The Metamorphoses of Apuleius

On Making an Ass of Oneself

By Carl C. Schlam

192 pp., 5.5 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-6588-0
    Published: March 2011
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-2071-8
    Published: March 2017

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This book examines the comic and philosophical aspects of Apuleius' Metamorphoses, the ancient Roman novel also known as The Golden Ass. The tales that comprise the novel, long known for their bawdiness and wit, describe the adventures of Lucius, a man who is transformed into an ass. Carl Schlam argues that the work cannot be seen as purely comic or wholly serious; he says that the entertainment offered by the novel includes a vision of the possibilities of grace and salvation.

Many critics have seen a discontinuity between the comedic aspects of the first ten tales and the more elevated account in the eleventh of the initiation of Lucius into the cult of Isis. But Schlam uncovers patterns of narrative and a thematic structure that give coherence to the adventures of Lucius and to the diversity of tales embedded in the principal narrative. Schlam sees a single seriocomic purpose pervading the narrative, which is marked by elements of burlesque as well as intimations of an ethical religious purpose.

As Schlam points out, however, the world of second-century Rome cannot easily be divided into the sacred and the secular. Such neat distinctions were largely unknown in the ancient world, and Apuleius' tales are a part of a tradition, flowing from Homer, that addressed both religious and philosophical issues.

Originally published in 1992.

A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.

About the Author

Carl C. Schlam, professor of classics at Ohio Sate University, is author of Cupid and Psyche: Apuleius and the Monuments.
For more information about Carl C. Schlam, visit the Author Page.


"This is a most useful book on the Metamorphoses, chock full of important and relevant information. It presents a clear and compelling argument for the overall structure of the work and the consistency of thematic patterns within it."--David Konstan, Brown University

"Carl Schlam is already highly respected by students of Apuleius for a number of useful articles and an impressive monograph on Cupid and Psyche and the monuments. The merits of this book are its resistance to transient critical theory; its sensible stance on the purposes of the novel as entertainment and simultaneously as moral and religious instruction; and its judicious selection of leading themes and careful analysis of them."--P. G. Walsh, University of Glasgow