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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable and enduring classic
Apuleius' The Golden Ass, or Metamorphoses, is the only Latin novel to survive in its entirety. Composed in the second century, this picaresque work tells the tale of Lucius, a man whose curiosity in magic and indulgence of sexual pleasures leads him to accidently transform himself into an ass. What follows are the various trials and hardships he endures as well as the...
Published on December 23, 2007 by Vincent D. Pisano

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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrible Edition
Amazon really screwed up when they lumped all editions/translations of this story together. My rating is for the General Books LLC edition which is absolutely unreadable. It mixes English and Latin and reminds me of computer generated spam. It is totally incoherent. I will never buy another book by this publisher, but I may buy another edition of The Golden Ass...
Published on October 12, 2010 by Franklin Schmidt


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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable and enduring classic, December 23, 2007
This review is from: The Golden Ass (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Apuleius' The Golden Ass, or Metamorphoses, is the only Latin novel to survive in its entirety. Composed in the second century, this picaresque work tells the tale of Lucius, a man whose curiosity in magic and indulgence of sexual pleasures leads him to accidently transform himself into an ass. What follows are the various trials and hardships he endures as well as the tales he hears throughout his travels. It is not until the intervention of the goddess Isis that Lucius is transformed back into a man, and he devotes the rest of his life to her cult.

Apuleius' storytelling is lively, witty, an often sexually explicit. Indeed, many forms of fetish are showcased within the pages, including beastiality. More often than not, the novel indulges readers in their guilty curiosities while also providing hilarious and adventurous prose, with a splash of red-streaked violence thrown in for good measure. However, despite being written nearly two-thousand years ago, what may shock the modern reader most is how approachable and familiar is not only the humor but also the sentiments and sensuality of these Roman characters. It is not difficult to imagine Lucius' world.

The Golden Ass offers readers a romp through ancient Rome through the eyes of a contemporary while also entertaining. It is also a highly revealing documentation of religion and magical belief in Greco-Roman polytheism, and contains the only complete description of the initiation into a Mystery cult. The true essence of the novel is that it is a fable culminating in the religious transformation of the individual and the embrace of salvation (soteria). However, the pagan salvation was not one of the afterlife, but of this life, and involved changing one's perspective of the world and also of life and death. The ass in the ancient world was seen as the most base of animals, an utter slave to its desires, and Lucius' transformation at the end should be read as symbolizing his overcoming of those passions.

The Golden Ass is bawdy and shocking, but also intelligent and satisfying. Graves' translation is fluid and easy to follow. The prose is as enjoyable (and perhaps rewarding) to read today as it no doubt was nearly two-millennia ago.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, May 19, 2003
By A Customer
This is an extremely fun read. It flows beautifully, and will keep you turning the pages. It also is valuable historically because it offers some insight into the lives of the lower classes, which tended to be ignored by Roman historians such as Tacitus or Dio Cassius.
However, one word of warning - while the Graves translation is very enjoyable and easy to read, my Roman History prof said that it was not a particularly loyal translation. So, if that matters to you, you may want to look elsewhere - but I doubt any other translation will read as well as this one.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Gold Stars for the Golden Ass, April 13, 2003
By A Customer
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I consider myself a connosieur of the classics, so when I heard of an ancient novel concerned with sex, illicit sex, and illicit donkey sex, I decided to take a closer look.
And I'm glad that I did. At the back end of the classical Western literary tradition of silliness, which includes such hallowed humorists as Chaucer, Bocaccio, Rabelais, Cervantes, and, in its divine form, Shakespeare, we find the one tale that may have excited them all--Lucius Apuleius's Golden Ass.
The Golden Ass is filled with adventure, suspense, humor, and nonsense. I had a grin on my face most of the way through, and I got the feeling that the author did too. Tip o' the hat to Robert Graves for delivering an authentic translation that brings us Apuleius in his bawdy best.
The only thing I found occasionally irritating was that, like Cervantes, Apuleius has a tendency to digress. Big time. He inserts the entire myth of Cupid and Psyche right into the middle of the narrative, for example. Does this add to the mythological message of the whole? Probably, but it subtracts from the fantastic flow of the story. My urgent plea to Apuleius, were he alive today, would be, "Stick to the ass!"
There are a number of reasons that traditionally bring people to this book: to study Classical Rome, classic literature, mythology, psychology... maybe you're curious about the intimate lives of donkeys. Whatever has brought you to this novel, now that you're going to read it, perhaps the best thing to do is to take the advice of the author himself, who says, "Read on and enjoy yourself!"
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An under-rated classic., August 3, 2005
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This review is from: The Golden Ass (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
I was glad at least one reviewer recognised that the 'Golden Ass' culminates in the story of Lucius' initiation into the divine 'Mysteries.' At this point the entire feeling tone changes, shifting into another key - along with the language. W.Y. Evans-Wentz, famous for his Tibetan Buddhist studies, regarded the 'Golden Ass' in its entirety as an expression of the Western Mystery tradition.

