'THE DATE OF APULEIUS' METAMORPHOSES'
Text published in: Pol Defosse (ed.) Hommages ā Carl Deroux, II, Prose et linguistique, Médicine, Collection Latomus vol. 267, Bruxelles 2002, 224-235
of the literary genres in which the Romans may be said to have surpassed the
Greeks is the novel. The two extant Roman specimina, Petronius' Satyrica
and Apuleius' Metamorphoses, can be ranked among the literary
masterpieces of all times. In recent years, both novels have attracted
considerable scholarly attention, with discussions concerning e.g. their
authorship, purpose, literary genre, style, narrative and dramatic technique, to
mention just a few areas of interest.
this contribution I will concentrate upon the intriguing novel by Apuleius. More
specifically, I will restrict myself to a problem that has troubled scholars for
over a century: the vexed question of the date of composition of the Met.,
for which proposals have been advanced ranging from before 150 to well after 180
AD. Although the matter may seem to be one of relatively small, or merely '
academic' relevance, it affects the general interpretation of the novel, its
intention, and its cultural context. For this reason, a careful examination of
the arguments and the evidence seems a worthwhile undertaking.
me start by stating the obvious fact: there is no certain date we can specify
for the Met.
Apuleius' year of birth is commonly assumed to have been in the mid-120s AD,
whereas the year of his death cannot be estimated with any precision. Most
scholars assume Apuleius died in the 170s or even 180s AD, but this is no more
than a guess. The Met. does not provide us with any clear internal
evidence for a date. Although the novel is set in a recognizable ' Greco-Roman'
world, it is, at the same time, a piece of fiction that is curiously timeless.
Occasionally elements have been used in attempts to date it, such as the mention
of historical persons, e.g. the philosopher Lucius (Met. 1,2) or
the Roman Asinius Marcellus (11,27), but such references remain
lack of evidence of an absolute date, the discussion has largely concentrated on
finding a relative date. More precisely: did the Met. precede Apuleius'
speech in defence of himself, known as the Apology, or did it follow it?
Apol. in fact allows us to establish a date for the author's chronology.
Apuleius' trial was presided over by Claudius Maximus, who was the proconsul [START
page 225] of
Africa in 158/159, as scholars now agree. The trial may have taken place in the
winter, so in late 158 or early 159.
Unfortunately, we do not know whether Apuleius was really sued at all
(the text may be a rhetorical fiction!) and, if so, when he published the text
and to what extent it was revised.
So caution is due here, since the date of ' 158' is not as unproblematic as it
might seem. But let us stick to the communis opinio and assume that there
was a trial, that the text was only moderately revised, and that it was
published not too long after the actual events.
addition to the date of the Apol., there are some passages in Apuleius' Florida
that allow for specific dates. Florida 9 celebrates Severianus at his
departure from office in 163, while his successor Orfitus, the addressee of Fl.
17, was proconsul in 163-4.
NOVEL AS A WORK OF YOUTH
most scholars seem to settle for a relatively late date of the novel, the
minority theory, that the Met. preceded the Apol., has its
defenders too. To mention some of the better-known ones here: in the 19th
already proposed a very early date for the novel, which he argued to have been
composed during Apuleius' stay in Rome.
In recent years, the theory has been ardently defended, not to say fully
revived, by Ken Dowden.
cannot repeat their arguments at length, but it may be useful to recapture the
main points that have been advanced.
there is nothing in the Met. that really speaks against an early date.
The measureless style, the exuberant rhetoric, the pleasurable topics of sex,
love, adventures, and gruesome stories, combined with an acute interest in
fundamental issues of philosophy and religion, all this may seem to fit the
talent of a young brilliant student in pursuit of the key to the secret of the
world. Those who defend a late date often taken the very opposite view: that
none but an experienced, wise man could write such a profound novel in such a
splendid style. Meanwhile, [START page 226] arguments based on style are hazardous in the case of
Apuleius: he uses widely different styles, depending on the genre.
influence of Gnostic and other ideas current in Rome of the 150s, as studied by
DOWDEN 1994, form a more convincing argument for an early date. Generally
speaking, the focus on ' Roman' culture in the Met., against the general
background of ' Rome' as the centre of all Latin literature, would plead for a
Roman rather than an African audience, as DOWDEN rightly argues.
defence of the early date theory, one may perhaps underline two more points.
