After reading the question Are “Midas” swords useless for warfare? it really tricked my mind of finding ways on what to do will all that gold.

So I was wondering: assume a war broke out and you used your Midas weapons to instantly kill soldiers (being wounded with it will turn you to gold) and you also used Midas arrow tips for your archers. Now your land is full of gold.

What is the most practical way of "cleaning" your Kingdom?

If you actually displayed your gold in your castle, or throughout your kingdom, I think it would invite other kingdoms to try and conquer you, since defeating you will grant them riches beyond imagination. You can't use gold for all of your metallurgy since pure gold is soft. And having to haul dead gold corpses inside your castle is a pain. Moreover I think it would be more chaotic internally because of all those lootings and robberies that would happen in your kingdom.

While the original question asks for the usefulness of the weapons in war, I am asking about the aftermath, with all the gold lying around the battlefield. Let's say that the enemy sieged your kingdom and some 5,000 men from the invading armies are killed, while at your side, 2000 men have died. All of the men from the invading armies are turned into gold, while on your side, some 500 men where turned into gold, because the invading forces somehow manage to use you soldiers arrows and swords against your defenders.

EDIT: WRONG NUMBERS (50,000 to 500)

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    $\begingroup$ Are those affected by the Midas weapon still "contagious"? As in, if you touch the new gold bodies, do you then also turn into a gold body? $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2018 at 11:27
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    $\begingroup$ Couldn't the answer be...basically anything from gilding front doors to, dumping it in a hole? What would make any one answer better than another? As it stands there is nothing to help us understand what would make an answer good. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Aug 6, 2018 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ @James The answers here are enough, I still can't think of a good answer myself, but its clear that it could be used for construction materials. PLUS, the stealing part could be mitigated by actually giving them gold, and if that would be the case, most of your surrounding, including your nearest neighboring kingdom, will be fitted, built and shining with gold. Or returning it back to the families (but would be a pain on both sides) $\endgroup$
    – Mr.J
    Aug 7, 2018 at 0:09
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    $\begingroup$ You have created a market for reverse-alchemy :) $\endgroup$
    – smci
    Aug 7, 2018 at 2:06
  • $\begingroup$ @smcf Heh. Wouldn't it be great to turn all that useless gold into lead to make blunt weapons with? (no idea if lead is actually good for blunt weapons) $\endgroup$
    – user253751
    Aug 7, 2018 at 2:22

9 Answers 9


All that gold makes gold virtually worthless so people would put it to practical use like construction.

The Pantheon is held together with iron bars coated in lead to slow down corrosion. You could get better protection coating iron in gold. You can coat roofs in gold leaf for excellent waterproofing.

The ancient Romans used lead pipes for water. Gold pipes is far safer and cheaper.

Gold doesn't corrode so there many uses which people don't use only because it's rare. If it wasn't rare people would find plenty of uses.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Aug 7, 2018 at 2:36
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    $\begingroup$ There's one important point missing: others don't have that much gold, they'll still want it. You should probably open trade for gold dropping it's value everywhere. Boy, that will make you some strong enemies! $\endgroup$
    – DonQuiKong
    Aug 7, 2018 at 8:20
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    $\begingroup$ @DonQuiKong If they are strong now, and become enemies because you are destroying the value of gold, it's because they depend on gold for their strength. Just keep selling gold until they are bankrupt! $\endgroup$
    – wedstrom
    Aug 7, 2018 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ @wedstrom that's oversimplified, they'll have other sources of wealth and power. $\endgroup$
    – DonQuiKong
    Aug 8, 2018 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ @DonQuiKong if they see that you have Midas weapons and that the gold is therefore that plentiful as to be worthless then they'll likely just switch to another source of currency. Try as you might you cannot turn back the tide of technology and you cannot expect gold to turn back to non-gold overnight. $\endgroup$
    – user64742
    Sep 5, 2018 at 0:51

The primary reason why gold is so valuable is because of scarcity. Once you eliminate scarcity there are many uses that gold can be put to.

Chemically it is highly nonreactive making it a good fit for containing reactive materials and foodstuffs, and anywhere that you want a durable cladding that doesn't require much strength.

