His actis et rebus meis in illo cubiculo conditis, pergens ipse ad balneas, ut prius aliquid nobis cibatui prospicerem, forum cuppedinis peto, inque eo piscatum opiparem expositum video et percontato pretio, quod centum nummis indicaret, aspernatus viginti denarios praestinaui. inde me commodum egredientem continatur Pythias condiscipulus apud Athenas Atticas meus, qui me post aliquantum multum temporis amanter agnitum invadit amplexusque ac comiter deosculatus: ‘mi Luci,’ ait ‘sat pol diu est quod intervisimus te, at hercules exinde cum a Clytio magistro digressi sumus. quae autem tibi causa peregrinationis huius?’ ‘crastino die scies,’ inquam ‘sed quid istud? voti gaudeo. nam et lixas et virgas et habitum prorsus magistratui congruentem in te video.’ ‘annonam curamus’ ait ‘et aedilem gerimus et si quid obsonare cupis utique commodabimus.’ abnuebam, quippe qui iam cenae affatim piscatum prospexeramus. sed enim Pythias visa sportula succussisque in aspectum planiorem piscibus: ‘at has quisquilias quanti parasti?’ ‘vix’ inquam ‘piscatori extorsimus accipere viginti denarium.’ quo audito statim arrepta dextera postliminio me in forum cuppedinis reducens: ‘et a quo’ inquit ‘istorum nugamenta haec comparasti?’ demonstro seniculum—in angulo sedebat—quem confestim pro aedilitatis imperio voce asperrima increpans: ‘iam iam’ inquit ‘nec amicis quidem nostris vel omnino ullis hospitibus parcitis, quod tam magnis pretiis pisces frivolos indicatis et florem Thessalicae regionis ad instar solitudinis et scopuli edulium caritate deducitis? sed non impune. iam enim faxo scias quem ad modum sub meo magisterio mali debeant coerceri’, et profusa in medium sportula iubet officialem suum insuper pisces inscendere ac pedibus suis totos obterere. qua contentus morum severitudine meus Pythias ac mihi ut abirem suadens: ‘sufficit mihi, o Luci,’ inquit ‘seniculi tanta haec contumelia.’ his actis consternatus ac prorsus obstupidus ad balneas me refero, prudentis condiscipuli valido consilio et nummis simul privatus et cena, lautusque ad hospitium Milonis ac dehinc cubiculum me reporto.
(Apuleius, Met. 1.24.3-25.6)
Once this was under way, and my belongings placed in the room, I set off for the baths alone. But first I headed for the market, wanting to secure my supper. I saw plenty of fine fish on display, but when I asked the price and was told what they cost I haggled, buying a gold coin’s worth for twenty per cent less. Just as I was moving on, I encountered Pythias, who had been a student with me in Athens . He recognised me and gave me a friendly embrace though it had all been long ago, rushing up and kissing me affectionately. “By Pollux, Lucius my friend it is ages since I saw you last. It was when we said goodbye to Clytius our teacher, by Hercules. What brings you here in your travels?” “I’ll tell you tomorrow,” I said “but what’s this? Congratulations! You’ve attendants with rods of office, and you’re dressed as a magistrate.” “I’m the inspector of markets, controller of supplies, and if you want help in purchasing anything I’m your man.” “Thanks, but there’s no need,” I said, having bought enough fish for supper, but Pythias saw my basket and poked the fish to inspect them. “What did you pay for this stuff?” he asked. “I twisted the man’s arm and he charged me twenty denarii” I answered. On hearing this he grabbed my arm, and dragged me back to the market. “Which of the fish-merchants,” he said “did you buy that rubbish from?” I pointed out a little old man sitting in a corner, and Pythias immediately began berating him in the harsh tones befitting authority. “Now, you even cheat visitors, like this friend of mine. You mark up worthless goods to stupid prices, and reduce Hypata, the flower of Thessaly, to the equivalent of a barren rock in the desert, with the costliness of your wares. But don’t think you’ll get away with it. I’ll show you how this magistrate deals with rogues.” And he emptied my basket out on the pavement, and ordered an assistant to crush them to pulp with his feet. Satisfied with this stern display of morality, my friend Pythias advised me to leave, saying: “Lucius, it’s enough that I’ve chastised the fellow.” Astonished, utterly stupefied, by this turn of events, I carried on to the baths, robbed of money and supper by the worldly-wise authoritativeness of my erstwhile fellow-student. After bathing, I returned to Milo’s house and my room. (tr. Anthony S. Kline)