Part I The Apology

The Sophist at Play in Court: Apuleius' Apology and His Literary Career


  • Stephen Harrison


This paper argues that Apuleius is concerned to show himself the master of literary paideia both Greekand Latin, bothasanauthorandasa reader,and to promote both his ownacquittaland subsequent sophistic career thereby. In this work we find the sophist in court ranging in learned play through the whole field of literature, wittily demonstrating his cultural capitalasa key tool in his self-defence.

First, I consider the Apology as a kind of self-promoting catalogue of Apuleius’ own works. Second, I argue that the Apology presentsan equally self-praising strategy of demonstratinga wide range of literary learning on the part of itsauthor (‘Apuleius’ Book Club’). Finally, I consider the forensic role of these featuresand their roles in the subsequent publication of the speechasa major stage in Apuleius’ literary career.

In the original context, the conscious learning of the speech is likely to have beenaimedat the elite hearersand particularlyat the learned judge, Claudius Maximus,aformer tutor of Marcus Aurelius. In the published speech, which Iassume was revisedand issued later, Apuleius is likely to be using the high profile of his victoryamongst the elite of Roman North Africato promote his future literaryand social career inawork which may have been his first major literaryachievement.

Stephen J. Harrison is Professor of Classical Languages and Literature at the Universityof Oxfordand Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Corpus ChristiCollege, Oxford. His extensive publications on Apuleius include Apuleius: A Latin Sophist (OUP, 2000), [with John Hilton and Vincent Hunink] Apuleius: Rhetorical Works (OUP, 2001), and [as part of the Groningen Apuleius group] A Commentary on Apuleius Metamorphoses IV.28–VI.24 (Egbert Forsten, 2004).





Part I The Apology