Lucius Apuleius: The Golden Ass
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2013 All Rights Reserved
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- Book I:1 Apuleius’ address to the reader
- Book I:2-5 Aristomenes begins his tale
- Book I:6-10 Socrates’ misfortune
- Book I:11-17 Aristomenes’ Nightmare
- Book I:18-20 Socrates’ death
- Book I:21-26 Milo’s House
Book I:1 Apuleius’ address to the reader
Now! I’d like to string together various tales in the Milesian style, and charm your kindly ear with seductive murmurs, so long as you’re ready to be amazed at human forms and fortunes changed radically and then restored in turn in mutual exchange, and don’t object to reading Egyptian papyri, inscribed by a sly reed from the Nile.
I’ll begin. Who am I? I’ll tell you briefly. Hymettus near Athens; the Isthmus of Corinth; and Spartan Mount Taenarus, happy soil more happily buried forever in other books, that’s my lineage. There as a lad I served in my first campaigns with the Greek tongue. Later, in Rome, freshly come to Latin studies I assumed and cultivated the native language, without a teacher, and with a heap of pains. So there! I beg your indulgence in advance if as a crude performer in the exotic speech of the Forum I offend. And in truth the very fact of a change of voice will answer like a circus rider’s skill when needed. We’re about to embark on a Greek tale. Reader, attend: and find delight.
Book I:2-5 Aristomenes begins his tale
Thessaly – where the roots of my mother’s family add to my glory, in the famous form of Plutarch, and later his nephew, Sextus the philosopher – Thessaly is where I was off to on business. Emerging from perilous mountain tracks, and slithery valley ones, and damp meadows and muddy fields, riding a pure-white local nag, he being fairly tired and to chase away my own fatigue from endless sitting with the labour of walking, I dismounted. I rubbed the sweat from his forehead, carefully, stroked his ears, loosed his bridle, and led him slowly along at a gentle pace, till the usual and natural remedy of grazing eliminated the inconvenience of his lassitude. While he was at his mobile breakfast, the grass he passed, contorting his head from side to side, I made a third to two travellers who chanced to be a little way ahead. As I tried to hear what they were saying, one of them burst out laughing: “Stop telling such absurd and monstrous lies!”
Hearing this, and my thirst for anything new being what it is, I said: “Oh do let me share your conversation. I’m not inquisitive but I love to know everything, or at least most things. Besides, the charm of a pleasant tale will lighten the pain of this hill we’re climbing.”
But the one who’d laughed merely went on: “Now that story was about as true as if you’d said magic spells can make rivers flow backwards, chain the sea, paralyze the wind, halt the sun, squeeze dew from the moon, disperse the stars, banish day, and lengthen night!”
Here I spoke out more boldly: “Don’t be annoyed, you who began the tale; don’t weary of spinning out the rest.” And to the other “You with your stubborn mind and cloth ears might be rejecting something true. By Hercules, it’s not too clever if wrong opinion makes you judge as false what seems new to the ear, or strange to the eye, or too hard for the intellect to grasp, but which on closer investigation proves not only true, but even obvious. I last night, competing with friends at dinner, took too large a mouthful of cheese polenta. That soft and glutinous food stuck in my throat, blocked my windpipe, and I almost died. Yet at Athens, not long ago, in front of the Painted Porch, I saw a juggler swallow a sharp-edged cavalry sword with its lethal blade, and later I saw the same fellow, after a little donation, ingest a spear, death-dealing end downwards, right to the depth of his guts: and all of a sudden a beautiful boy swarmed up the wooden bit of the upside-down weapon, where it rose from throat to brow, and danced a dance, all twists and turns, as if he’d no muscle or spine, astounding everyone there. You’d have said he was that noble snake that clings with its slippery knots to Asclepius’ staff, the knotty one he carries with the half sawn-off branches. But do go on now, you who started the tale, tell it again. I’ll believe you, not like him, and invite to you to dinner with me at the first tavern we come to after reaching town: there’s your guaranteed reward.”
