The Golden Ass (Penguin Classics S.) Paperback – 22 Nov 1990
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"An execllent introduction and an accurate...translation."--Jim Williams, SUNY at Genesco"This translation deserves the highest praise. It is idiomatic whenever possible, clear and effective throughout; I am more impressed with it than with three others that I have sampled. The introduction is informative and balanced in judgment."--Philip F. O'Mara, Bridgewater College"This is a good edition. The translation flows, the introduction is thorough."--Richard Mason, George Mason University"[A] fresh, funny, evocative translation that captures Apuleius at his most uncanny."--W. Gardern Campbell, Mary washington College"Walsh's new rendering--which on every page, improves upon the commonly used and dated translations of Jack Lindsay and Robert Graves--appears at a time when this ever popular novel is even more greatly appreciated by social historians for the window it provides on provincial life among real imperial subjects in the second century CE. This edition is enhanced by an excellent introduction, a select bibliography, explanatory notes, and an index and glossary of names....It should quickly become the obvious choice for Latin-less readers."--Religious Studies Review6R"This translation is literal enough to come to a scholar's aid, and at the same time scholarly enough to use without embarrassment."--Bryn Mawr Classical Review"P.G. Walsh has given us an excellent translation, contemporary without being too trendy, as well as a superb introduction that gives the historical, philosophical, and religious background of the work....Oxford's World's Classics has done it again, has produced a useful edition and superior translation of a work that has needed it for several generations."--CAES Newsletter"Splendid volume, living up to the scholarly accuracy that makes the World's Classics series."--Professor John R. Lenz, Drew University"OUP's decision to commission a new translation of Apuleius' novel by a scholar who has made a significant contribution to Apuleian studies is a welcome move. This is without doubt the translation I would prescribe for students studying the work in English."--Bryn Mawr Classical Review"The best scholarly introduction and notes among the currently available paperback editions and a very high standard of accuracy in representing the Latin original."--Professor Robert Lamberton, Washington University --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Lucius Apuleius (2nd Century AD) was a North African fubulist who Latinized the Greek myths and legends. He travelled widely, visiting Italy and Asia, where he was initiated into numerous religious mysteries. He drew on the knowledge he gained about the priestly fraternities to write the "Golden Ass," which "Cupid and Psyche" is extracted from. E.J. Kenney is Emeritus Kennedy Professor of Latin in the University of Cambridge. His publications include a critical edition of Ovid's amatory works. He is a Fellow of the British Academy."
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The book also has the distinction of being one of the few ancient texts that contain any details about the Isis Mysteries, which the author is initiated into at the end of the book. Since initiates were sworn to secrecy, this doesn't amount to much but nonetheless gives a fascinating insight into the ritualistic and mystical elements surounding the Isis cult.
Some feel that the spiritual tone of this final section is rather at odds with the sordid catalogue of events in the rest of the book but it's message seems quite clear to me. Life can dump all sorts of crap on us and we can do our best to get out from under it but ultimately our chances of success simply rely on luck or a divine act of grace.
Robert Graves translation flows wonderfully and if, as some claim, he's taken quite a few liberties with the original Latin, I'm not particularly bothered because it makes for a great read.
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This book has a number of qualities which recommend it when considered purely from a literary standpoint. First, the story itself is highly entertaining and is composed of a series of vignettes as the main character, Lucius, after being transformed into an ass, makes his way from one inevitably cruel master to another, and manages to narrowly escape death on a number of occasions. Secondly, Apuleius's tale gives us a glimpse into the wide variety of characters who were resident within the Roman empire at the time Apuleius was writing, as well as their manner of life, which is fascinating. And the last thing that recommends this novel purely as literature is it's humor which nearly every reviewer has drawn attention to.
But this book is more than "just literature" in the usual sense of that word. Ultimately this is a book about religious conversion and I was surprised to find myself as I read comparing it to Augustine's Confessions. I was also surprised by the profundity of the theology expressed in certain passages of the story. For example, at one point in the story Lucius has fallen in with a group of eunuchs who have devoted themselves to the worship of some nameless goddess. In devotion to her the eunuchs engage in all sorts of self-flagellation and work themselves up into a self-induced frenzy which they apparently consider a sign of divine immanence. As Lucius is watching all of this he thinks, "A strange notion, this, that divine immanency, instead of doing men good, enfeebles or disorders their senses" (pg. 190). This struck me as a fairly profound theological statement. It also struck me as very Platonic, and I was happy to have my suspicions about a possible Platonic influence on Apuleius's theology confirmed in Robert Graves's introduction.
I was also struck by the obvious and genuine depth of religious feeling expressed in the book, and which appears especially in Apuleius's description of the revelation of Isis at the end of the book. This description reminded me to some degree of a fragment of a relief that is depicted in Jane Harrison's Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion and which I believe was meant to represent Aphrodite emerging from the sea. I think the same beauty, radiance, and depth of religious feeling suffuses both Apuleius's description of the revelation of Isis and the relief of Aphrodite emerging from the sea. After studying both I do not find it hard to understand why many of the Romantic poets, such as Keats, turned to pagan religion for poetic inspiration. Isis's description of herself in Apuleius's account also reminded me to some degree of Krishna's description of himself in the Bhagavad Gita. So there is a lot in this book, and it is well worth the read!
Because of passages like the ones I quoted above I would recommend this book not only to those looking for a fun or entertaining read, but to anyone who is interested in the history of religion and Greek and Roman religion in particular. And I would recommend it especially to anyone who is under the illusion that pagan religion was nothing but an elaborate set of supersitions lacking in any real theological insight, or genuine sense of religious devotion. This book proves otherwise, and more than anything this work has reawoken an interest in me in studying both Greek and Roman religion and their theologies.
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