The Search for the Fountain of Youth

Was Ponce de León really looking for the mythical body of water?

Ponce de Leon stamp
traveler1116/iStock/Getty Images

Anti-aging is big business in the modern world. People are constantly looking for ways to regain the strong, firm bodies, smooth, wrinkle-free complexions, quick-thinking brains, and the vibrancy and general health of their youth.

But the search for a miracle that might turn back the clock is ancient and rife with myths and legends. For example, nearly every culture around the world has a story that revolves around the idea that somewhere there is a magic body of water called the Fountain of Youth that restores youth to anyone who drinks from it or bathes in its waters.

In the Western world, one of the most well-known Fountain of Youth tales stars a Spanish explorer and conquistador who has been said to be searching for the fountain when he stumbled upon something else entirely. Here's what we know about that explorer, whose name was Juan Ponce de León, his travels, and his most famous discovery.

The Ponce de León Fountain of Youth Myth

Ponce de León was born in 1474 and died in 1521. He was one of the first settlers of Puerto Rico. Legend has it that he was searching for the Fountain of Youth when he sighted the lands that now comprise the state of Florida.

If Ponce de León truly was searching for the Fountain of Youth, it's not surprising he wound up where he did. The lands of Florida were thought to be the site of the mythical fountain because of native stories in the Caribbean of a restorative spring north of the Bahamas.

This is where things get murky. Although there are records confirming that Ponce de León did, in fact, make an exploratory voyage to Florida in 1513, there's nothing in them or in his personal writings that mention a search for the Fountain of Youth. It's probably safe to assume then, according to historians, that any tales linking Ponce de León's exploration of Florida to a search for the mythical Fountain of Youth were romantic additions to the true accounts of Ponce de León's travels.

Water and the Modern Fountain of Youth

Legends about healing waters abound in cultures around the world. From biblical stories of Jesus healing a man with water to legends in the Middle East and Asia of various healing springs, people have always talked about and quested for water that will restore youth and health. These legends were taken to a peak in 16th century Europe as the tales of the exploration of the "New World" entered into popular culture.

Though most people today believe that the Fountain of Youth myth is a myth, in many ways we are still figuratively looking for it. Researchers and drug companies are searching for medications to make us live longer. Fad diets, supplements, and exercise routines all claim to extend life. In the end, there is no single solution to staying young, but a healthy lifestyle, positive thinking, and good relationships certainly don't hurt us in our quests for long and happy lives.

Was this page helpful?