Vincent Hunink

review of:

SANDY (Gerald) The Greek World of Apuleius. Apuleius & the Second Sophistic, (Supplements to Mnemosyne, 174), Leiden, New York, Köln: Brill, 1997. Pp. 276; ISBN 90 04 10821 1 

text published in: The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 120, 2000, 164-5.

In the last few decades the phenomenon of the Second Sophistic has raised much interest and even gained some sympathy among scholars. Studies by e.g. Bowie, Bowersock, Anderson, and Trapp have cast new light upon the extant Greek texts of authors such as Dio Chrysostom, Lucian, or Maximus of Tyre. Meanwhile, the Latin counterpart of this Greek movement has largely remained in the shadow of the impressive, and often bulky, Greek models. This is to be regretted, since 2nd century Latin literature has some very interesting texts to offer.

This is particularly true of most of the works by Apuleius of Madauros. His novel Metamorphoses (inspired by Greek models) has indeed become the object of an ever increasing number of studies by Latinists. By contrast, his rhetorical works are much less well known, and it is in these works, notably the Apology, the Florida and De Deo Socratis, that Apuleius stands out as a proper `Latin sophist.' A recent volume in the Handbuch der lateinischen Literaturwissenschaft by K. Sallmann (München 1997)*** does have a chapter on Latin Second Sophistic, but given the nature of the book, the analysis remains fairly general.

The monograph by Gerald Sandy (S.) on Apuleius' relations with the Second Sophistic is, therefore, more than welcome. S. gives a detailed account of the life and educational background of Apuleius, and his rhetorical and philosophical works, constantly referring to Greek models and sources. In doing so, he convincingly gives Apuleius his well deserved place among Greek writers of the Second Sophistic.

The first chapter analyses Apuleius' education as a Latin sophist, with much attention to his religious background, his bilinguism, and his numerous travels and studies abroad, particularly in Athens. The next chapter sketches the general background of literature and learning in the Second century, with its emphasis on Greek and its `cult of the past'. Tendencies we may discern in Apuleius' Apology and Florida are rightly linked to the general Greek cultural mainstream, such as the almost obsessive interest in the right words and authorized language and the fascination for books and libraries, the use of handbooks and miscellanies, and the insertion of moralizing anecdotes and scientific details.

The third and fourth chapters focus on sophistic discourse. First some texts by Favorinus of Arles and Maximus of Tyre are presented (of the latter's On exile a substantial part is given in translation), which are immediately compared with Apuleius' speeches, e.g. in their didactic orientation and their use of commonplace. The fourth chapter presents a detailed account of both the Apology and the Florida. The section on the Apology does not cover fresh ground, but the other parts have many good ideas to offer. The collection is rightly taken seriously as important examples of Latin epideictic oratory, of which so little is extant. Some relevant topics here are didacticism, narrative, squabbles among sophists, and word-pictures.

Next comes a section on Apuleius as philosophus sophisticus Latinus. This title may seem to many unlikely or exaggerated, but Apuleius, who considered himself above all a philosophus Platonicus, has written some works which really justify it. His De Deo Socratis (a Latin speech on demonology) is a perfect example of popularized philosophy of a Platonic nature, with the famous speaker acting as the mediator, bringing Greek wisdom to his audience. (I am happy to note that S. defends the authenticity and place of the so called `false' prefaces of the speech, which center on improvisation.) The other works, De Platone, Peri Hermeneias, and De mundo, mostly reworked versions of Greek models, are given due attention as well. A relatively short sixth chapter on the Metamorphoses closes the book. (One can hardly write a book on Apuleius and not examine the novel.) Here too, Apuleius appears a fullblooded sophist, adapting and reworking Greek models, in this case fusing `Platonic farce and Plautine tragedy' (255).

In some 250 pages, S. manages to give a rich and varied portrait of Apuleius and his often neglected or disdained rhetorical and philosophical works. If the man from Madauros had written exclusively in Greek and his works were extant, he would no doubt have been included in the ranks of famous Second Sophists long ago. As it is, S.' book provides a welcome correction to the general image.

The approach of S. has the benefit of putting Apuleius and his works in a wider perspective, but perhaps inevitably the argument occasionally suffers some loss of strength and coherence: no text is simply analysed as such and as a whole, but constantly connected or compared to various other sources. But on the whole, S. manages to retain a sound balance between telling everything about many texts and limiting the focus on a single text. The use of secundary literature, meanwhile, is not quite satisfactory; many important articles on Apuleius' oeuvre (e.g. by Ferrari on Apuleius' idiom in the Flor. or by Sallmann on the literary qualities of the Apol.) are simply missing or only occasionally mentioned, whereas S.'s own work is given rather much room (no less than ten items in the bibliography).

On a minor, but rather annoying note, I have to complain about the inaccuracy of the editors: the reader is provided with an index in which all numbers have somehow changed, probably due to the editing process. Checking references thereby becomes an unduly tiresome and irritating task. In books that are as expensive as the Mnemosyne supplements such a shortcoming is a shame.

In conclusion, Apuleian scholars and Latinists may be grateful to S. for his important study on this Latin writer of the Second Sophistic. Students of later Greek literature may well add to these thanks, for they have been given access to what may seem an unexpected, additional source for their analyses of the Second Sophistic.  

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