“What you promise,” he said, “is fair and just, and I’ll repeat what I left unfinished. But first I swear to you, by the all-seeing god of the Sun, I’m speaking things I know to be true; and you’ll have no doubt when you arrive at the next Thessalian town and find the story on everyone’s lips of a happening in plain daylight. But first so you know who I am, I’m from Aegium. And here’s how I make my living: I deal in cheese and honey, all that sort of innkeeper’s stuff, travelling here and there through Boeotia, Aetolia, Thessaly . So when I learned that at Hypata, Thessaly’s most important town, some fresh cheese with a fine flavour was being sold at a very good price, I rushed there, in a hurry to buy the lot. But as usual I went left foot first, and my hopes of a profit were dashed. A wholesale dealer called Lupus had snapped it up the day before. So, exhausted after my useless chase, I started to walk to the baths as Venus began to shine.”
Book I:6-10 Socrates’ misfortune
“Suddenly I caught sight of my old friend Socrates, sitting on the ground, half-concealed in a ragged old cloak, so pale I hardly knew him, sadly thin and shrunken, like one of those Fate discards to beg at street corners. In that state, even though I knew him well, I approached him with doubt in my mind: ‘Well, Socrates, my friend, what’s happened? How dreadful you look! What shame! Back home they’ve already mourned, and given you up for dead. By the provincial judge’s decree guardians have been appointed for your children; and your wife, the funeral service done, her looks marred by endless tears and grief, her sight nearly lost from weeping, is being urged by her parents to ease the family misfortune with the joy of a fresh marriage. And here you are, looking like a ghost, to our utter shame!’
‘Aristomenes,’ he said, ‘you can’t know the slippery turns of Fortune; the shifting assaults; the string of reverses.’ With that he threw his tattered cloak over a face that long since had blushed with embarrassment, leaving the rest of himself, from navel to thighs, bare. I could endure the sight of such terrible suffering no longer, grasped him and tried to set him on his feet.
But he remained as he was; his head shrouded, and cried: ‘No, no, let Fate have more joy of the spoils she puts on display!’
I made him follow me, and removing one or two of my garments clothed him hastily or rather hid him, then dragged him off to the baths in a trice. I myself found what was needed for oiling and drying; and with effort scraped off the solid layers of dirt; that done, I carried him off to an inn, tired myself, supporting his exhausted frame with some effort. I laid him on the bed; filled him with food; relaxed him with wine, soothed him with talk. Now he was ready for conversation, laughter, a witty joke, even some modest repartee, when suddenly a painful sob rose from the depths of his chest, and he beat his brow savagely with his hand. ‘Woe is me,’ he cried, ‘I was chasing after the delights of a famous gladiatorial show, when I fell into this misfortune. For, as you know well, I’d gone to Macedonia on a business trip, and after nine months labouring there I was on my way back home a wealthier man. Just before I reached Larissa, where I was going to watch the show by the way, walking along a rough and desolate valley, I was attacked by fierce bandits, and stripped of all I had. At last I escaped, weak as I was, and reached an inn belonging to a mature yet very attractive woman named Meroe, and told her about my lengthy journey, my desire for home, and the wretched robbery. She treated me more than kindly, with a welcome and generous meal, and quickly aroused by lust, steered me to her bed. At once I was done for, the moment I slept with her; that one bout of sex infected me with a long and pestilential relationship; she’s even had the clothes those kind robbers left me, and the meagre wages I’ve earned heaving sacks while I still could, until at last evil Fortune and my good ‘wife’ reduced me to the state you saw not long ago.’
“By Pollux!” I said “You deserve the worst, if there’s anything worse than what you got, for preferring the joys of Venus and a wrinkled whore to your home and kids.”
“But shocked and stunned he placed his index finger to his lips: “Quiet, quiet!” he said then glancing round, making sure it was safe to speak: “Beware of a woman with magic powers, lest your intemperate speech do you a mischief.”
“Really?” I said, “What sort of a woman is this high and mighty innkeeper?”
