Alexander and the Gordian Knot – A Violent Solution

One of the best known stories of the Macedonian King Alexander’s reign, is the tale of the striking of the Gordian knot, a tightly twisted and bound bundle of rope connected to a wagon. Not only is it a nice story, it is also a possibly example of Alexander’s mentality and attitude towards solving problems, which plays largely into his Persian invasion.

After crushing the coastal towns of the Aegean in Asia Minor, the Greeks headed for the legendary city of Gordium, a major town in Western Persia. Founded by the son of King Midas – Gordius – it held the prestige of being home to the grand knot. It was said that whoever could undo it would be the sole ruler of all Asia.

Conquering and controlling all of the East was Alexander’s plan, as well as taking harsh revenge on the Persians for their attack on Greek cities many decades before. Obviously, the challenge enticed him – and also probably angered him. He would take Persia by military strength and nothing else. It was this attitude that led to him hitting the knot with his sword.

The ends of the rope where they were fastened to the wagon were obscured by the bulk of rope, and were extremely difficult to untie – of course, no one had done it, as of yet. Many skeptics say that Alexander did not cut the knot apart, but sliced it in certain places so as to find the ends, from which he could untangle the mass.

However, the image of Alexander using his brute force over logical thinking and determination is key to the tale. Alexander often led this approach.

On the other hand, the theory put forth by observers, who don’t believe he cut it entirely apart, may be more plausible. Examples of the Macedonian King’s victories in battle show that he would begin by figuring out a tactic by which to expose weak points in the enemies’ formation, and then attack them with sheer force. Of course, this is very similar to the Gordian knot story.

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