1st Edition

Religion and Apuleius' Golden Ass The Sacred Ass

By Warren S. Smith Copyright 2023
    208 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume examines Apuleius’ comic donkey novel, The Golden Ass, within the context of the popular beliefs and Jewish and Christian writings that were part of the intellectual culture of his own day in 2nd century C.E. North Africa, a culture which can also be glimpsed in some early Arabic writings.

    The novel was written against a cultural and religious background in which the donkey had various connotations, both positive and negative, but tended to be admired in Jewish, Christian, and later, in Muslim writings. Smith explores the influence of such popular opinions on The Golden Ass and how Apuleius presented Isis and Osiris as desirable alternatives to the claims of both Christianity and magic, offering hope of spiritual renewal partly modelled on contemporary religious apocalyptic literature. Complemented by images of contemporary art, including amulets and terra cotta figures, this volume gives readers a better understanding of how Apuleius, ostensibly a Platonist and member of the Roman establishment, could maintain an intellectual independence in a North African milieu while still drawing on hope in the salvation of the gods.

    Religion and Apuleius’ Golden Ass provides a fascinating new approach to this much disputed novel, of interest not only to students and scholars of Apuleius and Roman literature, but also scholars interested in Christian and Jewish literature and beliefs of the early centuries of the first millennium C.E.

    1. Asinine Thinking; 2. Magical Thinking: The Witchcraft Narrative; 3. Fortune Competes With Providence: The Meaning of Laughter; 4. Robbers Think Like Heroes; 5. Cupid and Psyche: Thinking Like A Winged Creature; 6. Thinking Like A Christian Apologist; 7. Is the Golden Ass a God?; 8. Thinking Like A Christian; 9. Christian and Jewish Apocalyptic Writings; 10. Balancing Judaism and Christianity; Appendix: Lucius ‘Becomes’ Apuleius.


    Warren S. Smith is Professor Emeritus of Classics at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, USA, and has also taught in Kenya and the Philippines. He has edited Erasmus’ Annotations on Romans and Satiric Advice on Women and Marriage From Plautus to Chaucer.

    "Smith presents a coherent set of arguments...he has shown surprising, often compelling, correspondences between these texts and the Metamorphoses, and this book will form a valuable addition to our studies of Apuleius’ elusive novel." - Bryn Mawr Classical Review

    "S.’s book is the fruit of a life-long study of The Golden Ass and it is an excellent read. Moreover, it offers a new perspective not only on the relationship between Apuleius and early Christianity, but also on how the pagan elite was perceiving the new religion and reacting to it."Censurae Librorum