The hero of the novel, Lucius is a handsome, cocky, and curious young man whose longing to observe dark magic accidentally turns him into an ass. He is then plunged into serious of misadventures, such as being captured by bandits, being beaten nearly to death, becoming a celebrity for eating human food and having sex with human women, and, at the end, becoming an initiate of Isis, to whom he pledges his eternal devotion from delivering him from his condition.
A man whom Lucius meets on the road to Thessaly, who tells him of his terrible adventure with Socrates and the witch Meroe.
The famed philosopher, here he is a friend of Aristomenes, wasted and destroyed by the witch Meroe.
The witch who casts a spell on Socrates and threatens the life of Aristomenes when he criticizes her and learns of her doings.
The sister of the witch who enchants Socrates.
The wealthy friend with whom Lucius stays in Thessaly. He is married to Pamphile, but seems largely unaware of the darkness of her magic.
Lucius's aunt, who raised him. She is a wealthy woman of Thessaly and invites Lucius over often. She also warns him about Pamphile the witch.
Milo's wife and a witch, she performs all sorts of unnatural acts of magic, such as turning into a bird. Lucius is intrigued by her doings.
The beautiful servant of Milo and Pamphile; Lucius has a sexual relationship with her. She grudgingly allows Lucius to witness magic, and is accidentally responsible for his turning into an ass.
The old hag
A woman who works for the bandits but is treated cruelly by them. She tells Charite the story of Cupid and Psyche.
One of the bandits who loses an arm in the aborted robbery of Chryseros, and then kills himself because he knows he will be useless.
A moneylender whom the bandits try to rob; his perspicacity wins out when he sounds the alarm on them, forcing them to cut off the arm of one of their own to get him out alive.
One of the bandits who dresses up as the bear to gain entry into a wealthy home. He is killed for his efforts.
The young, pretty captive the bandits bring in for ransom. Her husband, Tlepolemus, later rescues her. Her life is pleasant for a time until a rival for her affection, Thrasyllus, plots to harm Tlepolemus and seize her for himself. She eventually takes her own life after seeking revenge.
The beautiful but insecure and vengeful goddess of love, Venus works to thwart her son Cupid's love for Psyche. She gives Psyche impossibly hard tasks to complete in the hopes that she will be killed.
The winged god and son of Venus, he falls in love with Psyche but becomes frustrated with her when she disobeys his orders. He is injured in his retreat from her, but as he recovers he realizes how much he loves her and commits to helping her as she tries to win his mother's favor.
A mortal woman famed for her beauty, it is prophesied that she will marry a winged creature. She is isolated from her family, but then the wind takes her to a beautiful valley with a splendid house in which she meets her invisible husband -- this is Cupid, but she does not know this. She falls in love with him, but due to her natural curiosity, has difficulty listening to his warnings about her evil sisters. She eventually incurs Cupid's wrath and they are separated. She seeks revenge on her sisters, then tries to make good with Venus, her husband's mother. Her love with Cupid renewed, Jupiter legitimizes their union and makes her a goddess so their unborn daughter will be one as well.
Ugly and terrible, the sisters plot to destroy their youngest sister because they are jealous of her good fortune. They are almost successful in the sense that they part Psyche from Cupid, but Psyche has her revenge by tricking both to their deaths.
The goddess of the earth; she cannot help Psyche because she does not want Venus to be angry with her.
The wife of Jupiter, goddess of the hearth and of pregnant women; she cannot help Psyche because of her relationship with Venus.
The highest of the gods who finally settles the dispute between Venus, Cupid, and Psyche.
Charite's husband who rescues her from the bandits by pretending to be one of them; Thrasyllus, who lusts after Charite, ultimately kills him.
A monstrous and cruel caretaker of Lucius who beats him and lies about how bad of an ass he is; a bear eventually tears him apart.
The evil young man who is in love with Charite and orchestrates the death of her husband. He eventually despairs of his behavior and imprisons himself in the tomb of Charite and Tlepolemus to die of starvation.
The priest who becomes Lucius's owner for a time; he and his fellow priests are catamites and charlatans.
Lucius's new owner after the priest, whose wife fornicates with other men behind his back. She gets her comeuppance when he discovers the plot, sleeps with the man, and then beats him up and gets rid of his wife.
The baker's wife
A libidinous and deceitful woman, she pursues extramarital affairs. Her current conquest is Philesitherus; her husband eventually finds out about this, takes him for himself, and then pushes her out of the house.
A young and handsome lover of married women who first sleeps with the wife of Barbarus and is then pursued by the baker's wife. He ends up being discovered; the baker sleeps with him and then beats him up.
A man who endeavors to keep his wife chaste by entrusting her to his slave, Myrmex.
The estate-owner, with whom Lucius and his current master have dinner, experiences a myriad of terrible supernatural events. He then hears of the death of his three sons, and kills himself in front of his dinner guests.
The soldier commandeers Lucius from a gardener and uses him for a time, until his duties to his commander require him to sell the ass.
A kind father and wealthy master of an estate, whose story Lucius hears and relates to his audience.
The oldest son
The master's eldest son from his first marriage, who is handsome, moral, and intelligent. He does not want to sleep with his stepmother, who lusts for him, and is put on trial for the suspected murder of his younger brother; he is acquitted during the trial.
The younger son
The youngest son by the master and the stepmother, who accidentally drinks a poison his mother intended for the oldest brother after failing to secure his affection. Presumed dead, the younger son wakes up after the physician reveals that he is only sleeping.
The second wife of the master of the house, she harbors lustful thoughts toward her stepson, and, failing to secure his consent, tries to poison him. She accidentally poisons her younger son instead, but, lacking a sense of right and wrong, does not care. She is eventually discovered and exiled.
One a baker and one a cook, the brother-slaves come to oversee Lucius for their master. Lucius eats their excess food, leading to his fame as a curious and spectacular donkey.
The female criminal
A woman who is made to be Lucius's sexual partner in a public event. She was notorious for becoming jealous of her husband's sister, killing her, her husband, her daughter, and the physician and his wife, who provided her with poisons.
The supreme goddess, Lucius pledges himself to her after she delivers him from his imprisonment in the ass's body. Beautiful, just, generous, and powerful, she is worthy of Lucius's devotion.
Lucius's priest who guides him through his initiations into the cult of Isis.
The highest god of all, who welcomes Lucius into his cult at the end of the novel.
A man at Byrrhena's party who tells the story of how as a young man he chose to guard a corpse and ended up having his nose and ears made of wax. His disfigurement makes him a laughingstock, and he is widely mocked and disbelieved.
The Golden Ass Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Golden Ass is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.