'Comedy in Apuleius' Apology' *
text published in: Groningen Colloquia on the Novel 9, 1998, 97-113
ancient novel has often been closely linked to the genre of
comedy, sometimes to the
point that the entire genre is said to be derived from it.
Leaving aside questions of generic development, strong thematical links can be
seen between novel and comedy, particularly New Comedy.
Apuleius' novel Metamorphoses is no exception here: its rich literary
texture includes various elements of comedy and mime, which have been duly
noticed by scholars.
most ancient novelists are exclusively known for their novels, in the case of
Apuleius we are in the fortunate position that we possess works in different
genres. Perhaps surprisingly, the influence of comedy is not restricted to the Met.,
but is also apparent in some of the 'minor' works. In the present contribution,
I propose to examine the use and function of comedy in Apuleius' rhetorical
works, notably the Apology, but also Soc. and Flor.
Deo Socratis and Florida
first work to deal with, the philosophical discourse De Deo Socratis, may
seem a rather unlikely candidate for any comic element whatsoever. Contrary to
what is suggested in its title, Socrates plays only a marginal role here; the
extant Latin text is an improvised exposition on demons, the intermediaries
between gods and men. The text as we have it, is probably the second, Latin part
of a bilingual improvisation, of which the first, Greek part, probably focussing
on Socrates, is lost.
the course of the speech (
Soc. 11), Apuleius
speaks about the dazzling splendor of the bodies of demons. To illustrate this
he quotes a line by Plautus on the dazzling shield of the 'braggart warrior'.
The example is rather far-fetched, and hardly adds to the demonological point in
question. Some pages further on (
Soc. 20), Terence is
quoted with a line on 'hearing someone's voice'.
Though Apuleius briefly deals with Terence's exact wording, this example too
seems to serve merely as an erudite ornament.
references to comedy clearly bring out Apuleius' taste for Archaic Latin, but they may seem out of
place in a philosophical, speculative discourse. However, Soc., as we
have it, is clearly marked out as a Roman speech, because of the
inclusion of specific Roman elements and examples, and the particular attention
to the Latin language. In this way, Apuleius seems
to shape Soc. consciously to be the Latin counterpart of the lost Greek
section of the discourse. Considering this general aim, the references to the
two Roman comic authors are relevant and functional. They reinforce the Roman
coloring of the text, as do the numerous references and quotations of Ennius,
Lucretius and Virgil.
Apuleius' Florida, the situation is somewhat less clear. This is partly
due to the uncertain status of the texts. We do not know if all the 23
rhetorical pieces, of which the collection consists, are fragments or whether
complete speeches are included. Neither is it possible to say anything with
absolute certainty about the time of the composition, the identity of the editor
and his aim, or even the title.
to comedy are to be found here too. In three cases, a quotation of comedy has
been inserted for ornamental purposes, similar to what was observed above on Soc.
Here, the quotations are slightly more integrated into their context and more
elaborated by the addition of a variant line in the passage in
In general, the theatre is never far away in the Florida. Two of the 23
passages, numbers 5 and 18, were actually pronounced in a theatre, probably in
Carthage. In the first of these, Apuleius explicitly refers to comedy and mimus
as common theatrical performances. Shortly before (
Fl. 4,3), the mimus
was also referred to in general terms.
the Florida present many problems to scholars, they quite clearly have in
common the aim to display wit and erudition, to impress and amuse the audience
with brilliant stories and fine anecdotes. This general aim explains
the references to comedy mentioned up to now.
was not only familiar with the theatre, he actually wrote or translated comedies
and tragedies, as he states in
Regrettably, there is almost nothing left of his comedies, with the exception of
a poetical fragment in Latin based on Menander's Anechomenos. This text
is very interesting because of Apuleius' translation technique and his concept
of erotic poetry, but it does not offer us much help to understand his concept
For this, we may profitably turn to a key passage in the Florida.
according to Apuleius
Fl. 16, Apuleius
thanks his audience for a statue decreed to him, and apologizes for the delay in
expressing his gratitude: he has been visiting healing baths. Halfway the text
he explains that he had sprained his ankle during exercise. But before this, he
presents the story of the comic poet
Philemon, as an example and
analogy for 'the sudden dangers a man can find on his way.' This Philemon,
Apuleius duly adds, was a mediae comediae scriptor
of considerable talent and a rival of Menander. Once, during a public recitation
of his latest piece,
Philemon had been overtaken by rain, forcing him to postpone reading the last
section until the next day. The morning after, a large audience gathered in the
theatre, but waited in vain for Philemon. Some men went to see where he was, and
found him at home, in his bed, dead, still holding a scroll in his hand. This
sad but worthy fate had almost befallen himself, Apuleius concludes.
anecdote hardly provides more than a parallel for Apuleius' personal
circumstances. The story is only loosely linked to the rest of Fl. 16, in
which the speaker expresses his thanks for a statue. It obviously serves as an
introduction, but also as a fascinating tale by itself, intended to amuse the
audience and draw attention.
