Classic Myths

Page: 32

Such a welcome as this poor countryman had!

"Here comes our king!" was the cry from everyone. "We were told he should come this day in a wagon drawn by oxen, and here he is!"

Gordius could not believe what he heard. But the chief men brought the crown and put it on his head and declared him king, and he agreed to do his best to deserve the honor.

The oak near which he had stopped was in front of a temple. Gordius gave away his oxen and, taking a heavy rope, tied his wagon with a tremendous knot to the oak. The priest came out and declared that whoever in times to come should be able to untie that knot would be king of all Asia. No one ever did untie it. But Alexander the Great came to Phrygia many years after and, failing to untie it, he took his sword and dealt the rope such a blow that one stroke cut through the magic knot.

A short time after he left Phrygia all Asia owned Alexander the Great as king, and maybe that was the way the knot was to be undone. Anyway, he did not give it up, and that is a good thing for us to remember. Cut the Gordian knots if they will not be untied.

The little boy who rode in the wagon with Gordius was Midas. After his father Gordius died, Midas was chosen King of Phrygia. He was kind and just to the people, as Gordius must have been, or they would not have chosen his son Midas to be their king.

Silenus Holding Bacchus. From a statue in Rome

One day while Midas was king some peasants found an old man wandering about in the woods. The forest was strange to him and he had lost his way. Midas knew him as soon as the peasants had brought him to the king's palace. It was Silenus, a teacher whose fame had gone through all the world. Midas treated Silenus with the greatest respect. For ten days there was feasting and games in the palace in honor of Silenus. On the eleventh day Midas took him back to the house of his greatest pupil. This pupil was more than mortal, so the story goes. His name was Bacchus. Midas told him all about the finding of Silenus, and Silenus told all about the pleasant time he had at the king's palace. Then the wonderful Bacchus told Midas he might have anything he should wish for as a reward.

Now Gordius, his father, had always wished for more money, though he had been made king and there was more gold for him and his good queen to spend than you would think he could manage. Midas, too, had wished for money. Yet all his life, since that lucky wagon ride, Midas had seen riches and jewels enough to make him grow tired of such things. But, no; when Bacchus asked him what he would have, Midas said, "Let everything I touch turn into gold."