Propaganda as 'Knowledge' production: Alexander the Great, piety, portents and persuasion

R. James Ferguson

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Propaganda deployed as ‘information warfare’ is an increasingly common trend in 21st century conflicts.However, the sophisticated manipulation of images, records, and ritual are well-attested in the historical record for over four thousand years. The ancient world is worth careful study because its use of propaganda was aimed as the fundamental generation of knowledge that would then be handed down as the valid historical record of kingdoms, rulers and peoples. One of the most fascinating examples of this was Alexander the Great’s effort to build a transnational empire cemented by formulating an elevated religious status for himself that could appeal to Greeks, Macedonians, Egyptians and Persians. Alexander’s agendas were complex, and if ultimately unsuccessful in his own lifetime, nonetheless shaped dominant historical accounts for over two millennia. They were far more sophisticated than President Trump’s populism or President
Putin’s effort to build a Eurasian civilizational-identity that can transcend Russian particularism. Propaganda is not just about spreading particular truths or falsehoods, but is engaged in the generation, deletion and shaping of transmitted ‘knowledge’ that influences national identities and political power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-94
Number of pages45
JournalCulture Mandala: The Bulletin of the Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2018


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