rags, without money and in a sadly dilapidated state. It is his old friend, Socrates. He says to him, â€œAlas, my Socrates, what meaneth this? How fareth it with thee? What crime has thou committed?â€? He tells Socrates that there is lamentation and weeping for him at home and that his wife has been forced to take a new husband. He discovers that Socrates, on his travels as a merchant, had been set upon by robbers, but escaped with his life. He was allowed to go free, for he was too old to be a slave, and so went to the house of an old woman who sold wine and who was called Meroe.
The name Meroe is generally associated with the Latin merum, meaning wine unmixed with water. A man who drank wine without water was a drunkard, and therefore this old woman is an innkeeper and herself likes the bottle a lot. Meroe is also the actual name of an island in the upper Nile, very little known at that time, which was said to be a magic place like Thule, or the Celtic Avalon, the faraway fairy-tale island. Perhaps this association was also somewhere in Apuleiusâ€™s mind, more so since one met there Pan and Isis.6 The old innkeeper is sex-mad, as only an old woman can be, and she takes possession of poor old Socrates, who has to serve her day and night. He tries to get away from her but discovers that she is a very powerful witch. He says: Verily, she is a magician, a witch! She hath power to bring down the sky, to