How Real was the 'Policy of Fusion'


The Secondary Historiography

In 1926, the classical scholar William Tarn claimed that Alexander’s aim for his empire was homonoia – the unity of mankind. According to Tarn, Alexander rejected the ‘Greek’ view (of such as Aristotle) that the Persians were ‘barbarians’ little higher than animals, and instead tried to create a sense of oneness.


Tarn cited especially Alexander’s orientalism, his attempt to introduce proskynesis, the marriages at Susa, and his use of Persian satraps and soldiers. He particularly noted Alexander’s 'prayer of reconciliation’ at Opis:


After this Alexander gave a public banquet, over which he himself presided, with the Macedonians sitting around him; and next to them the Persians; after whom came the men of the other nations, preferred in honour for their personal rank or for some meritorious action. The king and his guests drew wine from the same bowl and poured out the same libations, both the Greek prophets and the Persian Magi starting the ceremony. He prayed for other blessings, and especially that harmony and community of rule might exist between the Macedonians and Persians.  (Arrian 7.11)



Plutarch, in a speech about Alexander called Alexander's fortune and virtue, struck a similar note, but linked it to Alexander's spreading of 'Greekness' to the barbarian world (= 'Hellenisation'):


Alexander did not follow the advice of Aristotle and show care for the Greeks as friends and kinsmen, while treating the others as animals or plants; this would have filled his realm with many wars and exiles and festering unrest.
Rather, believing that he had come as a god-sent governor and mediator of the whole world, he overcame by arms those he could not bring over by persuasion and brought men together from all over the world, mixing together, as it were, in a loving-cup their lives, customs, marriages and ways of living.
The difference between Greeks and barbarians was not a matter of cloak or shield, or of a dagger or Median dress. What distinguished Greekness was excellence…



Thus in the 1950s most scholars believed that Alexander had a policy of ‘Fusion’ which attempted to unify his Greek and Persians subjects (you can see this idea in Robert Rossen's film).

By the 1970s, however, writers such as AB Bosworth were attacking this view. Bosworth demonstrated that Alexander had not really attempted to ‘fuse’ the two peoples, but that what he was doing actually was playing one off against the other.

Recently (1995), by studying the ethnic origins of Alexander’s courtiers, Eugene Borza has concluded that neither can Alexander’s actions can be understood as an attempt to ‘hellenise’ Asia (= ‘to spread Greek civilisation’) – in fact, apart from a gaggle of ‘sophists, physicians, actors, athletes, musicians, jugglers and other hangers-on’, Alexander did not even trust the Greeks. At the time of Alexander’s death, 15 of the 24 satraps, 21 of the 24 garrison commanders, and 56 of the 65 ‘Companions’ were Macedonian.

Borza concludes: ‘The conclusion is inescapable: there was a largely ethnic Macedonian imperial administration from beginning to end.’ .





The following websites will help you complete the task:

You will need to remind yourself of what Alexander did, by studying the webpage on Alexander Rules His Empire.

There is a detailed analysis at

This discussion by two famous historians is muddled, but relates the question pertinently to Arrian.



Divide a large sheet of paper into four sections, headed 'Fusion', 'Hellenisation', 'Macedonianism' and 'Divide-and-rule', and then:

Go through the EVENTS of Alexander's life, selecting key illustrative moments, categorising them as 'Fusion', 'Hellenisation', 'Macedonian imperialism' and 'Divide-and-rule'.
Make sure you include details and minor events, as well as just the 'big things'.


Go through the SOURCES of Alexander's life, selecting key illustrative passages, categorising them as 'Fusion', 'Hellensation', 'Macedonian imperialism' and 'Divide-and-rule'.
Remember to evaluate their validity - a single valid source will outweigh a dozen passages which are all imaginary or full of errors.

In your opinion, what was Alexander's policy for his empire?