or APULEIUS (inscriptions and the oldest MSS. generally exhibit the double consonant, see Cren. Animad. Phil. P. xi. sub. init.; Oudendorp, ad Apul. Asin.
not. p. 1), chiefly celebrated as the author of the Golden Ass,
was born in the early part of the second century in Africa, at Madaura, which was originally attached to the kingdom of Syphax, was transferred to Masinissa at the close of the second Punic war, and having been eventually colonized by a detachment of Roman veterans, attained to considerable splendour.
This town was situated far inland on the border line between Numidia and Gaetulia, and hence Appuleius styles himself Seminumida
declaring at the same time, that he had no more reason to feel ashamed of his hybrid origin than the elder Cyrus, who in like manner might be termed Semimedus
pp. 443, 444, ed. Florid.) His father was a man of high respectability, who having filled the office of duumvir and enjoyed all the other dignities of his native town, bequeathed at his death the sum of nearly two millions of sesterces to his two sons. (Apolog.
p. 442.) Appuleius received the first rudiments of education at Carthage, renowned at that period as a school of literature (Florida,
iv. p. 20), and afterwards proceeded to Athens, where he became warmly attached to the tenets of the Platonic philosophy, and, prosecuting his researches in many different departments, laid the foundations of that copious stock of various and profound learning by which he was subsequently so distinguished.
He next travelled extensively, visiting, it would appear, Italy, Greece, and Asia, acquiring a knowledge of a vast number of religious opinions and modes of worship, and becoming initiated in the greater number of the mysteries and secret fraternities so numerous in that age. (De Mundo,
p. 729; Apolog.
p. 494.) Not long after his return home, although he had in some degree diminished his patrimony by his long-continued course of study, by his protracted residence in foreign countries, and by various acts of generosity towards his friends and old instructors (Apolog.
p. 442), he set out upon a new journey to Alexandria. (Apolog.
p. 518.) On his way thither he was taken ill at the town of Oea, and was hospitably received into the house of a young man, Sicinius Pontianus, with whom he had lived upon terms of close intimacy, a few years previously, at Athens. (Apolog.
p. 518) The mother of Pontianus, Pudentilla by name, was a very rich widow whose fortune was at her own disposal.
With the full consent, or rather in compliance with the earnest solicitation of her son, the young philosopher agreed to marry her. (Apolog.
p. 518.) Meanwhile Pontianus himself was united to the daughter of a certain Herennius Rufinus, who being indignant that so much wealth should pass out of the family, instigated his son-in-law, together with a younger brother, Sicinius Pudens, a mere boy, and their paternal uncle, Sicinius Aemilianus, to join him in impeaching Appuleius upon the charge, that he had gained the affections of Pudentilla by charms and magic spells. (Apolog.
pp. 401, 451, 521, 522, &c.)
The accusation seems to have been in itself sufficiently ridiculous.
The alleged culprit was young, highly accomplished, eloquent, popular, and by no means careless in the matters of dress and personal adornment, although, according to his own account, he was worn and wan from intense application. (Apolog.
p. 406, seqq. 421, compare p. 547.)
The lady was nearly old enough to be his mother; she had been a widow for fourteen years, and owned to forty, while her enemies called her sixty; in addition to which she was by no means attractive in her appearance, and had, it was well known, been for some time desirous again to enter the married state. (Apolog.
pp. 450, 514, 520, 535, 546, 541, 547.)
The cause was heard at Sabrata before Claudius Maximus, proconsul of Africa (Apolog.
pp. 400, 445, 501), and the spirited and triumphant defence spoken by Appuleius is still extant. Of his subsequent career we know little. Judging from the voluminous catalogue of works attributed to his pen, he must have devoted himself most assiduously to literature; he occasionally declaimed in public with great applause; he had the charge of exhibiting gladiatorial shows and wild beast hunts in the province, and statues were erected in his honour by the senate of Carthage and of other states. (Apolog.
pp. 445, 494; Florid.
iii. n. 16; Augustin. Ep.
