A note on Arrian's Ektaxis kata Alanoon

di Michael Pavkovic

The Ancient History Bulletin, 2/1 (1988), pp. 21-23



The 10th century Byzantine manuscript Laurentianus LV 4 contains the tactical manuals of several Greek authors, including the Τεχνε Τακτικη of L. Flavius Arrianus. Appended to this treatise is a short piece labeled the Εκταξις κατα Αλανων, an interesting fragment which dates to sometime after the abortive invasion of Cappadocia by the Alani in A.D. 135 and which describes Arrian’s order of march and battle array.1 Unfortunately, the Ektaxis, which is preserved in but this single manuscript, has come down to us in a somewhat mutilated form. The text breaks off in mid sentence and also suffers from a number of lacunae.2 The sorry state of the Ektaxis has led to several attempts at emendation. Some of the most successful are the studies of C.L. Grotefend3 and E. Ritterling,4 which have provided profound insights into the composition of Arrian’s auxilia. More recently A.B. Bosworth has offered an interesting emendation explaining the role of the legionary κοντοφοροι;5 likewise, M.P. Speidel has finally resolved the debate over Arrian’s Απλανοι.6

There are, however, several other lacunae and doubtful readings that have not received a great deal of attention from scholars, and these require further consideration. One such item is the lacuna at the beginning of § 23. The previous section describes the troops who accompany Arrian: his equites singulares, his σοματοφυλακες (a legionary bodyguard), and the officers of his guard. Section 23 begins with a gap of nine or ten letters followed by ...ας εκατον κουφων λογχοφορων. Bosworth believed that the lacuna contained a reference to a parallel one hundred legionary guards, these being heavy-armed κοντοφοροι. Moreover, the lacuna would have contained specific orders for the deployment and intended use of the legionary guards; thus the legionary bodyguard would have the same organization as that prescribed for the legions in §§ 16-18, i.e., an equal mix of κοντοφοροι and λογχοφορωι.7

A cogent objection has been raised concerning Bosworth’s emendation based upon his identification of the λογχοφορωι as part of the legionary bodyguard. The λογχοφορωι are described as “lightly equipped”, κουφοι, a term which was used to contrast them with the “heavy” legionary λογχοφορωι, and thus these men are more probably auxiliaries. It seems therefore we have the auxiliary foot guards, the pedites singulares.8

One would therefore want to find an emendation which identifies the λογχοφορωι as the pedites singulares. The most obvious choice is to fill the gap with some form of επιλεκτος, the most direct reference to singulares. This apparently simple solution, however, presents two difficulties. First, it is not an easy matter to reconcile the ...ας with a form of επιλεκτος as the passage stands. Second, given the highly polished nature of the Ektaxis, it is likely that Arrian would have employed the literary device of variatio, avoiding the use of επιλεκτος twice in such proximity. Variatio appears to have been employed in the appellation of the pedites singulares; in § 5 they are called οι ακοντισται, while in the section under discussion they are referred to as οι λογχοφορωι.9 Arrian certainly employed variatio elsewhere in the Ektaxis, e.g., in § 1 he uses both the adjective Ραιτικης and the noun Ραιτων to describe cohortes Raetorum.

One possibility is that Arrian referred to these κουφοι λογχοφορωι as the “lightly equipped spearmen of the guard.” This would make it clear to his readers that the pedites singulares were meant yet would avoid repetition of the term επιλεκτος. A term with which one might render “the guard” is φρουρα, the Greek translation of praesidium, which often means a guard or an escort.10 Moreover, φρουρα can also refer to a guard as a whole, not just an individual guard unit, e.g., the φρουρα at Rome would not just refer to the Praetorians, the equites singulares Augusti, the urbanicii, or the vigiles separately, but the guard as a whole.11 Arrian could employ this term if he wanted to refer to the λογχοφορωι as his pedites singulares, members of his guard, without duplicating any other term. The text would then read something like this: εστωσαν δε αμφ αυτονοι της φρουρας εκατον κουφον λογχοφορων.  A lacuna in Laurentianus LV 4 does not necessarily represent the number of letters in the empty space, but rather only that a gap has been noted.12 This reading does, however, have the advantage that it fits reasonably well into the lacuna.

A second problematic passage which deserves some consideration is the doubtful reading θειασται of § 25. As the text stands, it is meaningless. Several early editors of the Ektaxis offered emendations. C. Mueller offered the reading θυρεαφοροι, a term which is often used for legionaries, while R. Hercher proposed πελτασται or peltasts.13

A better reading may be οπλιται. In textual terms, it is easy to see how οπλιται might have been corrupted to θειασται as follows:


The omicron is easily misread as a theta, the pi as an epsilon and an iota, and the lambda as an alpha. The only difficulty is the change of iota to sigma, and even this is not hard to see if the ink were smudged, making the iota appear somewhat thicker and more irregular.

In the context, οπλιται is also a better choice than the previous emendations. Arrian is ordering his λογχοφορωι to hurl their λογχαι, both the ψλοι (light infantry) and the “ψειασται.” If we replace this meaningless term with οπλιται, we have the light infantry, such as the Colchians and Rhiziani of § 7, and the heavy infantry, the legionaries of section 18 and perhaps even the auxilia who are known as οπλιται (§ 15).

