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It is widely accepted that Alexander attempted to persuade his Macedonian followers to accept the Persian practice of proskynesis (possibly, but not necessarily involving prostration), that this was opposed by members of his court, and that the attempt was given up. This article re-examines the evidence and the assumptions, both ancient and modern, that lie behind the episode as reported. It argues that the words proskynesis and proskynein had a range of meanings in Greek, but were primarily associated with Greek ideas of Persian behaviour; the gestures covered by the term proskynesis were not primarily associated with the gods by Greeks; the depiction of Callisthenes as representing principled opposition to Alexander is fictitious; the objection to the adoption by Alexander of ‘barbarian’ practices reflects Roman prejudices, rather than any concern of Alexander's contemporaries; the surviving literary sources do not provide reliable evidence for any ‘experiment with proskynesis’ by Alexander.