Midas (mĪˈdəs) [key], in Greek mythology, king of Phrygia. Because he befriended Silenus, the oldest of the satyrs, Dionysus granted him the power to turn everything into gold by touch. But when even the food that he touched turned to gold, Midas begged to be relieved of his gift. Dionysus allowed him to wash away his power in the Pactolus River, which afterward had gold-bearing sands. In another legend Midas was given ass's ears by Apollo for preferring, in a contest, the music of Pan (in another account Marsyas) to that of Apollo. Midas preserved his shame from all but his barber, who, wishing to tell it, whispered it into a hole in the ground. The reeds that grew out of that hole, however, murmured the secret whenever the wind blew through them. There was also a historical king of Phrygia named Midas in the 8th cent. B.C.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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