Arrian’s lost work on “After Alexander” and what survives of it

The second century writer Arrian is our best source for the life of Alexander the Great, using impeccable sources then extant but now lost.  A number of his other works are extant, and indeed his work On hunting even exists in English, and can be found on 

But equally interesting to us is his Τα μετὰ Αλέξανδρον, After Alexander.  This work in ten books is lost, but we know of it from Photius, who, in his Bibliotheca, also gives us a long summary of its contents.  This 9th century epitome, made casually as part of this enormous work, is one of our major sources for the early years of the Succcessor period, from the death of Alexander in 323 to the summer of 319.  The work clearly existed in a complete form when Photius read it, which makes it a pity that it did not survive the next few centuries. 

However I learn that we do have a little more.  For it seems that some leaves from one or more copies were reused, and these palimpsest leaves have reached us. 

The first of these is a Vatican palimpsest, ms. Vaticanus 495, which contains two leaves — a single bifolium — which appear as folios 230, and 235.  This was discovered in 1886 by Reitzenstein, and published in 1888.(1)  The leaves seem to be 10th century.  The pages contain a portion of the account of the doomed Egyptian campaign of Perdiccas, which ended in his death, the destruction of the central authority, and the foundation of the power and prestige of the Ptolemaic dynasty.  The editor believed the extract to be from book 7 of the work. 

The second survival was discovered much more recently by Jacques Noret in 1977 at Göteborg, ms. Graecus 1, folios 72 and 73, and was published by him with diplomatic transcription,  a “normal” text, and a French translation.(2)  This has a portion of book 10.  A discussion with images of the pages was published by B. Dreyer in 1999, and I think this is online.(3) The manuscript contains Dionysius Periegetes (f. 1-40) and then the commentary of Eustathius upon it (f. 48-142).  The first was written in the 14th century, the commentary 14-15th c.

 There is also a papyrus of the 2nd century, so very close to the date of composition, published by V. Bartoletti in 1951, which contains a portion of the struggle between Eumenes, Craterus and Neoptolemus. 

So it looks as if at least one 10th century manuscript existed down to the renaissance, when it was dismembered for use as raw materials!

1. Reitzenstein, Arriani τῶν μετὰ Αλέξανδρον libri septimi fragmenta e codice Vaticano rescripto nuper iteratis curis lecto, Breslauer philologische Abhandlungen Bd. 3, H. 3, Breslau 1888, S. 1–36.
2. Noret, Analecta Bollandia 95, 1977, 269–73. Noret, Ant. Class. 52, 1982, 235–242.
3. Boris Dreyer, Zum ersten Diadochenkrieg: Der Göteborger Arrian-Palimpsest (ms Graec 1), Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 125 (1999) 39–60. This contains colour images of the Göteborg leaves and monochrome ones — rather poor — of the Vatican leaves.


One thought on “Arrian’s lost work on “After Alexander” and what survives of it

  1. Roger, thank you very much for making all this information available, it’s very useful. Jacoby’s edition of what remains of this work does not include the two most recent discoveries, but I intend to search out the Greek texts of them. Do you have any more information about the papyrus, to help in locating it?

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