'Erant in quadam civitate rex et regina. Hi tres numero filias forma conspicuas habuere, sed maiores quidem natu, quamvis gratissima specie, idonee tamen celebrari posse laudibus humanis credebantur, at vero puellae iunioris tam praecipua tam praeclara pulchritudo nec exprimi ac ne sufficienter quidem laudari sermonis humani penuria poterat. Multi denique civium et advenae copiosi, quos eximii spectaculi rumor studiosa celebritate congregabat, inaccessae formonsitatis admiratione stupidi et admoventes oribus suis dexteram primore digito in erectum pollicem residente ut ipsam prorsus deam Venerem religiosis <venerabantur> adorationibus. Iamque proximas civitates et attiguas regiones fama pervaserat deam quam caerulum profundum pelagi peperit et ros spumantium fluctuum educavit iam numinis sui passim tributa venia in mediis conversari populi coetibus, vel certe rursum novo caelestium stillarum germine non maria sed terras Venerem aliam virginali flore praeditam pullulasse.

Sic immensum procedit in dies opinio, sic insulas iam proxumas et terrae plusculum provinciasque plurimas fama porrecta pervagatur. Iam multi mortalium longis itineribus atque altissimis maris meatibus ad saeculi specimen gloriosum confluebant. Paphon nemo Cnidon nemo ac ne ipsa quidem Cythera ad conspectum deae Veneris navigabant; sacra differuntur, templa deformantur, pulvinaria proteruntur, caerimoniae negleguntur; incoronata simulacra et arae viduae frigido cinere foedatae. Puellae supplicatur et in humanis vultibus deae tantae numina placantur, et in matutino progressu virginis, victimis et epulis Veneris absentis nomen propitiatur, iamque per plateas commeantem populi frequentes floribus sertis et solutis adprecantur.'

‘Sed dum bono tanto percita saucia mente fluctuat, lucerna illa, sive perfidia pessima sive invidia noxia sive quod tale corpus contingere et quasi basiare et ipsa gestiebat, evomuit de summa luminis sui stillam ferventis olei super umerum dei dexterum. Hem audax et temeraria lucerna et amoris vile ministerium, ipsum ignis totius deum aduris, cum te scilicet amator aliquis, ut diutius cupitis etiam nocte potiretur, primus invenerit. Sic inustus exiluit deus visaque detectae fidei colluvie prorsus ex osculis et manibus infelicissimae coniugis tacitus avolavit. At Psyche statim resurgentis eius crure dextero manibus ambabus adrepto sublimis evectionis adpendix miseranda et per nubilas plagas penduli comitatus extrema consequia tandem fessa delabitur solo.’

cupid & psyche
Psyche looks upon Cupid with an oil lamp - illustration by Edmund Dulac
LINDSAY TRANSLATION (1932) pp. 126-128, 156-157
'Once upon a time there lived in a certain city a king and a queen, and they had three daughters remarkably beautiful. But though the two elder girls were as comely as you could wish, yet it didn't strike you dumb with despair to have a look at them—while as for the youngest girl, all man's praising words wre too poor to touch (let alone becomingly adorn) a beauty so glorious, so victorious.
  Citizens in crowds, and droves of pilgrims, were attracted by the fame of this extraordinary spectacle. They pressed about her, and stood moonstruck with wonder at her unapproachable loveliness. They raised their right hands to their lips, laying thumb and forefinger together and throwing her a kiss of reverence as though it were the goddess Venus herself that they adored. Already the word had gone abroad through the nearby cities and bordering countries that a goddess had been brought forth by the deep-blue womb of ocean, and nourished by the froth of the curling waves; and that she now dwelt among mortals, allowing them to gaze promiscuously on her divinity—or that, at the very least, Venus had had a Second Birth (this time from earth, not water): a Venus endowed with the flower of virginity, and germinate from a distillation of the stars.
   Every day the tale drifted further. Soon the neighbouring islands, most of the mainland, scores of provinces, were echoing with the news. Many were the hurrying men that made long journeys by land and over the deep-seas, only to gaze upon this splendid product of the age. No one set sail for Paphos; no one set sail for Cnidos—no, not even for Cythera—to come into the prescence of Venus. Her sacred rites were forgotten; her shrines were falling into ruin; her cushions were trampled on; her ceremonies were neglected; her images were ungarlanded; and the old ashes lay dirtying the desolate altar.
   A young girl had supplanted her, and the divinity of the mighty goddess was worshipped in the shrine of a human face. In her morning walks the virgin was propitiated by the victims and food-offerings due to the missing Venus. When she strolled down the street, the people rushed out and presented her with votive tablets; or they strewed her way with flowers.'

