Between Fiction and Reality: Robbers in Apuleius' Golden Ass

  • Werner Riess


The paper tries to assess the historical authenticity of scenes of violence, caused by robbers, in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses. In order to find out how reliable these fictional scenes are, the method of cultural cross comparison is used to draw a historical tableau with which Apuleius’ text can be compared. It is in the very passages where the Golden Ass differs most strikingly from reality where Apuleius’ own intentions can be detected. Considerations concerning the phenomenon of fictionality, as practised in ancient times, lead to the conclusion that the robbers do not only fulfil their traditional narrative functions. They have been attributed additional semantic and allegorical meanings: As symbols of danger and the dark side of the world, they show, at least at the actor-level, how much the world needs redemption.