It conducts heat well making it possible to build quite efficient heat-sinks for cooling your house or keeping your icebox chilly... with a suitable source of lower temperatures like a nearby river for instance.

Physically gold is malleable and ductile, so covering things with gold is both simple and useful in many of the ways that Lead was in early plumbing.

Depending on your tech level gold might replace lead in any number of uses. It would make quite good movable type for your printing presses, a handy modelling material when making casts for your forges and so on.

A few steps further along the tech path and gold makes an excellent conductor of electricity, if a little prone to melting under very high loads.

And don't forget how pretty it is.

The economic impact would of course be large, but not as catastrophic as you might think. Any nearby country operating on the gold standard would of course lose much of its wealth if you flooded the market with cheap gold. It's hard to have faith in a currency backed by something that your neighbours are using to plumb their toilets so within a short period of time they would have to transition to a different foundation for their money, like a platinum or silver standard.

There's a bit of commentary on outsiders attacking you for your gold but since you have a virtually limitless supply - especially once your people start turning their Midas Swords into Midas Ploughshares - you can simply dump waste gold on the borders for anyone to take. No point fighting over it, any more than people living next to a desert fight over sand. When they come and threaten you, you just hand over the gold and look puzzled at why they want such a worthless item. Give them as much as they like. Eventually they'll find that they can buy it by the ton for less than it costs to raid you for a few hundred pounds.

FYI: the sciencey part of my mind wants to complain about a few side effects like destabilization of the continental plates, but you didn't ask so... :P

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    $\begingroup$ I think the first sentence needs some work. Maybe something like "Gold is a very valuable material, but not enough to offset the price due to its scarcity. Once you eliminate scarcity, there are many uses that gold can be put to." would work better? Price and value need to be distinguished carefully here, I think. E.g. iron is so valuable in part because it's so cheap; which in turn comes from not being all that scarce, along with its versatility (which allows for massive economies of scale). As gold becomes cheaper, it will be more valuable (for uses other than backing currency). $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Aug 6, 2018 at 6:38
  • $\begingroup$ Wait, what destabilization of continental plates? I'm sorry my numbers are wrong... $\endgroup$
    – Mr.J
    Aug 6, 2018 at 7:24
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    $\begingroup$ upvoted for mentioning the "dump a bunch at the borders for wannabe invaders to take" strategy :) $\endgroup$
    – Syndic
    Aug 6, 2018 at 8:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Mr.J I imagine the destabilisation could be referring to the weight of large stockpiles of gold, deforming the planet surface? $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2018 at 11:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Mr.J Your numbers are fine. I'm assuming that a Midas weapon would work equally well against non-living targets, since Midas himself was supposed to have died of starvation because everything he touched turned to gold. So if you have Midas-effect weapons you have literally unlimited gold. Lots of interesting uses for it, and at that point gold drops to around the same value as sand. $\endgroup$
    – Corey
    Aug 7, 2018 at 3:47

All these answers assume that the midas-gold is something people would be willing to melt down and sell.
I think they miss a fundamental and vital point.

These are the last remains of people.

They belong with their families, for burial and disposal in as traditional and respectful a fashion as possible.

I would expect that any nation using Midas weaponry would have one of two policies. Either that the bodies of those killed belong to the state, or to their families. Either way, anyone caught trying to sell them is likely to get punished massively.

Some might well be stolen or sold off and melted, but I think most would be treated as corpses. Really really valuable corpses.
With that in mind, I'd expect most of them to be returned home, buried, placed in locations of honour and generally treated with the respect their nature deserves.

So to answer the actual question, the most practical way to dispose of the solid-gold statuary is to use carts to deliver them home.

Dealing with the bodies of enemies slain in your territory is another matter, either store them somewhere (creepy gold-statue warehouses?) or present them to the enemy leadership as a peace-offering.

I'd expect most of the grave-gold robbery would be done to enemy midas-corpses rather than your own side. After all, why respect the enemy?

