Main Text

pg 75chapter 6Apuleius as Translator


If, as I have argued, the original stratum of the Expositio represents Apuleius' own notes from reading Plato's dialogues, it is worth considering briefly how it stands vis-à-vis the Greek text. For most of the dogmata included in the Expositio, it is not quite accurate to speak of translation. As the title indicates, the work is a compendium, an abbreviatio, and therefore it involves the decoction of challenging dialogue into unambiguous statements of doctrine. Certainly one can say something about the translation of individual words, especially key terms, and the choices made to render them into Latin. Nonetheless, due to the principle of indexing I have described above, more often than not Apuleius obscures the precise meaning of the Greek by eliding different key terms into identical Latin equivalents. For example, here are three instances of the same dogma:

  • §3.31: solum bonum esse quod honestum est.
  • Rep. 5.479a: ἓν τὸ καλὸν . . . εἶναι καὶ δίκαιον

  • §23.4–5: solum honestum quod bonum.
  • Laws 9.859e: πάντ᾽ ἐστὶν καλὰ ὅσα δικαιοσύνης ἔχεται‎.

  • §32.39–40: solum bonum esse quod honestum.
  • Tim. 87c: πᾶν δὴ τὸ ἀγαθὸν καλόν

For a reader seeking a precise guide to Plato's terminology, these translations are a disaster. In the first instance bonum renders καλὸν‎ and honestum δίκαιον‎; in the second, honestum καλὸν‎, and bonum the phrase ὅσα δικαιοσύνης ἔχεται‎; and in the third, bonum ἀγαθὸν‎ and honestum καλόν‎. This same deliberate confusion of bonus–honestus–iustus and καλὸς–ἀγαθὸς–δίκαιος‎ is found throughout the text. Apuleius is more interested in highlighting similar ideas across multiple dialogues than he is about rigour and consistency in terminology; what matters to him is the dogma, pg 76the same dogma he includes in the De Platone (II.13.238): solum quippe quod honestum est bonum ducimus. Here at last we must confront the question of what text Apuleius was in fact translating.

Thus far we have been proceeding under the supposition that the Expositio is adapted directly from Plato. It would not be beyond the realm of possibility, however, that Apuleius was merely translating a prefabricated Platonic synopsis, like that of Galen or the one that was Al-Fārābī's source. The terminological flexibility that the Expositio exploits, however, definitively indicates that the text was taken directly from Plato. A Greek synopsis would not have been able to elide the important differences between καλὸς‎, ἀγαθὸς‎, and δίκαιος‎: in each given case, it would have had to opt for one over the others, and would have been guided by the words Plato actually used. We can grant that solum bonum esse quod honestum est is a translation of ἓν τὸ καλὸν εἶναι καὶ δίκαιον‎, because it all depends on the sense in which we understand bonus and honestus; but we cannot concede that ἓν τὸ ἀγαθὸν εἶναι καὶ καλὸν‎ (or indeed, as Cicero has it, μόνον τὸ καλὸν ἀγαθόν‎) is the same thing as ἓν τὸ καλὸν εἶναι καὶ δίκαιον‎. But one could still object that while the terminological flexibility and standardization is the work of the translator, he could yet have been working from a Greek synopsis. But because the Expositio is an index, as I have shown, the doctrines included are selected on the very principle of indexing: incidental phrases not at all relevant to the main point of a discussion are often included in the Expositio because they harmonize with doctrines found elsewhere. There is no way that an author seeking to produce a standard, non-indexed synopsis would have bothered to include them. Given the evidence we have from the Anecdotum cavense that the philological tools required to produce a Platonic epitome were available to Latin scholars as well as Greek, there is no reason to conjure up a lost Greek intermediary.

Apuleius was capable of good literary translation. Sidonius (ep. 2.9.5) may say that his translation of the Phaedo was not as ad verbum sententiamque translatus as Rufinus' translation of Origen, but that is to compare his translation to an anachronistically high standard.1 One of the fragments is of sufficient length to allow comparison:

  • Apuleius, Phaedo fr. 9 Beaujeu: sic auditurum, sic disciturum, qui melius sit haec omnia et singula sic agere aut pati, ut patiuntur atque agunt.
  • pg 77Phaedo 98a: οὕτω παρεσκευάσμην ὡσαύτως πευσόμενος . . . πῇ ποτε ταῦτ᾽ ἄμεινόν ἐστιν ἕκαστον καὶ ποιεῖν καὶ πάσχειν ἃ πάσχει‎.