“A witch” he said, “with divine powers to lower the sky, and halt the globe, make fountains stone, and melt the mountains, raise the ghosts and summon the gods, extinguish the stars and illuminate Tartarus itself.”
“Oh come,” said I, “dispense with the melodrama, away with stage scenery; use the common tongue.”
“Do you,” he replied “wish to hear one or two, or more, of her doings? Because the fact she can make all men fall for her, and not just the locals but Indians, and the Ethiopian savages of orient and occident, and even men who live on the opposite side of the Earth, that’s only a tithe of her art, the merest bagatelle. Just listen to what she’s perpetrated in front of witnesses.
One of her lovers had misbehaved with someone else, so with a single word she changed him into a beaver, a creature that, fearing capture, escapes from the hunters by biting off its own testicles to confuse the hounds with their scent, and she intended the same for him, for having it off with another woman. Then there was another innkeeper, nearby, in competition, and she changed him into a frog; now the old man swims in a vat of his own wine, hides in the dregs, and calls out humbly to his past customers with raucous croaks. And because he spoke against her she turned a lawyer into a sheep, and now as a sheep he pleads his case. When the wife of a lover of hers, who was carrying at the time, insulted her wittily, she condemned her to perpetual pregnancy by closing her womb to prevent the birth, and according to everyone’s computation that poor woman’s been burdened for eight years or more and she’s big as an elephant!
As it kept happening, and many were harmed, public indignation grew, and the people decreed the severest punishment, stoning to death next day. But with the power of her chanting she thwarted their plan. Just as Medea, in that one short day she won from Creon, consumed his daughter, his palace, and the old king himself in the flames from the golden crown, so Meroe, by chanting necromantic rites in a ditch, as she told me herself when she was drunk, shut all the people in their houses, with the dumb force of her magic powers. For two whole days not one of them could break the locks, rip open the doors, or even dig a way through the walls, until at last, at everyone’s mutual urging, they called out, swearing a solemn oath not to lay hands on her themselves, and to come to her defence and save her if anyone tried to do so. Thus propitiated she freed the whole town. But as for the author of the original decree, she snatched him up in the dead of night with his whole house – that’s walls and floor and foundations entire – and shifted them, the doors still locked, a hundred miles to another town on the top of a rugged and arid mountain; and since the densely-packed homes of those folk left no room for the new guest, she dropped the house in front of the gates and vanished.”
“What you relate is marvellous, dear Socrates,” I said, “and wild. In short you’ve roused no little anxiety, even fear, in me too. I’m struck with no mere pebble here, but a spear, lest with the aid of those same magic forces that old woman might have heard our conversation. So let’s go to bed early, and weariness relieved by sleep, leave before dawn and get as far away as we can.”
Book I:11-17 Aristomenes’ Nightmare
While I was still relaying sound advice, the good Socrates, gripped by the effects of this unaccustomed tippling, and his great exhaustion, was already asleep and snoring. I shut the door tight, slid home the bolts, even pushed my bed hard against the door frame, and threw myself down on top. At first, from fear, I lay awake for a while; then about midnight I shut my eyes somewhat. I had just fallen asleep when it seemed the door suddenly burst open, with greater violence than any burglar could achieve. The hinges were shattered and torn from their sockets, and the door hurled to the ground. My bed, being low, with a dodgy foot and its wood rotten, collapsed from the force of such violence, and I rolled out and struck the floor while the bed landed upside-down on top, hiding and covering me. Then I felt that natural phenomenon where certain emotions are expressed through their contraries. At that instant, just as tears will often flow from joy, I couldn’t keep from laughing at being turned from Aristomenes to a tortoise. Hurled to the floor, from a corner of my eye, beneath the welcome protection of my bed, I watched two women of rather ripe years. One bore a lighted lamp, the other a sponge and naked blade. Thus equipped they circled the soundly sleeping Socrates. The one with the sword spoke: ‘Panthia, my sister, this is my dear Endymion, my Ganymede, who made sport with my youth, day and night, who not only scorned my secret love insultingly, but even plotted to escape. Am I really to be deserted like Calypso by a cunning Ulysses, and condemned, in turn, to weep in everlasting loneliness?’ Then she stretched out her hand, and pointed me out to her friend Panthia. ‘And this is his good counsellor Aristomenes, who was the author of his escape, and now lies close to death, stretched on the ground, sprawled beneath his little bed, watching it all. He thinks he’s going to recount his insults to me with impunity. I’ll make him regret his past jibes and his present nosiness later, if not sooner, if not right now!’