First, in recent scholarship there is a certain tendency to question the
seriousness of book 11 and the sincerity of Lucius' conversion.
The mocking of facile belief and naive gullibility would surely be an
attitude befitting a young intellectual. This is a new variant of the '
subjective' idea of "what befits a young man." Of course, one might
also argue that the attitude is typical of a cynical old man, who has lost his
belief in truth, but it seems more difficult to imagine the author Apuleius like
I would like to point to the possibility of anti-Christian tendencies in the
novel, as they have been studied by WALSH and SCHMIDT.
Strangely enough, both scholars opt for a late date, but one might well argue
that writing an anti-Christian novel would be a more promising enterprise in
Rome of the 150s than in the provincial Africa of, say, the 170s. Christianity
had become a rising phenomenon, and hence a problem, in Rome much earlier than
in Africa, and Apuleius may even have known of a famous case of martyrdom in
Rome in 152.
Such considerations make the hypothesis of an early date of the novel, in my
view, quite attractive.
TRACES OF THE NOVEL IN THE APOLOGY
reading the narrative, one readily assumes that it must have been a great
So if the novel [START PAGE 227] preceded the Apol., it would be quite natural for it to
be mentioned at some place in the speech. However, this is not the case, and it
is this silence in the Apol. that is commonly adduced as a main argument against
such an early date of the Met. This is the argumentum ex silentio
that has dominated the discussion.
the argument is not as decisive as it seems. Advocates of the late date
invariably assume two things. First, so it is argued, if the novel had existed,
Apuleius' opponents would have used it as proof against him. Second, the
defendant could easily have rejected their claims by proudly showing that it is
a very religious book. However, neither point seems convincing. For the
opponents need not have known the novel or have deemed it fit to bring as formal
evidence in court.
Perhaps they simply did not understand it. Moreover, this very lack of
understanding could pose a serious threat to Apuleius: confronted with less
intelligent readers, as his opponents seem to have been, he might have had quite
a hard time in defending his tale as a profound work, since it could easily
raise doubts about his reputation, the issue that is so clearly at stake
throughout the speech. Therefore, it would certainly have been wisest for him to
leave the Met. unmentioned.
defendant Apuleius does not include any explicit reference to the novel,
although he repeatedly refers with pride to his various literary works and even
quotes from them.
It may be added here that there is no reference to the Met. in the Fl.
Nonetheless, we cannot exclude that there are some traces or allusions to the
novel in the Apol. So let us have a fresh look at the speech and look at
some of the passages that could somehow allude to the novel.
the Met. itself, the main term employed to refer to the tale itself is fabula
or fabulae (e.g. 1,1; 10,2)
' amusing story'. The Cupid and Psyche tale is also called fabella
(6,25), a generic term that might provide a clue. The term actually occurs in
the Apol.. The two most interesting places are 25,5 and [START PAGE
The first one, with ' old wives' tales', is quite exciting, if we think of the
Cupid and Psyche story in the Met., which is introduced in remarkably
similar terms. For there the old woman says she will cheer Psyche narrationibus
lepidis anilibusque fabulis (Met. 4,27). Interestingly, this Apology
passage comes at a crucial point, where the central issue of magic is first
tackled. Could Apuleius speak disparagingly of his opponent's words as the sort
of ' old wives' tales' like he inserted them himself in his novel? It would not
seem entirely impossible,
but it does not seem very likely.
the second passage Apuleius argues that his accusers have made up a clumsy lie,
without bothering to make it at least credible: so they were ignorant even of '
the people's stories' (uulgi fabularum 30,3). The lie in question
concerned the alleged magical properties of fish. The accusers had referred to
this, but, Apuleius adds, foolishly so, for there is no connection between fish
and love magic. This is surprising indeed. For the connection between fish and
magic in the Roman world, a phenomenon that is amply attested,
is here expressly denied by the speaker. He even argues that it is not in
accordance with popular stories, although we may be sure that popular belief in
magic was not non-existent, but, on the contrary, widespread, as the Met.
themselves amply show.