It is certainly not possible to argue for this latter reading too vigorously, but it does have the advantage that it fits the text and the context.



1     The original form in which the Εκταξις κατα Αλανων was published and the reason it appears attached to the Τεχνε Τακτικη are matters of some conjecture and far beyond the scope of this paper. For summaries of the two major positions on the issue and literature, see A.B. Bosworth, “Arrian and the Alani,” HSCP 81 (1977) 247, who does not see the Ektaxis as part of Arrian’s Αλανικη, and E.L. Wheeler, Flavius Arrianus: A Political and Military Biography (Diss. Duke 1977) 272, who prefers the interpretation that the Ektaxis is a fragment of the lost History of the Alani.

The best general comments on the Ektaxis and Arrian’s legateship in Cappadocia are found in the following: H.F. Pelham, “Arrian as Legate of Cappadocia,” Essays on Roman History (Oxford 1909) 212-233; Bosworth, “Alani” 217-255; Wheeler, “Biography”, esp. 147-212, 238-248, and 276-322.

2     On the state of the manuscript, see Bosworth, “Alani” 232; A. Dain, “Les Stratégistes byzantins,” Centre de recherche d’histoire et civilisation byzantine, Travaux et Mémoires II (Paris 1967) 383f. P.A. Stadter, Arrian of Nicomedia (Chapel Hill 1980) 207f., n.38, based on the fact that the next work in the manuscript, the Strategicus of Onasander, began on the verso of the lost folio, has calculated that approximately twenty lines of Teubner text (about fifteen lines in the manuscript) have been lost from the Ektaxis. This makes good sense as the text of Onasander begins at a point which would be about one manuscript page into the work. Therefore the Strategicus would have begun at the top of the verso. The loss of Stadter’s fifteen manuscript lines would end the Ektaxis before the middle of the recto providing sufficient blank space on the page to justify its removal as extra writing paper.

3     “Die Truppencorps in Arrian’s Marschordnung gegen die Alanen,” Philologus 26 (1867) 18-28.

4     “Zur Erklärung von Arrians Εκταξις κατα ΑλανωνWiener Studien 24 (1902) 359-372.

5     “Alani” 238f.

6     M.P. Speidel, “The Roman Army in Asia Minor: Recent Epigraphic Discoveries and Research,” Armies and Frontiers in Roman and Byzantine Anatolia, ed. S. Mitchell (Oxford 1983, International Series 156) 16, has firmly identified the Απλάνοι with the cohors Apula c.R.

7     “Alani” 250f.

8     See E. Ritterling, “Ein Amtsabzeichen der beneficiarii consulares im Museum zu Wiesbaden,” Bonner Jahrbücher 25 (1919) 25f. M.P. Speidel, The Guards of the Roman Armies (Bonn 1978 = Antiquitas Reihe 1, Band 28) 49f., also identifies the logxoforoi as pedites singulares and makes special note of the fact that they are “light”. The term koufos applied to the auxilia of the early second century A.D. is certainly an artificial one as the auxilia were as nearly heavily armed and armoured as the legionaries and are even called oplitai in the Ektaxis by Arrian (e.g., section 14). This use of koufos by Arrian is similar to the convention of referring to the auxilia as leves armaturae (e.g., Tac. Ann. 13.41.1 and 14.34.2) something they clearly were not.

9     For the fact that singulares can be called akontistai, see Speidel, Guards, 128. Moreover, the position in the agmen of Arrian’s akontistai is similar to that of the singulares of the legati, praefecti, and tribuni in Josephus BI 3.122. The reason Arrian’s singulares do not hold the same position as do Vespasian’s may be due to their relatively small numbers, viz. only one hundred accompany Arrian rather than the more normal five hundred. The remaining four hundred form the garrison of Phasis on the Black Sea (Peripl. 9.3) and are called stratiwtai epilektoi. M.P. Speidel, “The Caucasus Frontier. Second Century Garrisons at Apsaurus, Petra, and Phasis,” Studien zu den Militärgrenzen Roms III (Stuttgart 1986 = 13. Internationaler Limeskongress, Aalen 1983) 658f., now identifies the four hundred stratiwtai epilektoi as singulares rather than vexillarii, cf. Speidel, Guards, 45. Moreover, we can assume that if Arrian had meant vexillarii at Phasis, he would have somehow qualified the terms used in order to differentiate them from the singulares, perhaps with the addition of thj falaggoj or something similar to show their connection with the legiones. This is in fact the terminology used by Arrian to describe the equites legionis (§ 4).

10     For froura as praesidium, see H.J. Mason, Greek Terms for Roman Institutions (Toronto 1974) 98, s.v. froura.

11     D. L. Kennedy, “Some Observations on the Praetorian Guard,” Ancient Society 9 (1978) 298f. The most pertinent passages for our purposes are Dio 52.24.1, Herodian 4.1.5 and 3.5.7.

12     See the comments by Roos in A.G. Roos-G. Wirth, Scripta Minora et Fragmenta (Leipzig 1968) xxi.

13     For these emendations, see Roos-Wirth 184.

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