If anyone else is reading Apuleius, and is wondering just what the heck they just read in Book VIII, this abstract might be interesting: Gender Transgression and the Politics of Representation in Apuleius' Metamorphoses
. (Evelyn Adkins, submitted at the 2015 Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS) meeting). I haven't found the whole article yet.
For those who aren't reading the book: In Book 8 the ass Lucius is bought by a priest of a gay orgiastic cross-dressing sex cult. On one hand, it's a pretty amazing look at a part of Rome I have never heard of or read about. On the other hand, it is not
sex-positive, and the action is graphic and horrifying and ... funny?
Here's an excerpt:
[VIII-26] At ille susceptum novicium famulum trahebat ad domum statimque illinc de primo limine proclamat: "Puellae, servum vobis pulchellum en ecce mercata perduxi." Sed illae puellae chorum erat cinaedorum, quae statim exsultantes in gaudium fracta et rauca et effeminata voce clamores absonos intollunt, rati scilicet vere quempiam hominem servulum ministerio suo paratum. Sed postquam non cervam pro virgine sed asinum pro homine succidaneum videre
, nare detorta magistrum suum varie cavillantur: non enim servum, sed maritum illum scilicet sibi perduxisse. Et "heus," aiunt "cave ne solus exedas tam bellum scilicet pullulum, sed nobis quoque tuis palumbulis nonnumquam inpertias."
(note re: Sed postquam
... ) I have to really work to understand the Latin, but this sentence gives you a good sense of the wordplay that gets lost in translation. It's a reference to Iphgenia, daughter of Agamemnon. The king sacrificed his daughter to the goddess Artemis to secure good winds for his fleet during the Trojan War. At the last minute Artemis rescues Iphgenia and substitutes a stag for her body. So the play on words here is that the priest's 'girls' didn't get a 'cervam pro virgine' (a virgin in the shape of a deer) but an 'asinum pro homine.' (a man in the shape of an ass).
Here's a Penguin Classics translation I found on-line. The language here is a lot more cringe-worthy than the Italian version I'm reading. You've been warned.
Taking delivery of this new member of the family he led me off
home, where as soon as he got indoors he called out: ‘Look, girls, at
the pretty little slave I’ve bought and brought home for you.’ But
these ‘girls’ were a troupe of queens, who at once appeared jumping
for joy and squealing untunefully in mincing effeminate tones, in the
belief that it really was a human slave that had been brought to serve
them. When they saw that this was not a case of a hind substituting
for a maiden but an ass taking the place of a man, they began to sneer
and mock their chief, saying that this wasn’t a servant he’d brought
but a husband for himself. ‘And listen,’ they said. ‘You’re not to
gobble up this nice little nestling all on your own - we’re your lovey-
doveys too, and you must let us have a share sometimes.’ Exchanging
badinage of this sort they tied me up next to the manger. They also
had in the house a beefy young man, an accomplished piper, whom
they had bought in the market from the proceeds of their street
collections. Out of doors he tagged along playing his instrument when
they carried the goddess around, at home he was toyboy in ordinary
to the whole establishment. As soon as he saw me joining the
household, without waiting for orders he served me out a generous
ration of food and welcomed me joyfully. ‘At last,’ he said, ‘here’s
somebody to spell me in my loathsome duties. Long life to you! May
you please our masters and bring relief to my exhausted loins!’ When
I heard this I began to picture to myself the ordeals that lay ahead of
It gets worse. So much worse.
one more edit, because I have to share this. I looked up the Latin cinaedus (from the sentence Sed illae puellae chorum erat cinaedorum; but this chorus of girls were cinaedorum). And found this: cinaedus
. From Ancient Greek κίναιδος (kínaidos, “catamite”), originally referring to a non-Roman dancer whose performance featured movements of the buttocks. The word's ultimate origin may be from a language of Asia Minor.
I think this might world literature's first example of twerking.