The Golden Ass

This page should help you navigate to any posts that are about Apuleius’ The Golden Ass, unless they are specifically related to the Cupid and Psyche story, in which case they will be linked here.

A Brief Look into Lucius’ Travels in The Golden Ass

By David Bicknell

At the beginning of the The Golden Ass, Lucius is traveling from Corinth to Thessaly for business. He makes a stop in Hypata, where he meets the friend of a friend, named Milo, who, after delivering a letter of introduction, he stays with. However, during Lucius’ stay with Milo, he is transformed into an ass and is stolen by bandits. The bandits take him to a hidden cave somewhere in Thessaly. Once the bandits are killed, Lucius, as an ass, has several misadventures throughout several towns in Thessaly. Eventually, Lucius is bought by a Corinthian governor and is taken back to Corinth. Lucius flees from a festival in Corinth and runs to the neighboring port of Kenchreai. There, he encounters the goddess Isis and is transformed back into his human form. After Lucius is initiated into the rites of Isis, he travels to Rome, where he is then initiated into the rites of Osiris and those of Isis for a second time. Compare to the travels of Apuleius here– for more on comparing Apuleius and Lucius, check this out

Lucius' Travels - Greece - Smaller
Greece. 1:150. From: Apuleius, The Golden Ass, 2nd century CE. Translated by E.J. Kenney. London: Penguin Books, 2004.
Lucius' Travels - Rome - Smaller
Italy and Sicily. 1:200. From Apuleius, The Golden Ass, 2nd century CE. Translated by E.J. Kenney. London: Penguin Books, 2004.

A Brief Summary of The Golden Ass

By Shilo Previti

This article should serve as a very, very brief summary of events and tales told with the larger fabric of The Golden Ass. For the character reference list, click here.

In Book I, Lucius is traveling to Thessaly for business, and he overhears some stories other travelers along the route tell. Aristomenes tells Lucius of his tale with Socrates, Meroe & Panthia, and Lucius goes to stay with Milo.

In Book II, Lucius meets his aunt, Byrrhena, and she warns him about Milo’s wife, Pamphile. Later, he enters into a sexual relationship with Photis, the maid at Milo’s house. Milo’s tale and Thelyphron’s tale are told.

In Book III, Lucius is set up in a mock-trial for the festival of the God of Laughter. Photis confesses to him, and Lucius accidentally turns into an ass when he and Photis are messing around with magic.

In Book IV, Lucius is kidnapped by robbers who tell tales and capture a young maiden named Charite, who they stole from her wedding. An Old Hag tells the tale of Cupid and Psyche to comfort her, and Lucius overhears this.

Book V consists entirely of the tale of Cupid and Psyche.

Book VI comprises the end of the tale of Cupid and Psyche and then cuts back to the present plot with the robbers. Lucius attempts to escape, but the Old Hag grabs him. Then, the girl comes to his rescue and they both gallop away, only to be recaptured.

In Book VII, Charite’s husband, Tlepolemus comes to rescue her disguised as a robber, just as the robbers themselves are discussing the idea of killing Lucius and sewing Charite up inside him, leaving her to die. Lucius and Charite are saved by his cunning, and Lucius is set free by them. A stableman’s wife steals him from where he is after this and abuses him.

In Book VIII, Lucius overhears a story involving the death of Charite and her husband. Another man, one who “loves” her, Thrasyllus, kills Tlepolemus in a hunting ‘accident’. Tlepolemus appears to Charite in a dream, telling her what happened. In response, she pokes Thrasyllus’ eyes out before killing herself by her husband’s grave. Thrasyllus awakens and, finding out what happened, starves himself to death. The slaves of the couple’s house flee with Lucius, but stop at a village and hear a story about a slave who went beyond his means and suffered for it. Lucius is auctioned off to group of men dressed as women, and they rape Lucius. Then, they go to stay with a nearby wealthy person.

In Book IX, Lucius overhears a story at an inn involving a cuckold. Lucius is then sold to a miller and his wife, who is an adulterer. Lucius exposes the wife’s lover to the miller when he comes home from dinner with a friend which was cut short because the friend’s wife was an adulterer. When the miller realizes the same has happened to him, he rapes the wife’s lover and beats them both before kicking his wife out of the home. The wife gets a ghost to kill him, and he is found hung. Lucius is again sold, this time to a poor market gardener. They go to a man’s house, and then the man of the house dies. The gardener and Lucius leave and a solider who passes by them on the way home tries to seize Lucius. The gardener defends them, but the soldier is in hot pursuit, so they go into hiding. Lucius’ curiosity gives them away and the soldier takes Lucius, killing the gardener.

As of Book X, Lucius now belongs to the soldier, who has two sons, an ex-wife, and a wife. The younger wife pursues a sexual relationship with the son of the previous marriage, but when he is not interested, she gets a slave to poison him. Unfortunately for her, her own son by chance drinks the poison. She accuses her stepson of poisoning him because she wouldn’t let him rape her. There is a lengthy trial and everyone votes that the older son is guilty, but his tutor defends him, saying that he sold the slave who did the wife’s dirty work a fake poison. The woman is exiled, the slave is crucified, and Lucius is sold again, now to two cooks. The master of the house gets Lucius to eat with him because he is entertaining, but then a woman hires Lucius for sex. The slave tells the master of the house who also finds this entertaining news and then requires that Lucius perform in public with a whore. Lucius does not want to do this in public and does not want to consort with the low sort of woman chosen for the event.

In Book XI, Lucius purifies himself in the ocean and pleads with the Egyptian goddess Isis to return him to human form. Lucius is transformed back into a human. From then on, he dedicates his life to religion and the Mysteries, especially those related to Isis and Osiris. For a detailed summary of Book XI, click here.

For a more detailed summary of the Cupid and Psyche story, click here. Also, check out this art-based essay which also tells the story of Cupid and Psyche.

Site Map for The Golden Ass and related content:

The Metamorphosis into The Golden Ass

Character List for The Golden Ass

Comparing Lucius and Apuleius

Examining Main Themes:

Magic in The Golden Ass
Neoplatonic Philosophy
Meaning of Book XI

Summary of Book XI
Rebirth Analysis: Intro & Conclusion, Quotes, Literature Review
Isis Analysis: Intro & Literature Review, Textual Notes, Religion, Satire, Biographical Influences, Conclusion, References

Relating The Golden Ass to texts like The Onos

Cupid and Psyche Site Map and Summary

Comparing Psyche and Lucius

Further Reading, Citations, and References