The hero of the novel Lucius (by chance coincidence with the author’s name?) Travels through Thessaly. On the way, he hears fascinating and terrible stories about sorcerous charms, transformations and other witches’ tricks. Lucius arrives in the Thessalian city of Hypatos and stops at the house of a certain Milo who is “full of money, a terrible rich man, but he is very stingy and is known to everyone as a man prepodny and polluted.” In all of the ancient world, Thessaly was famous as the birthplace of magical art, and soon Lucius is convinced of this on his own sad experience.
In the house of Milo, he has an affair with the servant Fotida, who reveals to her lover the secret of her mistress. It turns out that Pamphyla (the name of Milo’s wife) with the help of a wonderful ointment can turn into an owl, say. Lucius passionately wants to experience this, and Fotida ultimately yields to his requests: he assists in such a risky business. But, having penetrated secretly into the mistress’s room, she confused the boxes, and as a result Lucius turns into a donkey, not a bird. In this guise, and he stays to the very end of the novel, knowing only that to reverse the transformation he needs to taste the petals of roses. But various obstacles stand in his way whenever he sees another pink bush.
The newly discovered donkey becomes the property of a band of robbers (they have robbed the house of Milo), who naturally use it as a pack animal:
More than once on the brink of death, exhausted, beaten and half-starved, Lucius unwittingly participates in raids and lives in the mountains, in a den of robbers. There he listens daily and nightly and remembers (turning into an ass, a hero, fortunately, has not lost the understanding of human speech), more and more terrible stories about robber adventures. Well, for example, – a story about a mighty robber dressed in a bear hide and in this guise infiltrated into a house chosen by his companions for robbery.
The most famous of the novel’s novels – “Cupid and Psyche” – is a wonderful fairy tale about the youngest and most beautiful of the three sisters:
She became the lover of Cupid (Cupid, Eros) – a cunning shooter.
Yes, Psyche was so beautiful and charming that the god of love itself fell in love with her. Carried over by the gentle Zephyr in the fairy-tale palace, Psyche every night took Eros into her arms, caressing the divine lover and feeling that she was loved by him. But at the same time the beautiful Cupid remained invisible – the main condition of their love meetings…
Psyche persuades Eros to allow her to see her sisters. And, as always happens in such fairy tales, envious relatives make her disobey her husband and try to see him. And now during the next meeting Psyche, long consumed by curiosity, lights the lamp and, happily, happily examines the beautiful wife, sleeping next to her.
But then the hot butter spurted from the lamp’s wick: “Feeling a burn, the god jumped up and, seeing the stained and broken oath, quickly freed himself from the embrace and kisses of his unhappy wife and, without a word, rose into the air.”
The goddess of love and beauty Venus, feeling in Psyche rival, in every possible way pursues the chosen one of her shrewd and capricious son. And with a purely feminine passion she exclaims: “So he really loves Psyche, my rival for self-styled beauty, the kidnapper of my name?!” And then he asks the two celibates – Juno and Ceres – to “find the runaway Psyche”, giving her away as her slave.
Meanwhile, Psyche, “moving from place to place, day and night, anxiously looking for her husband, and increasingly wants if not caresses of the wife, then at least slavish entreaties to soften his anger.” On her thorny path she finds herself in the distant temple of Ceres and with her hardworking obedience conquers her benevolence. And yet the goddess of fertility refuses to grant her asylum, for it is connected with Venus “by the bonds of ancient friendship.”
Yunona also refuses to shelter it, saying: “Laws forbidding patronize other people’s runaway slaves without the consent of their owners, this keeps me from it.” And it is good though that the goddesses did not give to Psyche the angry Venus.
Meanwhile, she asks Mercury to declare, so to speak, the universal search for Psyche, announcing to all people and deities its signs. But Psyche at this time, and she already comes to the palaces of her indomitable and beautiful
th in-law, decided to give it willingly and humbly hoping for mercy and understanding.
But her hopes are vain. Venus cruelly mocks the unhappy daughter-in-law and even beats her. The goddess, in addition, is beset by the very idea of the prospect of becoming a grandmother: she is going to prevent Psyche from giving birth to a child conceived from Cupid: “Your marriage was unequal, moreover, a prisoner in a country estate, without witnesses, without the consent of his father, he can not be considered valid, so that an illegitimate child will be born from him, if at all I will let you report it. “
Then Venus gives Psyche three impossible tasks (which later became “eternal stories” of world folklore). The first of them is to disassemble an incalculable heap of rye, wheat, poppy, barley, millet, peas, lentils and beans – Psyche helps to perform ants. Similarly, with the help of the good forces of nature and local deities, it copes with the rest of the duties.
But Amur, meanwhile, suffered in separation from his beloved, which he had already forgiven. He appeals to his father Jupiter to resolve this “unequal marriage.” The Chief Olympian summoned all the gods and goddesses, told Mercury to immediately deliver Psyche to heaven, and, holding out to her a bowl of ragweed, said: “Take Psyche, be immortal.” Let Cupid never leave your embrace and let this union be for ever and ever! “
And a wedding was played in the sky, on which all gods and goddesses danced cheerfully, and even Venus, already by that time had become pale. “So properly was transferred to the power of Cupid Psyche, and when the term came, a daughter was born to them, which we call Pleasure.”
However, Zeus can be understood: firstly, he was not entirely disinterested, for for agreeing to this marriage, he asked Amur to find him on Earth another beauty for amorous pleasures. And secondly, as a man, not devoid of taste, he understood the feelings of his son…
This touching-tragic story Lucius heard from a drunken old woman who was farming in a cave of robbers. Thanks to the preserved ability to understand human speech, the hero turned into a donkey learned many other amazing stories, for he was almost continuously on the road, on which he found many skilful narrators.
After many misadventures, constantly changing the owners (mostly – evil and only occasionally – kind), Lucius the donkey eventually flees and turns out to be once on the secluded Aegean coast. And here, watching the birth of the moon rising from the sea, he is inspired to address the goddess Selene, who has many names from different peoples: “Lady of Heaven! Draw from me the image of a wild four-legged, return me to the gaze of my loved ones […] If he drives me with some inexorable cruelty, some deity, let me at least die if there is no life! ” And the royal Isis (the Egyptian name Selena-Moon) is Lucia and points the way to salvation. It is no accident that this goddess in the ancient world has always been associated with all the mysterious acts and magical transformations, rituals and mysteries, the content of which was known only to the initiated.
The adventure novel ends with a chapter devoted to religious ordinances. And it happens quite naturally and naturally (after all, speech is about transformations – including spiritual ones!).
After going through a series of sacred rituals, having learned dozens of mysterious initiations and eventually returning home, Lucius returned to court activities of the lawyer. But in a higher rank than before, and with the addition of sacred duties and posts.