and translation of the Sp.Add.
(Apul. Met. 10,21) ONCE AGAIN
published in: W.H.
Keulen, R.R. Nauta, S. Panayotakis (edd),
scrupulosae. Essays on the text and interpretation of Apuleius’
Metamorphoses in honour of Maaike
(Ancient Narrative, Supplementum 6) Barkhuis Publishing;
Groningen 2006 (ISBN 90 77922 164), 266-279
Among the many controversial issues which are raised by the study of the MSS
containing works of Apuleius, the problem of the so-called spurcum
additamentum (‘filthy addition’, from here: sp.add.), a section of 81 words in Met. 10,21,
stands out. It does so for several reasons: first, the problem involves a
considerable piece of text, rather than a single word or phrase. Second, it
describes sexual organs and is thus often called pornographic, as such forming a
unique part of the novel. And finally, the scholarly debate on this piece of
text has been going on for centuries. Meanwhile, however, a communis
opinio has gradually taken shape, namely the view that the debated section
is, really, an addition written not by Apuleius, but by an erudite medieval
author who was familiar with Apuleian diction.
her extensive commentary on Met. 10,
Maaike Zimmerman inevitably has to deal with the sp.add.
She does so in an appendix to the actual commentary.
Here she discusses the manuscript situation and the origin and date of the sp.add., along with the various theories as to these issues. The
final theory she discusses would suggest that the author, with his special
knowledge of anatomy and medical technical terms, must be placed in the context
of the flourishing medical studies in 11th century southern Italy. In a short
conclusion, she states that there can be no doubt about the medieval origin of
the sp.add. and that it has no place
in the text of the Met. itself but
only in the apparatus criticus.
of p. 267]More
recently still, the question was also discussed by Juan Martos in his monumental
bilingual edition of the Met., also in
and with similar conclusions, although Martos seems less inclined to point out a
specific medieval date for the fragment.
now one would expect the debate to settle down, as the matter seems more or less
sorted out. But in the same year in which Martos’ edition was published,
Ephraim Lytle published a paper on the sp.add.,
in which he takes a different position, in fact the very opposite of that of
Zimmerman and Martos: according to Lytle the sp.add.
is genuinely Apuleian, as it shows clearly Apuleian characteristics, and has
been unduly excluded from the text on account of misunderstandings or even moral
scruples. So the debate on this curious piece of text seems to be open once
this is not a matter of mere technical relevance for specialists of textual
criticism, but, rather a larger issue of some consequence for our image of the
author Apuleius and his literary strategies, it seems necessary to take up the
challenge and review the arguments. In the following pages I will summarize the
main lines of Lytle’s paper and discuss the points it raises. Since the
present paper is offered to Maaike
Zimmerman, with whom I had the pleasure to work jointly in the Groningen
Apuleius Group for many years, it will not come as a surprise that her
conclusions are, in the end, also mine. I will argue that Lytle has reopened the
debate on insufficient grounds, and that the sp.add.
is to be relegated once again from the light of day of the main text to a modest
retreat in the apparatus criticus.
the very opening words of his paper, Lytle shows his disagreement with the
general view of the sp.add.: the
designation ‘spurcum additamentum’ is called ‘modern and unwarranted’
(Lytle, 349). The first, of course, is true, since the name turned up only in
the debate about the passage between the earliest editors of the text, such as
Elmenhorst (1621), Floridus (1688) and Oudendorp (1786), but the second element
implies a rather positive aes[top of p.268]thetic judgment. It remains
fair to say that for most readers, the description of a woman handling the
sexual organ of an ass will be pornographic, and therefore spurcum
does not seem not such a bad term after all.
a brief survey of previous scholarship on the problem, L. leaves no doubt about
his position. He states that the arguments against the ancient authorship of the
sp.add. ‘are all misleading and
based largely on stylistic or philological grounds’ (p.350): the piece has
unjustly been considered unauthentic a
priori and separated from the rest of the narrative, which has resulted in
‘miscomprehension not only of the additamentum,
but of the entire scene in which it is embedded’ (p.350). What L. proposes to
do is to show ‘that the additamentum
preserves a vital gap in a scene that parallels directly the difficult breeding
of an ass with a mare.’ (p.350). Specifically, L. adds, ‘it is my firm
contention that Apuleius firmly roots his narrator in a wealth of carefully
observed animal behaviour that an ancient audience would be intimately familiar
the ass consistently presents his asinine behaviour in anthropomorphic terms.
