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Although storytelling is a prominent feature throughout The Golden Ass, the story of Cupid and Psyche stands out. Considering this and the length of the Cupid and Psyche story, it seems that it serves a different purpose within the text than merely that of entertainment. If the story of Cupid and Psyche does have a different function, then what is it? While no single scholarly consensus exists, it is clear that Apuleius intended for Psyche to serve as a reflection of Lucius.
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The Golden Ass & Curiosity: Marrying the Love of Beauty with the Soul
The Golden Ass & Curiosity: Marrying the Love of Beauty with the Soul – Valerie Hellinghausen
Curiosity itself isn't necessarily discouraged, as intellectual, philosophical, and religious curiosities are certainly valued. However, curiosity without discernment, without wisdom, without rationality, is dangerous. Aristomenes is curious about Meroe and is punished, Thelyphron is curious about the corpse and is punished, Psyche is curious about Cupid and Proserpina's box and is punished, and Lucius, of course, is curious about magic and is punished. People must know the limitations and boundaries of their curiosity before acting. Throughout the text there is a distinction made between magic and religion although, of course, the two have a much more complicated relationship than Apuleius would have been able to admit. Magic is generally seen as problematic; the witches Meroe and Pamphile are dangerous, melding wanton seductiveness with their dark arts to ensnare hapless men.
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The Golden Ass Themes
The protagonist of the novel is called Lucius. The plot revolves around the protagonist's curiosity curiositas and insatiable desire to see and practice magic. While trying to perform a spell to transform into a bird, he is accidentally transformed into an ass.
As I have read my way through the building of the Roman Empire from Virgil to Horace, I finish my semester in the Ancient World by returning to what on the surface appeared to be the same bawdy comedy I saw in Lysistrata. Surprise, surprise, right? Nothing in this course has proved to be exactly what it seems at first, and thus I find myself exploring the pivotal digression in the Golden Ass : the marriage of Cupid and Psyche. This is all old hat. But once again I find myself challenged with questions of significance.