The story begins at a time when Phrygia was in need of a king. A prophecy was made that the next man to enter the capital would be crowned. This happened to be a peasant by the name of Gordias, who was driving an ox-cart. In celebration, the ox-cart was ceremoniously displayed in the city and fastened in place with an intricate knot. It was still there in the fourth century BC when Alexander arrived. By then it was said that any man who could untie the knot would become King of Asia. Alexander, impatient with the knot's complexity, drew his sword and sliced it in half: the 'Alexandrian solution'. He duly went on to conquer much of Asia.
The Knot was later referred to by Shakespeare:
Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter
Henry V: Act I, Scene 1