Sunday, April 18, 2004

Apuleius Golden Asse

18th Apr 04 Apuleius Golden Asse

Apuleius (124-170CE) is best known for his Metamorphoses, better known as The Golden Ass. The name is borrowed off Ovid's work, but is not nearly the same, although it presents a series of tales that are related through Lucius. in a Chinese box structure.

However old the book might be, it is a hot topic among literature and classics students, generating a sub-industry of commentary and study in itself. Why? Because Apuleius himself is a very controversial figure who appears in the letters of St Augustine to Volusianus and Marcellinus as a threat to the new Christian faith as they found him comparable to Christ. What ho? Apuleius was an devotee of Isis and initiated into the secret mysteries of Osiris, a renown student of Plato, of ancient mystery cults and of Asclepius. he was known as a wonder-maker and accused as a magician around 156 in Alexandria in a case concerning a elderly widow, Pudentilla—I kid you not, not somebody out of a Mozartean comedy. However, he was skilled in rhetoric, which always helps in a Roman court and part of the argument that he presented was the scandal of reading rivate love letters in front of the opfficial statuary within the courts of law. The Romans being rather superstitious, treated the statutes as if they were living and doing anything profane or construed as shameful before them could result in a death penalty... this only added in his favor as presumably the trial had to be considered a mistrial on grounds of improper handling.

Apuleius was from Mdaurus, a Roman colony in Numidia, where from St Augustine also originated. He studied Platonic philosophy in Athens adn wrote three discourses on Plato, two exist: De platonis et eus dogmato/ On Plato and his teaching; De Deo Socratis/On the God of Socrates.

He also went off to Egypt and entered into the cult of Isis, nearly 400 years after the Isis cult had disappeared which appears in Plutarch's writings. He distinguishes between the left-hand destructive magic which Robert Graves associates to the Triple Goddess as Hecate and the right-hand magic of Isis which has productive powers within the story of the Goden Ass.

Frequently, the book has been seen as autobiographical, so much so, tht Apuleius was given the name he bestowed the ass, Lucius. Lucius is a poet, who in seeking for enlightenment through the mysteries of socery inadvertantly gets transformed into an ass. Curiously enough, the ass is a beast repellent to Isis as it symbolizes Python who ambushed and killed Osiris her brother-husband. The structure of the book is of Chinese-box pattern with a story embedded within a story: the most famous of these is Cupid and Psyche, frequently interpreted as a platonic allegory. However, the entire work can be seen as an allegory of human suffering and transfomation into a higher being. There are scholarly comparisons between the work and eastern literature as Apuleius, himself, refers to it as Milesian tales. There are strong parallels between the eastern influence flowing in from India and the Isis cult.

Apuleius, or the Golden Ass, has strongly influenced literature, including Bocaccio's Decameron; Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel; Shakespeare, Midsummer Night's Dream, Swift, Gulliver's Travels; Defoe, Moll Flanders in the rowdy mood of adventure.

The Cupid and Psyche myth can be found within the stories of Beauty and the Beast where love transform something which is ugly or despicable into something cherished. The last book of the Golden Ass is dedicated to the worship of Isis, as the ass is once more transformed into human form. It is difficult to know where the jest stops and where reality begins, what is fantasy or biography in the mix of tales. The narrative is lively, dynamic and not something you can put away until read straight through. it includes the profane, the dirty, the tawdry and bawdry as well as the yearning for the divine.

On the long list of books to be read, T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) carried it in his saddle bags during the Arabic Uprising—and surprisingly enough, he did not give us his own translation, but delivered us homeric verse instead. Translations and commentaries on this work now abound as it stimulates interest in ancient mystery cults, history and is fille with the best medicine of all: laughter.

Apuleius Golden Asse
Adlington's translation, 1566. This edition by Martin Guy, 1996
11 books

The Golden Asse. by Lucius Apuleius. Adlington's translation, 1566.
The Life of Lucius Apuleius. Briefly Described.


Luca Graverini Apuleius

Bruce MacLennan
Apuleius The Home Page

Golden Ass
well-annotated commentary and discussion on Apuleius and the Goldebn Ass
gives insight into ancient religion, structure of the text and the tensions which create its structure

Apuleius The Golden Ass
downloadable Cupid and Psyche marked

Apuleius Rhetorical works
translated and introduced by S.J. Harrison,
J.L. Hilton, and V.J.C. Hunink (Oxford University Press, Oxford)

Stephen A. Nimis, Prof Classics Miami University
introduction to Apuleius

Elizabethan Authors
Sources for Shakespears works


Main Page for Latin Library

Apuleius gets on Blogspot

Toothpaste Dentifricim*/Dentifricium.html
in reference to the Apologia: Apuleius was accused of socery and toothpaste was apparently to be his mode of murder.

Rabelais Gargantua and Pantagruel
has reference to Apuleius

Electronic Texts for classics

Montclair Classics Dept

Fabricius Flavius Links to the Roman World
a directory of links but not well designed or organized

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Aesop and Indian Influences

13th Apr 04 Aesop and Indian Influences

According to legend, Aesop was a Phrygian slave, living in the sixth century ( 620-520 BCE), who bought his way to freedom through his skill as an arbitrator, using fables to illustrate arguements. Like Herakles, many places claim his origin, among them: Thrace, Phrygia, Aethiopia, Samos, Athens and Sardis.

