Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Fountain of Youth

Author:  Matthew Mollo

Nothing seems to captivate the human race more than the idea of eternal life.  Nowhere is this fascination more evident than the idea of The Fountain of Youth.  The Fountain of Youth, a mystical water well that grants rejuvenated youth, is a myth that has consumed people since ancient times.  Even today retailers claim certain lotions and body products will make you look younger or even compare their product to The Fountain of Youth itself.  Centuries after the creation of this myth people are still in search of the fountain and, despite its many rumored locations, still seem to come up empty. Hollywood has even had a hand in adding a new aspect of the myth is the fountains appearance in the modern day blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Perhaps the most elusive of facts involved with The Fountain of Youth myth is the location.  The location of the fountain has been rumored to be in every corner of the world.  People have placed the fountain in: America, a Caribbean Island called Bimini, India, Shangri-La, and even Ethiopia.  Due to exploration in search of the fountain many believe Florida, and other parts of the Americas disputably discovered by Juan Ponce De Leon, were accidentally found by him on a quest while in search of The Fountain of Youth. 
The first mention of The Fountain of Youth, historically speaking, was by the Greek Historian Herodotus who believed the fountain was in Ethiopia.  Throughout time many people have searched for the fountain even some very famous historical figures.  Because of The Alexander Romance, the great Macedonian ruler, Alexander the Great has a link with The Fountain of Youth.  A great part of the popularity of The Fountain of Youth myth is due in part to The Alexander Romance and its great popularity during medieval times.  The greatest figure associated the fountain of youth may not have even been in search of it at all.  Juan Ponce De Leon who, by popular belief, has been thought of for many years as the “father of the fountain” is, it seems, falsely associated with the fountain of youth. 

Juan Ponce De Leon in all his glory
The long held notion that Juan Ponce De Leon’s journey to the Americas was in search of The Fountain of Youth has been proven false.  Due to the fact that the association between Ponce De Leon and the fountain wasn’t published or mentioned until long after his death many historians believe that, like most conquistadors of his day, Ponce De Leon was greedily in search of gold and other worldly riches rather than a magical fountain.  Historians even debate on whether or not Ponce de Leon’s greatest achievement, the discovery of Florida, can be attributed to him.  Despite the false associations with Ponce De Leon and The Fountain of Youth there is an archaeological park founded on the aforementioned disputed facts.
Located in St. Augustine, Florida, The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park  is founded on the seemingly false idea that Ponce De Leon discovered Florida and that his expedition was fueled by his desire to become younger.  There is even a mock Fountain of Youth where thousands of people flock year after year to drink the fabled waters.

The Fountain of Youth myth is one that will outlive us all along with the obsession of becoming younger.  Whether it’s from a face lift or a magical fountain people will always long for youth and rejuvenation as they grow older; and as long people have this desire the concept of The Fountain of Youth will be very real.

Works cited:
 “A Brief History of Immortality.” Popular Science 279.2 (2011): 52-57. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Oct. 2012 
“Engraving of Juan Ponce de Leon” 1858 Engraving. Wikimedia. 25 Feb. 2011. Web. Oct. 23 2012.
"Florida Fountain of Youth Ponce De Leon." Florida Fountain of Youth Ponce De Leon. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2012.
Jennifer. “fountain-of-youth” Photograph. 450 Years. 5 December 2011. 23 October 2012
Lord, Lewis. "In Search of a Passage.” U.S. News & World Report 136.7 (2004): 52-53. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Oct. 2012.
Peck, Douglas T. “Anatomy of An Historical Fantasy: The Ponce de Leon-Fountain of Youth Legend” The Pan American Institute of Geography and History  No. 123  (Jan. - Dec., 1998): 63-87.JSTOR. Web. 22 Oct. 2012.
Sopp, Brian. "Places of Our Dreams.” U.S. News & World Report 141.6 (2006): 73. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Oct. 2012.
“The Quest For The Fountain of Youth” Ancient Mysteries. A&E, 1995. Web

Links for Further Research

This video disproves the common association between The Fountain of Youth and Florida with Juan Ponce De Leon.

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