Pay a penny and receive a story, rather stories, for the first remind me of earlier ones and nor does it matter with which I begin.
Verania was lying seriously ill, and Regulus came to her. First the impudence of a man who came to a sick lady whose husband had been a great enemy and to her, most detested. Let it pass if he only visited her, but he also sat very near her bed; and asked on what day and what hour she was born. When he heard, he composes his expression, stared intently, moves his lips, moves his finger quickly and makes calculations. Nothing. When he kept the poor lady in suspense for a long time, he says, ‘You have evaded a critical time, and you will survive. But to make it more clear to you I will consult a soothsayer whom I have frequently used.’ Without delay, he makes a sacrifice and declares that the entrails agree with the meaning of the stars. She, in danger and ready to believe as you may expect, asks for her will and makes a legacy for Regulus. Soon she grows worse, and dying she exclaims that with man is wicked and treacherous and even more than perjured, he who had sworn a false oath through the safety of his soon. Regulus does this no less wickedly than frequently because he calls down onto the head of that unfortunate boy, the anger of the gods whom he deceives every day.
Valleius Blaesus, that wealthy ex consul, was afflicted with a terminal illness; he was wanting to change his will. Regulus was hoping for something from the new will, because recently he had begun to in his favour, was encouraging and asking the doctors in what way they could prolong the life of the old man. After the will was signed, he changes his tune, alters his tone and says to the same doctors, ‘How long are you torturing the poor man? Why do you begrudge him a good death, when you could not give a good life?’ Blaesus dies, and as if he heard everything did not even leave him the least amount.
Lucius is travelling through Thessaly, in Greece. By chance he meets a lady called Byrrhaena, who invites him to a dinner party. At the party, Lucius is asked what he thinks of Thessaly; he replies that he is impressed, but worried by stories he has heard about the local witches, who are in the habit of cutting pieces of flesh from corpses. One of the guests laughingly points to a man hidden away in the corner of the room, saying that he has suffered this fate while still alive. The man, whose name is Theylphron, is urged by Byrrhaena to tell his story. He reluctantly agrees.
When I was a young man I set off from Miletus to the Olympic Games and since I wanted to visit these sights of the famous province (of…