205. The Golden Ass by Apuleius (c. 160-170 AD)

Plot: A young man is too curious about magic for his own good, and is transformed into a donkey, leading to a series of adventures and dangers.

My version is published by Yale University Press, translated by Sarah Ruden. (ISBN 9780300154771)

My thoughts:   A loose connection of stories featuring witches, slaves, bandits, adulterers, cooks and shepherds, connected by Lucius’ unwilling involvement as he is shuffled from one cruel master to another, or overhears tales told around the taverns and stables. A far cry from the histories of the Caesars, and a lot of fun. Perhaps not a masterpiece; considered one of the earliest candidates for the label of first ever novel, but as I say more a chain of tenuously linked stories.

I had read the Penguin classic a few years ago, so this time I found an alternate edition at my library workplace, which for a regional public library is proving surprisingly accommodating in having many of the titles I have on my schedule at the moment. This version was very easy to read, perhaps a little long-winded towards the end after Lucius regains his human form, and spends a dozen pages undergoing multiple initiations to the mysteries of Isis and Osiris.

Favourite lines/passages:

Before things get hairy, Lucius enjoys the sexual favours of the maid Photis

“We tossed away every thread of clothing and, bare as could be, celebrated the rites of Venus with the abandon of Bacchus”   page 59.

Personal rating: 6/10

Kimmy’s rating: Lots of animal stories : donkeys, dogs, bears. 4 paws.

Also in these years: (from The Book of Key Facts, Paddington Press, 1978)

  • China allows empresses to ascend the throne
  • Subsaharan ironworking, increasing north-south trade across the desert
  • Jewish revolt in Jerusalem put down by the Romans, forcing the Jewish diaspora
  • Bible translated from Greek to Latin
  • Early Mayan monuments date from now
  • Plague from the Middle East ravages Rome

PS On an unhappy note, my temperamental laptop and dodgy Excel combined to delete my Chronolit TBR spreadsheets last night, losing much work including the 1500+ titles I had identified, and my summaries of ratings for the 200 titles I have read so far, as well as my 1001 books and childrens book lists. And of course my last backup was a year ago, meaning many hours of work are lost. So I guess I have the unbounded joy of rebuilding those lists largely from scratch. 😛




  1. OMG your PS. Extraordinary amount of work, I’d say. I hope you can do it. Any chance of taking it somewhere to see if a techie type could find it? It too me two laptop deaths for me to realize I need to back up. Now I save everything as I go to a thumb drive. Good luck.

    Love Kimmy weighing in!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, quite a lot of work and thought lost. But not irreplaceable and I can enjoy the rebuild. The only copy I had remaining was two years old and I had done a lot in the last two months especially. As Doris said: que sera, sera


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