According to L., Lucius’ views often do not coincide with the knowledge of
ancient readers, and this reflects a conscious strategy by Apuleius: the author
wishes his readers to visualize a different tale underneath what is told by
Lucius. In L.’s terms, there is a disjunction between ‘narration’ and
‘underlying narrative’, that becomes stronger and reaches a climax in book
10. (p.351) To support this claim, L. next analyzes a number of passages from Met.
1-9, in which Lucius’ descriptions show some ironical or funny contrast with
what could be called ‘ancient reality’. All of this clearly shows that
Lucius the ass is an ‘unreliable narrator’. One may note, meanwhile, that
this important point concerning Lucius has become almost universally accepted in
Apuleian scholarship since Winkler 1985.
reaching the actual sp.add., L.
briefly describes the context before and after the section, and concludes as
follows: ‘The scene is based upon the breeding of quadrupeds, more
particularly donkeys with mares, but with the obvious necessary substitutions
made for a narrative in which Lucius’ partner is, in fact, a woman who is
taking both the role of the mare and the role of the "handler" or
"steerer," in breeding barn parlance, as she leads Lucius, the donkey,
into a union for which he is physiologically incapable of rousing [top
of p.269]himself. Overlaid on this reality we have a typically outrageous
narration by Lucius, couched in the vocabulary of romantic love.’ (p.355).
is made of the woman applying perfume to the
nostrils of the ass,
and of Lucius using wine and ointment to stimulate himself.
For, according to L., ‘olfactory stimulation’ and stimulation of the
genitals are well-known elements from texts about breeding quadrupeds such as
Varro RR 2,7,8 and Columella 6,27,10,
while the soothening effect of wine on unruly mules is mentioned by Pliny Nat.
these and other technical texts about breeding, a crucial role is that of the
handler, who washes the male’s genitals and physically manipulates them to
arouse the animal. Now it is these two elements which are missing from the
accepted text of Met. 10,21, L.
argues, and which are supplied by the sp.add.:
the opening sentences (1-2) focus on the woman cleaning the penis, and its
stimulation is clearly implied in (3). Lucius’ washing is said to be demanded
not only by the parallels from the texts on breeding, but also by the frequent
earlier references to Lucius’ dirtiness, of which some examples are given (p.
from texts about quadrupeds, L. also invokes other passages, such as Columella
8,5,11 on the production of eggs from hens, a passage which is said to show
remarkable parallels with the sp.add.,
such as the focus on comfortable nesting boxes and cleanliness.
to the sp.add. itself, L. observes
that the sensory details of cleaning are Apuleian and he offers a new
interpretation of the difficult words in the beginning of (2): Dein, digitis, hypate lichanos mese paramese et nete, hastam mihi
inguinis nivei spurci<ti>ei pluscule excorians emundavit.
The passage is crucial, not so much for our understanding of a technical aspect,
but for the question of authorship of the section. In Greek, the words denote
the strings of the lyre, but here they are commonly taken as terms for the five
fingers (digitis), their incorrect use
in Latin being explained by scholars as based on a misinterpretation of
Boethius’ De institutione musica
of p.270]Now, here L. comes up with a creative suggestion: these terms refer
not to the fingers, but rather to the names of the notes corresponding to the
different strings. Thus, Lucius in a way sings some sort of ‘do re mi fa
sol’, suggestive of the rising of his sexual pitch (p.359). According to L.
the use of this Greek vocabulary is not inappropriate here or uncharacteristic
of Apuleius’ general practice, notably his clustering of derivations from
Greek such as in 8,24 or 10,18
the evidence, L. suggests that ‘the only genuine consideration should be the
content of the additamentum itself’
(p. 362). Towards the end of the paper, L. repeats some of his arguments,
pleading once more for the narrative necessity of the washing and stimulation of
the male, and hence in favour of retaining the sp.add.
In addition, he points out that Apuleius in the course of the novel repeatedly
draws the reader’s attention to Lucius’ being hugely endowed (e.g. 8,25),
and that a certain ‘adoration’ of his phallus ‘is called for by the
narrative, and even desired by the reader’ (p.363). To exclude this
‘pornographic’ text from the narrative means, L. concludes with Winkler, to
‘castrate the text at its most graphic moment.’
evidence and idiom
usually seems sympathetic if a particular piece of Greek or Latin text
transmitted in the manuscripts is defended as the authentic work of a well-known
ancient author. The resulting image of such an author invariably becomes more
complex and varied, thereby gaining further interest. But as much as one would
like to see the intriguing section that is the sp.add.
established as genuinely written by Apuleius, the case for it should be made on
account of solid arguments. It is here that L.’s paper shows some
deficiencies. His argument shows a deplorable lack of attention for the
philological side of the matter, not only concerning the manuscript tradition
but also in the field of Latin idiom. Instead L. singles out one particular
theme, animal [top of p.271] breeding, to provide the
basic narrative frame, taking this as the starting point for far-reaching
conclusions as to the narrative and the authenticity of the sp.add.
