Alexander the Great & the Gordian Knot

The Gordian Knot is an ancient Greek story about Gordias and the ox-cart that he fastened to a post using a knot. The story is set in Phrygias, in modern-day Turkey, where the local people had no king. Because of this, the oracle proclaimed that the next man who would enter the city should be declared king. A farmer named Gordias led his ox-cart into Phrygia and was consequently proclaimed king. Gordian expressed his gratitude by tying his ox-cart to a post and dedicating it to Sabazios, a Phrygian god. The knot was so elaborate that the Roman historian Curtius Rufus described it as “several knots all so tightly entangled that it was impossible to see how they were fastened.”

The knot was so sophisticated that no one had been able to untie it for a long time. An oracle foretold that any man who could disentangle the knot would be the ruler of the whole of Asia. In 333 B.C., Alexander the Great and his army arrived in Gordium, the capital of Phrygia. The young Macedonian became instantly intrigued by the knot and tried to undo it. He failed in his attempt, and, concluding that it did not matter how the knot was disentangled, he pulled out his sword and cut the rope. 

However, there is another, more accepted version of the story. According to the Greek historians Plutarch and Arrian of Nicomedia, Alexander the Great simply withdrew the linchpin from the post to which the ox-cart was tied. Having done this, the knot was loosened, and he easily untied the ox-cart from the post. Because of solving the ancient puzzle, Alexander the Great was proclaimed the new king. On that night, it was said that Gordium was shaken by a thunderstorm, which was interpreted by Alexander’s troops as a sign of approval from the gods. Alexander eventually conquered large portions of Asia and Egypt, making the prophecy a reality.