A Letter to Arrian (20) An Odd Bit of Work (!)

roman_writerMy dear Arrian,
I cannot remember if I have said this before, but in case I haven’t, I will now. Thank you for the detail you give to describing Alexander’s major battles. As well as being very precise you write in a equally simple, and straight forward, fashion. This may make your writing style (seem) very dull to some but I believe it is a strength. Histories gains credibility from being solidly researched and written (even if – like dear Herodotus – they are not always right!).
It is interesting to note that (according to Aristobulos, anyway) Porus’ son could have stopped the Macedonians from completing their crossing of the Hydaspes if only his charioteers had left their chariots and attacked the Macedonians on foot as the latter made their way to the riverbank from the second island.
Rather than do so, they drove their chariots by and did nothing. This reminded me of how Bessus had the opportunity to deliver a fatal blow to Alexander by attacking him as he came off the Hindu Kush. As it finally completed its 11 day crossing, the Macedonian army was ripe for attack, for it was strung out and tired. Instead, the pretender chose to ride north to the aid of his ally, Spitamenes. Human life really does hang by a thread, doesn’t it?
I have to be honest and say, I were summing up the battle at the Hydaspes River, I don’t think I would describe it as ‘an odd bit of work’ but this rather old-fashioned description made me smile. I wish I knew if it is a faithful rendering of what you wrote in Greek!
To go back to the battle, was it still in progress when Porus finally agreed to meet Alexander? I assume not as the thought of two kings meeting one another in such a circumstance is too incredible to contemplate (although it does make me wonder if it has ever happened, anywhere else).

… what I have written in Bucephalus’ praise, I have written for Alexander’s sake.

Dearest Arrian, what lies behind this comment? Was it against your dignity to write well of an animal? I wonder. Perhaps you were reluctant to give Bucephalus too much praise lest people connect him to Incitatus and so compare Alexander and Caligula. If you see Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus about, box him round the ears for me. Bucephalus deserved great praise for his loyalty and bravery.
Your friend,

The above picture is from Ancient History
An index of all the letters can be found here

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