Lucius Apuleius Platonicus (c. AD 123/125-c. AD 180)

Biographical note

Apuleius was born in Madaurus (now M'Daourouch, Algeria), a Roman colony in Numidia on the North African coast, bordering Gaetulia. Details regarding his life come mostly from his defense speech (see below) and a work entitled "Florida," which consists of selections taken from some of his speeches. He inherited a substantial fortune from his father, a provincial magistrate. Apuleius studied with a master at Carthage (where he later settled) and later at Athens, where he studied Platonic philosophy among other subjects. He subsequently went to Rome to study Latin oratory and, most likely, to declaim in the law courts for a time before returning to his native North Africa. He also travelled extensively in Asia Minor and Egypt, studying philosophy and religion, burning up his inheritance while doing so.

After being accused of using magic to gain the attentions and fortune of a wealthy widow, he declaimed and then distributed a witty tour de force in his own defense. This is known as the Apologia (A Discourse on Magic). It is among the funniest works that have come down to us from Antiquity and firmly places Apuleius among the great humorists of his day.

Apuleius is best remembered for his bawdy picaresque Latin novel the Metamorphosis, otherwise known as The Golden Ass or, in Latin, the Aureus Asinus (where the Latin word aureus - golden - connoted an element of blessed luckiness). The Metamorphosis is the only Latin novel that has survived in its entirety. It is an imaginative, irreverent, and amusing work that relates the ludicrous adventures of one Lucius, who experiments in magic and is accidentally turned into an ass. In this guise he hears and sees many unusual things, until escaping from his predicament in a rather unexpected way. Within this story are found multiple digressions, the longest among them being the well-known tale of Cupid and Psyche.

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