Turpis Tristis Mundus

Permanent Link:

Material Information

Title: Turpis Tristis Mundus Greed, Lust, and Sacrilege in Apuleius' Metamorphoses
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Branson, John McCall
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2010
Publication Date: 2010


Subjects / Keywords: Apuleius
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: In this thesis I explore the how the vices of greed, lust and sacrilege create an atmosphere of corruption in the first ten books of Apuleius� Metmorphoses, from which the protagonist, Lucius cannot to escape. I argue that in the final book of the novel the goddess Isis inverts delivers Lucius from his suffering when he has a genuine religious awakening. In the first chapter, I examine three primary types of greed � gluttony, avarice and curiosity � and their consequences. In the second chapter, I present sexual lust in men and women, looking at lust as a motivation for deceit and violence. I also examine unnatural lust, including animal-human sex, male submission and incest. In the third chapter, I examine sacrilege, a violation of the proper practice of religion, in the powers and rites of witches, prophecy, and false spiritual figures and rituals. In the fourth chapter, I provide evidence for the inversion of each of these vices in Lucius� deliverance and initiation into the cult of Isis, engaging with John Winkler�s Auctor & Actor: A Narratological Reading of Apuleius� Golden Ass, and I conclude that despite several moments of comedy, Lucius experiences a religious awakening and escapes the vice-filled world.
Statement of Responsibility: by John McCall Branson
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2010
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Rohrbacher, David

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2010 B81
System ID: NCFE004221:00001

Permanent Link:

Material Information

Title: Turpis Tristis Mundus Greed, Lust, and Sacrilege in Apuleius' Metamorphoses
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Branson, John McCall
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2010
Publication Date: 2010


Subjects / Keywords: Apuleius
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: In this thesis I explore the how the vices of greed, lust and sacrilege create an atmosphere of corruption in the first ten books of Apuleius� Metmorphoses, from which the protagonist, Lucius cannot to escape. I argue that in the final book of the novel the goddess Isis inverts delivers Lucius from his suffering when he has a genuine religious awakening. In the first chapter, I examine three primary types of greed � gluttony, avarice and curiosity � and their consequences. In the second chapter, I present sexual lust in men and women, looking at lust as a motivation for deceit and violence. I also examine unnatural lust, including animal-human sex, male submission and incest. In the third chapter, I examine sacrilege, a violation of the proper practice of religion, in the powers and rites of witches, prophecy, and false spiritual figures and rituals. In the fourth chapter, I provide evidence for the inversion of each of these vices in Lucius� deliverance and initiation into the cult of Isis, engaging with John Winkler�s Auctor & Actor: A Narratological Reading of Apuleius� Golden Ass, and I conclude that despite several moments of comedy, Lucius experiences a religious awakening and escapes the vice-filled world.
Statement of Responsibility: by John McCall Branson
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2010
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Rohrbacher, David

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2010 B81
System ID: NCFE004221:00001

This item is only available as the following downloads:

Full Text


TURPIS TRISTIS MUNDUS: GREED, LUST, AND SACRILEGE I N APULEIUS’ METAMORPHOSES BY JOHN MCCALL BRANSON A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. David Rohrbacher Sarasota, Florida May, 2010


ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Sincere thanks to my parents for financing my colle ge career, and supporting me every step of the way; and to Dr. David Rohrbacher, for p utting up with my nonsense throughout the entire process. Thanks also to Dr. Carl Shaw and Dr. Andrea Dimino, for their continued assistance and support both in my classes and with my thesis.


iii CONTENTS Acknowledgements……………………………………………………………………......ii Abstract…………………………………………………………………………………...iv Apuleius and his Metamorphoses …………………………………………………………1 Greed……………………………………………………………………………………..17 Lust………………………………………………………………………………………34 Sacrilege…………………………………………………………………… …………….48 The World Inverted………………………………………………………………………68 Works Cited……………………………………………………………………………...86


iv TURPIS TRISTIS MUNDUS: GREED, LUST, AND SACRILEGE I N APULEIUS’ METAMORPHOSES John McCall Branson New College of Florida, 2010 ABSTRACT In this thesis I explore the how the vices of gree d, lust and sacrilege create an atmosphere of corruption in the first ten books of Apuleius’ Metamorphoses from which the protagonist, Lucius, cannot escape. I argue tha t in the final book of the novel the goddess Isis delivers Lucius from his suffering whe n he has a genuine religious awakening. In the first chapter, I examine three pr imary types of greed – gluttony, avarice and curiosity – and their consequences. In the seco nd chapter, I present sexual lust in men and women, looking at lust as a motivation for dece it and violence. I also examine unnatural lust, including animal-human sex, male su bmission and incest. In the third chapter, I examine sacrilege, a violation of the pr oper practice of religion, in the powers and rites of witches, prophecy, and false spiritual figures and rituals. In the fourth chapter, I provide evidence for the inversion of ea ch of these vices in Lucius’ deliverance and initiation into the cult of Isis, engaging with John Winkler’s Auctor & Actor: A Narratological Reading of Apuleius’ Golden Ass, and I conclude that despite several


v moments of comedy, Lucius experiences a religious a wakening and escapes the vicefilled world. Dr. David Rohrbacher Division of Humanities


1 APULEIUS AND HIS METAMORPHOSES Scholars have frequently dismissed Apuleius’ Metamorphoses citing a lack of unity, frivolous and vulgar themes, and its adaptat ion from an earlier Greek tale. However, beneath the guise of a simple comedy of er rors, the ordeals of Lucius present a complex story of a man driven through terrible misf ortunes, tossed in a sea of vice and corruption. The redemption of Lucius is no simpler than the journey which leads to it, and both are inextricably intertwined with one anot her. Apuleius presents a vivid picture of a world of storytellers, which appears to be a d isconnected series of tales and events, but in the end reveals a larger picture of astoundi ng complexity and literary skill. The majority of what is known about Apuleius’ life is drawn from his own works. He was born in the early second century C.E., circa 125, in the African city of Madauros (modern day M’dauroch, Algeria), which at the time was a colony of the Roman Empire and part of Africa Proconsularis ( OCD 131). He was born into a wealthy family; his father served in the post of duumvirate, the highes t magistracy of a Roman colony, and left a significant sum of money to Apuleius and his brother at his death (Walsh xi). He was well-educated, having studied at Carthage, Athe ns, and Rome, and he was able to read and write in both Latin and Greek (Walsh xii). He had enough knowledge of the works of Plato to be called a philosophus Platonicus by himself and others ( OCD 131), and there is a statue at Madauros, dedicated to a philosophus Platonicus which historians believe to be in honor of Apuleius (Walsh xi). In a ddition to his literary, philosophical, and oratorical pursuits, he also traveled extensive ly, and studied history, astronomy, zoology, agriculture, music, and mathematics, in tr ue sophistic style ( OCD 131-2). He married Pudentilla, the wealthy, widowed mother of a fellow student at Athens, when his


2 friend asked him to marry her in order to protect h er fortune. This marriage resulted in accusations of magic by some of his wife’s relative s, who claimed he had coerced her into the marriage, and he was put on trial for the practice of magic in the late 150’s ( OCD 131). Apuleius’ defense against these charges, known as the Apologia is the earliest surviving work attributed to him, dated in late 158 or early 159. In this speech he defends himself against the charges against him and illustr ates his considerable amount of education in literature, philosophy, and numerous o ther pursuits ( OCD 131). The publication of the Apologia and its subsequent survival suggests not only that he was acquitted of the accusations against him, but also that his eloquent defense helped to propel him towards considerable fame as an orator. Following his trial, Apuleius was active as an orator in and around Carthage in the 1 60’s, and many of his speeches from this time are collected in the Florida the surviving part of a larger collection of Apul eius’ oration, that showcases his skill as a rhetorician and an author ( OCD 131-2). Also published in this time period is the De Deo Socratis a speech delivered in Carthage on the subject of the daimonion or guardian spirit of Socrates, most likely adapte d from a Greek original ( OCD 132). Following this time in Carthage there is lit tle evidence of Apuleius’ life and career, though there are two dis puted works which are attributed to Apuleius. One is De Platone two books of exposition on the works of Plato, an d the other is De mundo a Latin translation of the pseudo-Aristotelian wo rk Both of these works are addressed to the unnamed author’ s son Faustinus, though it is unclear if they were written by Apuleius at all. There are numerous other works of Apuleius that


3 are lost, including poetry, philosophy, history, an d a second novel, called Hermagoras ( OCD 132). The Metamorphoses is undeniably Apuleius’ most famous and celebrated work, if not in his own lifetime then certainly in the realm of modern scholarship and criticism. There is not an agreement as to its precise dating, but since there is no mention of the novel in his Apologia it can be assumed that it was written in the 160’ s at the earliest. Some scholars place it, based on its content and Ro man audience, early in the author’s life, closely following the Apologia, while others place in later in his life, in the 18 0’s or 190’s (Walsh xix-xx). The latter school of thought is more plausible, because Apuleius lists in one of his speeches in the Florida the literary genres in which he has worked, and he does not include prose fiction in this list. Thi s suggests a later date than the 160’s for the publication of the Metamorphoses (Walsh xx). In addition to this, the complex style and themes of the novel suggest a date of publicati on later in the author’s life. The Metamorphoses is based upon a Greek work known as the Onos attributed to Lucian, and much of the major elements of the plot are present in both novels. However, the Onos is a short and straightforward comedic tale of a m an who is transformed into an ass and goes through a few amusing adventures befor e regaining his human form. This provides the skeleton for Apuleius’ novel, but the Latin work contains a great deal of inset tales. In addition, the Metamorphoses includes a different ending, and presents the protagonist, Lucius, in far greater depth. The novel can be divided into four significant par ts: the first three chapters, in which Lucius arrives in Thessaly, learns about witc hes and magic, and transforms into an ass; the fourth through sixth chapters, in which Lu cius spends time with the bandits and


4 hears the story of Cupid and Psyche; the seventh th rough tenth chapters, in which Lucius passes through a series of owners and witnesses a n umber of instances of adultery and violence; and the final chapter, in which the godde ss Isis delivers Lucius from his suffering and he joins her temple. The first three chapters of the novel encompass Lu cius’ travels and his experiences in Thessaly up to his moment of transfo rmation and the events immediately following. The first pages of the novel present the protagonist Lucius, a noble-born and relatively wealthy young man, born and educated fir st in Greece, and later in Rome. The tale opens with Lucius in the midst of a journey to Thessaly, where he is to transact some business. Walking along the road, Lucius encounters a pair of travelers who are engaged in an argument over a fantastic tale that has just been completed. This exchange immediately establishes the inset story as an impor tant component of the novel as a whole, when Lucius prompts one of the travelers, Ar istomenes, to retell his unbelievable tale. This is to be the first of many tales Lucius will hear throughout the novel, and these tales contain many of the elements of the three maj or themes of greed, lust and sacrilege which define the world in which Lucius travels. The theme of the story is the experiences of Aristomenes and his friend Socrates when they en counter a powerful witch, Mero. Magic and witches will dominate the first three boo ks of the novel. When Lucius arrives in Thessaly after Aristomenes’ story, he quickly en counters further evidence of supernatural activity. In the town, Lucius meets hi s aunt, Byrrhena, who warns him against the dangers of Pamphile, the wife of Lucius ’ miserly host, Milo. Pamphile is a powerful witch, and Lucius’ aunt cautions him again st seeking knowledge or experience in the realm of witchcraft. In addition, at a dinne r party thrown by his aunt, Lucius hears


5 yet another tale of witches from the mutilated Thel yphron, whose nose and ears were stolen by witches for use in necromantic rituals. Despite this triple warning, Lucius is determined to gain greater knowledge of the powers of Pamphile, and in order to do so he strike s up a sexual relationship with his host’s attractive house-slave, Photis. However, Luc ius is no closer to achieving his desired goal until he attacks and kills, in a drunk en state, what he thinks to be three brigands who are attempting to force entry to Milo’ s home. Lucius is violently awoken the next morning and dragged before a full court in the town’s arena, where is he placed on trial for the previous night’s crimes. The trial however, is a farce, and the three brigands are revealed to be nothing more than infla ted goatskins. The town’s magistrates inform Lucius that the entire ordeal was merely the commencement of the town’s festival to the god Laughter, and that Lucius now has a plac e of honor in the festival and the favor of the God. Returning to Milo’s home after th e trial, Photis reveals that she is partly responsible is for the goatskins’ unexpected life. Working for her mistress, Photis had tried to acquire some of Pamphile’s desired lover’s hairs, but the barber chases her away, and she instead returns to her mistress bearing goa t hairs of the same color as Pamphile’s target. Photis proceeds to explain to Lucius the va rious abilities of her mistress, not the least of which is the ability to transform into an owl. Overcome by curiosity, Lucius persuades Photis to help him acquire the ointment u sed by Pamphile in her animal transformation. However, in her hurry, Photis deliv ers the wrong potion to Lucius, and he is transformed not into an owl, but an ass. She exp lains to him that the remedy for this transformation is roses, and places him in the stab le for the night, promising his


6 restoration the next day. Unfortunately, robbers at tack Milo’s house in the night and Lucius is stolen. Lucius’ time with the bandits, in the fourth throu gh sixth chapters of the novel, also includes a number of inset tales. First Lucius hears the exploits of the band of robbers, and then he hears the lengthy tale of Cupi d and Psyche, told by the bandits’ serving-woman. Lucius, now an ass, is taken from Mi lo’s home to the bandits’ hideout, suffering several beatings and other misfortunes al ong the way. At the hideout, a cave in the mountains, the bandits stash their plunder and sit down to eat. Their comrades return from other expeditions and tell the tales of their exploits, in which a number of their men were lost. The first concerns the fate of Lamachus, the leader of his particular group of bandits, who perishes at the home of a wealthy mone y-changer, named Chryseros, when their target, anticipating the robbery, nails Lamac hus’ hand to the door-post and alerts his neighbors with shouts of “fire!” The robbers flee, cutting off Lamachus’ hand. However, he is unable to keep up with his comrades, and rath er than endanger his fellow men, he kills himself. The second story concerns the bandit Alcimus, who is pushed out of a window by an old woman whom he is robbing, when she convinces him to look out the window at the house of a wealthier neighbor. The fi nal tale centers upon Thrasyleon, whom the bandits disguise as a bear in order to inf iltrate the home of Demochares, a wealthy man who had purchased a number of bears for public exhibition but had lost them all to sickness. The bandits sell the disguise d Thrasyleon to Demochares, and that night the bandit proceeds to sneak through the hous e, killing the guards and opening the doors. However, a servant spots him and alerts the household, and the bandits are forced to abandon their comrade to the household dogs. In these tales, the central theme shifts


7 away from that of magic to that of greed, portrayin g the violent deaths of the greedy bandits. After these tales, the bandits again depart their stronghold, leaving Lucius alone, and soon return not with plunder, but with a young noble girl, Charite, whom they intend to ransom. Charite is recently betrothed, and is ve ry distraught at her capture, and the old woman charged with cooking for the bandits attempts to calm her by telling her the tale of Cupid and Psyche. This tale is larger in scale t han the other inset stories in the novel, spanning the last few pages of the fourth book, and the majority of the fifth and sixth books of the novel. The story of Cupid and Psyche h as many parallels to the central narrative of the Metamorphoses featuring a central character laid low by excessi ve curiosity and forced through much suffering, only t o be finally redeemed by a divine force. This tale focuses upon Psyche, one of the th ree daughters of a king and queen, who is so exceedingly beautiful that she inspires peopl e to worship her in place of the image of Venus. The goddess is greatly angered by this af front to her divine beauty, and sends her son Cupid to punish Psyche by forcing her to fa ll in love with the most wretched man in the world. Meanwhile, Psyche is alienated from t he world because of her beauty, and no one seeks her hand in marriage, so her father se eks an answer from an oracle. The oracle reveals to the king that his daughter is to marry a monster, whom the gods even fear. The king assumes that this monster is death, and Psyche’s wedding is carried out much like a funeral. However, Psyche’s marriage does not turn out so il l. She is left on a high cliff, sad and alone, but the Zephyr carries her down to a bea utiful valley, where she discovers an extravagant palace, clearly built by divine hands. Here, Psyche is tended by invisible


8 servants and visited by her invisible husband, whos e identity she does not know. Psyche lives happily for a time, but soon she hears the cr ies of grief of her two sisters, who return to the cliff where they left Psyche to mourn their lost sister. Against the urging of her husband, Psyche convinces him to command the Zephyr to deliver her sisters to their home. The sisters are overjoyed at first to regain their lost sister, but are soon overcome with jealousy at her great fortune. They convince P syche, who is now pregnant, that her husband is a monstrous dragon, who has impregnated her so that he may eat the child when it is nearly fully developed. Spurred on by th ese lies, Psyche waits until her husband is asleep, hoping to reveal his monstrous f orm and kill him in his slumber. However, when she lights the lamp, she reveals her husband, who is Cupid himself. Overcome by the divine beauty of her husband, Psych e is struck dumb, but Cupid awakens when a drop of wax from the lamp falls on h im and flies away, and Psyche is left alone. Pan discovers the lovesick girl on a ri verbank, and helps to console her, and she sets out to regain her lost husband. However, Venus learns of her son’s disobedience an d imprisons him in her home, then implores the other gods to capture Psyche and bring her to the goddess. Psyche wanders the world, encounter the goddesses Ceres an d Juno, who refuse to assist her, fearing Venus’ wrath, and eventually she makes her own way to the goddess’s house. She is brought before Venus, who tortures her and sets her to four seemingly impossible tasks. First, she must sort a great pile of seeds i nto separate piles, which she accomplishes with the help of an army of ants. Second, she must find and bring back a tuft of fleece from a golden sheep, which she accomplishes with th e advice of a reed on the river bank. Third, Venus commands her to travel to the spring, atop a lofty peak, which feeds the


9 Styx and Cocytus and return with a vial of water ta ken from the spring. An eagle assists Psyche in this task, flying to the peak and returni ng it to her. Finally, however, Venus assigns the fourth and most difficult task: Psyche must travel into the depths of Tartarus and procure a box of medicine from Proserpina. Real izing the difficulty of this task, Psyche climbs a high tower in order to commit suici de, but the tower interjects and gives her specific instructions on how to penetrate the u nderworld. With this advice, Psyche successfully navigates the dangers and procures the box from Proserpina, but she is overcome once again by curiosity and opens the box, which plunges her into a deep sleep. Fortunately, Cupid recovers and is able to e scape his mother’s house, and he supplicates himself before Jupiter, who approves Cu pid and Psyche’s marriage. Psyche is elevated to divine status, Venus is placated by Jup iter and the couple is happily joined together. In the seventh through tenth books of the novel, L ucius, after escaping the bandits, is transferred from owner to owner through both purchase and theft, and in this way he hear a great number of tales, which focus pa rticularly on the themes of lust and greed. After the tale of Cupid and Psyche ends, Luc ius and Charite make an attempt to escape from the bandits, only to be apprehended and returned to their hideout. However, they are soon rescued by Charite’s fianc, Tlepolem us, who infiltrates the bandits’ stronghold, pretending to be he son of a famous ban dit, and incapacitates the brigands with drugged wine. So Lucius is freed from captivit y, but he is soon subject to further misfortune. Tlepolemus puts him in the care of a sl ave, whose wife forces Lucius to work endlessly in the mill turning the grindstone. Soon after this he is placed in the care of a particularly cruel boy and put to work carrying bun dles of wood down from a mountain.


