Golden Ass

analytical Essay
1126 words
1126 words

Golden Ass

Apuleius' Golden Ass, the only surviving novel of the Roman Empire, is a tale of a Greek nobleman devoting his life to the goddess Isis following his transformation to an ass and back. Although a work of fiction, the novel reveals a great deal about religion in Apuleius' society. This information, however, must be viewed with a critical eye. He incorporates stories from Greco-Roman mythology not to affirm their validity, but to reveal their commonness to society. Apuleius insults other religions that are not of the Pantheon with severe viciousness, while the general public may have been more open to them. In the end, he praises Isis and Osiris as the supreme gods while giving first hand account of their righteousness. Overall, Apuleius' view of religion cannot be trusted.

From the very start we see Apuleius using references to Roman myths as similes to everyday occurrences. When Fotis, the slave, enters his bedroom to make love to him, he remarks that "she stood, transformed into a living statue: the Love-goddess rising from the sea. The flushed hand with which she pretended to screen her mount of Venus showed that she was well aware of the resemblance; certainly it was not held there from modesty." He describes a slave girl trying to seduce him as Venus rising out of the sea. Some of this description may be a hyperbole for Lucius' love of Fotis. However, Apuleius goes beyond this by linking Fotis directly to Venus. Thus, the most beautiful goddess in the Pantheon is easily seen in a slave girl. Similarly, Thelyphron, when telling the story how members of a household attacked him, describes himself as feeling "like Adonis mauled by the wild boar, or Orpheus torn in pieces by the Thracian women." This...

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...ddess. To prove his point, Apuleius first discounts all other worships. Throughout the novel he describes things that happen to individuals in terms of the traditional Greco-Roman myths. He subtly chips away at the traditional Roman gods, avoiding a direct attack on the Pantheon because the vast majority of his audience believed in it. If he attacked them directly, he would surely not be considered credible. With the other religions, however, Apuleius reserves nothing. He declares religions of Asia Minor to be fraudulent and calls monotheistic religions "blasphemous." After questioning the other religions, Apuleius goes on to praise the worship of Isis. As a result, we the contemporary reader cannot infer too much about Roman religion from The Golden Ass.

Works Cited

Apuleius. The Golden Ass. Trans. Robert Graves. Noonday Press, 1998. ISBN 0-374-50532-2.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how apuleius' golden ass, the only surviving roman empire novel, reveals a great deal about religion in his society.
  • Analyzes how apuleius uses references to roman myths as similes to everyday occurrences.
  • Analyzes how lucious takes on a more frontal assault towards the minor religions present in the roman empire at the time. he calls the eunuch priests that worship the syrian goddess frauds.
  • Analyzes how pious frauds composed an all-purpose oracle for the goddess to deliver by their mouths, and used it to cheat people who came to consult her on all sorts of questions.
  • Analyzes how apuleius discredits several cults in the empire as being money driven and simply not true. the public does not share lucius' distrust of the foreign goddess.
  • Analyzes how the woman professed perfect scorn for the immortals and rejected all true religion in favor of a fantastic blasphemous cult of an 'only god.'
  • Analyzes how apuleius' attack on the eunuch is more serious because of the reference to "only god," which could refer to christianity, judaism, or other monotheistic religions in the empire.
  • Analyzes how apuleius' tone changes dramatically when describing the transformation back to a man with the aid of the goddess isis.
  • Analyzes how apuleius tries to convince his readers, educated men of the roman empire and provinces, that the goddess isis is the one supreme goddess.
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