Other possibly relevant elements of the narrative are downplayed or disregarded.
me start with the manuscript situation.
As all editors show, and as L. has to acknowledge, there is no trace of the sp.add.
in the manuscript Laur. 68,2, commonly known as F, which is generally seen as
our main witness for the constitution of the text of the Met.
The sp.add. is to be found in φ
(Laur. 29,2), and,
moreover, only written in the margin by a scholar known by name, Zanobi da
Strada. It is, therefore, literally ‘marginal’. In a still less important
manuscript (Laur. 54,32, known as L1), the passage in question was added by none
other than Boccaccio. Both men independently must have copied the passage from
another manuscript at Monte Cassino, where these lines had probably been written
in the margin as well. All later witnesses that have the sp.add.
are clearly dependent of either φ or
L1. The textually corrupt state of the sp.add.
suggests that the source by Da Strada and Boccaccio was badly legible and dated
not from their own time. The most likely conclusion is that the sp.add. represents the addition by some medieval source, which came
to be copied as a curiosum in the
margin of some of our late MSS.
the light of the situation in the MSS, one wonders how a defence of the sp.add. as an authentic text would seem possible in the first place.
The evidence of the MSS for these lines is so weak that one would need to resort
to special theories to explain its absence in our main witness F. In fact, this
is what L. ultimately does. At the start of the paper, he makes rather lightly
of its absence in F; the fact that the passage turns up somewhere in the MSS
seems to suffice for his purpose. This implies a serious underrating of the
vital importance of F for our text. But worse is yet to come: in his later
discussion of the Greek words hypate lichanos mese paramese et nete, L. offers a tentative
explanation for the absence of the sp.add.
in F: words of Greek origin are often confused in our MSS and even F is often
uncertain in such places; this brings L. to the suggestion that the difficult
Greek of the sp.add. may have become
incomprehensible to a fourth century editor, with the subsequent omission of the
passage as a result (p.361 n.27).
of p.272]This explanation is unacceptable. If words of Greek colour are
regularly confused in our MSS of Apuleius, that does not mean that passages
containing such words could have been freely or easily excluded in late
antiquity and the medieval period. On the contrary, the presence of several such
obscured passages in F clearly testifies that early editors and scribes took
great pains to retain transmitted words even if their sense had become vague or
incomprehensible to them.
reasons of principle, it may be said that the burden of proof lies with those
who defend the authenticity of the sp.add.
rather than those who exclude it on the basis of its absence in our main MS.
L.’s paper repeatedly suggests the opposite, claiming that the section has
unjustly and too quickly been ‘omitted’ from the text.
Against Lytle, I would therefore propose to uphold the general notion that any
discussion about ancient texts should, ultimately, rely on a firmly philological
basis, notably that of the evidence of our MSS.
some individual points concerning the idiom of the passage may be discussed.
Here too, L.’s defence of Apuleian authorship is not convincing. His most
remarkable point of idiom concerns the Greek words hypate
lichanos mese paramese et nete, taken as ‘do re mi fa sol’. L.’s
solution seems ingenious and would indeed avoid the necessity of dating these
Latinised words well after Boethius and hence much later than Apuleius himself.
But some problems remain here.
First, L. passes over in silence how the Greek words for strings
of the lyre could have been taken simply for their respective sounds. The transition might seem relatively easy
in Greek, but if the words are isolated from their context, as they are here,
such a shift in sense makes the Latin extremely hard to follow. The rest of the sp.add.
does not evoke sounds or singing, and such a reference would not come in
naturally within references to, as L. argues, animal breeding. Thus it seems
hard to see how a Roman reader could have interpreted the words as referring to
sounds. The fact that no previous editor has ever taken the words in this sense
may also seem relevant here.
would also like to point out that L. all too easily supposes a syntactical
complexity in assigning the debated words to a parenthesis. The Latin words
themselves do not show any further syntactical or other sign to the reader that
a parenthesis is to be assumed here, for instance through the presence of a
finite verb that does not fit the main clause. Generally speaking, Apuleius
[top of p. 273]employs parenthesis relatively sparingly and with specific
narrative effects, notably to make the narrator directly address the audience
for a moment.
