Midas (and Mida)

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Jan 12, 2019.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Yes, I have read the thread https://www.cointalk.com/threads/geta-and-mida-ae-20-of-cremna.323117/#post-3183230 But nevertheless I have decided to post my article about the same subject here too because I think I can deliver additional ideas.

    The coin:
    Pisidia, Kremna, Caracalla, AD 198-217
    AE 19, 4.97g, 18.72mm, 0°
    obv. IM - P C M AV - R ANT PF AV
    Bust, draped and cuirassed, laureate, r.
    rev. COL.CREM. - MID.DEAE (from upper right)
    Goddess Mida in the kind of Kybele enthroned l., holding patera in extended r. hand
    ref. Lindgren&Kovacs 1292 (this coin); obv. from same die as asiaminorcoins #4590
    VF, dark green patina

    Expansion of the legend: COLONIA CREMNENSIVM MIDAE DEAE
    Note: This type is known for Marcus Aurelius and Geta too.

    The earliest mention of Midas dates back to Herodot and is a myth from northern Greece. Here in Macedonia below the mountain of Bermios Silen has been captured, at the Inna fountain, and here grew the famous sixty-leaf wild roses which were famed in the entire ancient world for their incomparable fragrance.
    But already Herodot has confused this local Macedonian myth with the Phrygean kings by calling Midas the son of Gordios and Kybele. So the capture of Silen was later relocated to Asia Minor. But originally it is a Macedonian tradition, which took place at the tribe of the Brigean, a name which sounds like Phrygians in Asia minor. And there is a not so well known king Midas in northern Greece, who is said to be slain by Karanos when he conquered Edessa (Justin. 7, 1).

    In any case all these mythologies are later relocated to Asia Minor. King Midas has captured Silen probably to get his wisdom. This should have happened among others near Ankyra. About that theme I have written an en detail article about Silen and Dionysos in this thread which I highly recommend. The best-known story is told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses: When Silen has stayed 6 days and nights at king Midas he brought him back to his father Dionysos. Dionysos was highly pleased and promised him to grant a wish. In his blindness Midas wished that all that he touched became gold. When he wanted to eat he recognized his mistake. Tortured by hunger and thurst he invoked Dionysos for help. The god had mercy on him and told him to take a bath in the Paktolos river. So Midas was saved. The Paktolos however became the most gold-rich river in Asia Minor.

    This myth is an allusion to the legendary wealth of Midas. Already in the manger a miracle has happened: Ants - known in ancient times for their miracles - have put grains of wheat in his mouth. This was seen as prophecy for his later wealth (so e.g. Cicero, De divin. 1, 36).

    There is another myth too which makes Midas look miserably. Weary of his treasures Midas fled into the woods to serve only Pan. In doing so he came to the Tmolos mountain at the moment where Pan and Apollo were holding a singing contest and the mountain god was the arbitrator. When he proclaimed Apollo as winner Midas contradicted emphatically. Enraged Apollo gave him ass's ears to indicate his foolishness. Since then king Midas used a Tiara to hide them. Only his hair cutter knew his disformity but was condemned to silence. But because he couldn't keep this secret he dug a pit, shouted "king Midas has ass's ears!", and closed the pit. But nearby reed has realized all and moved by the wind the secret of the king has been whispered all over the world.

    We have to ask why king Midas became such a ridiculous figure. That could not be originally because Midas was the name of several Phrygian kings. Take a look for the article about Gordios, founder of Gordion, in this thread. Roscher gives as explanation that the long ears were a congenital deformity of the Phrygian kings. Something similar we know from the Merowingian kings with their Ichthyosis. In that way the myth is to see aitiologically. More archaically would be the version in Myth. Vat. 3, 10, 7, where Midas not accidentally came along at the song contest, but has been raised to arbitrator which better corresponds to his rank as king. The entire myth is reminiscent of the tragedy of Marsyas and seems to be Alexandrinian. It is said that Midas has introduced playing flutes at funerals, indeed should have invented the cross flute. He is said to have died by committing suicide by drinking the blood of a bull, when the Kimmerians invaded his kingdom.

    Let us bring together what we knew of Midas: The ass's ears are relicts of a theriomorphic formation, similar to the pointed ears of the Silens. Relevant is his life in woods and meadows. Relations to fountains are known too. Xenophon (Anab. 1, 2, 13) mentions a Midas well, also Pausanias and Plutarch, and the bath in the Paktolos river would match that exactly. So we have to see Midas as benedictory nature deity (Roscher). He was the owner of the lush rose gardens of Edessa and he lived at the Inna fountain. The myth of the whispering reed is only a fairytail-like embellishment.

    It is said that Midas had have a son named Lityerses. He asked guests for mowing contests and then have whipped the losers, until he was defeated by a stronger opponent, probably Herakles. This was the theme of Euripides' "Theristai (The Reapers)", a lost satyr drama. A similar play is known by Sositheos from Alexandreia Troas. In this play he cut off the head of the loser and threw him in a sheaf in the river Maiandros. This myth seems to have originated from the song of reapers sung at work.

