The Golden Ass

golden-assThe Golden Ass (Asinus Aureus) or Metamorphoses is the only Latin novel that has survived in its entirety. It is an imaginative, irreverent, and amusing work that relates the ludicrous adventures of one Lucius, who experiments with magic and is accidentally turned into an ass. In this guise he hears and sees many unusual things, until escaping from his predicament in a rather unexpected way. Within this frame story are found many digressions, the longest among them being the well-known tale of Cupid and Psyche.

The Metamorphoses ends with the (once again human) hero, Lucius, eager to be initiated into the mystery cult of Isis; he abstains from forbidden foods, bathes, and purifies himself. He is introduced to the Navigium Isidis. Then the secrets of the cult's books are explained to him, and further secrets are revealed before he goes through the process of initiation, which involves a trial by the elements in a journey to the underworld. Lucius is then asked to seek initiation into the cult of Osiris in Rome, and eventually is initiated into the pastophoroi – a group of priests that serves Isis and Osiris. The adventures of the ass stand at the beginning of the picaresque novel tradition which eventually produced The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling.

Other works
His other works are:

Apologia (A Discourse on Magic). Apuleius' courtroom defense. The work is a stylish defence against his opponents, with little reference to magic.
Florida. A compilation of twenty-three extracts from his various speeches and lectures.
De Dogmate Platonis (On Plato and his Doctrine). An outline in two books of Plato's physics and ethics, preceded by a life of Plato
De Deo Socratis (On the God of Socrates). A work on the existence and nature of daemons, the intermediaries between gods and humans. This treatise was roughly attacked by Augustine. It contains a passage comparing gods and kings which is the first recorded occurrence of the proverb "familiarity breeds contempt":
parit enim conversatio contemptum, raritas conciliat admirationem
(familiarity breeds contempt, rarity brings admiration)

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