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In search of his lover Giton, student Encolpius visits the Roman baths. There his best friend and rival Ascyltus boasts that he has sold the youth to aged actor Vernacchio. At the theater Encolpius recovers Giton, who deserts him in favor of Ascyltus. An elderly poet, Eumolpus, invites the disconsolate Encolpius to a feast at the home of Trimalchio, a wealthy former slave and amateur poet. At the banquet, drunken Eumolpus insults the host's bad verses and is cast out, while the remaining company visits Trimalchio's newly constructed tomb. Before his sepulcher Trimalchio describes the famous perfidy of the Widow of Ephesus. Accompanied by Tryphaena, a female guest, Encolpius boards the barque of Lichas and finds the elusive Ascyltus and faithless Giton. In the midst of a celebration Giton is given in mock marriage to a little girl, Pannychina, while Lichas plans his own wedding to Encolpius. As Caesar's pleasure ship passes, however, Lichas' party witnesses the assassination of the effeminate emperor, who is battered to death by the oars of his galley slaves. The assassins then board Lichas' barque and decapitate the would-be bridegroom. Having disembarked, Encolpius and Ascyltus enter a deserted villa, where they discover the bodies of a patrician couple who have committed suicide and pursue a black female slave, with whom they spend the night. On a vacant plain a stranger solicits Ascyltus to satisfy his nymphomaniac wife. Accompanied by a bearded outlaw, the young men kidnap the pallid demigod Hermaphrodite, who dies of thirst during their desert flight. During the festival of the god Laughter Encolpius is trapped in a labyrinth and pursued by a handsome youth disguised as the Minotaur. As a reward Encolpius is presented with the voluptuous Ariadne but finds himself impotent. To no avail he visits the Garden of Delights and submits to flagellation during the Lupercalia. A priapic dwarf, however, recommends the black sorceress Oenothea, who restores the student's virility. Encolpius' consequent happiness is brief. In his presence Ascyltus dies of a mysterious wound, clawing the ground like an animal. Encolpius discovers Eumolpus' empty boat and listens to the reading of the deceased poet's will, which stipulates that his beneficiaries devour his corpse as a condition of inheritance. Encolpius bursts into laughter.