The legend of Alexander the Great solving the Gordian Knot problem inspires the Mint of Poland’s latest coin

The Mint of Poland is adding to its extensive ancient mythology selection again, with a coin interpreting the legend of Alexander the Great and his unique approach to the problem of the Gordian Knot. A tale that has come to mean a solution to a problem undertaken by bypassing its constraints via a simpler route.

The mint has chosen to depict the tale with an appropriately complex and convoluted mix of intertwined snake and rope, into which is a gilded sword, no doubt the one famously used by Alexander to cut the knot. It’s a fine, symbolic reimagining that not only suits the tale, but makes for a very attractive coin. The background field shows a map of part of Alexander’s empire, which according to myth, was enabled by solving the knot.

While Alexander is absent from the reverse face, he puts in a bold appearance on the obverse, dominating the centre in the style of a coin of the period. A border, skirted by repeating patterns, holds the issue inscriptions. The whole of this two-ounce coin is antique-finished and forms a really cohesive piece. Limited to 500 pieces and presented boxed with a Certificate of Authenticity, we like this one. Available to order any time now.

The legend of Alexander & the Gordian Knot

The Phrygians were without a king, but an oracle at Telmissus (the ancient capital of Lycia) decreed that the next man to enter the city driving an ox-cart should become their king. A peasant farmer named Gordias drove into town on an ox-cart and was immediately declared king. Out of gratitude, his son Midas dedicated the ox-cart to the Phrygian god Sabazios (whom the Greeks identified with Zeus) and tied it to a post with an intricate knot of cornel bark (Cornus mas). The knot was later described by Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus as comprising “several knots all so tightly entangled that it was impossible to see how they were fastened”.

The ox-cart still stood in the palace of the former kings of Phrygia at Gordium in the fourth century BC when Alexander arrived, at which point Phrygia had been reduced to a satrapy, or province, of the Persian Empire. An oracle had declared that any man who could unravel its elaborate knots was destined to become ruler of all of Asia. Alexander wanted to untie the knot but struggled to do so without success. He then reasoned that it would make no difference how the knot was loosed, so he drew his sword and sliced it in half with a single stroke. In an alternative version of the story, Alexander loosed the knot by pulling the linchpin from the yoke.

Sources from antiquity agree that Alexander was confronted with the challenge of the knot, but his solution is disputed. Both Plutarch and Arrian relate that, according to Aristobulus, Alexander pulled the knot out of its pole pin, exposing the two ends of the cord and allowing him to untie the knot without having to cut through it. Some classical scholars regard this as more plausible than the popular account. Literary sources of the story include Alexander’s propagandist Arrian (Anabasis Alexandri 2.3), Quintus Curtius (3.1.14), Justin’s epitome of Pompeius Trogus (11.7.3), and Aelian’s De Natura Animalium 13.1.[6]

Alexander later went on to conquer Asia as far as the Indus and the Oxus, thus fulfilling the prophecy. (Source: Wikipedia)

DENOMINATION 2,000 Francs CFA (Cameroon)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 62.2 grams
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS Ultra high-relief, selective gilding
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article “GORDIAN KNOT”, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0