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Gordian Knot

A great difficulty. Gordius, a peasant, being chosen king of Phrygia, dedicated his waggon to Jupiter, and fastened the yoke to a beam with a rope of bark so ingeniously that no one could untie it. Alexander was told that “whoever undid the knot would reign over the whole East.” “Well then,” said the conqueror, “it is thus I perform the task,” and, so saying, he cut the knot in twain with his sword.

To cut the knot
is to evade a difficulty, or get out of it in a summary manner.

Such praise the Macedonian got.
For having rudely cut the Gordian knot.

Waller: To the King.

Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter.

Shakespeare: Henry V. i. 1.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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More on Gordian Knot from Infoplease:

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  • Gordian knot - Gordian knot: Gordian knot: see Gordius.
  • Gordian Knot - Gordian Knot A great difficulty. Gordius, a peasant, being chosen king of Phrygia, dedicated his ...
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