Classics and Religious Studies

 

Date of this Version

March 2006

Comments

Ph.D. Dissertation, Northwestern University, 1968. Copyright 1968 Thomas Nelson Winter.

Abstract

In the middle of the second century A.D., Apuleius was accused of magic. This dissertation offers an essentially new view of how the trial originated, and a new view of the speech which Apuleius gave on the occasion. It points out that there is no reason to distrust the evidence of the Apology. The widespread view that Apuleius misrepresents the accusation lodged against him has no real support: nowhere has Apuleius been caught in an untruth; his principle accuser was a rash, convicted perjurer, his accusation against Apuleius was perjured, and it seems unlikely that a perjured accusation required a perjured response. Further, the history of classical stenography, plus evidence provided by Apuleius himself, indicates that the Apology would have been transcribed by stenographers when delivered, making it probable that we possess in the Apology what Apuleius actually said at the trial.

If the Apology is to be believed, as I believe it must, it shows that the trio of accusers had neither prepared a case against Apuleius nor had intended to start one. They simply insulted Apuleius when he was speaking at an earlier trial, as but another malicious act in their two-year-long campaign to defame and harass Apuleius. These insults--and the law concerning iniuria--made it possible for Apuleius to force his enemies to make their insults the subject of an official accusation. This gave Apuleius a public opportunity to refute all the vindictive slanders he had been subjected to. It is not true that the trial gave Apuleius cause to be nervous; innocent and supremely confident, he considered the trial an opportunity (copia, facultas, occasio).

The charges which the accusing trio were compelled to enter as an official accusation were false, and they knew it. Knowingly making a false accusation constituted calumnia, and calumnia of a capital charge, such as magic, was a capital offense. For this reason, the principal accuser, despite repeated orders from the judge to enter the accusation in his own name, entered the accusation in the name of a minor. This allowed all three to evade liability. (That the judge accepted an accusation in a form he had expressly forbidden, when he could have simple thrown out the case, is evidence that the judge wished to give Apuleius the opportunity to salvage his reputation.) Apuleius, blocked by this ruse from subsequently prosecuting his enemies on the charge of calumnia and getting them convicted and punished, turns his speech into an unofficial, but nonetheless justified, accusation of calumnia. In this sense, his Apology is not only an apologia, but also a prosecution.

An appendix deals with an argument used by the modern scholars who feel that Apuleius was actually guilty of magical practices.

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