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King Midas of Phrygia is best known for his ability to turn everything he touches into gold. Unfortunately, this gift turned into a curse very quickly for him.

King Midas was a wealthy king who loved gold and believed that wealth should only lie in the hands of kings. There are two versions of his myth. The first version is that one day, his men found Silenus, Dionysus’ mentor, wandering around in the woods after a night of drinking. To thank Midas for returning Silenus, Dionysus offered him any gift he wanted. Midas asked to be able to turn everything he touched into gold. He soon realized this was a problem, because he couldn’t eat or drink anything without it turning to gold first. Finally, he touched his daughter and she turned into a gold statue. He went to Dionysus in desperation, who told him to wash all of the gold from his body in the river, and everything would return to normal. On his way back, he came across Apollo and Pan having a piping and harp contest in the woods. He sided with Pan as being the winner of the contest, so Apollo angrily observed that Midas must need better ears. All of a sudden, giant donkey ears started to grow from Midas’ head. He was stuck with these ears for the rest of his life.

In another version of the myth, Midas was jealous of Apollo being able to spread golden light wherever he went. He cursed Apollo every day, until finally Apollo came down and gave Midas the gift of turning everything he touched into gold. Midas first touched his daughter and she turned into a golden statue, but he was not bothered by his gift until he discovered that all of his food and drink turned to gold. He finally realized that he had wronged the gods with his attitude and Apollo removed the curse, but gave him a pair of donkey’s ears to humiliate Midas. Midas’ barber knew about the ears and spread the gossip around the kingdom. When Midas found out, he was about to execute the man when he realized that Apollo had been merciful to him; in turn, he decided he would spare the barber’s life. At that point, Apollo returned and removed the ears, saying that Midas had learned the important lessons of humility and mercy.

King Midas Quick Reference


Gordias and Cybele

Notable Myths

  • King Midas and the Golden Touch



Symbols / Attributes

  • Gold
  • Donkey Ears

Be sure to check out the lesson plans for "King Midas' Golden Touch", a short story based on this Greek myth!

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