passage with which I am particularly concerned, is the description of the
literary talents of Philemon. Here, Apuleius gives an extensive list of
praiseworthy elements, which seems worthwhile to quote in full:
tamen apud ipsum multos sales, argumenta lepide inflexa, agnitus lucide
explicatos, personas rebus competentes, sententias uitae congruentes, ioca non
infra soccum, seria non usque ad coturnum. Rarae apud illum corruptelae, tuti
errores, concessi amores. Nec eo minus et leno periurus et amator feruidus et
seruulus callidus et amica illudens et uxor inhibens et mater indulgens et
patruus obiurgator et sodalis opitulator et miles proeliator, sed et parasiti
edaces et parentes tenaces et meretrices procaces.
we find in him much wit; plots ingeniously involved; recognitions clearly made
out; personages suited to the matter; phrases appropriate to each character;
gaieties not beneath the sock, gravities not quite up to the buskin. Seductions
are rare in his works, moral lapses without danger, love affairs allowable.
Nevertheless, you find in him the perjured pimp, the hot lover, the cunning
slave, the wheedling mistress, the peremptory wife, the indulgent mother, the
scolding uncle, the helpful friend, and the fighting soldier, together with
various parasites, and stingy parents, and wanton harlots.' (transl. [Anonymous]
1893, 390, with some adjustments).
seems a remarkable passage, not merely for its stylistic bravura (the Florida
abound in this), but for its detailed generic picture of comedy. From it, we may
derive what amounts to a definition of good comedy: it must have a cleverly
wrought plot, with a final recognition scene, and fitting characters; being both
witty and serious, it should maintain a proper level in all respects; on the
moral side, erotic matters should be treated with care and moderation, avoiding
coarseness and excess; but stock characters may include the perjurer pimp, the
fervent lover, the smart slave and the deceitful girl, as well as the typical
austere wife, tolerant mother, angry uncle, helping friend, fighting soldier,
greedy parasite, strict parents and provocative harlot.
as a whole, this seems a good description of the atmosphere and basic structure
of those Menander pieces that we still possess. It shows that Apuleius' concept
of comedy comes quite close to what we know about New Comedy. I will return to
in the Apology
the strictly philosophical 'minor' works of Apuleius, De Platone, De Mundo,
De Interpretatione (Peri hermeneias) and Asclepius references to comedy are
completely absent. This is hardly surprising, since all four of these works are
in some way closely linked with Greek originals or models, and deal with serious
philosophical matters, not presented to a public, as in Soc., but exposed
in written form. If Apuleius adds a Roman touch here and there, he does so only
by referring to 'serious' authors like Virgil and Lucretius. This leaves just
one work for the present examination, which I will discuss more closely.
158/9 A.D. Apuleius was accused of practising magic. It was alleged that he had
used illegal means to seduce the rich widow Pudentilla into marrying him. The
long speech which Apuleius delivered in defence of himself, is commonly known as
In this speech, comedy plays an important role on several levels.
conspicuous again are a number of explicit references to comedy. In
Apol. 5 a line of
Caecilius is cleverly exploited by the speaker for a pun.
Shortly afterwards, a line of Afranius is used in a somewhat similar fashion,
now to make a philosophical point.
So, both references are slightly more than mere illustrations displaying the
speaker's erudition and talent to please his public: the comedians' words are
integrated in the argumentation and put to effective use.
Elsewhere, if a quote is needed to underline a point just made, comedy readily
offers suitable examples.
in the Florida, the theatre is never far away in the Apology
either. Clearly standing out is the famous story of
Sophocles, who, being accused
by his son of insanity, limited himself to reciting his latest piece, the Oedipus
in Kolonos, and was left undisturbed
(37,1-3). Although, strictly
speaking, the anecdote is about Sophocles as a tragedian, it has many elements
in common with Apuleius' tale of Philemon, discussed above. Obvious points are
the reciting of drama, 'the latest piece written' and the favourable reaction of
the audience. Further, one may point to the motif of 'old age', explicit in the
story of Sophocles and implicit in that of Philemon (Sophocles reached the age
of 90, Philemon actually became 100). But most importantly, in both cases the
dramatic tale is quite loosely inserted in the context, and obviously also told
for its own sake. The Sophocles tale may also be said to function as a break,
during which a piece of evidence needed in the trial is searched for.
the Apology, Apuleius' thoughts easily pass to the theatre. If he needs
an example for a hideous face, the first thing he mentions is a mask of Thyestes
(16,7). Insulting one of his opponents' effeminacy and cowardice, he compares
him to an actor, a bad one at that, playing Philomela, Medea or Clytemnestra
(78,4). Greek drama as a whole figures among his literary authorities (30,11)
while the specifically Roman
fabula Atellana is
alluded to as well: in 81,4 some legendary scoundrels are said to be mere
macci and buccones,
'clowns and fatheads', when compared to Apuleius' accuser.
the level of language and style, the presence of 'comic' words and the overall
comic color is noteworthy. To mention one or two examples: the use of pax!
(75,7) and words as cuppedinarius (29,6).
the influence of comedy goes even much further. In accordance with ancient
practice, explicit abuse of the opponents plays an important role in the speech.
