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(gôr`dēəs), in Greek mythology, king of Phrygia. An oracle had told the Phrygians that the king who would put an end to their troubles was approaching in an oxcart, and, thus, when Gordius, a peasant, appeared in his wagon, he was hailed king. In gratitude, Gordius dedicated his wagon to Zeus and attached the pole to the yoke with a knot that defied efforts to untie it. This was the Gordian knot. An oracle declared that he who untied it would become leader of all Asia. A later legend states that when Alexander the Great came to Phrygia, he severed the knot with one blow of his sword. Hence the saying, "to cut the Gordian knot," meaning to solve a perplexing problem with a single bold action.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



legendary founder of the Phrygian kingdom. According to legend, Gordius, a plowman, was chosen as king in obedience to an oracle which decreed that the ruler be the first man whom the Phrygians saw in a cart. Once king, Gordius built the city of Gordium. He placed his cart in a temple as a gift to Zeus and tied the yoke to the pole with such a complex knot that no one could untie it. The oracle allegedly prophesied that he who could untie this “Gordian knot” would become ruler of the world. According to legend, Alexander the Great visited Gordium and at the suggestion that he untie the knot, severed it with his sword. Hence the expression “to untie the Gordian knot,” that is, to undertake a quick and daring solution to an intricate and complex problem.


Körte. G., and A. Körte. Gordian. Berlin. 1904.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.