Documents for the Study of the Gospels

By David R. Cartlidge; David L. Dungan | Go to book overview

SACRAMENTS
The Salvation of Lucius

Introduction: Apuleius was born c. A.D. 123 in Madauros in Africa. His Metamorphoses (the Golden Ass) is the only fully intact Latin novel to have come down to us from Roman times. The work is a rather erotic romp except for the eleventh book which appears to be a serious, perhaps autobiographical, account of an initiation into the mysteries of Isis.

Ill-fortuned Lucius, who tells this tale, suffers through many misadventures due to what he calls his fortuna collapsa. At the point we take up the story, his “catastrophic destiny” is that he has been turned into an ass by a witch. Lucius portrays himself as somewhat a Don Juan, and, as he has been tricked into the metamorphosis by his own lust for women and his dabbling in witchcraft, the reader is led to believe that Lucius is paying for his “sins” As book eleven opens, Lucius-the-Ass has run away from his owner and fallen into an exhausted sleep by the sea shore.


Apuleius, Metamorphoses 11

Just about the time of the first night-watch, I awakened in a sudden terror. I saw the moon, shining with splendor as she does when she is full, just when she emerged from the sea. It occurred to me that this was the most silent, secret time of the shady night; it certainly was the time when the noble Goddess is most powerful in special grandeur. It came to me that all human things are ruled by her providence. At her nod, not only cattle and wild animals but even inanimate things are made lively by her light and divinity. Earthly bodies as well as heavenly bodies and the sea increase by her waxing and diminish by her waning. I considered then that surely my Fate was satisfied with my many disasters. I found a hope of salvation, although it was late, and I decided to beseech the august image of the risen Goddess.

I rose up with joy, shaking off my weariness. I surrendered to a desire for purification, and walked to the sea. I immersed my head seven times—the number prescribed by the divine Pythagoras as the most efficacious for religious purposes. Then with life and joy, with tearful face, I prayed thus to the powerful Goddess:

“Queen of Heaven (regina caeli), whether you are Mother Ceres, the original mothering nurse of all fruitful things, who, after joyfully finding your daughter, abolished the uncivilized nourishment of the ancient acorn and

-165-

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