    Another son of Midas should have been Anchouros. Once when Phrygia was ravaged by an awful flood an oracle declared that the flood would stop not earlier until the most precious has been thrown into the crevice which has opened near Kelainai (the later Apameia). When all gold and silver has shown up as useless, Anchouros himself jumped into the gorge and the flood stopped (Plutarch).

    Midas is an ancient deity of the Brigeans in northern Greece just like of the Phrygians in Asia Minor. He is the origin of the name of a Macedonian ruling dynasty and of the names of Phrygian kings. The Brigeans (= Phrygians) will have brought along their Midas when they came to northern Greece. There they became acquaintance with the Macedonian Silens and Satyrs and assimilated Midas with them. This old and more original Midas then faded away at the Greeks (Roscher) and made place for the Phrygian kings which were famous at the Greeks too. Midas was known by the Assyrians as "Mita of Mushki".

    Relicts of the old northern Greek names can be realized in the names of 2 heroines: Midea, a Boeotian and an Argivian, both eponyms of 2 cities called Medeia. But that was not mentioned by the Greeks (Roscher).

    And now to my coin:
    The rev. is MID.DEAE, MIDAE DEAE, dedicated to goddess Mida! The explanation we find in the so-called Tomb of Midas in Midas Sehri, the City of Midas. Midas Sehri was beside the capital Gordion the most important city in Phrygia. In Sehri the English explorer William Francis Ainsworth has found in the 19th century the monumental rock facade and because of its Phrygian inscriptions referred to as Tomb of Midas. This facade is the 16m high and 16.40m wide front of a building with a cult niche in the centre on the ground. In this niche once the statue of Kybele was standing. A acroterion of concentric circles decorates the flat pediment. The facade is decorated with a geometrical ornament, and the frame of the facade with a continuous decor of 4 deepened rhombuses which surround a quadrat. The door in the rock has a double frame.

    On the facade are inscriptions and graffiti (arachne.uni-koeln.de).

    Such facades are a Phrygian speciality and can be found frequently in the vicinity. A further Tomb of Midas, a tumulus, was unearthed in Gordion. It was ascribed to Gordios, father of the historic king Midas.

    However there was no room found in Midas Sehri which could serve as sepulchre. So it is rather a cult site of Kybele. And the inscription does not name Midas but Mida, an epistasis of Kybele!

    Mida, more exactly Mιδα θεος, was an oath deity of the people wich was governed by king Midas, taken by some for his mother. Plutarch calls her in correct Phrygian Mιδα μητερ, and equated her as "Mother of Midas" with one of the "Mothers of Dionysos", namely Gynaikeia, Arretos and the Roman Bona Dea. He reports that in her cult the women carry on with other women like in the Orphic Mysteries. Referring to Hygin. (Fab.191) Midas has the dea mater as mother, according to Fab. 274 the Phrygian Kybele. Naturally is meant always the old mythological figure which is flowed together with the historic king only in error.
    So this mother goddess of the ass-eared, theriomorphic mountain and silvan god is
    none other as the great mountain goddess ο-Ρειη, Ιδαιη (from ιδη = wooded mountains), and the female practices, as suggested by Plutarch's mention on occasion of the infamous scandal at the festival of Bona Dea, were obcene.

    A. Dieterich, 1894, wants to equate Mida as nominative with Mise and Misme, but concerning the linguistic relations of these names besides the possibility of original equality leaves open rightly the alternative that this Mιδα θεος (Mida now as genitive) actually is only the mother goddess of the Midas cult. And really, this being counts in the text from which Hesychios got his Lemma, as "Goddess of Midas" (Roscher).

    History of Art:
    I have attached
    (1) a pic of the Midas Facade in Midas Sehri

    (2) a pic of the Phrygian inscription on this facade (for those who have sufficient
    control of the Phrygian language)

    (3) a pic of the Kybele statue of Agoracritus, a scholar of Phidias, which by the
    proliferation of the Kybele cult became the widest spread depiction of Kybele. The
    statue shows Kybele humanized but still enthroned, one hand on a accompanying
    lion the other holding the tympanon. This statue is by the style Hellenistic, but its
    origin is Latium, mid of the 3rd century AD, today in the Museo Archeologico
    Nazionale in Naples.

    (4) a pic of the painting "Midas and Bacchus", about AD 1624, from Nicolas Poussin
    (1594-1665), today in the Pinakothek in Munich. We see the Phrygian king Midas,
    who leads Silen back to Bacchus and will be rewarded.

    (1) Herodot, Histories
    (2) Xenophon, Anabasis
    (3) Plutarch, Parallel lifes
    (4) Ovid, Metamorphoses
    (5) Cicero, De natura deorum
    (6) Hesychios of Alexandria (Grammarian), Alexandrini Lexicon (online too)

    Secondary literature:
    (1) Der Kleine Pauly
    (2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon (online too)
    (3) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen
    (4) Gemoll, Griechisch-Deutsches Schul- und Handwörterbuch
    (5) Dietrich Berndt, Midasstadt, von Zabern 2002

    Oline Sources:
    (1) arachne.uni-koeln.de
    (2) wikipedia.com

    Best regards
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2019
    Sulla80, TIF, PeteB and 3 others like this.
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