Nearly the whole of the above particulars are derived from the statements contained in the writings of Appuleius, especially the Apologia; but in addition to these, we find a considerable number of circumstances recorded in almost all the biographies prefixed to his works. Thus we are told that his praenomen was Lucius; that the name of his father was Theseus; that his mother was called Salvia, was of Thessalian extraction, and a descendant of Plutarch; that when he visited Rome he was entirely ignorant of the Latin language, which he acquired without the aid of an instructor, by his own exertions; and that, having dissipated his fortune, he was reduced at one time to such abject poverty, that he was compelled to sell the clothes which he wore, in order to pay the fees of admission into the mysteries of Osiris.
These and other details as well as a minute portrait of his person, depend upon the untenable supposition, that Appuleius is to be identified with Lucius the hero of his romance.
That production being avowedly a work of fiction, it is difficult to comprehend upon what principle any portion of it could be held as supplying authentic materials for the life of its author, more especially when some of the facts so extracted are at variance with those deduced from more trustworthy sources; as, for example, the assertion that he was at one time reduced to beggary, which is directly contradicted by a passage in the Apologia referred to above, where he states that his fortune had been merely "modice imminutum" by various expenses.
In one instance only does he appear to forget himself (Met.
xi. p. 260), where Lucius is spoken of as a native of Madaura, but no valid conclusion can be drawn from this, which is probably an oversight, unless we are at the same time prepared to go as far as Saint Augustine, who hesitates whether we ought not to believe the account given of the transformation of Lucius, that is, Appuleius, into an ass to be a true narrative.
It is to this fanciful identification, coupled with the charges preferred by the relations of Pudentilla, and his acknowledged predilection for mystical solemnities, that we must attribute the belief, which soon became current in the ancient world, that he really possessed the supernatural powers attributed to him by his enemies.
The early pagan controversialists, as we learn from Lactantius, were wont to rank the marvels said to have been wrought by him along with those ascribed to Apollonsius of Tyana, and to appeal to these as equal to, or more wonderful than, the miracles of Christ. (Lactant. Div. Inst.
A generation later, the belief continued so prevalent, that St. Augustine was requested to draw up a serious refutation--a task which that renowned prelate executed in the inmost satisfactory manner, by simply referring to the oration of Appuleius himself. (Marcellin. Ep.
iv. ad Augustin.
and Augustin. Ep.
v. ad Marcellin.
No one can peruse a few pages of Appuleius without being at once impressed with his conspicuous excellences and glaring defects. We find everywhere an exuberant play of fancy, liveliness, humour, wit, learning, acuteness, and not unfrequently, real eloquence. On the other hand, no style can be more vicious.
It is in the highest degree unnatural, both in its general tone and also in the phraseology employed.
The former is disfigured by the constant recurrence of ingenious but forced and tumid conceits and studied prettinesses, while the latter is remarkable for the multitude of obsolete words ostentatiously paraded in almost every sentence.
The greater number of these are to be found in the extant compositions of the oldest dramatic writers, and in quotations preserved by the grammarians; and those for which no authority can be produced were in all probability drawn from the same source, and not arbitrarily coined to answer the purpose of the moment, as some critics have imagined.
The least faulty, perhaps, of all his pieces is the Apologia. Here he spoke from deep feeling, and although we may in many places detect the inveterate affectation of the rhetorician, yet there is often a bold, manly, straight-forward heartiness and truth which we seek in vain in those compositions where his feelings were less touched.
We do not know the year in which our author was born, nor that in which he died.
But the names of Lollius Urbicus, Scipio Orfitus, Severianus, Lollianus Avitus, and others who are incidentally mentioned by him as his contemporaries, and who from other sources are known to have held high offices under the Antonines, enable us to determine the epoch when he flourished.
Extant works of Appuleius
The extant works of Appuleius are:
This celebrated romance, which, together with the ὄνος
of Lucian, is said to have been founded upon a work bearing the same title by a certain Lucius of Patrae (Photius, Bibl.
cod. cxxix. p. 165) belonged to the class of tales distinguished by the ancients under the title of Milesiae fabulae.