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    $\begingroup$ This answer has a lot of promise. After the first war, negotiate the return of the adversary's fallen soldiers, now all solid gold statues. When the second war threatens, offer to skip the bloodshed step and go directly to turning people into statues. "Good envoys, do you want to volunteer to become the first statues? Or would you prefer that we find a peaceful solution to this issue?" (Whether this approach is used as coercion or as logic is an exercise left to the author.) $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2018 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ that..wasn't really the path I was thinking, but sure :P permanent markers of how badly they got defeated last time have a lot of staying power in arguments for not fighting anymore. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Aug 6, 2018 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ My belief is that such "blood gold" midas-corpses would definitely not be treated like any regular old gold statuary. Using the bodies for raw materials would be something similar to Nazi Gold derived from the smelted wedding-bands of Holocaust Victims. Corpse-Gold. Nobody with any sense of decency would want to go anywhere near it, there'd be public protest in the extreme, it might even lead to a new war! $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Aug 6, 2018 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ @CodeswithHammer Threatening to murder any envoys your adversaries send isn't necessarily the best way to encourage people to show up for peace talks. $\endgroup$
    – Ray
    Aug 6, 2018 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Ruadhan2300: If anyone knew, sure. But elemental gold has no distinguishing characteristics; if gold remains valuable, someone will chop off a limb and melt it down and pass it off as regular gold. Eventually that will happen enough that gold becomes cheap, but that cheap gold will have a whole lot of unidentified (and unidentifiable) bodies floating around in it. Grave robbing is already a thing for the petty amount of jewelry real people are buried with; if the bodies themselves were thousands of pounds of gold? $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2018 at 5:28

If there are other countries that are still working on the gold standard, all that gold has another use: Economic warfare. There's very little stopping you from keeping a pile of your defeated enemies' golden corpses locked in vaults with the promise that if anyone is ever dumb enough to attack you again, you'll just spend all that gold and crash their economy faster than they can marshal their armies. It's remarkably hard to mobilize an army when a single loaf of bread costs a golden arm and a leg.

And so long as you can keep a fairly tight control over the several metric tons of gold you've now acquired, you can use it for rebuilding while subtle harming your enemies' economy. Once they catch on to the fact that you've basically got an infinite supply, you'll already have gotten back on your economic feet. Just make sure to use something else for currency for your own nation, lest you'll be hoisted by your own petard.

  • $\begingroup$ I might be underestimating human stupidity and stubborness, but why would anyone trade a loaf of bread for more gold than they could carry, instead of something useful, like a dozen eggs or a faggot of kindling? $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2018 at 7:51
  • $\begingroup$ They wouldn't. But at that point, the kingdom's coinage is worthless, which makes it surprisingly difficult to actually run a country in any meaningful manner. Taxation is also a pain in the ass if there's no coins of any meaningful value to be had. Imagine a tax collector trying to explain to his lord that he collected taxes two weeks ago but had to throw most of it out because it's now rotten. Or imagine trying to pay your soldiers with a bundle of sticks or two dozen cabbages. They'll laugh in your face and go work for someone who can actually pay them. $\endgroup$
    – Valthek
    Aug 8, 2018 at 8:24

The other answers are (mostly) focused on what the glut of gold would do to the price of gold. However, I think what's missing here is a consideration of the quantity of gold, which can be calculated from the question. The typical modern human body is around 66 liters in volume (according to this source). Medieval era humans might be smaller, armor ect. might make them larger, but this should work for a ballpark. The specific gravity of gold is 19.32 grams per cubic centimeter. Since there are 1000 cubic centimeters in a liter, 1 liter of gold weights 19.32 kg. So the average gold statue will weight about ~1275 kg. Assuming that, as Ruadhan2300's answer points out, you treat the bodies of your own dead with respect and bury them or something, you have as much as 1,275*5,000=6,375,000 kg of gold to work with. This is a lot of gold, but at the same time, it's not that much gold. It's about 40% more gold than is currently in Fort Knox (4,582 metric tons per Wikipedia).

This is on the order of the amount of precious metals that Spain extracted from the New World in the 1500's. I haven't been able to track down a reliable source for the amount of gold, but I've seen estimates of the amount of silver as high as 41,000 metric tons. Mind you, the influx of treasure from the New World seriously disrupted Western Europe's economy, but it didn't make gold and silver worthless either.

