Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Ciarra from Woodbridge, NJ. Ciarra Wonders, “Who is Midas and why did his touch make everything gold?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Ciarra!

Of all the precious metals found on Earth, humans have long been fascinated by one in particular—gold. People use it to repair broken items and make jewelry. They tell stories about golden cities and build fortresses to keep their gold safe. Throughout history, people have even looked for ways to turn iron into gold

Of course, no one has ever successfully done so. But that hasn’t stopped people from trying! After all, who wouldn’t want the ability to turn things into gold? You could become the richest person on the planet! Well, the subject of today’s Wonder of the Day might tell you to be careful what you wish for. Who are we talking about? King Midas, of course!

The legend of King Midas goes back centuries. It describes a wealthy king who had a large garden. One day, he went for a stroll in his garden and found a satyr named Silenus sleeping there. When the satyr awoke, he felt unwell. King Midas took Silenus into the castle. There, he fed the satyr and let him rest.

When Silenus felt better, King Midas helped him return to the Greek god Dionysus, who was his companion. The god was delighted to have the satyr back. To reward King Midas, Dionysus offered to grant him one wish. With little thought, the king asked for the ability to turn everything he touched into gold.

How would you like for everything you touch to turn into gold? It may sound great at first. Just think—everything around you could suddenly be made from one of the world’s most valuable materials. This ability could lead to endless wealth.  

However, as King Midas soon learned, his new gift was also a curse. When he touched food, it turned to gold. When he tried to drink water, it turned to gold. Desperate, he asked his servants to pour food and water directly into his mouth. Of course, it all turned into gold as soon as it touched his tongue.

The worst was yet to come. Unable to eat or drink, the distraught King Midas went back to his garden to think about what to do. He didn’t know that his daughter was also in the garden playing. Upon seeing her father, the girl ran up to him for a hug. Before he could stop her, King Midas’s daughter hugged him and turned to gold.

Finally, King Midas returned to Dionysus. He asked the god to reverse his wish. Dionysus told Midas that all he needed to do was bathe in the Pactolus River. The king traveled to the river and did what he was told. Immediately, the gift that had become a curse was gone.

In some versions of the story, bathing in the river also restored everything King Midas had touched. In other versions, though, everything—including his daughter—remained gold as a reminder of the effects of his greed.

People have told the legend of King Midas for many years. However, many don’t realize that he was also a real person. Could the real King Midas turn everything he touched into gold? Of course not! But he was a very wealthy king who ruled a people called the Phrygians. He lived around 700 B.C.E. in the area people today call Turkey.

That isn’t the only truth behind the legend, though. The Pactolus River is also a real place. It’s a small river in Turkey near the Aegean Sea. Ancient people used the story of King Midas to explain why gold was often found in the sand on the river bank.

What do you think is the moral of King Midas’s story? This is one tale that has certainly passed the test of time. It’s been passed down for centuries. What might people today learn from the legend?

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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