When I heard that, my wretched flesh dissolved in a cold sweat, my guts trembled and quaked, till the bed on my back shaken by my quivering swayed and leapt about. ‘Well then sister,’ gentle Panthia replied ‘why not grab him first and like Bacchantes tear him limb from limb, or tie him up at least and cut his balls off?’
Meroe – for I realised it was truly her in line with Socrates’ tale – replied: ‘No, let him survive at least to cover this wretch’s corpse with a little earth.’ And with that she pushed Socrates’ head to the side and buried her blade in the left of his neck all the way to the hilt. Then she held a flask of leather against the wound and carefully collected the spurt of blood so not a single drop was visible anywhere. I saw all this with my very own eyes. Next, so as not to deviate, I suppose, from the sacrificial rites, she stuck her right hand into the wound right down to his innards, felt for my poor comrade’s heart, and plucked it out. At this a sort of cry rose from his windpipe slashed by the weapon’s stroke, or at least an indistinct gurgle and he poured out his life’s breath. Panthia stopped the gaping wound with her sponge, saying: ‘Oh, sponge born in the sea, take care not to fall in the river,’ and with this they abandoned him, removed my bed, spread their feet, squatted over my face, and discharged their bladders till I was drenched with a stream of the foulest urine.
No sooner had they exited the threshold than the door untouched swung back to its original position: the hinges settled back in their sockets, the brackets returned to the posts, and the bolts slid home. But I remained where I was, sprawled on the ground, inanimate, naked, cold, and covered in piss, as if I’d just emerged from my mother’s womb. No, it was truly more like being half-dead, but also in truth my own survivor, a posthumous child, or rather a sure candidate for crucifixion. ‘When he’s found in the morning,’ I said to myself, ‘his throat cut, what will happen to you? If you tell the truth who on earth will believe it? You could at least have shouted for help, if a great man like you couldn’t handle the women by yourself. A man has his throat cut before your eyes, and you do nothing! And if you say it was robbers why wouldn’t they have killed you too? Why would their savagery spare you as a witness to crime to inform on them? So, having escaped death, you can go and meet it again!’
As night crept towards day, I kept turning it over in my mind. I decided the best thing to do was to sneak off just before dawn, and hit the road with tremulous steps. I picked up my little bag, pushed the key in the lock and tried to slide back the bolts; but that good and faithful door, which in the night had unlocked of its own accord, only opened at last after much labour and endless twiddling of the key.
The porter was lying on the ground at the entrance to the inn, still half-asleep when I cried: ‘Hey there, where are you? Open the gate! I want to be gone by daybreak!’ ‘What!’ he answered, ‘Don’t you know the road’s thick with brigands? Who goes travelling at this hour of the night? Even if you’ve a crime on your conscience and want to die, I’m not pumpkin-headed enough to let you.’
‘Dawn’s not far off,’ I said, ‘and anyway, what can robbers take from an utter pauper? Or are you not aware, ignoramus, that even a dozen wrestling-masters can’t despoil a naked man?’
Then half-conscious and weak with sleep he turned over on his other side, saying: ‘How do I know you haven’t slit the throat of that traveller you were with last night, and are doing a runner to save yourself?’
