The Triumph of Venus: The Erotics of the Market

By Jeanne Lorraine Schroeder | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
The Midas Touch
The Lethal Effect of Wealth Maximization1

PROLOGUE: THE GOLDEN TOUCH

Ovid told two myths about King Midas, which on first reading seem quite diverse.2 Lacanian psychoanalysis explains their hidden connection.

The first is Midas Aureus—literally Golden Midas, but more commonly known as the Midas Touch. This tale is so familiar that it has led to a common English expression. As is so often the case, however, the cliché represses the myth's original, and true, meaning. When we say that someone has “the Midas touch, ” we express admiration for or envy of the man who profits again and again through an uncanny combination of acumen and good luck. Yet according to Ovid, no man was as foolish and unfortunate as poor Midas.

Midas, king of Phrygia, came upon an obese satyr incapacitated by drink. He brought the satyr home to the palace, where he “recuperated” by spending several more days in drunken revels, amusing the king with fantastic anecdotes about a continent across the Atlantic Ocean “where splendid cities abound…[with] a remarkable legal system. ”3 It turned out that the satyr was none other than Silenus—Dionysus's Falstaff. In gratitude for the king's

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1
An earlier version of this chapter was published as Jeanne L. Schroeder, The Midas Touch: The Lethal Effect of Wealth Maximization, 1999 Wis. L. Rev. 687 (1999).
3
Robert Graves, The Greek Myths 282 (1955). Although I rely primarily on Ovid's account, my retelling of the Midas myths is derived from a number of sources. Robert Graves cites Aeliean, Varia Historia iii, 18 for Silenus's tales of a Western continent that seems more like America than Atlantis. Id. at 283 n. 3.

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