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Headword: Μίδας
Adler number: mu,1036
Translated headword: Midas
Vetting Status: high
A personal name. [That of] the lover of gold.[1]
The man who founded the city now Ankyra.[2]
Also [sc. attested is] Midas, a name of a very lucky [throw of a] die.[3]
And [there is] a proverb: 'Midas the luckiest at dice'. For Midas is a name of a throw.
And [there is] another proverb: 'Midas with ass's ears'. [sc. This refers to] Midas, the Phrygians' king, either because he had many spies,[4] or because he possessed a Phrygian village called Ota Onou [Ass's Ears][5] -- It is said that the river Pactolus[6] ran gold for him, and that he prayed that everything he touched should turn to gold -- or because the ass hears better than other animals, except the mouse. And Midas had many spies. Some say that because he once gave a judgment against Dionysus,[7] Midas was changed into an ass; or because he wronged the companions of Dionysus,[8] Dionysus in anger forced him to have ass's ears. Or because he had big ears. So the proverb is used of those who in no way pass unnoticed.[9]
It is declined Midas, Midou.
Epitaph: "here,[10] waiting here on this much-lamented tomb, I will announce to passers-by that Midas is buried here."[11]
Greek Original:
Μίδας: ὄνομα κύριον. ὁ φιλόχρυσος. ὁ κτίσας πόλιν τὴν νῦν Ἄγκυραν. καὶ Μίδας, κύβου ὄνομα εὐβολωτάτου. καὶ παροιμία: Μίδας ὁ ἐν κύβοις εὐβολώτατος: ὁ γὰρ Μίδας βόλου ἐστὶν ὄνομα. καὶ ἑτέρα παροιμία: Μίδας ὦτα ὄνου ἔχων. Μίδας, ὁ Φρυγῶν βασιλεύς: ἤτοι ὅτι πολλοὺς ὠτακουστὰς εἶχεν, ἢ ὅτι κώμην Φρυγιακὴν κατέσχεν, ἥτις Ὦτα ὄνου ἐλέγετο. λέγεται δὲ τούτῳ τὸν Πακτωλὸν ποταμὸν χρυσὸν ῥεῦσαι: καὶ ὅτι αὐτὸν εὔξασθαι, ὥστε πάντα ὧν ἅψαιτο χρυσὸν γενέσθαι. ἢ ὅτι ὁ ὄνος μᾶλλον τῶν ἄλλων ζῴων ἀκούει, πλὴν μυός. καὶ ὁ Μίδας πολλοὺς ὠτακουστὰς εἶχεν. οἱ δέ φασιν, ὅτι ψέξας ποτὲ τὸν Διόνυσον ὁ Μίδας μετεβλήθη εἰς ὄνον: ἢ ὅτι τοὺς τοῦ Διονύσου παριόντας ἠδίκησεν, ὁ δὲ ὀργισθεὶς ὦτα ὄνου ἔχειν αὐτῷ περιῆψεν. ἢ ὅτι μεγάλα ὦτα εἶχε. λέγεται οὖν ἡ παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν μηδὲν λανθανόντων. κλίνεται δὲ Μίδας, Μίδου. ἐπίγραμμα: αὐτοῦ τῇδε μένουσα πολυκλαύτῳ ἐπὶ τύμβῳ ἀγγελέω παριοῦσι, Μίδας ὅτι τῇδε τέθαπται.
See OCD(4) s.v. 'Midas(1) and (2)' for an attempt to distinguish between the legends of one or more prehistoric kings of the Phrygians and the historical king (738-696/5 BCE) of Phrygia in central Anatolia, with chief cities at Gordion and Midas City (Yazilikaya), and perhaps Ankyra. See also bibliography. Despite the vigorous rebuttal by Drews of the (flimsy) evidence, the Phrygians may have originated as a people near the mines of Mt. Vermion (Bermion) in Macedonia, where Herodotus mentions their roses, and migrated through Troy (Troy VIIB, see also delta 1569 'Dymas' and epsilon 337 'Hekabe') and Maeonia to the grassland steppes of central Anatolia, where they became famous for wool (phi 754) and weaving, the cult of Cybele (kappa 2586) and Attis and the great 8th.-century kingdom of the historical figure known to the Hittites as Mita of Mushki.
[1] A metonymy or nickname for a miser.
[2] Present-day Ankara.
