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King Midas

Midas in Assyrian records is a Mushki; in Greek references he is a Phrygian. Perhaps he was both, or maybe they were one and the same. He succeeded to the throne in 738 BC, defended the frontiers of Phrygia quite well, but could not resist the attacks of the Cimmerians advancing from the Caucasian region into Anatolia. After his defeat by Cimmerians in 695 BC, it is said that he committed suicide by drinking bull's blood. Phrygians built the largest mound (tumulus) in Gordion known as the Tumulus of Midas; it is 53 meters (173 feet) high and 300 meters (984 feet) wide.

The Tumulus of King Midas in Gordion still contains some wooden furniture probably from his palace, but most of the finds are on display in the Anatolian Civilizations museum in Ankara, where his burial room is reconstructed. The large, almost square-shaped burial chamber is 6.20 x 5.15 meters (20 x 16 feet). The skeleton of King Midas was laid on a large bench, surrounded by other benches full of gifts for the afterworld. Close observation of the skeleton revealed that King Midas died when he was around 60 years old and he was 1.59 meters (5 feet 2 inches) tall. On the floor of the chamber were found 166 bronze funeral gifts and 145 bronze fibula laid at the head of the deceased. The lack of gold reveals that it was not a custom among the Phrygians to present funerary gifts of gold. There are furniture decorated with ivory inlay (from pre-Cimmerian times), wooden statues, vases, bronze cauldrons, silver and gold jewelry, and images of Cybele (Mother Goddess) used in religious ceremonies.

Myths

In Greek mythology, Midas was a king of Phrygia who was granted the gift of converting all he touched to gold. He soon regretted his gift, as his food and drink were also turned to gold. Another myth says that, for preferring the music of Pan to that of Apollo, he was given donkey's ears by the latter.

Gold

The god Dionysus was trying to find his teacher and right-hand satyr Silenius, who had gone missing after drinking too much wine and wandered off. Silenus was found by Midas sleeping in a vineyard, who offered his hospitality for a few days in his palace and threated him with dignity before taking him back to Dionysus. The god was so happy that he told Midas he would fulfill one wish for him. Midas asked that everything he touched would become gold, and Dionysus kindly granted the wish. Midas was so excited with his new power and started turning everything into gold. But when he tried to eat and drink, the food he touched also turned into gold. Soon he realized that this wish was not actually a blessing but a curse, and that he was doomed to die of hunger and thirst. Even his daughter turned into a golden statue when he hugged her. Midas then prayed to Dionysus to get rid of his powers, who told him to wash his hands in the Pactolus river so everything turned back to normal. Since then, gold has always been present in this river.

Ears

Midas became a devoted follower of Pan, the god of nature and satyr. Pan had a great ability on the flute and he dared to challenge god Apollo's lyre in a competition to see who was the best player. The judge of the competition was Tmolus, god of the mountain, and Midas was present at the contest. After live performances, Tmolus was convinced that Apollo was the winner. All agreed with the judgment except for Midas, he even protested the decision. Apollo was so furious at Midas so he touched his head causing the ears of the king to turn into those of a donkey. Midas was so embarrassed, decided since then to always cover his head with an ample headdress. Only his barber knew the secret, who was told not to mention it. But the barber could not resist to keep this secret; he went out into the forest, dug a hole in the ground where he whispered the story into it, then covered the hole. After that he felt better and returned home. At the point where the barber had whispered reeds grew and spread the story with "King Midas has an ass' ears" every time the wind blew. Eventually everyone found out what the king had donkey ears.

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