Daemones, an old Athenian exiled from Athens, has come to Cyrene to spend his waning years. He is a kindly man, and his exile has come about as a result of his excessive generosity to others and consequent indebtedness rather than from any sort of dishonorable activity on his part. Further, his impoverishment and exile are not his only misfortunes. Some years before, his daughter Palaestra, then a girl, was stolen from him and sold by the thief to the procurer Labrax, who brought her, unknown to her father, to Cyrene, where she has been reared and educated by Labrax. As Palaestra is approaching maturity, the young Plesidippus sees her and falls in love with her. Wanting to secure her freedom, he arranges to buy her from Labrax for thirty minae. He gives the procurer a retainer and binds him by oath to turn Palaestra over to him when he has paid the full sum agreed upon.
Labrax is as unscrupulous as his profession would suggest. When Charmides, a Sicilian, suggests that the procurer could get a much better price out of his women by taking them to Sicily, Labrax decides to ignore his contract with Plesidippus. He contrives to get the young man out of the way by arranging to meet him before the temple of Venus for a sacrificial breakfast. The night before, however, he moves Palaestra and her fellow slave, Ampelisca, together with all his belongings aboard ship. Then, accompanied by Charmides, he sets sail. A storm arises during the night, wrecking the ship and casting Labrax and his guest on the rocks; Palaestra and Ampelisca manage to escape in a small boat. The two young women land near the temple of Venus, not far from the house of Daemones. After asking sanctuary of the priest, they go inside.
A short time later, Ampelisca is sent to Daemones’ house for water. On her way, she encounters Plesidippus’s servant, Trachalio, who has come to the temple looking for his master. She sends him inside to see Palaestra. While Ampelisca is waiting for the servant of Daemones to bring her the water, however, she spies Labrax and Charmides, whom she had believed dead, laboriously making their way to the temple from the place where the sea washed them up on the rocks. Terrified, she hastens back to the temple to warn her friend.
When Labrax and Charmides arrive, wet and tattered, they devote most of their remaining energy to mutual recriminations for their plight until the procurer learns from a servant that his two slaves did not drown but are inside the temple. He rushes in, intent on saving at least that much of his property, and attempts to drag the two young women away from the statue of Venus...
(The entire section is 1071 words.)