10 However, this new caretaker is attacked by a bear, and Lucius flees. Tlepolemus, Lucius’ current owner, is murdered by the lusty Thrasyllus, who is in turn attacked and blinded by Charite, and they both commit suicide. This trag edy forces the household slaves, now without a master, to move on. In their travels they are stricken by wolves, dogs and other monstrous creatures, but they finally reach a villa ge, and Lucius is sold at market to a group of Syrian priests. Lucius works as a pack ani mal for these priests for a time as they travel from town to town, thieving and defrauding t o gain money and provisions. He is frequently beaten and mistreated by the priests, un til he is sold, once again, to a baker. This baker has a particularly cruel wife, who, in a ddition to working her slaves and animals to death in the mill, is a frequent adulter ess. In this house Lucius witnesses the adultery of the baker’s wife, and also hears severa l tales of unfaithful wives. Eventually he helps to expose the baker’s wife, and she is dri ven from the household, but she retaliates for her humiliation by calling upon supe rnatural means to kill her former husband, and Lucius is sold at auction to a poor ma rket-gardener. While with this gardener, he witnesses a number of bizarre portents at the estate of a wealthy associate of his owner, and hears a tale of unbridled cruelty, m otivated by greed, in which the wealthy estate-owners three sons are murdered by a greedy l andowner, the event foretold by the portents. Returning with the gardener from these un fortunate circumstances, an arrogant soldier attempts to steal Lucius from his master, b ut the gardener gets the upper hand and he flees into town upon Lucius’ back. However, Luci us is discovered in the house of one of the gardener’s friends and seized by the soldier The soldier brings him to the house of a town-counselor of a small town. Here Lucius hears yet another tale of lust, in which an improper step-mother attempts to seduce her step-so n, and proceeds to try to poison him


11 when he resists her advances. The soldier sells Luc ius to two brothers, who are slavecooks. In the care of the cooks, Lucius begins to s teal large amounts of their prepared food, and the brothers, suspecting something, soon catch him in the act. Overcome with the hilarity of an ass with a taste for human foods the cooks attract the attention of their master, who begins to put Lucius’ strange behavior on display. Eventually he attracts the attention of a wealthy married woman, who is enamor ed of Lucius and convinces his handlers to allow her to visit him. This woman come s to Lucius at night and engages him in sex for a time, before Lucius’ owner books him i n a public show at Corinth, where he is to copulate with a wretched criminal woman in th e arena. Lucius recounts the crimes of this woman, witnesses a performance of the choice o f Paris at the festival, and flees, fearing for his life, which concludes the tenth boo k of the novel. In the eleventh book, Lucius makes a prayer to the goddess Isis, and she appears to him and announces his deliverance. The next day he is finally restored to his human form through the instructions of Isis. Lucius enter s into service to the goddess and is eventually initiated into the mysteries of the cult He travels to Rome, and undergoes two further initiations, one into the cult of Osiris. T he book closes with a bald Lucius serving as a pastophoros of the temple in Rome, and a litigator. There is very little literary scholarship on the Metamorphoses prior to the twentieth century, but the novel’s and its author’s influence is apparent throughout late antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. Th e earlier known manuscript of the novel is contained in the Codex Laurentianus 68.2, which dates to the eleventh century and is currently housed in the Laurentian Library i n Florence. This manuscript, along with another in the Library dated to the thirteenth century, is copied from an archetypal


12 manuscript attributed to Sallustius in the fourth c entury (Haight 91). The first printed edition, edited by Givoanni Andrea de Bussi, appear ed in Rome in 1469, soon after the arrival of the printing press in Italy (Haight 92). Augustine, in the fourth century, was familiar with the novel, and addresses Apuleius bot h in his Letters and in The City of God The Christian writer treats Apuleius as a magicia n in the mold of Apollonius of Tyana, and speculates that the novel is a biographi cal account of Apuleius’ own transformation into an ass (Haight 96). The percept ion of Apuleius as a magician persisted throughout the middle ages, largely based upon the writings of Augustine and the various philosophical texts attributed to the a uthor. There are numerous thematic elements of the novel present in French romance sto ries of the time period, particularly the story of Cupid and Psyche (Haight 104), but als o stories centering upon a man transformed into an ass. The Metamorphoses resurfaces once again in the Renaissance, when the public sentiment about Apuleius shifted aw ay from that of a magician towards that of an entertainer and storyteller (Haight 111) Boccaccio, in the fourteenth century, draws upon many of the themes in the Metamorphoses in his own works, and directly translates some of the passages from the novel (Hai ght 113-4). This propelled the novel back into the public awareness, and the influence o f the Metamorphoses is especially evident in the various Italian ass stories from the sixteenth century onward, and the various reinterpretations of the Cupid and Psyche s tories of the same time period (Haight 117-20). Don Quixote features a number of elements borrowed from the Metamorphoses as well (Haight 114). Before the work of twentieth century scholars, the Metamorphoses was considered a lively and amusing romance tale, i ncorporating various aspects of


13 classical storytelling. It was worthy of examinatio n and imitation, but did not inspire a great depth of literary exploration. However, the perception of the novel began to shif t in the twentieth century, particularly in the latter half of the century. Ear ly works of scholarship, particularly Ben Edwin Harris’s 1926 work “An Interpretation of Apul eius’ Metamorphoses” persisted in the view of the work as frivolous (Harrison, xxxii) This article defined the popular conception of the Metamorphoses for much of the early twentieth century. Perry describes the Metamorphoses in terms of the Greek tale on which it is based (Pe rry 239), and dismisses the various inset tales in the novel, stating that they serve “no conceivable purpose other than that of pure entertainment” with “no logical bearing upon the main story” (Perry 240). He criticizes the novel for its lack of straightforward direction and overall unity, and the contradictory nature of the characters and themes (Perry 240-1). To Perry, the eleventh book of the novel is simply a f eeble attempt at moralization by the author, and further reflects the disconnected natur e of the entire narrative (Perry 242). He declares that the “prevailing character of the Metamorphoses is obviously romantic and unmoral; not philosophic” (Perry 243). Perry steadf astly indicts the Metamorphoses as a purely frivolous exercise in literary fancy, and di smisses the final book of the novel as a halfhearted attempt to offset the comic nature of t he first ten books (Perry 245). This is the prevailing opinion of the Metamorphoses for much of the first few decades of the twentieth century. However, this opinion begins to change within the next decade, particularly in the 1938 work of German classicist Hermann Riefstahl (Harrison xxxii). This work attempts to more favorably define the Metamorphoses as a work of art, with serious religious and philosophical lessons, with s omewhat successful results (Robertson


14 1939). By the 1970’s, the Metamorphoses was widely regarded by scholars as a work remarkable both for its treatment of religious and philosophical issues and its complex themes and literary style (Harrison xxxii). The most highly regarded work of modern scholarshi p on the Metamorphoses however, is John Winkler’s 1985 book Auctor & Actor: A Narratological Reading of Apuleius’ Golden Ass (Harrison xxxiv). Winkler opposes earlie r scholarship when he asserts that the novel is a work of supreme complex ity, in which the various digressions are deliberately linked with one another (Winkler 1 ). Winkler attempts to uncover the genre of the Metamorphoses and to question the significance of the diverse r ange of interpretations of the novel. Winkler proposes five separate interpretations of the novel, acknowledging that these interpretations are by no means absolute, and in fact often intersect with one another. The forms of interpreta tion are: biographic, concerned with events which occurred in Apuleius’ own life; religi ous, concerned with describing a life of impropriety redeemed by religious conversion; ph ilosophic, concerned with presenting Platonic ideas; epideictic, concerned with showcasi ng Apuleius’ skill and range as storyteller and writer; and historical, concerned w ith the transmission of the Greek text on which the novel is based (Winkler 4-6). These inter pretations, according to Winkler, all rely on the idea that the novel is based upon a fra mework of some older and larger work or idea, be it the mysteries of Isis or the philoso phic works of Plato (Winkler 8). He focuses particularly on the moment in 11.15 of the novel, following Lucius’ restoration to his human form, when the Isiac priest Mithras annou nces to the crowd that all the events of the previous books have served some sort of high er purpose (Winkler 8). He asserts that the novel is a carefully constructed narrative in which the aim of the author is to


15 intentionally force the reader to think about the p roblem of uncertainty (Winkler 15). Winkler examines each of the elements of the first ten books of the novel, and then presents the various incongruous elements of the fi nal book. Through this, he links the eleventh book with the preceding books, and conclud es that they all maintain an intentional uncertainty, designed to provoke the re ader to read the novel a second time, in order to discover the hidden purpose contained in t he first ten books of the novel. Winkler concludes that the Metamorphoses does not fit cleanly into any of the categories which have been presented. It is not a strictly rel igious or philosophical text, but it also does not simply display Apuleius’ literary range or knowledge of the Onos tale. Winkler asserts that the indeterminate nature of the final book is the key element of the novel as a whole. I will argue that the first ten books of the novel are a representation of a world filled with iniquity and vice, providing examples o f the three primary themes of vice which pervade the first ten books of the novel: gre ed, including gluttony, avarice and excessive curiosity; lust, looking particularly at instances of adultery and unnatural lust; and sacrilege, examining the presence of the supern atural and improper religious behavior. I will then examine the final book of the novel, and address the specific allusions to the events of the preceding books. I w ill show how the presence of these powerful themes of vice construct a world in which Lucius is inextricably trapped, until in the eleventh book Isis frees him from these vice s and he ascends to a different world. I agree with Winkler in that the Metamorphoses is an immensely complex book, which pushes the reader to seek a concrete answer within the pages. However, I will demonstrate that the clear progression of vice that exists throughout the myriad


16 digressions and jokes that are present in the novel and the finality to the presentation of Lucius at the end, presents a specific solution. Th e Metamorphoses is an account of religious transformation. The world of the first te n books is inverted as Lucius steps into the role of religious zealot, and while the incongr uities of the final book are still present, they represent the continued existence of the ugly, vice-filled world of the first ten books. The world has not changed, Lucius has, and this is the conclusion that is presented at the close of the novel.


17 GREED No character in the Metamorphoses escapes from vice or its consequences, and greed in particular pervades the novel. As Lucius t ravels through the novel, he encounters three principal types of greed: gluttony, the desir e to eat and drink to excess; avarice, the insatiable wish for for financial gain and possessi ons; and curiosity, the improper craving for excessive knowledge. Each of these types of gre ed is linked closely with the other, so that an individual will often display more than one type of greed. When Lucius encounters greed, whether he physically comes face to face with it or hears of it in a tale, dire consequences inevitably follow. When Lucius be haves greedily, punishment ensues, often in the form of beatings or other cruelty, and it is no different for the other characters. The presence of greed and its consequen ces constantly assails Lucius, and develops into a perpetual cycle of vice and consequ ence that persists throughout the first ten books of the Metamorphoses Lucius often encounters the vice of gluttony in am using circumstances, but the comedy of these encounters conceals a connection be tween gluttony and misfortune. When Lucius arrives in Thessaly, he is overcome wit h hunger, and after leaving his horse and belongings at Milo’s house he walks into town t o purchase some fish. He buys some from a merchant, but as he returns home, he meets a n old friend, Pythias, who is an aedile charged with overseeing the corn-supply. Pythias, outraged at the price that Lucius has paid for his dinner, takes his newly-pur chased fish from him and stomps them into the ground, forcing Lucius to go without suppe r for the night (Apul. Met. 1.24-5). While Lucius’ simple desire for dinner is not parti cularly gluttonous, this episode strongly connects food with misfortune in that Luci us’ first purchase of food in the


18 narrative immediately results in hardship. Though i t is funny for the reader, Lucius is certainly not pleased to have missed a meal. Simila rly, Lucius’ first interactions with Photis, the instrument of his transformation, are i n the kitchen, and amusing cooking metaphors make up most of their first interactions: “That’s a succulent dish you have in readiness there! How lucky a fellow would be if you let him stick his finger in – he’d be on top of the world” (2.7). While lust certainly in spires this interaction, it is interesting that the language of the kitchen dominates the exch ange, equating gluttony with lust. The cooking metaphors are humorous, and overshadow the warning Photis give Lucius when she tells him to “keep as far as possible from this stove of mine” (1.7). Lucius’ pairing with Photis certainly does not benefit him, when as a reward he becomes an ass. Comedy is often connected in this way with food, but these amusing situations often obscure Lucius’ inevitable misfortune. Gluttony appears at the very outset of the novel w hen Lucius, having encountered Aristomenes and another traveler on the road to The ssaly, tells a short anecdote. He recalls to his companions an eating contest in whic h he had participated the previous day: “yesterday evening I was trying to compete with fel low-guests in greedily bolting down a largish portion of polenta Because the stuff was so soft and sticky, it stuc k in my throat and impeded my breathing so that I very nearly chok ed" (1.4). Polenta in Latin culture, is a type of soft cheese, as opposed to the modern cornmeal dish. Though this passage is undoubtedly comic, and is relatively insignificant in length, nonetheless Lucius’ words are very important. He immediately evokes image of himself as a foolish glutton, participating in a frivolous contest of greed and n early killing himself in the process. The


19 fact that Lucius highlights his own gluttony in thi s way so early in the novel immediately establishes the theme of overconsumption and its po tentially fatal consequences. Aristomenes reinforces these same images of choking and death in his tale. He recounts a moment of terror in which a small crust of bread “got stuck in my throat, and I could neither swallow nor regurgitate it” (1.19). L ucius choking on the polenta comes immediately back into the reader’s mind, reinforcin g the link between gluttony and death. Immediately after this choking episode, Aristomenes watches as his companion suddenly collapses by the river after he “greedily wolfed th e food” and “bent greedily over the water to take a drink” (1.19). Socrates perishes wh en the sponge placed by Mero suddenly tumbles out of his throat when he drinks f rom the river. The image of a sponge lodged in Socrates’ gullet once again recalls Luciu s’ polenta and Aristomenes’ breadcrust, but it also represents the curse of gluttony placed upon Socrates by Mero. An unquenchable hunger and thirst comes upon him, and he can do nothing but give in to his gluttony, which in turn results in his death. The n ovel has only just begun, and already it is dominated by the link between gluttony and terri ble misfortune. Gluttony becomes a common vice between Lucius and Aristomenes. Lucius’ tale of choking on the polenta is reflected and magnified in Aristomenes’ tale, with Lucius’ seemingly harmless tale of a friendly competition with comic results transformin g into a grisly tale of suffering and death. Aristomenes also laments the detrimental effects of the overconsumption of food and drink on the human mind: “when people have stuf fed themselves with food and too much wine, they have harsh and disturbing dreams. I myself drank too much last evening, and had a bad night which brought such dreadful and troublesome dreams that I still feel


20 as if I’m spattered and polluted with human blood” (1.18). This revelation by Aristomenes further expands the consequences of glu ttony. In addition to death, an unclear mind also awaits the glutton. If Aristomene s had a clearer mind during his encounter with Mero; perhaps he could have done so mething to save his friend from his fate. In the end, he does have Socrates’ blood on h is hands. Aristomenes’ warnings are confirmed when Lucius attends Byrrhena’s dinner par ty, which features “heaped-up dishes” and “regularly circulated… cups of vintage wine” (2.19). Lucius leaves his aunt’s house, “as bloated with drink as the rest,” and pro ceeds to “weave my way homeward” (2.31). His mind clouded by food and drink, Lucius cannot properly identify the foes he meets and attacks at Milo’s door. This inebriated b attle causes no small amount of grief for Lucius in his false trial at the festival of La ughter, as the consequences for his drunkenness are the very real fears of torture and death, and his humiliation in front of the entire town (3.2-10). Had he been sober, perhap s he would have recognized the supposed brigands as inflated goatskins and spared himself considerable discomfort. An excess of drink also brings about the demise of the bandits, when Tlepolemus uses drugged cups of wine to lull the criminals to sleep before rescuing his bride and returning to dispatch the entire band of bandits, who are sti ll slumbering in their hideout (7.13). Surrounded by a great excess of food and drink, Luc ius encounters the dangers of overindulgence in food and drink firsthand. Immoder ation leads to suffering, for Lucius and others. Lucius and Aristomenes establish this f act with their two tales of choking, and then the subsequent tales show more and more exampl es of the various consequences of gluttony.


