Midas, the mythical king of Phrygia with legendary wealth, captured Silenos in order to elicit advice from the wise satyr. He tainted the spring from which Silenos drank with wine and, once inebriated, had him bound and brought before him. Silenos then proffered the gloomy insight that it was best for mortals never to have been born, and next best to die as soon as possible.
Literary references to this encounter are relatively limited; correspondingly, vases depicting this scene are especially rare. M. C. Millar identified four 6th Century representations (see 'Midas as the Great King in Attic Fifth-Century Vase-Painting', Antike Kunst, 1988, vol. 31, p. 79-89), and the Beazley Archive lists just five Classical red-figure examples, including a bell-krater in the Lentini Museum (no. 9131), and the eponymous stamnos of the Midas Painter in the British Museum (acc. no. 1851.4-16.9). Additionally, scenes of the presentation of Silenos to Midas seem to have been less popular than scenes of the former's ambush. Attic vase-painters took care to evoke the Eastern character of the Phrygian king's court; guards are shown in typically Oriental garb, the king sits upon an elaborate throne, and a single column is used as a synecdoche for an elaborate palace. Yet the humour of the encounter is unmistakably Greek. The self-indulgent Eastern king binds and kidnaps Silenos, an attempt to control a character who is the embodiment of the wild and ungovernable natural world. The wisdom he elicits by doing so is a reminder of the fundamentally wretched situation of mortal man, which even the most wealthy of tyrants cannot escape. Silenos, it seems, has the last laugh.