Fountain of Youth
The Fountain of Youth Throughout History
For centuries, Water of Life has been a popular motif in various mythologies and religions. The search for eternal youth or elongated life has been a frequent topic in myths and legends from around the world. One of the earliest accounts is from the Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century BC when he wrote of a fountain of youth in the land of Macrobians, which gave the people of the region exceptionally long life spans. Alexander the Great searched for the fountain of youth in the 4th century AD and was said to have come across a healing “river of paradise’ and the legendary King Prester John claimed to rule a land that had a fountain of youth during the early Crusades of the 11th and 12th centuries AD. In Japan, stories of hot springs that could heal wounds and restore youth were also common and still are to this day. Similar stories were prominent among the Carribean people during the early 16th century, who spoke of restorative powers of the water in the mythical land of Bimini. Similar legends have been found in the Canary Islands, Polynesia, and England.
Based on these many legends, explorers and adventurers have long looked for the elusive Fountain of Youth or, at least, some remedy to aging, which was most often associated with magic waters. These waters were not necessarily a fountain, but might have been a river, a spring, or any other water source that was said to reverse the aging process and cure sickness when drank or bathed in.
The name linked most closely to the search for a fountain of youth is 16th-century Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, who allegedly thought it would be found in Florida.
Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18.
— Mark Twain
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
-- Emily Dickinson
Connecting History to Fiction
Ponce de Leon and the Man in the Yellow Suit
Juan Ponce de León was the first Spanish explorer to arrive in Florida. Early Spanish explorers were known as conquistadors or "conquerors."
Early Exploration In 1493, Ponce de León sailed with Christopher Columbus on Columbus' second voyage to the Americas. He and his family settled on an island in the Caribbean. In 1506, Ponce de León discovered a nearby island. While there, he found large deposits of gold. Soon after his discovery, he left the island. He returned in 1508 on orders from the king of Spain to explore and colonize the island. He renamed the island Puerto Rico. He was the island's governor for two years until the king replaced him with Columbus' son.
Hurt by the King's action, Ponce de León sailed again, this time north through the towards Florida. He was in search of new lands and treasures. He had also heard of a mythical fountain of youth. Indians spoke of a legendary, magical spring whose water was believed to make older people young again. Ponce de León explored many areas for both gold and the mythical fountain, but he never found either.
In late March of 1513, his ships landed on Florida's east coast where he claimed the beautiful land for Spain. Since he had discovered this country of lavish landscape and beautiful beaches, he was entitled to name it. He named it La Florida (LAH flow REE dah) or "place of flowers."
What do Ponce de Leon and the Man in the Yellow Suit have in common?