Apuleius' accuser, Sicinius Aemilianus, is consistently pictured as a morally
debased, greedy ignorant, who dares to attack the philosopher Apuleius on false
grounds. The same goes for Aemilianus' friends and assistants, such as Herennius
Rufinus and Sicinius Pudens. Apuleius is so sure of himself that he makes fun of
his opponents, employing irony and sarcasm, wordplay and imagery whenever he
can. One of his more subtle means of ridiculing is to present them more or less
as stock characters in comedy, as has incidentally been noticed by scholars.
has been drawn mainly to the characters of
Rufinus and his wife and
daughter, whose pictures conform to the stereotypes of the leno and meretrix.
c.74-5 Rufinus' household is
described as a brothel, while he himself makes the arrangements with those who
wish to spend the night with his wife. That is, he is a fullblown leno,
who is bald (priusquam isto caluitio deformaretur, 74,7) and behaves like
a Plautine pimp.
Since he is actually called leno (98,1) and his house a domus lenonia
(75,1), there is no doubt about Apuleius' intentions here. Much the same goes
for Rufinus' wife and daughter. The wife is called a lupa (75,1) and is
clearly described as an active prostitute, and her daughter, a meretrix
(89,1), is of the same sort. Her picture in 76,5 leaves hardly a trace of doubt:
she has herself carried on a litter with eight bearers, looking around and
displaying herself in a most shameless way, wearing make-up on mouth and cheeks,
and alluring men with her eyes.
the second place there is
Crassus, a character whose
testimony Apuleius derides and declares worthless because he is a stupid
drunkard. First he is consistently associated with cheap taverns, smoky
kitchens, gluttony, drunkenness, hangovers and mendacity. Then we get the
following picture: Aemilianus was possibly right in avoiding to make Crassus
appear personally before the judge,
tu beluam illam uulsis maxillis foedo aspectu de facie improbares, cum
animaduertisses caput iuuenis barba et capillo populatum, madentis oculos, cilia
turgentia, rictum <restrictum>, saliuosa labia, uocem absonam, manuum
tremorem, ructus popinam. Patrimonium omne iam pridem abligurriuit, nec quicquam
ei de bonis paternis superest, nisi una domus ad calumniam uenditandam (...).
that you would disapprove of that brute with his shaved jaw and the abominable
appearance of his face, when you took notice of the young man's head, stripped
of its beard and hair, and his drunken eyes, his swollen eyelids, his open
mouth, his slobbering lips, his inharmonious voice, his trembling hands, his
vulgar belching. He long ago consumed his entire inheritance in luxury, and
nothing survives to him from his good parents, except a single house for selling
is, he is a brute, with depilated cheeks and a horrible appearance, beardless
and bald, with watery eyes, swollen lids, broad grin, slobbering lips, ugly
voice, trembling hands and a breath smelling of cheap eating-places. All the
details contribute to the caricature of a stupid drunkard, which is so strong as
to make him appear like the
maccus or bucco
of the Atellana.
more innocent comic role is that of the naive lover, the amator feruidus
as met in Fl. 16. This seems a good model to understand the description
of Pudens, as Callebat suggested, or more to the point, his older brother
Pontianus, who is treated much more favourably by Apuleius. Both brothers are
easily manipulated by Rufinus, who exploits the fact that they are madly in love
in order to make them do whatever he wants.
But whereas Pontianus liberated himself from this influence and regained his
former virtue, during the trial Pudens is still in Rufinus' might.
following Apuleius' own description of comedy in Fl. 16, there are more
comic characters who seem to be represented in the Apology. For the seruulus
callidus one may think of Rufinus, who controls the young lovers, or of
Apuleius' slave Themison; the uxor inhibens
and mater indulgens is, of course, Pudentilla, whose qualities manage to
keep Apuleius in Oea (73,3-9)
and who, under Apuleius' influence, finally appoints her ungrateful son Pudens
as her heir (100,3). Aemilianus, Pontianus' and Pudens' uncle, criticizes and
manipulates the boys whenever he can, and he is the perfect patruus
Persons to whom the title 'helping friend' (sodalis opitulator) seems
applicable, are, on Apuleius' side, the Appius family (72,2; 72,6), Quintianus
(58,4), and perhaps the judge, Claudius Maximus, who is constantly flattered and
whose support is repeatedly called upon.
On the side of the prosecution, Herennius Rufinus is a likely candidate (74,5).
Less clearly represented are the miles proeliator and the parasiti
edaces, but perhaps we could think of the brave Apuleius himself fighting
against his accusers, who are eagerly hunting for Pudentilla's wealth. And
considering the characterization of the drunken glutton Crassus selling his
testimony, this witness, too, might be thought of as a parasitus edax.
Finally, the parentes tenaces are obviously represented by the
harmonious, high-principled couple Pudentilla and Apuleius, who do not give way
to young Pudens' manipulations and feel happy about their reconciliation with
his brother Pontianus.
may add even more examples. There is the epileptic slave Thallus, who is
described by Apuleius with a certain amount of pity but also, with a touch of
unmerciful Schadenfreude, as an ugly, raging, silly boy who can hardly
stand on his feet and easily falls on the floor.