‘But while she stirred above him in the extremity of agonised joy, the lamp (actuated either by treachery, or by base envy, or by a desire to touch so lovely a body—to kiss it in a lamp’s way) spewed a drop of glowing oil from the point of its flame upon the god’s right shoulder.
  O bold and reckless lamp! base officer of love! to burn the very god of Flame—you that some lover, inspired by the need to possess the beloved even at night, first devised.
  The god, thus burnt, leaped out of bed; and spying the scattered evidence of Psyche’s forfeited truth, he made to fly mutely out of the clasp of his unfortunate wife. But Psyche, as he rose into the air, caught hold of his right leg with both hands and clung there, a wailing drag upon his upward flight. Into the cloudy zones they soared, until her muscles gave way and she dropped to earth.’

BOHN'S LIBRARY TRANSLATION (1902) pp. 84-85, 104-105
'In a certain city there lived a king and queen, who had three daughters of remarkable beauty. The charms of the two elder—and they were very great—were still thought not to exceed all possible measure of praise; but as for the youngest sister, human speech was too poor to express, much less, adequately to extol, her exquisite and surpassing loveliness. In fact, multitudes of the citizens, and of strangers, whom the fame of this extraordinary spectacle gathered to the spot, were struck dumb with astonishment at her unapproachable beauty, and moving their right hand to their lips, with the forefinger joining the elevated thumb, paid her religious adorations, just as though she were the goddess Venus herself.
  And now the tidings spread through the neighbouring cities and adjacent countries that the goddess whom the azure depths of the ocean had brought forth, and the spray of the foamy billows had nurtured, dwelt in the midst of mortals, and suffered them indiscriminately to behold her divine form; or at least, that once again, impregnated by a new emanation from the starry heavens, not the sea, but the earth, had brought forth another Venus, gifted with the flower of virginity. Thus did her fame travel rapidly evry day; thus did the news soon traverse the neighbouring islands, a great part of the continent, and multitudes of provinces. Many were the mortals who, by long journeys over land, and over the deep sea, flocked from all quarters to behold this glorious specimen of the age. No one set sail for Paphos, no one for Cnidus, nor even for Cythera, to have sight of the goddess Venus. Her sacred rites were abandoned, her temples suffered to decay, her cushions trampled under foot, her ceremonies neglected, her statues left without chaplets, and her desolate altars defiled with cold ashes. A young girl was supplicated in her stead, and the divinity of the mighty goddess was worshipped under human features; and the maiden was propitiated in her morning walks with victims and banquets offered her in the name of the absent Venus. And ever, as she passed along the streets, the people crowded round, and adoringly presented her with garlands, and scattered flowers on her path.'

‘But while she hung over him bewildered with delight so extreme at heart, the lamp, whether from treachery or baneful envy, or because it longed to touch, and to kiss, as it were, such a beautiful object, spirted a drop of scalding oil from the summit of its flame upon the right shoulder of the god. O rash, audacious lamp! vile minister to love! thus to burn the god of all fire; you whom some lover, doubtless, first invented, that he might prolong even through the night the bliss of beholding the object of his desire! The God, thus scorched, sprang from the bed, and seeing the disgraceful tokens of forfeited fidelity, without a word, was flying away from the eyes and arms of his most unhappy wife. But Psyche, the instant he arose, seized hold of his right leg with both hands, and hung on to him, a wretched appendage to his flight through the regions of the air, till at last her strength failed her, and she fell to earth.’  
Psyche looks upon Cupid illustration by Percival Goodman
Psyche looks upon Cupid - illustration by Percival Goodman

