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Narrative in the Metamorphoses

Week 9: narrative in the Metamorphoses

1. Pimping the plot: Milesian tales in Apuleius

1.1: What are (or were) Milesian tales?

  • ‘Aristides’, author of lost Milesian Tales (Milesiaka).
  • Date: perhaps c. 100 BC? (Or earlier: Hägg.)
  • Question of ‘sources’ is unanswerable; perhaps cf. Artemidorus’ Oneirokritika? (last week’s lecture).
  • Not to be confused with P. Aelius Aristides (Hieroi Logoi mentioned in last week’s lecture).
  • Latin translation in early C1 BC by L. Cornelius Sisenna, a Roman historian (predecessor of Sallust) and orator (Verres’ defence lawyer).
  • Shocking the Parthians: Milesiaka at Carrhae: Plutarch, Life of Crassus 32.4-6.
  • A single fragment of Aristides’ Greek original survives.
  • ‘Milesian tales’ defined by references in other texts: e.g. Ovid, Tristia 2.443-4.
  • Apuleius, Met. 1.1.1 (‘sermone isto Milesio’): “stitching together” and possible implications for Aristides’ structure (framing narrative?). Cf. 4.32.6
  • Ps.-Lucian, Amores 1: Aristides as internal audience? Cf. narrative frames (esp. openings) of ‘ideal’ Greek novels: Longus, Achilles Tatius.

1.2: ‘Milesian’ themes

  • Extra-marital sex. (Bowersock (1994) 124: “lost lubricities”.)
  • Death, sorcery and the uncanny: cf. ghost stories in Phlegon of Tralles, Book of Marvels.

1.3: Milesian tales in the ancient novel

  • Ps.-Lucian, Onos (NB similarities of story to Apuleius’). One (sophisticated) Milesian tale containing others?
  • Petronius’ ‘Widow of Ephesus’ (Satyricon 111-12).
  • Petronius’ ‘Pergamene Boy’ (ibid. 85-7).
  • Longus: one long Milesian tale? (sex, magic)
  • Possible structural comparator: ekphrasis.

1.4: Apuleius’ use of inset tales

  • Best known episode: Cupid and Psyche.
  • Who narrates? (Quis ille?)
  • Milesian … or Platonic? Cf. utopian narratives and allegories in (e.g.) Republic and (esp.) Symposium.
  • Apuleius as excerptor and “stitcher together”: Florida
  • Apuleius as Milesian fabulist(?) / erotic educator: Eroticus (probably cf. ps.Lucian Amores).
  • Apuleius, Metamorphoses: one very long Milesian tale? A meta-Milesian tale?