Greek Legend: The Gordian Knot

In ancient times there was a kingdom named Phrygia in what is now modern-day Turkey. The king of Phrygia had died without a successor, so the people went to the oracle of the gods and asked for advice. The oracle declared that the next man who entered the city driving an ox-cart should be made king, and when Gordias, a peasant, drove his ox-cart into the city, the people of Phrygia chose him as their king. To show his gratitude to the gods, Gordias placed the ox-cart in a temple, tying it to a pillar in the temple with a complicated knot. The city was renamed Gordium in honor of the king.

Over the years, many stories were told about the ox-cart and the "Gordian knot" that tied it to the temple's pillar. It was believed that the man who could undo the knot would rule all of the lands to the east. Many men came to the temple in Gordium and attempted to untie the knot, but they were baffled. Over time, the knot had grown tighter and tighter, and it appeared that there was no man on earth who could undo the knot.

When Alexander the Great learned about the legend, he went to Gordium and entered the temple. He stood and stared at the knot, examining it from every possible angle. Then, all of a sudden, he drew forth his sword . . . and cut right through the knot! Thus, with a single stroke of his sword, Alexander undid the knot that had baffled all others before him. Hen then went on to conquer many lands to the east, just as the prophecy foretold: Persia (modern Iran), Bactria (modern Afghanistan), and India, eventually extending his kingdom all the way east to the Indus River in modern Pakistan.

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