21 In the Metamorphoses gluttony is a particular blight of the animal kin gdom. When Lucius is first placed in the stable by Photis another donkey and his own horse assail him, and he remarks that he “can only assume that their concern for their provender” (3.26) brought on this undeserved assaul t. This is only the first of many examples of the gluttony of animals. In one of the bandits’ tales, Demochares’ bears resort to cannibalism, “compelled by sordid poverty and monotony of diet to seek any disgusting addition of free food for their shrunken bellies” (4.14). The bears, lacking control over their gluttony, devour their own king out of hunger. Lucius recounts the legend of a king of Thrace, who had giant horses, w hom he fed with human flesh to satisfy their insatiable hunger (7.16). The bear th at frees Lucius from the cruel mastery of the criminal youth (7.17-24) is nonetheless describ ed as “monstrous” (7.24), and devours the boy after tearing him limb from limb. The false dragon which Psyche’s sisters invent in the tale of Cupid and Psyche, a horrible beast t hat seeks to impregnate Psyche only so it can feast upon her unborn child (5.18), echoes t he same sentiment, as does the “monstrous” (8.4) boar that Tlepolemus and Thrasyll us confront, which likewise shows a taste for human flesh. All of these animals show a clear inability to control and satisfy their hunger, which confirms Lucius’ belief that al l animals are inevitably gluttons. This also leads to the assumption, by Lucius’ servant, t hat he is, as an ass, attempting to greedily steal and devour the roses left in the sta ble on the altar to Epona. The perception of animals as gluttons foils what would otherwise b e a simple resolution to Lucius’ affliction. Similarly, after the she-bear devours t he cruel boy in the forest, the boy’s parents blame Lucius, declaring him “a slave to glu ttony, perpetually stuffing and expanding that greedy, bloated belly” (7.27). This earns Lucius one of many beatings he


22 receives as an ass. Lucius presents the idea that a nimals are gluttonous himself, and his beliefs are confirmed by other characters in the no vel. Lucius is indeed afflicted with gluttony upon his t ransformation into an ass, leading to a great deal of Lucius’ many misfortunes The curse of his “bottomless” (4.22) belly first prompts Lucius to devour an entire plot of vegetables soon after he is stolen from Milo’s stables by bandits, and this earns him a beating at the hands of the vegetables’ owner, from which he escapes, only to b e chased down by the man’s wife and fellow villagers, who unleash a pack of dogs on Lucius. He is able to escape being beaten to death only by unleashing a disgusting str eam of diarrhea upon his assailants. The beating and dog attack is punishment enough, bu t the disgusting means by which Lucius is forced to escape, while quite amusing, is an even greater shame. This does little to stem Lucius’ insatiable hunger as an ass, howeve r. He devours far more bread than he should at the bandits’ hideout (4.22), and later ex presses regret that he is not a dog when he is rescued by Tlepolemus (7.14). This gluttony u ltimately puts Lucius into grave danger when he is eventually sold, after changing h ands several time, to a pair of brothers who are slave-cooks. With these cooks, Lucius is at long last given a true opportunity to sate his unrelenting appetite. At first, he eats on ly small amounts, so as not to be noticed, but as his confidence rises, he begins “to dispose of all the choicest left-overs, and to select and lick clean the more luscious sweets” (10 .14). This arouses the suspicions of the two brothers, and they eventually catch him in the act, and the hilarity of his desire for human food leads to the cook’s master putting Luciu s on display. Lucius benefits from this for a short time, growing fat and healthy, but he catches the eye of a wealthy married woman in Corinth, who begins to pay to sleep with t he ass. This newfound skill leads


23 Lucius’ owner to put him on display in the arena, w here he will copulate with a criminal woman before she is torn apart by wild beasts. He s peculates that “when we were joined close in sexual embraces, any beast dispatched to k ill the woman could not prove to be so wisely discriminating, so skillfully trained, or so moderately self-denying as to…spare me because I had not been condemned and was innocen t” (10.34). So, Lucius’ own gluttony puts him in the path of even more insatiab le creatures, and this fulfills the theme first laid out by Lucius’ story about the polenta Lucius first illustrates his own gluttony in that anecdote, and this gluttony is extended to other characters in the story of Aristomenes and the examples of the bandits and oth ers. Finally, with animals firmly established as gluttonous, Lucius succumbs himself to the desires of his ass’s stomach, and it very nearly leads him into a most humiliatin g death. This cycle reflects the level to which gluttony pervades the world of the first ten books. Although Lucius himself does not display the vice o f avarice, the desire for money appears early in the novel, and plays a centr al role in the world of the first ten books of the novel. Lucius first encounters avarice in his Thessalian host, Milo. He is a wealthy man, but Lucius describes him as living “in utter squalor” in a tiny, dark hut, “counting his mildewed coins” (1.21). He does not h ave enough seating to offer Lucius a seat of his own, or enough plates and utensils to s et him a place at table. The first thing Photis asks Lucius upon his arrival is “What securi ty do you intend to offer for a loan?” stating that “the only pledge we accept is gold or silver” (1.22). These statements have a comic effect, as the idea of Milo sitting in his da rk hovel, counting his coins and living in constant fear of robbers and bandits is definitely humorous, but under this amusing guise Milo is a dark figure. After all, his wife is a wit ch of the worst kind, and his extreme


24 frugality, coupled with his propensity for lengthy and boring dinner conversation, makes him an extremely unpleasant companion. Much like th e introduction of gluttony, avarice is first presented directly to Lucius, in a short, amusing encounter. Like Lucius’ polenta story, Milo’s introduction provides the foundation for a world filled with avarice, despite its innocent appearance. The impropriety of Milo’s parsimony surfaces soon a fter Lucius arrives at his home. Lucius quickly seeks respite from this “noiso me old man” (1.26) and goes to market to purchase some fish. As discussed earlier, Pythias is outraged at the price Lucius pays for his dinner, and forces him to return to th e market, where Pythias stomps the fish into the dirt in front of the fishmonger, and makes the accusation that “by putting such high prices on your wretched fish you are turning t his desirable region of Thessaly into nothing but a rocky desert” (1.25). The comedy of t his event draws attention away from Pythias’ legitimate outrage, but it is the aedile’s reaction that reveals the prevailing opinion of avarice in the novel. Overpriced fish ar e a relatively trivial matter, but Pythias reacts strongly against the high price, accusing th e fishmonger of singlehandedly ruining the land of Thessaly by driving away would be visit ors. Soon after this encounter, Lucius hears another example of the dangers of avarice at the house of Byrrhena, when he hears the tale of Thelyphron. Thelyphron’s desire for mon ey, despite the numerous warnings he receives about the power of witches, leads him to a ccept a job guarding the corpse of a recently deceased man against the incursions of wit ches. Though he makes a legitimate attempt to protect the dead body, he is lulled to s leep by the sorceresses and they then steal his ears and nose (2.21-30). As a result, The lyphron lives the remainder of his life as a target of mockery and a source of extreme amuseme nt, because he was so eager to


25 make an easy profit. The introduction of avarice, i n this way, unfolds in the same way as the introduction of gluttony. First, Lucius encount ers a relatively innocuous example of avarice: in this case, the miser Milo. Soon after t his initial encounter, the vice is confirmed by another character, who illustrates its negative consequences. Finally, Lucius witnesses the final consequences of avarice, in this case in the mutilated face of Thelyphron. This progression moves avarice from an insignificant and somewhat amusing flaw of Milo, to a legitimate evil, which i nevitably leads to terrible hardship. The bandits provide the strongest exemplar of the a varice in the novel, in the same way that animals are the exemplar of gluttony. Money serves as their main source of loyalty to one another, and this desire for mone y exiles them from society as criminals. They are experts in avarice, stating accurately tha t “people who live on a modest scale, whether they have a small fortune or, come to that, a large one, hide it away as if it didn’t exist, keep a sharper eye on it, and defend it to t he point of endangering their life’s blood” (4.9). As devoted lovers and hoarders of coi n, they understand the bond between the greedy man and his fortune, and see the difficu lty in targeting the greedy for theft. The bandits relate their exploits in heroic fashion an ironic twist on their decidedly un-heroic motives and methods. Each tale is an example of the consequences of excessive greed and love for money and possessio ns, and provides numerous examples of avarice. The first tale relates the death of Lam achus, the leader of a group of the bandits dispatched to Thebes in search of plunder. Lamachus’ band learns of a wealthy money-changer by the name of Chryseros, which means “gold-lover” in Greek. He is hardly a pillar of virtue, but rather is similar in many respects to Milo. Despite having a great fortune, he goes out of his way to conceal th is from the public, using “elaborate


26 ruses for fear of having to shoulder public service s and shows,” and living alone in a small shack, “sitting on his bags of gold” (4.9). T his description of Chryseros establishes the heroic tone of the tale, setting Lamachus and t he bandits as the heroes, attacking the wealthy miser and making off with his unneeded gold Despite the heroic language, the brigands are hardly heroes, and they are also punis hed for their crimes when Chryseros’ nails their leader’s hand to the doorpost, and then alerts the neighborhood to the presence of the bandits. The bandits cut off Lamachus’ hand, but he is both unable and unwilling to escape with his comrades, lamenting the loss of his hand: “why… should a brave bandit live on without the hand which alone could r ob and strangle?” (4.11). He ultimately decides to kill himself by driving his o wn sword through his heart. This mock heroism is an excellent inversion of typical heroic language. Lamachus’ sacrifice for his comrades would normally be an act of selfless heroi sm, but he is only sacrificing his ability to further murder and plunder. Lamachus des ervedly loses his life, and this tale shows two clear consequences of avarice. On one han d, if you are rich and hoard your riches, you will be robbed; while on the other, if you are a thief, you will meet your death. The bandits’ other two tales reflect this reality. The bandit Alcimus climbs into the hut of an old woman, and robs her of all of her possessions as she sleeps. The old woman awakens, and begs him not to steal her meager possessions. She asks Alcimus why he is throwing her things down to her rich neig hbors whose house is just below the window and Alcimus, eager for a greater haul of plu nder, leans out of the window for a better look. Fooled by his own avarice, he is pushe d from the window by the old lady and he meets a gruesome end on a boulder below (4.12). In the bandits’ third tale, Envy


27 punishes Demochares when she strikes down his stock of bears intended for a gladiatorial show (4.14). The wealthy man’s excessive extravagan ce carries the same penalty as Milo’s parsimony, when the bandits capitalize on hi s loss and sell him one of their comrades, Thrasyleon, hidden inside the skin of a b ear. Thrasyleon lets his companions into the house, and the bandits begin to pillage th e residence, however, a slave alerts the household and the bandits are forced to retreat. Th rasyleon, however, is left to the dogs and the lances of the household, and is killed, whi le still disguised as a bear (4.14-21). These two tales reinforce the lesson of the first. If you are wealthy, and hoard or flaunt your wealth excessively, you will be accordingly pu nished. A thief, however, receives death as his punishment. These tales further build upon the foundation set down in the first few books by Milo and Pythias, and provide ev idence of the various types of avarice and their consequences. The bandits display the same avarice that they disc uss in their tales, and it is their collective avarice that leads to their demise. Thei r kidnapping of Charite, with hopes of a significant ransom from her wealthy family, leads t o their infiltration by her husband Tlepolemus, disguised as the famed bandit Haemus, s on of Theron. Haemus is a classic bandit figure: “Human blood served as my milk, and I was reared among the platoons of my father’s gang, to be his heir and rival in valou r” (7.5). However, it is not Haemus’ credentials as a bandit that solidifies his place a s the new leader of the bandits, but rather the great amount of money he pours out of his tunic This blind acceptance by the bandits of a large sum of gold leads to their death at the hands of Tlepolemus and Charite’s family. The fate of the bandits is a fitting end to their tales of avarice. Blinded by their own desire for coin, they meet a bloody end.


28 Lucius encounters a final image of greed in the gra sping landowner, when Lucius, in the care of the market-gardener, hears a story o f cruelty and bloodshed after a series of bizarre portents at the home of a wealthy estate-ow ner. This tale connects insatiable avarice with extreme pride and arrogance, and exten ds the terrible consequences of avarice beyond the avaricious man. An evil and weal thy man is so intent on driving out his poor neighbor that, even after taking all of hi s possessions and income, he brings an unjust suit against the poor man, and claims his ne ighbor’s property as his own. When the man finally stands up to this abuse, and calls upon his fellow citizens in defense, the wealthy man reveals the depths of his corruption: “ He had not restrained his plunderings, and now he did not seek even to restrain his langua ge” (9.36). He boasts that he does not care about the crowd gathered on the poor man’s beh alf and declares his intention to remove him bodily from his ancestral lands. This is the ultimate ascension of his pride. He is so consumed by avarice that he believes himse lf above even the laws of the state. When one of the estate-owner’s three sons, who had come to the aid of their friend, speaks out in defense of the law, declaring the poo r man an equal citizen to the rich, the monster is unleashed. Already an evil man, the stea dy progression of the wealthy man’s avarice, and the inflation of his pride as a result finally erupts at this challenge: “These words fed the man’s vile temper as oil feeds a flam e, as sulphur feeds a fire, as a whip goads a Fury” (9.36). The man orders his dogs unlea shed on the gathered crowd and they make short work of most of the people there, even t hose who try to escape. One of the three brothers is caught and torn apart, which spur s the other two to turn and face their brother’s killer. However, the covetous man is no n ewcomer to violence: “Though covered in blood, he was experienced in the role of assassin from many such despicable


29 deeds in the past” (9.37). He kills another of the two brothers, and his slaves rush to his assistance. The last remaining brother, feigning an injury, exploits the very pride that precipitated this grisly affair and goads the rich man into attacking him, at which point he overpowers and kills him, before slitting his own t hroat to deny the rich man’s slaves their vengeance. This tale completes the depiction of avarice in the novel, showing the greatest extremes to which a love of gain leads. Th e example laid out by Milo’s frugality culminates in the actions of this one avaricious ma n. Avarice not only drives one to crime and exile, it also results in undo suffering and de ath, not only for the avaricious, but for the innocent as well. So Lucius sees a world overco me by avarice, where even blameless bystanders are caught up in the storm of cruelty an d bloodshed that surrounds the vice and its perpetrators. Finally, Lucius provides the strongest example of a third type of greed because he is overcome by curiosity, an improper desire to obt ain inappropriate knowledge. This curiosity, like gluttony and avarice, also comes to the forefront at the very onset of the novel. Lucius, upon approaching Aristomenes and his companion on the road to Thessaly, hears a guffaw of disbelief: “Spare me th is tissue of crazy and monstrous lies” (1.2). This exclamation immediately piques Lucius’ interest, and he seeks to hear the tale in full. He has some strange words concerning this: “I am not inquisitive, but I am the type which likes to know about everything, or at le ast about most things” (1.2). The first words Lucius utter in the novel reveal his desire f or knowledge of all things fantastic, belying his curious nature. The stranger, refusing to believe Aristomenes’ tale, contests with Lucius when he proposes that Aristomenes kille d Socrates and invented this tale of magic and witches in order to escape punishment. Th is illustrates the primary issue of


