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A Note on ‘Pursuit’ in Arrian

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2009

N. G. L. Hammond
Clare College, Cambridge


Arrian was better qualified to understand the nature and significance of ‘the pursuit’ in Macedonian warfare than any modern scholar. He had himself fought and commanded in a very similar kind of warfare, and he was keenly interested in the study of military tactics. He was also better informed about the pursuits which Alexander had conducted, because he was able to use the accounts of Alexander's contemporaries, Ptolemy and Aristobulus. Anyone today who wishes to question the veracity of Arrian's reports of these pursuits cannot do so of his own experience. He should therefore turn to comparable pursuits of recent times which have been reported accurately beyond any shadow of doubt.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 1978

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1 Mr. G. T. Griffith and Professor A. B. Bosworth have kindly read and commented on the first draft of this note.

2 Wavell, A. P., The Palestine Campaigns (3rd edn., 1931), p.149.Google Scholar

3 Ibid., p.207.

4 p.210.

5 p.235.

6 Here I am giving only Arrian's account, The tradition that Alexander rode 3,300 stades, i.e. just over 375 miles in 11 days is in Plutarch, , Alexander 42.6.Google Scholar When Tarn cited the tradition in CAH 6.385, he was not misunderstanding Arrian's account and committing ‘a serious factual error’, as Milns seems to suppose in Historia 15 (1966), 256.Google Scholar Milns may be right in criticizing me for following that tradition. But he himself commits a ‘factual error’ in saying that I accepted a march of ‘c. 52 miles from Rhagae to the Caspian Gates’, a march which he attributes to Arrian (in fact Arrian 3.20.1–4 is far less specific, because to him Rhagae and the Caspian Gates were districts, not points). What I did say was that Alexander's picked force covered ‘fifty miles in the final night to find Darius stabbed’ (A History of Greece to 322 B.C., p. 622). That was a different march (Arrian 3.21.9), one which even Milns seems not to reject. Cf. also Neumann, C., ‘A note on Alexander's March Rates’, Historia 20 (1971), 196–8.Google Scholar He is concerned not so much with pursuit by cavalry as the speed of the army, which he substantiates convincingly by giving analogies from European history.

7 Op. cit., p.168.Google Scholar

8 238; the 5th Cavalry Division losing ‘only 21 per cent, of its horses’ (233; cf. p.167 note, and 223).

9 p.211.

10 p.239.

11 See my article ‘The Kingdoms of Illyria circa 400–167 B.C.’, BSA 61 (1966), 245 f.Google Scholar

12 ‘Alexander's Campaign in Illyria’, JHS 94 (1974), 6687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

13 The distance is of course different if other identifications are made. For example, Ceka, N. and Papajani, L., ‘La route de la vallée du Shkumbin’, Studia Albanica 1972.1.94Google Scholar with fig. 3, have proposed to place the battle at Lower Selcë in the upper valley of the Shkumbi. The pursuit then would have been a matter of some 50 kilometres. Frano Prendi has suggested Symizë, which would mean a pursuit of some 70 kilometres. On the other hand if the battle is located inside Macedonia e.g. in old Eordaea, the pursuit would be a matter of some 160 kilometres. The remark of worth, A. B. Bos in ‘Errors in Arrian’, CQ N.S. 26 (1976), i. 124Google Scholar, ‘Wherever one locates the site of Pellion, the mountains of the Taulantians were some 100 kilometres from the battle site’, makes no sense to me.

14 The preliminaries too were evidently similar. ‘During darkness the 4th and 5th Cavalry Divisions moved up … and placed themselves close behind the infantry … The mounted troops were thus ready to take immediate advantage of the infantry success’ (Wavell, , op. cit., p.208).Google Scholar

15 See my acknowledgement in JHS 94 (1974), 85 n.34Google Scholar, where I discussed this passage. However, I do not share Bosworth's opinion that this is the only possible meaning of the Greek (Ioc. cit.).

16 For examples of such abbreviation in this campaign see my article in JHS 94.78, 83, and 85.Google Scholar We have only to compare the fragments of Callisthenes and the account of Arrian for the battle of Issus to see how much Arrian abbreviated.

17 In JHS 94.86 I argued that the Dardanians held the right wing which Alexander broke and routed.

18 I cited this pursuit in JHS 94.86 n.34. Not so Bosworth; perhaps he regards Arrian's account of that pursuit as erroneous.

19 Compare ‘those with Cleitus and Glaucias’ in the same chapter (1.6.9) and generally as in Diod. Sic. 16.86.4Google Scholar; see also JHS 94.87 n.36.Google Scholar

20 Ptolemy, a cavalryman, presumably took part in the pursuit. Arrian mentioned his own knowledge of the northern Balkans (8.4.15); he may have travelled along the Via Egnatia and so have passed the southern side of ‘the mountains of the Taulantians’ by Bradashesh where ‘mutatio ad Quintum’ was a station on the road (see my article in JRS 64 (1974), 188).Google Scholar

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