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Appian of Alexandria

(c. 95 - c. 180 CE)

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)


Appian of Alexandria (Appianus Alexandrinus) was born around 95 CE in Alexandria, Egypt, where he held high official positions. He was a famous Greek historian.

During the Jewish uprising under Trajan, he fled Egypt from the Jews. In 120 CE came to Rome. Under Hadrian, he became an imperial lawyer (advocatus fisci), in 147 CE. he became an Imperial Prosecutor in Egypt (possibly under Marcus Aurelius and Verus). About this, he wrote to the emperor Antoninus Pius Appian’s friend, Fronto. He obtained Roman citizenship probably during the time of Trajan or Hadrian. Hence his Latin name could also be Ulpius or Aelius.

Roman history

The main work of Appian of Alexandria, written at the end of his life, was “Roman History” (Historia Romana) in 24 books. It is possible that the impetus for writing the work was the celebration of the 900th anniversary of the founding of the city of Rome. Hence it can be assumed that the year 147 CE is the date after which Appian began writing his work, and which he had to complete before 163 CE. The work is an important source for contemporary historiography.

He wrote under the influence of admiration for the Roman state – his bravery, prudence, endurance, strength, but also luck. “Roman history” covered the times from the foundation of Rome to its contemporaries (the reign of Trajan) and described them according to the peoples of the Roman Empire. He did not pay too much attention to the chronology of the described events, he is not precise in military terminology (like Livius and Dionysius), he made mistakes in the geographical location (Gades locates in Africa, writes that the Ebro flows into the North Sea, Sagunt and New Carthage are considered one by one) and the same city).
Nevertheless, his work is a valuable source of news and information that cannot be found in other ancient authors. In some places, it is the only source (between 167 and 68 BCE Appian is the main source, and usually even the only one). From Appian’s account, we learn the most about the famous slave uprising led by Spartacus, and only Appian described the mass execution of the insurgents.

From the extensive Introduction to “Roman History” we learn that Appian wrote a separate book about his life and experiences related to functions in the state administration. The work has not survived to our times.

He probably died around 180 CE.

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