Biography of Apuleius

Apuleius, sometimes called Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis, is best known for The Golden Ass, the only Roman novel to survive in its entirety. He was born around 125 CE in Roman Africa, most likely Madauros (modern-day M’Daourouch in Algeria), to a father who was a provincial magistrate. As he came from wealth, he was able to study in both Carthage and Athens. During his education he mastered colloquial Latin. He married his friend Pontianus’s widowed mother, Pudentilla, in 155.  

Following his education, he traveled throughout the Mediterranean and Egypt and settled down in Carthage. He was a successful scholar, philosopher, and writer; he wrote in both Latin and Greek. His writings included the aforementioned novel, plays, songs, satires, riddles, orations, and philosophical dialogues.  

Unfortunately none of the works in Greek or poems are extant. Only a few pieces in Latin remain, which include the Golden Ass; De Mundo, concerning the world and the cosmos; De Platone et eius dogmate, a biographical sketch of Plato and an overview of Platonic ethics and metaphysics; Florida, containing oratorical works; De Deo Socratis, which concerns demons, the go-betweens for humans and divinities; and Apologia, a work seen as autobiographical in that is a defense of Apuleius against a charge of witchcraft brought against him by his wife’s relatives. The Apologia successfully secured his acquittal of the charges.  

He was an initiate in the Dionysian mysteries and a priest of Aesculapius.  

There is little known of Apuleius’s later life, and he most likely died around 170 CE.  


Study Guides on Works by Apuleius

Apuleius’s The Golden Ass is famous not just for its amusing, allegorical content, but also because it has the distinction of being the only surviving Roman novel in its entirety. It was published in the 2nd century CE and has endured as a classic...