First, realize that you're not putting all that gold into circulation as coinage in one fell swoop, even if you wanted to. With medieval technology, hauling statues weighing one and a quarter metric tons to somewhere they can be melted down will be very time consuming and challenging. Not least because with that much weight pressing on a small area, the statues probably instantly sunk into the mud of the battlefield when they were transformed. So now you have to dig them up again. Six thousand metric tons of gold hitting the market at once will cause rapid devaluation--the same amount dribbling out over years, less so.

Second, you can use gold to make lots of beautiful things. Candelabra, plates, murals, jewelry statues of religious icons (if the irony of melting down your enemies to make a statue of your god isn't too much). Hell, melt it and pour it in sheets over the outside of your castle walls as a warning to future invaders. While in some sense all this gold decoration it won't be as valuable as if gold were scarce, it will still be awesome. After all, you're not trying to sell all this decoration, just enjoy it yourself. You may lower the price of gold jewelry and decorations, but it won't immediately affect the value of the currency and make it useless for trade with other kingdoms.

Finally, even after you're done using gold for any conceivable practical purpose, you need not turn it all into coinage (or bullion) right away. Generals of the opposing army you might ransom back to their home country. Or, conversely, put them on display somewhere as a reminder of your victory. Stick a bunch more in a vault against a rainy day.

Also, obviously you can tweak the numbers if necessary to make things work for your story. Besides reducing the number of enemies who were "midased", you could always declare that they are converted into 10 carat gold, rather than pure, cutting the amount of gold you need to deal with in less than half.

  • $\begingroup$ It's actually more than the total amount of gold extracted from California since 1848, and about 1000 times what Europe produced in a year during the middle ages. (see here and here) $\endgroup$
    – user38304
    Aug 6, 2018 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ So you're assuming that people are converted to gold with constant volume? That's the way it's shown in all the illustrated versions of the original Midas tale I've seen. But right now I'm thinking it I would make more sense to assume constant mass. Since it's fiction, I guess all assumptions are valid. (Perhaps both mass and volume could be conserved if the bodies were converted to a hollow gold shell.) $\endgroup$
    – craq
    Aug 6, 2018 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ A good point about the weight. It would be difficult for thieves to swoop in and steal it. On the other hand, gold is soft and this is presumably pure gold, so at the very least you could break off hair easily, maybe even a finger or two without having to resort to saws and other tools. It would be processed on site with metal workers brought in to do that. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel
    Aug 7, 2018 at 5:05
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    $\begingroup$ I would assume gold lattice rather than shell. match the mass, volume and mass-distribution, so you could cut open a body and find internal organs and bones converted to gold, rather than a hollow shell. The real question is what's inside the cavities in the bodies, because if it's a vacuum there's a very real possibility of the midas-corpses imploding. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Aug 7, 2018 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Ruadhan How would there be a vacuum? Most cavities are filled with liquids and gasses. They will maintain the pressure. $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2018 at 11:40

It strikes me that in this world the gold would already be worthless even before the war.

If the state possesses magic weapons that turn living things into gold then why would they wait for an enemy nation to attack before using them?

It strikes me as most likely that the farming sector of this state would be very active in farming animals especially for turning into gold.

This accomplished we then come to the answers about gold's worth being based on scarcity and the practical applications of gold if it was common. I particularly like the gold lined pipes idea.

The question is then one of the religion and customs of this world and whether they will show respect for enemy dead.

Given that they already have plentiful cow-gold, they don't particularly need to use this human gold...Thus either honorable burials or dumping them all in a pit seems the most likely outcome.

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    $\begingroup$ I am not sure you are actually answering the question or rather commenting it. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Aug 7, 2018 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ How doesn't it answer it? Gold is already worthless for anything but its material properties in this world, ergo it will be used for practical reasons like lining pipes. $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2018 at 7:58
  • $\begingroup$ @theotherone lets just focus on the aftermath of the Midas War. $\endgroup$
    – Mr.J
    Aug 8, 2018 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch it is an answer. $\endgroup$
    – user64742
    Sep 5, 2018 at 0:49

Leave the golden corpses be. Or bury them. They have no value.

Even if someone would want to use gold for lets say construction project, it would be cheaper to buy and transport a cattle and jab it with midas needle in place, as gold is pretty heavy.