candidate in the speech for an allusion to the novel is a reference to a
well-known animal, the ass. In 24,6 the defendant flings back the insult of
poverty at the accuser, who barely manages to cultivate his little piece of land
with the help of a small asellus. Now readers of Apuleius can hardly
avoid an association here, but it must be said that there are no further
elements that would support the pun. The animal is not called asinus, let
alone that he is qualified as aureus. It may be added here that in the Florida
too, for all the "zoo" it presents its readers with (elephants and
snakes, parrots and crows, delphins, swans, cicadae and all sorts of
birds), there is no mention of an ass. That would really have been something
that might have been expected, if the Met. had preceded the Fl.
addition, there are a number of verbal parallels that may be listed between
expressions in the speech and the novel. Some of them are adduced by [START
PAGE 229] DOWDEN,
who regards them as material supporting the claim for an early date. However,
such minor verbal parallels may be used either way. At best they prove that the
same idiom was in Apuleius' mind when writing these works. This would plead for
two dates that are not too distant in time.
first comparison between Apol. and Met. leaves us with very little
in the end. The theory of an early date is, in my view, attractive, but it is
hard to find any sort of evidence in the texts. The obvious absence of the novel
in the Apol. and Fl., although an argumentum ex silentio,
remains a difficult point for the hypothesis. There might be just one or two
possible allusions that look intriguing enough but in the end seem rather
LATE DATE FOR THE NOVEL
us look at the other possibility, that the Met. was written at some time
after the Apol. This may be called the majority view,
which is, therefore, only rarely closely examined.
of the main arguments here have already been dealt with above: they concern the
maturity of the style and the richness of the literary texture, which would
betray an experienced, aged writer. Furthermore, there is the conspicuous
silence in Apol. and Fl.
have also been attempts to connect various elements in the novel to known and
datable realia. For example, geographical or judicial details have been
screened to this end,
but even defenders of a late date admit that such attempts remain unconvincing.
It is a typical problem with fiction, one is inclined to remark.
TRACES OF THE SPEECH IN THE NOVEL
Apuleius was acquitted, as most scholars readily assume,
and subsequently enjoyed wide fame as a [START PAGE 230] sophist and speaker, he might have
wished to mention his famous self-defence in some way.
parallels between Lucius and Apuleius himself induced readers throughout the
ages to take the novel as a proper autobiographical account (both are young,
well educated, have an investigative nature, to mention just one or two points).
We may recall that Augustine took the novel more or less as a direct account
about Apuleius himself.
Nowadays, however, the differences loom large: for instance, Lucius is almost
invariably pictured as rather naive, foolish, enslaved to lust, ─
not really the way Apuleius would like us to see himself. Past generations have
easily confused the narrative ' I' with the author's ' I' (in part an effect
that was probably intended by the author).
In this respect, literary studies of the past decades have really made
substantial progress. Particularly since the rise of narratology the
autobiographical approach can no longer be defended.
is mostly a small group of passages in the novel that are quoted in support of
the link between Apol. and Met., whether as directly '
autobiographical', or as ' authorial jokes' for the advanced reader, places
where the author allegedly inserts details that reflect his earlier personal
experiences in court. I will briefly discuss the most important passages.
words Madaurensem sed admodum pauperem in 11,27 form a well-known
problem. I agree with VAN DER PAARDT 1981 that here we have a case of deliberate
fusion between the narrator Lucius of Corinth and the author Apuleius of
Madauros, perhaps motivated by a sense of humour. However, I would limit the
point to the name Madaurensem. For the ' poverty' and studiorum
gloriam referred to in the text do not necessarily refer to Apuleius
himself. The Apol. does have a long section on the speaker's poverty
(17-23), in which he mentions the loss of patrimony (23,1-2), But in Lucius'
case, the details are perfectly functional within the story: his great expenses
make him poor, and both the opening and final words of the novel suggest its
that is: Lucius ─
is an accomplished and established writer and man of culture.
has been made of the parallel in 6,9,6, where Venus argues against the '
marriage' of her son and Psyche because it is ' unequal', and has been '
concluded without witnesses in a country house without the father's consent' and
hence is illegal and will result in a bastard child. According to the Apol.
