Divine Authority in 'Cupid and Psyche': Apuleius Metamorphoses 6,23–24


  • Stephen Harrison


This paper considers the presentation of the divine council and associated marriage-scene which forms the climax of the long inserted tale of Cupid and Psyche in Apuleius’ novel the Metamorphoses or Golden Ass. It looks at the relation of Apuleius’ presentation of his divine council to literary models, especially in the Roman epic tradition, and the ambiguous and amusing presentation of Jupiter in the scene. The marriage-scene is likewise examined in connection with its manipulation of literary sources such as the marriage of Peleus and Thetis as narrated in Catullus 64, and in its evocation of common images from ancient art. These detailed analyses are then employed to suggest a serio-comic interpretation of the scene, of the Cupid and Psyche tale as a whole, and consequently of the whole novel of which the tale forms a mise en abyme or parallel miniaturisation.

Stephen Harrison is Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Corpus ChristiCollege, Oxfordand Professor of Classical Languages and Literature in the Universityof Oxford. He has collaborated in the Groningen Commentaries on Apuleius (in the Cupid and Psyche volume, GCA 2004) and has written widely on the Roman novel; he is editor of Oxford Readings in the Roman Novel (Oxford, 1999) and author of  Apuleius: A Latin Sophist (Oxford, 2000).