Quid ergo miramini , vilissima capita , immo forensia pecora , immo vero togati vulturii , si totis nunc iudices sententias suas pretio nundinantur , cum rerum exordio inter deos et homines agitatum indicium corruperit gratia et originalem sententiam magni Iovis consiliis electus iudex rusticanus et opilio lucro libidinis vendiderit cum totis etiam suae stirpis exitio ? Sic hercules et aliud sequensque iudicium inter inclito Achivorum duces celebratum , [ vel ] eum falsis insimulationibus eruditione doctrinaque praepollens Palamedes proditionis damnatur , virtute Martia praepotenti praefertur Vlixes modicus Aiaci maximo . Quale autem et illud iudicium apud legiferos Athenienses catos illos et omnis scientiae magistros ? Nonne divinae prudentiae senex , quem sapientia praetulit cunctis mortalibus deus Delphicus , fraude et invidia nequissimae factionis circumventus velut corruptor adulescentiae , quam frenis cohercebat , herbae pestilentis suco noxio peremptus est relinquens civibus ignominiae perpetuae maculam , cum nunc etiam egregii philosophi sectam eius sanctissimam praeoptent et summo beatitudinis studio iurent in ipsius nomen ? Sed nequis indignationis meae reprehendat impetum secum sic reputans : " Ecce nunc patiemur philosophantem nobis asinum ? " , rursus , unde decessi , revertar ad fabulam .
Postquam finitum est illud Paridis iudicium , Iuno quidem cum Minerva tristes et iratis similes e scaena redeunt , indignationem repulsae gestibus professae , Venus vero gaudens et hilaris laetitiam suam saltando toto cum choro professa est . Tunc de summo montis cacumine per quandam latentem fistulam in excelsum prorumpit vino crocus diluta sparsique deflens pascentis circa capellas odoro perpluit imbre , donec in meliorem maculatae speciem canitiem propriam luteo colore mutarent . Iamque tota suae fraglante cavea montem illum ligneum terrae vorago decepit .
Ecce quidam miles per mediam plateam dirigit cursum petiturus iam populo postulante illam de puplico carcere mulierem , quam dixi propter multiforme scelus bestis esse damnatam meisque praeclaris nuptiis destinatam . Et iam torus genialis scilicet noster futurus accuratissime disternebatur lectus Indica testudine perlucidus , plumea congerie tumidis , veste serica floribus . At ego praeter pudorem obeundi publice concubitus , praeter contagium scelerae pollutaeque feminae , metu iam mortis maxime cruciabar sic ipse mecum reputans , quod in amplexus Venerio scilicet nobis cohaerentibus , quaecumque ad exitium mulieris bestia fuisset immissa , non adeo vel prudentia sollers vel artificio docta vel absistentia frugi posset provenire , ut adiacentem lateri meo laceraret mulierem , mihi vero quasi indemnato et innoxio parceret .
Ergo igitur non de pudore iam , sed de salute ipsa sollicitus , dum magister meus lectulos probe coaptando districtus inseruit et tota familia partim ministerio venationis occupata partim voluptario spectaculo adtonita meis cogitationibus liberum tribuebatur arbitrium , nec magnoque quisquam custodiendum tam mansuetum putabat asinum , paulatim furtivum pedem proferens portam , quae proxima est , potitus iam cursu memet celerrimo proripio Cenchreas pervado , quod oppidum audit quidem nobilissimae coloniae Corinthiensium , adluitur autem Aegaeo et Saronico mari . Inibi portus etiam tutissimum navium receptaculum magno frequentatur populo . Vitatis ergo turbulis et electo secreto litore prope ipsa fluctuum aspergines in quodam mollissimo harenae gremio lassum corpus porrectus refovero . Nam et ultimam diei metam curriculum solis deflexerat et vespertinae me quieti traditum dulcis somnus oppresserat .
Why are you surprised then , oh worthless ones , you legal cattle , or to speak more accurately you vultures in togas , if jurors sell verdicts for a high price these days , since in the childhood of the world a judgement made by a mortal regarding divine beauty itself succumbed to beauty’s corrupting influence , and a rural shepherd chosen by mighty Jupiter to decide , opted to win its delights for himself , to the ruin of himself and his whole race ? It was the same in another later case when Palamedes , a prince of the Achaeans , a man of great wisdom and learning , was condemned to death as a traitor by Agamemnon , through false accusations ; and again when Ulysses was preferred to Ajax , his superior in martial valour . As for the Athenians , those brilliant lawmakers , those masters of every art and science , what sort of trial did they grant Socrates ? That man of divine wisdom , he whom the Delphic oracle declared greater in knowledge than all other mortals , was faced with the malice and deceit of a wholly worthless faction , accused of corrupting the young whom rather he kept in hand , then murdered with a deadly cup of poisonous hemlock . Yet his legacy to his fellow citizens is a permanent reminder of their injustice , since to this day the greatest philosophers are of his noble persuasion , and in studying the highest happiness swear by his very name .
Lest you disapprove of my fit of indignation , and say to yourself : ‘Is
every ass to turn philosopher now ? ’ I’ll revisit the tale where I left off .
Once the judgment of Paris had been delivered , Juno and Minerva , in
sorrow and in anger , left the stage , miming their indignation at their defeat . But Venus declared her happiness by dancing joyfully in her delight , accompanied by her chorus of attendants . Then , from a pipe concealed on the very top of the mountain , wine mixed with saffron spurted into the air and rained down in a perfumed shower , sprinkling the goats grazing all around until , dyed to a richer beauty , their naturally white coats were stained deep yellow . The amphitheatre having filled with the lovely fragrance , a chasm yawned and swallowed the wooden mountain .
