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The Golden Ass

Or, A Book of Changes

Translated, with Introduction, by Joel C. Relihan

2007 - 328 pp.

Format ISBN Price Qty
Cloth 978-0-87220-888-9
Paper 978-0-87220-887-2
Examination 978-0-87220-887-2

The Golden Ass

eBook available for $12.50. Click HERE for more information.


To hear Joel Relihan read selections from his translation, or to view a full index to the translation, please visit The Golden Ass title support page by clicking HERE. 


Relihan uses alliteration and assonance, rhythm and rhyme, the occasional archaism, the rare neologism, and devices of punctuation and typography, to create a sparkling, luxurious, and readable translation that reproduces something of the linguistic and comic effects of the original Latin. The general Introduction is a masterpiece of clarity, orienting the reader in matters of authorship, narration, genre, religion, structure and style. A generous and browsable index, select bibliography, and maps are included.


"Relihan is an American Euphues.  I like everything about this edition from the title page to the index. The translation is magnificent."
     —Stanley Lombardo, Department of Classics, University of Kansas



"This is easily the best English translation of The Golden Ass. I find that undergraduates with little or no knowledge of classical literature or the Greco-Roman world can readily read and enjoy it—as accessible as Graves or Ruden, but much more true to Apuleius's text and sensibility. Relihan's introduction is a great distillation of scholarly commentary—superb in all aspects."
     —Robin Walz, University of Alaska Southeast



"I've been teaching Apuleius' The Golden Ass off and on for thirty years, first at Dartmouth College and now at Carleton College. Our problem—that shared by all of us who treasure this great romance or novel from late antiquity—has always been translations of The Golden Ass. There's nothing terribly wrong with previous translations; but none captures the wit and candor of Apuleius until now. This term, I used the new translation by Joel Relihan in a Carleton course and the results were beyond my very lofty expectations: students, for the first time, had something close to direct access to Apuleius' prose and they responded with an enthusiasm I've never encountered before. Relihan has given Apuleius a voice in English as never before, and my students and I laughed out loud, often, in reading passages aloud, and we felt the power of Apuleius' wit and open vulgarity. Relihan's translation will be one that many of us will use again and again in the years and decades ahead."
     —Robert A. Oden, Jr., Professor of Religion, President of Carleton College


"Joel C. Relihan's translation is an excellent improvement on earlier translations . . . it is, lively, accurate, learned, and lucid. . . . My students really loved it."
     —Ann O. Koloski-Ostrow, Brandeis University



"Relihan's is a legitimate and generally successful, frequently even delightful, attempt to reproduce the "readable weirdness" (as he calls it in his introduction) of Apuleian Latin; he is very often more felicitous than others, and the fact that he manages this while simultaneously giving his translation a more modern feel makes it a good choice for students in a particular. Another important point in its favor is the appealing supplemental material: there are maps (indispensable for an odyssey), and the introduction and bibliography are up to date, incorporating the main scholarship since the 1960's and especially since the sea-change of the 1980's. . . . I can imagine that in ten years this will be the Golden Ass against which I will measure others."
     —Nancy Shumate, Smith College


"This daring rendition of the Metamorphoses is the only recent translation to bring out the unique euphuism of Apuleius' style and to convey vividly the text's kinship with oral storytelling. Relihan revels in Apuleian alliteration, striking archaisms, and lively colloquialisms, and keeps us always aware that we are listening to stories told aloud.  Readers cannot fail to take delight in it."
     —Ellen Finkelpearl, Scripps College


"Learned and lively, smart and sassy, and fun from beginning to end—that is Apuleius' Golden Ass, and Joel Relihan's new American translation captures the spirit, the style, and the pleasure of it. Here is a version to savor and enjoy, as you accompany the world's cleverest donkey on his journey to enlightenment." 
     —David Konstan, Brown University


"In ways that earlier translations of Apuleius have rarely tried to do, [Relihan] really is successful at presenting us with rhetorical effects and verbal surprises which accurately reflect those of Apuleius—his internal rhymes and assonances, his plays on words, and above all his showmanship. . . . Relihan gives us such delicious phrases as 'unraveled the maze of knits and knots of their interchange and interweaving' and 'a stunning, skyscraping construction.' Or consider the restraint with which he captures the soft cadence of Isis’s address to Lucius in the final book: 'An observance as old as time itself has claimed for me this day the day that shall be born from this your night, when the whirlwinds of the winter are over and gone, when the storm-stirred waves of the sea are calmed . . .' 
     "Like Apuleius himself, Relihan as translator is always dressed up for the occasion, always ready at a variety of tempos to welcome us to his show of verbal virtuosity.”
     —Warren S. Smith, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of New Mexico,
in the International Journal of the Classical Tradition



Joel C. Relihan is Professor of Classics, Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts.

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