Are we not reminded of the clumsy and slapstick-like characters in the Atellana
or mimus? Finally, Apuleius himself can also be seen as the 'wise father'
re-establishing harmony, and he actually pictures himself in this way (93,6).
all of these minor parallels are strong and convincing. The model of comedy in Fl.
16 is certainly not a blueprint for the speech, and so it cannot, and need not,
be applied in every detail. The important thing to note is that several main
persons involved in the trial would fit into a comic pattern, such as the one
presented by the Fl. passage.
course, comedy is not Apuleius' only source for character portrayal.
Recent studies have shown his interest in physiognomy, the ancient technique of
deriving information on a person's inner characteristics from a careful analysis
of aspects of the outward appearance.
Furthermore, I point to the long tradition of rhetorical invective, in which, by
Apuleius' time 'stock categories of attack' had become fully established.
A particularly intriguing element is the possible polemic with Christianity,
which may be lurking under the surface of the Apology.
considering these rich backgrounds, it would be quite wrong to reduce Apuleius'
technique of character portrayal merely to a familiarity with comedy, and that
is certainly not my intention. Still, there seems to be sufficient evidence to
conclude that Apuleius also worked with comical stock characters as his
comedy of errors
may perhaps venture one step further. It has been suggested by Klaus
Sallmann during one of the
previous Groningen Colloquia on the Novel that the Apology as a
whole may have been intended as amusement (Sallmann 1995). Admittedly,
fictitious judicial speeches do occur in antiquity, e.g. among the works of
Isocrates, but in such cases the literary character was manifest already in
antiquity. As to the Apology, we have no ancient or medieval testimony
whatsoever pointing in this direction. So, it seems best to assume that some
judicial reality lies behind the text.
may, however, take up Sallmann's initial point, that the Apology contains
many elements which seem foreign to a court and require a specific explanation.
One of the possible approaches seems to be offered by the element of 'comedy'.
Apuleius was not the first to employ comical points in his speeches.
In Roman oratory, the example of Cicero will have been in his mind,
but Apuleius seems to have gone much further.
Callebat (1984, 164-166) has
already suggested that the Apology can be analysed as 'prose
descriptive', 'prose narrative' and 'prose dramatique'. But apart from the
examples mentioned above, the French scholar expresses himself in rather general
terms. We may be more specific here. I am not suggesting that the Apology
is something else than a speech, such as a fantastic 'novel', a scientific
treatise, or, for that matter, a comedy. But we may assume that it is a speech
in some way modelled on the basic patterns of a comedy.
we return to Apuleius' description of good comedy in Fl. 16, and apply
the other elements mentioned there to his own Apology, the results are
remarkable. Multos sales brings to mind the speaker's wit and humour,
while argumenta lepide inflexa is a good description of the second half
of the speech, dealing with the circumstances of the marriage and the various
attempts of enemies to obstruct it. Even agnitus lucide explicatos are,
in a way, present: a Greek letter of Pudentilla, used against Apuleius by the
prosecution, turns out to be evidence in favour of his case (81-84). Apuleius'
explanation is 'lucid': Pudentilla's irony had been misunderstood, and the
quotation given had been incomplete. Furthermore, throughout the speech Apuleius
himself appears to be not the magician he has been held for, but a wise
philosopher. Personas rebus competentes and sententias uitae
congruentes seem suitable descriptions of the persons involved in the trial
and of part of Apuleius' style. Apuleius' humour is not rude or primitive, while
the content of the speech is serious, though never on a 'tragic' level: ioca
non infra soccum, seria non usque ad coturnum. Seduction or moral corruption
(corruptela) is actually practiced only among the opponents' ranks,
although allegedly Apuleius was guilty of it as well. The moral lapses (errores)
of those on Apuleius' side remain without serious damage. One can think of
Apuleius' step-son Pontianus here, who first supported the marriage plan, then
opposed it, but finally made up with Apuleius. Concessi amores is by all
means the impression Apuleius wants to give of his marriage with Pudentilla.
So the generic description of comedy in Fl. 16 turns out to be a fitting
model for the Apology as well.
all this, we can add some elements of the story, such as the dominant role of
dowries and legacies, or the constant joking about other people's stupidity and
Considered as a whole, the Apology has a plot not unlike a comedy of
errors. The accusers have mistaken Apuleius for a magician, a seducer and a
legacy hunter, and use all kinds of insinuations, tricks and evil schemes to
affirm their claim. But all the evidence unexpectedly turns against them, and
Apuleius finally proves to be a heroic defender of philosophy, a kind father and
an honest, unselfish husband.
dramatic technique is used in the presentation of facts; for instance, those
concerning Pudentilla's testament are only gradually revealed, with a denouement
at the end (c.
