The fountain of youth is a legendary spring or fountain that brings youth to those who drink its water. The myth goes back to at least 5th century B.C.E., when Greek historian Herodotus wrote of such a fountain. Since then, the fountain of youth has been the focus of classic and modern literature, as well as modern television and movies, such as The Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Similar mythical places that render visitors young or prevent aging are also popular themes in literature, such as James Hilton’s Shangri La.
Humankind is tethered by death and old age. It is the one inevitably in life, taxes notwithstanding. Quite often, we lose our vitality, our mental capacity and sometimes our libido as we age. It is no wonder that people dream about, write about, seek and try to make items that stop aging or reverse aging. The question is, is there something out there? Where is the fountain of youth supposed to be and did anyone find it?
The location of the fountain of youth is just as mysterious as the fountain itself. No two original sources of information regarding the fountain are the same. The legends of Prester John put the fountain of youth somewhere in Asia. The legend says that Prester John rules a land in the Orient that contains the fountain of youth. Apparently, Spaniards in Cuba heard from the natives that the fountain of youth is actually in a place called Bimini, on an island in the Gulf of Honduras called Bionca. Bimini may refer to the actual town that the fountain is located in, though both the island and the town are legends. This Bimini is not to be confused with the Caribbean Bimini that is associated with Atlantis, though it is frequently confused as just that.
The Alexander romances say that Alexander the Great sought a river that could reverse aging. This appears to be the only record of such an event. This is often associated with the fountain of youth, despite that the story says Alexander was searching for a river, not a fountain. History shows that Alexander was very intent on the power, wealth and land that he attained during his life. Was this enough to satiate him or did he seek to reverse the aging process so he could enjoy his spoils that much longer? This is uncertain. Either way, he clearly did not find it. He died in his early thirties.
The most famous seeker of the fountain of youth, and possibly not a seeker at all, is Juan Ponce de Leon. Ponce de Leon was an explorer who supposedly looked for the fountain of youth in Florida, USA. Some say he even found it. The town of St. Augustine has a tourist trap that is linked to Ponce de Leon and his quest to find the fountain of youth. However, whatever link it has to the explorer is tenuous, at best. He may not have even visited the St. Augustine area. Furthermore, all accounts of his supposed search for the fountain of youth come from after his death. There is nothing in his personal papers or contemporary accounts that suggest he was seeking a source of eternal youth.
All of the information we have about the fountain of youth points to it being legend with little or no basis in fact. Of course, like any legend, there is a possibility that it exists, but, in this case, it is highly unlikely. There are no accounts of non-fictional characters actually drinking from the fountain and becoming youthful. There are no stories about a precise location. We are not even sure that any person has seriously looked for it. Unfortunately, it appears that the human race will have to rely on science and cosmetics to bring us an approximation of the fountain of youth.
Drye, Willie, Fountain of Youth — Just Wishful Thinking?, retrieved 6/8/11, science.nationalgeographic.com/science/archaeology/fountain-of-youth
Herodotus, The History of Herodotus, retrieved 6/8/11, classics.mit.edu/Herodotus/history.3.iii.html