Similarly, some passages in the Expositio are almost word-for-word translations. Instead of going through them in tedious detail, I list several representative examples:

  • §7.2–3: beatam esse civitatem quae a rege administretur, miseram autem in qua dominetur tyrannus.
  • Rep. 9.576e: τυραννουμένης [sc. πόλεως] μὲν οὐκ ἔστιν ἀθλιωτέρα, βασιλευομένης δὲ οὐκ εὐδαιμονεστέρα

  • §13.13–14: Doctrinam vero nihil aliud esse quam rememorationem.
  • Phaedo 72e: ἡ μάθησις οὐκ ἄλλο τι ἢ ἀνάμνησις τυγχάνει οὖσα‎.

  • §15.15–16: Definit post hoc quid sit eruditio et ait institutionem esse eam a pueritia virtutes parantem.
  • Laws 1.643e: εἶναι παιδείαν ὁ νῦν λόγος ἂν εἴη, τὴν δὲ πρὸς ἀρετὴν ἐκ παίδων παιδείαν‎.

  • §28.10–11: Deos autem non putat adfectionibus teneri tanquam voluptate aut dolore
  • Ep. III.315c: πόρρω γὰρ ἡδονῆς ἵδρυται καὶ λύπης τὸ θεῖον‎.

  • §30.9–10: Definit et quid animal mortale et ait esse id corpus animatum.
  • Soph. 246e: δὴ θνητὸν ζῷον εἴ φασιν εἶναί τι — πῶς δ᾽ οὔ; — τοῦτο δὲ οὐ σῶμα ἔμψυχον ὁμολογοῦσιν‎;

Other dogmata, however, show more clearly the mechanics of abbreviatio and doxography, how one can render the occasionally orotund flow of Platonic discourse into short and memorable Latin phrases.

  • §11.1–3: iudici nihil aliud permittit quam intueri verum atque oratori veram dictionem.
  • Apology 18a: ὑμῶν δέομαι . . . τοῦτο σκοπεῖν καὶ τούτῳ τὸν νοῦν προσέχειν, εἰ δίκαια λέγω ἢ μή: δικαστοῦ μὲν γὰρ αὕτη ἀρετή, ῥήτορος δὲ τἀληθῆ λέγειν‎.

Socrates is asking the judges at his trial only to look at (σκοπεῖν‎) and keep in mind whether what he says is just or not. For, he continues, that is the virtue of a judge (δικαστοῦ‎), and that of a speaker is to tell the truth. Apuleius changes Socrates request (δέομαι‎) to nihil aliud permittit quam; he then picks up σκοπεῖν‎ which he translates with intueri and proceeds to elide it with following phrase. He changes δίκαια‎ to verum, evidently seeking parallelism with the τἀληθῆ λέγειν‎ or veram dictionem of the next phrase. The result is an effective reduction of several lines of a speech into a handy sententia. Another example:

  • pg 78§28.22–3: Proprium enim esse legis ad beatam vitam convertere homines
  • Ep. VIII.355c: ὁ μὲν ταῦτα ἀπεργαζόμενος θεσμὸς νόμος ἂν ὀρθῶς ὑμῖν εἴη κείμενος, ὄντως εὐδαίμονας ἀποτελῶν τοὺς χρωμένους‎.

Here Plato is speaking to Dion's friends about establishing for the Syracusans a system of laws which establish a priority of honour of things good for the soul, then for the body, and finally for profit. This principle, once established correctly (ὀρθῶς‎) as a law, will make those subject to it actually blessed (ὄντως εὐδαίμονας‎). Relying on Plato's vocabulary, Apuleius changes this into a crisply formulated universal principle: it belongs to the nature of law, he says, to direct people to a blessed life. This is not precisely what Plato says, but he assumes a similar principle in his insistence that what makes a regulation (θεσμὸς‎) a law (νόμος‎) is that it makes those who obey it blessed. A third example:

  • §31.4–6: mundum certis saeculis nunc ab ipso deo regi, alias ipsum se invicem remeare in contrarium quia sit animal rationale
  • Pol. 269c–d: τὸ γὰρ πᾶν τόδε τοτὲ μὲν αὐτὸς ὁ θεὸς συμποδηγεῖ πορευόμενον καὶ συγκυκλεῖ, τοτὲ δὲ ἀνῆκεν, ὅταν αἱ περίοδοι τοῦ προσήκοντος αὐτῷ μέτρον εἰλήφωσιν ἤδη χρόνου, τὸ δὲ πάλιν αὐτόματον εἰς τἀναντία περιάγεται, ζῷον ὂν καὶ φρόνησιν εἰληχὸς ἐκ τοῦ συναρμόσαντος αὐτὸ κατ᾽ ἀρχάς‎.

