Monday, April 11, 2016

Peter Bollington writes


my eyes behind
    you pat my arm to go
        well, you say,
            and you're gone
while my tongue pretends to know this is right
    and we move along

why but well just could
    there is no depth
        I'm in the hole of you, fool!
            can't you tell?

then, hopefully,
    before the sirens take us
     and we lose the memory--

    I'll find a finger to unknot
        the strangled love I have
        to drop it, gently
    where you can look at it
       as you might regard
            some thing
              I could place there
my eyes shaded
        tongue confused

Gordian Knot -- Drique London


  1. Phrygia was a kingdom centered on the Sakarya river in modern Turkey. King Priam of Troy’s wife Hecuba was a Phrygian, and they supported him during the Trojan War. The Macedonian lowlands were still called the “Garden of Midas” in the 4th century BCE. Herodotus claimed that they had originally come from Macedonia, when they called themselves the Bryges; they may also have been known as the Mygdones from northern Macedonia; another group of Mygdones were from Mysia and had warred against the Bebryces before the Trojan War (and both the Phrygians and the Bebryces had a king named Mygdon at roughly the same time). Herodotus also said that Phyrgians founded Armenia, but these seem to have been more Mygdones, who lived in northern Mesopotamia and (according to Xenophon) were Armenian allies. Gordias was a poor farmer from Macedonia, the last descendant of the royal family of Bryges. When an eagle landed on the pole of his ox cart, he interpreted it as a sign that he would one day become king. When he reached the Phrygian, Telemissus (later part of Galicia) to confer with the oracle of Sabazios (whom the Greeks identified with Zeus), the eagle still had not stirred. A seeress advised him to sacrifice to Sabazios and also agreed to marry him. Meanwhile, the oracle told the kingless Phrygians to crown the first man to ride up to the temple in a cart; naturally, that was Gordias. He founded Górdion (modern Yassıhüyük, about 70–80 km southwest of Ankara), which supplanted Telmessos and became the Phrygian capital. His son Midas dedicated the ox-cart to Sabazios and preserved it in the acropolis, with its yoke secured by an intricate knot of cornel bark. (According to Flavius Arrianus Nicomediansis, the 2nd-century chronicler of Alexander the Great, the Phygians actually chose Midas as king, who was either the natural or adopted son of Gordias and the Phrygian goddess Cybele.) Phrygian power reached its peak in the late 8th century BCE under another king Midas, who dominated most of western and central Anatolia and rivaled Assyria and Urartu for power in eastern Anatolia. But Midas was the last independent king of Phrygia before the Cimmerians sacked Górdion around 695 BCE; after that it fell under the control of Lydia and then Persia.

  2. In 333 BCE the king of Macedonia, Aléxandros ho Mégas (Alexander the Great), as he marched against Persia, attacked the Pisidians, who had inhabited a wild, mountainous region of the Pamphylian interior since the 14th century BCE or earlier, when it had managed to remain independent of the powerful Hittites; known for its warlike factions, it remained largely independent of Lydia; they continued to resist their Persian conquerors after the 6th century BC, though they helped the Persians against the Greeks in the 5th century BCE. Though Termessos defied Aléxandros, but he conquered their ancient capital at Sagalassos before wintering at Górdion, where he inspected the legendary wagon and the “Gordian knot” tied to its yoke. Attempting to untie the knot, he could not find its end. Most historians, long after the fact, claimed that he then solved the problem by slicing the knot in half with his sword, thus producing the required ends, but Aristobulus of Cassandreia, his close companion, architect, and military engineer, insisted that he merely removed the pin that secured the chariot pole to the chariot and pulling out the yoke, exposing the two ends of the cord and allowing him to untie the knot. That night a violent thunderstorm was interpreted as a sign that Zeus was pleased and would grant Aléxandros many victories. Later his biographers claimed that an oracle had prophesied that the one who undid the knot would become the king of Asia. And, of course, he went on to conquer Persia (his main objective) and advance as far as the Indus and the Oxus. The legend of cutting the knot has remained a central metaphor. Ferdinand II of Aragon, the founder of Spain’s status as a superpower, used the motto "Tanto monta" (It amounts to the same), an allusion to the Gordian knot (cutting or untying achieved the same purpose); in 1956 existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre attacked his German rival Martin Heidegger, accusing him “of cutting Gordian knots rather than trying to untie them,” a sentiment that was echoed the following year by his fellow French existentialist Albert Camus: "It is up to us if the West is to bring forth any anti-Alexanders to tie together the Gordian Knot of civilization cut by the sword" of rampant power politics.


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