Gold in Mythology

ancient goldIn our modern world, gold is relatively easy to obtain. If you want to purchase it in decorative form, you simply visit a local jewelry store and select whichever necklace or bracelet catches your eye. If you want to treat it as an investment or a means to fund your future retirement, all you have to do is place an order with American Bullion to add gold to your precious metals IRA. With sufficient funds, anyone can get their hands on gold within mere minutes.

However, this wasn’t always the case, as can be seen in stories and legends from cultures around the world. Ancient mythology is filled with tales of quests for gold prizes, gold treasures, and even entire golden cities as heroes, villains, conquerors, and kings risked (and often lost) their lives to get their hands on the planet’s most precious metal. Here are some ways gold has figured in mythology.

Alchemy and the philosopher’s stone

Alchemy (which lasted well into the 19th century) was the pseudoscience dedicated to the pursuit of turning base metals into gold, while the philosopher’s stone was the substance believed vital to this conversion process. Alchemy might sound like something only crackpots would engage in, but even such intellectual luminaries as Sir Isaac Newton and Tyco Brahe were believers.

King Midas and the golden touch

When given the opportunity to have a single wish granted by a grateful god, King Midas wanted everything he touched to turn to gold—without stopping to consider that this applied to food, drink, and even his daughter. Therefore, despite the positive meaning we ascribe to “the Midas touch” now, King Midas himself was far from fortunate or blessed.

Lost Incan gold

Of all ancient civilizations, perhaps none was as rich in gold as the Incas—or so the legends would have us believe. Stories of innumerable gold pieces, life-size human and animal figurines made of solid gold, and whole roomfuls of golden riches lured Francisco Pizarro and other Spanish conquistadores to South America in the 16th century. The belief in lost Incan gold persists even now and attracts present-day treasure hunters to the mountains of Ecuador in search of immense wealth.

Jason and the Golden Fleece

In ancient Greek mythology, Jason was leader of the Argonauts and rightful heir to the throne in the city of Iolcus. His uncle Pelias had other plans, however, and assumed the kingship for himself. The only way for Jason to wrest control of the city away from Pelias would be to bring back the Golden Fleece from Colchis. Jason and the Argonauts faced many challenges on their quest, but eventually succeeded and deposed the scheming Pelias.

Pot of gold at the end of the rainbow

One of the most popular tropes in Irish folklore is the elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. All you have to do, according to most versions of the story, is make your way to the end of the rainbow, outwit the leprechauns guarding the pot, and claim the gold as your prize. The allegorical meaning of these stories, of course, is that gold is always just a bit out of reach and chasing gold is as vain and fruitless as getting to the end of that rainbow.