In this paper, I argue that any claims to Alexander’s so-called “vision for the unity of mankind” or “policy of fusion” are those of his sources. More precisely, I argue that they are in tandem with those of Plutarch and his contemporaries. This paper makes clear that this ideology of concord and fusion between conquered and conquerors is Plutarch’s own utopian vision of a harmonious co-existence between Greeks and Romans and not that of Alexander.
Historians have grappled with Alexander’s goals and dreams for more than a century. J. G. Droysen’s Verschmelzung between East and West, was picked up by W.W. Tarn in a 1933 lecture who posited that Alexander the Great was a visionary picturing a world in which the different races known to him would become of one mind and would live in unity and concord as partners in his empire rather than as his subjects; this dream Tarn called it “the unity of mankind” (Alexander the Great: Volume II Sources and Studies,  400). While Ernst Badian showed that Tarn’s figure of Alexander the Dreamer was a phantom (“Alexander the Great and the Unity of Mankind,” Historia 7  425-44), A. B. Bosworth proved that Tarn’s assessment of the historicity of the vision of Alexander is highly problematic and concluded that Alexander planned to retain the preferred status of the Macedonians in his empire (“Alexander and the Iranians,” JHS 100  1-20). Although discredited by most modern scholars, Tarn’s position of an Alexander the Dreamer and the Civilizer still holds credence in popular culture as Oliver Stone’s (and Robin Lane Fox’s) Alexander (2004) attests almost eighty years later. Stone has described Alexander as a “proto-man,” an enlightened monarch naturally in search of one land, one world...“who believed that he was the right force to bring the world into a greater sense of unification and prosperity” (“Afterword,” in Responses to Oliver Stone’s Alexander , 340-1).
My paper is at variance with previous historiography in that, instead of seeking to historicize Alexander and his goals, it argues that a so-called “policy” of fusion is an ideological construct promoted by Plutarch in the context of the Roman Empire and elite provincial ideology. After a brief parallel examination of the sources (in particular, Diodorus’, Arrian’s, Curtius’, and Plutarch’s accounts of the Opis banquet and the marriage at Susa), I will point out some of Plutarch’s other works in which an ideology of homonoia and krasis is found (such as in the Lives of Romulus and Theseus, the Dialogue on Love,etc.). I will conclude that Plutarch constructs an ideology of concord and fusion representative of the rhetorical tradition of the provincial elite of the early Roman Empire. Therefore, Plutarch’s Life of Alexander as well as his On Alexander’s Fortune should be read as primary sources for the (re)construction of the history and traditions of his own period rather than that of Alexander.