Even if there were foreign market with gold as a currency, it would collapse instantly with the first rumor about midas 'technology' and traders would swith to other standard. Maybe seashells?

Even if other kingdom also wanted some extra gold, all they would need is a single midas sword. The only reason for a full scale invasion would be to steal the midas technology itself as a war weapon, not the gold.

  • $\begingroup$ The cow is probably worth more than the gold you'd turn it into $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Aug 8, 2018 at 7:41
  • $\begingroup$ I mean, the cost of transporting that gold is higher then the cost of the gold itself. And probably even cost of the cow if you were trying to transport it for longer then a few meters. As weight of average golden human is around metric ton. $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2018 at 7:51
  • $\begingroup$ You're talking medieval period, peasant labour is free, cows are valuable. Peasants themselves are reasonably valuable, don't start suggesting cutting them up instead. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Aug 8, 2018 at 7:57
  • $\begingroup$ Or just get a bunch of planks and goldify them on the spot. Then you don't even have to forge them. $\endgroup$
    – user64742
    Sep 5, 2018 at 0:41

Forget the gold, the weapon is the real value, especially if you can equip your archers with it (is the weapon 'one time use' or can you collect the arrows and use them again?).

Suddenly you can conquer anyone with lower resources.

The real aftermath of such a war would be a desire from other countries to possess such a powerful weapon. Hired assassins, espionage, arms race like never seen before.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! We're glad you could join us! When you have a moment, please click here to learn more about our culture and take our tour. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 9, 2018 at 15:00

Keep what you want for usage and turn the rest into bodies that are either dead or held as prisoners.

In the original story of Midas the curse didn't just turn people to gold and leave them that way. It was reversible. Taking the bodies and washing them in the water of a river would turn them back. Different versions of the story are of course going to have different interpretations but with these being "Midas" weapons this could be an effective way of cleaning up the bodies. With a slight alteration that the gold-ification is irreversibly fatal the gold can be turned back. A slight alteration as well could be that putting the gold into a forge or melting it makes the change permanent. Then at that point the gold can be collected as fast as people can carry it back before rain starts to fall. Of course that will still be a lot of gold but if you have midas tech then the bodies are irrelevant. Midas could turn anything to gold, including food. So really the bodies are just a matter of cleanup and could be left to turn back as a matter of respect as one answer points out. So really the gold itself can be any random object. However, if literally anything can be turned to gold then gold is worthless. It can be made on demand and any country looking for gold could just ask for it. The bodies are not needed for supply unless you have actually ran out of Midas weapons and it's the last of the gold supply.

If you do allow the people to be turned back into the same state as before being turned to gold (i.e. alive) then the result will be a large amount of prisoners of war. That's not a problem though. They can be executed or simply held as slaves or whatever. This can all be tweaked as you see fit but I think if played right it would work well in making the country with Midas weaponry look less violent and aggressive. Any warfare they engage in is essentially just mass imprisonment. Unless the people turned to gold simply die of the actual weapon stab or slice wounds before turning to gold there isn't any reason to not be able to treat them over time. After all, they can be kept as gold indefinitely so they are effectively immortal until turned back and if done slowly there can be a near 5% death rate from gold weaponry. I say 5% because some serious wounds are just not treatable such as a knife to the head or an arrow to the knee. All in all I think the end result will be that any invasion attempt will simply result in a metric ton of prisoners that have to be held at ransom. However, it would probably be more likely for slavery since gold is worthless in your country. Perhaps you can ask your neighboring countries to send general resources. It is likely that Midas tech will to some extent damage the land. After all, if you drop a sword into the ground then the ground around it will turn to super slick sterile gold. It would be a great way to throw off enemy troops. Make them start sliding as if it were ice, but if it weren't obvious that will kill whatever was growing there. I suspect that your country will need reparations in the form of crops and cattle. Some will survive but a good chunk will die out. This would also be a good technique for oppressing as well. Just light fires on the ground after stabbing it into gold. It will quickly become a massive almost irreversible famine for that country. Far more effective imo. However, I know that was a past question and I won't dwell on that. It was just a passing thought.


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