One of the best loved tales of Dionysus involves the god’s elderly friend and teacher Silenus. One day Silenus, who was known to be a drunkard, went missing as the army of Dionysus crossed over the land of Phrygia.
It came to be that a group of peasants happened upon the bewildered old sot and brought him to the palace of King Midas. Midas treated his guest with the utmost kindness, filling him with food and drink and providing him with a comfortable place to rest.
Silenus entertained his host with interesting stories and whimsical songs for ten days. On the eleventh, Midas and his guards roused their caller from his wine induced sleep and set out to search for Dionysus.
It was not long before they met up with the worried god and placed Silenus back into his care. In order to show his gratitude to Midas, Dionysus offered to grant the king any wish that he desired.
In a foolish outburst, Midas demanded that everything he touched be turned to gold. Dionysus tried to reason with the king and make him see the folly of his words but Midas would not budge. Against his better judgement, the god reluctantly agreed and the wish was granted.
At first Midas was delighted with his freshly acquired talent, but things began to change when it came time for the king to sit down to his evening meal. Famished after a long day of trying out his new gift, Midas eagerly entered into the dining hall and took his usual seat at the table.
He reached forward to place a bite of food on his plate but just as he pierced it with his fork the delectable morsel turned into a hunk of gold. He tried again and again but each time the results were the same. All of the royal dinner had been turned to gold!
Just then the king’s daughter appeared in the entrance way and happily ran towards her father. Before Midas could react the young maid pranced forward and gleefully threw herself into her father’s arms.
Midas sat speechless as he felt her warm body turn into a lifeless statue of gold! “How could I be so foolish?” he cried out, “To place my love of wealth above all other things!”.
He pleaded with Dionysus to remove the golden touch and restore his daughter back to her human state. Satisfied that the greedy king had learned a valuable lesson, Dionysus agreed to withdraw the gift and instructed Midas to bathe in the Pactolus River.
Once his body had been cleansed of its affliction Midas reversed his daughter’s curse by submerging her gilded image into the water. In an instant the sand along the river bed took on a rich golden hue, a characteristic that remains to this very day.
To read about the fate of King Midas please see my story on the contest of Apollo and Pan.