(87,10-[START PAGE 231] 88,1) the accusers have levelled a similar point against Apuleius. There
are, however, significant differences. The Apol. passage misses both the
element sine testibus
and patre non consentiente, and it is these two elements that form the
legal point, since marrying in a uilla was by no means illegal, as
Apuleius argues himself (Apol. 88,2-3). Moreover, from the Apol.
it does not appear that Apuleius' accusers had contested the legality of
his marriage: the point was that he had secretly extorted a large dowry.
leaves just ' marrying in uilla' as the common point, which seems a
fairly small one. Venus is making a legal point, which is quite relevant for her
characterization, and it does not require a biographical explanation. On the
contrary, in the Met. passage the element in uilla is well
prepared by the beginning of book 5, in Cupid's palace. It is here that Psyche
and Cupid first make love, and are called maritus and uxor.
This is what ' marriage' means in this part of the story, and what Venus refers
to here. The point of in uilla is ironical, certainly, for Cupid's palace
was splendid and divine, not really a small country house. But an ironical
reference to the author's life does not really impose itself.
third passage concerns some harsh words directed at ' false judges' (10,33) in
an emotional outburst of Lucius after witnessing the mime of the judgement of
Paris. Lucius' words seem to imply a general misgiving about jurisdiction. But
could this be an allusion to the author's own experience? By no means, I would
argue. Apuleius might certainly feel dissatisfied with his accusers, and so the
first few insults may indeed have been intended for disreputable lawyers like
them. But he would not complain about his judge Claudius Maximus, whom he
flatters and praises all the time. If he was acquitted or at least not declared
guilty, there was little to whine about any ' inequity of justice'. The
suggestion that false judgments were for sale would even be impolite and
offensive to Claudius Maximus. The criticism of the togati uulturii,
harsh as it is, is what one may expect in such a context. By the days of
Apuleius, there must have been quite enough precedents of unfair trials to
explain the general prejudice voiced here by Lucius.
One may also observe that the whole novel represents a cruel world full of
injustice (robbers, illegal occupation of land, theft and fraud, etc.).
PAGE 232] Finally,
there is Lucius' fake trial in Met. 3, which is often adduced in the
discussion. It may be briefly said that the parallel is valid only in very
general terms: both cases involve a trial on the basis of an accusation that is
untrue, or even absurd. Lucius' case does not involve love, magic, or a marriage
to a rich widow.
is first ridiculed and in the end receives a bronze statue (Met. 3,11).
This element too is taken by some as an autobiographical element. But the
obvious irony in the Met. passage seems hard to reconcile with the
author's personal eagerness and pride of having a statue dedicated to him at
Lucius is then given the chance to respond to the charges (3,4-7). First he just
cries, but then he begins to speak. His speech may be called a model speech,
perfectly planned according to the rules: he asks for attention and raises pity,
pleads innocent, tells what happened (this takes up much of the speech),
repeatedly addresses the quirites,
presents himself as a brave hero, doing justice to his country by fighting
crime, and in the end bursts out in tears and makes pitiful gestures begging for
help. Surely, Lucius' degrading attitude in the end and the mockery he is
confronted with cannot be considered self-referential allusions. Lucius is
simply delivering a standard speech as it was taught in declamation schools,
much unlike the Apol.
these key passages do not help much: the arguments are far from ' overwhelming'
as WALSH calls it.
While it is not impossible that the Met. somehow reflects the Apol.,
there is nothing that really proves the case.
leaves us with two theories, both of which would be attractive for our
interpretation and for the intertextual allusions one might then assume. But
neither can find sufficient evidence in the texts. The alleged links do not, in
my view, stand the test of a closer reading, and all passages can be explained
from their own contexts, rather than as intertextual elements.
are we to pronounce a non liquet? Strictly speaking: yes. But there is
one element that has not sufficiently been taken into account, namely the
crucial topic of magic.
This is what Apuleius has been charged with at his trial, and it is also one of
the key concepts of the novel.
his speech Apuleius pleads innocent. But he does so in a remarkable way: he
professes utter ignorance of magic whatsoever. The very few descriptions of
black magic he gives (as opposed to white magic as it is known from Plato and
the Persians (Apol. 25,9-11), are quite vague (26,6-7 and 47,3) and irony
and sarcasm constantly show in almost every remark on magical practices.
