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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

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]


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


  1. Johnson's (revised) Universal Cyclopaedia: A Scientific and Popular Treasury of Useful Knowledge.. A.J. Johnson & Company. 1890. p. 542. 
  2. Grote, George (1857). History of Greece. John Murray. pp. 140-141. 
  3. Zimmern, Alice (1908). Greek History for Young Readers. Longmans, Green, and Company. p. 397. 
  4. Kirkman, Marshall Monroe (1913). History of Alexander the Great: His Personality and Deeds. Cropley Phillips Company. pp. 155-156. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Kurke, Lance B. (2004). The Wisdom of Alexander the Great: Enduring Leadership Lessons from the Man Who Created an Empire. American Management Association. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-8144-2837-5 . 
  6. Snicket, Lemony (2000). A Series of Unfortunate Events #3: The Wide Window. Harper Collins. p. 200. ISBN 978-0-06-440768-7 . 
  7. Parkin, Margaret (2001). Tales for Coaching: Using Stories and Metaphors with Individuals & Small Groups. Kogan Page Publishers. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-7494-3521-9 . 
  8. Daly, Kathleen N.; Rengel, Marian (2004). Greek and Roman Mythology A to Z. Infobase Publishing. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-4381-1992-2 . 
  9. Mathematical Association of America (MMA), Untying the Gordian Knot; retrieved 2012-5-31.

Other websites

Media related to Gordian knot at Wikimedia Commons