Narrative suspense in Arrian’s Indikē (29.9–31.9): the portraiture of Alexander and the exotic tradition intermingled


  • Vasileios Liotsakis University of the Peloponnese



BY UNDERTAKING to narrate the navigation of the Indian coastline by the Macedonian fleet, Arrian aspired to compose a work which, along with the Anabasis of Alexander, would serve as an integral part of his prosopography of Alexander. On the other hand, Arrian was also fully aware of the fact that, in writing the Indian account, he was also invited to follow a long tradition of exotic literature on the mirabilia of India. As a result, in the Indikē the reader is offered the opportunity to meet with passages that serve both the author’s need to amuse and his intention to focus on the characters of Alexander and Nearchus.
Although modern scholarship has repeatedly noted the twofold nature of the work, little attention has been paid to if and how these two goals intermingle on a narrative level. The present study constitutes the first narratological analysis of Arrian’s Indikē and elaborates exactly on this question: How did Arrian manage to reach a compromise in his narrative between these two goals of the work, the amusement of the reader and the delineation of Alexander’s and Nearchus’ literary portraits? By drawing from recent outcomes of psychology, theory of literature, and narratology, I examine the narrative techniques through which Arrian exploits exotic stories about the Macedonian navy’s voyage in the Indian Sea in his effort not only to entertain his readers but also to shape a favorable image for the protagonists. The main point of argument of this essay is that the exotic and amusing elements of the Indikē should not be seen cut off from the literary representation of Alexander’s and Nearchus’ intellectual and moral qualities but as a part of this representation. The basic narrative technique, through which Arrian combines elements of exotic content and characterization, is the creation of suspense.




How to Cite

Liotsakis, V. (2020). Narrative suspense in Arrian’s Indikē (29.9–31.9): the portraiture of Alexander and the exotic tradition intermingled. Ariadne, (23-24), 61–82.