September 01, 2023

#08-341: Dido and Aeneas

Dido and Aeneas in a Roman fresco (Wikipedia)

Note: Love and war--two of the great themes of literature merge in this moving story from Virgil's Aeneid.

Get Ready: Can so serious an event as a war result from something as simple as a jilted love?

One of the most tragic love stories of antiquity is recorded in Virgil's epic, The Aeneid. The story tells of the sailing of Aeneas, a Trojan survivor of the fall of Troy. He was on his way to settling in Italy (which led to the founding of Rome) at the behest of the gods.

Like Odysseus in Homer's great epic The Odyssey, Aeneas wanders; like the Greeks and Trojans in Homer's earlier great epic, The Iliad, he fights a valiant battle, to establish the city of Alba Longa. That city was not far from what later became Rome, which was founded by the mythical Aeneas's mythical descendant Romulus. Virgil, then, is claiming that the Romans are the successors of the heroes of Troy.

But on his voyage, Aeneas is nearly waylaid by a great woman: Dido, Founder and First Queen of Carthage, on the north coast of Africa in what is now Tunisia. The tragedy of their romance offers a sort of retroactive explanation for the series of three "Punic Wars" between Rome and Carthage, which took place (with two breaks) between 264 and 146 BCE. (The First, Second, and Third Punic Wars took place 264-241, 218-201, and 149-146, all BCE.) Virgil wrote over a century later, between 30 and 19 BCE.

When Aeneas's fleet gets separated in a storm, he lands on the coast of Africa, where Carthage is still under construction by the recently widowed Dido. Remembering her own suffering in fleeing her home country after her husband's death (at the hands of her brother, who usurped the throne), she greets Aeneas with kind hospitality. Through the intervention of Aeneas's mother--Venus, the Goddess of Love--the two are stranded in a cave on a hunting expedition, fall in love, and declare their marriage.

But Jupiter, King of the Gods, sends the messenger god Mercury to remind Aeneas of his mission, and that he must resume his voyage.

When he parts from Dido, she is enraged. In an act of vengeful sorrow, she stabs herself on a funeral pyre as the Trojan ships sail away. Aeneas can see the smoke from the pyre and, though he doesn't know its cause, is filled with foreboding. Her final curses on the Trojans are taken by Virgil as a foreshadowing of the Punic Wars.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. antiquity
  2. behest
  3. foreboding
  4. foreshadowing
  5. hospitality
  6. pyre
  7. retroactive
  8. usurped
  9. vengeful
  10. waylaid
  1. having an effect on the past
  2. taken off-course; distracted
  3. seized power illegally
  4. vindictive; seeking revenge
  5. indicating something will happen in the future
  6. a pile of wood for burning a body
  7. a sense of future misfortune
  8. the kind treatment of guests or strangers
  9. a command; a strongly-worded request
  10. the "old days"

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for September 1, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. j; 2. i; 3. g; 4. e; 5. h; 6. f; 7. a; 8. c; 9. d; 10. b