Written towards the end of the second century AD, Apuleius' intriguing story, The Golden Ass, has inspired and influenced generations of writers and readers from Shakespeare to Keats and William Morris. 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 Apuleis 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 accesibly amusing book that has come down to us from classical antiquity.
An enchanting story that has inspired generations of writers, including Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Cervantes and Keats
Written towards the end of the second century AD, The Golden Ass tells the story of the many adventures of a young man whose fascination with witchcraft leads him to be transformed into a donkey. The bewitched Lucius passes from owner to owner - encountering a desperate gang of robbers and being forced to perform lewd 'human' tricks on stage - until the Goddess Isis finally breaks the spell and initiates Lucius into her cult. It has long been 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. Apuleius' enchanting story has inspired generations of writers such as Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Cervantes and Keats with its dazzling combination of allegory, satire, bawdiness and sheer exuberance, and The Golden Ass remains the most continuously and accessibly amusing book to have survived from Classical antiquity.
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Lucius Apuleius (2nd Century AD) was a North African fubulist who Latinized the Greek myths and legends. He travelled widely, visiting Italy and Asia, where he was initiated into numerous religious mysteries. He drew on the knowledge he gained about the priestly fraternities to write the Golden Ass, which Cupid and Psyche is extracted from.
E.J. Kenney is Emeritus Kennedy Professor of Latin in the University of Cambridge. His publications include a critical edition of Ovid's amatory works. He is a Fellow of the British Academy.
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