The Philosophical Satire of Apuleius' Cupid and Psyche: Alignment and Contradiction in Allusions to Plato and Lucretius
Cupid and Psyche, the expositional myth that interrupts the narrative of Apuleius' novel Metamorphoses, has been regarded as Platonic allegory for how the soul falls in love. However, inconsistencies and faults in the Platonic logic of Apuleius' allusions have caused some scholars to question the strict Platonic reading. Additionally, Apuleius' allusions to philosophic beliefs are not limited to the Platonic. His extensive quotations of Lucretius and his De Rerum Natura have long been recognized, though they are rarely studied at great length. Looking closely at the allusions to De Rerum Natura in Cupid and Psyche, I have found a rich coexistence of philosophical alignment and contradiction to Lucretius' Epicureanism. Therefore, considering the existence of allusions that correspond to and contradict both Platonism and Epicureanism and the relationship between those allusions and the rest of the text, I shall demonstrate that the tale of Cupid and Psyche is not simply an exposition of Platonic philosophy but rather a philosophic farce. Apuleius draws his readers in with a multitude of references to the canon of Mediterranean literature and then subverts and satirizes those works. His fantastical story–– which on the face seems to be a lofty myth about love and heartbreak, heaven and hell, labors and celebration–– becomes a well-crafted joke and a lesson in intellectual humility.