Gordian knot

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Alexander cutting the Gordian knot

The Gordian Knot is a legend of associated with Alexander the Great. It is often used as a metaphor for a problem which has no easy or obvious solution.

Myth story[change | change source]

In Phrygia (modern Turkey), there was a legendary prophesy about a unique knot which could only be loosened by the man who would rule all of Asia.[1] It was called the "Gordian" knot because it was preserved in Gordium. It supposed to have been created by a man named Gordius.[2]

The knot was complex and tangled. This mythical knot was tied around the part of a wooden cart or wagon.[3]

According to traditional version of the story, Alexander the Great cut the knot with his sword.[4]

In another version of the story, Alexander took away the wooden part which was at the center of the knot; and in this way, the knot was undone.[5]

Alexander solved the problem in a way no one had expected.[6] Then he went on to lead Greek armies which conquered much of the known world.[7]

Meaning[change | change source]

Today the phrase implies "make it happen" or "get things done".[5]

"Cutting the Gordian knot" has come to mean resolving a difficult problem with one forceful action.[8]

It may mean a problem that has no solution.[9]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Guyot, Arnold. (1890). "Gordius," Johnson's (revised) universal cyclopaedia, Vol. 3, p. 542.
  2. Grote, George. (1853). History of Greece, Vol. 11, pp. 140-141.
  3. Zimmern, Alice. (1908). Greek history for young readers, p. 397.
  4. Kirkman, Marshall Monroe. (1913). History of Alexander the Great: his personality and deeds, pp. 155-156.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Kirke, Lance B. "Cutting the Gordian Knot" in The Wisdom of Alexander The Great: Enduring Leadership Lessons From the Man Who Created An Empire, p. 123.
  6. Snicket, Lemony. (2000). The Wide Window, p. 200.
  7. Parkin, Margaret. (2004). Tales for Coaching: Using Stories and Metaphors With Individuals & Small Groups, p. 97.
  8. Rengel, Marian et al. (2010). "Gordian knot," Greek and Roman Mythology A to Z, p. 55.
  9. Mathematical Association of America (MMA), Untying the Gordian Knot; retrieved 2012-5-31.

Other websites[change | change source]

Media related to Gordian knot at Wikimedia Commons