30 Lucius’ excessive desire for knowledge. Lucius’ cur iosity makes him nave, and open to suggestion. Lucius’ reaction to his arrival in the land of Thessaly reinforces his navet: “I did not believe that anything which I gazed on i n the city was merely what it was, but that every single object had been transformed into a different shape by some muttered and deadly incantation” (2.1). The land of Thessaly if it is as steeped in magic as Lucius obviously believes, is not a place for curiosity, b ut rather for caution, but Lucius ignores this and chooses rather to delve deeper into evil k nowledge. The skeptical stranger displays the proper level of caution, restraining h is curiosity. Even if Aristomenes’ tale is true, it is not a subject to be discussed. Lucius d esire to hear the story is innocent enough at first, but the stranger’s reaction illustrates t he underlying danger to Lucius’ curiosity. Lucius is warned against exactly such curiosity alm ost as soon as he arrives in Thessaly, when he first meets his aunt Byrrhena and accompanies her to her house. Here, he sees a statue of Diana, protected by stone hound s, whose “eyes were threatening, their ears pricked up, their nostrils flaring, their maws savage” (2.4). Behind this threatening image is a false cave, in which a statue of Actaeon sits, “his neck craned forward as he gazed with curiosity towards the goddess” (2.4). Th is set of images is a clear warning to Lucius: those who seek urgently to know that which ought to be hidden are accordingly punished. Immediately after this, his aunt warns hi m about Pamphile, the wife of Milo, and urges him not to probe too profoundly into such dangerous things (2.5). Lucius does not take these warnings to heart, however, and he c ontinues toward his downfall. He even acknowledges his own foolishness in his pursuit for knowledge: “I was all for taking a running jump and landing myself headlong in those m urky depths” (2.6). These warnings all foreshadow the terrible consequences of Lucius’ excessive curiosity, but he


31 nonetheless rushes towards his fate. When Photis fi nally reveals Pamphile’s ability to transform into an owl to Lucius, and then provides him with the opportunity to attempt the transformation himself, he “hastily tore off al l my clothes” and “dipped my hands eagerly into the box” (3.24). Lucius’ haste contrib utes to Photis taking the wrong ointment, which transforms him into an ass rather t han an owl. This is Lucius’ first punishment for his curiosity, and starts him down h is path in the novel. All of the warnings which precede his transformation, and his transformation itself, exhibit the danger inherent in a consuming desire for knowledge of things better left unknown. However, this transformation does little to change Lucius’ curious nature. As an ass, he is even more capable of satisfying his curiosity throu gh eavesdropping and spying, and this ultimately leads to negative consequences for Luciu s. The danger of curiosity progresses just as quickly as that of gluttony, because it is a primary vice of Lucius himself. It is the primary culprit in Lucius’ long string of misfortun e. Without his curiosity, Lucius perhaps would have heeded the advice of the strange r and his aunt, and left alone the dangerous knowledge which awaited him. The story of Cupid and Psyche is a direct parallel to the trials of Lucius, and also contains numerous warnings against curiosity. Both Psyche and her sisters seek knowledge of things that they should not know. Cupi d repeatedly cautions his wife against attempting to reveal his true identity, and she respects his wishes until her sisters, fueled by avarice, curiosity, and jealousy, convinc e her to uncover the truth. Their invented story of a monstrous dragon (5.17-8) refle cts their own greed, both for the riches granted to Psyche and for the knowledge of the iden tity of her mysterious husband. When the sisters ultimately succeed in their designs, an d Cupid casts out Psyche, they soon


32 meet their doom as a result of their own greedy cur iosity. Psyche tells each of them to go to the rock, where the Zephyr will carry them down to live as Cupid’s wife. Blinded by their greed for the riches of a god, and their desi re to learn the true identity of Psyche’s divine husband, they do not realize their sister’s subterfuge, and each leaps from the rock to their death (5.27). Psyche’s curiosity in turn r esults in punishment when she opens Persephone’s box, and it plunges her into a deep sl eep. Psyche, like Lucius, is ultimately rescued from the punishments for her curiosity by t he intervention of a powerful deity. Only when Psyche renounces her curious nature can s he free herself from torment and join her husband amongst the gods. The examples of the Cupid and Psyche story provide Lucius with a clear lesson, and illuminate the perv asive nature of curiosity. Psyche’s sisters commit terrible crimes against their own fa mily because of jealousy fueled by curiosity and avarice, and Psyche endures terrible hardship because of her desire for knowledge. Lucius’ initial moment of curiosity expa nds to encompass the entire novel, as it is the primary culprit in his transformation, an d his choices in the first few books of the novel, motivated by curiosity, dominate his experie nces as an ass. Gluttony, avarice, and curiosity, the three forms of greed in the novel, surround Lucius throughout the Metamorphoses The novel presents each of these forms of vice very early, in seemingly innocent circumstances, bu t each subsequent example builds upon the examples preceding it. The consequences fo r greed escalate in tandem with the examples, with greed ultimately resulting in the mo st terrible forms of cruelty, bloodshed, and suffering. The end result is an image of a worl d filled with greed, in which Lucius constantly grapples with the desire for gain, be it of food, money or knowledge. Lucius


33 moves from one misfortune to the next, spurred alon g by the vices evident both within Lucius and within others, and he cannot escape this greed-filled world alone.


34 LUST Lust presents itself repeatedly in the Metamorphoses in the many inset stories, but Lucius is not simply a passive observer of lust. He personally participates in a great deal of lustful activities, and faces many of the conseq uences himself. The novel specifically addresses two types of lust: typical sexual lust, e xhibited in men and women; and unnatural lust, most often exhibited between humans and animals, but also including passive homosexuality and incest. Though women most often succumb to lust, there are a few instances in which men given in to their insati able sexual desires. Lucius’ encounters with lust work to further construct a world overrun with vice and its dire consequences, from which Lucius cannot find an escape. Lucius meets a long string of improper women in th e Metamorphoses from the very onset of the story, to his final encounter wit h the criminal woman in the arena, and their lustful nature links these women with one ano ther. Aristomenes’ tale, at the onset of the novel, focuses partially on the voracious sexua l appetite of the witch Mero. When Socrates is taken in by the evil witch Mero, she i s, at first, kind to Socrates, taking him in to her home after bandits rob him of his money a nd possessions in the wilderness. She provides food and shelter for the wretched man. How ever, she soon reveals her true motives when, “feeling sexy” (1.7), she takes him u p to her bedroom. From this point forward, Mero ensnares Socrates. Aristomenes chast ises his friend for his foolishness: “You certainly deserve to suffer the worst possible fate… because you put the pleasures of sex and a leather-skinned whore before your home and children” (1.8). The function of this tale is twofold. First, it demonstrates the da nger of improper sexual activity. Socrates has a wife and family, but he nonetheless yields to Mero’s desires, with disastrous


35 results. Second, Aristomenes’ chastisement strength ens Socrates’ crime. He is not completely deserving of his fate, but he is also by no means innocent. Aristomenes is only the first to warn Lucius about the dangers of such a woman. Milo’s wife Pamphile parallels Mero. She shares a similar taste for men and witchcraft, making use of her supernatural powers t o ensnare new lovers so that she can satisfy her unquenchable lust. It is Pamphile’s lus t-inspired magic, along with Photis’ deceit, that draws the goatskins to Milo’s door, re sulting in Lucius’ trial at the festival of Laughter. Byrrhena stridently warns Lucius about Pa mphile: “she sows the seeds of allurements, dominates his will, and proceeds to im prison him in eternal bonds of deep love” (2.5). However, her words are to no avail. Lu cius is not ensnared by Pamphile, but he instead falls into an inappropriate pairing with her servant, Photis. Milo’s servant does share the same level of lust with the witches, but she is nonetheless willing to engage Lucius in a sexual affair with little prompting. Th e progression of events from Lucius’ encounter with the rumor of the lustful nature of w itches and their dire consequences to his sexual encounters with Photis places special em phasis on the powers and motives of inappropriate women, and illustrates their propensi ty for lust. Murder and deceit are the common tools of lustful w omen in the Metamorphoses and these tools are apparent in each of the imprope r women who appear in the novel, starting with Mero, Pamphile, and Photis, and cont inuing in the string of various adulteresses Lucius encounters. After Lucius hears the accounts of the terrifying abilities of Mero and Pamphile, Thelyphron once again puts t he tools of a lustful woman on display. The widow for whom he is guarding the corp se is attractive: “the lady pushed her overhanging hair to each side, revealing a face whi ch was attractive even in grief” (2.23).


36 Even when the woman is revealed to be a criminal, h er beauty remains important. The evil woman fools Thelyphron and all the townspeople with her display of grief, to the point that she convinces some people of her innocen ce even when the Egyptian priest summons her deceased husband’s spirit to incriminat e her. Her initial devious show of grief, as well as her further challenge to the summ oned spirit of her late husband, is a strong example of the use of deceit in the service of lust, as well as the use of poison or other means to dispose of a husband or lover. This story, along with the Aristomenes tale and Byrrhena’s warning, exemplify the motives and m ethods of lusty women. That these tales happen in quick succession at the very onset of the novel is a warning to Lucius: the world is filled with lusty women, and lusty women a re dangerous. Lucius encounters a series of promiscuous women wit h similar tools and agendas later in the novel. The tale of Cupid and Psyche pr ominently features Psyche’s two untrustworthy sisters. These women are not explicit adulteresses, but they disrespect their vows of marriage, and make use of the same tools of deceit as the numerous adulteresses in the novel. Though at first they are overjoyed to see their sister, whom they presumed dead, they soon are transformed by lustful jealousy Convinced of the divine nature of Psyche’s mysterious husband, they launch into a tir ade, in which one sister declares “my life’s a hell; to begin with, I have a husband olde r than my father. He’s balder than an onion as well, and he hasn’t the virility of an inf ant” (5.9), and the other bemoans that she must “put up with a husband crippled and bent with rheumatism, so that he can succumb to my charms only once in a blue moon,” and that sh e is a “slaving nursing attendant, not a dutiful wife” (5.10). Both women make specific co mplaints about their husbands’ lack of interest in sex, making lust a primary motive fo r their crimes. Their lack of respect for


37 their husbands, and their husbands’ inability to sa tisfy them sexually, leads them into the same evil that awaits an adulterer. They trick Psyc he into violating the instructions of her husband, and her own lust in turn betrays her, when she is overcome by the divine beauty of Cupid. In the end, however, Psyche punishes her sisters for their licentious deceit when she informs each, in turn, that her former hus band wishes to take them instead as his wife. Both sisters are quick to abandon their m arriage vows, committing adultery against their husbands by leaving them to become an other’s spouse, and they leap to their deaths from the cliff. Psyche’s sisters exemplify t he corrupting influence of lust. Before they realize that a god had chosen their sister as a wife, they are content and dutiful wives, but after they discover their sister’s good fortune, their lust drives them to evil deceit, and ultimately leads to their death. While with the catamite priests, Lucius hears tale of a woman who shamelessly cuckolds her husband, who exhibits the subtle tools of an accomplished adulteress. The storyteller describes this improper woman as “cleve r” (9.5), “resourceful in such unsavoury circumstances” (9.5) and “guileful” (9.6) These words recall the previous adulteresses in the novel, who are all crafty women skilled at deceiving their lovers and husbands. This particular story is made more outrag eous by the gullibility of her husband. While the woman should be blamed for her adultery, her husband also takes on some of the blame for his shocking ignorance. He allows him self to be cuckolded while he is scrubbing out and repairing the jar, and then carri es the jar to the house of his rival! This tale both displays the deceitful tools of an adulte ress, but also presents a picture of the foolish cuckold, who complies with his wife’s adult ery because of his lack of vigilance. This reinforces the image of a world filled with lu st. If one is not constantly on the look


38 out for the deceit of an improper woman, then he wi ll inevitably suffer the shameful consequences. The baker’s wife is a prime example of a cunning, a dulterous woman. She is filled with lust, and also motivated by greed and pure mal ice, spending her days drinking with an elderly companion, listening to tales of other l overs, and seeking to shame her own husband. While Lucius is in the care of this woman, he hears a number of tales that illustrate the different outcomes of adultery. Her companion first tells her the tale of Philesitherus, a determined adulterer. The women sp eak of this unsavory man in loving tones: “He is handsome, generous, energetic; he nev er rests in challenging the precautions which husbands vainly take” (9.16). Phi lesitherus successfully hoodwinks a jealous husband, Barbarus, with the aid of the gree dy slave Myrmex, and satisfies his lust for married women. This tale exhibits the ability o f a determined adulterer to quickly corrupt a formerly devoted wife, and also strengthe ns the depiction of a world filled with vice. Every person has a weakness. Barbarus’ wife s uccumbs to lust, while Myrmex succumbs to greed. The baker’s wife, inspired by th is tale, invites her lover to share her bed. However, her husband returns abruptly with a t ale of his own, in which one of his friends, a laundry-man, catches his wife in adulter y. She attempts to deceive her husband by hiding her lover in a sulphur-basket, but he nea rly perishes because of the fumes (9.24-5). This provides an alternative to the easil y cuckolded husband, and showcases the ever-present danger inherent in adultery. The baker returns from this scene, disgusted, only to find his wife engaged in adultery as well. Lucius alerts him to his wife’s misdeeds by kicking away the basket hiding the adulterer. Th e baker shows some cleverness of his own at last, and tricks the boy into entering the b edroom with him, where he beats him


39 senseless with a rod and drives both the adulterer and his wife out of his house. Deceit results in further deceit. This final tale exhibits the lack of trust propagated by lust and adultery and each of these tales shows that lust of ten inspires in women and desire to subvert and deceive their husband. Lust does not beget deceit alone, but also violence There are several small examples of violence associated with lust throughou t the Metamorphoses such as the adulterous bailiff who is tied to a tree and slowly devoured by ants because of his master’s anger over the results of his infidelity ( 8.22). However, violence comes to the forefront in the tale of Thrasyllus, which is also the only significant inset tale in the novel which focuses specifically on the exploits of a lus tful man. Thrasyllus is a wealthy nobleman, but he is by no means noble: “he spent hi s time the degenerate pursuits of the tavern, the brothel, and day-long drinking” (8.1). Described in this way, Thrasyllus recalls the nature of the dangerous evil women such as Mero and the baker’s wife. Thrasyllus pursues Charite’s hand in marriage, but she rejects him and instead chooses Tlepolemus as her suitor. Soon after the pair marri es, Thrasyllus begins to harbor intense lust for Charite and a deep resentment of Tlepolemu s and although he takes up the guise of a friend of the happy couple, “soon by regular c onversation, continual association, and occasional dinners and drinks together, he grew clo ser and closer to them, until gradually and without realizing it he had fallen headlong int o the destructive depths of lust for Charite” (8.2). Thrasyllus shows that one is not ne cessarily born with a lustful nature, but that it can soon manifest itself through an imprope r life and unrequited desire. Thrasyllus knows that he cannot seduce Charite into adultery b ecause of her love for her husband, so he instead forms a plan based upon violence. He joi ns Tlepolemus on a hunting


40 expedition, and when the party is confronted by a h uge and ravenous boar, and when the boar turns to confront the two men, and Thrasyllus cuts the hamstrings of his rival’s horse, leaving him at the mercy of the savage creat ure. While the boar attacks Tlepolemus with his tusks, Thrasyllus also stabs hi m numerous times with his lance and then kills the boar (8.5-6). Feigning grief for the slain man, Thrasyllus attempts immediately after the funeral to seduce Tlepolemus’ grieving wife. Unfortunately for Thrasyllus, he does not show the same skill in dece it as he does in violence, and Charite quickly realizes his intentions. Her fears are conf irmed when her husband’s ghost visits her in her sleep (8.12). Charite tricks the guilty man into coming to her bedchamber under the cover of night, where she lulls him to sl eep with wine mixed with sleeping potion, and stabs out his eyes, after which she fle es to her husband’s tomb, reveals the truth of her husband’s death to the townspeople and kills herself. Thrasyllus awakens to this horror, and in his pain and shame, locks himse lf into his own tomb to die of starvation. This tale builds upon the previous tale s of lust and adultery, and Thrasyllus’ overt and savage violence presents a new consequenc e of lust. As the only lustful male represented in the story, Thrasyllus’ actions sugge st that evil men are more often the perpetrators of violence, while evil women rely mor e often on subterfuge. A few tales of adultery escalate into this bloody tragedy. Lust fi rst inspires deceit, and then violence and death. Lucius encounters another tale of lust-fueled viole nce later in the novel, when his master decides to exhibit Lucius’ strange behavior in the arena. This story focuses specifically on the effects of lustful jealousy. In the arena, Lucius is to be forced to copulate with a criminal woman, and her crimes are a product of jealous lust. The


