Midas | King of Phrygia

Midas Greek Mythology

Midas is a character from Greek mythology, king of Phrygia. He is based on a king of the same name from Phrygia (a region of modern Anatolia, Turkey), from the 8th century B.C., and there are two well-known myths about this king. He had a son named Litierses, who served him as his protector (Litierses was known as the "reaper of men," due to his reputation for beheading his enemies).

The main myth attributed to Midas, that of turning everything he touched into gold, has acquired a symbolic and metaphorical character in contemporary society, and symbolic analogies such as that of a "Midas complex" are easily understandable in our culture.

Archaeological Discovery

King Midas really did exist. In 2018, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology under the leadership of Rodney Young, after excavations in Turkey at Gordion (now Yassihüyük) ancient capital of Phrygia, located the tomb of Midas.

The mortuary coffin was very well preserved, it was made of tree trunks and around it were ceramic and metal vessels, bowls, trays and other containers and objects.

There was, according to Dr. Patrick E. McGovern of the U.Penn team of archaeologists, a funeral banquet for the King and almost all the delicacies and drinks could be identified. One hundred was the approximate amount of guests at this great meal, as assessed by the experts.

Myths about Midas

Touch of gold

Midas was a king who lived in abundance in his castle, together with his beloved daughter. Although he had many riches, Midas always wanted to increase his possessions. He was so attached to his gold that one of his favorite pastimes was counting gold coins.

Once Bacchus (or Dionysus, god of wine) missed his master and father-in-law, Silenus, while they were out for a walk. The old man had been drinking and, having lost his way, was found by some peasants who took him to their king, Midas. Midas recognized him, treated him with hospitality, and kept him in his company for ten days amidst great joy.

On the 13th day, he took Silenus back and delivered him safe and sound to his pupil. Bacchus then offered Midas the right to choose the reward he wanted, whatever it might be. Midas asked that "everything he touched should turn to gold. Bacchus consented, though regretful that he had not made a better choice.

Midas went on his way, jubilant with his newly acquired power, which he hastened to put to the test. He could hardly believe his own eyes when he saw a sprig he had plucked from an oak tree turn to gold in his hand.

He held up a stone; it changed into gold. He took a clod of earth; it turned to gold. He picked a fruit from the apple tree; one would have said he stole it from the garden of the Hesperides.

His joy knew no bounds, and as soon as he arrived home, he ordered the servants to serve him a magnificent meal. Then he realized, to his horror, that if he touched the bread, it stiffened in his hands; if he put food in his mouth, his teeth could not chew it. He took a cup of wine, but the drink poured into his mouth like molten gold; his daughter touched it and it turned to gold.

Dismayed by this unprecedented affliction, Midas struggled to rid himself of that power: he hated the gift. All in vain, however; death by starvation seemed to await him.

He raised his arms, glistening with gold, in prayer to Bacchus, imploring him to be delivered from that blinding destruction. Bacchus, benevolent divinity, heard and consented. "Running water undoes the touch," Bacchus told him, "you plunge what you have touched into a river and the objects you have touched will become again what they were."

Midas ran to fulfill what the god of wine had said, and with the water from the river Pactolo, which flowed into a pitcher, he bathed all the objects he had touched, restoring them to their primitive nature, starting with his own daughter, whom he could then embrace without danger of turning her gold.

It is said that Midas, when stooping down to collect water from the riverbank, touched the sand with his hands, and that this is why, even today, the river Pactolo flows over a bed of golden sands.

Donkey Ears

After the events involving the golden touch (which he did not lose), Midas abandoned his wealth and became a follower of Pan, god of the woods (god of the egg).

One day, Pan claimed to play better than Apollo, and the god of the sun decided to have a duel with Pan, judged by the god Timolo. Pan pleased everyone with his flute, but after Apollo played his lyre, Timolo gave him the prize. Midas became indignant, questioned the decision, and an enraged Apollo gave Midas donkey ears.

Midas covered them with a turban so his followers wouldn't notice him. Only the barber knew about the ears, and he was supposed to keep it a secret. The barber was not getting it, and to satisfy his will, he dug a hole and said "King Midas has donkey ears!" into it and covered it with earth. But several reeds grew there, and every time they were shaken by the wind they said that phrase, and thus all the people learned that secret.

Midas Touch" expression

It is said that an individual who possesses the "Midas touch" is one who has the ability to make something prosper, who multiplies profits or makes something shine, more subjectively.

In Taylor Swift's song "Champagne Problems" this is made explicit in "Your Midas touch on the Chevy door", in which she explains simple things turn to gold in the presence of the object of music. In Britney Spears' "Radar" she says she is looking for "a man with the Midas touch" and "with a $10 million smile", so this expression can also mean that a person is successful.

As in Katy Perry's song "Act My Age", she says "They say that I might lose my Midas touch", a clear reference to people who say that because she failed with her fourth album, she can no longer make "gold" with her hands.

The song "Gold" by the American band Imagine Dragons makes reference to this expression, in its first verse that says the following "First comes the blessing of all that you've dreamed But then comes the curses of diamonds and rings Only at first did it have its appeal? But now you can't tell the false from the real " which in Portuguese would be "First comes the blessing of all that you've dreamed But then comes the curses of diamonds and rings At first at least it had its appeal But now you can't tell the false from the real".

The band "Army of Lovers" has a song called "King Midas" which describes a bit of its history. The British band Florence + The Machine also alludes to Midas in the song Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up): "Midas is king and he holds me so tight and turns me to gold in the sunlight", which translates as "Midas is king and he holds me tight and turns me to gold in the sunlight", the expression "Midas touch", can also mean someone with a lot of gold money" or someone very greedy.