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119, which is the most revealing document that we have of the period.6 When Pliny became administrator of Bithynia, there was submitted to him anonymously a list of people who allegedly belonged to a sect of Christians accused of being dangerous to the security of the state. He wrote to Trajanus that he had picked the people up and, as Roman citizens could not be tortured, he had tortured two slave women who belonged to the sect. But, he said, he could not get any more out of them than a prava superstitio (distorted superstition). These people met on Sundays, a day which they called the Lord’s Day. They sang certain songs and said certain prayers together and afterward dined. Because that could be the hatching place of political plotting, he forbade the Sunday dinner parties, but otherwise dismissed this “distorted crazy crowd.” The investigation, however, had the desired results, for the meat market improved again. What the cattle dealers and butchers had complained of was that no more animals were being bought for sacrifice, but now the market had recovered! The words prava superstitio—“distorted superstition”—indicate how the educated man of the time felt about this new subterranean movement and shows the principal line of interest among people who were looking seriously for religious consolation. What flourished were the Mithraic, Dionysian, Sarapis, and Isis mysteries, in which people found some inner fulfillment. Yet only a smaller part of the population were initiated in such secret mystery cults. The greater part did not believe anything any longer. They adhered to some kind of nihilistic or rational philosophy, and the religious interests of the lower layers of the population regressed into the original level of magic and superstition, astrology, soothsaying, palmistry, and other archaic connections with the unconscious. Apuleius first went to school in Carthage and then to Athens where he studied philosophy and rhetoric and became one of Plutarch’s adherents. He endeavored to obtain admission to as many mystery cults as possible and through his family background was able to get introductions to them. He was probably initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries; he went to the cave of Trophonius, and later traveled in Asia Minor in search of other mystery cults —probably Mithraic. Of Apuleius’s works, only his Apologia, a few philosophical essays, and this novel have been preserved completely.7 On account of its pornographic episodes, The Golden Ass was the favorite reading of all the poor little monks and novices in monasteries throughout the Middle Ages. They copied it out

Profile for Lewis Lafontaine

Marie Louise Von Franz - The Golden Ass of Alpulius  

Marie Louise Von Franz - The Golden Ass of Alpulius  

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