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Gold Myths & Legends

Many cultures have been lured by the beauty and power that gold represents. From Europe to Africa and Asia to the Americas, gold has been a topic that has inspired many stories to be told dating back to ancient times. As well as being a symbol of riches and prestige, in some cultures gold was thought to have mystical powers. In ancient Egyptian culture, gold was often used to decorate persons of royalty and architecture; cities such as El Dorado were built out of gold. The wealth and prosperity of a land often depended upon the possession of this natural yet scarce mineral. In some cultures gold is an iconic symbol with a godly meaning. Many stories throughout history have been told about the alluring search of gold and the riches that will magically encompass man once he finds the golden treasures.

El Dorado: Legendary City of Gold

The legend of El Dorado has inspired many to spend their lives in search of this famed city of gold. The story was based on the pre-Columbian Muisca, or chief, that covered himself in gold powder and jumped into Lake Titicaca as a ritual to become crowned chief. The gold represented godliness to this ancient Aztec civilization who worshiped the deity or trinity of Chiminigagua. The city of El Dorado has been sought after by many, including the Spanish conquistadors. During the time that the Americas were discovered, the indigenous Indians possessed many relics that led the conquistadors to believe they were close to discovering this lost city of gold. Since this time, there have been many additional explorers who have come up empty handed. Some continue to believe that this legendary city truly does exist.

  • Sir Walter Raleigh’s Search for El Dorado: Sir Walter Raleigh, an English courtier dedicated his life in search of the golden city of El Dorado.
  • Conquest of the Cities of Gold: An exploration into what some believe to be the fable of the lost city of El Dorado and its offer of riches.
  • El Dorado Poem: A poem written by famous poet, Edgar Allen Poe about the failed attempt in searching for El Dorado and the lengths that some would go in search of this city.
  • Gonzalo Pizarro: A Spanish Conquistador’s expedition and the hunger for gold that lured these men into dangerous territory in search of this miraculous city built of gold with a lake covered in gold dust.
  • The Inspiration of El Dorado, California (pdf): The California Gold Rush and the legend of El Dorado resulted in the naming of Californian city.
  • Early Spanish in Search of El Dorado: Unintended results of expeditions in search of the famous legend of El Dorado and the city of gold.
  • Dissertation on a New Quest for El Dorado (pdf): This dissertation analyzes the search for EL Dorado in terms of modern day quests for this type of paradise and how it affects globalization.

King Midas and the Golden Touch

King Midas, as legend has it, was the king of Pythagoria in Greece. After hosting the friend of a Greek god in his house, King Midas was granted one wish. He wished that everything he touched would turn to gold. In the typical double-edged fashion of the gods, this presented itself to be a great gift until King Midas found that even the food he touched turned to gold. What was at first a bountiful blessing, turned into a nightmare. He went back to Dionyssos, the friend of the Greek god and asked for the power to be taken away. He was instructed to wash his hands in the Pactolus River. He did this, the gift was removed, and the sand from the river was then covered in gold.

Jason and the Golden Fleece

A flying ram had been sacrificed to the Greek god, Zeus. The ram had special golden hair that was taken from the lamb after the sacrifice. This Golden Fleece was left hung on a tree in a sacred grove, and guarded by a dragon. In order to claim his rightful kingdom of Iolcos (Iolkos), Jason and his crew, the Argonauts, set out to find this Golden Fleece. Jason encountered four challenges in order to reach the fleece with the final challenge of slaying the dragon. He succeeded and was able to obtain the Golden Fleece thus earning Jason the kingship.

  • Jason and the Golden Fleece Challenges: In this story there are four challenges that Jason must go through to find the Golden Fleece and become King.
  • Paintings of Jason and the Golden Fleece: As described in the many variations of the story, this examines paintings from the 1800-1900’s and their telling of this story.
  • Storyline Comparison: A comparison of the many versions of the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece from ancient to modern times.
  • The Historical Remnants: Examining historical artifacts, an author ties the legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece with artifacts and findings in and near Iolkos.
  • Interpretations of the Story: This story of Jason and the Golden Fleece is told with visual maps of the areas traveled as well as interpretations of this legend.
  • Symbolism Pattern and the Living Search: This educational program explores the symbolism in this story along with three other stories in mythology and the search for the living remnants as well as the purpose of the stories told from ancient times.

Seven Cities of Gold

During the time the Spanish Conquistadors explored the area north of Mexico, now known as the United States of America, there were stories of men who had encountered the seven cities of gold. In these cities there were reported to be riches beyond belief. Many Spanish leaders sent out expeditions to find the seven cities.

  • Encounters in the Americas: Spanish leaders sent Esteban, a slave from Morocco and a Spanish priest named Marcos de Niza to verify that the cities existed.
  • Seven Cities of Gold Movie (1955): The search for the seven cities of gold inspired movies such as this 1955 classic. The depiction of the Spanish Conquistadors' travels and motivation for finding the riches in these seven cities.
  • Vincent Mendoza: The leaders of New Spain, along with several investors, spend a great deal of money and resources to uncover the rumored secret seven cities of gold.

The Elusive Pot of Gold

There are many stories throughout history that affirm one can find a pot of gold at the end of rainbow. Stories of mischievous leprechauns guarding the pot of gold abound. Some have likened the pot of gold to be an allegorical story about searching for something beyond reach. The search for gold has historically been a driving force for many as the endurance of this myth demonstrates.

  • Irish Legends: As the Irish legend tells, mischievous leprechauns guard a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
  • Symbolism of the Leprechaun: Leprechauns have several meanings in Irish legends. They can be a sign of great wealth for one who discovers their secret pot of gold but they are also signs of thievery and mischief.
  • The Troll and the Leprechaun: A classic story full of the historical symbolism used in Irish folklore.
  • Folktales and Legends of Ireland: Irish folktales are full of great warriors and tricksters, rich men and fools, giants and leprechauns, tragedy and humor. Annotated list of traditional Irish folktales.

Man’s search for gold has been long told in historical timelines as well as fantasy, folklore and fables. The classic stories told have varied over time but gold endures as a symbol for godliness, riches, wealth and power and continues to lure many with its illustrious beauty.

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