Apuleius and The New Testament: Lucius' Conversion Experience


  • Warren S. Smith


Doubt has been cast in recent scholarship (Winkler, Harrison) about the sincerity and believability of Lucius’ conversion experience in Book 11 of Apuleius’ Metamorphoses. Lucius himself, for example, is distressed by the need for repeated initiations into the Isis cult and by the need to pay repeated initiation fees. Light can be shed on his experience by a comparison with the conflicts undergone by St. Paul in his conversion to Christianity in the Book of Acts, and in his comments in his epistles. Both Lucius and Paul agree to a radical change of life and embrace an ideal which seems almost too good to be true; both eventually arrive in Rome facing an uncertain future with many hopes, but also with many questions unanswered. Their conversion always includes the implication that instead of triumph, they may be facing failure and ridicule (Lucius a clown with a shaven head, Paul a “fool” for Christ).

Warren S. Smith is a professor of Classics at the Universityof New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M. He has published extensively on satire and the ancient novel; his most recent book is Satiric Advice on Women and Marriage from Plautus to Chaucer (University ofMichigan Press, 2005).