Gordian Knot And How Alexander The Great Managed To Outmaneuver The Problem

A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - The Gordian Knot is a metaphorical expression that means a complicated problem or deadlock when we have an unsolvable problem, which is our “impossible knot”.

It has its beginnings a long time ago, when the Phrygians had no ruler and they plunged into a civil war, an ancient prophecy of the oracle was announced at Telmissus (the ancient capital of Lycia).

Alexander the Great slicing the Gordion knot with a sword-stroke

Alexander the Great slicing the Gordion knot with a sword-stroke.

It said that the new king would be the one who would enter the city in a simple ox-cart.

The first through the gates of the city was Gordias, a poor peasant who with his wife came to the city with a cart drawn by an ox. Gordias was declared king and his grateful son, Midas dedicated the ox-cart to the Phrygian god Sabazios (identified with Zeus). He tied its yoke to a post with an extremely sophisticated knot called the Gordian Knot.

The knot was later described by Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus as a masterwork. It comprised of “several knots all so tightly entangled that it was impossible to see how they were fastened.”

Gordian Knot

Gordias founded the city of Gordium, which became the Phrygian capital, and his ox-cart was preserved and remained in the royal palace. According to the prophecy of the oracle, a man who untied the knot was to receive power over Asia Minor or even all of Asia.

In the 4th century BC, Alexander the Great reached Phrygia and Gordium, which was allegedly the capital of Midas. After taking the city of Gordium, Alexander was shown the chariot of Gordias, founder of the old Phrygian monarchy, and was told about the prophecy.

Alexander wanted to untie the knot but he had no idea how to do it, so he drew his sword and sliced it in half with a single stroke or as another version says, he loosed the knot by pulling the linchpin from the yoke.

See also:

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Aristotle: First Book Collector Who Assembled The First Great Library Of Antiquity

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More About History

Aristobulus, an early historian, architect, military engineer as well as a close friend of Alexander) later claimed that untying the knot was easy for Alexander; he removed what they call the pole-pin, with which the yoke-knot was held together, and then drew back the yoke.

We will never know what really happened in the palace in Gordium and whether Alexander managed to untie the complex knot.

Norman F. Cantor in his book "Alexander the Great Journey to the End of the Earth" writes:

Alexander later went on to conquer Asia as far as the Indus and the regions of the Oxus, a major river in Central Asia. The prophecy was fulfilled.

Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer

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