PAGE 233] However,
the crucial point is not that Apuleius pleads innocent (for what else could he
do?), but that he firmly rejects and denies the very existence of certain
magical practices. We already saw his astonishing remark that fish has got
nothing to do with magic, a statement in stark contrast with all known Roman
But there is more: Apuleius also denies the existence of ' name magic', or '
sympathetic' magic in 34,6. Given the importance of this basic magical form,
this may be called a deliberate falsehood, that could have been detected on the
basis of Met. 3,17, which clearly refers to such forms of magic.
in a climax of audacity, at the end of his speech Apuleius almost ventures to
deny the very existence of magic: for, he argues, it would be powerless against
fate (Apol. 84,3-4). He manages to ascribe the thought to his wife
Pudentilla, but I am not sure every listener would notice the subtle point.
Ancient magicians actually were assumed to be able to break the power of
fate, and the existence of magic was widely believed in, most likely also by
daring strategy of the outright denial of ' facts' and ' bluffing his way
through the trial' aims at silencing the opponents. However, it seems impossible
to imagine Apuleius denying in court features which he had described himself in
a popular novel. Where magic was flatly denied, what could the accusers do but
protest and refer to Apuleius' own text?
This is, again, an argumentum ex silentio, but in this form it may be
decisive: Apuleius could not deny well-known facts, notably his literary
elaboration of magic. Moreover, the sequence of Met. following the Apol.
makes more sense now: after winning a trial about magic, what could be more fun
than composing a novel literally crammed with magic from its very first pages?
the early, nor the late date of the Met. can be proved, since no allusion
passes a thorough test. But magic may well be the key here: the speech cannot be
possibly imagined if the novel with all its magic had preceded. Hence, we may
assume the speech is to be dated earlier than the publication of the novel.
I may finish on a rather speculative note. The theory about the early date of
the novel remains tempting indeed, but there is no decisive proof for it. But
what if the novel was in preparation during the time Apuleius was in
Rome, but kept in portfolio and published a few years later?
It may be observed here [START PAGE 234] that composition of a literary work does not imply its
In the discussion about the date of the novel, the phases of composition and '
publication' have not sufficiently been distinguished.
then, might have composed a first version of his novel a few years before the Apol.,
perhaps during a stay in Rome in the 150s. Then he may have waited until after
the events of his trial, before bringing it into circulation, most likely with a
few extra touches of magic. This ' publication' may have taken place in Rome or
in Africa not too long after 160, that is: at the same time, or shortly later
than some of the Fl., in which the novel is still unmentioned.
this tantalizing solution, we would, in a way, have it both ways: an early date
for the composition of the Met., and a middle or relatively late date for
its first stages of circulation among a literary audience.
University of Nijmegen (Netherlands)
A. ABT, Die Apologie von Apuleius von Madaura und die antike Zauberei. Beiträge zur Erläuterung der Schrift de magia, Giessen, 1908 (repr. Berlin, 1967);
H.E. BUTLER/ A.S.OWEN, Apulei apologia sive Pro se de magia liber, Oxford, 1914 (repr. Hildesheim, 1967);
Ph. DERCHAIN, J. HUBEAUX, L'affaire du marché d'Hypata dans la "Métamorphose" d'Apulée, in AC 27, 1958, p. 100-4;
K. DOWDEN,The Roman audience of The Golden Ass, in James Tatum (ed.), The search for the ancient novel, Baltimore/London, 1994, p. 419-34;
M. ELSTER, Römisches Strafrecht in den Metamorphosen des Apuleius in GCN IV, Groningen, 1991, p. 135-54;
GCA, Groningen Commentaries on Apuleius; Apuleius Madaurensis Metamorphoses, book X, text, introduction and commentary, M. Zimmerman, Groningen, 2000;