His existence is related through Herodotus that he was a slave of Iadmon of Samos who met with violent death by the inhabitants of Delphi. Herodotus does not give the cause of his death, although legend offers many explanations, one being that like Socrates, he offended the sensibilities of the people and died a martyr. Another is that as the treasurer of Croesus, he embezzled public monies and so incurred capital punishment. Other sources say that he defended a Samian demagogue, recorded in Aristotle's Rhetoric and he dined with the Seven Sages of Greece with Periander at Corinth. Supposedly, he presented the Fable of the Frogs Demanding a king to Peisistrattus, which could e the germ of Aristophanes, Frogs. He gained a collection of lore, explaining his existence, much like Herakles which was embellished upon and circulated well into Middle Ages: he was ugly and deformed according to the preface written by Maximus Planudes. Aesop appears as a figure within Plutarch's Symposium of the Seven Sages, in which jokes are made on his origins as a slave. Athens commissioned a public statute by Lysippus that showed no deformity.

Aesop's fables appear in Aristophanes', Wasps and cited in Plato's Phaedo by Socrates. They were alwso transcribed by Demetrius of Phaelerum (345-283 BCE) into ten books, Lopson Aisopeion Sunagogai, which has been lost. Babrius, the tutor to the son of Alexasnder Severus, translated the fables into choliambic in the third century CE. Phaedrus, a freedman of Augustus, anthologised another collection in Latin which was widely circulated throughout the Middle Ages and Avinus produced another anthology of 42 Latin elegiacs in the fourth century.

Probably, the Fables accompanied Alexander on his way east, entering India where they mingled with early folk tales. Similar tales existed in India at the time. The most widely recognized collection of tales ar the Jataka. However, an earlier collection of The Perfections of Buddha began by Asvagosha, who died after he ahd completed the thirty-fourth tale. The tales were meant to express the divinity of Buddha in his various incarnations. The Jataka Tales, possibly originated in Ceylon around 241. They present commentary on the gathas, moral verse, composed by Buddhaghosa school of the fifth century. The tales are coupled, presenting a Story of the Present which introduces a reflection of Buddha's past life, reflecting A Story of the Past which relates folklore introducing a moral lesson based on the former incarnations o the Buddha: Lion and Crane; Monkey and Crocodile.

In the 19th century, these stories became of major literary interests with translations from Rhys-David, Pausboll and R Morris. There are 550 tales in total and are similar to Aesop in their prsentation. Joseph jacobs in his introduction to Indian Fairy Tales conjectures that the Kasyapa fables ante-dated both the Bidpai and Jataka Tales. The Bidpai stories are very similar to Aesop in that they eliminated Buddha as the central figure and presented only animal wisdom tales. Many are difficult to assess their origin for their striking similarity to Aesop. Moreover, to confuse the heritage, in 52 CE, King Chandra Muka Siwa of Cinelaesia sent a delegation to Emperor Claudius in Rome. The collection was translated and known as the Kybsis, many of which were later incorporated into the collective works of Aesop by Babrius and Avian. The collections of Babrius and Avian circulated among the Medieval scholars and brought with them their corruptions and additions as they were popular material for sermons. They entered into literature through the Italian Novellari, Boccaccio and crossed through Chaucer, entering into the Elizabethan stage and Shakespearean opera. Indian fables were collected and circulated throughout the Middle Ages during the Crusades—a notable collection, Disciplina Clericalis, was translated by Petrus Alphons, a Spanish Jew, who converted, around 1106.

In the 19th Century, British colonization in India reaped literary rewards in the collection of Indian fables by M. Frere, Old Deccan Days, published in 1868 with Mr Murray; 1880, Ellis & White pubished Indian Fairy Tales by Stokes; 1883, Macmillan published Folk-Tales of Bengal by Ralston; and Trubner published Wideawake Stories by Steel and Temple; 1891 W H Allen published Tales of the Sun by Kingscote an anthology of an earlier work by Pandit Natesa Sasstri, Folk-Lore of Southern India. In 1887, Truebner's Oriental Library added Folk-Tales of Kashmir by Knowles; 1892 Snatal Tales by Campbell and Ramaswami Raju's Indian Fables. In 1889, Thornhill produced Indian Fairy Tales and 1885, Robinson Tales of South India.

In the time that Jacobs wrote his preface for Aesop's Fables and Indian Fairy Tales, he noted that the Fables were circulated in 38 languages with more than 112 different versions, with at least 28 versions in English. The mingling of East and West is not easy to decipher as corruptions of Buddhist literature entered the Christian catalogue with stories such as life of St Buddha assimilated as St Josephat in Barlaam and Josaphat.

However, one thing is sure, Aesop lived many years before the collection of the Bidpai and Jataka collections and so it is unfair to Aesop to say he borrowed his fables from the east. Phaedrus and later collectors mixed fables indisciminately, confusing the issues of origin.

Wikipedia: Aesop

Joseph Jacobs Short History of the Fable

Rare Titles of Aesop

Sacred Texts Bidpai

Main Lesson Bidpai Stories

Bidpai ed Joseph Jacobs

Aesops Fables
650 fables plus more

Fyler's translation

Fairytale Collection: Aesop


20 July 2003 Aesop and the Fisherman

13 May 04 Aesop and Jatarka Tales

29 Aug 04 Aesop and Friends