The Golden Ass

By Apuleius, P.G. Walsh (translator),

Book cover of The Golden Ass

Book description

Written towards the end of the second century AD, The Golden Ass tells the story of the many adventures of a young man whose fascination with witchcraft leads him to be transformed into a donkey. The bewitched Lucius passes from owner to owner - encountering a desperate gang of robbers…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked The Golden Ass as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Not necessarily the world’s first novel (the world’s first novel is probably lost) nor even the world’s first great novel (that would be Petronius’ Satyricon, which you should also not get caught reading), The Golden Ass is definitely the world’s first great novel that has survived through the centuries intact.

It’s the story of a man who tries just one time to dabble in magic and accidentally turns himself into a donkey. The poor guy has a bunch of adventures as he tries to figure out how to, you know, stop being a donkey.

That doesn’t sound so bad,…

This comic, clever, and subversive work is the only ancient Roman novel in Latin to survive in its entirety. The main character, Lucius, makes an error while using a witch’s balm to change himself into a bird and ends up – to his great despair – transformed into an ass. While being passed on to different owners, he is whipped and cursed and nearly butchered for his meat, learning first-hand how cruel humans can be to their fellow creatures, which is why I regard this to be the first work written in defense of animal rights. Will Lucius find a…

From Richard's list on survivors of a horrific trauma.

Not so much a novel as a loosely connected set of rambling anecdotes dealing with everything from incompetent market officials to Greek myth and sex and superstition. The whole thing is told with great verve and is a sackful of fun. Try P.G. Walsh's translation available from Oxford. World Classics.

From Philip's list on ancient Rome by ancient Romans.

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