S.J. HARRISON, Apuleius' Metamorphoses in Gareth Schmeling (ed.), The novel in the ancient world, Leiden, 1996, p. 491-516;
--- (ed.) Oxford readings in the Roman Novel, Oxford, 1999;
--- Apuleius, A Latin Sophist, Oxford, 2000;
R. HESKY,Zur Abfassungszeit der Metamorphosen des Apuleius, in WS 26, 1904, p. 71-80;
B.L. HIJMANS Jr, Apuleius Philosophus Platonicus, in ANRW 2,36, 1, 1987, p. 395-475;
G.F. HILDEBRAND, L. Apuleii opera omnia (...), Leipzig, 1842; (repr. Hildesheim, 1968);
V. HUNINK, Apuleius of Madauros, Pro se de magia (Apologia), edited with a commentary, [2 vols.] Amsterdam, 1997;
--- Apuleius, Pudentilla, and Christianity, in Vig.Chr. 54, 2000, p. 80-94;
--- Apuleius of Madauros. Florida, edited with a commentary, Amsterdam, 2001;
E.J. KENNEY, Apuleius, Cupid & Psyche, Cambridge, 1990;
F. MILLAR,The world of the golden ass, in JRS 71, 1981,63-75 (also in HARRISON 1999, p. 247-68);
E. ROHDE, Zu Apuleius, in RhM 40, 1885, p. 66-113;
G. SANDY, The Greek world of Apuleius, Apuleius & the Second Sophistic, Leiden, 1997;
--- Apuleius' Golden Ass. From [START PAGE 235] Miletus to Egypt, in H. Hofmann (ed.), Latin fiction, the Latin novel in context, London / New York, 1999, p. 81-102;
C.G. SCHLAM,The Metamorphoses of Apuleius, on making an ass of oneself, Chapel Hill / London, 1992;
V. SCHMIDT, Reaktionen auf das Christentum in den Metamorphosen des Apuleius, in VChr 51, 1997, p. 51-71;
R.J. STARR, The circulation of literary texts in the Roman world, in CQ 37, 1987, p. 213-23;
R.G. SUMMERS,A note on the date of the Golden Ass, in AJPh 94, 1973, p. 375-83;
R. VAN DER PAARDT, The unmasked ' I', Apuleius Met. XI 27 in Mnemosyne IV 34, 1981, p. 96-106 (also in HARRISON 1999, p. 237-46);
--- Hoe ge(s)laagd is het slot van Apuleius' Metamorphosen? in Lampas 29, 1996, p. 67-79;
P.G. WALSH, Apuleius, The Golden Ass, Oxford, 1994;
J.J. WINKLER, Auctor & actor; a narratological reading of Apuleius's ' The Golden Ass', Berkeley / Los Angeles / Oxford, 1985.
[In the published version the following notes have been printed as footnotes on pages 224 to 234]
For a survey of recent literature on Apuleius and a discussion of the state
of affairs concerning his life and works, see most recently SANDY 1999 and
HARRISON 2000, 1-38 (general) and 210-59 (the Met.).
ROHDE 1885, 76-91. Later, ROHDE, 90 suggests, Apuleius felt ashamed of this
early work, and therefore kept silent about it. This part of the argument
was rejected already by HESKY 1904, 77, who rightly argues that the time
between (early) composition of the Met. and the Apol. would be
too short for such a change of mind.
This is rightly observed by HIJMANS 1987, 407f. One may observe the
difference in style between Apol. and Fl., separated by just a
few years. So a chronological sequence of Met. leading up to Plat.
or De interpr. does not seem less possibile than vice versa.
Cf. notably WINKLER 1985, who argues for an aporetic end. Meanwhile, the
trend observed here has not remained unchallenged. In defence of a '
serious' reading of book 11, see e.g. VAN DER PAARDT 1996.
Cf. Justin's Second Apology, where the author, faced with increasing
public outcries in Rome against Christians and the threat of persecution,
sharply protests against the execution of three Christians. These
executions, which took place at about 152, were ordered by the city prefect
Lollius Urbicus; cf. DOWDEN 1994, 429-30 and 1998, 4, who adds that this may
have inspired Apuleius' tale of the Miller's wife in Met. 9. This is
the same man as the one who is so kindly addressed by Apuleius in his Apology
of 158 (Apol. 2); cf. also HUNINK 2000, 86-8.
One particularly thinks of the testimonia of Augustine and others, who show
that in the course of time Apuleius gained considerable fame as a sorcerer
and a magician, on account of this book which we call ' fiction'.
Cf. 4,1 philosophum formonsum et tam Graece quam Latine' ─
pro nefas! ─
further 6,1; 9; 24,1; 33,7; 36,8; 38,5; and 55,10.