Tales of magical metamorphoses are the very stuff of antiquity, and while Apuleius 'Golden Ass' more or less occupied a category of light-reading - akin to the modern novel (novella), it is worth bearing in mind that 'magic' was real enough for Apuleius' and his contemporaries. At one point in his life, Apuleius had to appear in court to defend himself against charges of using magic to profit his circumstances. Most translators touch on this. Thessaly was renowned for its witches and witchcraft - and Lucius' fascination with it, in the story, probably typified how many young people actually felt. The counter-point and climax in the story, Lucius' initiation into the Isiac religion, regaining human form, transformed in outlook, also reflected a shift in the contemporary outlook. It is hard for us to understand today, but Apuleius - a Platonist, probably subscribed to the Isiac religion. In fact, the beatific vision conveyed in the story of Lucius' conversion - borders on a theosophical vision of totality, Isis - as a formless-form.

Reviewers inevitably pick up on the bawdy element, bestiality etc., and while this may not be the sort of book you would want to read to children, the 'raunchy' side of it has been exaggerated. As Robert Graves remarked, when Lucian takes on assinine form, his rich Pasiphae "is no mere bestialist, but shows her genuine love for the ass by planting pure, sincere, wholly unmeretricious kisses on his scented nose " - which puts a rather different perspective on things. Still, there can be little doubt that - for Lucius, acquiring the form of an ass signifies a kind of fallen state. It has sometimes been said that the 'religious' element - Lucius' initiation into the Mysteries of Isis, was inserted as a kind of dupe, something to appease moralists and put them off track. But the juxtaposition of profane and sacred imagery in the story is one of a piece.

St. Augustine read the 'Golden Ass' and was influenced by it. There are obvious allusions to the Metamorphoses in Boccacio, and Shakespeare. There are no fixed rules about reading this book, but it is worth looking at Robert Graves' remarks about the symbolism. Seen in its earlier religious context, the Ass was also a religious symbol. Marie-Louise von Franz wrote a whole 'Jungian' commentary on this Roman fable. Other people have taken a less elevated view, seeing the metamorphoses of Lucius as nothing more than a ripping read, full of bizarre imagery and fantastic scenes. But Roman fables have connected meaning, which will not become apparent if we take them literally. Unravelling the symbolic attributes of this tale is a kind of long term project you might take on, if you enjoy the book. I recommend reading several translations, because Apuleius' Latin is as tricky as it is interesting. Besides Robert Graves' translation, there is Jack Lindsay's version, the old Loeb edition by Gaselee (basically a reworked version of Adlington's text (1566) - and, so I hear, a new Loeb edition (haven't checked that out yet).
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the first novel?, May 23, 2000
The most shocking thing about this book is how un-unusual it is. All the cliches, jokes, etc., which one takes for granted, are here centuries ago and unchanged by time. Reading it is stepping back in time and realizing that 2000 years is nothing--for there has been little or no change in our collective sensibilities and desires. Beyond its offer of the eternal human, if that were not enough, here is the only printed evidence of initiation into a Mystery Cult--very important in itself, for scholars anyway. But what is most enlightening is the revelation that all that you read you have heard before. These stories are somehow part of Western tradition, or perhaps all human traditions. Eg., the hen-pecked husband, the cuckhold, etc. Like the film Citizen Cain, one is often un-struck by it because all of its techniques have been adopted, and so it is rather dull; there is nothing in it we have not seen as we have adopted all its devices (or what it was, is now what is). Try as some of us might, this book is evidence that we have not changed--and this is not fodder for conservatives, nor for liberals (nor for radicals); all can be disheartened and gladdened, and all can learn what human stuff is made of through its perusal.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best translation--quite humorous, December 31, 1996
By A Customer
I've read another translation which gives no sense of the
humor in this most amusing, and sometimes ribald tale of a
man's transformation (literally and figuratively) from man
to animal.

