his opinion. The writer also wants to provide the writer with as information as possible so that they can understand the history of Alexander. He does not want to impose his opinion on the reader directly and lets the leader judge the character by showing them his actions. The writer also clarifies the source of his material incase the reader disputes his facts which allows the reader to read further and understand Alexander and his conquests. The writer criticizes Alexander on the basis of his morals where he indulges in drinking and when he retains the family of Darius by allowing them to continue living in the palace. The writer criticizes most of Alexander’s actions on the basis of displaying double standards. Though the writer provides the larger picture on the life of Alexander, he fails to appreciate his good intentions where he sees Alexander as making judgment to acquire something he does not have. He makes him look like a selfish person out to acquire what the others have for his own purpose. The writer notes the erosion of Alexander’s conduct.

“…. adoption of oriental dress as a ‘barbaric’ act not so different from his ‘barbaric’       punishment of the pretender Bessus. Both acts, in Arrian’s view, indicate a deterioration            of Alexander’s character.” 31

 Alexander also took the wife of Darius where the writer notes this as the height of hypocrisy. The writer is so offended by these acts and terms Alexander as immoral. However he observes that the king “took his religious duties very seriously indeed, …the king offered sacrifice or made drink-offerings, and the prophecies made by his seers, notably Aristander, are faithfully reported.” 27

The writer combines a lot of material where the reader is provided with the life of Alexander in a larger context. He uses endnotes to refer the reader to the sources used to enlighten themselves further. The use of idioms makes his work more interesting and keeps the reader interested on the life of Alexander. The use of idioms allows the writer to use humor in his work where they explain ideas in practical terms. The writer puts forward the life of Alexander as boldly as possible displaying the huge figure that was Alexander. This allows the reader to imagine the courage and ambition of the king who ruled the largest empire in the third century. He is able to do this because he analyzes Alexander from the perspective of a leader who was able to marshal forces and motivate them to ensure victory.

The writers get materials from similar sources but analyze them from different perspectives. While Rufus analyzes the sources from a military perspective, Arrian analyzes all phases of Alexander including his social life. Arrian goes further to criticize the actions of Alexander to direct the reader towards believing in his religion and morals. Arrian had a mentor who was a Christian and taught him to mostly do what is right and shun evil. He holds the Christian principles strongly and expects individuals to be morally upright. This makes him criticize some of the events in Alexander’s life sharply. The criticisms are aimed at showing the reader on his beliefs when it comes to religion and morals, indirectly. His mentor, Epictetus taught him strong Christian beliefs which were supposed to guide him through his adult life. He obtained a human perspective where he maintained that no human should harm the other one and they should be allowing of each other. The writer differs sharply with the murder of Cleitus especially from the fact that it happened as a result of being drunk. To Arrian, drinking was against the Christian principles and the leader was not supposed to engage in drinking and then turn violent on his people. Alexander also inherited the wife of darius which was also against the Christian rules. A Christian was supposed to have one wife and could not inherit the wife of another person while the husband was alive. The writer criticized the intentions of Alexander where he viewed most of the attacks he conducted on nations as for self interest at the expense of the soldiers. The soldiers stood to gain nothing and that Alexander wanted to conquer the whole world such that he could rule it. The writer saw Alexander as equaling himself with God where he wanted all the nations and their inhabitants to worship him. According to the writer this was idolatry which violated the key Christian principle. Therefore most of the writer’s criticisms are based on the core Christian principles and beliefs.

Rufus was a senate member and exercised authority over a number of high level offices in Rome. He also had a short career in the military where he served during the reign of Emperor Tiberius. His works do not fully address the life of Alexander because it contains a brief history on the psychological development of Alexander. The brief history does not tell us on the behavior of Alexander but give us a clue on what factors he considered before attacking a nation[5]. This does not provide enough information for the writer to analyze and justify the behavior of Alexander. The subject of the book is not based on the life of Alexander but also discusses the tyranny form of government led by Emperor Tiberius and his successor Caligula. The writer served in the administration of the emperors and aims at using the book to criticize the administration. By using the book the writer speaks in hidden meanings that could not directly attack the authority of the emperor. He therefore writes the book to highlight events that occurred during the reign of Alexander that are being practiced today. He was opposed to the idea of rulers imposing excess authority over their jurisdiction where they elected leaders of their choice either because of their ethnic or racial affiliation. Although he was a member of the senate he was not in a position to raise the issue with the emperor as this could have resulted to charges on treason that carried a sure death penalty. The administration of the death penalty in the roman administration was cruel and thus nobody could have dared to challenge the emperor. The writer criticizes some of the acts of Alexander as though he were criticizing those of the emperor. He criticized those issues that he felt were being practiced in present Rome with a view of communicating to others in the administration. His book is directed towards achieving the objective of rising against the tyranny administration exercised over Rome.