Here, the alleged parenthesis would seem no more than a lyrical reflection of
the narrating ass directed to himself.
there is the preceding word digitis,
which L. does not further explain. Why would the writer of these lines have
added a plain reference to fingers in the first place? The action of cleaning
the ass’s penis certainly does not require this detail, nor does it give the
scene any special nuance. If, however, the five Greek words refer to the five
fingers of the woman, as even the word order obviously suggests, one might say
that they are functional, adding a graphical and even obscene touch with the
suggestion of the various fingers that are all handling the animal’s organ.
case for L.’s new, musical interpretation of the debated Greek words, as
clever as it is, remains weak, and the commonly held notion that it is the
fingers that are specified here makes the best sense. Inevitably, this then
automatically pleads against Apuleian authorship, given the link with Boethius
that would explain the erroneous use of the words, as mentioned above.
arguments based on the idiom also remain open to questions and objections. It
would require a full philological commentary in English on the sp.add. to discuss all relevant issues,
but there is no room for this within the bounds of a paper such as this.
Therefore, I merely select one or two further issues in L.’s interpretation,
in which the clarity of the Latin and the Apuleian authorship are too easily
Lucius’ filth and his member. If we follow L.’s rendering, we should combine
the words inguinis niuei
(‘snow-white groin’) and take spurci<ti>ei
pluscule (‘much filth’) as genitive depending on emundauit,
replacing a normal ablative of separation.
However, the exact function of [top of
p.274] niuei seems
doubtful. How could the member of an ass, a dirty one at that, be called
‘snow-white’? Alternatively, we might take the adjective with spurci<ti>ei (‘white dirt’) and read it as a comical,
paradoxical reference to the smegma which the woman may be expected to clean.
Pluscule comes in for some additional doubt. Scholars seem to agree
that the form must represent plusculae,
but a case could perhaps be made for the adverb, to be taken closely with excorians
‘skinning a little’.
Graecisms in the sp.add., L. quotes a
private letter by L. Richardson jr., who claims that he founds ‘only the
following: orchium, pygam, cephalum, orchibus, priapo, anth’. This however
amounts to six additional Graecisms, not counting the debated five words hypate lichanos mese paramese et nete. The fact that Latin speakers
often use Greek for both musical and medical terms and for sexual organs (Lytle,
360), hardly justifies the rather excessive piling up of Graecisms here, which
makes the passage almost impossible for any reader to understand at first sight.
some minor issues. The curious words pando
et repando are generally taken as nouns referring to the oscillating erect
penis, obscenely moving up and down. L. however, renders ‘with it growing out,
and out some more’ (p.358) without further discussion.
And whose belly (uentrem) is it that
is touched by the erect penis? Scholars (e.g. Zimmerman 2000, 434) mostly think
it’s the woman’s, according to L. it is the ass’s own belly. Technically,
that may seem plausible, but it would have earned some discussion; perhaps the
issue should best be left open (‘touched the belly’). The final sentence
poses a another lexical problem with genius
in the sense of mentula,
which seems to be the result of an error
and a major textual [top of p.275]problem in inter anth.
quickly passed over by L., who renders ‘in the midst of such sweet flowers’.
issues might still be added,
but the general point is clear: on close scrutiny, the idiom in this passage
poses so many problems that it is difficult to imagine Apuleius is its author.
In fact, the passage is often so hard to understand that it seems to exclude any
clear and well-defined interpretation such as the one proposed by L. One may
even wonder whether it would have been readily intelligible to the average
ancient reader of Apuleius’ novel. It seems that L. has simply been too quick
to reaffirm the passage as genuine.
now, I have tried to reassert the traditional view that the sp.add. can safely be discarded on account of philological and
Finally, I add some brief observations about its content and the author’s
narrative strategy, although these remarks are bound to be somewhat more
sp.add. is a clever piece of text, and
it is evidently not the work of a simple scribe. It shows some characteristics
which make it seem Apuleian to a certain extent. The flowery language, the use
of Graecisms, the recherché and perhaps over-precise use of words are all
reminiscent of Apuleian style, whereas the focus on the ass and his sensations,
and the comical and sexual elements do recall many passages of the Met. But there is something strange about these lines, which most
readers and scholars of the text perceive as distinctly different from the rest
of the novel.
This is not merely due to the textual and stylistical difficulties, but also to
the explicit references to sexual organs. Clearly, there are several passages in
the novel which imply sexual tension and erotic atmosphere,
and the size of Lucius’ member is referred to more than once elsewhere,
but most readers will admit that Apuleius carefully avoids direct obscenity or
blunt references to sexual organs: his texts (both the Met.
and his speeches) are suggestive rather than explicit in this area. It is
precisely here that the sp.add.
strikes a different note and thus seems to fall short as a piece of Apuleian
far as animal breeding is concerned, L. may well have made a valuable new point
in his references to this practice. The technical aspect of handling animals may
well have been hinted at by Apuleius in the passage 10,21-22.
