The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws. — Tacitus

Story of the Greeks - Helene Guerber




The Gordian Knot

Alexander did not stop long in Caria. Marching onward, he soon came to the city of Gordium, in Phrygia, where Midas had once reigned. In one of the temples the people proudly showed Alexander the cart in which this king rode as he entered their city.

The yoke was fastened to the pole by a rope tied in a peculiar and very intricate knot. Now, it seems that an ancient prophecy had declared that whoever untied the Gordian knot would surely be master of all Asia.

Of course, as Alexander had set his heart upon conquering the whole world, he looked at this knot with great interest; but a few moments' careful examination made him feel sure that he would not be able to untie it.

Rather than give it up, however, Alexander drew his sword, and cut it with a single quick stroke. Ever since then, when a person has settled a difficulty by bold or violent means instead of patiently solving it, the custom has been to say that he has "cut the Gordian knot," in memory of this feat of Alexander's.

Alexander
Alexander cutting the Gordian Knot.


From Gordium, Alexander next passed on to Tarsus, which also became subject to him; and shortly after that the young conqueror nearly lost his life.

He had been exposed to the hot sun, and had thus become terribly overheated, when he came to the river Cydnus. This stream was a torrent whose waters were very cold, but, in spite of all that his attendants could say, Alexander insisted upon taking a bath in it.

The sudden chill brought on a cramp, and he would have drowned had not some of his people plunged into the water, and pulled him out. As it was, his imprudence brought on a serious illness, and for a short time Alexander's life was in great danger.

His physician, however, was Philip, a Greek doctor, who had attended him ever since he was born, and who now took great care of him. When the fever was at its worst, he said he hoped to save the king by means of a strong medicine which he was going to prepare.

Just after Philip went out to brew this potion, Alexander received a letter which warned him to beware of his physician, as the man had been bribed by the Persian king, Darius III., to poison him.

After reading the letter, Alexander slipped it under his pillow, and calmly waited for the return of his doctor. When Philip brought the cup containing the promised remedy, Alexander took it in one hand, and gave him the letter with the other. Then, while Philip was reading it, he drank every drop of the medicine.

When the physician saw the accusation, he turned deadly pale, and looked up at his master, who smilingly handed back the empty cup. Alexander's great trust in his doctor was fully justified; for the medicine cured him, and he was soon able to go on with his conquests.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Early Inhabitants of Greece
The Deluge of Ogyges
Founding of Important Cities
Story of Deucalion
Daedalus and Icarus
The Adventures of Jason
Theseus Visits the Labyrinth
The Terrible Prophecy
The Sphinx's Riddle
Death of Oedipus
The Brothers' Quarrel
The Taking of Thebes
The Childhood of Paris
Muster of the Troops
Sacrifice of Iphigenia
The Wrath of Achilles
Death of Hector and Achilles
The Burning of Troy
Heroic Death of Codrus
The Blind Poet
The Rise of Sparta
The Spartan Training
The Brave Spartan Boy
Public Tables in Sparta
Laws of Lycurgus
The Messenian War
The Music of Tyrtaeus
Aristomenes' Escape
The Olympic Games
Milo of Croton
The Jealous Athlete
The Girls' Games
The Bloody Laws of Draco
The Laws of Solon
The First Plays
The Tyrant Pisistratus
The Tyrant's Insult
Death of the Conspirators
Hippias Driven out of Athens
The Great King
Hippias Visits Darius
Destruction of the Persian Host
Advance of the Second Host
The Battle of Marathon
Miltiades' Disgrace
Aristides the Just
Two Noble Spartan Youths
The Great Army
Preparations for Defense
Leonidas at Thermopylae
Death of Leonidas
The Burning of Athens
Battles of Salamis and Plataea
The Rebuilding of Athens
Death of Pausanias
Cimon Improves Athens
The Earthquake
The Age of Pericles
Teachings of Anaxagoras
Peloponnesian War Begins
Death of Pericles
The Philosopher Socrates
Socrates' Favorite Pupil
Youth of Alcibiades
Greek Colonies in Italy
Alcibiades in Disgrace
Death of Alcibiades
Overthrow of Thirty Tyrants
Accusation of Socrates
Death of Socrates
The Defeat of Cyrus
Retreat of the Ten Thousand
Agesilaus in Asia
A Strange Interview
The Peace of Antalcidas
The Theban Friends
Thebes Free Once More
The Battle of Leuctra
Death of Pelopidas
The Battle of Mantinea
The Tyrant of Syracuse
Damon and Pythias
The Sword of Damocles
Dion and Dionysius
Civil War in Syracuse
Death of Dion
Philip of Macedon
Philip Begins His Conquests
The Orator Demosthenes
Philip Masters Greece
Birth of Alexander
The Steed Bucephalus
Alexander as King
Alexander and Diogenes
Alexander's Beginning
The Gordian Knot
Alexander's Royal Captives
Alexander at Jerusalem
The African Desert
Death of Darius
Defeat of Porus
Return to Babylon
Death of Alexander
Division of the Realm
Death of Demosthenes
Last of the Athenians
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Battle of Ipsus
Demetrius and the Athenians
The Achaean League
Division in Sparta
Death of Agis
War of the Two Leagues
The Last of the Greeks
Greece a Roman Province