previous next

Apuleius, Lucius

A Roman writer of the African Period, born at Madaura, in Numidia, about A.D. 130. Having been educated at Carthage, he went to Athens to study philosophy, especially that of Plato; later, he travelled far and wide, everywhere obtaining initiation into the mysteries. For some time he lived in Rome as an advocate. After returning to Africa, he married a lady considerably older than himself, the mother of a friend, Aemilia Pudentilla, whereupon her kinsmen charged him with having won the rich widow's hand by magic, and of having contrived the death of her son—a charge to which he replied with much wit in his oration De Magia (earlier than A.D. 161). He afterwards settled down at Carthage, and thence made excursions through Africa, delivering orations or lectures. Of the rest of his life and the year of his death nothing is known. Beside the apology above-mentioned, and a few rhetorical and philosophic writings, another work, his chief one, also survives, which was composed at a ripe age, with hints borrowed from a book of Lucian's. This is a satirical and fantastic moral romance, Metamorphoseon Libri XI. (de Asino Aureo), the adventures of one Lucius, who is transformed into an ass, and under that disguise has the amplest opportunities of observing, undetected, the preposterous doings of mankind. Then, enlightened by this experience, and with the enchantment taken off him by admission into the mysteries of Osiris, he becomes quite a new man. Of the many episodes interwoven into the story, the most interesting is the beautiful allegorical fairy tale of Cupid and Psyche, so much used by later poets and artists. Throughout the book Apuleius paints the moral and religious conditions of his time with much humour and in life-like colours, although his language, while clever, is often affected, bombastic, and disfigured by obsolete and provincial phrases. The editio princeps is that published at Rome in 1469; and the most elaborate edition remains that of F. Oudendorp (Leyden, 1786-1823). The Cupid and Psyche was translated in 1566 by Adlington, whose version was reprinted (London, 1887), with an introduction by Andrew Lang. Of the Golden Ass, as a whole, there is an English translation by Sir G. Head (1851), and of the whole of Apuleius (1853). The best edition of the entire works is that by G. F. Hildebrand (Leipzig, 1842). O. Jahn has edited the Cupid and Psyche separately (Leipzig, 1856).

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: