Meditations from the Classics
Apuleius (A.D. 170)
The Golden Ass (Metamorphoses) 10
Apuleius (A.D. 125-170), the early Latin writer, gives valuable insights into the daily habits of the populace of his day. In one of his bizarre tales, he described how a rich and respected lady of Corinth desperately pursued a licentious relationship with a donkey. Overcome by this unnatural urge, she bribed the donkey’s keeper for the privilege of a single night of undisturbed love. She took great care in preparing the bedroom for her night of revelry:
…Four eunuchs strewed the ground with mattresses of down and air-filled bolsters. The coverlet was of cloth of gold and broidery of Tyrian dye,and the pillows were small but wide enough for their purpose, and soft like those of which delicate ladies lay their lazy cheeks or necks. The eunuchs, anxious not to delay the pleasures of their mistress a moment longer, closed the bedroom doors and went away; but there were tall wax candles that banished every shadow from the glowing room….The lady kept repeating these words of love: “You are the one I love…you are the one I desire…without you I cannot live…”
(“Amo” et “Cupio” et “Te solum diligo,” et “Sine te iam vivere nequeo.”
The lady and the donkey. It was a tryst worthy of modern day Hollywood. How many “X’s” can we put on this debauched scene? And yet, Apuleius didn’t think anything about it. To him, it was just business as usual.
What makes this so difficult to accept is that this story took place in Corinth in the second century, only a few generations after St. Paul had come through this very city with the gospel of purity and light.
Remember, though, that Paul himself encountered sexual aberrations in Corinth of such a nature he blushed to mention it:
“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1).
But I think even St. Paul would be caught by surprise over this story: a lady of substance, of upbringing, of wealth, of high standing–in bed with a donkey. Man! It leaves you without words.
Sexual tension and temptation are everywhere in the modern world. All disciples must be on guard. Immorality can take you down. The best policy is to adhere to Paul’s advice: “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).
David R.Denny Ph.D.