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What is the Midas Touch?

Updated on May 28, 2009

In todays society we often refer to a person as having a 'Midas Touch' as those that find success at anything they put their mind to, as having a 'golden touch'. However this is not the real moral of the story.

Midas, in Greek mythology, was the King of Phrygia, a region in western Asia Minor.

He once extended his hospitality to the satyr Silenus, a friend of the god Dionysus. As a reward, Dionysus granted Midas a wish. The king requested that whatever he touch turn to gold. However, when he discovered that even his food became gold, he begged Dionysus to withdraw the gift. The god then told Midas that he could wash away the gift in the river Pactolus. Midas did so, and the sands of the river were golden ever after.

According to another legend, Midas was one of the judges of a musical contest between the gods Apollo and Pan. The king foolishly judged Pan's skill with the pipes to be greater than Apollo's playing of the lyre. Apollo punished Midas by giving him the ears of an ass as a symbol of his stupidity.

Although Midas concealed his ears with a headdress and swore his barber to silence, the barber was unable to keep the secret. He dug a hole in the ground, whispered the secret into it, and then filled up the hole. However, when the reeds growing in the area rustled in the wind, they revealed to all the world that "King Midas has ass' ears".


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