100-101). In this way, the
tension is maintained as long as possible. Other examples are the treatment of
Pudentilla's Greek letter (c.78-84)
and her age (c.89).
to its general structure, the speech starts in a properly comic fashion with
some hilarious sections, such as those concerning toothpaste and fish, and later
becomes less turbulent;
still, here too constant jokes are made at the expense of the prosecution, and
moments of relaxation are duly included. The section on Sophocles, already dealt
with above, is the best example of an intermezzo serving as a pause. Finally,
the triumphant conclusion suggests a real 'happy ending'.
leads me to the crucial question of why Apuleius has given comedy such an
important place in his speech. Surely, by adding comic references, Apuleius
amuses his audience and illustrates his own erudition; comic notes serve as
ornaments, and the 'prose dramatique', as
Callebat has called it,
enhances the liveliness and attraction of the speech. But I would suggest that
Apuleius' intention lies deeper.
choice of stock characters and fixed models enables him to mould his material in
a specific way. Complex circumstances, subtle distinctions and personal
characteristics can all be reduced to simple clichés. For example, the speech
hardly gives an idea of what Aemilianus or Pudens must have really been like:
their picture is restricted to caricature. Naturally, these simplifications are
rhetorically effective: they make it easier for the audience to follow the tale,
and allow the speaker to dissimulate weaker points in his argumentation.
mention one or two points here, Apuleius' opponents were relatives of
Pudentilla, and seem to have had quite legitimate economic motives to object to
her marriage to Apuleius. The marriage might cause the family capital to slip
out of their hands, which was obviously not in their interest. Apuleius' picture of them
does not allow such nuances to become apparent. Furthermore, Apuleius' knowledge
of magic seems beyond all reasonable doubt,
but the constant ridiculing of the prosecution helps to keep this out of the
more importantly, by invoking comic associations, Apuleius is automatically
influencing the expectations of the audience about the outcome of the trial. For
example, by depicting Rufinus as a pimp, he seems to be doing more than merely
disqualifying him as a witness. As
Segal (1968, 79-92) observes,
pimps always represent 'anti-comedy attitudes', such as a constant care for
money and profit. In the end, 'the Plautine pimp is always punished' (p.81): he
is usually represented as a foreigner, who by the end of the play will be
excluded from the community. So, as soon as Rufinus is called a pimp, the public
immediately knows what will become of him. Similarly, the use of the model of
maccus rouses specific
expectations: in his note on Apol. 81, Marchesi remarks that on stage the
maccus was usually the target of jokes and even blows. The picture of
Crassus in terms of the maccus seems to involve what we might even call
substitute or symbolic violence. Apuleius' words seem to function almost like a
so far as the case is presented like a comedy, the expected outcome is manifest,
too: in the comic pattern, a happy ending is, of course, indispensable.
Confusion must be removed, errors and mistakes solved and harmony restored. For
this very reason, Apuleius may have decided to use comedy as one of his models:
it enables him to manipulate the audience into expecting a 'fitting solution of
the plot,' that is: victory for the defendant Apuleius.
In this way, comedy seems to have become an important element in his rhetorical
not only can Callebat's notion of the Apology as 'prose dramatique' be
confirmed, it can be considerably extended as well. Even if not all elements in
the comparison between Fl. 16 and the Apology are equally
convincing, it is clear that the presence of comedy in the Apology
reaches far beyond a superficial level of quotations and explicit references.
the persons involved in the trial as comic characters is the most conspicuous
and effective comic element. As a whole, the speech exploits several general
traits of comedy for its own, rhetorical purpose, and is even partly constructed
as a comedy itself,
with its end effectively foreshadowed already in the beginning.
the ingenious use of
comedy is not restricted to
Apuleius' novel. It forms an integral and structural element in his Apology,
too, and may therefore be seen as a Leitmotiv in the finest parts of his
Works of Apuleius (...) a new translation, (George Bell and Sons), London /
New York 1893
Butler,The Apologia and Florida of Apuleius of Madaura, Oxford 1909
(repr. Westport, Connecticut 1970)
Butler / A.S.Owen,Apulei apologia sive Pro se de magia liber, Oxford 1914
(repr. Hildesheim 1967)
Callebat,'La prose d'Apulée dans le De Magia', WS 18 (1984),
Hijmans Jr.,'Apuleius orator: "Pro se de Magia" and
"Florida"', ANRW 2,34, 2 (1994), 1708‑1784
Hunink,'The prologue of Apuleius' "De Deo Socratis"', Mnemosyne
48 (1995), 292‑312
of Madauros, Pro se de magia (Apologia), edited with a commentary,
Amsterdam 1997; [2 vols]
Mattiacci,'Apuleio "poeta novello"', in: V. Tandoi (ed.) Disiecti
membra poetae, Foggia 1985, 235‑277
e i poeti latini arcaici', in: Munus amicitiae. Scritti in memoria di A.
Ronconi, I, Firenze 1986, 159‑200
Sallmann,'Erzählendes in der Apologie des Apuleius, oder: Argumentation als
Unterhaltung', in: GCN 6 (1995), 137-158
SandyThe Greek world of Apuleius. Apuleius & the Second Sophistic,
Schlam,The 'Metamorphoses' of Apuleius; on making an ass of oneself,
Chapel Hill / London 1992.
novels show clear influences of the genre of comedy, as recent research has
shown. This can also be said of some of Apuleius' other works, notably his
famous speech, the Apology. This paper investigates the comic aspects of
from a description of comedy given by Apuleius himself, I argue that the Apology
can be analysed to a considerable degree as a comedy. First, the speech contains
many comic words and references to the theatre. More importantly, some of its
protagonists recall comic characters, and the narratio given by the
defendant seems to be modelled on the basic patterns of a comedy.
of this reflects a conscious strategy on the part of the speaker, who appears to
direct the expectations of his audience.
