Ponce De Leon and The Fountain of Youth

By | March 1, 2019

test article image
Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. Source: (en.wikipedia.org)

People who graduated high school before the turn of the century will most likely remember learning about Ponce de Leon and how he discovered Florida during his quest for the fountain of youth. Tourists visiting St. Augustine, Florida, can even drink from a natural spring alleged to have been discovered by Ponce de Leon shortly after his arrival. However, drinking it is not recommended as it smells of sulfur and has yet to successfully reverse the aging process. And, it turns out that Ponce de Leon was most likely not searching for the fountain at all.

That is not to say that the fountain of youth was not sought after. The act of “getting old” has been criticized by writers for centuries, by the likes of Twain, Shakespeare, and Homer. Oscar Wilde even imagined a way to avoid the process by having a portrait do the aging instead in his 1890 novel, A Picture of Dorian Gray. Of course, none of these writers actually embarked on quests to find a magical fountain to restore their youth. However, that didn’t stop anyone from speculating about its existence.

test article image
Alexander the Great at the Battle of Granicus River. Source: (pinterest.com)

Legends of the fountain of youth date back as far as the 4th century B.C. According to the legends, Alexander the Great supposedly discovered a healing “river of paradise.” Similar stories exist in the Canary Islands, Japan, and England. During the 12th century, the mythical king Prester John was believed to have a kingdom which contained a river of gold and a fountain of youth. However, it was the Spanish stories of rejuvenating waters somewhere north of Cuba that led to the link between Ponce de Leon and the fountain of youth.