But there is no reason to assume that, by consequence, all
of p.277]pects of a breeding scene would have to be found in Apuleius’ text and therefore
plead for the sp.add. As it stands,
the accepted text of 10,21-22 without the sp.add.,
may be said to contain a number of possible allusions to breeding, which add to
the fun of the whole passage. In a way, one might argue, Apuleius would even
have spoiled it if he had lingered much longer over such technical detail.
Apuleius’ narrative, the sp.add. is
not necessary at all, even if writings about animal breeding are accepted as one
of the possible intertexts of 10,21. The sp.add.
disturbs the careful balance, the habitual, prudent avoidance of explicit
references to sexual organs, and the gradual build-up of the passage, thus
reducing the overall effect of the whole scene rather than strengthening it.
the end, such issues of broader, thematic relevance and general style must
partly remain a matter of taste. Certainly, every scholar is free to speculate
about what Apuleius would or could have done or, conversely, avoided, and in
this sense, L.’s interesting and thought-provoking paper is to be welcomed.
in discussions of such essential notions as the authenticity of a passage, I
would reaffirm the traditional view that textual and lexical considerations
should come first and be held as the proper basis for further research. It is to
be hoped that the future debate of the sp.add.,
even if its focus will be on specific lines of interpretation, will take such
evidence as its starting point.
THE TEXT AND TRANSLATION OF THE SP.ADD.
the sake of clarity, the accepted Latin text of Mariotti 1956, as printed by
Zimmerman 2000, 434 and Martos 2003, clii (without critical signs, and reading intus
in (4) instead of inter, apparently a
misprint) follows here (A1). The Latin text is followed by (A2) an English
translation by the author of this paper, based on the one given by Zimmerman,
434 but adapted in a number of places.
(B) one may find the text (B1) and translation (B2) as given by Lytle 2003,
(1) Et ercle orcium pigam perteretem Hyaci
fragrantis et Chie rosacee lotionibus expiauit. (2) Ac dein digitis, hypate
licanos mese paramese et [top
nete, hastam mihi inguinis niuei spurci<ti>ei
pluscule excoria<n>s emundauit. (3) Et cum ad inguinis cephalum formosa
mulier concitim ueniebat ab orcibus, ganniens ego et dentes ad Iouem eleuans
Priapo<n> frequenti frictura porrixabam ipsoque pando et repando uentrem
sepiuscule tactabam. (4) Ipsa quoque, inspiciens quod genius inter antheras
excreuerat modicum illud morule, qua lustrum sterni mandauerat, anni sibi
(1) And by Hercules, she cleansed the fine round pouch of my balls with perfumed
wine and rosewater of Chios. (2) And then with her fingers, thumb, forefinger,
middle finger, ring finger and little finger, she slightly skinned the shaft of
my organ and cleaned it of its snow-white dirt. (3) And when she reached the top
of my organ, the beautiful woman, rapidly coming there from by balls, I brayed
and lifted my teeth to Jove, stretched out my Priapean member as a result of the
frequent friction, and by moving it up and down I often touched the belly. (4)
She too, observing what kind of genital had grown among her mixtures, affirmed
that this small bit of delay, during which she had ordered our place of
debauchery to be prepared, to her was the orbit of a year.
Et, Hercule, orchium pygam perteretem
hyacinthi fragrantis et Chiae rosaceae lotionibus expurgavit [expiavit]. Dein,
digitis, hypate lichanos mese paramese et nete, hastam mihi inguinis nivei
spurci<ti>ei pluscule excorians emundavit. Et cum ad inguinis cephalum
formosa mulier conatim veniebat ab orchibus, ganniens ego et dentes ad iovem
elevans, priapo, frequenti frictura porrixabam, ipsoque pando et repando ventrem
saepiuscule tractabam [tactabam]. Ipsa quoque, inspiciens quod genius inter
anth. teneras excreverat, modicum morule qua lustrum sterni mandaverat anni sibi
And, by Hercules, she cleaned the hairless base of my balls with washes of
fragrant hyacinth and Chiote roses. Then with her fingers - do re mi fa sol! -
she cleaned for me the shaft of my snow-white groin, scouring away much filth.
And when this lovely woman was coming up from my balls to the end of my cock in
her efforts, whinnying and lifting my teeth heavenward, I swelled with a hard-on
from the constant rubbing and, with it growing out, and out some more, I
caressed my belly with it repeatedly. [top of p. 279]Seeing what a member had grown in the
midst of such sweet flowers, the modicum of delay in which she had instructed
that the breeding stall be made ready seemed to her to have lasted as long as a
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