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“The Golden Ass” by Lucius Apuleius Essay


Love is a concept that has been a center of humanity for a very long time. Ancient philosophers have stipulated on the significance and meaning of love for many years and it still stays the subject of much contemplation today. Lucius Apuleius describes love from several perspectives in “The Golden Ass” and shows how it can be wanted and needed but at the same time, mean harm and evil.

Many things in the world depend on personal views and opinions but also, on the qualities and circumstances, as one thing can be seen differently by a number of people. Love takes up a large part in “The Golden Ass” and it is shown to be pure and evil.

For example, when Apuleius talks to Fotis, it is evident that love is divine and meant to bring peace and comfort into his life. The deepness of the feeling is very evident and also, the qualities that accompany love are given. At one point, Apuleius’ emotions are made evident:

“But I pray you tell me how have you been the cause and mean of my trouble and sorrow? For I dare sweare by the love that I beare unto you, and I will not be perswaded, though you your selfe should endeavor the same, that ever you went to trouble or harm me: perhaps sometimes you imagined an evil thought in your mind, which afterwards you revoked, but that is not bee deemed as a crime” (Apuleius 94).

There are several truths discussed here and the most obvious one is that Apuleius has great feelings towards Fotis. They are not burdened by any doubts or selfish motives in their evil sense, his love is pure and he expects the same in return. This is a clear sign that love was meant to be shown as pure and divine. Apuleius asks Fotis to explain how particularly she has been the cause of his distress.

This shows that his feelings are most sincere and he does not blame others for his misfortunes. Usually, people take advantage of those they love, as the person closest, be it a relative, friend or romantic partner, will be able to withstand criticism and hurt. The person using the relationship knows that the connection is much deeper and the quarrel will not separate the two people.

This shows trust and guarantees that a person has within themselves. But in this case, Apuleius does not take advantage of the way Fotis feels about him, he does not use her love and his feelings to lose control and even hint any guilt of hers (Lindner 14). It is possible to assume that even in case she was at fault, he would not mention that or completely deny it altogether.

This sort of affection and connection to another person is representative of the whole positive side of love in “The Golden Ass”, as it represents the highest moral understanding and affection towards another person. Furthermore, Apuleius says that his love should be the proof of his thoughts and actions or vice versa. Usually, the feeling comes first and then, a person acts on the feelings with words and actions.

It is directly and undeniably shown that Apuleius is fully consumed by his love, so his actions and words are all dictated by his feeling and its purity. And when he states that she should be able to understand it herself, means that he expects the same understanding and emotion from her, as it would be a fair and appropriate response to his own love.

Also, Apuleius shows that he has sufficient understanding of love and how people treat it, when he acknowledges that sometimes people might think something bad or allow doubt to take over but as long as these thoughts are not acted upon, the person should not be thought of as guilty of ill will. Not only is Apuleius full of feeling, he is also morally correct and truthful to himself.

He knows that people can sometimes hurt others or think something negative, even if they fully love a person. This means that he either knows human nature very well through others, or he was able to analyze his own feelings and judge himself. “The Golden Ass” is an example of truths and love which can be discovered by a person.

Another great analysis of love and feelings that accompany affection is “Socrates’ Second Speech”. It can be seen as a separate entity in relation to his previous reasoning, as it distinctly talks about love and the unique qualities that it exhibits. His line of thinking is very evident here, as he logically examines the qualities that love has and what they lead to.

As people do not produce love consciously, they are met with the fact that it exists and that they have it inside them. This leaves one option—contemplation and logical reasoning about the feeling that one possesses and what sort of characteristics it entails. Socrates makes a link between love and “madness” (Nichols 106). As both are so unordinary, there is a connection between them and it is not necessarily a negative one.

Socrates confirms that very many things in the world take their origin in the said madness and what comes out is often great and divine. This supposes that love is not a human creation but people are given a chance to experience it. As this concept is so enormous and overtaking of everything else, Socrates allows for a certain length of discussion, as to clearly express what he thinks and feels about it.

In reality, almost all, if not everything in life is ordered and framed by love. It might be love towards an object, a concept or a person. People tend to do things they like and receive pleasure from, and love and affection are based on these characteristics. Thus, Socrates says that love must be pure and people should cherish the fact that they have it.