psyche clutches cupid
Amor och Psyke - sculpture by Johan Tobias Sergel
GRAVES TRANSLATION (1950) pp. 96-97, 118
‘Once upon a time there lived a king and queen who had three very beautiful daughters. They were so beautiful, in fact, that it was only just possible to find words of praise for the elder two, and to express the breath-taking loveliness of the youngest, the like of which had never been seen before, was beyond all power of human speech. Every day thousands of her father’s subjects came to gaze at her, foreigners too, and were so dumbfounded by the sight that they paid her the homage due to the Goddess Venus alone. They pressed their right thumbs and forefingers together, reverently raised them to their lips and blew kisses towards her. The news of her matchless beauty spread through neighbouring cities and countries. Some reported: “Immortal Venus, born from the deep blue sea and risen to Heaven from its foam, has descended on earth and is now incarnate as a mortal at whom everyone is allowed to gaze.” Others: “No, this time the earth, not the sea, has been impregnated by a heavenly emanation and has borne a new Goddess of Love, all the more beautiful because she is still a virgin.” The princess’s fame was carried farther and farther to distant provinces and still more distant ones and people made long pilgrimages over land and sea to witness the greatest wonder of their age. As a result, no body took the trouble to visit Venus’s shrines at Cyprian Paphos or Carian Cnidos or even in the isle of Cythera where her lovely foot first touched dry land; her festivals were neglected, her rites discontinued, the cushions on which her statues had been propped at her sacred temple feasts were kicked about on the floor, the statues themselves were left without their usual garlands, her altars were unswept and cluttered with the foul remains of months-old burned sacrifices, her temples were allowed to fall into ruins.
   When the young princess went out on her morning walks through the streets, victims were offered in her honour, sacred feasts spread for her, flowers scattered in her path, and rose garlands presented to her by an adoring crowd of suppliants who addressed her by all the titles that really belonged to the great Goddess of Love herself.’
   ‘While [Psyche] clung to [Cupid], utterly bewildered with delight, the lamp which she was still holding, whether from treachery or from envy, or because it longer as it were to touch and kiss such a marvellously beautiful body, spurted a drop of scalding oil on the God’s right shoulder. What a bold and impudent lamp, what a worthless vessel at the altar of Love—for the first lamp was surely invented by some lover who wished to prolong all night the passionate delights of his eye—so to scorch the God of all fire! Cupid sprang up in pain, and taking in the whole disgraceful scene at a glance, spread his wings and flew off without a word; but not before the poor girl had seized his right leg with both hands and clung to it. She looked very queer, carried up like that through the cloudy sky; but soon her strength failed her and she tumbled down to earth again.’

WALSH TRANSLATION (1990) pp. 75-76, 93-94
‘In a certain city there lived a king and queen with three notably beautiful daughters. The two elder ones were very attractive, yet praise appropriate to humans was thought sufficient for their fame. But the beauty of the youngest girl was so special and distinguished that our poverty of human language could not describe or even adequately praise it. In consequence, many of her fellow-citizens and hordes of foreigners, on hearing the report of this matchless prodigy, gathered in ecstatic crowds. They were dumbstruck with admiration at her peerless beauty. They would press their hands to their lips with their forefinger resting on the upright thumb, and revere her with devoted worship as if she were none other than Venus herself. Rumour had already spread through the nearest cities and bordering territories that the goddess who was sprung from the dark-blue depths of the sea and was nurtured by the foam from the frothing waves was now bestowing the favour of her divinity among random gatherings of common folk; or at any rate, that the earth rather than the sea was newly impregnated by heavenly seed, and had sprouted forth a second Venus invested with the bloom of virginity.
  This belief grew every day beyond measure. The story now became widespread; it swept through the neighbouring islands, through tracts of the mainland and numerous provinces. Many made long overland journeys and travelled over the deepest courses of the sea as they flocked to set eyes on this famed cynosure of their age. No one took ship for Paphos, Cnidos, or even Cythera to catch sight of the goddess Venus. Sacrifices in those places were postponed, shrines grew unsightly, couches became threadbare, rites went unperformed; the statues were not garlanded, and the altars were bare and grimy with cold ashes. It was the girl who was entreated in prayer. People gazed on that girl’s human countenance when appeasing the divine will of the mighty goddess. When the maiden emerged in the mornings, they sought from her the favour of the absent Venus with sacrificial victims and sacred feasts. The people crowded round her with wreaths and flowers to address their prayers, as she made her way through the streets.’
  ‘But while [Psyche’s] wounded heart pounded on being roused by such striking beauty, the lamp disgorged a drop of burning oil from the tip of its flame upon the god’s right shoulder; it could have been nefarious treachery, or malicious jealously, or the desire, so to say, to touch and kiss that glorious body. O you rash, reckless lamp, Love’s worthless servant, do you burn the very god who possesses all fire, though doubtless you were invented by some lover to ensure that he might possess for longer and even at night the object of his desire? The god started up on being burnt; he saw that he had been exposed, and that his trust was defiled. Without a word he at once flew away from the kisses and embrace of his most unhappy wife. But Psyche seized his right leg with both hands just as he rose above her. She made a pitiable appendage as he soared aloft, following in his wake and dangling in company with him as they flew through the clouds. But finally she slipped down to earth exhausted.’

