King Midas is quite a famous personality for those who are keen on history, especially, the history of Greece. He has been prominently featured in two myths that speak of his interaction with famous Greek gods Dionysus, son of Zeus and god of wine, and Apollo, god of truth, medicine, archery, poetry, and music. In one case, he is a foolish King, drunken in his desire for more gold and money, and in the other, he is a just judge seeking to voice out his opinion at the risk of angering a god. Both myths teach us to appreciate King Midas as well as the rich history and culture of Ancient Greece. According to famous Greek mythology, Midas was the adopted son of King Gordias and his queen Cybele. These were the rulers of a city known as Phrygia, found somewhere in Asia Minor. There are two different Greek mythologies associated with King Midas. Just like many other Greek mythologies, they both tell of a mortals encounter with the gods. The stories of King Midas have also inspired a number of writers who have created stories for the New Age based on his character. This paper gives details how King Midas was portrayed in Greek mythology and elucidates his magical abilities.
Although King Midas is reputed to have been a lovely boy in his childhood, he grew up to love a life of splendor and extravagance. He loved his luxuries, but he was a kind man nevertheless. His daughter and apple of his eye was named Marigold. Although not specifically stated anywhere, we can assume that this name was given by King Midas due to his obsession with gold (Rayyan & Stiwiq 21). He was a reputed avarice, and he really did love money and gold. His castle was absolutely surrounded in wealth. It was however famous for the amazing rose gardens that earned it a special place in the Greek history. His household did not lack in terms of luxuries, and he spent a lot of his time making merry and enjoying his life as royalty.
At some point during his rule, Dionysus happened to be passing over Phrygia. Dionysus was the Greek god of wine and vegetation. He was credited with the responsibility of teaching people how to grow grapevines and make good wine, and he travelled from place to place, visiting different cities and spending time with the mortals. Dionysus, like most powerful entities, never travelled alone. He always had a troop of companions with him in his travels, and while all of them were satyrs, Silenus was his favorite of them all. Mythical beings that were half goat and half human were named Satyrs (Craft & Craft 96). They were famous for their unbeatable drinking records as they could drink quite a lot of wine. This was however expected as they always hanged around the god of wine! Silenus was the head satyr at that particular time, and he was considered as a teacher and great companion to Dionysus. By the way, Dionysus was the son of the great god Zeus.
On one fateful day, Silenus went on a drinking spree around Phrygia and unintentionally stumbled into famous rose gardens at King Midas splendid and magnificent castle and fell asleep. This was not intended as he had been too drunk and without his friend and student or other satyrs. Satyrs usually moved around in groups, but strayed out individually on rare occasions. This was an unfortunate one for Silenus, but thankfully the King was a diplomatic man. The King found him in his drunken state asleep in the amazingly beautiful rose gardens. He instantly recognized him as Dionysus teacher and great companion and decided to take him in as a royal guest.
Dionysus was a great god, according to the Greek mythology. He was known to show kindness and generosity towards those who held him in honor and respect. He surely knew how to reward such people. However, he had no tolerance for those who offended or insulted him. He had the wrath of a true Greek god and would destroy such people by causing great chaos in their lives. His kindness however preceded him wherever he went as he was more loved than feared amongst the ancient Greek population. Also, his constant association with merry people as the god of wine ensured that he was almost always around happy people. Thus, not many had ever witnessed his offended side.
King Midas too knew of the kindness of the god of wine. When he recognized Silenus as the wine gods teacher and travel companion, King Midas felt obligated to do some good by the generous and kind god. He had plenty of everything and did not lack in any way. He was wealthy and much respected by his subjects. He practically did not need anything in terms of favors from the god. Nevertheless, he did not risk angering the wine god by mistreating or neglecting Silenus the Satyr. He hosted him in his royal chambers and lavished him with royal Greek hospitality for ten good days (Banks & Smith 136).
On the eleventh day, upon seeing that the satyr was getting weary out of need to see his student and friend, King Midas took Silenus to Dionysus and explained what had transpired earlier on. Satyrs were famous for their drinking habits, so Dionysus was neither amused nor surprised with Silenus. He was however delighted and extremely grateful to King Midas for his kindness and hospitality. Also, he knew that under different circumstances the King would have been angered and rightfully so. The rose gardens were quite famous for their beauty, and the Kings love for these gardens was unquestionable. Thus, finding a drunken satyr sleeping in the gardens would have rightfully caused him to throw a fit.
