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The Golden Ass (Penguin Classics)by Lucius Apuleius
Synopses & Reviews
In all of literature, there are few books with the vitality of The Golden Ass. Boccaccio borrowed freely from it; later it served to amuse and instruct Cervantes, Henry Fielding, and Tobias George Smoollett. T. E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, carried it with him in his saddlebags all through the Arab Revolt, and it was Lawrence who first introduced the book to his friend Robert Graves.<P>The story follows Lucius, a young man of good birth, as he disports himself in the cities and along the roads of Thessaly. He encounters many diverting and strange adventures, not the least of which occurs when he betrays a priestess of the White Goddess — for his offense, he suffers the indignity of being turned into an ass. How Lucius supports his misfortune and contrives at last to appease the goddess and resume his human form make up the body of this tale abounding in lusty incident, curious adventure, and bawdy wit.
Lucius is a young man whose fascination with witchcraft leads him to believe he can be transformed into a bird, but instead he becomes a donkey. Whirled off by robbers, he embarks on a series of adventures and misadventures.
Lucius, a young man whose fascination with witchcraft leads him to believe he can be transformed into a bird, instead becomes a donkey. Whirled off by robbers, he embarks on a series of adventures and misadventures. Confronted eventually with the prospect of a stage performance where he is supposed to demonstrate his sexual prowess with a woman, he is overwhelmed by a religious vision and is finally initiated into the cult of the goddess Isis.
It has been long disputed whether Apuleius meant this last-minute conversion seriously or as a final comic surprise and the challenge of interpretation continues to keep readers fascinated by this work. Apuleius’ Golden Ass is the most continuously and accessibly amusing book that has come down to us from classical antiquity.
Includes bibliographical references (p. xxxix-xli) and index.
About the Author
Apuleius was born about AD 125 in Madaura or Madauros (moden Mdaurusch), a Roman colony in the North African province of Numidia. His father, from whom he inherited a substantial fortune, was one of the two chief magistrates (duouiri) of the city. For his education Apuleius was sent first to Carthage, the capital of roman North Africa, and then to Athens. During his time abroad he traveled widely, spending some time in Rome, where he practiced as a pleader in the courts. While detained by illness on his way home at Oea in Tripoli, he met and married the wealthy widow Pudentilla. This was at the instance of one of her sons, whome he had known at Rome; but other members of her family objected and prosecuted Apuleius on various charges, principally that of winning Pudentilla's affections by magic. Their accuations were brilliantly and it would seem successfully rebutted by Apuleius in his Apology, delivered in or shortly before AD 160. He appears to have spent the rest of his life in Carthage, where he became a notable public figure, holding the chief priesthood of the province and honoured with a statue. His contemporary reputation rested on his neo-Platonic philosophical writings, of which the most important that survive are On the God of Socrates (De de Socratis) and On Plato and His Doctrine (De Platone et eius dogmate), and on his oratory, of which we have excerpted speciments in his Florida. The modern world knows him best as the author of the great serio-comic novel The Golden Ass or Transformations (Metamorphoses), which he is generally thought to have written after his return to Carthage. He probably died about AD 180.
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