Callisthenes of Olynthus (in Greek Καλλισθένης; ca. 360-328 BC) was a Greek historian. He was the son of Hero and Proxenus of Atarneus, which made him the great nephew of Aristotle by his sister Arimneste. They first met when Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great. Through his great-uncle's influence, he was later appointed to attend Alexander the Great on his Asiatic expedition as a professional historian.
During the first years of Alexander's campaign in Asia, Callisthenes showered praises upon the Macedonian conqueror. As the king and army penetrated further into Asia, however, Callisthenes' tone began to change. He began to sharply criticize Alexander's adoption of oriental customs, with special scorn for Alexander's growing desire that those who presented themselves before him perform the servile ceremony of proskynesis. Having thereby greatly offended the king, Callisthenes was accused of being privy to a treasonable conspiracy and thrown into prison, where he died from torture or disease. His melancholic end was commemorated in a special treatise (Callisthenes or a Treatise on Grief) by his friend Theophrastus, whose acquaintance he made during a visit to Athens.
Callisthenes wrote an account of Alexander's expedition up to the time of his own execution, a history of Greece from the Peace of Antalcidas (387) to the Phocian war (357), a history of the Phocian war, and other works, all of which have perished. However, his account of Alexander's expedition was preserved long enough to be mined as a direct or indirect source for other histories that have survived. Polybius scolds Callisthenes for his poor descriptions of the battles of Alexander.
A quantity of the more legendary material coalesced into a text known as the Alexander Romance, the basis of all the Alexander legends of the Middle Ages, originated during the time of the Ptolemies, but in its present form belongs to the 3rd century AD. Its author is usually known as pseudo-Callisthenes, although in the Latin translation by Julius Valerius Alexander Polemius (beginning of the 4th century) it is ascribed to a certain Aesopus; Aristotle, Antisthenes, Onesicritus and Arrian have also been credited with the authorship.
There are also Syrian, Armenian and Slavonic versions, in addition to four Greek versions (two in prose and two in verse) in the Middle Ages (see Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur, 1897, p. 849). Valerius's translation was completely superseded by that of Leo, arch-priest of Naples in the 10th century, the so-called Historia de Preliis.
（Καλλισθένης). A Greek historian, born at Olynthus about B.C. 360. He was a relation of Aristotle, from whom he received instruction at the same time as Alexander the Great. He accompanied Alexander on his Asiatic campaign, and offended him by refusing to pay him servile homage after the Persian fashion, and by other daring exhibitions of independence. The consequence was that the king threw his friend into prison on the pretext that he was concerned in a conspiracy against his life. Callisthenes died in captivity in B.C. 328, in consequence, probably, of maltreatment. Of his historical writings, particularly those dealing with the exploits of Alexander, only fragments remain; but he was always ranked among the most famous historians. Indeed, his reputation as the companion of Alexander and the historian of his achievements maintained itself so well that he was made responsible in literature for the romantic narrative of Alexander's life which grew up in the following centuries. This was translated into Latin towards the end of the third century a.d by Iulius Valerius (q.v.), and became the main authority for the mediæval adaptations of the myth of Alexander. See the work of Westermann, De Callisthene (Leipzig, 1838-42).