For a sound discussion see Niklas
The Ancient Novel, an Introduction, London / New York 1995, 28-42,
who argues that the thematic proximity of the ancient novel to New Comedy is
the result of changing socio-political factors which determine the
production and consumption of literature: having better means of reaching
out to audiences, the novel superseded other genres such as comedy. On novel
and comedy in general, see also
Albrecht, Geschichte der römischen Literatur, München 1994,
Cf. Holzberg 1995, 32-33, who points to the political and social status quo
of the period in which both genres flourished, and to the escapist tendency
they share (cf. p.30). A recent study on farcical comedy in Petronius is:
Theatrum Arbitri. Theatrical Elements in the Satyrica of Petronius,
Leiden 1995. For the Cena in particular, see: L.A.
La Cena come Spettacolo nel Satyricon di Petronio, Palermo 1995.
1992, 26-28; on comedy, laughter and entertainment as motifs in the Met.
see Schlam 1992, 40-47 and 120-122. An older contribution is: William E.
'The comedy of evil', Arion 3 (1964), 87-93; but it must be added
that the author pays more attention to the element of 'evil' than that of
'comedy'. For a striking theatrical scene in the Met. see e.g.
ff., with GCA ad loc. (forthcoming), and: Gian Franco
'Forme di consumo teatrale: mimo e spettacoli affini', in: O. Pecere, A.
Stramaglia, La letteratura di consumo nel mondo greco-latino, Atti
del convegno internazionale Cassino 14-17 settembre 1994, Cassino 1996,
265-292, esp. 277-81 ('mimi e pantomime in Apuleio').
is a free quotation of
Mil. 4: (ut)... praestringat oculorum aciem in acie hostibus.
(...) quin potius 'uox' aut certe 'cuiuspiam uox' diceretur, ut ait illa
Terentiana meretrix: 'audire uocem uisa sum modo militis'. 'It would be
better to speak about "a voice" or "someone's voice", as
does this prostitute in Terence: "It seems I just heard the voice of a
Matters seem slightly different in the case of the tragedian Accius, whose
lines on Ulysses are quoted at the end of the discourse (
24), where they aptly reinforce Apuleius' philosophical point.
On this matter in general see:
1986. One may also refer to Apuleius' references to the satirist Lucilius:
we encounter his name in the very first lines of the
of Soc., where his term schedium for 'improvisation' is
Cf. Hunink 1995, 303. Particularly noteworthy is
11, where Apuleius gives an allegedly impromptu Latin rendering of a line of
Homer. By contrast, generally he is quite eager to give such quotations in
the original Greek, as may be seen throughout the Apology.
For instance, the title has been taken to refer either to an 'anthology' or
to the 'florid' style. The collection as we have it is an excerpt of a
probably much larger original, which had been made either by Apuleius
himself or by a scholar in late Antiquity. As to the time, the texts give us
only minor clues to enable us to suggest a date between 160 and 170 A.D. See
1994, 1719-1724. For sophistic aspects of the Florida, see
1997, esp. 148-175.
Fl. 2 contains a line of Plautus:
489 Pluris est oculatus testis unus quam auriti decem, 'one
sharp-eyed witness outranks ten keen-eared' (transl. P. Nixon in the Loeb
edition), as well as an original variation better suited for Socrates: Pluris
est auritus testis unus quam oculati decem. In
18,6-7 a change of scene is introduced with a line from an unknown tragedy,
immediately followed by three lines of Plautus:
prol.1-3. Finally, the satirist Lucilius figures once again in
21, where a description of a horse is amplified with a line of his: qui
campos collesque gradu perlabitur uno 'who slips over plains and hills
with one stride' (transl. E. Warmington) (
Apart from explicit references to comedy, the Florida also contain
amusing, 'comic' passages, such as the story of Protagoras and Euathlus in
18, but since they do not refer to the specific genre of comedy, I will not
Praeoptare me fateor uno chartario calamo me reficere poemata omnigenus
apta uirgae, lyrae, socco, coturno (...) ('I prefer, I confess,
using one writing pencil to compose poems in all genres: those fit for the
rod, the lyre, the low-heeled shoe or the high boot.'). Possibly, Apuleius
even wrote mimus, as might appear from
20: Canit enim (...) Epicharmus mimos (...), Apuleius uester haec omnia
('for Epicharmus writes mimes... and your Apuleius writes in all these
genres'). But here, mimos is an emendation by Reich for modos
of the MSS, and cannot be regarded as conclusive.
On this piece, see: S.J.
'Apuleius Eroticus: Anth. Lat. 712 Riese', Hermes 120 (1992), 83-89;
'Apuleio "poeta novello"', in: A. Tandoi (ed.), Disiecti membra
poetae, Foggia 1985, 235-277, esp. 261-274. Text and translation can be
found in: Jean
Apulée, opuscules philosophiques, Paris 1973.
