Arrian on the Gordian Knot (333bc)


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(you may be interested to compare Arrian's account below with that of Plutarch)
Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander 2.3
When Alexander came to Gordium, he had a very strong desire to go up to the acropolis, where the palace of Gordius and his son Midas was, to see Gordiusí wagon and the knot on the yoke of the wagon.

There is a strong tradition amongst the local peoples about that wagon: they claimed that Gordius was one of the ancient Phrygians and a poor man, who had a small plot of land to work and two yokes of oxen, one for the plough and one for his wagon. Once when he was ploughing, an eagle settled on the yoke and stayed sitting there until it was time to free the oxen from the yoke. Gordius was amazed by what he had seen, and went to consult the Telmissian prophets about the omen; for the Telmissians were clever at explaining divine signs and the ability to do so was passed on within families, women and children as well. When he came to one of their villages, Gordius met a young girl drawing water and he told her about what had happened with the eagle; as she happened to be of a prophetic family, she told him to return to the very spot and sacrifice to Zeus the King. He asked her to come with him and direct the sacrifice for him, and he sacrificed just as she instructed him. Then he married the girl and they had a child called Midas. When Midas had grown up to be a handsome and noble man, the Phrygians were troubled with civil disagreements amongst themselves; they were given an oracle which told them that a wagon would bring them a king and that this man would end their civil strife. While they were still holding discussions about this, Midas arrived with his mother and father and stopped at the assembly in the very wagon. The Phrygians interpreted the oracle to mean that this was the man whom the gods had told them would come in a wagon; so they made Midas king, and he brought an end to the civil strife, and he placed his fatherís wagon on the acropolis as an offering to Zeus the King for sending the eagle.

In addition to this, there was a story about the wagon, that whoever undid the knot of the yoke of the wagon was destined to rule Asia. The knot was made of cornel bark and it was impossible to see where it began or ended. Alexander was not able to discover how to undo the knot, but he did not wish to leave it still fastened, in case this provoked some disturbance amongst the many people there. Some writers say that he struck the knot with his sword and cut through it and claimed that it was now undone; however Aristobulus says that Alexander took the peg from the pole, which was a bolt driven through the pole all the way, and which held the knot together; he then drew the yoke of the pole. I am not able to say for certain what exactly Alexander did about this knot, but he and his companions certainly returned from the wagon as if the oracle about the untying of the knot had been fulfilled. That very night there was thunder and lightning in the heavens; because of this on the next day Alexander offered sacrifice to the gods that had shown these omens and also how to untie the knot.