You’ve probably heard the mythical story of King Midas and how everything he touched turned to gold.
But you might not know that he was a historical figure who lived almost 3,000 years ago. A collaboration between Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Penn Museum is bringing the powerful king’s story to light in Philadelphia.
The exhibition, The Golden Age of King Midas, features more than 120 dazzling objects, including winged golden lions, ornate necklaces and elaborate serving vessels. The items are on loan from Turkish museums in Ankara, Istanbul, Antalya and Gordion, the ancient king’s seat of power, located southwest of Turkey’s present capital, Ankara.
Midas is thought to have ruled the Phrygians in the 700s B.C.E., dominating much of what is now Turkey. During excavations of Gordion in 1957, Penn Museum archaeologists shocked the world when they found the tomb of King Midas’ father, Gordios. It was completely intact, the skeleton of the king still lying in what was left of a cedar coffin. The rich remains of a funeral feast surrounded him.
But what about the fabled “Midas golden touch”? Curator C. Brian Rose has a theory:
“We’ve recently analyzed some of the textiles” from the ancient city, he said. As it turns out, garments were often coated with iron oxide, giving them a golden color. “So the story may have developed from the flashy clothing worn by the elite,” he said.
Rose said the exhibition opens “a window onto the archaeological treasures of Turkey,” adding that he hopes more people will discover the country’s rich archaeological sites.Philadelphia museum goers have enjoyed the exhibition since February 2016. It closes in late November.