The Golden Asse

Author: Lucius Apuleius

The Forty-Sixth Chapter

How a certaine Matron fell in love with Apuleius, how hee had his pleasure with her, and what other things happened.

When he had bought such things as was necessary, he would not returne home into his Countrey in Chariots, or waggon, neither would he ride upon Thessalian Horses, or Jenets of France, or Spanish Mules, which be most excellent as can be found, but caused me to be garnished and trimmed with trappers and barbs of Gold, with brave harnesse, with purple coverings, with a bridle of silver, with pictured cloths, and with shrilling bells, and in this manner he rode upon me lovingly, speaking and intreating me with gentle words, but above all things he did greatly rejoyce in that I was his Servant to beare him upon my backe, and his Companion to feed with him at the Table : After long time when we had travelled as well by Sea as Land, and fortuned to arrive at Corinth, the people of the Towne came about us on every side, not so much to doe honour to Thiasus, as to see me : For my fame was so greatly spread there, that I gained my master much money, and when the people was desirous to see me play prankes, they caused the Gates to be shut, and such as entered in should pay money, by meanes whereof I was a profitable companion to them every day : There fortuned to be amongst the Assembly a noble and rich Matron that conceived much delight to behold me, and could find no remedy to her passions and disordinate appetite, but continually desired to have her pleasure with me, as Pasiphae had with a Bull. In the end she promised a great reward to my keeper for the custody of me one night, who for gaine of a little money accorded to her desire, and when I had supped in a Parler with my Master, we departed away and went into our Chamber, where we found the faire Matron, who had tarried a great space for our comming : I am not able to recite unto you how all things were prepared : there were foure Eunuches that lay on a bed of downe on the ground with Boulsters accordingly for us to lye on, the Coverlet was of cloth of Gold, and the pillowes soft and tender, whereon the delicate Matron had accustomed to lay her head. Then the Eunuches not minding to delay any longer the pleasure of their Mistresse closed the doores of the Chamber and departed away: within the Chamber were Lamps that gave a cleare light all the place over : Then she put off all her Garments to her naked skinne, and taking the Lampe that stood next to her, began to annoint all her body with balme, and mine likewise, but especially my nose, which done, she kissed me, not as they accustome to doe at the stews, or in brothel houses, or in the Curtain Schools for gaine of money, but purely, sincerely, and with great affection, casting out these and like loving words : Thou art he whom I love, thou art he whom I onely desire, without thee I cannot live, and other like preamble of talke as women can use well enough, when as they mind to shew or declare their burning passions and great affection of love: Then she tooke me by the halter and cast me downe upon the bed, which was nothing strange unto me, considering that she was so beautifull a Matron and I so wel bolded out with wine, and perfumed with balme, whereby I was readily prepared for the purpose: But nothing grieved me so much as to think, how I should with my huge and great legs imbrace so faire a Matron, or how I should touch her fine, dainty, and silken skinne, with my hard hoofes, or how it was possible to kisse her soft, pretty and ruddy lips, with my monstrous mouth and stony teeth, or how she, who was young and tender, could be able to receive me.

