Gordian Knot

related topics
{god, call, give}
{@card@, make, design}
{son, year, death}
{war, force, army}
{math, number, function}
{town, population, incorporate}

The Gordian Knot is a legend of Phrygian Gordium associated with Alexander the Great. It is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem solved by a bold stroke ("cutting the Gordian knot"):

"Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter" (Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 1 Scene 1. 45–47)

Contents

Legend

At one time the Phrygians were without a king. An oracle at Telmissus (the ancient capital of Phrygia) decreed that the next man to enter the city driving an ox-cart should become their king. A peasant farmer named Gordias drove into town on an ox-cart. His position had also been predicted earlier by an eagle landing on his cart, a sign to him from the gods, and on entering the city Gordias was declared king by the priests. In gratitude, his son Midas dedicated the ox-cart[1] to the Phrygian god Sabazios (whom the Greeks identified with Zeus) and either tied it to a post or tied its shaft with an intricate knot of cornel (Cornus mas) bark. The ox-cart[2] still stood in the palace of the former kings of Phrygia at Gordium in the fourth century BC when Alexander arrived, at which point Phrygia had been reduced to a satrapy, or province, of the Persian Empire.

In 333 BC, while wintering at Gordium, Alexander the Great attempted to untie the knot. When he could not find the end to the knot to unbind it, he sliced it in half with a stroke of his sword, producing the required ends (the so-called "Alexandrian solution"). That night there was a violent thunderstorm. The prophets took this as a sign that Zeus was pleased and would grant Alexander many victories. Once Alexander had sliced the knot with a sword-stroke, his biographers claimed in retrospect that an oracle further prophesied that the one to untie the knot would become the king of Asia.[3]

Status of the legend

Alexander is a figure of outstanding celebrity and the dramatic episode with the Gordian Knot remains widely known. Literary sources are Alexander's propagandist Arrian (Anabasis Alexandri 2.3) Quintus Curtius (3.1.14), Justin's epitome of Pompeius Trogus (11.7.3), and Aelian's De Natura Animalium 13.1.[4]

Full article ▸

related documents
Amram
Melissus of Crete
Pawnee mythology
Asterion
Itylus
Omphalos
Tyrfing
Metis (mythology)
Enlil
Kurma
Marduk
Rán
Caerus
Mystery cult
Aditi
Khonsu
Seven Sages of Greece
Sigyn
The Tombs of Atuan
Renenutet
Triton (mythology)
Elagabalus (deity)
Chimera (mythology)
Third Nephi
Amphisbaena
Nekhbet
Sin (mythology)
Kwakwaka'wakw mythology
Cacus
Pegasus