Apuleius, Metamorphoses 2.12ff.:


The full text of the episode reads:

(Lucius speaking): "At Corinth where I live, there is a Chaldaean visitor right now throwing the whole city everywhere into an uproar with his marvelous oracular responses, collecting donations for his public announcements of fateís secrets. He tells what day will make marriage-bonds strong or wall-foundations lasting, which day is advantageous for the businessman, illustrious for the traveler, or seasonable for sailing. When I asked him about the outcome of this trip of mine, he gave several strange and quite contradictory responses: on the one hand my reputation will really flourish, but on the other I will become a long story, an unbelievable tale, a book in several volumes."

Here Milo asked with a smile, "What does this Chaldaean friend of yours look like, and what name does he go by?" "He is tall," I responded, "and rather swarthy, and his name is Diophanes." "Thatís the one," he said, "and none other. You see, he has also been here in our town, making the same sort of revelations to numerous people. He had already taken in, not just small contributions, but fat profits, when, poor fellow, he met with an awkward -- or should I rather say, a cruel turn of Fortune.

"One day, you see, he was surrounded by a crowded circle of citizenry and handing out their fates to the audience gathered around him, when he was approached by a salesman named Cerdo who wanted a suitable day to start traveling. Diophanes chose it and assigned it to him. The salesman had just put down his purse, poured out his coins, and counted out a hundred denarii as payment for the divination, when suddenly a young gentleman came sneaking up from behind, grabbed the Chaldaean by the cloak and swung him around, kissing and hugging him tightly. The latter, after he returned the kiss and made the young man sit down beside him, was so astonished and dumbfounded by this sudden appearance that he forgot the business he was then about. "I have been so hoping you would come," he said to the youth. "How long ago did you get here?" "Yesterday at nightfall," the other replied. "But now it is your turn, my dear brother. Tell me, after you sailed away from the island of Euboea in such a hurry, how was the rest of your trip, both by sea and on the road?"

"Then Diophanes, our excellent Chaldaean, not yet back to his senses, thoughtlessly answered: "I wish all our foes and enemies would encounter such a dreadful, really Odyssean voyage. First, the ship we were sailing on was battered by storm-blasts from every direction, lost both its rudders, and was with difficulty beached on the farther shore, where it sank straight to the bottom. We lost all our belongings and barely managed to swim ashore. Whatever we then collected out of strangersí pity or friendsí kindness was all stolen by a band of robbers, and Arignotus, my only brother, who was trying to put up a defense against their bold attack, had his throat slit before my very eyes, poor wretch."

"While he was still woefully recounting this tale, Cerdo the salesman snatched up the coins he had intended as a payment for his prophecy and fled at full speed. It was only then that Diophanes finally woke up and discovered the catastrophe caused by his carelessness, when he saw all of us who were standing around dissolved in loud laughter." (Loeb trans.)