41 woman’s mother-in-law had given birth to a daughter and against the will of her husband, she had spared her life in secret and entr usted it to her son, who honored his mother’s wishes, first taking her into his home, an d then marrying her to one of his closest friends (10.23). His wife, the criminal wom an, does not know the truth and is therefore resentful of their relationship, because her husband goes to visit the girl often. The woman suspects her husband of adultery, and thi s ignites her lustful passion, which prompts her to lure her husband’s sister to his cou ntry house, where she loses “all control under the pricks of lustful fury” (10.24) and bruta lly murders the girl by “thrusting a white-hot brand between her thighs” (10.24). The ex cessive nature of this particular woman’s crime and the extreme cruelty with which sh e murders her sister-in-law is uncommon even among the most evil women. This tale combines all the evils of the preceding women into one monstrous woman, and affir ms the disastrous effects of lust. This woman is the final instrument of Lucius’ misfo rtune, appearing just before the end of the tenth book, and she is the culmination of Lu cius’ encounters with the lust of men and women and its consequences. Lucius, however, fails to heed these examples of th ese lusty men and women, and for the entirety of the first ten books of the nove l Lucius is guilty of lust himself. The tale of Aristomenes contains the example of Socrates, wh om lust reduces to utter destitution, “sitting on the ground, only half-covered by a torn and dingy cloak, so pale as to be almost unrecognizable, and shrunk to a mere shadow, like one of Fortune’s outcasts who often beg for pennies at street-corners” (1.6). Soc rates, because of his willingness to submit to the advances of Mero, is reduced to some thing less than human, and the image of a hungry, poor, beaten-down Socrates is a direct parallel to the condition of Lucius for


42 most of his time as an ass. This first warning, in addition to the warnings of his aunt, does not deter Lucius from his own desires. Lucius’ lust for Photis is at first obscured by his desire for further knowledge of the magical abiliti es of Pamphile, but his wishes quickly become apparent when he first meets her in the kitc hen. His initial description of the attractive servant is extremely charged: “Her hips moved lightly in rhythm, and as she wiggled her supple spine, her person rippled most a ttractively” (2.7). Photis even warns Lucius of the dangers of his desire. Pressing forwa rd despite the prior warnings, he is treated to several nights of pleasing sexual escapa des with Photis, but these immediate pleasures, like the pleasures Socrates initially ex periences with Mero, directly lead to Lucius’ transformation to an ass and his long serie s of misfortunes. The Metamorphoses also examines several forms of unnatural lust, wit h predictable consequences. The first example is the catamite priests who purchase Lucius, especially their leader, Philebus. He is “a catamit e, and an old one at that, bald on top, with ringlets streaked with grey dangling round his head” (8.24). Philebus is an abnormal man, who prefers to be the passive lover, and is fi lled with lust for other full-grown men. He refers to his fellow priests as “girls,” and the y reply with “cracked, hoarse, girlish voices” (8.26). The catamites are caricatures of bi zarre, effeminate men, streaked with ugly make-up and filled with strange behaviors and desires. They travel from town to town, exhibiting their Syrian goddess by crying out and lashing themselves, collecting food and money from the townspeople. In one particu lar village, they bring a strong peasant boy to their table as dinner guest, and bef ore the dinner is even over, they are “fired with unspeakable longing to perform the most despicable outrages of unnatural lust” (8.29), and they surround their guest and beg in to remove his clothes. However,


43 some villagers, who were searching for a missing as s, hear Lucius’ cries of outrage, which of course sounded only like the braying of an ass to them, and discover the catamites at their play. The priests’ reputation sp reads quickly throughout the townsfolk, and, “deservedly hated and loathed by all” (8.30), they are forced to flee the town under cover of darkness. Lucius’ experience with the cata mites expands the realm of unnatural lust in the novel to include other characters besid es Lucius. In this way, the world is exposed as a place filled with bizarre sexual passi ons and practices. Lucius’ lust as an ass is certainly improper and unnatural, but he is not alone in his unnatural desires. However, despite the pervasiveness of these unnatural desire s, no one is free from their consequences. The second form of unnatural lust exhibited in the Metamorphoses is incest. Lucius, having been captured by a cruel soldier, wi tnesses a terrible act of aberrant lust while lodging at the house of the town-counselor. T he master of the house had a son by a wife who had perished some time ago, and he had rem arried and had a second son by his new wife. This stepmother was beautiful, but also f illed with lust for her stepson, which for a while she suppresses, but soon “her whole hea rt was filled with the fire of madness” and her “love grew wild and boiled up out of contro l” (10.2). Here we see much of the same language that is contained in the story of Thr asyllus and Lucius encounters with the wealthy married woman. Lust becomes a sort of unsto ppable force that brings about terrible disaster. Unable to contain her wild passi on, the stepmother eventually calls her stepson to her and expresses her passions to him, b ut he realizes the abhorrence of such an act, and seeks to flee before some greater evil comes of it. She realizes his intention to avoid her lustful desires and, now consumed by lust -fueled anger, she acquires a


44 powerful poison, to be administered in her stepson’ s wine. But her stepson’s younger stepbrother comes upon the poisoned cup and drinks it himself, and soon dies. Undeterred by this, the stepmother accuses her son of murdering his stepbrother when she refused his lustful advances. The younger boy is bu ried, and in his great grief the father reveals the supposed crimes of his older son, who i s brought to trial. Just as he is to be declared guilty, a physician enters the courtroom a nd incriminates the stepmother. Realizing the intentions of the stepmother, he had made sure the younger son was in fact not poisoned, but rather put into a deep sleep. The people revive the young boy, acquit his stepbrother, and exile the stepmother (10.3-12) This story reinforces the sense that unnatural lust is prevalent throughout the world of the Metamorphoses and working in tandem with the other tales of unnatural lust, esta blishes that it is present in men and women. Lucius is disgusted by this tale, but noneth eless lust ensnares him as well. As an ass, a traditionally lusty animal, Lucius dis plays numerous small glimpses of his own lust, just enough to reveal his continui ng ignorance of the consequences. Lucius’ lust, because he is an ass, is unnatural. W hen the bandits kidnap Charite and bring her to their hideout, Lucius immediately rema rks, “Heavens, she would have put ideas into the head of even an ass like me!” (4.23) This is a noble-born girl, kidnapped and held for ransom by vile bandits, and Lucius’ fi rst thoughts concerning her are those of ignoble lust. Although this incident does not ea rn Lucius any punishment, it first introduces Lucius’ lustful thoughts as an ass, and from this point, whenever Lucius succumbs to lust the circumstances are inevitably u nnatural and improper. Later, Lucius is in the care of a particularly cruel slave boy, w ho takes every opportunity to punish Lucius the ass for no particular reason. On one occ asion, when the boy had sold the load


45 of wood he was carting over a mountain on Lucius’ b ack, and he invents a tale of unnatural lust in order to shift the blame for the lost wood onto the unfortunate ass. The boy claims that “whenever he sees a traveler – it c ould be an elegant lady, a grown-up girl, or an innocent young boy – he hastily shrugs off his load, sometimes throwing off his saddle as well, and makes a wild dash towards t hem; ass though he is, he aspires to be a lover of humans” (7.21). This tale disgusts and f rightens everyone who hears, and their solution is to sacrifice Lucius for his “unnatural love-liaisons” (7.22) and tell their master he was eaten by a wolf. Lucius is innocent of the c harges against him, but this event foreshadows a later episode of unnatural lust, and the reactions of the people to the boy’s story illustrate the disgusting and unnatural natur e of such behavior.When Lucius and Charite are finally rescued, Lucius, as a result of Charite’s gratitude, is released into a pasture of mares to mate with them, and he begins i mmediately to “mark down the mares which would make the most suitable bed-mates” (7.16 ); this continued lust again results in disaster for Lucius, and he is savagely attacked by the stallions and driven away. Lucius’ strange and heretofore nonexistent attracti on to horses is clearly unnatural, and it results in his punishment by their jealous mates. Lucius’ willingness to participate in unnatural sex ual experiences ultimately leads him into near disaster. After Lucius’ keepers, the two brother slave-cooks, discover his strange fondness for human food, he is sold to thei r master, Thiasus, who puts his extraordinary behavior on display at Corinth. In th is way Lucius becomes a very popular exhibition, and brings further wealth and fame to h is master. He also arouses the interest of a wealthy married woman. This woman watched Luci us’ exhibitions for some time, and “gradually constant admiration developed into a strange longing for my person. She


46 could devise no remedy for her insane lust; she bur ningly desired my embraces like some asinine Pasipha” (10.19). The reference to the anc ient tale of Pasipha and the bull highlights the unnatural nature of the wealthy woma n’s feelings, and foreshadows the misfortune which will befall Lucius as a result of this abnormal pairing. The language of their interactions reveals Lucius’ lust. He describ es the woman’s “lovely breasts” (10.21) and worries mostly for his own safety, should he ha rm the woman with his massive phallus. The woman, however, expresses genuine affe ction for Lucius: “Then she kissed me hard – not the sort of kisses casually offered i n the brothel, whether by harlots demanding money or customers refusing it, but those sincerely offered from the heart” (10.21). While her affection is genuine, it is by n o means natural, and Lucius is amazed at the intensity of her lust for him: “Ye gods, I bega n to think that I had not the strength to satisfy her, and to believe that the mother of the Minotaur had succeeded in extracting pleasure from her lowing lover” (10.22). Lucius rec ognizes the unnatural nature of these encounters, yet he does nothing to stop them. He is comfortable with the aberrant nature of the woman’s passions, despite a clear knowledge, gained from the numerous examples of lust and its consequences, Lucius risks exile, t orture and death in willingly committing acts of unnatural lust. His transformation allows f or this unique examination of the unnatural pairing of human and animal, but it also puts Lucius at great risk in the arena. When Lucius flees the arena, he finally rejects his lust and seeks the chaste wisdom of Isis. Throughout the Metamorphoses Lucius is assailed with tales of violent, lustful men and guileful, lustful women, as well as the various unn atural stories of desire. However, he remains lusty himself throughout. At the onset of t he tale he engages with Photis, despite


47 the early warnings he receives, and at the end he e ngages with the wealthy married woman, despite the myriad warnings he receives agai nst acting upon his lustful desires. Lust breeds bloodshed and despair for entire famili es and towns. Men are shamed and murdered by their wives, friends are savagely kille d by friends, and people are beaten, poisoned, disgraced, exiled, and driven mad. Lucius himself is punished several times as a result of his lust, and yet he maintains his lice ntious nature throughout the first ten books of the novel. This is due to the manner in wh ich lust pervades these first ten books. Lucius cannot escape from lust because it is everyw here. Even if he restrains his own lust, he encounters the vice and its consequences i n someone else, compounding his misfortune. In the first ten books of the novel, th ere is no escape from the machinations of lust for Lucius.


48 SACRILEGE Religion plays a central role in the Metamorphoses and in the first ten books of the novel, a sense of inappropriateness surrounds i t. Lucius repeatedly encounters the supernatural in the first ten books of the novel, a nd each encounter adds to the overall sense of spiritual wrongness. The magical abilities and necromantic rituals of the witches, the various prophets, and the foreign and evil spir itual figures in the novel all represent a violation of proper religious behavior. Sacrilege i s the term for this spiritual violation. Through these examples, Apuleius paints a picture o f a world steeped in perverse religious ritual, concerned much more with the huma n desires than the higher mysteries of spiritual existence. Lucius’ acceptance of the s upernatural, and his participation in this perverse spirituality result in his repeated punish ment throughout the novel, as he finds himself stuck in a world filled with sacrilegious p riests, false prophets, powerful witches, and indifferent gods. Lucius ostensibly travels to Thessaly to “transac t some business” (1.2), though it is never quite clear what this transaction is, and it soon becomes clear that his intense interest in magic is an alternate motive for his jo urney. This is apparent in the first few pages of the novel, when Lucius overhears the guffa ws of disbelief of Aristomenes’ fellow-traveler, who remarks: Surely this lying tale of yours is only as true as the claim that when magic formulae are whispered, running rivers go backward, the sea is stopped and becomes idle, the winds die down and cease to b low, the course of the sun is halted, the moon runs dry of dew, the stars are plucked from the sky, daylight is blotted out and darkness prevails (1.3). This first remark is an essential introduction to t he supernatural in the Metamorphoses The skeptic lays out the first example of the power s of magic, and his incredulous tone


49 piques Lucius’ curiosity and his indignation. He go es so far as to call the man “not too bright” (1.3) for his unwillingness to believe both the tale of Aristomenes and the potential for other fantastic events in the world, even saying that these occurrences are “not merely open to discovery, but also easily perf ormed” (1.3). This is the first dialogue in the novel, and it reveals Lucius’ obsession with the supernatural and bizarre, as well as providing a clear foil to Lucius in the skeptical t raveler. Neither man, however, is correct in his statement. The novel proves the skeptic’s st atement wrong again and again, as Lucius encounters supernatural phenomena that actua lly fit the traveler’s definition of the impossible quite well, but Lucius’ statement has no more truth. Lucius does not attain knowledge of the supernatural or the fantastic powe r wielded by those with magical knowledge easily, but rather the young man purchase s it with a great deal of suffering and misfortune. Aristomenes retells his incredible tale at Lucius’ urging, and in it he introduces the first of three examples of witches who appear p rior to Lucius’ transformation. These powerful magical women provide authoritative exampl es of sacrilege and serve as clear warnings to Lucius of the dangers of delving too de eply into supernatural matters. Aristomenes tells of his friend Socrates, who falls in with the evil and lusty witch Mero and soon after descends into bitter destitution and shame. Mero is superficially a middleaged, but attractive, innkeeper, who takes in Socra tes and seduces him into her bed. However, in spite of this faade, she has gained no toriety for her skill as a witch. Socrates, when Aristomenes chastises him for his se xual impropriety, recites a grim litany of her various magical abilities, which bear s a striking resemblance to the words of the skeptic: “She can bring down the sky, raise the earth, freeze running waters, melt


50 mountains, raise ghosts, dispatch gods to the world below, black out the stars, and light up hell itself!” (1.8). This passage refutes the do ubts of the skeptic, and seemingly confirms Lucius’ assertions about the prevalence of the supernatural. Socrates proceeds to provide a number of specific examples of the ter rible consequences that come with close contact with a witch. Mero turns a former lo ver into a beaver when he spurns her, while she transforms a rival innkeeper into a frog; another man, a lawyer who sought to prosecute Mero, she turns into a ram. When the wif e of one of her other lovers disparages the witch, Mero condemns her to a never -ending pregnancy: she has carried her pregnancy for eight years and “is so misshapen it’s as though she were giving birth to an elephant” (1.9). These examples are especially p ertinent to Lucius in that they reveal the regularity of animal transformations as a conse quence of close contact with a witch, foreshadowing his transformation. Mero even reduce s Socrates to something less than human, “shrunk to a mere shadow” (1.6), although he retains his human body. Clearly one of the primary powers of a witch is the ability to rob other humans of their humanity, and to wreak havoc on their bodies and their lives. Mero displays a remarkable ability to discern the thoughts and intentions of others, and this ability assists the witch in perfo rming her various impious acts. She thwarts the townspeople’s plan to stone her to deat h as a punishment for her sacrilege by invoking the spirits of the dead to seal the whole town in their homes and transports the ringleader, along with his entire house, to a town “a hundred miles away, perched on the tip of a rugged mountain” (1.10). These Mero puts these abilities on display once more when she arrives later that night to enact her reve nge on Socrates and Aristomenes. The witch, along with her companion Panthia, blasts the securely bolted and barricaded door


51 of their room from its hinges, sending Aristomenes and his bed flying. In fact, the blast flings Aristomenes to the floor and the bed is over turned on top of him, and he remarks it transforms him into a tortoise of sorts (1.12), ano ther allusion to animal transformation. The two women proceed to enact a bizarre perversion of a sacrifice, plunging a dagger into the sleeping Socrates’ throat and extracting h is heart, then resealing the bloodless wound with a sponge. Aristomenes cynically remarks about the piety of the two witches, drawing attention to the sacrificial nature of thei r actions, and highlighting their general disdain for the proper modes of Roman sacrifice. Th is distinction is an important one, as it establishes the rituals of witches in opposition to the sacrifices of the pious. The witches use their necromantic rituals for their evi l gains, which are most often lust, greed, and revenge, while a pious man uses animal sacrific e to gain the proper favor of the gods. Before the women leave, they squat over the cowerin g form of Aristomenes and douse him with urine. This completes the initial picture of the character of witches, and they are revealed to be powerful and vindictive individuals, who are in direct opposition to the proper mores of society in the Metamorphoses The observance of human sacrifice, and the disdain shown for the dead by Mero and Panthia, comes once again to the forefront in t he tale of Thelyphron at Byrrhena’s dinner party. This unfortunate man is also a prime example of the consequences of contact with the supernatural, and like Socrates an d the other victims of Mero this contact reduces him to something subhuman. Rather t han the witches forcing him into starvation and poverty, they completely rob him of his dignity by removing his ears and nose from his face, and as a result of this mutilat ion he becomes the laughingstock of all his fellow men. His tale illustrates the particular reverence for the dead that exists in the