In an instant, I know I saw the earth gape wide, and there was the pit of Tartarus with dog-headed Cerberus ready to eat me. I thought how sweet Meroe had spared my throat not from mercy but in her cruelty had reserved me for crucifixion. So I slipped back to the bedroom and reflected on the quickest way to die. Since Fate had left me no other weapon but my little bed, I talked to it: ‘Now, now my little cot, dear friend of mine, who’ve suffered so many tribulations with me, and know and can judge what went on last night, and the only witness I could summon to testify to my innocence at the trial. I’m in a hurry to die, so be the instrument that will save me.’ With this I began to unravel the cord that laced its frame. Then I threw one end over a little beam that stuck out into the room, below the window, and tied it fast. I made a noose in the other end, scrambled up on the bed, got high enough for the drop to work, and stuck my head through the noose. With one foot I kicked away the support I stood on, so my weight on the cord would squeeze my throat tight and stop me breathing. But in a trice the rope, which was old and rotten, broke, and I crashed down on top of Socrates who was lying there beside me, and rolled with him on to the ground.
But behold at that moment the porter arrived shouting loudly: ‘Hey you! In the middle of the night you can’t wait to take off, now here you are under the covers snoring!’
Then Socrates, woken by our fall, or by the fellow’s raucous yelling, got to his feet first, saying: ‘It’s no wonder guests hate porters, since here’s this inquisitive chap bursting importunately into our room – after stealing something no doubt – and waking me, weak as I was, out of a lovely sleep with his monstrous din.’
I leapt up eagerly, filled with unexpected joy, and cried: ‘Behold, oh faithful porter, here’s my friend, as dear as father or brother, whom you in your drunken state accused me, slanderously, of murdering,’ and I straight away hugged Socrates and started kissing him.
But he, stunned by the vile stench of the liquid those monsters had drenched me with, shoved me off violently. ‘Away with you!’ he cried, ‘You stink like the foulest sewer!’ then began to ask as a friend will the reason for the mess. I invented some absurd, some miserable little joke on the spur of the moment, and drew his attention away again to another subject of conversation. Then clasping him I said: ‘Why don’t we go now, and grasp the chance of an early morning amble?’ And I picked up my little bag, paid the bill for our stay at the inn, and off we went.
Book I:18-20 Socrates’ death
We were quite a way off before the sun rose, lighting everything. Carefully, since I was curious, I examined the place on my friend’s neck where I’d seen the blade enter, I said to myself: ‘You’re mad, you were in your cups and sodden with wine, and had a dreadful nightmare. Look, Socrates is sound and whole, totally unscathed. Where are the wound and the sponge? Where’s the deep and recent scar?’ I turned to him: ‘Those doctors are not without merit who say that swollen with food and drink we have wild and oppressive dreams. Take me now. I took too much to drink last evening, and a bad night brought such dire and violent visions I still feel as though I was spattered, polluted with human blood.’
He grinned at that: ‘It’s piss not blood you’re soaked with. I dreamed too, that my throat was cut. I felt the pain in my neck, and even thought my heart had been torn from my body. And now I’m still short of breath, and my knees are trembling, and I’m staggering along, and I need a bite to eat to restore my spirits.’
‘Here’s breakfast,’ I said ‘all ready for you,’ and I swung the sack from my shoulder and quickly handed him bread and cheese. ‘Let’s sit by that plane tree,’ I said. Having done so, I took something from the sack for myself, and watched him eating avidly, but visibly weaker, somehow more drawn and emaciated, and with the pallor of boxwood. In short the colour of his flesh was so disturbing it conjured up the vision of those Furies of the night before, and my terror was such the first bit of bread I took, though only a small one, struck in my throat, and it wouldn’t go down, or come back up. The absence of anyone else on the road added to my fear. Who could believe my companion was murdered, and I was innocent? Now he, when he’d had enough, began to feel quite thirsty, since he’d gobbled the best part of a whole cheese in his eagerness. A gentle stream flowed sluggishly not far from the plane-tree’s roots, flowing on through a quiet pool, the colour of glass or silver. ‘Here,’ I cried, ‘quench your thirst with the milky waters of this spring.’ He rose and after a brief search for a level place at the edge of the bank, he sank down on his knees and bent forward ready to drink. But his lips had not yet touched the surface of the water when in a trice the wound in his throat gaped open, and out flew the sponge, with a little trickle of blood. Then his lifeless body pitched forward, almost into the stream, except that I caught at one of his legs, and with a mighty effort dragged him higher onto the bank. I mourned for him there, as much as circumstance allowed, and covered him with sandy soil to rest there forever beside the water. Then trembling and fearful of my life I fled through remote and pathless country, like a man with murder on his conscience, abandoning home and country, embracing voluntary exile. Now I live in Aetolia, and I’m married again.’
