He was born in Madaurus, a Roman colony in Numidia on the border with Gaetulia, now the Algerian town of Mdaourouch, Algeria, a district well away from the Romanized coast, but where some pristine Roman ruins remain. The same colonia was where Saint Augustine later received part of his early education. His father was a provincial magistrate and he inherited a substantial fortune from him. Apuleius studied with a master at Carthage and later at Athens, where he studied Platonic philosophy among other subjects. After being initiated as a worshipper of Isis, he went to Rome to study Latin oratory. Later he travelled extensively in Asia Minor and Egypt, studying philosophy and religion.
After being accused of using magic to gain the attentions (and fortune) of a widow, he declaimed and then distributed a witty tour de force in his own defense before the proconsul and a court of magistrates convened in Sabratha, near Tripoli, the Apologia (A Discourse on Magic). His other works include On the God of Socrates, Florida, On Plato and his Doctrine, and possibly On the Universe.
Metamorphoses/The Golden Ass, is the only Latin novel that has survived in its entirety. It is a precursor to a literary genre, the episodic picaresque novel, in which Rabelais, Boccacio, Voltaire, Defoe, and many others have followed. It is an imaginative, irreverent and amusing work that relates the ludicrous adventures of one Lucius, who experiments in magic and is accidentally turned into an ass. In this guise he hears and sees many unusual things, until Isis returns him to his human form. An interpolation recounts the tale of Cupid and Psyche. There is some evidence that the account of the initiation into the mysteries of Isis is autobiographical.