Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Legend of the Gordian Knot

Alexander Cuts the Gordian Knot

The god Zeus had declared that when it came time for the people of ancient Phrygia to select a king, they must choose the first person to ride up to the temple of Zeus in a wagon. 

The peasant Gordius innocently fulfilled the oracle, was made king, and ruled very successfully.  In his gratitude Gordius dedicated his wagon to Zeus by tying it to a pole near the temple with an intricate knot of bark.

Another oracle declared that anyone who succeeded in untying the knot would be the ruler of all Asia. The knot stayed firmly tied, confounding all attempts to loosen it, until the arrival of Alexander the Great. 

Even Alexander’s conventional attempts to untie the knot were unsuccessful, until he cut the knot open with his sword. Zeus honored Alexander’s initiative by making the prophecy come true, and Alexander conquered all of Asia and more.

The “Gordian knot” has come to represent a difficult and intractable problem, while Alexander’s simple solution focused on the outcome rather than the problem.

for more on the gordian knot

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