Midas: Wikis


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For the legend of Gordias, a poor countryman who was taken by the people and made King, in obedience to the command of the oracle, see Gordias.

In the Nathaniel Hawthorne version of the Midas myth, Midas's daughter turns to a statue when he touches her. Illustration by Walter Crane for the 1893 edition.

Midas or King Midas (in Greek Μίδας) is popularly remembered in Greek mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold: the Midas touch.[1] He bears some relation to the historical Mita, king of the Mushki in Western Anatolia in the later 8th century BC.[2]

Midas was king[3] of Pessinus, a city of Phrygia, who as a child was adopted by the king Gordias and Cybele, the goddess whose consort he was, and who (by some accounts) was the goddess-mother of Midas himself.[4] Some accounts place the youth of Midas in Macedonian Bermion (See Bryges)[5] In Thracian Mygdonia,[6] Midas was known for his garden of roses: Herodotus[7] remarks on the settlement of the ancient kings of Macedon on the slopes of Mount Bermion "the place called the garden of Midas son of Gordias, where roses grow of themselves, each bearing sixty blossoms and of surpassing fragrance". In this garden, according to Macedonians, Silenos was taken captive.[8] According to Iliad (V.860), he had one son, Lityerses, the demonic reaper of men, but in some variations of the myth he had a daughter, Zoë or "life" instead. For the son of Midas, see Adrastus.


The Great Tumulus

Tomb of King Midas (reconstruction)

Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey

In 1969, archaeologists connected with the University of Pennsylvania opened a chamber tomb at the heart of the Great Tumulus (53 meters in height, about 300 meters in diameter) on the site of ancient Gordion (modern Yassihöyük, Turkey), where there are more than 100 tumuli of different sizes and from different periods. They discovered an early eighth century BC royal burial, complete with remains of the funeral feast and "the best collection of Iron Age drinking vessels ever uncovered"[9]. This inner chamber was rather large; 5.15 meters by 6.2 meters in breadth and 3.25 meters high. On a wooden bedstead in the corner of the chamber lay a skeleton of a man 1.59 meters in height and about 60 years old. In the room there were decorated furniture and panels plus many vessels with grave offerings. Though no identifying texts were associated with the site, it is popularly dubbed the "Tomb of Midas" (Penn). Later investigations showed that this funerary monument could not have been constructed after the Cimmerian invasion in the early seventh century BC. Therefore, it is now believed to be the monument for an earlier king than Midas.

In the nineteenth century, at Midas Sehri, another "Tomb of Midas" was discovered. The name was given on the basis of the word "Mida", identified in incompletely translated Phrygian inscriptions. That "tomb" is no longer believed to be a tomb, but rather a sacred site to Cybele.


Once, as Ovid relates in Metamorphoses XI[10] Dionysus found his old schoolmaster and foster father, the satyr Silenus, missing.[11]

The old satyr had been drinking wine and had wandered away drunk, later to be found by some Phrygian peasants, who carried him to their king, Midas (alternatively, he passed out in Midas' rose garden). Midas recognized him and treated him hospitably, entertaining him for ten days and nights with politeness, while Silenus entertained Midas and his friends with stories and songs.[12]

On the eleventh day, he brought Bacchus back to Dionysus in Lydia. Dionysus offered Midas his choice of whatever reward he wished for. Midas asked that whatever he might touch should be changed into gold.

Midas rejoiced in his new power, which he hastened to put to the test. He touched an oak twig and a stone; both turned to gold. Overjoyed, as soon as he got home, he ordered the servants to set a feast on the table. "So Midas, king of Lydia, swelled at first with pride when he found he could transform everything he touched to gold; but when he beheld his food grow rigid and his drink harden into golden ice then he understood that this gift was a bane and in his loathing for gold, cursed his prayer" (Claudian, In Rufinem). In a version told by Nathaniel Hawthorne,[13] Midas found that when he touched his daughter, she turned into a statue as well.

Now, Midas hated the gift he had coveted. He prayed to Dionysus, begging to be delivered from starvation. Dionysus heard, and consented; he told Midas to wash in the river Pactolus.

Midas did so, and when he touched the waters, the power flowed into the river, and the river sands turned into gold. This explained why the river Pactolus was so rich in gold, and the wealth of the dynasty claiming Midas as its forefather no doubt the impetus for this etiological myth (Graves). Gold was perhaps not the only metallic source of Midas' riches: "King Midas, a Phrygian, son of Cybele, first discovered black and white lead".[14]

Midas, now hating wealth and splendor, moved to the country and became a worshipper of Pan, the god of the fields and satyr.[15] Roman mythographers[16] asserted that his tutor in music was Orpheus.

Once, Pan had the audacity to compare his music with that of Apollo, and challenged Apollo, the god of the lyre, to a trial of skill (also see Marsyas). Tmolus, the mountain-god, was chosen as umpire. Pan blew on his pipes and, with his rustic melody, gave great satisfaction to himself and his faithful follower, Midas, who happened to be present.

Then, Apollo struck the strings of his lyre. Tmolus at once awarded the victory to Apollo, and all but one agreed with the judgment. Midas dissented, and questioned the justice of the award.

Apollo would not suffer such a depraved pair of ears any longer, and caused them to become the ears of a donkey.[17] The myth is illustrated by two paintings, "Apollo and Marsyas" by Palma il Giovane (1544-1628), one depicting the scene before, and one after, the punishment.

