Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Juan Martos, Apuleyo de Madauros. Apología o Discurso sobre la magia en defensa propia; Floridas; [Prólogo de El dios de Sócrates]. Introducción, traducción y notas. Alma mater. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2015. Pp. cvi, 607. ISBN 9788400099435. €53.00.

Reviewed by Ian H. Henderson, McGill University (

Version at BMCR home site

The rightly inescapable Metamorphoses of Apuleius of Madauros have often overshadowed the other surviving works of the brilliant North African sophist. In its way, the Apologia pro se de magia is every bit as unique as the Metamorphoses. No doubt it was heavily worked-up for literary circulation, yet the Apologia is the only extant Latin defense speech to come from an actual criminal trial in the Roman Empire. It is also very much pro se and de magia, because Apuleius' main defense strategy seems to be to admit almost all allegations of fact against him and instead to contest whether the alleged behaviours could be magic in a criminal sense if the perpetrator is, like himself, an educated philosophic practitioner. The text is thus almost an encyclopedia of possibly magic practices and of personal ritual experience in the borders between magic and religion. Together with the fragmentary Florida and so-called Prologue attached to the De Deo Socratis, the Apologia is also a treasure-trove of exquisite sophistic Latin discourse.

It is very much to be welcomed, then, that following the publication of an edition and text of the Metamorphoses of Apuleius for the prestigious Spanish Alma Mater collection of Greek and Latin authors, Professor Juan Martos has now given us a single volume bringing together the Apologia pro se de magia and the Florida, along with the so-called Prologue attached to the De Deo Socratis. In keeping with the series in which it appears, the volume includes a Latin text with critical apparatus and a facing-page Spanish translation with notes, as well as ample introductions and rich bibliographies. Also in keeping with the Alma Mater series, the volume is physically beautiful and typographically elegant; together with that graphic clarity, the fact that text, apparatus, translation and notes all appear on one double-page spread makes this volume a convenient resource, over against, say, Vincent Hunink's superb three volumes of text and commentary and the translations and notes in the volume edited by Stephen Harrison.1 Of course, the one-volume format cannot eclipse the rich scholarship and generous scale of such existing multi-volume editions and multi-author translations, but Professor Martos' expertise and judgement have given us a remarkably authoritative yet accessible instrument.

The manuscript tradition for the Apologia and Florida does not invite a dramatically new textual edition, but Martos' independence of judgement is evident and justified in the clear introduction and in the full apparatus of manuscript readings and principal editions. The full apparatus on the same page means that the text itself is as free as possible from editorial signs, a benefit for general readers like this reviewer, while allowing us to be aware of the text's manuscript and editorial history.

The situation for the so-called Preface to the De Deo Socratis is intriguingly peculiar: textually it is witnessed only in manuscripts of "philosophical" works attributed to Apuleius, specifically the De Deo Socratis, not in the manuscripts containing the Metamorphoses, the Apologia and the Florida. In itself, however, the Preface has looked to modern editors much more like a mini-collection of five fragments very like those in the Florida, than like a unified prologue, let alone a prologue to the discourse De Deo Socratis.2 It makes sense, then, to include the Preface in the present volume along with the Florida. On the other hand, debate continues about both the integrity of the Preface and its pertinence to the De Deo Socratis.3 We really don't know how much a prolalia needed to be thematically relevant to the speech for which it might serve as an audience warm-up. Martos (xxxv-xxxvi) therefore wisely prescinds from making definitive claims, but he does print the text and translation as a continuous text, rather than as five fragments. This is in some contrast with Martos' presentation of the translation of the Florida, in which each fragment is introduced as such by an editorial heading (172 n. 515). At any rate, the Preface is a good occasion for thinking about the possible relations between improvisation and composition, Greek and Latin, preface and body in a sophistic discourse.

For all three texts, the Apologia de magia, the Florida, and the so-called Prologue attached to the De Deo Socratis, the single-volume format precludes really detailed introduction or commentary, yet Martos devotes nearly half of almost every translation page to dense annotation identifying allusions and references to other texts and to persons or realia. Most comments are aimed at a fairly general reader, but Martos is particularly helpful on the rhetorical characteristics of these intensely-crafted texts. The translation is designed as an aid to reading the adjacent Latin text, even where the latter is unclear; as far as the present reviewer can judge, Martos probably wisely refrains from trying to simulate Apuleius' florid, scintillating style and periodic architecture. It often falls to the notes therefore to point out aspects of Apuleius' compulsive word-play, punning and rhythmic games and to reassure the first-time reader that Apuleius' special effects are almost always intentional aspects of the total performance.

The contrast in scale and focus between the intricately elaborated, articulated religious-legal argumentative unity of the Apologia and the deliberately fragmentary quality and apparently epideictic purpose of the selected Florida and prefatory fragments from the De Deo Socratis makes this volume especially fascinating and a delight to use.


1.   Apuleius, and Vincent Hunink, Pro Se De Magia: Apologia. v. 1. Introduction, text, bibliography, indexes v. 2. Commentary (Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 1997); Apuleius, and Vincent Hunink, Florida. (Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 2001); Apuleius, S. J. Harrison, John Hilton, and Vincent Hunink, Apuleius: rhetorical works (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).
2.   Apuleius, and Jean Beaujeu, Opuscules philosophiques (Du dieu de Socrate, Platon et sa doctrine, Du monde) et fragments (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1973); Apuleius, and Claudio Moreschini, Apulei Platonici Madaurensis Opera quae supersunt. vol. 3 De Philosophia Libri (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1991). Contra see Vincent Hunink, "The Prologue of Apuleius' De Deo Socratis" in Mnemosyne 48/4 (1995) 292-312.
3.   See S. J. Harrison, "'False Preface' to On the God of Scorates Introduction" in Apuleius, S. J. Harrison, John Hilton, and Vincent Hunink, Apuleius: rhetorical works (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) 177-180.

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