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THE GORDIAN KNOT
 AFTER the battle of Granicus, many Persian towns submitted to
the conqueror. Those along the coast of Asia Minor
that refused to open their gates, the king quickly
During the winter he reached a city called Gordion,
about which a strange story is told.
In the citadel of Gordion was an old, roughly built
wagon, which had once belonged to a peasant named
Gordius. Long, long ago Gordius had ridden into the
town in his wagon, and the oracle had declared that
this peasant had been chosen by the gods to be king of
Phrygia, in which country Gordion stood.
When Gordius was made king, almost the first thing he
did was to dedicate his wagon to the gods, tying the
yoke to the pole with fibre taken from the bark of a
tree. The Gordian knot, as it was named, was twisted
and tangled in a bewildering way, and looked as though
it would defy the most skilful fingers to untie. Yet
an oracle had said that whoever should succeed in
undoing this wonderful knot would become king over all
Many men who wished to wear a crown came to Gordion to
try to undo the knot, but not one of them had been able
to unravel the twisted fibre.
When Alexander, with his victorious army, rode into
Gordion, every one wondered if the king would be able
to untie the famous knot.
Alexander was not long in going to see the ancient
 He looked at the puzzling knot and soon saw that he
would not be able to untie it.
But he did not mean to be beaten. He would solve the
problem in his own way. So taking his sword in his
impatient hands, with one swift stroke he cut the
formidable knot in two.
The onlookers, both Phrygians and Macedonians, shouted
with delight for lo! the oracle was fulfilled, and
Alexander would become monarch of Asia.
As the knot was cut in twain, a great thunderstorm
raged over the town, and the people said, "It is Zeus
who sends the storm to show that he is pleased that the
prophecy is fulfilled."
While Alexander had been conquering the towns along the
coast of Asia, Darius had been gathering together
another great army, which numbered, so it was said, six
hundred thousand men. The king himself commanded the
vast army, and in the spring of 333 B.C. he set out to
Darius was not a skilful general, nor was he a brave
king, but he had no doubt that he would conquer
When Alexander still lingered in one of the coast
towns, Darius deemed that it was cowardice that kept
him there, so little did he know of the character of
his foe. It was illness alone that kept Alexander from
advancing against the great king.
Some said that it was the hardships of the battlefield
that had made the king ill, others that while he was
still heated after a long march he had bathed in a
river, the waters of which were very cold.
To the dismay of his soldiers, who adored their brave
leader, the king grew worse and worse. He was so ill
that it seemed that he must die.
His physicians were afraid to give the king medicine,
for should he die they would be accused of giving him
At length one of the physicians, named Philip, to whom
 Alexander had shown great kindness, determined that
whatever happened to him, he would do his utmost to
save the king's life.
Alexander himself was content to take what Philip
ordered, so impatient was he to be well and at the head
of his army once again.
So Philip left the king for a few moments to prepare
the medicine that he believed would cure him.
While he was absent, a letter was brought to Alexander
from his officer Parmenio. It besought the king not to
trust Philip, as he had been bribed by Darius to poison
him. Vast sums of money and the hand of the great
king's daughter, said Parmenio, were to be the reward
of the physician.
When Alexander had read the letter, he put it under his
pillow, showing it to no one, not even to his beloved
friend Hephæstion. He had no sooner done so than
Philip returned with the medicine. The king took it
without hesitation. Then, drawing the letter from
beneath his pillow, he bade his physician read it.
Philip was horrified as he read the false accusation,
and flinging himself down by the bed, he entreated the
king to trust him and to fear nothing.
The drug was a powerful one, and after taking it the
king was unconscious for hours. His nurses whispered
to one another that he was dead.
But after a time he opened his eyes, weak indeed, but
no longer in danger. Philip tended him until his
strength returned, and he was at length able to go out
to show himself to his Macedonians. For they had been
in constant fear lest aught should befall their king,
and nothing would satisfy them until they had seen his