And I verily thought, if I should hurt the woman by any kind of meane, I should be throwne to the wild Beasts : But in the meane season she kissed me, and looked in my mouth with burning eyes, saying : I hold thee my canny, I hold thee my noose, my sparrow, and therewithall she eftsoones imbraced my body round about, and had her pleasure with me, whereby I thought the mother of Miniatures did not ceaseless quench her inordinate desire with a Bull. When night was passed, with much joy and small sleepe, the Matron went before day to my keeper to bargain with him another night, which he willingly granted, partly for gaine of money, and partly to finde new pastime for my master. Who after he was informed of all the history of my luxury, was right glad, and rewarded my keeper well for his paine, minding to shew before the face of all the people, what I could doe : but because they would not suffer the Matron to abide such shame, by reason of her dignity, and because they could finde no other that would endeavour so great a reproach, at length they obtained for money a poore woman, which was condemned to be eaten of wilde beasts, with whom I should openly have to doe : But first I will tell you what tale I heard concerning this woman. This woman had a husband, whose father minding to ride forth, commanded his wife which he left at home great with child, that if she were delivered of a daughter, it should incontinently be killed. When the time of her delivery came, it fortuned that she had a daughter, whom she would not suffer to be slaine, by reason of the naturall affection which she hare unto her child, but secretly committed her to one of her neighbours to nurse. And when her husband returned home, shee declared unto him that shee was delivered of a daughter, whom (as hee commanded), shee had caused to be put to death. But when this child came to age, and ready to be married, the mother knew not by what meanes shee should endow her daughter, but that her husband should understand and perceive it. Wherefore shee discovered the matter to her sonne, who was the husband of this woman, condemned to be eaten of wild beasts : For shee greatly feared least hee should unawares fancie or fall in love with his owne sister. The young man understanding the whole matter (to please and gratify his mother) went immediately to the young maiden, keeping the matter secret in his heart, for feare of inconvenience, and (lamenting to see his sister forsaken both of mother and father) incontinently after endowed her with part of his owne goods, and would have married her to one of his especial and trusty friends : But although hee brought this to passe very secretly and sagely, yet in the end cruell fortune sowed great sedition in his house. For his wife who was now condemned to beasts, waxed jealous of her husband and began to suspect the young woman as a harlot and common queane, insomuch that shee invented all manner of meanes to dispatch her out of the way. And in the end shee invented this kind of mischiefe : She privily stale away her husbands ring, and went into the country, whereas she commanded one of her trusty servants to take the ring and carry it to the mayden. To whom he should declare that her brother did pray her to come into the country to him, and that she should come alone without any person. And to the end shee should not delay but come with all speed he should deliver her the ring, which should be a sufficient testimony of the message. This mayden as soone as she had received the ring of her brother, being very willing and desirous to obey his commandement : (For she knew no otherwise but that he had sent for her) went in all hast as the messenger willed her to doe. But when she was come to the snare and engine which was prepared for her, the mischievous woman, like one that were mad, and possessed with some ill spirit, when the poore maiden called for helpe with a loud voyce to her brother, the wicked harlot (weening that she had invented and feined the matter) tooke a burning firebrand and thrust it into her secret place, whereby she died miserably. The husband of this maiden but especially her brother, advertised of her death, came to the place where she was slain, and after great lamentation and weeping, they caused her to be buried honourably. This yong man her brother taking in ill part the miserable death of his sister, as it was convenient he should, conceived so great dolour within his mind and was strucken with so pestilent fury of bitter anguish, that he fell into the burning passions of a dangerous ague, whereby he seemed in such necessity, that he needed to have some speedy remedy to save his life. The woman that slew the Maiden having lost the name of wife together with her faith, went to a traiterous Physician, who had killed a great many persons in his dayes and promised him fifty peeces of Gold, if he would give her a present poyson to kill her husband out of hand, but in presence of her Husband, she feined that it was necessary for him to receive a certaine kind of drink, which the Maisters and Doctours of Physicke doe call a sacred Potion, to the intent he might purge Choller and scoure the interiour parts of his body. But the Physitian in stead of that drinke prepared a mortall and deadly poyson, and when he had tempered it accordingly, he tooke the pot in the presence of the family, and other neighbours and friends of the sick yong man, and offered it to his patient. But the bold and hardy woman, to the end she might accomplish her wicked intent, and also gaine the money which she had promised the Physitian, staid the pot with her hand, saying: I pray you master Physitian, minister not this drinke unto my deare Husband, untill such time as you have drunke some part thereof your selfe: For what know I, whether you have mingled any poyson in the drinke or no, wherein I would have you not to be offended : For I know that you are a man of wisedome and learning, but this I do to the intent the conscience and love that I beare to the health and safeguard of my husband, may be apparent. The Physitian being greatly troubled at the wickednesse of this mischievous woman, as voyd of all counsell and leysure to consider of the matter, and least he might give any cause of suspition to the standers by, or shew any scruple of his guilty conscience, by reason of long delay, tooke the pot in his hand, and presently drunke a good draught thereof, which done, the young man having no mistrust, drunke up the residue. The Physitian would have gone immediately home to receive a counterpoyson, to expeth and drive out the first poyson : But the wicked woman persevering in her mischiefe, would not suffer him to depart a foot, untill such time as the poyson began to worke in him, and then by much prayer and intercession she licensed him to goe home: By the way the poyson invaded the intrailes and bowels of the whole body of the Physitian, in such sort that with great paine he came to his owne house, where he had scarce time to speake to his wife, and to will her to receive the promised salitary of the death of two persons, but he yeelded up the ghost : And the other young man lived not long after, but likewise dyed, amongst the feined and deceitfull teares of his cursed wife. A few dayes after, when the young man was buried and the funerall ended, the Physitians wife demanded of her the fifty peeces of gold which she promised her husband for the drinke, whereat the ill disposed woman, with resemblance of honesty, answered her with gentle words, and promised to give her the fifty peeces of gold, if she would fetch her a little of that same drinke, to proceed and make an end of all her enterprise. The Physitians wife partly to winne the further favour of this rich woman, and partly to gaine the money, ranne incontinently