First, Apuleius substitutes mundus for τὸ πᾶν‎; makes the following clause passive (αὐτὸς ὁ θεὸς‎ becomes ab ipso deo); and renders τόδε τοτὲ‎ as nunc. From the next clause, he reduces the whole ὅταν‎ clause to certis saeculis and transposes it to the first part. Then he renders the corresponding τοτὲ‎ to alias, literally translates τὸ δὲ πάλιν αὐτόματον εἰς τἀναντία περιάγεται‎ as ipsum se invicem remeare in contrarium, and finally simplifies the compound clause at the end into a simply causal quia sit animal rationale, omitting some of the ideas contained in Plato. The effect is a faithful adaptation, simpler than the original, in the form of a memorable sententia. Augustine may well have had this formulation in mind when he says that some people say that the universe is a perpetual cycle of decline and renewal in defined periods of ages (civ. 12.12: mundum . . . certis saeculorum interuallis innumerabiliter oriri et occidere).


The compendium of the Timaeus offers particularly intriguing possibilities since in some cases we can compare Apuleius' rendering directly with the two ancient Latin translations, those by Cicero and Calcidius, and with pg 79the frequent quotations of this dialogue found in Latin authors independent of the translations.

§32.8: Ipsum deum difficile < . . . > posse narrari.2

Tim. 28c: τὸν μὲν οὖν ποιητὴν καὶ πατέρα τοῦδε τοῦ παντὸς εὑρεῖν τε ἔργον καὶ εὑρόντα εἰς πάντας ἀδύνατον λέγειν‎

Cicero (Tim. 6): illum quidem quasi parentem huius universitatis invenire difficile et, cum iam inveneris, indicare in vulgus nefas.

Calcidius: igitur opificem genitoremque uniuersitatis tam inuenire difficile quam inuentum inpossibile digne profari

Now let us examine two distinct elements of these translations:

τε ἔργον καὶ . . . ἀδύνατον‎: difficile < . . . > posse, difficile et . . . nefas, tam . . . difficile quam . . . inpossibile

εἰς πάντας . . . λέγειν‎: narrare, indicare in vulgus, digne profari

In the first, Cicero's choice of difficile for ἔργον‎ is maintained throughout the tradition. (Only Minucius Felix follows Plato more literally in Oct. 26.12: Plato . . . invenire deum negotium credidit; but cf. Oct. 19.14: quem et invenire difficile . . . et cum inveneris in publicum dicere impossibile praefatur.) By contrast, his curious choice of nefas for ἀδύνατον‎ found no adherents; instead subsequent Latin writers chose a negative of a -pot- root word to more closely render the two elements of the Gr. ἀ-δύνατον‎, such as inpossibile or non posse. In the second element, Cicero struggled with the phrase εἰς πάντας‎. Presumably — or so Cicero's thought must have gone — if it is impossible to speak of it to everyone, it must be possible to speak about it to some. Hence, sic εἰς πάντας‎ must mean in vulgus. Calcidius employs circumlocution to avoid the problem, replacing etc εἰς πάντας‎ with digne. Apuleius translates the whole phrase with narrare, using an acceptable and known nuance of the word, 'to relay publicly', perhaps qualified by in omnes or something similar in the lost part of the line.3 Lactantius uses enarrare in the same sense in his evocation of this passage cited above (De ira 11.13), as do both tertullian (apol. 46) and Rufinus (translating ps-Clement, rec. 8.20.4); they qualify it with in omnes and vulgo respectively.

Apuleius also includes this doctrine in the De Platone (I.5.190–1): cuius naturam invenire difficile est; si inventa sit, in multos eam enuntiari non posse. Platonis haec verba sunt: θεὸν εὑρεῖν τε ἔργον, εὑρόντα τὲ εἰς πολλοὺς ἐκφέρειν‎ pg 80ἀδύνατον‎. There is no manuscript support for this reading of the Greek of the Timaeus (and the Greek line in MS B at least is sufficiently clear to foreclose any debate about what Apuleius originally wrote). Instead, it is obvious that Apuleius' Greek citation is actually a back-translation of his Latin version, which is word-for-word and in precisely the same order.

