When Cupid and Psyche get married, at the end of their story in Apuleius' Metamorphoses VI.23, Jupiter announces that they will be wed iure civili:

Et ad Venerem collata facie, ‘Nec tu,’ inquit ‘filia, quicquam contristere, nec prosapiae tantae tuae statuque de matrimonio mortali metuas. Iam faxo nuptias non impares, sed legitimas et iure civili congruas.’

The gods have arranged this marriage and made it be. So why does Jupiter say he will make it "in accordance with civil law"? What does the term mean in this context? Why would the gods care about something regarding civilian laws—or what sense of civilis should we be thinking of to understand this passage? Is it a joke (just like the passage elsewhere where Apuleius says the Greeks in his story spoke Latin)?

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    This is almost more of a mythology or history question, related to civic ideals in the Roman Republic and Empire. The Golden Ass is partly about the decline in morals, so Apuleius might have been trying to reinforce the civic institution of marriage, which maintains society. A clue may be found in that the statement is addressed to Venus, whose domain is unrestrained desire. Jupiter is casting the matrimony as in the mortal, as opposed to divine, domain, lest Eros' being bound to a single woman diminish Venus' stature or power of erotic desire.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 20:49
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    Although Apuleius' Metamorphosis is intensely satirical, he does become earnest and sincere at the end of the work, when Lucius is returned to human form. Likewise, this passage comes at the end of the story-within-the-story that is a sort of centerpiece to the work overall.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 20:53
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    @DukeZhou Hey, some interesting ideas, food for thought!
    – Cerberus
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 23:42

1 Answer 1


This one seems pretty straightforward to me? The notion is of a proper jus civile marriage, as opposed to the commonlawish jus gentium. It's a sort of joke, right in Apuleius' wheelhouse. Jus civile is a technical term (as explained in that link to Smith's Dictionary). The joke consists partly in having Jupiter "vet" the marriage, but certainly in having him follow Roman law, much as if he had said "I now pronounce you man and wife, by the powers vested in me by the laws of the State of Illinois."

See George Long in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, s.v. Matrimonium.


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