Apuleius' reference to 'Middle Comedy' here is problematic, since Philemon
has invariably been reckoned to New Comedy, already by scholars in
antiquity; see Heinz‑Günther
Die attische Mittlere Komödie. Ihre Stellung in der antiken
Literaturkritik und Literaturgeschichte, Berlin/New York 1990, 62 with
note 81. Apuleius is clearly not making a chronological error, as appears
from his reference to the poet's rivalry with Menander. The description in Fl.
16 of Philemon's art also conforms to what we know about New Comedy.
Possibly, as Nesselrath, 62 adds, Philemon's technique and stylistical
qualities were so much inferior to Menander's that Apuleius could consider
him somewhat 'old-fashioned'.
This sort of recitatio seems more characteristic of Roman culture
than of early Hellenistic culture (4th cent. BC), to which Philemon and
Menander belong. One wonders whether Apuleius projected one of his own
experiences on the Greek poet. Especially the mentioning of a theatre as the
location might suggest that this was the case.
Sane quidem, si uerum est quod Statium Caecilium in suis poematibus
scripsisse dicunt, innocentiam eloquentiam esse (
Fr.255 W), ego uero profiteor ista ratione ac praefero
me nemini omnium de eloquentia concessurum 'certainly if it is
true what Statius Caecilius is said to have written in his poems, that
innocence is eloquence itself, to that extent I claim and boast that I will
yield to none in eloquence.' (5,3). Apuleius then continues with
etymological puns on eloquens, facundus and disertus.
Quapropter, ut semper, eleganter Afranius hoc scriptum relinquat: 'amabit
sapiens, cupient ceteri' (
Fr.221 Ribb.3/ 225 Daviault); tamen si uerum uelis, Aemiliane,
uel si haec intellegere unquam potes, non tam amat sapiens quam recordatur
'and therefore let us grant that Afranius shows his usual elegance of
expression when he writes: "The wise man loves, the others just
desire". In truth however, Aemilianus, or if you are capable of ever
grasping such matters, the wise does not love, but only remembers.' (
Apuleius' final words contain a barely veiled reference to the Platonic
theory on learning as remembering. The suggestion is that Apuleius' opponent
cannot understand this, whereas the judge, Claudius Maximus, is expected to
be familiar with Plato.
Again, one may also point to the appearance of the satirist
In Apol. 10,4 he is criticized for exposing two boys to public
contempt by naming them in a satire; Vergil did much better, Apuleius adds,
in using pseudonyms. Here too, the reference to the archaic author is more
than just a decorative one.
Cf. Est ille poetae uersus non ignotus 'odi puerulos praecoqui sapientia'
the source is unknown, but possibly a comedy. Cf. also:
Ibi et ille celeberrimus in comoediis uersus de proximo congruit: παίδωv
σπoρ. Here a line of Menander is the source; see Hunink 1997 ad
For the Plautine color of Apuleius' language, see L.
Sermo cotidianus dans les Métamorphoses d'Apulée, Caen 1968,
1986, 193-199 with numerous examples. Cf. further Silvia Mattiacci, 'Note
sulla fortuna di Accio in Apuleio', Prometheus 20 (1994),
53‑68, esp. 67, calling Plautus' language: 'una sorte di limfa vitale
alla quale si alimenta costantemente il sermo cotidianus delle Metamorfosi'.
1984, 143‑167 and 165-166 and
1995, 143 on a part of the exordium: 'das hört sich an wie der Stoff zu
einer Komödie'. Sallmann stresses the literary character of the speech,
which he analyses as a declamatio which has a secundary, practical
use in the courtroom.
The specific stock character of the leno maritus is an element of
refer to Juv. 1,55 with Mayor's note; see further V.A.
'The leno‑maritus', CJ 72 (1976), 62‑64. On Plautine
pimps, see Erich
Roman laughter, the comedy of Plautus, Cambridge 1968, 79-92.
The quotation is taken from a working translation of the Apol., made
available on the Internet by a group of students led by Prof. James
at the University of Pennsylvania; http://www.english/upenn.edu/~schwebel/apuleius.html.
That Crassus seems to be presented as a maccus here, is noted by
on Apol. 81 (Della magia di Apuleio, Bologna 1955, or later
reprints). The point is repeated by
1984, 165 and
1995, 147 ('eine Atellanenfigur, zum Entzücken der Hörer (und Leser) in
die Szene gezaubert!').
Cf. on Rufinus and Pontianus: (...) ni ita faciat, inicit scrupulum
amanti adulescentulo ueterator, minatur se filiam abducturum. Quid multis?
Iuuenem simplicem, praeterea nouae nuptae illecebris obfrenatum suo
arbitratu de uia deflectit. (
'the old fox threatened the young lover: if Pontianus would not do this, he
would take back his daughter.' (transl. as in n.26, with minor changes). On
Pudens: at ille puellae meretricis blandimentis et lenonis patris
illectamentis captus et possessus... ad patruum commigrauit (...) (
'But he was captivated and possessed by the slut's charms and by the
tempting lures of her pimp father, (...) and moved to his uncle's'.
His medical and biological expertise and his service to Apuleius are
mentioned twice, in 33,3 and 48,3. Admittedly, these are no 'clever schemes'
as we know them from slaves in comedy. Of that specific element Apuleius
himself seems the main exponent. But naturally, he avoids picturing himself
as a slave.