It seems to have been intended simply as a satire upon the hypocrisy and debauchery of certain orders of priests, the frauds of juggling pretenders to supernatural powers, and the general profligacy of public morals.
There are some however who discover a more recondite meaning, and especially the author of the Divine Legation of Moses, who has at great length endeavoured to prove, that the Golden Ass was written with the view of recommending the Pagan religion in opposition to Christianity, which was at that time making rapid progress, and especially of inculcating the importance of initiation into the purer mysteries. (Div. Leg.
bk. ii. sect. iv.)
The epithet Aureus
is generally supposed to have been bestowed in consequence of the admiration in which the tale was held, for being considered as the most excellent composition of its kind, it was compared to the most excellent of metals, just as the apophthegms of Pythagoras were distinguished as χρνσᾶ ἔπη
. Warburton, however, ingeniously contends that aureus
was the common epithet bestowed upon all Milesian tales, because they were such as strollers used to rehearse for a piece of money to the rabble in a circle, after the fashion of oriental story-tellers.
He founds his conjecture upon an expression in one of Pliny's Epistles (2.20), assem para, et accipe auream fabulam,
which seems, however, rather to mean " give me a piece of copper and receive in return a story worth a piece of gold, or, precious as gold," which brings us back to the old explanation.
The well-known and exquisitely beautiful episode of Cupid and Psyche is introduced in the 4th, 5th, and 6th books.
This, whatever opinion we may form of the principal narrative, is evidently an allegory, and is generally understood to shadow forth the progress of the soul to perfection.
, containing select extracts from various orations and dissertations, collected probably by some admirer.
It has, however, been imagined that we have here a sort of common-place-book, in which Appuleius registered, from time to time, such ideas and forms of expression as he thought worth preserving, with a view to their insertion in some continuous composition.
This notion, although adopted by Oudendorp, has not found many supporters.
It is wonderful that it should ever have been seriously propounded.
This treatise has been roughly attacked by St. Augustine.
De Dogmate Platonis Libri tres.
The first book contains some account of the speculative doctrines
of Plato, the second of his morals,
the third of his logic.
A translation of the work περὶ κόσμου
, at one time ascribed to Aristotle.
The oration described above, delivered before Claudius Maximus.
Scholars are at variance with regard to the authenticity of this translation of the Asclepian dialogue.
As to the original, see Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
Besides these a number of works now lost are mentioned incidentally by Appuleius himself, and many others belonging to some
Appuleius are cited by the grammarians.
He professes to be the author of “poemata omne genus apta virgae, lyrae, socco, cothurno, item satiras ac griphos, item histories varias rerum nec non orationes laudatas disertis nec non dialogos laudatos philosophis,
” both in Greek and Latin (Florid.
2.9, iii 18, 20, 4.24); and we find especial mention made of a collection of poems on playful and amatory themes, entitled Ludicra,
from which a few fragments are quoted in the Apologia. (pp. 408, 409, 414; compare 538.)
The Editio Princeps was printed at Rome, by Sweynheym and Pannartz, in the year 1469, edited by Andrew, bishop of Aleria.
It is excessively rare, and is considered valuable in a critical point of view, because it contains a genuine text honestly copied from MSS., and free from the multitude of conjectural emendations by which nearly all the rest of the earlier editions are corrupted.
It is, moreover, the only old edition which escaped mutilation by the Inquisition.
An excellent edition of the Asinus appeared at Leyden in the year 1786, printed in 4to., and edited by Oudendorp and Ruhnken. Two additional volumes, containing the remaining works, appeared at Leyden in 1823, edited by Boscha. A new and very elaborate edition of the whole works of Appuleius has been published at Leipzig, 1842, by G. F. Hildebrand.
A great number of translations of the Golden Ass are to be found in all the principal European languages. The last English version is that by Thomas Taylor, in one volume 8vo., London, 1822, which contains also the tract De Deo Socratis.