Venus searches
Venus searches by Land and by Sea -
illustration by Jean de Bosschère

KENNEY TRANSLATION (1998) pp. 71-72, 88-89
‘There was once a city with a king and queen who had three beautiful daughters. The two eldest were very fair to see, but not so beautiful that human praise could not do them justice. The loveliness of the youngest, however, was so perfect that human speech was too poor to describe or even praise it satisfactorily. Indeed huge numbers of both citizens and foreigners, drawn together in eager crowds by the fame of such an extraordinary sight, were struck dumb with admiration of her unequalled beauty; and putting right thumb and forefinger to their lips they would offer outright religious worship to her as the goddess Venus. Meanwhile the news had spread through the nearby cities and adjoining regions that the goddess born of the blue depths of the sea and fostered by its foaming waves had made public the grace of her godhead by mingling with mortal men; or at least that, from a new fertilization by drops from heaven, not sea but earth had grown another Venus in the flower of her virginity. And so this belief exceeded all bounds and gained ground day by day, ranging first through the neighbouring islands, then, as the report made its way further afield, through much of the mainland and most of the provinces. Now crowds of people came flocking by long journeys and deep-sea voyages to view this wonder of the age. No one visited Paphos or Cnidos or even Cythera to see the goddess herself; her rites were abandoned, her temples disfigured, her couches trampled, her worship neglected; her statues were ungarlanded, her altars shamefully cold and empty of offerings. It was the girl to whom the prayers were addressed, and in human shape that the power of the mighty goddess was placated. When she appeared each morning it was the name of Venus, who was far away, that was propitiated with sacrifices and offerings; and as she walked the streets the people crowded to adore her with garlands and flowers.’

‘Carried away by joy and sick with love, [Psyche’s] heart was in turmoil; but meanwhile that wretched lamp, either through base treachery, or in jealous malice, or because it longed itself to touch such beauty and as it were to kiss it, disgorged from its spout a drop of hot oil on to the right shoulder of the god. What! Rash and reckless lamp, lowly instrument of love, to burn the lord of universal fire himself, when it must have been a lover who first invented the lamp so that he could enjoy his desires for even longer at night! The god, thus burned, leapt up, and seeing his confidence betrayed and sullied, flew off from the loving embrace of his unhappy wife without uttering a word. But as he rose Psyche just managed to seize his right leg with both hands, a pitiful passenger in his lofty flight; trailing attendance through the clouds she clung on underneath, but finally in her exhaustion fell to ground.’

three maids exceedingly fair (Psyche & her sisters)
Three maids exceedingly fair (Psyche & her sisters) -

 illustration by Jean de Bosschère
PATER TRANSLATION (1885) pp. 17-18, 39-40
'In a certain city lived a king and queen who had three daughters exceedingly fair. But the beauty of the elder sisters, though pleasant to behold, yet passed not the measure of human praise, while such was the loveliness of the youngest that men's speech was too poor to commend it worthily and could express it not at all. Many of the citizens and of strangers, whom the fame of this excellent vision had gathered thither, confounded by that matchless beauty, could but kiss the fingertips of their right hands at sight of her, as in adoration to the goddess Venus herself. And soon a rumour passed through the country that she whom the blue deep had borne, forbearing her divine dignity, was even then moving among men, or that by some fresh germinations from the stars, not the sea now, but the earth, had put forth a new Venus, endued with the flower of virginity. This belief, with the fame of the maiden's loveliness, went daily farther into distant lands, so that many people were drawn together to behold that glorious model of the age. Men sailed no longer to Paphos, to Cnidus or Cythera, to the presence of the goddess Venus: her sacred rites were neglected, her images stood uncrowned, the cold ashes were left to disfigure her forsaken altars. It was to a maid that men's prayers were offered, to a human countenance they looked, in propitiating so great a godhead: when the girl went forth in the morning they strewed flowers on her way, and the victims proper to that unseen goddess were presented as she passed along.'

'And it chanced that a drop of burning oil fell from the lamp upon the god's shoulder. Ah! maladroit minister of love, thus to wound him from whom all fire comes; though 'twas a lover, I trow, first devised thee, to have fruit of his desire even in the darkness! At the touch of the fire the god started up, and beholding the overthrow of her faith, quietly took flight from her embraces.
  And Psyche, as he rose upon the wing, laid hold on him with her two hands, hanging upon him in his passage through the air, till she sinks to the earth through weariness.'

ADLINGTON TRANSLATION (1639) pp. 101-102, 118-119
'There was sometimes a certaine King, inhabiting in the West parts, who had to wife a noble Dame, by whom he had three daughters exceeding fair: of whom the two elder were of such comly shape and beauty, as they did excell and passe all other women living, whereby they were thought worthily to deserve the praise and commendation of every person, and deservedly to be preferred above the residue of the common sort. Yet the singular passing beauty and maidenly majesty of the yongest daughter did so farre surmount and excell them two, as no earthly creature could by any meanes sufficiently expresse or set out the same.
By reason wherof, after the fame of this excellent maiden was spread abroad in every part of the City, the Citisens and strangers there beeing inwardly pricked by the zealous affection to behold her famous person, came daily by thousands, hundreths, and scores, to her fathers palace, who was astonied with admiration of her incomparable beauty, did no lesse worship and reverence her with crosses, signes and tokens, and other divine adorations, according to the custome of the old used rites and ceremonies, than if she were Lady Venus indeed: and shortly after the fame was spread into the next cities and bordering regions, that the goddesse whom the deep seas had born and brought forth, and the froth of the waves had nourished, to the intent to shew her high magnificencie and divine power on earth, to such as erst did honour and worship her, was now conversant amongst mortall men, or else that the earth and not the sea, by a new concourse and influence of the Celestiall planets, had budded and yeelded forth a new Venus, endued with the floure of virginity.
   So daily more and more encreased this opinion, and now is her flying fame dispersed into the next Island, and well nigh into every part and province of the whole world. Wherupon innumerable strangers resorted from farre Countries, adventuring themselves by long journies on land and by great perils on water, to behold this glorious virgin. By occasion wherof such a contempt grew towards the goddesse Venus, that no person travelled unto the Towne Paphos, nor to the Isle Gyndos, nor to Cythera to worship her. Her ornaments were throwne out, her temples defaced, her pillowes and cushions torne, her ceremonies neglected, her images and Statues uncrowned, and her bare altars unswept, and fowl with the ashes of old burnt sacrifice. For why, every person honoured and worshipped this maiden in stead of Venus, and in the morning at her first comming abroad offered unto her oblations, provided banquets, called her by the name of Venus, which was not Venus indeed, and in her honour presented floures and garlands in most reverend fashion.'

‘But alas while shee was in this great joy, whether it were for envy, for desire to touch this amiable body likewise, there fell out a droppe of burning oyle from the lampe upon the right shoulder of the god. O rash and bold lampe, the vile ministery of love, how darest thou bee so bold as to burne the god of all fire? When as he invented thee, to the intent that all lovers might with more joy passe the nights in pleasure.
  The god beeing burned in this sort, and perceiving that promise and faith was broken, hee fled away without utterance of any word, from the eyes and hands of his most unhappy wife. But Psyches fortuned to catch him as hee was rising, by the right thigh, and held him fast as hee flew above in the aire, untill such time as constrained by wearinesse she let goe and fell downe upon the ground.’
psyche & cerebus
Psyche in Hades - illustration by Edmund Dulac

Apuleius. Apulei Platonici Madaurensis Metamorphoseon Libri XI (Apulei Opera Quae Supersunt, vol I). edition & commentary by Rudulfus Helm.
Bibliotheca Teubneriana, 1907.
Apuleius. The Golden Ass. translation, notes, preface by Jack Lindsay. illustrated by Percival Goodman. New York: The Limited Editions Club, 1932.
Apuleius. The Golden Ass.translation, notes, preface by P.G. Walsh. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999 (1994).
Apuleius. The Golden Ass or Metamorphoses. translation, notes, preface by E.J. Kenney. London: Penguin, 1998.
Apuleius. The Golden Asse. translation, notes by William Adlington. preface by E.B. Osborn. illustrated by Jean de Bosschère. London:  London: John Lane - The Bodley Head, 1923.

Apuleius. The Transformations of Lucius, otherwise known as The Golden Ass. translation, notes by Robert Graves. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000 (1950).
 Apuleius. The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche.
translation by Walter Pater. illustrated by Edmund Dulac. originally printed as part of the novel Marius the Epicurean.
           London: Macmillan, 1885
. (reprinted, Norwalk, Connecticut: The Heritage Press, 1951.)
Apuleius. The Works of Apuleius, comprising The Metamorphoses, or Golden Ass, The God of Socrates, The Florida and His Defence, or a Discourse on
    Magic (a new translation); to which are added, A Metrical Version of Cupid and Psyche and Mrs. Tighe's Psyche (a Poem in six Cantos).
translation, notes,
    preface by unknown. Bohn's Libraries. London: George Bell & Sons, 1902.


last modified 27-Jan-2002