If you want to impress your friends and family with your knowledge of ancient writers, while also having a great time in the process, pick up a copy of The Golden Ass (written between 160-180 CE) by Apuleius. If you find the title of the book embarrassing or vulgar, you can use its other tame, alternative title: Metamorphoses. You can proclaim to the world that you read through an ancient Roman book that delves into the culture of the Roman Empire, and describes the priests and ceremonies belonging to the cults of Cybele and Isis. Once everyone is amazed by your perseverance in reading such an old book, you can tell (or not tell) the secret of The Golden Ass—it is an incredibly easy and fun read.
Despite the fact that The Golden Ass was written nearly two thousand years ago, Apuleius’ book reads like a comedic adventure novel. The story follows the odd life of a man named Lucius, who is cursed by an insatiable curiosity of the occult. His nosiness eventually leads him to the home of a witch, and from there, one thing leads to another—he finds himself transformed into a donkey. The rest of the book details Lucius’ journey as a donkey, and his pursuit of a cure to turn him back into human form. The story of The Golden Ass is filled with humor and strangeness that can bring a smile to any reader’s face. Lucius’ adventure as a donkey, from town to town, and owner to owner, is definitely a unique read that will leave a lasting impression on any reader.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- The Golden Ass or Metamorphoses by Apuleius, translated by E. J. Kenney. London: Penguin Books, 1998 and revised 2004.