Multicultural Writers from Antiquity to 1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook

By Alba Amoia; Bettina L.Knapp | Go to book overview

APULEIUS

(c. 125-after 170?)

Robert J. White


BIOGRAPHY

Although Apuleius's first name is unknown, it does appear in several manuscripts as Lucius, a praenomen derived no doubt from the name of the protagonist of his novel, the Metamorphoses. He was born of prosperous Roman parents in Madauros (now Mdaourouch in Algeria) in North Africa. His father was a duovir iuri dicundo, a title given to the two highest magistrates in the municipal towns. Apuleius received a superior education, first at Carthage and then at Athens, where he pursued his love of philosophy, and traveled throughout Greece, Asia Minor, the Aegean Islands, and to Rome. In 155-56, on his way to Alexandria in Egypt, he became ill and stopped at Oea (modern Tripoli in Libya). There he renewed his friendship with Sicinius Pontianus, his Athens schoolmate, who persuaded him to extend his visit in the family home. Apuleius eventually married Pontianus's widowed mother Pudentilla, seven years his senior. When Pontianus himself married and met with a sudden death, his father-in-law Herennius Rufus sought the support of Pontianus's younger brother, Pudens, to prevent Apuleius from acquiring the inheritance of his wife. Apuleius was accused of having won Pudentilla's affection through the use of love potions. The trial took place at Sabrata in 158-59, at a time when conviction of practicing magic was punishable by death. Apuleius defended himself and was acquitted. His speech in his own defense (Apologia, sometimes called De magia in the manuscripts) still survives. It is a bizarre but fascinating glimpse of both himself and the lives and preoccupations of superstitious provincials. He spent the last years of his life at Carthage, where he enjoyed great fame as a philosoper and orator. He was appointed chief priest of the province and was honored with public statues both in Carthage and Madauros. It is clear that Apuleius was still alive in the late 160s, but the date of his death is unknown.

Six of his works survive: the Apologia; the Florida, an anthology of twenty-

-17-

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