Apuleius' Metamorphoses or The Golden Ass, our only complete Latin novel, tells the story of Lucius, a young man turned into a donkey by magic because of his unfettered curiosity.
After many adventures he is finally saved by the goddess Isis, whose follower he becomes.
The famous first book of the novel introduces the protagonist's character, his interest in magic and his gullibility, but also important themes of the novel such as metamorphosis from man into beast.
Lucius listens to stories about magic and witchcraft told to him on his journey to ancient Thessaly and narrates them to the reader.
A substantial part of the first book accordingly concentrates on the self-contained tale about a certain Socrates and his unhappy experiences with murderous Thessalian witches.
Apuleius himself had been put on trial for allegedly using erotic magic to make his future wife fall in love with him, a theme which also appears in Metamorphoses 1.
Throughout the novel, Apuleius portrays Lucius as an unreliable first person narrator and thus implicates the reader of the novel in the same character fault that drives its protagonist: curiosity. This edition of Book I presents the Latin text with a modern translation, substantial introduction and accompanying commentary.
The author Apuleius is discussed in the literary environment of the second century AD together with key themes of the first book and the novel as a whole.
Special attention is given to ancient magic, the roles of philosophy and the goddess Isis in the novel as well as the extensive reception of the first book in literature up to modern times.
The commentary illustrates Apuleius' text as a densely constructed literary work and explains literary allusions as well as philosophical, historical and religious contexts.