Female Archetypes In The Golden Ass

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While men have always featured prominently throughout history, women tend to be more of an afterthought, and especially in fiction, women tend to fall into strict archetypes that allow very little deviation. This holds true in Apuleius’ novel The Golden Ass, but many of the female characters also exhibit great agency and power that women in other Roman stories tended not to have. There is a wide range of female archetypes in this book but they are also deep and complex characters that should not be pigeon-holed into one category. One of the first complex female characters that Lucius, the main character, meets in The Golden Ass is the servant girl Photis. While Lucius is staying with his friend Milo, Lucius’ aunt Byrrhena warns him of Milo’s wife, Pamphile, who practices witchcraft, she tells him instead to turn his attention to Photis, saying on page 22, “So even though it has its hazards, Photis must be your target (Apuleius).” So Lucius listens to his aunt and he discovers that Photis is as sharp-witted and sexual as he is, much to his delight. With every double-entendre Lucius makes towards her, Photis sends one right back, and even though she teases him, saying things like “Hey there schoolboy, the savoury dish you’re sampling is bitter as well as sweet (Apuleius 24),” she is still…show more content…
But Psyche, whether to compare her similarities with Lucius or perhaps to express the view that women should do as they are told, serves as a stark contrast to women like Photis and the wealthy woman who are allowed to demonstrate sexual and monetary agency. Overall, Apuleius shows a neutral, if maybe slightly negative, attitude towards women, but with a few positive female characters that highlight what a woman could and should be in order to gain respect and
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