Bet you didn't see this one coming.
"Uh, gee Mr. Dionysus. I guess if I could pick anything, well I wish I could TURN STUFF INTO GOLD."
Humor aside, greed is the real deal in the story of King Midas. And the million dollar question stands: is greed good or bad? Both? Or Neither?
Midas is a generally nice guy. He takes Silenus in. He throws Silenus a party. He helps Silenus get back on the road. So it seems only right that he be rewarded for his good deeds, right? But he goes and screws it up.
In Ovid's version of the story, it's not super clear why Midas wishes for gold. Ovid just says that Midas "was never very judicious," meaning he lacks common sense. Other versions of the story straight up say that he's greedy and loves gold more than anything. Either way, the guy makes a terrible wish and ends up begging to be saved. And sure enough, all he has to do to get rid of his punishment is take a bath.
Man, if we could get out of any punishment just by taking a bath… not too shabby.
So greed gets Midas in a good bit of trouble, but then he manages his way out pretty easily, too. What are we supposed to make of that?
Questions About Wealth and Greed
- Is Midas let off the hook too easily? Should he have been punished more for his greed?
- Do you think Midas's wish would have turned out better if he'd wished for something else entirely?
- Dionysus is a total party god. Is he greedy, too? And how about Silenus? Is gluttony a type of greed?