So Aristomenes’ story ended. But his friend, who had obstinately refused to believe a word from the very start, said: ‘There was never a taller tale, never a more absurd mendacity.’ And he turned to me: ‘You’re a cultured chap, as your clothes and manner show, can you credit a fable like that?’
I replied: ‘I judge that nothing’s impossible, and whatever the fates decide is what happens to mortal men. Now I and you and everyone experience many a strange and almost incredible event that is unbelievable when told to someone who wasn’t there. And as for Aristomenes, not only do I believe him, but by Hercules I thank him greatly for amusing us with his charming and delightful tale. I forgot about the pain of travel, and wasn’t bored on that last rough stretch of road. And I think the horse is happy too since, without him tiring, I’ve been carried all the way to the city gate here, not by his back but my ears!’
Book I:21-26 Milo’s House
That was the end of our conversation and our shared journey. My two companions turned to the left towards a nearby farm, while I approached the first inn I found on entering the town. I immediately enquired of the old woman who kept the inn: ‘Is this Hypata?’ She nodded. Do you know a prominent citizen named Milo ?’ ‘ Milo’s certainly prominent,’ she replied, ‘since his house sticks out beyond the city limits.’ ‘Joking apart,’ I said ‘tell me, good mother, what sort he is and where he lives.’ ‘Do you see,’ she answered, ‘that row of windows facing the city, and the door on the other side opening on the ally nearby? That’s where your Milo lives, with piles of money, heaps of wealth, but a man truly famed for his total avarice, his stingy ways. He lends cash at high rates of interest, takes gold and silver as security, but shuts himself up in that little house anxious about every rusty farthing. He has a wife, a companion in misery, no servants except a little maid, and dresses like a beggar when he goes out.’
I responded to this with a laugh, ‘My friend Demeas was certainly kind and thoughtful sending me off with a letter of introduction to a man like that, at least there’ll be no smoking fires or cooking fumes to fear.’ And with that I walked to the house and found the entrance. The door was stoutly bolted, so I banged and shouted. At long last the girl appeared: ‘Well you’ve certainly given the door a drubbing! Where’s your pledge for the loan? Or are you the only man who doesn’t know we only take gold and silver?’ ‘No, no,’ I replied ‘just say if your master’s home.’ ‘Well why do you want him then?’ ‘I’ve a letter for him, from Demeas of Corinth.’ ‘Wait right here,’ she said ‘while I announce you.’ And with that she bolted the door again and vanished into the house. Soon she returned; flung open the door, and proclaimed: ‘He says to come in.’
In I went and found him reclining on a little couch, and just about to start his supper. His wife sat beside him, and there was a table, with nothing on it, to which he gestured, saying: ‘Welcome to my house.’ ‘Thank you,’ I said, ‘and straight away handed him Demeas’ letter. He read it swiftly, saying; ‘And thanks to my friend Demeas, for sending me such a guest.’ With that he ordered his wife to rise and offered me her place. I hesitated modestly but he gripped the hem of my tunic and dragged me down. ‘Sit here,’ he said, ‘for fear of burglary we lack more chairs and things.’ I sat, and he went on: ‘I guess from your fine appearance and almost bashful courtesy that you come of a good family and dear Demeas says so too in his letter. So I beg you not to spurn the meagreness of our little hovel. You can have that room right there, a plain and honest one. I hope you’ll be pleased to stay. You’ll not only make our house greater by the honour of your presence, but you’ll acquire greater worth if you rest content with our tiny hearth, and emulate the virtue of your father’s namesake Theseus, he who did not scorn the slight hospitality of old Hecale.’
