Midas & Dionysus
Midas & Dionysus
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Midas Touch
His cart
Asses Ears
Phrygian Cap
Outside Links
Page Two (2)
King Midas by Nathanial Hathorne

Film Adaptions

Nathanial Hawthorne, remains a key figure in American literature as well as one of R.W. Emerson most successful apostles.He adapted many fanciful tales for children from classical mythology including King Midas. His tales usually have a strong moral theme which will still ring true and fresh today.
Stories organize our worlds: Share this story soon with a child close to you
Book Cover

Now the tale of King Midas and his golden touch is charmingly retold with full-color illustrations and key sentences shown in American Sign Language (ASL).

midas_s.jpg (12188 bytes)

Statuette of Midas,
Terracotta, h: 95 cm
Gordion Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Midas, his cart & Alexander the Great
During the reign of Gordios, an oracle foretold that a poor man who would enter Gordion by ox cart would one day rule over the Phrygians.

As the king and nobles were discussing this prediction, a farmer named Midas arrived at the city in his cart Gordios, who had no heirs, saw this as the fulfillment of the prophecy and named Midas his successor. Subsequently Midas had his cart placed in the temple of Cybele on the Gordion acropolis, where it was to stand for half a millennium, Somehow the belief arose that whoever untied the knot that fixed the cart to its yoke would become master of Asia. During his stay in the city Alexander the Great took it upon himself to undo the knot,severing it with his sword.

"Men know they are sexual exiles. They wander the
earth seeking satisfaction, craving and
despising, never content.
There is nothing in
that anguished motion for women to envy.

Camille Paglia

Mardi Midas
New Orleans is famous for the world's most hedonistic Carnaval, a trait also associated with King Midas.

Playboy "Girls of Mardi Gras" Video



Midas and Bacchus
Nicolas POUSSIN 1629-30 [enlarge image]

King Midas is a key character in the two of the most enduring stories of Bacchus or Dionysus as well as being the figure best associated with the Carnaval virtue of knowing thyself through hedonism. 

Midas' kingdom is Phrygia, which together with neighboring Thrace formed the land bridge between Europe and the rest of the ancient world. These important regions of prehistory are referenced in the stories as the birthplace of both Dionysus and Orpheus as well as Cybele.

His historic kingdom of also references the important cultural relationship this inland mountainous region of Asia Minor in today's Turkey played in the formation of Dionysian theatre and music.  The people of Çatalhöyük (pronounced cha-tal hoy-ook; Catal Huyuk ) in the area of this region near Crete are credited with creating history's first city about 7,000 BCE.

It was the Great Mother, Cybele, as the Greeks and Romans knew Her, who was originally worshiped in the mountains of Phrygia where sh
e was called the Mountain Mother. Cybele is also the Phrygian  who cures Dionysus of his madness induced by Hera through purification after he emerges from the garden surrounding Mount Nysa  where he was raised. The Phrygians also venerated Sabazios, the sky and father god depicted on horseback. Though the Greeks associated Sabazios with Zeus, representations of him, even into Roman times, show him as a horseman god.

Phrygia developed an advanced Bronze Age culture. The earliest traditions of Greek music, derived from Phrygia and transmitted through the Greek colonies in Asia Minor, included the Phrygian mode, considered the warlike mode in ancient Greek music. And Phrygian Midas, the king of the "golden touch," was tutored in music by Orpheus himself, according to the myth. Another musical invention that came from Phrygia was the aulos, a reed instument with two pipes.

 Marsyas, the satyr who first formed the instrument using the hollowed antler of a stag, was a Phrygian follower of Cybele. He unwisely competed in music with Olympian Apollo, and inevitably lost. Whereupon Apollo flayed Marsyas alive and provocatively hung his skin on Cybele's own sacred tree, a pine. Marsyas is sometimes identified with the Arkadian god Pan, to whom the story of the musical contest with Apollo is often transferred.

We should take care when asking God for anything, as we often get what we ask for.
Take warning from the tale of King Midas, who thought himself wise.

The Midas Touch:
 Silenus and Midas
Once, Dionysus found his old school master and foster father, Silenus, missing. The old man had been drinking, and had wandered away drunk, and was found by some 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. On the eleventh day he brought Silenus back to Dionysus. Dionysus offered Midas his choice of whatever reward he wanted.

