Apuleius and Homer: Some Traces of the Iliad in the Metamorphoses

  • Stephen Harrison


This article considers the use of Homer’s Iliad in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses. The Iliad has been comparatively neglected in modern scholarly explorations of Homeric intertextuality in Apuleius’ novel, which have naturally tended to concentrate on the more overtly similar Odyssey, and it is true that allusions to the martial Iliad are less dense. The article argues that Iliadic texts are used in several different contexts in the Metamorphoses. In the divine machinery of the Cupid and Psyche episode, Iliadic models are used to recall the Homeric Olympus in a relatively dignified way; in several scenes of low-life action, there is clear parody of epic battle scenes, and in the final book the Iliadic technique of extended ekphrasis is clearly evoked. All these features recall specifically epic models and adapt them as appropriate to their new novelistic context.

Stephen Harrison is Professor of Latin Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow and Tutor of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He has published widely on Apuleius, and is author of Apuleius: A Latin Sophist (OUP, 2000), co-author of Apuleius: Rhetorical Works (OUP, 2001) and of the Groningen commentary on Cupid and Psyche (2004), and editor of Oxford Readings in the Roman Novel (OUP, 1999).