τὸν μὲν οὖν ποιητὴν καὶ πατέρα τοῦδε τοῦ παντὸς εὑρεῖν τε ἔργον καὶ εὑρόντα εἰς πάντας ἀδύνατον λέγειν‎

ipsum deum difficile < . . . > posse narrari.

cuius [sc. dei] naturam invenire difficile est; si inventa sit, in multos eam enuntiari non posse

θεὸν εὑρεῖν τε ἔργον, εὑρόντα τὲ εἰς πολλοὺς ἐκφέρειν ἀδύνατον‎

Here, I believe, we can see the genesis and transformation of a single doctrine from Greek into a Latin translation, then to a Latin paraphrase, and from there back into Greek. Only a process like that can describe how we get, for example, two putatively identical Greek phrases differing in meaning, word choice, and word order: εἰς πάντας ἀδύνατον λέγειν‎ —> < … > posse narrari —> in multos . . . enuntiari non posse —> εἰς πολλοὺς ἐκφέρειν ἀδύνατον‎.


Thus far we have looked at the relationship of the Expositio to Plato, to Apuleius' other works, to other Platonic compendia, and to other Latin renderings of Plato, both those surviving in extenso or as incidental citations. But one more area of comparison is needed to fully account for the purpose of the text: its relationship to the Latin philosophical tradition. Too often, Latin philosophers (and particularly those perceived to be second-string, such as Apuleius, Calcidius, and Marius Victorinus) are analyzed in an exclusively Greek context, as if they were only dumb transmitters of Greek material. Recently, there has been progress on this score: Calcidius, for example, has begun to be appreciated as a thinker in his own right, and not only as a reflection of his Greek sources.4 Recent work on Apuleius' philosophica has also tended to minimize their pg 81dependence on extant Greek texts to further emphasis on their Latin background.5

'All the more you'll curse the constraints of the Roman tongue,' wrote Seneca to Lucilius, averring that the Greek term οὐσία‎ is incapable of Latin translation. 'I would be entirely unable to express this in Latin' (ep. 58.7: ecce id nullo modo Latine exprimere possim . . . Magis damnabis angustias Romanas). Egestas patrii sermonis is what Lucretius called it (DRN 1.830 and 3.258), and his words were remembered and quoted into the second century (cf. Pliny the Younger, ep. 4.18.1).6 Ingenuity, creativity, and rhetorical training were required to discuss philosophy in Latin, and the two great innovators in this field were Cicero and Seneca.

Apuleius' philosophical debt to his two forebears is extensive and well documented.7 One way one could examine his debt to them in this text is with a jejune list of vocabulary (a selected list, with section numbers corresponding to the first appearance of the word or phrase):

  •     Seneca:
  •     fortuita (§2.2)
  •     habere substantiam (§3.19)
  •     incorporalis (§3.30)
  •     socialis (§5.2)
  •     studia liberalia (§5.7)
  •     virtus/malitia (§11.5)
  •     actus/contemplatio (§31.2)

pg 82Lists like these can give some indication of Apuleius' debts, but they cannot fully encompass the extent of these two authors' influence on the Expositio. When Apuleius comes to the famous Platonic thesis that it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong, and that the wise man suffers no injury, the terms in which he understands and recasts this doctrine are precisely those of Seneca in his De constantia sapientis:

  • §11.6: non laedi sapientem sed eum qui nocens sit.
  • §12.8–9: nihil tale sapientem facturum ut, si laesus, videatur invicem aut laedere aut malefacere
  • §22.2–3: non tantum non laedere sapientem, sed ne laedi quidem cf. Sen. const. 7.2–4: Denique ualidius debet esse quod laedit eo quod laeditur; non est autem fortior nequitia uirtute; non potest ergo laedi sapiens . . . Potest aliquis nocens fieri; 8.2: Non potest ergo quisquam aut nocere sapienti aut prodesse (compare also ira 1.6.5, where the doctrine is discussed in a specifically Platonic context).

It is not that these terms — laedere, nocens, sapiens — are particularly or exclusively Senecan. It is rather that the Expositio in particular tends to discuss this philosophical position in a Senecan way.

  • §13.24–6: terram deinde existimat formam habere rotundam et in medio sitam mundi caelo circumdari; habitare etiam homines in<de> pressis eius et raris regionibus.
  • Cf. Cic. somn. 15: qui tuerentur illum globum, quem in hoc templo medium vides, quae terra dicitur; Cic. somn., 20: vides habitari in terra raris et angustis in locis et in ipsis quasi maculis, ubi habitatur, vastas solitudines interiectas.

Cicero was probably inspired by this passage in the Phaedo (108e–109b) in writing the Somnium; Apuleius, in turn, was inspired by Cicero in translating this passage of Plato.