He is actually called patruus several times: 28,7 and 9; 85,7; 86,5;
98,1-2; 99,1; and 100,8. Obiurgare is used for 'criticize' several
times in the Apology: 77,2 (of Pontianus by Rufinus), 78,5; 82,1; and
87,9 (of Pontianus by Pudentilla).
Est enim miser morbo comitiali ita confectus, ut ter an quater die saepe
numero sine ullis cantaminibus corruat omniaque membra conflictationibus
debilitet, facie ulcerosus, fronte et occipitio conquassatus, oculis hebes,
naribus hiulcus, pedibus caducus (
'for the pitiful creature has suffered so much from epilepsy that three or
four times a day he falls without any incantations, and convulsions leave
all of his limbs powerless. His
face is ulcerous, his forehead and the back of his head bruised, his eyes
dull, his nostrils gaping and his feet unsteady.' (transl. as in n.27 with
some changes). According to
1984, 165, Apuleius' characterization is in the style of comedy; cf.
Merc. 639: canum, uarum, uentriosum, bucculentum, breuiculum, and
Hec. 440-441 magnus, rubicundus, crispus, crassus, caesius /
It may also be observed that not all typical characters from comedy are
represented. Most conspicuously absent is the cook (coquus). Food and
drink, however, do play a large role in the speech, e.g. in the long section
on the use of fish (29-41), which contains a lengthy quotation of
Hedyphagetica (39), and in the characterization of Crassus, who
spends most of his time in inns and bars, and tends to reduce everything to
what he knows best: the kitchen (58,10).
We have two extant ancient treatises on physiognomy, one in Greek and one in
Latin. The latter is sometimes attributed to Apuleius, but is clearly not
authentic. For Apuleius' interest in physiognomy, see: Elizabeth C.
'The study of physiognomy in the second century AD', TAPA 72 (1941),
'Physiognomy in Apuleius', in: C. Deroux (ed.), Studies in latin
literature and Roman history, I, Bruxelles 1979, 467‑474; H.J.
'Physiognomy in Apuleius' Metamorphoses 2,2', CP 79 (1984), 307-309.
Die lateinischen Schimpfwörter und verwandte sprachliche Erscheinungen,
Heidelberg 1965; Severin
Die Invektive in der griechischen und römischen Literatur,
Meisenheim am Glan 1980; Thomas
'Invective techniques in Apuleius' Apology', GCN 3 (1990),
35‑62. Especially the contrast between Apuleius as a man of letters
and his opponents as illiterates is dominant in the Apology.
For Aemilianus as a 'Christian', see Emanuele
'Un christiano di Sabratha', RSC 5 (1957), 35‑39; for Apuleius
as a possible representative of pagan opposition of Christianity, see Victor
'Reaktionen auf das Christentum in den Metamorphosen des Apuleius', in: VChr
51 (1997), 51-71 with further references.
The problem has often been dealt with in relation to the publication of the
speech. Some scholars think that particular sections have been added only
after the actual trial. The matter is still under discussion; cf.
For comedy in early and classical Greek rhetoric, see: Phillip
'Comedy and rhetoric', in: Ian Worthington (ed.), Persuasion: Greek
Rhetoric in Action, London / New York 1994, 196‑221.
Apuleian scholars often assume that
influence must be present in the Apol. because Cicero was the
best known orator. But most of the alleged parallels can be explained as
courtroom formulae; cf.
1994, 1711 note 7. Apuleius' archaic preferences would lead him to Cato or
the Gracchi, rather than to the classical Cicero. As a matter of fact,
nowhere in the Apol. is Cicero marked out as a significant model; cf.
notably 95,5 where Cicero's name is inserted almost casually as the last one
in a series of famous orators.
An intriguing passage is c.98 where Pudens is said to be visiting
gladiatorial schools and speaking only Punic or 'a bit of Greek.' This
recalls Plautus' linguistic parody, especially of a Punic speaking character
16,10 Apuleius says that comedy strikes different notes when it has come
halfway: (...) cumque iam in tertio actu, quod genus in comoedia fieri
amat, iucundiores adfectus moueret 'when he (i.e. the poet) had come to
the third act and, as usually happens in comedy, was exciting more pleasant
/ L. Thompson, 'Rank, social status and esteem in Apuleius', Museum
Africum 6 (1977‑78), 21‑36.
We do not know for sure whether Apuleius was acquitted or not, although the
speech as a whole strongly suggests that he was; for further discussion see
1997, I, Introduction A.3. However, for the present argument, it is not the actual
outcome of the trial that matters, but the expectations about it, as
roused in the speech itself.
Returning to the Met., one is perhaps reminded of the attempt
and Kenney made to present the story of
and Psyche in terms of a tragedy with five 'Actus'; cf. Apuleius, Cupid
& Psyche, edited by E.J.
Cambridge 1990, esp. 20 note 88. Kenney actually prints indications of these
'acts' in his commentary. However, this is not supported by much evidence or
properly defended. The Apology should not, by analogy, be subdivided
as a comedy. It is a speech, but one in which the model of comedy is
operative all the time.
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