The writers use humor, irony and sarcasm in their works. This are used to keep the reader interested and communicate with the reader on hidden messages. For example Arrian uses sarcasm when Alexander states that

“Moreover, now that his army was master of the continent, he was well aware that a fleet          was no longer of any use to him”

At this point Alexander had already conquered Persia which was the entry point to the Asia. The writer also uses humor where he refers to a small battle that occurred in Mylasa.

            “As he approached the gates the defenders made a sortie and flung weapons at long       range. A counter attack by Alexander’s men checked them out without difficulty and they           were driven back within the walls……..”

Rufus also uses irony in his work where he states that

            “Perdiccas’ son, Amyntas, plotted against the king. As for my friendship with him, I am            not reluctant to defend myself on that score- unless it was wrong for us to feel affection      for a brother of the king. (25) If, however, someone of such elevated status also          demanded respect, then tell me, please, am I on trial because I did not see into the future            or is death also mandatory for the innocent friends of traitors?……….”

Here the author seeks to clarify that even the innocent friends of traitors have to die for they are mortal. The authors use the idioms, sarcasm and irony to allow their readers to make judgment on their own understanding of the underlying material. Quintius uses irony in his work where he states that “when Alexander entered the city, it had been deserted by its inhabitants. He proceeded to launch an attack on the citadel……” 26.

The reader wonders how the king could have attacked a city with no occupants which was a waste of his forces.


Both writers use different methods of analysis where they aim at providing the reader with the life history of Alexander. However, the quality of their work is affected by their judgmental reasoning where they allow their beliefs to form the basis of their criticism on the actions of Alexander. They however try to input as much information as they possibly can to try to give the reader of the life of Alexander and the reason to his numerous victories.

            The different backgrounds of the writers are reflected in their work especially in the choice of the source materials. While both use similar materials, Arrian increases his source materials by using the geographer’s material who gives the technical aspect of Alexander’s victorious battles. Arrian is able to analyze the information provided by Ptolemy and Aristobulus with a view of providing the reader with a clear view of the ancient times. The reader will notice that Arrian clearly details the events of Alexander and states them clearly for easy understanding.

            Rufus utilizes only the materials provided by Cleitarchus and Ptolemy who were directly involved with Alexander during his battles. Cleitarchus is most likely to portray the favourable image of Alexander since he was his official press man who relayed reports for publishing. He is mostly viewed as a sycophant who went on with his duties to please the king. This leads to unreliable reports which could jeopardize the intent of writing the book. To overcome this effect, Rufus utilizes the works of Ptolemy to confirm the reports given by Cleitarchus. This way Rufus is able to give the reader the valid report on the life of Alexander. Rufus utilizes the use of speech that Alexander used which is aimed at bringing the reader closer and identify with the life of Alexander.

            Both writers try their best to give the reader the general image of Alexander and bring them closer to understanding his life. Their works do not differ much but their style of writing is different. While Rufus utilizes the use of speech to bring the reader closer, Arrian utilizes the use of end notes that inform and direct the reader further to understanding of the life history of Alexander.


Arrian, Arriano Flavio, Selincourt Aubrey and Hamilton R J. The Campaigns of Alexander.       Washington: Penguin Classics, 1976.

Cartledge Paul. Alexander the Great: The Hunt for a New Past. Chicago: Pan Books, 2005.

Rufus C Quintus, Yardley John and Heckel Waldemar. The History of Alexander. Washington:             Penguin Classics, 1984.

Tarn W W. Alexander the Great: Sources and Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,            2003.

Thomas G Carol. Alexander the Great in His World. Michigan. Blackwell Publishing, 2007.

[1]Thomas G Carol, Alexander the Great in His World (Michigan: Blackwell Publishing, 2007) 87.
[2]Arrian et al, The Campaigns of Alexander (Washington: Penguin Classics, 1976) 114.

[3] Paul Cartledge, Alexander the Great: The Hunt for a New Past (Chicago: Pan Books, 2005) 54.
[4] Quintus Rufus et al, The History of Alexander (Washington: Penguin Classics, 1984) 187.

[5] Tarn, Alexander the Great: Sources and Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) 93.


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