But Apuleius goes further still in his imitation of his two models. Sometimes, he distorts the meaning of Plato's text in order to harmonize it with some philosophical sententia found in Cicero or Seneca. For example, twice Seneca mentions the doctrine that man is a social animal: benef. 7.1.7: sociale animal et in commune genitus mundum ut unam omnium domum spectat and clem 1.3.2: hominem sociale animal communi bono genitum videri volumus. In both cases, Seneca attributes this doctrine to the Stoics, although it is almost certain that he was influenced by Aristotle's formulation ὁ ἄνθρωπος φύσει πολιτικὸν ζῷον‎ (pol. 1253a). On three occasions, the Expositio includes this same doctrine:

  • pg 83§5.2 (Rep. 7.519a): hominem ait natura socialem esse
  • §25.3–4 (Laws 11.923a): natura sociales esse homines; idcirco omnia ab his sic agenda ut referantur ad societatem.
  • §28.23 (Epist. 9.358a): homines, qui sint natura sociales.

At no point in these passages does Plato affirm that man is a social or political animal; only in the last does he negate the opposite proposition (ἕκαστος ἡμῶν οὐχ αὑτῷ μόνον γέγονεν‎). The naturalness of society was hotly debated in antiquity, particularly in the context of the conflict between the political and philosophical way of life. Stoics followed the Peripatetics in accepting the social nature of man, while Epicureans remained wholly opposed.8 Platonists occupied the middle ground, perhaps reflecting Plato's own ambiguity on the question. The source of Apuleius' doctrine is hence not to be found in the text of Plato itself, except by a strained interpretation, but rather in Seneca and ultimately Aristotle.

Apuleius, philosophus though he be, as elsewhere is not interested in the arcana of such philosophical debates. He has no problem tampering with the meaning of Plato's dialogues, as he does on any number of occasions, both in the Expositio and in the rest of his corpus. As Sandy has noted, Apuleius has a marked tendency to 'improve' Plato, often by incorporating Peripatetic material.9 More importantly, however, Apuleius always has one eye toward the Latin tradition, and above all Cicero and Seneca: hence whenever he finds a suitable Platonic doctrine, he shoehorns it into the form of a Ciceronian or Senecan sententia.

So at Rep. VII.533c, Plato defines dialectic as the art that rejects and confirms hypotheses: ἡ διαλεκτικὴ μέθοδος μόνη ταύτῃ πορεύεται, τὰς ὑποθέσεις ἀναιροῦσα, ἐπ᾽ αὐτὴν τὴν ἀρχὴν ἵνα βεβαιώσηται‎. When Apuleius comes to this passage, it seems similar enough to Cicero's definition of dialectic as the veri et falsi iudicandi scientia (leg. I.62 Powell; see also Luc. 91 for the same idea). Hence he fathers on Plato the dogma that dialectica is the scientia verorum et falsorum (§5.9).

Likewise, in the speech of the prophet of Lachesis in the myth of Er at the end of the Republic, Plato discusses the relationship of necessity and freedom, concluding that 'the blame is on the one who chooses; the god is blameless' (617e: αἰτία ἑλομένου: θεὸς ἀναίτιος‎). This reminded Apuleius of a passage in Cicero's De fato: fato omnia fieri et esse aliquid in nobis. This pg 84sententia was evidently popular in Apuleius' circle: the only reason we know this passage from the lost part of a treatise which has come down to us imperfectly is because of its quotation by Apuleius' contemporary and perhaps colleague Gellius (7.2.15).10 Apuleius was greatly enamoured with Cicero's formulation of a difficult problem, and hence sums up the speech of the prophet of Lachesis with an almost-quotation of Cicero: fieri aliqua fato et necessitate, rursus esse aliquid in nobis (§8.19–20). He then uses virtually the same words every time fate comes up in Plato's text (§13.27 and §26.7–8, but cf. §24.8–9).

Roman concepts and ideas are deeply embedded in the text. Plato's daemones he is eager to assimilate into the Roman manes and genii. When he discusses how citizens of the best city ought not to utterly destroy the population of the defeated rivals (§3.21), he uses the phrase belli iure, 'by right of war', which has no analogue in Plato, and which is a distinctively Roman concept. He makes special notice of the goddess Nemesis, who is only mentioned in passing in Plato, but whose cult was an important feature of Roman state religion (§18.14). Plato's nomothete (νομοθέτης‎) Apuleius transforms into a typically Roman iurisconsultus (§15.8). The presence of this Roman material in the text suggests that Apuleius himself was responsible for the compendium, and was not merely translating an existing Greek text. Of course it is impossible to be certain, considering that all Greek summaries of Plato's dialogues have disappeared, but the heavy Roman accent and the subtle Latin allusions discernible throughout the text suggest that it is an original Latin product. Like other Latin philosophical works, it 'brings general and Greek content into Roman ground, and so produces a complex amalgam', as G. O. Hutchinson puts it.11 The goal of the Expositio is to introduce Latin readers to the doctrines of some of Plato's dialogues, and to posit some Greek intermediary between the text of Plato and the Latin of Apuleius is to claim not one but two transformations.

