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Who invented the myth of the Fountain of Youth?

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Answered 2008-07-23 07:04:12

The fountain of youth is not a myth but a legend. The legend is of a fountain that flows with curative waters that regenerate those who drink it or bathe in it restoring lost youth. The legend goes, at least, as far back as the Alexander Romance, (Any of the several collections of stories that chronicle the mythic adventures of Alexander the great.), starting in the 3rd Century. In mythology there are many mythic figures who quest for eternal youth and if not in the fountain of youth then the philosophers stone, or the elixir of life, but the mythology is not about fountains of youth or elixirs of life, they are about the people who quest for them and how this instructs us all. The fountain of youth cemented its allure as a legend in 1513 when Ponce De Leon discovered Florida. The Legend of Ponce De Leon and the Fountain of Youth is apocryphal in nature and De Leon's name was not associated with the fountain of youth legend until after his death. As the legend goes, Ponce De Leon, dissatisfied with his wealth and bored with his life, launched an expedition to find the fountain.

It is not clear if Ponce De Leon actually heard tales of a fountain of youth in the New World as he never wrote anything about it in his logs through out his travels. The first connection made between Ponce De Leon and the fountain of youth is in Historia General Y Natural de las Indias 1535 by Gonzalo Fernandez Oviedo who wrote De Leon was looking for the waters of Bimini to cure his impotence. Francisco Lopez de Gomara tells the same tale in his Historia General de las Indias 1551. Hernado D'escalante Fontaneda wrote in his memoir of the tale and place the fountain in Florida. Fontaneda's account influenced Antonio de Herera y Tordesillas' historical tome Spanish in the New World.

Of the various legends and fables of youth giving streams or properties, the lessons learned from the stories told are in the lessons gained by those who quested for the fountain of youth. As we grow older and watch our flesh decay, our bones begin to weaken, it is natural to long for a more youthful existence. What a waste of wisdom when we are older and slower to act on such wisdom. George Bernard Shaw said that youth is wasted on the young but as we grow older and if we grow wiser we know that wisdom is wasted on the old. What would we give to know then what we know now? These are all strong motivators in epic journeys and quests that are rooted in folly. Youth is not found in fountains or in elixirs and for anyone who pays attention to the young it is hard to ignore the one common denominator amongst the young and that is hope. It is the death of hope that expedites our descent into biological decay. That decay is inevitable but we only get there quicker when we lose hope. Who invented the myth or legend of the fountain of youth? It is unclear where and when that legend began. Is there really a fountain of youth? Perhaps there is, after all, hope springs eternal.

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