*Greece. Apuleius locates his action in the Greek portion of the Roman Empire, at its height during the Antonine era of the mid-second century c.e. Roman distrust of supposed Greek decadence and sharp dealing made the Greeks easy targets of a critical pen. Roman superstition and fear of sorcery made them both wary and respectful of Greek conjuring. Indeed, Thessaly itself Apuleius calls a crucible of the art of magic. In general, the eastern Roman Empire was also the home of both the Olympian gods, who appear in Apuleius’s stories, and the so-called mystery cults, which promised salvation through a life devoted to one of the eastern divinities, such as Cybele, Mithras, or, in Lucius’s case, Isis.
*Hypata. Capital of Thessaly; a resort for the wealthy where Lucius is taken in by the wealthy Milo and his witch-wife, Pamphile. Hypata vaguely piques Lucius’s fascination with magic, and indeed, he feels as if everything in the town is somehow touched by magic. In Milo’s house Lucius finds a willing sex partner in the servant Fotis, and his undoing as he dabbles in his hostess’s arts. Milo’s wealth draws robbers who seize both it and Lucius, who has been turned into an ass.
*Thessaly. Region of east-central Greece on whose countryside Apuleius’s critique of Roman society is focused. Rather than bucolic, Thessaly is filled with dangers of every sort, most...
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