It is with this consideration that the god Dionysus decided to reward the King in a special way. Had it been someone else, the god would have given a grapevine or wisdom with regards to making the best wine in the whole Greece. However, he knew that the King did not need these things. He had practically everything a mortal would want, of course, with the exception of immortality. Every human being wants immortality, but fortunately it was and probably still is a reserve of the gods. Dionysus, being at a loss of what reward to give the King, decided to grant him a wish. Anything he desired would be given to him, and Dionysus warned him to decide carefully. He was to get only one wish.
The land in Phrygia was good, everyone was happy. The country was peaceful and, thus, the King had no pending needs at all. He had a beautiful healthy daughter named Marigold whom he loved and adored with all his being. His love for her was only paralleled in intensity with his love for wealth and pleasure. His thirst for money and gold was as unquenchable as his love for partying and merry making. Other than the famous rose gardens, his castle was also surrounded by riches in all dimensions. The money and gold within his reach were far much more than we could possibly imagine.
When he was asked to make a wish, King Midas did not think twice about what he wanted. He had practically everything, except that he wanted more gold and money. So, he asked Dionysus to grant him the ability to turn everything into gold by the simple touch of his hands.
Being a god meant that Dionysus was granted the wisdom of the immortals. He understood that King Midas wanted to have more gold in his possession. However, he also understood that this wish would not make him happy as he would be unable to touch the things he needed like food and the people he loved like his pretty little girl Marigold. He however was bound by his promise to grant him any wish that he would ask for, regardless of how it would affect him. In Greek history, especially as depicted in most mythologies, we see the gods as honorable entities. They stand by their word and do not seek an easy way out in case things get complicated. Just like in many other Greek mythologies, the immortal being wanted to protect the human, but was hindered by his stubbornness and greed for material wealth. Dionysus tried to persuade King Midas to ask for another wish, hoping to make him see how impractical it would be to turn everything into gold. Midas however stood by his wish, particularly being excited over the prospect of having so much gold around him.
Upon his persistence, Dionysus granted him his wish. This really pleased the greedy King as he knew he was about to fulfill his desire of having a lot of gold around him. He went home feeling elated and ready to try out his new powers. Upon reaching the castle, he touched the railings on the stairway and it turned into gleaming yellow, the color of pure gold. This made him really excited. He continued to touch things and turn them into gold, feeling very proud of his new abilities and the prospects they held for him. In his excitement, he felt hungry and asked the servants to bring him food. He however could not eat as everything he touched turned to gold. The bread, the cheese, the apples and even the beef turned to hard yellow pieces in his hands. He had to stay hungry, but he still thought it was worth it. He was not about to give up his ability for fear of starvation. Being a King, he was sure he would figure out a way to eat without turning the food into gold.
One afternoon, however, he went to tell his daughter about Dionysus gift. Before he could tell her, she ran into his arms in an attempt to embrace her father and turned into a golden statue instead. Marigold was the apple of his eye. He could brave starvation and disease, even intense boredom. However, he could not stand the sight of his daughter caged in a golden statue. Other than being avarice, he was a great father who loved his daughter so much. He was willing to give up the ability if only he could get her back. Thus, he went to Dionysus, hoping to reverse his predicament. Dionysus had previously tried to warn the greedy king of the consequences of his wish. He was however still grateful for how he had treated Silenus when he found him sleeping in his famous garden. Therefore, it is mainly for this reason that he agreed to help King Midas to undo his wish. He instructed him to go to the Pactolus River and wash his hands, so that the wish would remain in the rivers waters.
King Midas, filled with anguish and despair, headed to the river as instructed and washed his hands. When he finished, he could see the rivers waters gleaming like they had traces of gold. He, therefore, knew he had washed his wish away as told by Dionysus. Upon this affirmation, he rushed home to rescue his daughter from the golden statue he had turned her into. At first, she did not stir in his arms. However, with a little more patience and faith, he managed to get her back into her human form, thus, proving that the wish had been undone. This is how he learned to be careful with his wishes and to appreciate other things in life beside money and gold. After his daughter regained her flesh and blood, he ordered for a great feast and enjoyed his meal with his servants, citing that he had never before noticed how sweet the food really was.