home, and brought her a whole roote of poyson, which when she saw, having now occasion to execute her further malice, and to finish the damnable plot, began to stretch out her bloody hands to murther. She had a daughter by her husband (that was poysoned) who according to order of law, was appointed heire of all the lands and goods of her father : but this woman knowing that the mothers succoured their children, and received all their goods after their death, purposed to shew her selfe a like parent to her child, as she was a wife to her husband, whereupon she prepared a dinner with her owne hands, and empoysoned both the wife of the Physitian and her owne daughter : The child being young and tender dyed incontinently by force of the drinke, but the Physitians wife being stout and strong of complexion, feeling the poison to trill down into her body, doubted the matter, and thereupon knowing of certainty that she had received her bane, ran forthwith to the judges house, that what with her cryes, and exclamations, she raised up the people of the towne, and promising them to shew divers wicked and mischievous acts, caused that the doores and gates were opened. When she came in she declared from the beginning to the end the abhomination of this woman: but shee had scarce ended her tale, when opening her falling lips, and grinding her teeth together, she fell downe dead before the face of the Judge, who incontinently to try the truth of the matter, caused the cursed woman, and her servants to be pulled out of the house, and enforced by paine of torment to confesse the verity, which being knowne, this mischievous woman farre lesse then she deserved, but because there could be no more cruell a death invented for the quality of her offence, was condemned to be eaten with wild beasts. Behold with this woman was I appointed to have to doe before the face of the people, but I being wrapped in great anguish, and envying the day of the triumph, when we two should so abandon our selves together, devised rather to sley my selfe, then to pollute my body with this mischievous harlot, and so for ever to remaine defamed: but it was impossible for me so to doe, considering that I lacked hands, and was not able to hold a knife in my hoofes: howbeit standing in a pretty cabin, I rejoyced in my selfe to see that spring time was come, and that all things flourished, and that I was in good hope to find some Roses, to render me my humane shape. When the day of triumph came, I was led with great pompe and benevolence to the appointed place, where when I was brought, I first saw the preamble of that triumph, dedicated with dancers and merry taunting jests, and in the meane season was placed before the gate of the Theater, whereas on the one side I saw the greene and fresh grasse growing before the entry thereof, whereon I greatly desired to feed: on the other side I conceived a great delectation to see when the Theater gates were opened, how all things was finely prepared and set forth: For there I might see young children and maidens in the flowre of their youth of excellent beauty, and attired gorgiously, dancing and mooved in comely order, according to the order of Grecia, for sometime they would dance in length, sometime round together, sometime divide themselves into foure parts, and sometime loose hands on every side: but when the trumpet gave warning that every man should retire to his place, then began the triumph to appeare. First there was a hill of wood, not much unlike that which the Poet Homer called Idea, for it was garnished about with all sort of greene verdures and lively trees, from the top whereof ran downe a cleare and fresh fountaine, nourishing the waters below, about which wood were many young and tender Goates, plucking and feeding daintily on the budding trees, then came a young man a shepheard representing Paris, richly arrayed with vestments of Barbary, having a mitre of gold upon his head, and seeming as though he kept the goates. After him ensued another young man all naked, saving that his left shoulder was covered with a rich cloake, and his head shining with glistering haires, and hanging downe, through which you might perceive two little wings, whereby you might conjecture that he was Mercury, with his rod called Caduceus, he bare in his right hand an Apple of gold, and with a seemely gate went towards him that represented Paris, and after hee had delivered him the Apple, he made a signe, signifying that Jupiter had commanded him so to doe : when he had done his message he departed away. And by and by, there approached a faire and comely mayden, not much unlike to Juno, for she had a Diademe of gold upon her head, and in her hand she bare a regall scepter : then followed another resembling Pallas, for she had on her head a shining sallet, whereon was bound a garland of Olive branches, having in one hand a target or shield : and in the other a speare as though she would fight : then came another which passed the other in beauty, and presented the Goddesse Venus, with the color of Ambrosia, when she was a maiden, and to the end she would shew her perfect beauty, shee appeared all naked, saving that her fine and dainty skin was covered with a thin smocke, which the wind blew hither and thither to testifie the youth and flowre of the age of the dame. Her colour was of two sorts, for her body was white as descended from heaven, and her smocke was blewish, as arrived from the sea : After every one of the Virgins which seemed goddesses, followed certaine waiting servants, Castor and Pollus went behind Juno, having on their heads helmets covered with starres. This Virgin Juno sounded a Flute, which shee bare in her hand, and mooved her selfe towards the shepheard Paris, shewing by honest signes and tokens, and promising that hee should be Lord of all Asia, if hee would judge her the fairest of the three, and to give her the apple of gold : the other maiden which seemed by her armour to be Pallas, was accompanied with two young men armed, and brandishing their naked swords in their hands, whereof one named Terror, and the other Feare; behind them approached one sounding his trumpet to provoke and stirre men to battell; this maiden began to dance and shake her head, throwing her fierce and terrible eyes upon Paris and promising that if it pleased him to give her the victory of beauty, shee would make him the most strong and victorious man alive. Then came Venus and presented her selfe in the middle of the Theater, with much favour of all the people, for shee was accompanied with a great many of youth, whereby you would have judged them all to be Cupidoes, either to have flowne from heaven or else from the river of the sea, for they had wings, arrowes, and the residue of their habit according in each point, and they bare in their hands torches lighted, as though it had beene a day of marriage. Then came in a great multitude of faire maidens : on the one side were the most comely Graces : on the other side, the most beautifull Houres carrying garlands and loose flowers, and making great honor to the goddesse of pleasure; the flutes and Pipes yeelded out the sweet sound of Lydians, whereby they pleased the minds of the standers by exceedingly, but the more pleasing Venus mooved forward more and more, and shaking her head answered by her motion and gesture, to the sound of the instruments. For sometimes she would winke gently, sometimes threaten and looke aspishly, and sometimes dance onely with her eyes : As soone as she was come before the Judge, she made a signe and token to give him the most fairest spouse of all the world, if he would prefer her above the residue of the goddesses. Then the young Phrygian shepheard Paris with a willing mind delivered the golden Apple to Venus, which was the victory of beauty.

