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Honor and Humiliation in Apuleius’ Apologia

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Apuleius’ Apologia has consistently drawn scholarly attention as an example of soaring rhetoric from the Second Sophistic and for being the only remaining account of a trial for illegal magic from the early Empire. This study opts for a different approach. It uses the Apologia as a window into the culture of Roman provincial high society by examining Apuleius’ motivations for demanding his accusers bring formal charges against him, as well as the social factors that pushed the preceding conflict to such a dramatic climax. The main contention of this inquiry is that the actions of both Apuleius and his enemies reveal the paramount importance of honor as a cultural driver of conflict, and particularly its vocalization in the parry and riposte of insults and humiliation that ultimately resulted in a theatrical courtroom confrontation. The results of this micro-study in Roman provincial life should thus provide a useful complement to both Ifie & Thompson’s excellent paper on Rank, Social Status and Esteem in Apuleius (1977-1978) as well as J.E. Lendon’s magisterial Empire of Honour. The Art of Government in the Roman World (1997). It also adds a practical dimension to Lateiner’s detailed analysis of Apuleius’ literary strategies of humiliation and embarrassment in his Metamorphoses (2001).

Affiliations: 1: The University of MelbourneSchool of Historical and Philosophical StudiesParkville, vic; 2:


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