Documents for the Study of the Gospels

By David R. Cartlidge; David L. Dungan | Go to book overview

Two Prefaces from Arrian

Introduction: A native of the province of Bithynia, Arrian was born near the middle of the first century A.D., and eventually rose to become governor of the province of Cappadocia under Hadrian (emperor A.D. 117–138). He was a student of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, and saved for posterity a valuable verbatim transcript of his Discourses (see below, pp. 145–49). He also wrote on historical subjects, most importantly a narrative describing Alexander the Great’s expedition to conquer Persia. Below are Arrian’s own comments on each of these writings.


Arrian, Letter to Lucius Gellius

Arrian to Lucius Gellius: greetings.

I did not compose “The Words of Epictetus” as one usually composes such a book, nor did I myself present them to humanity (i.e., publish them). I declare that I did not “compose” them at all. Rather, whatever I heard him say I wrote down verbatim, this writing a memoir (hypomnēmata)1 to endure for myself, to preserve his thoughts and bold (speech).

These words are thus an example of remarks such as someone might make extemporaneously to another; they are not what someone would write to be read for posterity. As such, I do not know how without my control or knowledge they fell into men’s hands.

To me it is no great concern if I appear incapable of composition; and to Epictetus it would be no concern at all if someone were to despise his words, since he, when he said them, desired nothing other than to excite the thinking of those who heard them to the best things.… Farewell.


The Expedition of Alexander, Preface

Wherever Ptolemy the son of Lagos and Aristoboulos the son of Aristoboulos have both written the same things concerning Alexander the son of Philip, these I have written as being completely true.2 But those things (they wrote) that are not the same, I chose (from one or the other) those things which seemed to me more believable and at the same time more interesting.

Many other writers have written things about Alexander, nor is there anyone about whom more discordant things are written. But to me Ptolemy and

1. The Christian gospels are called “memoirs of the apostles” by Justin Martyr, Apol. 1.
66–67.

2. The men named here were two of Alexander’s top generals.

-125-

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