The gifts of the Gods are not
always what they seem. Take warning from the
tale of King Midas, who thought himself wise.
Midas had been tutored in the
mysteries of the god of wine, Dionysys, by the poet Orpheus. So when one day some peasants
brought before him an old, drunken satyr, bound with
chains of flowers, Midas recognized him as Silenus, a companion of Dionysys.
feasted Silenus for ten days and nights, and in
return, Silenus told him many strange things.
He told of a terrible whirlpool beyond which no
traveler could pass. Beside it, two streams
flowed. By the first grew a tree whose fruit
caused those who ate of it to waste away. By the
second grew a tree whose fruit made men young
again. One bite took an old man back to middle
age; two bites and he was a young man again; in three
bites he was back in adolescence; in four, a child;
in five, a baby. A sixth bite, and he would
Midas took Silenus back to Dionysys, by the banks of
the Pactolus River. The god had been missing
his companion, and by way of gratitude for Silenus's
safe return, he offered to grant Midas any wish he
might ask for.
thought of Silenus's tale, but then he remembered a
story that when he was a baby, some ants had been
seen carrying golden grains of wheat and placing them
between his lips -- a sign of great wealth to
come. So, instead of choosing youth, Midas
said, "Grant that whatever I touch will turn to
The god granted Midas's wish, and
the king went away, delighted with his good
fortune. He broke a twig from a low growing
branch of oak, and it turned to gold. He
touched a stone and a clod of earth, and they, too,
turned to gold. He gathered an ear of corn, and
it turned to glittering metal in his hand. He picked
an apple, and it became as golden as the fabled
apples of the Hesperides.
He touched the pillars of his
palace doorway, and they turned to gold. Even the
water in which he washed splashed golden over his
hands. He called for food and wine. But
when he reached for a piece of bread, it too, turned
to gold. When he bit into some meat, it turned to
metal where his teeth touched it. Even the
wine, Dionysys's discovery and gifts to men, turned
to liquid gold as it passed his lips.
Midas could neither eat nor drink,
and soon he was in a torment of hunger and
thirst. Gold, which had once been his heart's
desire, was now hateful to him. He begged
Dionysys to free him of his gift.
Dionysys tool pity on the wretched
man and told him, "To cancel the gift, you must
go to the source of the Pactolus River. Bathe
in the spring there, and wash away your greed."
Midas did as he was told and, as
he bathed, his golden touch washed away. The
waters ran with gold, and even now the soil along the
riverbank has a golden gleam.