Now , at the audience’s clamour , a soldier ran from the theatre to
fetch the murderess from prison , condemned as I said to the wild beasts for her multiple crimes and doomed to a notorious union with me . To that end , a couch gleaming with Indian tortoiseshell , to serve as our nuptial bed , was being readied , with a high feather mattress and a flowery coverlet of silk .
But I was not only deeply ashamed of performing the act in public
and polluting myself by intercourse with that tainted woman , but tormented greatly by fear of death , since once we were linked together in Venus’ embrace whatever wild creature might appear to devour the murderess was scarcely likely to be so astoundingly clever , so well-trained , so immoderately gentle , as to maul her but spare me , the un-convicted innocent fused to her thighs . I feared then not merely for my honour , but for my very life . Now while my trainer was seeing to the assembly of our couch , and the slaves were busy preparing the hunting show or preoccupied with the delights of the scene , my thoughts were allowed free rein . None of them deemed a tame ass worthy of close attention , so I ambled forward carefully without being noticed , till , reaching the nearest gate , I raced away at top speed . Galloping six full miles fast as I could , I soon reached Cenchreae , which everyone knows is a famous slice of Corinthian territory on the Saronic Gulf , washed by the waters of the Aegean . There the port is safe for shipping and always crowded with people , so I avoided the harbour and chose a secluded stretch of shore where , next to the breaking surf , I stretched out full length on a soft bed of sand to ease my weary body , and now the sun’s chariot had rounded the final turning-post of its daily course , surrendered myself to the quiet of evening , to be conquered by sweet sleep .
Now , you sweepings of humanity , you beasts of the bar , you
gowned vultures , do you wonder that nowadays all judges and juries
put their verdicts up for sale , when in the very dawn of time , in a
suit between gods and men , the course of justice was perverted by
corruption and subornation ? When a judge chosen by the wisdom of
great Jupiter , a rustic shepherd-boy , sold the first judicial decision in
history to gratify his lust and destroyed his whole race into the
bargain ? Yes , and there was that later case between the two famous
Greek generals , when the wise and learned Palamedes was falsely
accused of treason and condemned to death and Ulysses was preferred
to Ajax , greatest and most valiant of warriors . And what about that
verdict that was returned by the Athenians , those acute lawgivers
with their encyclopedic learning ? An old man of godlike
understanding , whom the Delphic oracle had pronounced the wisest
of all human beings , ensnared by the malignant envy of a vile faction
on the charge of corrupting the young , whom he had always curbed
and restrained , was put to death by the deadly juice of a poisonous weed , leaving his fellow countrymen bearing the stigma of perpetual
shame -when now , all those years later , distinguished philosophers
embrace his doctrines as holy writ and in their devoted pursuit of
happiness swear by his name . But I have allowed myself to be carried
away by my indignation , and my readers may be objecting - ‘Do we
now have to put up with an ass playing the philosopher ? ’ So I will
come back to where I digressed in my story .
The Judgement of Paris being over , Juno and Minerva left the stage ,
looking glum and angry and expressing by their gestures their
indignation at losing ; while Venus , happy and smiling , manifested
her delight in a dance with the whole troupe . Then at the top of the
mountain there burst forth from a hidden jet a shower of wine mixed
with saffron , which rose high in the air and then drifted down over
the browsing goats and drenched them in its sweet-smelling spray , so
that beautified by this variegation they changed from their usual
white colour to saffron yellow . Then the wooden mountain was
swallowed up and disappeared into the ground , leaving the whole
theatre perfumed with the sweet fragrance .
Now , in response to the demands of the crowd , a soldier came out
and along the street to fetch the woman who , as I said , had for her
series of crimes been condemned to the beasts and was to partner me
in these brilliant nuptials of ours . Already what was to be our marital
bed was being lovingly made up , an affair of polished Indian
tortoiseshell , heaped high with cushions stuffed with down and
bright with silken coverlets . Apart from the shame of having to do
this act in public , and apart from the pollution of contact with this
loathsome and detestable woman , I was in acute and grievous fear for
my life . For I thought : there we should be , locked together in a loving
embrace , and whatever animal was let loose to devour the woman
was hardly likely to be so discriminating or well trained or so firmly
in control of its appetites as to tear to pieces the woman at my side
and spare me as the uncondemned and innocent party .
It was therefore no longer my honour but my life about which I was
concerned . My master was fully occupied in seeing that the bed was
properly set up , and the slaves were all either engaged in looking
after the animals or lost in admiring enjoyment of the spectacle . That
left me free to come to a decision . Nobody thought that much of a
watch need be kept on so docile an ass ; so I began to move step by
step towards the nearest door , then once outside I took off at my fastest gallop and kept it up for six whole miles , until I arrived at
Cenchreae . This town belongs to the famous colony of Corinth and
lies beside the Aegean sea , on the Saronic gulf . It is a very safe
harbour for shipping and has a large population . I steered clear of the
crowds and found a secluded spot on the shore ; and there in a soft
sandy hollow near the breaking waves I stretched out and rested my
weary limbs . By now the sun’s chariot had covered the last leg of its
course , and surrendering myself to the evening hush I was overcome
by sweet sleep .