Two lists in the Fl. proudly parade Apuleius' works (Fl.
9,27-9; 20,4-6), but the Met. are conspicuously absent again. It has
been argued that the historiae uariae mentioned in Fl. 9 refer
to the novel; some scholars compare Met. 1,1 uarias fabulas
and Photius' term logoi diaphoroi, both referring to the lost model
of Apuleius' novel Metamorphoses. However, it is more likely that the
term historiae applies to a mixed work much like GELLIUS' Noctes
Atticae of AELIANUS' Varia Historia, or to a historiographical
work, as in Fl. 20,5; cf. also HARRISON 2000, 15.
Aggredior enim iam ad ipsum crimen magiae, quod ingenti tumultu ad
inuidiam mei accensum frustrata expectatione omnium per nescio quas
anilis fabulas defraglauit. (25,5); Tam rudis uos esse omnium
litterarum, omnium denique uulgi fabularum, ut ne fingere quidem
possitis ista uerisimiliter? (30,3). The other occurrences of the term
are Apol. 42,2 (story); 69,2 (sine fabula ' without gossip');
75,7 (pantomime); Fl. 16,6/10/17 (comedy); 16,15 (mythological
There is even an anecdote early in the Met. in which fish play a
major role: the market scene in Hypata in Met. 1,24. For a magical
interpretation of this scene see DERCHAIN/HUBAUX 1958, also referred to by
SCHLAM 1992, 33.
In some form or other, it may be found in most general handbooks of
literature and studies of Apuleius and the Met. Most of the arguments
were already given early in the century, cf. HESKY 1904, 75-80 discussing
(and rejecting) the arguments for an early date of ROHDE 1885; HELM
praef.VII-XI. Among recent contributions I mention WALSH 1994, xix-xx;
KENNEY 1990, 2; and HARRISON 2000, 9-10.
See the critical discussion in SUMMERS 1973, who himself remains highly
cautious, suggesting that earlier attempts by Bowersock and Walsh are not
supported by their evidence, and giving ' ca. 147' as a terminus post
quem, on account of 1,6, where a iuridicus can be identified.
This date, of course, does not help much.
Cf. e.g. HARRISON 1999, xxix; HARRISON 2000, 9-10. In a footnote in the
latter contribution (9n35), HARRISON declares himself in favour of a date
under Commodus, that is, after 180. In HARRISON 1996, 514-5 it was already
argued that parallels with Aelius Aristides may point to a date after
170-171. However, these parallels concern religious vocabulary as it must
have been current in the 2nd century, and they do not convincingly show a
specific relationship between the texts of Apuleius and Aelius Aristides.
The major contribution here for Apuleian studies was WINKLER 1985. The
modern approach is summarized in e.g. SCHLAM 1992, 9-10: ' (...) it is
nevertheless unsound to take any details of the novel as autobiographical.'
However, the notion has not disappeared from scholarship. For instance, in
his recent introductory essay on Apuleius, SANDY 1999 raises the question of
the possible autobiographical nature of the Met. right at the start
(p.81), without clearly rejecting it.
One might adduce the announcement of the issue in Apol. 67,4 atque
ita dixere me grandem dotem mox in principio coniunctionis nostrae mulieri
amanti remotis arbitris in uilla extorsisse. But the point here
is not the absence of legally required witnesses, but the more natural point
that a crime was performed without by-standers.
Apuleius may simply have wished to distance himself from the ' lower' forms
of the lawyer's trade; cf. also HUNINK 1997, on Apol. 3,7. Constantly
pleading at the forum was generally seen as disreputable; cf. VÖSSING 1997,
458n1543, who compares CICERO Or. 47 rabulam de foro; and De
orat. 1,202 rabulam.
Already HILDEBRAND 1842, XXVI-XXVII briefly suggested that Apuleius kept his
written text in scriniis for some time. The idea, however, was not
further developed and it met with disparaging remarks from other scholars;
cf. e.g. ROHDE 1885n1.
Moreover, publication in Rome does not necessarily imply a wide readership
in Africa, particularly in the lesser educated class of Apuleius' accusers.
On the concept of circulation and ' publication' of Roman texts, see STARR