52 world of the Metamorphoses as a wealthy widow conscripts him to protect the corpse of her late husband from witches through the night. By highlighting the widow’s respect for the dead, Thelyphron shows the disdain witches hold for this reverence. Before Thelyphron sets about his task of guarding t he corpse, the widow’s servants warn him of the significant dangers, and o f the many tricks employed by witches. These tricks once again reveal a connectio n between witches and animal transformation, as they use their abilities to tran sform themselves into various creatures, including birds, dogs, mice, flies (2.22), and, as Thelyphron will witness, weasels (2.25). The story also closely connects witches with deceit and a desire to subvert the proper gods. They sneak in “so surreptitiously that they e asily escape the eyes of the sun-god [ Sol ] himself and of the goddess Justice [ Iustitia ],” and “by their dread spells they shroud the watchers in sleep” (2.22). This remark places w itches in direct opposition with the gods Sol and Iustitia illuminating the sacrilegious nature of their pra ctices. In addition to the danger of interaction with a pow erful witch, Thelyphron also risks the explicit punishment of losing his facial features, should he fail in his task (2.23). When the widow urges Thelyphron to watch over her d eceased husband, and when she makes an extremely formal record of the man’s body parts, she reveals how significant the protection of a corpse is in the Metamorphoses The widow takes stock of each of her husband’s features “in the presence of seven witnes ses,” asking that each witness “Observe… the nose intact, the eyes undamaged, the ears unharmed, the lips untouched, the chin entire,” and that each present “solemnly w itness to this” (2.24). This entire passage rings of strict legal proceeding, and exhib its the seriousness with which the people of the Metamorphoses treat the corpse of a loved one. The behavior of w itches


53 directly contrasts this reverence, as they sneak in to the sacred resting places of the dead to snatch away the body part of the dead, using gui le to avoid the watchful eyes to the gods, and use the stolen body parts in their perver se rituals. Both Socrates and Thelyphron are victims of this sacrilege, as one lo ses his heart to an evil sacrifice, while Thelyphron loses his nose and ears, and, as a resul t, his dignity. Thelyphron’s tale ends in gales of laughter from his audience, and Lucius onc e again sees firsthand the consequences of contact with magic. Lucius faces these consequences in his final encoun ter with a witch, though not without further explicit warnings. Pamphile is an i nfamous witch in her own right, and Byrrhena adamantly cautions her nephew about his ho st’s wife, telling him that “she is reputed to be a witch of the first rank, a speciali st in all forms of necromancy” (2.5). Pamphile’s powers are reminiscent of Mero’s, and o nce again draw attention back to the words of the skeptic at the beginning of the novel: She has only to breathe on twigs, pebbles, and comm on objects of that kind, and she can plunge all the light of day which descends from the starry heavens into the lowest depths of Tartarus, reducing it to the chaos of old (2.5). She also shares the same fondness for animal transf ormation as the other witches. Pamphile turns her enemies “in a trice into stones or cattle or any animal you can think of” (2.5), and she transforms herself into an owl. She also shares Mero’s appetite for men, and this is the primary motive fo r her use of magic. Byrrhena’s admonitions reassert the earlier warnings of Aristo menes’ tale, and set up the later warnings present in the tale of Thelyphron. Likewise, Pamphile shares many of the aspects of t he witches who steal Thelyphron’s features. She shares their disdain for the sun, threatening it with


54 cloud cover when it does not set quickly enough for her purposes. She needs the cover of darkness to practice her arcane arts. Howe ver, Photis treats Pamphile’s magic with a strange reverence, and she refers to i t as “hidden mysteries” (3.15) in a sort of parody of more typical religious obser vance, which likens the witchcraft of her mistress to the sacred mysterious of the many cults of Rome. The pretty slave calls the spells of her mistress “ wondrous and secret” and explains how they function: “to these the spirits h earken and the elements are enslaved” (3.15). These words parallel the earlier perversion of sacrifice, in that they seem to describe a divine ritual or religious observance, but they are used rather for improper and selfish designs. Photis recounts one of Pamphile’s necromantic ritua ls in great detail to Lucius, and it is a grisly affair, providing the mo st powerful example of the perversion of proper ritual. Pamphile, “in a fit of ecstatic madness,” ascends to the roof, where she has her “infernal laboratory” (3.17 ). In this ritual chamber there are a number of strange and unpleasant objects, inc luding “every kind of aromatic plant, metal strips inscribed with unintelligible l etters, the surviving remains of ill-omened birds, and a fairly large collection of corpses’ limbs, earlier mourned over by relatives and in some cases even buried” (3 .17). Here the extreme disrespect for the dead held by witches comes into sharp focus. Pamphile stands in a great pile of human limbs, as well as “noses a nd fingers… nails from the gibbet to which there still clung flesh from the me n hanged there… the blood of slaughtered men… and also gnawed skulls, torn from the fangs of wild beasts” (3.17). These disgusting images are a far cry from the sort of hidden mysteries


55 one might expect of a respectable religion, and pra ctically shout out the evil nature of magic. The ill-omened birds reflect a dis dain for the power of Fortune, while the metal strips are inscribed with strange, foreign characters, perhaps suggesting an origin in the alien and barbaric cult ures outside the Roman sphere of influence. Pamphile gains the scraps of human fl esh through grave-robbing, torture, and death by wild animals. Each of these i tems reveals a profound disrespect for the religious tenets and social more s of the society of the Metamorphoses and serve as the strongest warning yet given to L ucius. This is profound evil. Only the meanest dregs of society de al in human suffering and dark magic, and the images of sheer horror revealed in t his passage ought to disgust Lucius, not intrigue him. Pamphile, in addition to her other prodigious power s, shows an ability to gain insight into otherwise unknown events that is somewhat similar to that of Mero. This magical ability, and Lucius response to it, introduces another of the major supernatural themes of the Metamorphoses prophecy. While Mero displays an ability to anticipate the actions of ot hers against her and to locate hidden enemies, Pamphile has the ability of prophec y, and predicts a great storm simply by looking into a lamp, which prompts Lucius to remark about the connection between the tiny fire of the lamp and th e greater fire of the “progenitor” (2.12). This passage establishes the p otential for legitimate prophecy, but also reveals the inevitable uncertain ty of every oracle. The fire of the progenitor does contain true knowledge, but one can only obtain this knowledge by means of an imperfect human vessel.


56 Lucius introduces the first type of divination, fal se prophecy, in his anecdote about Diophanes. Diophanes is a traveling Chaldaean soothsayer, who advises on matters ranging from the proper day for weddings or building to the most auspicious times for travel and sailing. He gi ves to Lucius a very specific prophecy before his journey, that “at one time my f ame would blossom, and at another I would be the subject of a lengthy story, an unbelievable tale spread over several books” (2.12). This prediction, of course, is accurate, but Milo reveals Diophanes to be a false prophet. While practicing h is art in Thessaly, Diophanes revealed inadvertently to a friend the extreme diff iculty of his passage to the region. Revealing this, Diophanes loses his custome rs and the townspeople subject him to insults and laughter. This passage t hrows the reliability of all prophecy into doubt, because while the prophet cann ot predict a safe voyage for himself, he does accurately predict the fate of Luc ius, leaving the possibility for accurate prophecy open. The catch-all prophecy of the catamite priests late r in the novel parallels the predictions of Diophanes. Philebus and his fell ow priests invent a few lines of verse, reading “Why do the harnessed oxen cleave th e field?/ To make the seeds a luxuriant harvest yield” (9.8) These lines are vagu e enough in wording that they could recite them to those asking their advice in a ll matters, from the purchase of property to the fate of one in battle. This further throws into doubt the validity of prophecy in general, as the priests gain a large su m of money by bending the meaning of their verses to whichever question their customer asks. These supposedly enlightened priests adapt a few lines of verse to any situation. How,


57 then, can one trust any prophecy? Lucius encounters two prophets whom he discovers to be false in their abilities, but both nonetheless make true predictions and succeed in their craft. The story of Cupid and Psyche similarly presents th e difficulty in determining the validity of the oracle, displaying the potential for misinterpretation of oracles. Rather than advice de livered by experienced swindlers such as Diophanes, the prophecy in this t ale concerns the interpretation of the religious oracle by ordinary people. Psyche’ s father, concerned about the loneliness that has fallen upon his daughter on acc ount of her profound beauty, and fearing the displeasure of the gods, consults t he oracle of the Milesian god for advice. When the oracle declares that his daughter will marry a “fierce, barbaric, snake-like monster” (4.33), whom even Jupiter and t he other gods fear, Psyche’s father assumes that his daughter is destined to mar ry death. Her family sends her to the top of a cliff, as the oracle told, amid muc h grief. The words of the oracle come true the moment Cupid becomes enamored of Psyc he and takes her as his wife. Cupid is renowned for his ability to spread c haos and discord with his arrows, even amongst the gods, and Psyche indeed en counters a “snake-like” object, Cupid’s phallus, when they first consummate their marriage. Psyche’s family continues to live on in great sorrow, lament ing the loss of their beautiful girl. This shows the other side to the uncertainty of prophecy. A legitimate oracle may make a true prophecy that is then grossly misin terpreted by those who hear it. All of these examples of prophecy, from the pre dictions of a false prophet to the interpretations of oracles, throw the realm of prophecy into serious doubt.


58 Lucius encounters numerous examples of the extreme uncertainty inherent in the art of prophecy, which all assert that the pronounc ement of oracles, be they by a proven fraud or not, is no more certain than a mere guess. The spirits of the dead take a primary role in prop hecy in the Metamorphoses appearing especially in dreams and visions, and o ften revealing the details of the numerous crimes committed in the novel. The spirits of the dead appear first in Thelyphron’s tale, when the uncle o f the dead man whom Thelyphron was charged with guarding against the ma chinations of the witches accuses his nephew’s wife of murder, claiming that, along with her lover, she poisoned her husband in order to snatch away his in heritance. In order to prove her guilt he calls upon the Egyptian prophet Zatchl as, “a young man clad in linen garments, with palm-leaf sandals on his feet” whose “head was wholly shaven” (2.28). This strange foreigner represents one of th e few respectable spiritual figures in the first ten books of the novel, as the old man treats him with extreme reverence, beseeching him “by the stars of heaven, by the powers of hell, by the elements of the universe, by the silences of the ni ght, by the sacred shrines of Coptus, by the floods of the Nile, by the mysteries of Memphis and the rattles of Pharos” (2.28) to bring to light the crimes of the widow. This deference to the spiritual abilities of Zatchlas, and the awe he ins pires in the gathered crowd is important, especially in the light of his Egyptian heritage and outlandish appearance. Inspired by the enthusiasm of the old m an, and the transmission of his required payment, the prophet recalls the dead man’s spirit from the underworld to give evidence against his wife. A liv ely debate ensues, in which the


59 crowd takes sides, with some calling for the woman to be buried alive along with her husband for her crimes, while others arguing th at “no credence should be lent to the lying words of the corpse” (2.29). Despite t he legitimate spiritual credentials of Zatchlas, “a leading Egyptian prophe t” (2.28), and the already remarkable feat of raising a dead man to testify ag ainst his wife, some among the crowd are not prepared to go along with the spirit, until the dead man reveals his knowledge, that could be known only to him, of Thel yphron’s disfiguration. This debate once again reveals the uncertainty surroundi ng the supernatural practice of prophecy. In addition, Zatchlas’ obvious supernatur al skill sets him in opposition to the false prophets in the novel, and providing a n alternate, beneficial foreign religious presence which opposes the bizarre and di sturbing foreign magic of Pamphile and the Syrian catamites. Charite is also a conduit for the spirits of the de ad and an unwilling prophet, having several visionary dreams that enabl e her to successfully uncover the truth of her husband’s death. However, one can question these dreams as well, because Charite first has a prophetic dream while i n the bandit’s captivity, in which she relives her kidnapping by the bandits and see her fianc Tlepolemus struck down by a stone. When she wakes up in abject terror, she is comforted by the old woman, who tells her Don’t be frightened by the baseless fancies of drea ms. For one thing, dreams in daylight hours are held to be fals e, and for another, even night-dreams sometimes tell of untrut hful happenings. So tears, beatings even murders sometim es portend a profitable and favorable outcome, while on the othe r hand, smiles, bellyfuls of honey-cakes and pleasurable love-encou nters foretell future affliction with melancholy, physical illness and all such hardships (3.27).


60 The old woman’s advice recalls the examples of prop hecy given throughout the novel, emphasizing again the central uncertainty of all foresight, while also asserting the significance of such portents. Dreams are prophetic, according to the old woman, but it is often a fruitless task to atte mpt to discern their true meaning, a sentiment strongly affirmed by other examples of prophecy in the novel. The old woman makes this statement in order to comfort the girl, which throws it into doubt. However, even if the old woman is only dispe nsing comforting pleasantries, her statement nonetheless adds to the ever-growing sense of doubt connected with prophecy. Later in the novel, however, Charite receives a far clearer vision, following the murder of her husband by the evil Thr asyllus. After she recognizes the improper lust with which Thrasyllus pursued her in her grief, the spirit of Charite’s slain husband visits her in a dream, and instructs her to take the hand of another man, so long as that man is not Thrasyllus, whom he also reveals to be his murderer. Through this vision, Tlepolemus’ spirit s purs Charite to take her revenge against her husband’s killer, and she conco cts a ruse to put him in her power. She lures Thrasyllus to her home at night, u nder the guise of a clandestine sexual encounter, and puts him to sleep with drugge d wine. When Thrasyllus is rendered helpless, Charite makes a final prophecy, pronouncing the cursed fate of the murderer: “What is certain is that you will not see the light of day, and that you will need a companion’s guiding hand. You will not embrace Charite or enjoy marriage with her. You will neithe r gain renewed vigour by the tranquility of death, nor take joys i n the pleasures of


61 life Instead you will wander between the regions of hell and of the sun, a dubious image of a living man (8.12). Charite’s final pronouncement is interesting becaus e it is not a typical prophecy. Rather, the grief-stricken widow pronounces her kno wledge of the man’s crime, brought to her in a dream-prophecy, and proclaims h er ability to change Thrasyllus’ fate. She both predicts his future, and then carries it out. However, like Charite’s first prophecy, her last prophecy do es not come true, as Thrasyllus condemns himself to starvation, closing himself ins ide his own tomb as punishment for his crimes. Just like the prediction s of a supposed spiritual adept, Charite’s prophetic abilities are consistent only i n their uncertainty. Even the prophecy which she brings about herself is untrue. Finally, the Metamorphoses presents a final account of prophecy in the form of omens which are presented at the house of t he wealthy estate-owner, and which deepen the sense of religious wrongness that pervades the first ten books of the novel. These omens also draw a connection betwe en the actions of men and the function of nature, which recalls Lucius’ state ment about the progenitor. All things are connected, because they all originated f rom the same fire, and this connection produces prophecies and omens. A nearby estate owner invites Lucius and his current owner, a poor market-gardener, to s hare his hospitality, and while they are passing around the wine-cups, they witness a series of truly uncanny omens. First, a hen runs into the yard and deposits a fully grown chicken, already hatched, at the feet of the master, after which a g reat fountain of blood rises up from under the table. The estate-owner’s servants r ush up to tell him that the wine-casks in the cellar were boiling as if warmed by fire. Finally, there are a


62 series of strange animal occurrences: “a weasel was also seen dragging a dead snake in its mouth out in the open, and a green fro g leapt out of the mouth of a sheepdog. Then that very dog was attacked by a ram close by, and had its throat severed by a single bite” (9.34). These portents le ave the household in a state of disarray, as they strain to ascertain the proper re sponse. All of these bizarre occurrences happen in swift succession, and speak t o the belief in the Metamorphoses that nature, in response to the displeasure of the gods, works to inform the people of great and terrible occurrences These omens signify the brutal murder of the estate-owner’s sons at the han ds of the greedy landowner. These omens represent one of the few infallible pro phecies in the first ten books of the novel, as there is no question that they pre dict unfortunate events. However, there is still a great deal of confusion concerning their nature, and the entire household is disrupted and confused by their presen ce, until they receive word of the terrible fate of the master’s sons. These omens are shocking and disgusting as well, illustrating the grisly consequences of the s upernatural. Lucius experiences a great deal of strange superna tural occurrences throughout the novel, which, like the omens, throw the world into a state of confusion, and reveal the prevalence of religious w rongness. The great number of improper religious actions that Lucius comes across in his journey work together with the actions of the witches and of the prophets and illustrate the great prevalence of sacrilege in the first ten books of t he Metamorphoses As soon as he arrives in Thessaly, Lucius wanders the streets, se arching for the inappropriate


63 knowledge of magic and the supernatural, and he ima gines the city as a great collection of supernatural entities, where nothing is what it seems. He envisions that every single object had been transformed into a different shape by some muttered and deadly incantation… that the s tones which caused [him] to trip were petrified persons, that t he birds which [he] could hear were feathered humans, that the tre es enclosing the city-limits were people who had likewise sprouted f oliage, that the waters of the fountains were issuing from human bod ies (2.1). These visions of a magical world are foreboding. Lu cius expects at any time to be assailed by the supernatural, for the very world ar ound him to begin speaking magical formulae and making great prophecies. He fa ils, however, to acknowledge the negative consequences of such sacri lege, and as a result he endures much hardship. Broken from his reverie by B yrrhena, Lucius then travels to her house where he once again sees the true cons equence of his curiosity. His aunt has in her courtyard an elaborate carving of t he story of Actaeon, “already animal-like, on the point of becoming a stag as he waited for Diana to take her bath” (2.4). Actaeon, like Lucius, sought greater k nowledge of the supernatural, wishing to look upon the naked form of the goddess Diana, and he is punished terribly, being transformed into the animal shape o f a stag. This small warning to Lucius encompasses the entire first ten books of th e novel, showing the dire consequence of excessive knowledge of the inappropr iate and hidden. Lucius experiences a powerful example of improper religious ritual in the festival of Laughter. Magistrates drag Lucius befor e the entire town on false charges of murder, and conduct the entire false tri al with extreme seriousness. However, both the arguments against Lucius, and the arguments he makes in his own defense are totally devoid of truth. The entire affair is a strange inversion of


