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MIDAS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 409 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MIDAS, the name of several Phrygian kings. The first of these was said to have been the son of Gordius and Cybele, whose first priest he was, and in whose honour he founded a temple at Pessinus. Having taken the drunken Silenus back to his youthful charge Dionysus, he was rewarded by the god with the power of transforming everything he touched into gold. Finding himself in danger of starvation, even his food and drink being changed by his touch, Midas entreated Dionysus to take back the gift. By the command of the god he bathed in the river Pactolus, which henceforth became auriferous (Ovid, Melon. xi. 85–145; Hyginus, Fab. 191). Another story connects him with the musical contest between Apollo and Marsyas (or Pan). Having decided against the god, his ears were changed into those of an ass. He concealed them under a Phrygian cap; but the secret was discovered by his barber, who, being unable to keep it, dug a hole in the ground and whispered into it " Midas has the ears of an ass." He then filled up the hole, thinking his secret safe; but the reeds which grew up over the spot proclaimed it to all the world. Midas with the ass's ears was a frequent subject of the Attic satyr-drama. There is no doubt that Midas was the name of one or more real persons around whom religious legends have grown up. The name " Midas the king " occurs on a very ancient tomb in the valley of the Sangarius, the legendary seat of the Phrygian kingdom. The Phrygian monarchy was destroyed by the Cimmerians about 67o B.C., and the name Midas became in Greek tradition the representative of this ancient dynasty. On the connexion between Midas and the Attic story see J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, ii. 134.
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