Why doe ye marvell, ye Orators, ye Lawyers, and Advocates, if many of our judges now a daies sell their judgements for money, when as in the beginning of the world one onely Grace corrupted the sentence betweene God and men, and that one rusticall Judge and shepheard appointed by the counsell of great Jupiter, sold his judgement for a little pleasure, which was the cause afterward of the ruine of all his progeny? By like manner of meane, was sentence given between the noble Greekes: For the noble and valiant personage Palamedes was convicted and attainted of treason, by false perswasion and accusation, and Ulisses being but of base condition, was preferred in Martiall prowesse above great Ajax. What judgement was there likewise amongst the Athenian lawyers, sage and expert in all sciences? Was not Socrates who was preferred by Apollo, above all the wise men in the world, by envy and malice of wicked persons impoysoned with the herbe Cicuta, as one that corrupted the youth of the countrey, whom alwaies be kept under by correction? For we see now a dayes many excellent Philosophers greatly desire to follow his sect, and by perpetual study to value and revolve his workes, but to the end I may not be reproved of indignation by any one that might say : What, shall we suffer an Asse to play the Philosopher? I will returne to my further purpose.

After the judgement of Paris was ended, Juno and Pallas departed away angerly, shewing by their gesture, that they would revenge themselves on Paris, but Venus that was right pleased and glad in her heart, danced about the Theater with much joy. This done from the top of the hill through a privy spout, ran a floud of the colour of Saffron, which fell upon the Goates, and changed their white haire into yellow, with a sweet odour to all them of the Theater. By and by after by certaine engines, the ground opened, and swallowed up the hill of wood : and then behold there came a man of armes through the multitude, demanding by the consent of the people, the woman who was condemned to the beasts, and appointed for me to have to doe withall : our bed was finely and bravely prepared, and covered with silke and other things necessary. But I, beside the shame to commit this horrible fact, and to pollute my body with this wicked harlot did greatly feare the danger of death: for I thought in my selfe, that when she and I were together, the savage beast appointed to devoure the woman, was not so instructed and taught, or would so temper his greedinesse, as that hee would teare her in peeces lying under mee, and spare mee with a regard of mine innocency. Wherefore I was more carefull for the safeguard of my life, then for the shame that I should abide, but in the meane season while my master made ready the bed, all the residue did greatly delight to see the hunting and pleasantnesse of the triumph, I began to thinke and devise for my selfe. When I perceived that no man had regard to mee, that was so tame and gentle an Asse, I stole out of the gate that was next me, and then I ran away with all force, and came to Cenchris, which is the most famous towne of all the Carthaginians, bordering upon the Seas called Ageum, and Saronicum, where is a great and mighty Haven, frequented with many a sundry Nation. There because I would avoyd the multitude of the people, I went to a secret place of the Sea coast, where I laid me down upon the sand, to ease and refresh my selfe, for the day was past and the Sunne gone downe, and lying in this sort on the ground, did fall in a sound sleepe.


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Chicago: Lucius Apuleius, "The Forty-Sixth Chapter," The Golden Asse, trans. William Adlington in The Golden Asse Original Sources, accessed February 27, 2024,

MLA: Apuleius, Lucius. "The Forty-Sixth Chapter." The Golden Asse, translted by William Adlington, in The Golden Asse, Original Sources. 27 Feb. 2024.

Harvard: Apuleius, L, 'The Forty-Sixth Chapter' in The Golden Asse, trans. . cited in , The Golden Asse. Original Sources, retrieved 27 February 2024, from