And he summoned the maid: ‘Take our guest’s bags, Photis, at once, and put them safe in that bedroom, and bring a flask of oil, and towels and whatever else he’ll need, then show my guest the nearest baths; he’s had a long and arduous journey and he’s tired.’
Hearing this, I recognised Milo’s parsimonious ways, but though hungry I wished to humour him, and said: ‘Those things accompany me on my travels, and I’ve no need of more. I can easily ask directions to the baths. What concerns me most is my horse, whose efforts have brought me here, so Photis, take these coins and buy him some oats and hay.’
Once this was under way, and my belongings placed in the room, I set off for the baths alone. But first I headed for the market, wanting to secure my supper. I saw plenty of fine fish on display, but when I asked the price and was told what they cost I haggled, buying a gold coin’s worth for twenty per cent less. Just as I was moving on, I encountered Pythias, who had been a student with me in Athens . He recognised me and gave me a friendly embrace though it had all been long ago, rushing up and kissing me affectionately. ‘By Pollux, Lucius my friend it is ages since I saw you last. It was when we said goodbye to Clytius our teacher, by Hercules. What brings you here in your travels?’ ‘I’ll tell you tomorrow,’ I said ‘but what’s this? Congratulations! You’ve attendants with rods of office, and you’re dressed as a magistrate.’ ‘I’m the inspector of markets, controller of supplies, and if you want help in purchasing anything I’m your man.’ ‘Thanks, but there’s no need,’ I said, having bought enough fish for supper, but Pythias saw my basket and poked the fish to inspect them. ‘What did you pay for this stuff?’ he asked, ‘I twisted the man’s arm and he charged me twenty denarii’ I answered.
On hearing this he grabbed my arm, and dragged me back to the market. ‘Which of the fish-merchants,’ he said ‘did you buy that rubbish from?’ I pointed out a little old man sitting in a corner, and Pythias immediately began berating him in the harsh tones befitting authority. ‘Now, you even cheat visitors, like this friend of mine. You mark up worthless goods to stupid prices, and reduce Hypata, the flower of Thessaly, to the equivalent of a barren rock in the desert, with the costliness of your wares. But don’t think you’ll get away with it. I’ll show you how this magistrate deals with rogues.’ And he emptied my basket out on the pavement, and ordered an assistant to crush them to pulp with his feet. Satisfied with this stern display of morality, my friend Pythias advised me to leave, saying: ‘Lucius, it’s enough that I’ve chastised the fellow.’
Astonished, utterly stupefied, by this turn of events, I carried on to the baths, robbed of money and supper by the worldly-wise authoritativeness of my erstwhile fellow-student. After bathing, I returned to Milo’s house and my room. Suddenly the maid, Photis, appeared: ‘Your host invites you to join him,’ she said. Already acquainted with Milo’s thrift I made a polite excuse saying my recovery from the rigours of the journey required sleep not food. On hearing this Milo himself came to persuade me and tugged me along after him gently. When I hesitated and discreetly resisted he said: ‘I’ll not leave off till you do,’ and following this with an oath showed himself so stubborn I had to give in against my will, while he led me off to that little couch of his and sat me down. ‘How’s friend Demas?’ he asked, ‘How’s his wife? How are the children? How are the servants? I answered every question. He inquired more closely into the reasons for my journey, and what I’d explained it all with care, he started in again regarding my home town, the prominent citizens, and eventually even the governor himself. Noticing at last that after the cruel hardship of my travels I was utterly exhausted by the constant stream of chatter, and would come to a stop mid-sentence, so far gone that I was muttering inarticulately, or jerking awake with a sudden cry, he let me escape to bed. I stumbled away from that vile old man’s wordy but worthless banquet, and full of yawns not food, having dined on nothing but conversation, dragged myself to my room, and gave myself up to the sleep I craved.
End of Book I