It is not a toy that can be played with but at the same time, it is not a self functioning mechanism that can be left without care and development. When one has love, it must be treated with respect and honor. If two people give into evil urges and lose track of the divine nature of love, taking it to the side of evil, it will become a destructive and negative force.

It is a fact that Socrates was a great philosopher and by the way he reasons about love, it is possible to see that he based his thoughts and actions of the feeling that came from his character and unique individuality. A person, who does not know love, never experienced it and did not feel the pleasure and often pain, cannot speak about love and tell others what it is.

When Socrates aligns love with madness, he wants to demonstrate that the feeling is so unusual and overtaking that it must be given time to be properly understood and acted upon.

Both Socrates and Apuleius describe love in very similar terms from several angles. For Socrates, it is feelings that can drive one mad and possibly turn them into a maniac, which sometimes does happen in the world. For Apuleius, it is a flower that must be cherished and should not be hurt. Their opinions describe the same concept and unite in the fact that love must be taken seriously and not meddled with.

Socrates reiterates that in order for love to be pure and real people must have self control and understanding of what specifically is taking place. When one gets lost in themselves, chaos takes over and love becomes an evil that cannot be compared to anything else more negative. The same is true when Apuleius talks about love towards Fotis.

The depth and sincere nature of love are shown as the pinnacle of human emotions and it is contrasted with those who do not take care of love (Belfiore 9). “The Golden Ass” is filled with examples of people who participate in forbidden love, adultery and other kinds of love that are not permitted. This is made specifically obvious, so that the audience sees the contrast between the two kinds of love.

Thus, Socrates and Apuleius see love very similarly, as they explain the process and circumstances, as well as consequences of pure and evil love. Pure love is that of goodness while evil, “…that most filthy, brutal, and base love is not engendered from the nature of things, but from disease and corporeal infirmity…” (Taylor 357).

This goes to show that one must see the clear difference between the two and make sure evil does not overpower goodness. There is another major theme that connects both thinkers in their views and it is the unexplained nature of love. Socrates and Apuleius speak extensively about the divine qualities of love and the direct connection to Gods.

Here, Gods are representative of something unexplained and not of the Earth. People have known love throughout existence but its origins are unknown. Humanity is not the one that created love; people are simply the receivers and givers. Usually, something that cannot be specifically and scientifically explained is attributed to higher forces and Gods (Cristaudo 130).

Love is described to be exactly that—an attribute of something Gods would do, as “madness”, sending it upon people. Those who are not ready to treat it and take care of it will face consequences of evil and bad fortune.

According to such conception, love must not be questioned by its origins, as it is more important how to treat it, instead of spend time figuring out where it came from. The two perspectives of proper and improper love are made visible, as people often indulge in activities that make love an extreme evil.

In conclusion, it has been shown that love is an entity that is closely tied with humans, yet is somehow separate in its origins. One thing stays fixed in any possibility is that it must be treated with honesty and respect because any diversion from morality or truth will destroy love and make it into an evil of the worst kind.

Works Cited

Apuleius, Lucius. The Golden Ass: The Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius. Auckland, New Zealand. The Floating Press, 2009. Print.

Belfiore, Elizabeth. Socrates’ Daimonic Art: Love for Wisdom in Four Platonic Dialogues. New York, United States: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print.

Cristaudo, Wayne. A Philosophical History of Love. Piscataway, Untied States: Transaction Publishers, 2012. Print.

Lindner, Matthias. What is love – Are love and romance nothing but socially constructed? Munich, Germany: GRIN Verlag, 2005. Print.

Nichols, Mary. Socrates on Friendship and Community. New York, United States: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Print.

Taylor, Thomas. The Metamorphosis Or, Golden Ass: And Philosophical Works of Apuleius. Whitefish, United States: Kessinger Publishing, 1992. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "“The Golden Ass” by Lucius Apuleius." June 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-golden-ass-by-lucius-apuleius/.


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IvyPanda. 2019. "“The Golden Ass” by Lucius Apuleius." June 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-golden-ass-by-lucius-apuleius/.

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