The Golden Ass: The Transformations of Lucius
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The story of The Golden Ass is that of Lucius Apuleius, a young man of good birth who encountered many strange adventures while disporting himself along the roads to Thessaly. Not the least of these occurred when Apuleius offended a priestess of the White Goddess, who turned him into an ass. The tale of how Apuleius dealt with this misfortune and eventually resumed human form is conveyed by Robert Graves in modern English that is infused with a bawdy wit and sense of adventure that is "itself a small masterpiece of twentieth-century prose" (Kenneth Rexroth, Saturday Review).
Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis (124-170 A.D.), was Numidian Latin-language prose writer, Platonist philosopher and rhetorician. He studied Platonism in Athens, travelled to Italy, Asia Minor, and Egypt, and was an initiate in several cults or mysteries. The most famous incident in his life was when he was 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 before the proconsul and a court of magistrates convened in Sabratha, near ancient Tripoli, Libya. This is known as the Apologia.
His most famous work is his bawdy picaresque novel, the Metamorphoses, otherwise known as The Golden Ass. It is the only Latin novel that has survived in its entirety. Being an immensely sophisticated narrative that opens up various perspectives onto a rich cultural and social life, Metamorphoses was underappreciated until recent decades. It relates the ludicrous adventures of one Lucius, who experiments with magic and is accidentally turned into a donkey. Lucius goes through various adventures before he is turned back into a human being by the goddess Isis.
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