Apuleius is a Janus-figure: one face looking to the great Latin literary and philosophical tradition of which he is unquestionably a part, and another at the Greek world of the Second Sophistic and Middle Platonism, its Attic past and Atticizing present. His De deo Socratis is at the same time a philosophical monograph on a widely accepted topic comparable to Plutarch's Περὶ τοῦ Σωκράτους δαιμονίου‎ and a virtuosic rhetorical set-piece on a par with the best philosophic oratory of the second century in pg 85Greek or Latin. But the authors he quotes — Virgil, Lucretius, Ennius, Plautus, Terence, and Accius — are almost all Latin; his examples are as likely to be drawn from Roman history as from Greek mythology; and his goal is to find a harmony between Platonic daemonology and traditional Roman religion. In the same way, we can see in the Expositio an attempt not just to translate the doctrines of Plato, but to integrate them into a thoroughly Latin context. No doubt Apuleius expected its readers to see the harmony between the doctrines of Plato as he expounded them and their own Roman philosophical patrimony.


'Only what is upright is good.' 'virtue is sufficient for happiness.' 'Only the wise man is free and the fool is a slave.' 'Every fool is insane.' 'Only the wise man is rich.' These are typical Stoic paradoxa, and in fact represent five of the six Greek paradoxes Cicero defends in his Paradoxa Stoicorum. Three of them, the first two and the last, are found translated precisely in the Expositio (§3.31 and passim; §28.16; and §5.2–3), the fourth almost exactly (§16.18), and the third in part (§7.5–7).

One might conclude that Apuleius was particularly influenced by this text, but the evidence suggests that he was actually influenced more by the genre than by any particular text. 'Only the wise man is a good poet': this dogma appears twice in the Expositio (§8.6 and §22.3), but its closest analogues are found only in Stobaeus (anth. 2.7 (SVF, iii.654): Μόνον δέ φασι τὸν σοφὸν καὶ μάντιν ἀγαθὸν εἶναι καὶ ποιητὴν‎) and Plutarch (tranq. 12.472a (SVF, iii.655): τὸν σοφὸν παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς μὴ μόνον φρόνιμον καὶ δίκαιονκαὶ ἀνδρεῖον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ῥήτορα καὶ ποιητὴν‎). In both cases, it is attributed to the Stoics. A number of Stoic paradoxa found in the text are most closely paralleled by Diogenes Laërtius, such as non esse inter stultos amicitiam sed inter solos sapientes (§18.10) corresponding to 7.124 (SVF, iii.631): τὴν φιλίαν ἐν μονοις τοῖς σπουδαίοις εἶναι . . . ἔν τε τοῖς φαύλοις μὴ εἶναι φιλίαν‎. In all, perhaps 10 per cent of the dogmata in the Expositio are known from the doxographers as Stoic paradoxes. A more systematic exploration of the Stoicorum veterum fragmenta may reveal that this percentage is even higher.

In his commentary to the De Platone, Beaujeu is content to point out only that Stoics and Platonists tended to hold some of the same doctrines: he does not explain why Apuleius included among the dogmata Platonis doctrines that any second-century reader would have immediately flagged as Stoic. This problem is even more acute in the Expositio, as there are several occasions in which Apuleius actively manipulates the meaning of pg 86Plato's text in order to turn it into the form of some well-known Stoic dictum. The poetic paradox quoted above, for example, is included in the compendia of the Republic X and Laws VIII: in neither passage (607a and 829c, respectively) does Plato ever make so bald a claim. In the Republic, he suggests that the only poetry permissible is that which praises the gods or the deeds of good men; in the Laws, he says that only those who have performed great deeds will be allowed to compose songs, and these songs are to be sung, even if they are not musically composed (ἐὰν καὶ μὴ μουσικὰ πεφύκῃ‎). It strains the sense of either of these passages to say that solum sapientem bonum poetam esse. The only possibility is that Apuleius deliberately tampered with his exposition of Plato to harmonize it with a doctrine about the Stoic sage.

