The main road went westward through Cirta to Caesarea, capital of Mauretania (Morocco). Here King Juba II taught civilization to the Mauri or Moors from whom the province took its ancient and modern names. Son of the Juba who had died at Thapsus, he had been taken as a child to grace Caesar’s triumph in Rome; he was spared, remained as a student, and became one of the most learned scholars of his time. Augustus made him client king of Mauretania and bade him spread among his people the classic culture he had so zealously acquired. He succeeded, being favored with a long reign of forty-eight years; his subjects marveled that a man could write books and yet rule so well. His son and heir was brought to Rome and starved to death by Caligula. Claudius annexed the kingdom and divided it into two provinces: Mauretania Caesariensis and Mauretania Tingitana, named from its capital Tingis- our Tangier.
In these African cities there were many schools, open to the poor as well as to the rich. We hear of courses in stenography, and Juvenal calls Africa nutricula causidicorum – the nurse of barristers. It produced in this period one minor and one major author- Fronto and Apuleius; only in its Christian heyday would African literature lead the world. Lucius Apuleius was a strange and picturesque character, far more than Montaigne “undulant and diverse.” Born at Madaura of high family (A.D. 124), he studied there, at Carthage, and in Athens, spent a large inheritance recklessly, wandered from city to city and from faith to faith, had himself initiated into various religious mysteries, played with magic, wrote many works on subjects ranging from theology to tooth powder, lectured at Rome and elsewhere on philosophy and religion, returned to Africa, and married at Tripoli a lady considerably richer than himself in both purse and years.
Her friends and heirs-apparent sued to annul the marriage, charging that he had persuaded the widow by magic arts; he defended himself before the court in an Apologia that has come down to us in refurbished form. He won his case and bride, but the people persisted in believing him a magician, and their pagan posterity sought to belittle Christ by recounting the miracles of Apuleius. He spent the remainder of his days at Madaura and Carthage, practicing law and medicine, letters and rhetoric. Most of his writings were on scientific and philosophical subjects; his native city raised a monument to him labeled Philosophus Platonicus, and he would be chagrined, if he could return, to find himself remembered only for his Golden Ass.
It is a work akin to the Satyricon of Petronius and even more bizarre. Originally entitled Metamorphoseon Libri XI- Eleven Books of Transformations – it expanded fantastically a story that Lucius of Patras had told of a man changed into an ass. It is a loose concatenation of adventures, descriptions, and extraneous episodes, seasoned with magic, horror, ribaldry, and deferred piety. The Lucius of the tale tells how he wandered into Thessaly, amused himself with various maidens, and sensed everywhere around him an atmosphere of sorcery.