Dabbling in occult matters, the young man is tranformed into
an ass. He recounts the many adventures that he has while in
this state, from circus performer to beast of burden where
he hears the story of Cupid and Psyche (the most extant
version we have.) Eventually our hero is returned to a manly
state (I don't want to give too much away) with the help of
a mysterious female figure.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humor. Sex. Adventure. Magic., October 21, 2005
Everyone should read The Golden Ass, especially this translation. Just reading it can deepen a person. It's one of those books to be treasured and re-read every few years, finding new insights and humor. The Cupid and Psyche portion is rousing and sly and stands alone. I've given copies as gifts over the years and notice my friends still hang on to them long after.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An amusing classic, February 13, 2005
Graves has given us a very readable rendering of this classic. In brief: Lucius is magically turned into a donkey, but keeps his human intelligence. His first donkey use of that intelligence is to realize that he'll be safer playing it dumb. He goes through many changes of owner, but all owners ahve one thing in common. They don't care what a donkey sees or hears. This puts Lucius privy to all manner of stories, which are recounted here. There is a bit of tame bawdiness, but other stories describe a wide variety of exploits, intrigues, romances, and adventures. Lucius, the donkey, is involved in several close calls. In the end, he is restored to his human form.

There's no plot here, in any modern sense of the notion. Instead, this is a series of vignettes tied together by the donkey's bridle. That makes this book easy to pick up and put down.

This might be a good way to introduce teen readers to the classics. The topics (all but one, at least) are safe enough, with enough villainy to make the stories interesting, but with the good guys winning out in the end. Through it all, there is Lucius' plight, always bordering on but missing catastrophe. This isn't the most memorable story from the Roman era, but it's an easy one to enjoy, in comfortably modern language.

//wiredweird
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wild and entertaining romp of a novel, March 6, 2006
By 
C. B Collins Jr. (Atlanta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
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This is certainly an entertaining reading experience and Robert Grave's translation makes this 1800 year old novel come to life for modern audiences. The book is full of stories within stories, a device that I found very entertaining and reminded me of the best works of A.S. Byatt. The story within a story approach allowed for multiple wild digressions of the most fantastic types. Stories of magic, murder, rape, incest, poison, bribery, theives, beastiality, orgies, homosexuality, and all other manner of hair-raising encounters populate the multiple stories within stories.

Yet there is certainly a strong central theme and storyline in the plight of poor Lucius, the attorney turned into a donkey. The world and humanity are seen anew through the eyes of an ass.

The book does take one major departure with the longer story of Cupid and Psyche, skillfully told. The book ends with another change of pace when Lucius devotes himself to the gods, especially the goddess Isis/Diana/Artemis, the White Goddess.

I think the book was excellent and would never have survived so many centuries if each age did not find the human condition to be much unchanged despite the wild and wooly tales encountered here.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The funniest "Classical" literature I've read, August 30, 1999
By A Customer
A bawdy and hilarious tale of maturation and religious transformation - a pagan version of "The Confessions" of St. Augustine without the guilt.
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The Golden Ass (Oxford World's Classics)
The Golden Ass (Oxford World's Classics) by P. G. Walsh (Paperback - July 22, 1999)
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