Shortly after his accidental transformation into an ass, Lucius attempts to return to his human form by grabbing some roses decorating a statue of the patron goddess of the quadrupeds, Epona. But his servulus feels outraged at the sacrilegious act. Jumping to his feet in a temper and acting as a faithful defender of the sacred place, he addresses his former human owner as a new ‘Catiline’ (Apul. Met. 3.27):
Quod me pessima scilicet sorte conantem servulus meus, cui semper equi cura mandata fuerat, repente conspiciens indignatus exurgit et: ‘quo usque tandem’ inquit ‘cantherium patiemur istum paulo ante cibariis iumentorum, nunc etiam simulacris deorum infestum? Quin iam ego istum sacrilegum debilem claudumque reddam.’
My attempt was frustrated by what seemed to be the worst of luck: my own dear servant, who always had the task of looking after my horse, suddenly saw what was going on, and jumped up in a rage. ‘For how long’, he cried, ‘are we to endure this clapped-out beast? A minute ago his target was the animals' rations, and now he is attacking even the statues of deities! See if I don't maim and lame this sacrilegious brute!’
A self-evident instance of parody, the servant's words ironically reformulate one of the most familiar texts of Republican oratory, the famous opening of Cicero's first invective against Catiline, delivered before the assembled senate in the Temple of Jupiter Stator on 8 November 63 b.c.
: the substitution of a low and familiar word such as cantherium
underpins the comic undertone of the entire passage, imbued with further reminiscences of Cicero. Scholars debate whether the servant's verbal attack against Lucius is a parodic adaptation of Cicero's opening invective or rather a spoof on Catiline's paradoxical reading of Cicero's phrase in Sallust (Sall. Cat
. 20.9). It is safer to assume a case of double imitation, not unusual in Apuleius' work.