Midas | The Mythological King with the Golden Touch
Updated: May 8
George Papadellis | SG Head
Sophia Parastatidou | SG Team | ACG Apprenticeship
King Midas Origins
One of the most famous Greek myths is about a king who turned into gold everything he touched, known as King Midas. Myths are based on traditions and can explain human actions, the Gods, and the world in general. Most of the time, myths have topics with heroes, magic, battles, journeys, and adventures, and through them, next generations can take lessons about their choices, behaviors, and life. Before presenting the Golden Touch myth, there is some basic and prerequisite information about the origins of Phrygia’s King.
The Phrygian city Midaeum was named after Midas, who was one of the members of the royal house of Phrygia. According to Herodotus, Midas had dedicated his throne to Delphi at 700 BC. Midas was the son of Cybele and Gordeus, a poor farmer, a descendant of the Macedonian royal family of the Vriges, who migrated to Asia Minor and became the King of the old capital Phrygia Gordian. When he was a baby, it is said that the omen of ants left a pile of wheat grains next to his cradle and predicted his great wealth. Although he had a great fortune and a life full of abundance, he was never satisfied as he was greedy and wealthy. Midas’s wife was the daughter of the king of Aeolian Kymi, Agamemnon, named Hermodike or Demodike. According to some legends, Midas had a son, named Lityerses; according to others, Midas had a daughter named Zoe (which means “life”) or Marigold, and according to others, he had a son named Anchurus.
Midas ascended the throne as he confirmed the oracle of the Oracle of Delphi, which said that the future king would come on a cart. Some historians claim that this cart also had the yoke, a rope tied in a knot, and got cut by Alexander the Great when he went to Gordian.
One perception of his death claims that in the middle of the 7th century BC, the Cimmerians invaded Phrygia and overthrew the kingdom of Midas, who committed suicide out of his grief. When the Phrygians drove out the Cimmerians, they built the tomb of Midas between the Prymnissos and Midaeum. On the grave, there is an inscription where the name of Midas is mentioned, probably in the Greek language. He was also worshiped as the son of the goddess Kyveli. Finally, he became a part of those who instituted the worship of the goddess, Kyveli. Another perception of his death causes, according to Aristotle, is that Midas died from starvation.
The Golden Touch Myth
According to Herodotus, God Dionysus passed through Phrygia, the city of King Midas. One of his companions - satyrs, Silenus, decided to rest himself in Midas Garden in the valley below Mount Vermio with sixty-leafed roses of exceptional fragrance and a spring of cool water. Midas offered wine to Silenus and hosted him for ten days. Midas wanted to get Silenus drunk to learn the secrets of his wisdom.
The Phrygians also have a similar myth whose source is placed in the Thymbrion of Phrygia. They report that when Silenus revealed his secrets to Midas, he led him near Dionysus on the eleventh day. The God, pleased and grateful for the hospitality of Silenus, let Midas ask for anything he wanted, and that was the moment Midas asked for everything he touched to be turned into gold. First, Midas gained great power from this ability, and every object he felt became golden. Suddenly, after a series of unfortunate events, such as his food becoming gold before eating it and his daughter, Marigold, when he hugged her, King Midas realized his wrong choice and asked Dionysus to rid him of it. Following the god’s advice, Midas, despite the difficulties in finding the destination, went to Lydia in Sardis, where was the river Pactolus. As soon as he washed his hands to the river’s water, the gold was flowing from his hands into the river, and since then, the river Pactolus has been gushing gold. After that, everything Midas has changed to gold returned to normal, and Midas shared his great fortune and happiness with Phrygians. After that, King Midas became wiser, more grateful, and more generous. He became a beloved King for Phrygia.
There are several versions of the myth of Midas Touch, and the one mentioned above is just a summary of the myth. Midas myth is an allegory of what happens when one doesn’t recognize and appreciate true happiness and wants greedily always more. Midas wish was at first a blessing of a wealthy king that finally becomes a curse of a “slave” of his greediness. Although, nowadays, the saying “Midas touch” is used when one wants to mention the good fortune or abundance.