64 the proper undertaking of the law, and is a cruel a nd perverse enterprise. The crowd takes on an air of frenzied excitement, which will later be echoed in the strange rituals of the catamite priests, and the en tire proceeding takes on a sinister nature. The judges threaten Lucius with torture and death, driving him to abject terror, until he begs for the mercy of the townspeo ple. When the townspeople finally reveal the truth, they humiliate Lucius. Hi s humiliation is an offering to the god Laughter. The frenzied crowd robs him of his di gnity, and as a result of his ordeal, the magistrates supposedly grant Lucius the favor of Laughter, and they tell him that the god will “will never allow you to grieve in mind, but will implant continual joy on your countenance with his sunny el egance” (3.11). The whole degrading ordeal grants Lucius the favor of the god Laughter, which turns out to be a transformation into an ass, and a lengthy stri ng of beatings, threats and other misfortunes. As a benefit of this so-called favor, Lucius trans forms into ass, and animals do not receive the favor of the gods. Momen ts after he becomes an ass, the gods have already abandoned him: “Jupiter, god of hospitality, and Faith, who has withdrawn her divinity from men, can testify ho w… things turned out” (3.26). His own trusty horse, to which he shows great affec tion at the beginning of the tale, attacks him to keep him away from the food. T he belief that animals are unable to understand the will of the gods pervades the rest of the tale. Animals lack the human controls over their appetites, and t hey also lack the human soul, and thus the connection to the gods granted to men. Horses later attack Lucius to keep him away from the mares, failing “to observe t he compact of hospitality laid


65 down by Jupiter” (7.16). Animals do not recognize t he tenets of decency set down by the gods, and Lucius, as an ass, cannot communic ate his prayers or his wishes, and thus cannot to regain the favor of the gods. The catamite priests, like the festival of Laughte r, present to Lucius a sinister caricature of foreign religion. The priest s combine their inappropriate sexual behavior with disgusting ritual and outright sacrilege. The image of the priests parading through town, “with features hideo usly made up” (8.26), screaming and dancing in religious ecstasy, is not an image of appropriate religious observance. The priests whip themselves, soaking the ground with their blood to please the Syrian goddess. Lucius comments on their madness dismissively, saying “as if men visited by a divine presence are usually rendered feeble or sick, rather than raised to higher things ” (8.27). This statement represents of all that is wrong with Philebus and h is followers. They are sexual deviants, thieves, false prophets, leeches on socie ty, and Lucius exposes them as such. The exemplars of the festival of laughter, wh ere the god Laughter curses Lucius with his favor, and the catamite priests, wh o are forced to live a vagabond existence because of their sacrilegious ways, asser t the underlying perversion of religious experience in the first ten books of the novel. Lucius’ plight is encapsulated in the tale of Cupi d and Psyche. Lucius’ strange appearance alienates him, like Psyche, from his human brethren. While Psyche’s captivating beauty steals away her humanit y, Lucius’ hideous donkey form does the same. Each character’s detachment fro m the rest of society prevents them from regaining the favor of the gods. Lucius, because of his ass’s mouth,


66 cannot cry out to the gods for assistance, while th e gods ignore Psyche’s piety, because the actions of her friends and family so ar ouse the ire of Venus. Despite each character’s noble upbringing and upright educa tion, “sacrilegious curiosity” (5.6) corrupts them and they seek to learn that whi ch they should not, and the gods accordingly punish them for their crimes. Luci us endures ceaseless torment as a lowly ass, and Psyche, after losing her divine husband, journeys to the ends of the earth and into Tartarus itself as part of th e series of difficult tasks given to her by Venus. The gods have abandoned Lucius and Ps yche, and this reveals the pure religious wrongness of the first ten books. No thing is certain, nothing is wholesome. There is only a terrible perversion of r eligious ritual and a host of uncaring deities. The Metamorphoses is filled with supernatural occurrences, and each of these magical happenings, from the prophecies of Di ophanes to the perverse rituals of the catamites, illustrates an atmosphere of religious wrongness which pervades the first ten books of the novel. Lucius s eeks deeper knowledge of the powers of witches, and transforms into an ass. He g ains the favor of the god Laughter and participates in the rituals of the cat amite priests, and experiences one misfortune after another. He sees the consequen ces of both false and legitimate prophecy, uncertainty and sorrow. His in itial vision of Thessaly as a wondrous country alight with the powers of magic is accurate. He is indeed surrounded by magic throughout the novel, but this supernatural force is of no benefit to Lucius. The supposed power and knowledge he seeks drags him only


67 deeper into the enmity of Fortune, and he is unable to escape from the sinister powers that surround him.


68 THE WORLD INVERTED The final book of the Metamorphoses presents a dramatic departure in tone and content from the preceding books. Lucius finally es capes from the world in which Fortune has driven him one misfortune to the next. The purpose of the final book of the novel has been a subject of much debate, and in thi s chapter I will provide a summary of the important events and settings of the final book and illustrate the total inversion, in the final book, of the world of the first ten books of the novel. There are numerous specific allusions to the first ten books contained within t he final book, which indicate both that the final book explicitly addresses Lucius’ experie nces in the preceding books, and that it offers a new world in which the redeemed Lucius may operate. John Winkler, in his work Auctor & Actor indicts Lucius as a fool, and defines, through th e incongruity of his redemption, Lucius’ transformation and life as a de votee of Isis as a final joke on the part of the author. I will argue that Lucius’ transforma tion is legitimate, as evidenced by the sense of inversion in the final book, and that the novel is ultimately an account of genuine religious transformation. Lucius may be a fool, but the providence of Isis truly redeems him, in his own mind, and offers an escape from the world of vice and corruption in which Lucius receives only suffering. Winkler notes the various moments of incongruence i n the final book. In particular, he addresses the moment of Lucius’ tran sformation, when he is struck dumb by the sudden restoration of his human body, and Mi thras, not Lucius, first announces to the astonished crowd the nature of the restored man ’s suffering and redemption. The reaction of the crowd is similarly strange. They as sume that Lucius, because he has so gained the favor of the Goddess, has somehow lived a blessed life, and has held himself


69 above the base pleasures of the world. This contras ts directly with Mithras’ speech, where he explicitly chastises Lucius for his repeat ed inability to practice restraint. This incongruity leads Winkler to question the legitimac y of Lucius’ spiritual transformation. Why does Lucius, who has held the role of narrator throughout the first ten books of the novel, suddenly recede in favor of Mithras? Why doe s the gathered crowd interpret Lucius’ transformation incorrectly? Winkler asserts that these questions provide the foundation for the interpretation of the eleventh b ook as yet another trick, a final intricate joke played upon the reader. I will argue against s ome of Winkler’s points, and illustrate Lucius’ movement to a different realm, where his st atus as a fool to the reader is inconsequential. While Winkler correctly points out the moments of incongruence in the final book, he incorrectly asserts that these momen ts override Lucius’ deliverance and transformation. While Lucius may be a fool, he is n onetheless a happy fool, free from the suffering of the first ten books of the novel. Lucius escapes his performance with the criminal w oman in the arena and falls asleep, exhausted, on the beach. In the middle of t he night, a “sudden fear” (11.1) awakens him, and he is suddenly aware of the power of the goddess. Recognizing the divine presence, he purifies himself in the water a nd addresses a prayer for salvation to the deity, whom he addresses by her many names, and falls asleep once more. While he sleeps, an image of the goddess rises out of the se a in answer to Lucius’ prayer and reveals herself as the goddess Isis, “the loftiest of deities, queen of departed spirits, foremost of heavenly dwellers, the single embodimen t of all gods and goddesses” (11.5). Isis revals her myriad forms and names, and deliver s a prophecy to Lucius. Isis explains to him that on the following day she will at long l ast deliver him from his misfortune. She


70 specifically instructs Lucius to seek out her high priest, who she tells Lucius will be bearing a garland of roses. This priest will be exp ecting his approach, as Isis will also visit him in a dream and give him instruction. In r eturn for his deliverance, Isis demands that Lucius spend the remainder of his life in serv ice to her. Lucius awakens the next day, and makes his way to the festival, where he Lucius regains his human form, fulfilling the prophecy of Isis. After the priest’s roses restore him to his proper body, Lucius becomes a devotee at the temple of Isis and awaits his init iation. The goddess visits him with numerous other visions, and eventually instructs hi m to be initiated in the mysteries of her temple. Now an initiate, Lucius makes his way t o Rome and becomes a worshipper at the temple to Isis in the city. While in Rome, Luci us receives another vision in which the goddess orders him to undergo a second initiation. Following this dream, Lucius joins the cult of Osiris, which is “closely aligned to, and i n fact united with” (11.27) that of Isis. After this second initiation, Lucius begins to prac tice law in Rome, and acquires some wealth, until Isis and Osiris again visit him in a dream and urge him to undergo yet another initiation, after which he is to continue t o practice law, and serve as one of administrators of the temple. The novel comes to cl ose after this third initiation, with Lucius serving his post as one of the pastophori of the temple and living in Rome. The final book of the Metamorphoses offers a drastically different view of the world than the earlier ten books. The tone shifts f rom the comical portrayal of Lucius’ various misfortunes as an ass, and takes on a much more sober quality reflecting the dramatic transformation Lucius undergoes after his humanity is restored. Lucius awakens after his vision of Isis to a different world: “My personal sense of well-being seemed to be compounded by a general atmosphere of joy, which was so pervasive that I sensed that


71 every kind of domestic beast, and entire households and the very weather seemed to present a smiling face to the world” (11.7). Gone i s the world of torment and pain in the first ten books, where Lucius was surrounded by evi l and vice, and Isis’ providence replaces it with a new spring. With his deliverance imminent and his destiny fixed in service to Isis, Lucius escapes from the cycle of F ortune that has dogged him throughout the novel. He speaks of the morning as a glorious n ew age, in which “the sky dispersed the dark rain-clouds and shone with the cloudless a nd bright brilliance of its light” (11.7). His newfound devotion to the supreme goddess parall els the emergence of spring. The brilliance and clarity of his new destiny pierces t he dark clouds that had lingered above him throughout the novel, and calms the storms of f ortune in which he has been tossed. This passage stands in opposition with the passage at the onset of the novel, when Lucius first walks around Thessaly and is struck by a visi on of strange and mysterious magical forces. He imagines that everything around him is n ot what it seems, that the whole region is made up of individuals transformed by mag ic. His vision no longer clouded by his base desires, he sees with a newfound clarity, and recognizes the aspects of his surroundings for what they are, and sees the power of the supreme goddess in everything. Following this awakening, Lucius encounters the fes tival procession, and this procession contains a number of references to the p receding books that prompt the reader to recall the Lucius’ previous experiences. There i s a soldier, who recalls the cruel military man who stole Lucius from the market-garde ner by force, and a huntsman, representing the story of Tlepolemus and Thrasyllus There is a man dresses as a woman, “wearing gilded shoes, a silk gown, costly jewelry and a wig” (11.8) who brings to mind the various devious woman Lucius encounters in his travels. A man dressed as a gladiator


72 evokes Lucius’ battle with the inflated goatskins a nd subsequent humiliation at the festival of Laughter, another dressed as a magistra te recalls his encounter with his friend the aedile in Thessaly. There is a bear, calling to mind the stories of the bandits, and a monkey dressed up as Ganymede, which evokes the sto ry of Cupid and Psyche and the performance of the choice of Paris. Finally, there is a donkey comically adorned with wings in a farcical representation of Pegasus, whic h brings Lucius’ still-animal form back into the forefront. When Lucius refers to this firs t group of people in the parade as “comic diversions” (11.9), he reduces the pain and suffering of his journey to a mere succession of comic events now rendered meaningless in the face of the higher aspirations of Isis. By recalling elements of the f irst ten books, they highlight the shift in tone that occurs in the eleventh book of the novel. The first ten books, and Lucius’ various adventures within, are the “comic diversion ,” although much of this comedy is tinged with pain and suffering. The final book shif ts to higher things in Lucius’ deliverance and conversion. They also direct the re ader’s attention back to the events of the first ten books of the novel, so that Lucius’ t ransformation occurs in the context of the rest of the novel. The eleventh book does not exist separately from those preceding it, but rather it specifically addresses the vices that so contribute to Lucius’ suffering in each part of his initiation. Lucius’ moment of deliverance recalls several passa ges at the beginning of the novel and establishes the benevolent powers of Isis Lucius watches the festival procession as it passes, and soon sees the high pri est Mithras, holding a crown of roses just as Isis foretells in Lucius’ vision on the bea ch. Lucius calmly makes his way through the crowd and approaches Mithras. The priest, recog nizing him from his own vision of


73 the goddess, offers the roses to the approaching as s. Lucius takes the garland “with greedy mouth” and eats them “with even greater eage rness” (11.13). This language clearly evokes Lucius’ anecdote in the beginning of the novel in which he recalls an attempt to eat a great deal of polenta in a contest with others, and very nearly chokes t o death. In addition, this same language is used to d escribe the death of Socrates, who “greedily” eats cheese and drinks water moments bef ore he perishes. However, unlike these earlier occurrences, Isis rewards Lucius for his haste when his human body is restored. When Lucius chokes on the polenta he is competing with his companions in a contest of gluttony, and as a reward he nearly chok es to death. The exemplar of Socrates provides a ritualistic foil: he is overcome with hu nger and thirst because of the rite of Mero and Panthia, which contrasts with Lucius’ rel igious experience on the beach. Socrates becomes closely involved with a powerful w itch, and his contact with the supernatural afflicts him with unbearable hunger an d thirst. He meets his death greedily stuffing himself with food and water. Lucius, howev er, does not gobble up the roses because of gluttony, but rather on account of his n ewfound devotion to the goddess and his desire to be released from his asinine form so that he may enter into service to the deity. The similar language underscores the change in Lucius. At the beginning of the novel, he bolts down the polenta because of base gl uttony. After Isis’ rescue, he bolts down the roses out of sincere religious devotion. S ocrates represents the opposite form of conversion. He is trapped by the witches and afflic ted with gluttony in a perverse religious ritual, and his reward is death. Lucius r eceives a true vision brought on by honest and heartfelt prayer, and his vision fills h im with religious zeal, and as a reward for this devotion Isis delivers him from his suffer ing.


74 Simply regaining his human form relieves Lucius fro m the curse of gluttony that had dogged him as an ass. However, once his humanit y is restored, Lucius also takes part in the triple initiation into the mysteries of Isis and these initiations focus specifically on the vice of gluttony. As he awaits a sign from the goddess to undergo his the first rites of initiation, he joins with the other devotees of Isi s in abstaining from “profane and unlawful foods” (11.21), and after the goddess appe ars to him in a dream and orders him to take part in the ceremony, Mithras orders Lucius to “discipline my pleasures in eating for the ensuing ten days, taking no animal flesh an d drinking no wine” (11.23). He does the same in his later initiations. As a part of his devotion, he actively holds back his desires for food and drink, which is a departure fr om the drunken Lucius of the first few books, and the insatiable glutton that is Lucius th e ass. Aristomenes suggests that overconsumption of food and drink clouds the mind a nd leads to unpleasant dreams and evil visions, and his fears are confirmed by the de ath of Socrates. It is Lucius’ drunkenness on his return from Byrrhena’s banquet t hat leads to his battle with the goatskins and his mock trial at the festival of Lau ghter, an event that propels him down his path of misfortune. As a devotee of Isis, Luciu s’ behavior is inverted. Through the conviction of his belief in Isis, he rejects the fo rmer gluttonous version of himself, and takes up the reserved persona which he carries at t he end of the novel. Lucius’ initiation puts a great emphasis on the aba ndonment of avarice, as well, although he is comfortably wealthy at the end of th e novel. Each initiation he undergoes in the final chapter comes at a significant financi al cost. Isis lays out the costs of Lucius’ first initiation in a dream vision. She requires th at Lucius account for the cost of his initiation ceremony, including sacrificial offering s and other significant ritual objects.