Midas with Dionysus
[click to enlarge]

"Make everything I touch turn to gold!" quoth Midas. Dionysus consented, though was sorry that he had not made a better choice. Midas rejoiced in his new power, which he hastened to put to the test. He touched and turned to gold an oak twig and a stone.  Overjoyed, as soon as he got home, he ordered the servants to set a feast on the table. Then he found that his bread, meat, and wine turned to gold. Next he touched his daughter, and she also turned to gold, breaking his heart.
Upset, Midas strove to divest himself of his power (the Midas Touch); he hated the gift he had coveted. He prayed to Dionysus, begging to be delivered from starvation. Dionysus took pity on him and realized Midas wanted to let go of his greed. Dionysus  told Midas to wash in the river Pactolus. He did so, and when he touched the waters the power passed into them, and the river sands changed into gold.  To this day you can see flakes of gold in the Gediz Nehri near Kütahya.


Now Midas was fond of the satyr Pan, who played beautiful music on his pipes, and Pan had challenged Apollo to a music contest with King Midas as judge. The King Midas awarded the prize to Apollo's lyre-playing rather than Pan for the music of his pipes. Midas made no secret of his opinion that Pan was the better musician. In anger, Apollo changed the king's ears to those of an ass.
Humiliated, Midas took to wearing the Phrygian hat - a kind of stocking cap - pulled down over his ears. Only his barber knew the truth, and he had been sworn to secrecy. But the knowledge got to be more than the gossipy old barber could contain. So he went out into the country, dug a hole in a solitary place, whispered the secret into the hole, and then covered it up much relieved. But the following spring reeds and grasses grew on the spot where the barber had planted his secret, and the wind whispering through them told the secret over and over again:

Midas has ass's ears,
Midas has ass's ears,
Midas has ass's ears.



 "King Midas has an ass's ears." visit our Pan page to learn more about the music contest with Apollo

Historically Midas was  king of a Thracian tribe called the Brigians, who may have been descendants of the Mushki, a Pontic people who had moved to Thrace [today's Bulgaria], then moved to western and central Anatolia [Turkey today] and became known as the Phrygians. The Phrygian kingdom flourished under Midas from about 725 BC to 675 BC. Some  information about his reign survives in Assyrian records where he is known as Mitas of Mushki, who paid tribute to the Assyrians after being defeated in battle by them. The Greek historian Herodotus describes how he dedicated his throne at the Delphic shrine of Apollo and married the daughter of one of the Ionian kings.

According to local legend, he was the son of Gordius, a poor countryman, who was taken by the people and made king, in obedience to the command of the oracle. The Oracle said, according to the myth, that their future king should come in a wagon. While the people were deliberating, Gordius with his wife and son came driving in his wagon into the public square.

In Greco-Roman mythology he was King of Pessinus, a city in Phrygia in Asia Minor, who as a child was adopted by Gordias and Cybele. He was known for being a hedonist, and an excellent rose gardener.

King Midas by James Gillray  (1756–1815) at nypl.org

Phrygian Cap: Phrygia retained a separate cultural identity. Classical Greek iconography identifies the Trojan Paris as non-Greek by his Phrygian cap.
Mithras shown with Phrygian cap, Mithras was the diety favored by Rome till Christianity won the day and many of his December 25th holiday customs or those of the Saturnalia still survive in today's Christmas. However many other traditions, such as role reversal between master and slave, were allowed room to vent later in the early spring at Carnaval
The Phrygian cap was worn during the Roman Empire by former slaves who had been emancipated by their master and whose descendants were therefore considered citizens of the Empire which is why it likely survived into modern imagery as the "Liberty cap" of the American and French revolutionaries.
the Philosophy born in Greece
Hedonsim (Greek, hdonh, "pleasure"), in philosophy, the doctrine that pleasure is the sole or chief good in life and that the pursuit of it is the ideal aim of conduct.
Two important hedonistic theories were expounded in ancient Greece. Egotistic hedonists or the Cyrenaics,  espoused a doctrine  that the rational end of conduct for each individual is the Maximum of his own Happiness or Pleasure. Knowledge is rooted in the fleeting sensations of the moment, and it is secondary to attempt a system of moral values which weighs the desirability of present pleasures is weighed against the pain they may cause in the future. Unlike the Epicureans, or rational hedonists, who  contended that the true pleasure is attainable only by reason for  transient pleasures cannot satisfy, and that the predominance of self-love tends to defeat its own end. They stressed the virtues of self-control and prudence.


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