One way to understand Apuleius' manipulation of Plato's text is as part of a broader Middle Platonic strategy of appropriation. In this period, Platonism as a philosophical school was still decidedly second-class: during much of Apuleius' life, in fact, the empire was ruled by a practising Stoic philosopher. Middle Platonists attempted to remedy their inferiority by appropriating Stoic materials and attributing them to Plato.12 Their goal was not only to show the compatibility of Platonic and Stoic doctrines, but also to demonstrate (perhaps duplicitously) that Plato was in fact the originator of some of the most cherished Stoic tenets. As Mauro Bonazzi has it:

The purpose of the reference to Plato or Pythagoras is to reinforce the legitimacy of these '(re)interpretations', for it proves that such doctrines had already been formulated, and that the Stoics had wrongfully misappropriated them at the cost of unwarranted alterations. In other words, the point is that the Stoics do badly what Plato had already done well. The Platonists often accused the Stoics of stealing doctrines . . . [T]his kind of combative stance (against Stoicism and other schools) reveals a competitive attitude and constantly strives to effect the subordinate integration of rival school doctrines, thereby emphasizing the pivotal role of one's own philosophical tradition.13

Understood this way, the Expositio is a brilliant work of scholarly polemic. It is certain that the work is based on a sequential reading of Plato's pg 87dialogues; nonetheless, whenever the author came across a doctrine that seemed consonant with a Stoic formulation or paradox, he translated it into its well-known Stoic form. A contemporary reader of the text would gain the implicit but overwhelming sense that everything important the Stoics believe was stolen directly from Plato. Antiochus of Ascalon (d. 69/8 bc) claimed that the Stoics 'took not one thing or another from us, but took for themselves our whole philosophy. Just as other thieves change the marks on the things they have taken, so they have switched the names of things, as if they were ownership marks, in order to use our doctrines as their own'.14 The Expositio takes the reverse course. It attributes Stoic doctrines in Stoic terms silently to Plato, without any change of notae or signa. The implicit goal is to lay bare the extent of the Stoics' plagiarism.

Nonetheless, it would be ill advised to overplay the important of Stoicism in this text. Klibansky made much of the text's Stoic influence, and one of the only published descriptions of the text (by Tarrant) is simply: 'Brief stoicizing summaries of dialogue contents.'15 On the contrary, the analysis I present here has shown how cheap and facile a Stoicism the Expositio transmits. Ultimately its Stoicism is not that of the Tusculans but that of the Paradoxa, which Cicero explicitly characterizes as playful, rhetorical, and, most importantly, Socratic.16 This last phrase, Socratica longeque verissima, is the key, and Apuleius may well allude to it directly in the only authorial passage in the Expositio (§14.1): Socraticae . . . philosophiae, quae eadem est verae philosophiae. Apuleius was fond of these paradoxes because they are flashy and offer the chance for virtuosic rhetorical performance: in that respect, perhaps, we can think of them as Stoic. But he also thought they were actually Socratic, which both for him and for Cicero, meant that they were true.


The evidence suggests that the Roman context of the text is just as important as the Greek, if not more so. Taken together with the indications from the indexing practice, the Romanization of Plato in the Expositio strongly indicates that it was composed directly in Latin from the text of Plato's dialogues. Above we have also shown how the text was composed in the second century ad, and if there is no Greek intermediary, then the Latin itself dates from that period; and indeed lexical evidence suggests precisely that the Latin was written not much after 150, and almost certainly before 200. It has also been shown that the text definitely goes back to Apuleius' own work, and that the text, even as we have it today, shows unmistakeable traces of his inimitable style. Further, we have demonstrated that the text was transmitted as the third book of the De Platone at the very least from the time of the Abolita glossary (s. VII), but probably even from the time of Augustine.

The simplest and most elegant conclusion therefore, as noted above, is that Apuleius himself reworked his own reading notes from Plato, which he had already used to compile the first two books, as the third book of the De Platone. It is nonetheless possible that one of his students in North Africa worked up the unconnected notes his master had left behind into a Latin summary of Plato's dialogues, probably not adding material (there is no evidence the text is factitious), but quite possibly excising doctrines and even whole dialogues to produce a handbook roughly the length of one book of the De Platone. Either this same student or a later reader appended this work to the De Platone to make it an isagoge, complete with a summary of Plato's works.

The evidence does not point conclusively in one direction or the other. On the one hand, the second theory gives us an explanation as to why certain dialogues which were obviously important to Apuleius, such as the Symposium and the Phaedrus, were not included (although it is not impossible that they were summarized in the part missing at the beginning). On the other hand, the very elements in the text that would have gone back to the redactor of Apuleius's notes, that is, the finite verbs and especially the transitional particles, indicate most strongly the peculiarities of Apuleian Latinity. Perhaps more evidence will one day turn up, or a more detailed and penetrating analysis of the text will suggest that one of these scenarios is more probable than the other. This remaining difficulty notwithstanding, what we still have, edited here for the first time, is a new work by Apuleius.


