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The Golden Ass

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Last Updated: Engelbrecht

The Golden Ass

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Alternate Title: Metamorphoses
Author: Apuleius
Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2008
Original English publication, 1566
Original Latin publication, 185
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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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Synopsis

The Metamorphoses of Apuleius -- which St. Augustine referred to as The Golden Ass (Asinus aureus) -- is the only Ancient Roman novel in Latin to survive in its entirety.

The protagonist of the novel is called Lucius. At the end of the novel, he is revealed to be from Madaurus, in ancient Algeria, the hometown of Apuleius (Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis) himself. The plot revolves around the protagonist's curiosity (curiositas) and insatiable desire to see and practice magic. While trying to perform a spell to transform into a bird, he is accidentally transformed into an ass. This leads to a long journey, literal and metaphorical, filled with in-set tales. He finally finds salvation through the intervention of the goddess Isis, whose cult he joins.

Apuleius's Golden Ass is a unique, entertaining, and thoroughly readable Latin novel--the only work of fiction in Latin to have survived from antiquity. It tells the story of the hero Lucius, whose curiosity and fascination for sex and magic results in his transformation into an ass. After suffering a series of trials and humiliations, he is ultimately returned to human shape by the kindness of the goddess Isis. Simultaneously a blend of romantic adventure, fable, and religious testament, The Golden Ass is one of the truly seminal works of European literature, of intrinsic interest as a novel in its own right, and one of the earliest examples of the picaresque.


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