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Alexander and the Gordian Knot


Detail of the Alexander mosaic, found in Pompeii. National Archaeological Museum, Naples (Italy). In the first months of 333, Alexander united his armies in Gordium. Here, a strange incident took place. Asia. The Greek author Plutarch of Chaeronea, describes it in section 17 of his Life of Alexander.

The translation was made by Mr. Evelyn and belongs to the Dryden series.

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The Phrygian megara (great houses) at the citadel of Gordium. Photo Marco Prins.The citadel of Gordium


Then he subdued the Pisidians who made head against him, and conquered the Phrygians, at whose chief city, Gordium, which is said to be the seat of the ancient king Midas, he saw the famous chariot fastened with cords made of the rind of the cornel-tree, which whosoever should untie, the inhabitants had a tradition, that for him was reserved the empire of the world.

Most authors tell the story that Alexander finding himself unable to untie the knot, the ends of which were secretly twisted round and folded up within it, cut it asunder with his sword. But Aristobulus tells us it was easy for him to undo it, by only pulling the pin out of the pole, to which the yoke was tied, and afterwards drawing off the yoke itself from below.

From hence he advanced into Paphlagonia and Cappadocia, both which countries he soon reduced to obedience, and then hearing of the death of Memnon, the best commander Darius had upon the sea-coasts, who, if he had lived, might, it was supposed, have put many impediments and difficulties in the way of the progress of his arms, he was the rather encouraged to carry the war into the upper provinces of Asia.

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