The Donkey Ears Myth
Once upon a time, Pan, the god of shepherds and inventor of syrinx and panpipes, dared to compare himself in musical ability with the god of music and the leader of the Muses, Apollo, so they decided to confront each other. The second Midas unfortunate event occurs in Mount Tmolos, named after the God of this mountain, Tmolos, and rises from the Pactolus River. Tmolos came in as a judge, and Midas also appeared. Pan played music with his flute of reeds and Apollo with his lyre. Tmolos once gave the victory to Apollo, but Midas disagreed, so Apollo "gave" him a new pair of donkey ears to hear better next time.
King Midas was very ashamed of his ears and tried to hide them with a hat. Of course, only his barber knew his secret, and he agreed to keep it safe, but because he could not stand to keep this secret by himself, Midas went to a field, dug a pit, and whispered the story.
Then he covered the hole with soil and left feeling completely relieved and unburdened. In the ground, however, reeds sprouted, which began to spread the story with the wind’s blowing; that is, King Midas had donkey ears, so everyone learned about his plight. Apollonius mentions this story as proof that Midas belonged to the genus Satyrs.
King Midas as an Inspiration
The Golden Touch (Disney’s Film)
Wald Disney Silly Symphony has made a ten-minute cartoon on March 22, 1935, based on King Midas’s myth with some updates into the Medieval setting by Albert Hurther, called The Golden Touch (1935). The music was composed by Frank Churchill, and the animation was made by Norm Ferguson and Fred Moore. In the film, King Midas counted his golden coins, and because of his greed to have more, he wished his audience to turn everything he touches into gold. By the time he made the wish, one little elf had appeared, named Goldy, and made exchange between everything the king had with the “charisma” of the golden touch. At first, the king was pleased about his achievements and that everything he touched became golden, but when he met difficulties with eating and drinking, he realized his big mistake. King Midas asked Goldy to take back his everyday life, and as a response, the elf made fun of him. Finally, the king offers the elf everything in return for losing the golden touch and a hamburger, and the elf agrees. A can replace the crown, and a hamburger appears before the king, who can eat it without turning it into gold anymore.
The Hollies Song
The pop group, The Hollies, have released the song King Midas in Reverse in September 1967, and it belongs to the album, Butterfly. The song is inspired by the myth and has relevant, allegorical lyrics such as “He's King Midas with a curse. He's King Midas in reverse.”, “He’s not a man to hold your trust. All he touches turns to dust.” The founder of the band, Graham Nash, claimed that this song was very personal for him as he was feeling the exact opposite example of King Midas, as he turned to dust instead of gold whatever he was touching.
King Midas Flour
In early 1900, Millbourne Mills produced “King Midas Flour” in Mississippi. This flour was a high quality and credible product, and these days the company has met great difficulties. In 1914 the product was renamed “King Midas Mill” and established an excellent reputation as the perfect flour for pasta recipes. The company was finally bought by Peavy Company, which kept the name “King Midas.” The combination of the product and the history of the name behind the product has been successfully addressed by Peavey Company’s advertising specialists with the slogan “The highest priced flour in America and worth all it costs.” about the relevant Greek myth of King Midas. As years passed, under the umbrella name of “King Midas,” several product lines have been created, such as “King Midas Durum Products,” “King Midas Wheat Flour Products,” etc. The flour is still on sale by Ardent Mills Company with a relevant reference, “King Midas Special.”
Midas & Fortnite
Fortnite’s famous character, named Midas, is inspired by King Midas and has the same ability to turn to gold anything he touches. The character was appeared in the battle royale’s Chapter 2 Season 2 Battlepass for the first time and met great success regarding the research of October 2020 that suggests it as “one of the most Google-searched Fortnite terms.” In the game, Midas appeared as a classy, one-eye man with several tattoos, and his touch turned weapons and vehicles into gold, which is a gift and a curse, at the same time, like in the Greek myth. There are three Midas on this game, the Midas, the Ghost Midas, and the Shadow Midas, which have three different appearance versions. Midas has only his hands and weapons golden, Ghost Midas has his whole body golden and wears white clothes, and Shadow Midas has his entire body golden and dark clothes. His golden touch can also be passed to his female counterpart, Marigold. In Greek mythology, Marigold was King Midas’s daughter, which was turned into a golden statue by her father, as mentioned above, interestingly applied to the Fortnite’s Battle Royale game.