Midas was mortified at this mishap. He attempted to hide his misfortune under an ample turban or headdress, but his barber of course knew the secret, so was told not to mention it. However, the barber could not keep the secret; he went out into the meadow, dug a hole in the ground, whispered the story into it, then covered the hole up. A thick bed of reeds later sprang up in the meadow, and began whispering the story, saying "King Midas has donkey's ears".[18]

Sarah Morris demonstrated (Morris 2004) that donkeys' ears were a Bronze Age royal attribute, borne by King Tarkasnawa (Greek Tarkondemos) of Mira, on a seal inscribed in both Hittite cuneiform and Luwian hieroglyphs: in this connection, the myth would appear to justify for Greeks the exotic attribute.

See also

  • Berecynthian Hero (after Mount Berecynthus in Phrygia).
  • Midas touch, see Grey goo effect, MG, and Ice-nine.


  1. ^ In alchemy, the transmutation of an object into gold is known as chrysopoeia.
  2. ^ "Virtually the only figure in Phrygian history who can be recognizedied as a distinct individual", begins Lynn E. Roller, "The Legend of Midas", Classical Antiquity, 22 (October 1983):299-313).
  3. ^ The reign-names Midas and Gordias alternate in historic Phrygia: Herodotus (i.14) tells an anecdote of Adrastus "the son of Gordias, son of Midas" at the court of Croesus.
  4. ^ "King Midas, a Phrygian, son of Cybele" (Hyginus, Fabulae 274).
  5. ^ "Bromium" in Graves 1960:83.a; Greek traditions of the migration from Macedon to Anatolia are examined— as purely literary constructions— in Peter Carrington, "The Heroic Age of Phrygia in Ancient Literature and Art" Anatolian Studies 27 (1977:117-126).
  6. ^ Mygdonia became part of Macedon in historical times.
  7. ^ Herodotus, Histories 8.138.1
  8. ^ Herodotus' place is identified with Aegae by many readers, such as N.G.L. Hammond, A History of Macedonia I (Oxford 1972) p. 410, and Panayiotis B. Faklaris, "Aegae: Determining the Site of the First Capital of the Macedonians" American Journal of Archaeology 98.4 (October 1994, pp 609-616) p. 613 and note. Are the "rose gardens" a late interpolation? Though the rose was associated with Aphrodite in Rhodes and Cyprus, roses otherwise do not appear in Greek mythology, and Greek rose gardens were not adopted from Macedonian, but from Persian models: Midas' other domain, Phrygia, became a Persian satrapy in 546 BCE.
  9. ^ Science News, "King Midas' modern mourners"
  10. ^ On-line text at Theoi.com
  11. ^ This myth appears in a fragment of Aristotle, Eudemus, (fr.6); Pausanias was aware that Midas mixed water with wine to capture Silenus (Description of Greece 1.4.1); a muddled version is recounted in Flavius Philostratus' Life of Apollonius of Tyana, vi.27: "Midas himself had some of the blood of satyrs in his veins, as was clear from the shape of his ears; and a satyr once, trespassing on his kinship with Midas, made merry at the expense of his ears, not only singing about them, but piping about them. Well, Midas, I understand, had heard from his mother that when a satyr is overcome by wine he falls asleep, and at such times comes to his senses and will make friends with you; so he mixed wine which he had in his palace in a fountain and let the satyr get at it, and the latter drank it up and was overcome".
  12. ^ Aelian, Varia Historia iii.18 relates some of Silenus' accounts (Graves 1960:83.b.3).
  13. ^ Hawthorne, Twice-Told Tales.
  14. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae274
  15. ^ This myth puts Midas in another setting. "Midas himself had some of the blood of satyrs in his veins, as was clear from the shape of his ears" was the assertion of Flavius Philostratus, in his Life of Apollonius of Tyana (vi.27), not always a dependable repository of myth. (on-line)
  16. ^ Cicero On Divinationi.36; Valerius Maximus, i.6.3; Ovid, Metamorphoses, xi.92f.
  17. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 191.
  18. ^ The whispering sound of reeds is an ancient literary trope: the Sumerian Instructions of Shurppak (3rd millennium BCE) warn "The reed-beds are ......, they can hide (?) slander". (Instructions of Shuruppak, lines 92-93).
  19. ^ Greek language reference


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MIDAS, the name of several Phrygian kings. The first of these was said to have been the son of Gordius and Cybele, whose first priest he was, and in whose honour he founded a temple at Pessinus. Having taken the drunken Silenus back to his youthful charge Dionysus, he was rewarded by the god with the power of transforming everything he touched into gold. Finding himself in danger of starvation, even his food and drink being changed by his touch, Midas entreated Dionysus to take back the gift. By the command of the god he bathed in the river Pactolus, which henceforth became auriferous (Ovid, Metam. xi. 85-145; Hyginus, Fab. 191). Another story connects him with the musical contest between Apollo and Marsyas (or Pan). Having decided against the god, his ears were changed into those of an ass. He concealed them under a Phrygian cap; but the secret was discovered by his barber, who, being unable to keep it, dug a hole in the ground and whispered into it "Midas has the ears of an ass." He then filled up the hole, thinking his secret safe; but the reeds which grew up over the spot proclaimed it to all the world. Midas with the ass's ears was a frequent subject of the Attic satyr-drama. There is no doubt that Midas was the name of one or more real persons around whom religious legends have grown up. The name "Midas the king" occurs on a very ancient tomb in the valley of the Sangarius, the legendary seat of the Phrygian kingdom. The Phrygian monarchy was destroyed by the Cimmerians about 670 B.C., and the name Midas became in Greek tradition the representative of this ancient dynasty.

On the connexion between Midas and the Attic story see J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, ii. 134

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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  • (US) IPA: /ˈmaɪ.dəs/

Proper noun




  1. (Greek mythology) A king who sought and was for a while granted the cherished but subtly dangerous magical power to turn anything he touched into gold.


Derived terms

See also


  • Anagrams of adims
  • maids


Proper noun

Midas m.

  1. Midas.

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