Searching for the Fountain of Youth


Fountain in Old Montréal, Canada.

The quest for finding the Fountain of Youth has been around for millennia. Documentation of such date backs to the 5th century BCE with the writings made by the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, who claimed dwellers in the land of the Macrobians—present-day Africa—lived to be 120 years old and older.

Accordingly, the people ate boiled flesh and had nothing to drink but milk. A fountain in their homeland allegedly left the skin of those who bathed in it, “glossy and sleek, as if they submerged themselves in oil,” yet smelling like violets.

Herodotus said those who reported this anomaly asserted the water had no buoyancy, that “nothing would float in it, neither wood, nor any lighter substance; but all went to the bottom.” Concluding if the tale were true, the historian said, “It would be their constant use of the water from it [the fountain] which makes them so long-lived.”

The most common individual to have been identified with having the fanatical fantasy of finding the Fountain of Youth is the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León; although, the explorer didn’t mention the fountain in his writings while looking for the land of “Beniny,” where this supposed legend of longevity was said to be found.

Time Magazine had an interesting article in a recent edition, tracing some odd remedies for maintaining youth and other ways to “cheat death.” Surely that’s not something youthful readers have forefront in their minds: as the younger one is, the longer their mortality seems to be.

Once a person reaches 50 years old, and junk mail from the AARP appears suddenly in the mailbox to subscribe to their organization for receiving continual information about the chronic ills and dreaded dementia that awaits a good percentage of the elderly, that’s when all of the preceding becomes entirely relevant, and the search for the elusive Fountain of Youth begins.

Getting back to the article, allow me to share some of the more ridiculous and noteworthy panaceas. The eldest harks back to 1600 BCE:

An antiwrinke recipe for ‘transforming an old man into a youth’ is recorded on the back of an ancient papyrus. It calls for water mixed with something call hemayet fruit, and then boiled and dried.

In the 1st century BCE, “Cleopatra supposedly bathed in donkey’s milk to preserve her youthful beauty,” used as a skin treatment. I remember watching an episode from the TV series, Sparticus, where the master’s wife bathed in milk as her daily beauty regimen, so this application must be well-known.

In the same vein, the 1st century CE Pliny the Elder attested to “reports of Romans with epilepsy, rushing to drink blood from gladiators to cure their ailment and gain strength and vigor.” However, the historian didn’t recommend the practice.

Around the year 300, ancient Taoists suggested to eat “spices, vegetables, turtles, crane eggs and other food from long-living creatures,” as a means for an extended lifespan. “Doing breath exercises and abstaining from orgasm” was also prescribed.  Seems to me, one doesn’t go without the other.

Alchemist Ge Hong in the 4th century mentions a medication made from “the brains of a particular kind of monkey that, mixed with herbs, would lengthen life up to 500 years.” (Yum)

Marsilio Ficino, a philosopher in 1489, suggested for the elderly that drinking “the blood of young men would rejuvenate them.” Time goes on to mention Pope Innocent VIII tried it and died shortly thereafter.

Other off-the-wall concoctions like transplanting testicular glands from chimps and monkeys into men were highlighted, as well as drinking only water from a young age could allow a human to live to be 100; but the one that appeals the most to me is the practice a German physician, named “Christoph Hufeland,” suggested in 1796. The good doctor recommended “lying next to young women.”

Before you start calling me a dirty, old man, the main purpose  is not for sex, but “to sleep in the proximity of youth,” although the former would be nice. Time states this was common in many countries during that period.

I guess I’ll stick to my green tea, green vegetables, exercise, and a youthful sense of humor to keep me young for the time being. If I make it to 80, I’ll have reached borrowed time.

Thanks for stopping in and for your continued support. Until next time, good luck with your search for happiness and your own Fountain of Youth.

Incidentally, my weekly Cover Your Ears sort of goes nicely with the theme of this essay. For your listening pleasure:

About Mike Slickster

As an early retiree with an honorary doctorate degree from the proverbial "School of Hard Knocks," this upcoming author with a lot of free time on his hands utilizes his expansive repertoire for humorous yet tragic, wildly creative writing that contains years of imaginative fantasy, pure nonsense, classic slapstick, extreme happiness and searing heartbreak; gathered by a wealth of personal experiences throughout his thrilling—sometimes mundane or unusually horrid—free-spirited, rock-'n'-roller-coaster ride around our beloved Planet Earth. Mike Slickster's illustrious quest continues, living now in Act Three of his present incarnation, quite a bit on the cutting edge of profundity and philosophical merriment as seen through his colorful characters, most notably evident in the amusing Thirty Days Across the Big Pond series, all of which can be found at
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