[3] The entry probably distinguishes Midas as a name for a lucky die, a lucky gambler and a lucky throw of the die. Julius Pollux, however, classifies the throw of this name as either unlucky or average (Onomasticon 7.204-5). The contradiction probably arises from different values for the same throw in different games. For example double six is a lucky throw in games such as those similar to backgammon (see tau 7, pi 1384) but unlucky or average in games played with three dice (see tau 1006, kappa 2602); Venus, the best throw in Roman knucklebones, each of the four four-sided knucklebones showing a different face, would be unlucky in all other games. See Lamer's excellent article "Lusoria tabula", RE 13, esp. 1933ff., with a list of the names of throws.
[4] The Greek word ὀτακούσται 'eavesdroppers' begins with the root for 'ear'.
[5] I transliterate the Greek to leave open the possibility that this was a Phrygian name similar in sound to the Greek for 'ass's ears'. The sentence is here broken in two by the intrusion of a reference to the legend of Midas and Dionysus, where Midas demanded a price for freeing Silenus [Author, Myth] and was granted the power that anything he touched should turn to gold; finding he could no longer eat, he was freed by washing in the Pactolus, which thereafter was gold-bearing.
[6] This river (pi 32) is in Lydia and was the source of that kingdom's wealth. Whether the Phrygians ever occupied Lydia in earlier times is not known.
[7] This refers to the musical contest between Apollo and Pan (or Marsyas), where a king Midas, appropriately, chose a Phrygian god over Apollo, who then punished him by giving him the ass's ears. This entry appears not to know this myth or the story in Ovid (Metamorphoses 11.90-193) that Midas hid his ears in his peaked Phrygian cap but the reeds whisper his secret.
[8] Here we return to the Dionysus myth, for Midas wronged Silenus, when he made him drunk and forced him to reveal the secret of life (in most versions, that it is better never to have lived).
[9] I translate the Greek with its classical meaning. Indeed the entry seems to suggest that the proverb (Tosi [see under alpha 378] no.131, citing all allusions to it, beginning with Aristophanes, Plutus [Wealth] 287) was used of those who were not easily missed because of some physical or social trait comparable to ass's ears. The flow of the discussion suggests, however, that the verb λανθάνω is misused, as sometimes in late Greek, in the sense 'miss, fail to notice'. This would give the better sense "those who miss nothing."
[10] These lines are also quoted at alpha 4531, for the use of αὐτοῦ to mean 'here'.
[11] These are the last lines of a famous funerary epigram, attributed to Homer and said to have been inscribed under the bronze statue above the tomb of Midas, thus perhaps on Tumulus MM excavated by Rodney Young's expedition. The full text is given by Plato, Phaedrus 264D, and Diogenes Laertius 1.90; also in the Contest of Homer and Hesiod (265 Allen) and Greek Anthology 7.153. It is not implausible that Homer might have written an epitaph, for he may have been alive at the time of the death of the historical Midas, and Midas's queen was a Greek princess from Cyme. Less plausible is that the epitaph was in Greek.
Cambridge Ancient History, 3rd.edn., II 2, 1975, 417-42; III 2, 1991, 619-43, 666-9
Drews, Robert, "Myths of Midas and the Phrygian migration from Europe," Klio 75 (1993) 9-26
Rodney S. Young, Three Great Early Tumuli: The Gordion Excavations, vol. 1, 1981
Keywords: aetiology; biography; comedy; daily life; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; economics; ethics; geography; history; medicine; mythology; poetry; proverbs
Translated by: Robert Dyer on 22 November 2000@11:14:17.
Vetted by:
William Hutton (Cosmetics, modified note 11, added keywords, raised status) on 28 November 2000@10:36:34.
David Whitehead (added keyword; cosmetics; raised status) on 25 May 2001@04:49:29.
David Whitehead (restorative cosmetics) on 12 September 2002@05:20:09.
Robert Dyer (corrected false x-ref) on 22 May 2003@04:51:48.
Robert Dyer (Added reference to Drews) on 6 March 2006@07:42:00.
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 4 May 2012@04:10:25.
David Whitehead (augmented n.9) on 14 August 2012@09:58:05.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 15 August 2012@01:43:51.
David Whitehead (more keywords; cosmetics) on 22 May 2013@08:05:43.
David Whitehead (updated a ref) on 2 August 2014@09:21:37.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 23 October 2014@00:26:04.
David Whitehead (expanded n.9; another keyword; tweaking) on 24 October 2014@12:35:50.
David Whitehead (coding) on 18 May 2016@07:34:03.


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