Arrian was born in Nicomedia (present-day İzmit), the provincial capital of Bithynia, Dio called him Flavius Arrianus Nicomediansis. In respect of his birth date, sources provide similar dates for his birth; within a few years prior to 90, 89, and 85–90 AD. The line of reasoning for dates belonging to 85-90 AD is from the fact of Arrian being made a consul around 130 AD, and the usual age for this, during this period, being forty-two years of age. (ref. p. 312, & SYME 1958, same page).His family was from the provincial aristocracy of Greek stock, and his full name, L. Flavius Arrianus, indicates that he was a Roman citizen, suggesting that the citizenship went back several generations, probably to the time of the Roman conquest some 170 years before.
Sometime during the 2nd century AD (117 to 120 AD) while in Epirus, probably Nicopolis, Arrian attended lectures of Epictetus of Nicopolis, and proceeded within a time to fall into pupillage of him, a fact attested to by Lucian. All that is known about the life of Epictetus is due to Arrian, in that Arrian left a Encheiridion (Handbook) of Epictetus' philosophy. After Epirus he went to Athens, while there he became known as the young Xenophon, as a consequence of the similarity of his relation to Epictetus as Xenophon had to Socrates.
For a period, some time about 126 AD, a friend of the emperor Hadrian, who appointed him to the Senate. First consul suffectus, during 132 AD (Howatson shows 131) he was made prefect or legate (governor) of Cappadocia, by Hadrian, a service he continued for a six-year duration. When he retired, Arrian went to live in Athens, where he became archon sometime during 145 or 146 (EJ chinnock shows, he retired to Nicomedia and was appointed priest to Demeter and Persephone while there). He died in the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Arrian referred to himself as the second Xenophon, on account of the reputation and esteem of him. Lucian stated him to be:
a Roman of the first rank with a life-long attachment to learning
Τhis quality is identified as paideia (παιδεία) which is the quality considered to be of one who is known as an educated and learned personage, i.e., one who is highly esteemed and important.
There are eight extant works (cf. Syvänne, footnote of p. 260). The Indica and the Anabasis are the only works completely extant. The entire remaining are known as FGrH 156 to designate those collected fragments which exist.
This work is the earliest extant that is dated with any confidence. It is a writing addressed to the Emperor, Hadrian.
Arrian was a pupil of Epictetus around 108 AD, and, according to his own account, he was moved to publish his notes of Epictetus' lectures, which are known as Discourses of Epictetus, by their unauthorized dissemination. According to George Long, Arrian noted from Epictetus' lectures for his private use and some time later made of these, the Discourses. Photius states that Arrian produced two books the Dissertations and the Discourses. The Discourses are also known as Diatribai and are apparently a verbatim recording of Epictetus' lectures.
The Enchiridion is a short compendium of all Epictetus' philosophical principles. It is also known as a handbook, and A Mehl considers the Enchiridion to have been a vade mecum for Arrian. The Enchiridion is apparently a summary of the Discourses.
JB Stockdale considered that Arrian wrote eight books of which four were lost by the Middle Ages and the remaining ones became the Discourses. In a comparison of the contents of the Enchiridion with the Discourses, it is apparent that the former contains material not present within the latter, suggesting an original lost source for the Enchiridion.
Friendly conversations with Epictetus (Homiliai Epiktetou) is a 12 book work mentioned by Photius in his Bibliotheca, of which only fragments remain.
The work comprises seven books. Arrian used Xenophon' account of the March of Cyrus as the basis for this work.
History of the Diadochi or Events after Alexander is a work originally of ten books, a commentary on this work was written by Photius (FW Walbank, p. 8).
Three extant fragments are the Vatican Palimsest (of the 10th century AD), PSI 12.1284 (Oxyrhynchus), and the Gothenburg palimpsest (of the 10th century also), these possibly stemming originally from Photius.
The writing is about the successors of Alexander the Great, circa 323 – 321 or 319.
A lost work of seventeen books, fragments were maintained by the Suda and Stephen of Byzantium. The work survives only in states of adaptation made later by Photius and Syncellus. Translated, the title is History of the Parthians. Arrian's aim in the work, was to set forth events of the Parthian war of Trajan. The writing mentioned the Parthians trace their clan to Artaxerxes II.
A work of eight books, Bibliotheca (via Photius) states it is the fourth to have been written by Arrian.
A work translated a Nicodemian script (minor).
Indica is a work on a variety of things pertaining to India, and the voyage of Nearchus in the Persian Gulf. The first part of Indica was based largely on the work of the same name of Megasthenes, the second part based on a journal written by Nearchos.
Written 136/137 AD (in the 20th year of Hadrian), it is a treatise on Roman cavalry and military tactics, and includes information on the nature, arms and discipline of the phalanx. The hippika gymnasia is particularly a concern of Arrian in the writing.
Another translation of the title is Ars tactica, in Greek is Τέχνη τακτική.
This work has generally been considered to be in large part a panegyric to Hadrian, written for the occasion of his vicenallia, although some scholars have argued that its second half may have had practical use.
Cynegeticus (Κυνηγετικός), translated as the hunting man, is a work about hunting dogs, canes venatici, the Celtic grey-hound.
The work is based on an earlier exposition made by Xenophon, whom Arrian thought to be the authority on the subject of hunting.
Ektaxis kata Alanon (Ἔκταξις κατὰ Ἀλανῶν) is a work of a now fragmentary nature; the title is translated as Deployment against the Alani or The order of battle against the Alans or referred to simply as Alanica. It is thought not have been written as a presentation of facts but for literary reasons. Pertaining to the relevant historical fact though, while governor of Cappadocia Arrian had to command the repelling of an invasion of the Alani, sometime during 135 AD, a struggle in which Arrian' two legions were victorious.
Arrian identified the particular means, he makes explicit, of pursuing warfare, as being based on Greek methods, within the work.
Ektaxis kata Alanon is also translated as Acies contra Alanos. The work was known for a time as A History of the Alani (Alanike via Photius) a fragment describing a plan of battle contra the Alani was found in Milan c. 17th century which was thought at that time to belong to the History.
Monographs or biographies, including of Dion of Syracuse, Timoleon of Corinth, and Tilliborus, brigand or robber of the Asia minor, which are now lost.