The Golden Ass by Apuleius

The Golden Ass - Apuleius, Jack Lindsay

'The Golden Ass' is one of the earliest intact novels. Along with the more fragmentary 'Satyricon' it is our only significant window into Latin literary prose. The two have very different styles and being the only survivors of a vast canon I can only imagine what was lost and its hard to judge if this book is a typical or outstanding example of its kind. but I can see the influences that this work had on early novelists such as Cervantes where the narrative is broken up frequently with traveler's stories and folktales, the dangers of curiosity, and wordplay. It's practical sense of humor and disregard for rules I see as simply human. The novel becomes serious near the end as our narrator, Lucius, is inducted into the sacred mysteries of the Isis cult. Other aspects of Latin culture give this novel a sensibility very different from the comparatively recent 17th and 18th centuries.


This is an invaluable work and I can see its charms, but as with many of the early novels in English I grew tired of the digressions. The main plot is Lucius' transformation into an ass after stealing a witch's magic ointment. The novel is also social comedy in his comments about his stingy host, conversations, and (of course) the habits of women. The story frequently makes aside into stories, tales of witchcraft and bravery and the story of Cupid and Psyche makes up a large portion of the novel.


Much of Lucius and his culture is human, but it was hard for me to empathize with him during his struggles. An interesting artifact - I think I'd be more interesting in reading about this work than in reading this again.