1 See the doxography of modern scholarship on Rufinus' translation compiled by R. E. Heine in his translation of Origen's Homilies on Genesis and Exodus (Washington, DC, 2010): 30–3.

2 On the lacuna in this line, see the commentary ad loc.

3 Cf. TLL, s.v. 'narrare', ix.1.68.13–77.61 (Spoth), especially 70.26–71.11.

4 See, for example, the pioneering monograph by Peter Dronke, The Spell of Calcidius: Platonic Concepts and Images in the Medieval West (2008), as well as the articles by Anna Somfai, 'Calcidius's Commentary to Plato's Timaeus and its Place in the Commentary Tradition: The Concept of Analogia in Text and Diagrams', in P. Adamson and H. Baltussen, eds, Philosophy, Science and Exegesis in Greek, Arabic and Latin Commentaries, i (London, 2004), 203–20; and 'The Nature of Daemons: A Theological Application of the Concept of Geometrical Proportion in Calcidius' Commentary to Plato's Timaeus (40d–41a)', in R. Sharples and A. Sheppard, eds, Ancient Approaches to the Timaeus, BICS Supplement, 78 (London, 2003), 129–42. For an extensive treatment of the relationship of Latin literature to Greek, see now G. O. Hutchinson, Greek to Latin: Frameworks and Contexts for Intertextuality (Oxford, 2013).

5 See, for example, Hunink, 'The Epinomis and Apuleius of Maudara', 286–7.

6 On Cicero and Seneca, see the twin articles in HSCP, 97 (1995), Gisela Striker, 'Cicero and Greek Philosophy', 53–61, and Brad Inwood, 'Seneca in his Philosophical Milieu', 63–76.

7 For the DdS, see Harrison, Apuleius: A Latin Sophist, 137–73.

8 Cf. Malcolm Schofield, 'Stoic Ethics', in Brad Inwood, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics (Cambridge, 2003), 233–56, at 254; and C. Griswold, Jr., 'Self-Perfection as a Foundation of Political Theory', in J. M. Van Ophuijsen, ed., Plato and Platonism (Washington, DC, 1999), 102–34, at 110–13.

9 Sandy, The Greek World of Apuleius, 219–20.

10 On the relationship of Apuleius and Gellius, see Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius: An Antonine Scholar and His Achievement (rev. edn, Oxford, 2003), 22–6.

11 Hutchinson, Greek to Latin, 259.

12 See Mauro Bonazzi, 'Eudorus' Psychology and Stoic Ethics', in M. Bonazzi and C. Helmig, eds, Platonic Stoicism — Stoic Platonism: The Dialogue between Platonism and Stoicism in Antiquity (Leuven, 2008), 109–32; and Gretchen Reydams-Schils, 'The Academy, Stoics and Cicero on Plato's Timaeus', in A. G. Long, ed., Plato and the Stoics (Cambridge, 2013), 29–58. One could compare the much later statement of Proclus, In Euclidem (quoted in Mansfeld, Prolegomena, 172), where he says he is 'following Plato's lead and collecting ideas from others which contribute to the present study'.

13 Bonazzi, 'Eudorus' Psychology', 127.

14 apud Cic. fin. 5.25.74: Stoici restant, ei quidem non unam aliquam aut alteram <rem> a nobis, sed totam ad se nostram philosophiam transtulerunt; atque ut reliqui fures earum rerum, quas ceperunt, signa commutant, sic illi, ut sententiis nostris pro suis uterentur, nomina tamquam rerum notas mutaverunt. See Reydams-Schils, 'The Academy, Stoics and Cicero'. Bonazzi offers a more concordist interpretation of Antiochus in 'Antiochus' Ethics and the Subordination of Stoicism', in M. Bonazzi and J. Opsomer, eds, The Origins of the Platonic System: Platonisms of the Early Empire and Their Philosophical Context (Louvain, 2009), 33–54. Nonetheless, the purpose of Antiochus' redeployment of Stoic material, according to Bonazzi, is still to show the superiority of Plato.

15 Tarrant, 'Instruction and Hermeneutics', 80.

16 Cic. parad. 3–4: ego tibi illa ipsa, quae vix in gymnasiis et in otio Stoici probant, ludens conieci in communis locos. quae quia sunt admirabilia contraque opinionem omnium ab ipsis etiam παρàδoξα‎ appellantur, temptare volui possentne proferri in lucem id est in forum et ita dici, ut probarentur, an alia quaedam esset erudita, alia popularis oratio, eoque hos locos scripsi libentius, quod mihi ista παρàδoξα‎ quae appellant maxime videntur esse Socratica longeque verissima.

logo-footer Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.
Access is brought to you by Log out