The other myth is less famous and is about his clash with Apollo when he was appointed a judge in a musical competition. According to this myth, King Midas was asked to be among the judges of the music competition that was held between the two Greek gods, Apollo and Pan. After the competition, one of the judges declared that Apollo had won the contest, but Midas openly disputed this declaration. He did not agree with the other judge. Apollo was the Greek god of medicine, truth, poetry, music, and archery (Metaxas & Prato 64). As a god, he did not take kindly to being offended, especially by mortals. He considered King Midas disagreement as an insult and decided to punish him for not recognizing and respecting the truth, as announced by the other judge. As a punishment for his poor judgment, disrespect, and public offence, King Midas ears were turned into those of a donkey so as to symbolize his supposed bad musical taste and hearing.
Being a mere mortal, there was not much he could do about this punishment. King Midas simply hid his donkey ears under a turban that was always on his head. He only removed it when he was with his barber, and even with him it was only after he had been sworn to privacy.
The myth however has it that the barber got tired of keeping the secret as he felt like it was eating into his soul. Therefore, he whispered a secret in the hole, which he dug in the ground. As soon as he had done this, canes began growing right where he had dug. Greek mythology has it that every time when there is a wind or breeze, you may hear the canes whispering the secret of King Midas. Apparently, the canes continue saying Midas has donkey ears!.
In ancient Greek mythology, we see that the gods interacted freely with people. Also, there were quite many mythical creatures. Whether these were real or simply the products of imagination we cannot tell as we were not there. We can however appreciate the rich history and culture of the Greek civilization as depicted in these myths. Most Greek mythologies have distinguished lessons. Others however simply seek to pass on the rich history of Greece. These two mythologies on King Midas show us the superiority of the Greek gods, and their power over the humanity. Both Dionysus and Apollo exercised their godly powers in the myths, one to favor and the other to destroy King Midas. From both stories, we see that the gods were both good and bad. For example, in the touch of gold mythology, we are told that Dionysus was good and kind to those who respected and honored him and also bad and destructive to those who offended him. In the donkey ears mythology, Apollo interpreted Midas deed to have dishonored him when he disputed the fact that the god had been declared the winner. He, therefore, decided to punish a mortal for disrespecting a god. In both circumstances, we see that the gods were right in their own points of view.
In the first myth, however, the major theme is King Midas greed for wealth. From this mythology, we can see various things about the character of King Midas. First of all, he was a great king. A reputed avarice or not, he was definitely not a bad man. He was used to a life of extravagance, and he spent his time enjoying his vast wealth. He however is not reported to have in any way neglected his people (Sinclair 69). Although, he spent a lot of time partying and making merry, the myths do not talk of suffering or lack of leadership during his reign. Apparently, his only vice was his love for money and gold. King Midas insatiable love for valuable things, especially money and gold, has been highlighted in many scripts in ancient Greece.
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When he showed hospitality towards the drunken satyr Silenus contrary to Dionysus expectations, he proved his rational and kind side. He could have become angry because the satyr had slept in his famous rose gardens. However, he was kind and welcoming and even hosted him for ten days in the royal chambers before returning him to Dionysus. In addition, King Midas did not choose wealth over the life of his daughter. We learn from this myth that Marigold was important enough to her father that he gave up his famous Midas touch just so that he could save her from remaining caged in the golden statue forever (Sinclair 89). The myth on the touch of gold is believed to be meant as an explanation as to why the Pactolus River has maintained its gleaming sheen that makes it look golden. It could be a feeble attempt at explaining the phenomenon, but it divulges a lot of information on the history of Greece in the process.
In my conclusion, I would like to restate that king Midas was quite iconic in ancient Greek mythology. The king represented a number of things to the Greeks at that time. One of his rare talents that has been passed down from generation to generation is his ability to turn whatever he touched into gold. Today, when people talk of the Midas touch, they usually refer to a persons ability to obtain success in whatever activities he or she engages in. While Midas in the todays phrase is not set to learn from greed and misplaced priorities, he or she is believed to turn everything into gold with a simple touch of the hand. If there is one thing the Greek civilization has done for us, it concerns the metaphors and other figures of speech that have been derived from the rich historical content of their mythologies. From the phoenix to the griffin and the satyrs, Greek mythologies have also built the imaginations of people from all over the world. Both stories on King Midas add on to the timeless classical Greek mythologies and the wealth of knowledge and history of the Ancient Greece that they showcase.
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