75 After the initial ceremony, Lucius travels to Rome, where he lives a life of relative poverty owing to the high cost of living in the cit y. When he joins the cult of Osiris, he sells his wardrobe to cover the expenses, when a pr iest asks him: “If you were embarking on some activity for pleasure, you would certainly not hesitate to part with your shabby clothes; so now that you are embarking on these nob le rites, do you hesitate to resign yourself to a poverty which you can never regret?” (11.28). Clearly the rejection of avarice is a core value of the cults of Isis and Os iris, one that reflects the general attitude of restraint which permeates the religion. When Luc ius is initiated a third time, he once again finances the ceremony, and does not hesitate to say that all was provided “with religious zeal rather than by calculation of my pos sessions” (11.30). The fact that Lucius undergoes these three separate, and expensive, cere monies detaches him from avarice. Lucius himself is not particularly avaricious, but he navigates a world dominated by the pursuit of money, where people are willing sink to the greatest depths of cruelty to earn a dollar, such as the tales of the bandits, the story of Cupid and Psyche, and the tale of the wealthy estate owner’s sons. His experiences in his multiple initiations take him out of this world. However, the most significant change which Lucius undergoes in his conversion is the loss of his inappropriate curiosity. At the beginning of the novel, Lucius is fixated upon the desire for greater knowledge of magic and the supernatural, to the point that he condemns himself to suffering as an ass. He ignores the myriad warnings he receives against delving too deeply in the affairs of witche s. Aristomenes’ tale, the warnings of Byrrhena, and the infamy of Pamphile all give clear warnings to Lucius as to the danger of the pursuit of supernatural knowledge. Nonethele ss, he is willing to rush headlong into


76 danger in order to learn more about the powers of w itches, and for this reason most of all he is transformed. In the final book, Lucius’ unque nchable curiosity is replaced by his religious devotion, and the very nature of his init iations teaches him to hold back his desire for greater knowledge and a more intimate re lationship with the goddess. In the course of his first initiation, Lucius remarks: “It was my duty to take stringent precautions against both over-enthusiasm and obstin acy, avoiding both faults so as not to hang back when summoned, nor to push forward unbidd en” (11.21). His curiosity is curbed by reverence. Whereas the Lucius of the begi nning of the novel, and even Lucius the ass, would have leapt forward unbidden to gain the higher knowledge of the supreme goddess, the Lucius of book eleven, now free from t he vice of greed as a result of Isis’ providence, restrains his desires, and gains far gr eater knowledge as a result. Just as Isis allows Lucius to break free from the fetters of greed, she also stills the lust that contributes to his suffering. The initial appearance of the supreme goddess recalls the first sexual encounter between Lucius a nd Photis, and indeed much of the description of Isis echoes that of Photis. In the v ision, Isis rises out of the sea, in a fashion reminiscent of the common image of Venus rising fro m the waves, an image Photis imitates in “a show of genial wantonness” (2.17). L ucius first describes the goddess’s hair, just as he does when he first meets Photis in the lust-charged setting of Milo’s kitchen. However, the description of the breathtaki ng beauty of Isis lacks the same undertones of lust. Isis’ rise from the ocean waves is not a wanton display, because Isis, as the embodiment of all the female goddesses, is Venus. While Photis was an attractive slave, Isis possesses a divine beauty so captivatin g that “the brilliance of her light lends lustre even to the other gods” (11.15). Lucius is u nable to feel any lust towards Isis


77 because he is so awestruck by the power of her beau ty, which is truly divine beauty. She stands in opposition not only to Photis, the object of Lucius’ lust, but also to every lustful and adulterous woman Lucius encounters in his journ ey, the perfect foil to their lustful ways. Isis represents truth, justice and chastity, all of which necessitate a supreme level of restraint that is completely absent in much of t he world of the first ten books of the novel. Here we have a truly virtuous woman: not an object of lust, but an inspiration to higher knowledge and restrained, thoughtful life. T he wealthy married woman, who is so enamored of Lucius’ asinine form, is the strongest example of unnatural lust in the first ten books, and Isis is set directly opposite her. T hat a woman would hold such lust for an ass, that “most hateful of animals, which has long been abominable” (11.6) to Isis is unspeakably wrong, and it is Lucius’ copulation wit h this woman that nearly forces him into the peril of the arena, to have sex with an un speakable criminal, and risk the claws and teeth of wild beasts. Isis offers Lucius delive rance from the perils of lust, and shows him a more difficult, but more rewarding, path of c hastity and restraint. When Isis takes up this role, in direct opposition to the various unchaste and evil women Lucius encounters in his travels, she likewis e becomes a foil for the witches who play a prominent role in Lucius’ downfall. Repeated examples of the terrible power of witches appear in the first few books of the novel. Their magical abilities give them command of the elements, the spirits, and the movem ent of the sun, moon and stars. Isis addresses all of these abilities at the moment of h er appearance to Lucius on the beach. Isis commands “the luminous heights of heaven, the healthy sea-breezes, the sad silences of the infernal dwellers” (11.5), much like the wit ches. However, Isis announces her abilities herself, offering her services in answer to Lucius’ desperate prayer and in return


78 for his lifelong devotion. The various powers of wi tches are rarely evident to Lucius in his own experience, coming rather to him by way of hearsay and warnings. The witches indeed possess remarkable powers, but Lucius witnes ses only a few. Lucius sees very little firsthand of the abilities of Pamphile, befo re he is turned into an ass, and hears of the other powers of witches only the Aristomenes an d Thelyphron. Isis appears to Lucius, announces her powers and her many forms and names, and clearly states her intentions for the unfortunate man. In this way she opposes th e witches, as she does not rely on the reputation of her skills to inspire fear or reveren ce, but rather actively establishes her sovereignty and power to Lucius. Isis’ active invol vement with Lucius completes the image of her as the total opposite of the witches. When Lucius undergoes his first initiation into th e mysteries of Isis, he participates in a true religious ritual, which stan ds opposite the ceremonies of the witches and of the festival of Laughter. The witches perfor m their necromantic rites under the cover of darkness, using their powers of subterfuge to ensnare their victims. Mero and Panthia force Aristomenes and the unfortunate Socra tes into unwilling participation in their perverse sacrifice, while Pamphile surrounds herself with the grisly remains of humans and animals, stolen from graves and wild ani mals. The townspeople, in the festival of Laughter, offer up Lucius as the patron of the holiday and the beneficiary of the god without his prior knowledge or consent. Luc ius by contrast enters the Isis cult by his own free will, following a period of patient ob servance, and after the goddess visits him in a dream and bids him to join her followers. The ceremony begins with the unveiling of the books of the temple, “headed with unfamiliar characters” (11.22). These bizarre letters recall the bizarre and foreign stri ps of metal engraved with the spells of


79 Pamphile, yet they do not inspire the same sense of wrongness. The spells of witches are rendered in strange tongues in order to add to the sense of confusion and further emphasize the inversion of proper ritual, while the sacred texts of the Isis temple are written in the Egyptian hieroglyphic script, in ord er to preserve the essence of the holy mysteries, which originated in Egypt, and also to p rotect the mysteries from the curiosity of the profane. The indecipherable spells of Pamphi le’s gruesome ritual serve the witch only, while the mysteries of the Isis temple serve the highest purpose: honoring the supreme deity. After the sacred books are brought f orth, Lucius is purified with water in the baths, which recalls the “purification” of Aris tomenes in the witches’ urine at the close of their ritual, in which they enact their mu rder-sacrifice of Socrates. Lucius is unable to fully describe the ritual of his initiati on, because he is forbidden to speak the mysteries to the uninitiated. However, he does vagu ely recount his experiences, saying particularly that he “at the dead of night saw the sun gleaming with bright brilliance” (11.23). In the ceremony of Isis, night becomes day In the ceremonies of witches, according to the accounts of their powers given to Lucius, day becomes night. He often hears of the witches’ abilities to plunge daylight into the deepest night, and it is telling that Isis, in her cult’s initiation, does the oppos ite. Mithras, the high-priest of the temple of Isis at Corinth, presents a foil for Philebus and his catamite priests. Philebus is impu lsive, greedy, and cruel, while Mithras carries himself with a quiet dignity, and shows a g enuine knowledge of the mysteries of his faith. The catamites show little tangible knowl edge of any sort of holy mystery. They, rather, take advantage of their position as priests to satiate their appetites for sex and money. Whereas the catamites are overcome with worl dly desires, travelling from town


80 to town, peddling their false devotion to an unfami liar deity in exchange for sexual pleasures and financial gain, Mithras is concerned with the proper offices of a priest. He oversees the functions of the temple and of the fes tivals, and instructs Lucius in the appropriate behaviors of a devotee of Isis, particu larly that he “discipline his pleasures” (11.23) and await his initiation with “reverent pat ience” (11.21). This image of the false priest is turned on its head by the appearance of M ithras, who welcomes Lucius into his temple, frees him from the fetters of lust and gree d, and teaches him the value of patience and restraint. Freed from these vices by his vision of Isis, Luci us also is finally freed from the uncertain world of prophecy in which he has wandere d. Prophecy is present throughout the first ten books of the novel; sometimes it is t rue, sometimes false. Prophecies are made by false oracles, and true predictions are int erpreted incorrectly. The only constant in prophecy is its uncertainty. However, in the ele venth book, prophecy takes on a much more stable and concrete form in the various predic tions of Isis. In his initial vision of the supreme Goddess, Lucius learns of the events of the next day, as does the priest Mithras. Isis specifically instructs Lucius in his actions, and promises him his deliverance if he follows her guidance. Heeding her words, he is deli vered to the high-priest of the temple, who also has gained knowledge through the true prop hecy of Isis. Mithras is already aware of Lucius’ misfortunes, as if he, too, had be en along as an observer on his travels. Mithras gains this knowledge through the prophecy o f Isis. Mithras, like Lucius, is inspired by the prophecy of Isis, and puts Lucius’ misfortunes into their proper context. In the days and years following, Lucius is visited by numerous other visions, each of which he sees as “a clear intimation of the gods’ w ill” (11.27), despite their unexpected


81 arrival. Lucius is able to accept these new visions because they are, in turn, proven true. First, he is delivered from his animal form, and th en he regains his possessions and his white horse, the slave “Candidus” which the goddess promised would return to him in a dream-vision. Finally he undergoes three separate i nitiations, each presaged by a vision delivers by the goddess, and he gains great honor, prestige, and wealth from each, which is promised to him in the prophecies of the Goddess In this way, he is finally delivered from the bewildering uncertainty of the world in th e first ten books of the novel, and is placed in a peaceful life, where he is able to be c ertain of the outcome of his life, and he is content in his station. The final passage of the book reflects Lucius’ new outlook on life, when the god Osiris visits him in a dream, an d tells him to continue his practices in the law-courts and promotes him to the college of pastiphori Lucius “gladly performed the duties of that most ancient college” and “did n ot cover or conceal my bald head, but sported it openly wherever I went” (11.30). This fi nal image of Lucius is a complete inversion of the Lucius of the beginning of the sto ry, no longer obsessed with the mysteries of the supernatural, no longer driven to gluttony and lust, no longer bound by the vices of the evil world. He is content, having found his proper place, living a life of quiet restraint, which proves to be a life of far g reater prosperity than any offered him in the first ten books of the novel. While the eleventh book of the Metamorphoses is an extreme departure in tone and content from the preceding books, it is not an entirely separate entity. Lucius steps out of the world he had previously lived in, the wo rld of extreme evil, filled with the petty vices of man, and into a world of higher thin gs. From the moment he is first visited by Isis on the beach, Lucius is a changed man. He u ndergoes both a physical


82 transformation from an ass to man, and a spiritual transformation, a change he calls “a rite of voluntary death” (11.21). His restoration a t the festival and his subsequent tripleinitiation are inextricably linked to the events of the first ten books, with each event serving its appropriate function in the eyes of the Goddess. Each tale and experience in the first ten books serves as an example of the cul ture of vice that has arisen in the world of the Metamorphoses Before he becomes into an ass, Lucius receives re peated warnings as the dangers of greed, lust, and the supernatural and he is punished because he ignores these warnings. As an ass, Fortune drives Lucius fr om one unfortunate circumstance to another, and he witnesses the various evils of the world. The novel is without a doubt a comic one, but carries a serious message with it as well. Whenever Lucius hear a tale of adultery, or of extreme avarice, or witnesses a biz arre supernatural event, it is often accompanied by comedy. However, while many of Luciu s’ misfortunes are funny, their consequences are not, and even those that maintain a level of humor are nonetheless tinged with violence and death. Herein lies the gre atest issue with the final book of the novel. Even after taking on the subdued tone of rel igious deliverance, there are nonetheless various moments of comedy. There are mo ments that seem strange and out of place. Mithras is a clear figure of authority, and his spe ech is clearly framed in the context of divine authority. Before delivering his speech he gives Lucius “a godlike look” (11.14), and afterwards he is exhausted by the labo r of his prophecy. Winkler argues that this speech, while it carries the authority of Isis still fails to provide the necessary information concerning the beliefs of Lucius himsel f. However, Lucius’ thoughts on the nature of his travels and his restoration have alre ady been established when Isis visits him


83 on the beach. Lucius recognizes the power of the Go ddess and makes a heartfelt prayer for her aid, asking that she “come to my aid at thi s time of extreme privation, lend stability to my disintegrating fortunes, grant resp ite and peace to the harsh afflictions which I have endured” (11.3). At this moment Lucius feeling the presence of the goddess, finally decides to ask for her assistance, recognizing at last that he has somehow incurred some divine displeasure. His prayers are a nswered and the next day he is restored. Despite the truth of the prophecy of Isis both Lucius and Mithras are somewhat astonished when her prophecy comes to fruition, but Mithras, who is trained and educated in the mysteries of Isis, is the first to recover and deliver the message of the Goddess. That the people interpret it incorrectly i s not inconsequential, but strengthens the sense of inversion of the first ten books and t he final book. Had Lucius undergone this transformation at another time in the novel, h e surely would have been the subject of accusations of witchcraft and almost certainly thre ats of violence. Here, however, the gathered crowds, who have not been visited by the i mage of the Goddess as Lucius and Mithras have, do not correctly interpret the nature of Lucius’ transformation, but they also do not take it in a fearful or threatening man ner. Isis predicts this reaction in her prophecy, and promises Lucius safety from “spiteful charges” (11.6). The crowd is uninitiated, and Lucius’ reverence for the holy mys teries later in the book reinforces this idea. Even an initiate cannot fully understand the mysteries of the cult, but these mysteries are completely inaccessible to the profan e. Winkler argues that Lucius’ subsequent triple-initi ation produces can only be interpreted in two ways: Lucius is either a truly r edeemed believer, or a fool. He states that the repeated initiations which Lucius undergoe s dramatically undercut the religious


84 authority of Lucius’ experience with the Isis cult. Lucius’ own moments of doubt and delay in the matter only serve to intensify this in congruity. If the Isis cult is truly benevolent, why does Lucius have to undergo two une xpected initiations, at no small cost? If Lucius is a true believer, why does he dou bt these initiations? However, as is discussed above, the triple initiation serves a dif ferent purpose: reinforcing Lucius’ spiritual and physical devotion to the Goddess. To an outside observer, especially an observer operating in the modern world, where the i dea of a religious cult carries a far more significant stigma than in the Roman world of the Metamorphoses Lucius does appear somewhat foolish, especially when the final line of the novel is taken into account. Lucius living as a bald deacon of the temple is an amusing image, and serves as the final message of humor in a consistently humorous novel. Lucius’ transformation is real, however. He has stepped out of the world of the fir st ten books, where he was surrounded by evil and vice, and has entered the realm of Isis and Osiris, where his humorous appearance is an asset, not a hindrance. Lucius eve n admits that he appears somewhat foolish himself. While Lucius is content, the evil world certainly s till exists. Lucius’ tripleinitiation and his bald head are still sources of h umor, in keeping with the rest of the novel, but his redemption is also real, at least to him. Despite a few moments of doubt when he is told to undergo further initiation, Luci us is content at the end of the novel. It is not essential that the reader see Lucius strictly a s either a truly redeemed individual or a fool. He takes on both roles. Winkler points out th at a certain distance develops between Lucius and the reader in the final four chapters of the eleventh book, but this distance supports the argument that Lucius is both foolish a nd truly redeemed. No longer is Lucius


85 the narrator-ass, trapped along with the reader in a world filled with evil and vice. Now he is an initiate into the mysteries of Isis and Os iris, mysteries from which the reader is excluded. So while he appears foolish to the reader and very well may be a fool, he does not think himself foolish, and thus has escaped fro m the world of the first eleven books, thus completing the inversion contained within the final book of the novel. The Metamorphoses presents Lucius’ journey through a vice-filled wor ld, and depicts his own escape from that world. Lucius’ mode of escape is s piritual. He finds relief from the suffering of the greater world in shutting himself off from base pleasures and desires and devoting himself to a higher purpose. Whether this purpose is legitimate or not is immaterial. Lucius truly believes that Isis visits him in his visions, and he truly believes that Isis is the reason for his deliverance.


86 WORKS CITED Apuleius. 1994. The Golden Ass Translated by P.G. Walsh. New York: Oxford University Press. Campbell, John Brian. 1996. “Apuleius”, in Simon Ho rnblower and Anthony Spawforth, eds. The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Third Edition New York: Oxford University Press, 131-2. Haight, Elizabeth. 1963. Apuleius and his Influence New York: Cooper Square Publishers, Inc. Harrison, S.J., ed. 1999. Oxford Readings in the Roman Novel. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Perry, Ben Edwin. 1926. “An Interpretation of Apule ius’ Metamorphoses.” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Associ ation 57: 238-260. Robertson, D.S. 1939. “A Study of Apuleius.” The Classical Review 53: 20-21. Winkler, John J. 1985. Auctor & Actor: A Narratalogical Reading of Apuleiu s’ Golden Ass. London: University of California Press.