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Comparison of Dido and Aeneas

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Aeneas and Dido

Enea e Didone. From Storia della lettertura italiana dalle origini ai giorni nostri. (Torino : Unione Tipografico, 1904)

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Lovelorn Dido, ruler of Carthage, a recently settled city in northern Africa, commits suicide, while the Trojan War refugee she saved from shipwreck, Aeneas, sails the Mediterranean to Italy to establish a new home for his followers and to found the Roman race. At first glance it may seem that there is little to compare Dido with Aeneas beyond their shared amor, and that opposites truly did attract, but with a little thought and close reading you'll probably be able to come up with many similarities. Here are some that come from or are inspired by "Dido Melissa," by John N. Grant, Phoenix, (1969), pp. 380-391, which discusses Vergil's simile of the bees (Melissa is Latin for bee; mel = honey) for the Carthaginians and ants for the followers of Aeneas.
  1. Tradition attributes to both Dido and Aeneas the founding of important ancient nations.
  2. Both Dido and Aeneas are destined to rule. (This isn't meant in any mystical way, but as a statement of what happened or would happen.)
  3. Both Dido and Aeneas are from the royal families in their respective homelands.
  4. Both Dido and Aeneas had to leave home to save their own lives.
    Dido

    The rising city, which from far you see,
    Is Carthage, and a Tyrian colony.
    Phoenician Dido rules the growing state,
    Who fled from Tyre, to shun her brother's hate.

    Vergil Aeneid Book I, Dryden Translation

    Aeneas

    Arms and the man I sing, the first who came, compelled by fate, an exile, to Italy and the Lavinian shore....

  5. They sail from home with a band of loyal followers.
    Dido

    Admonish'd thus, and seiz'd with mortal fright,
    The queen provides companions of her flight:
    They meet, and all combine to leave the state,
    Who hate the tyrant, or who fear his hate.

    Vergil Aeneid Book I, Dryden Translation

    Aeneas

    "Thus having pass'd the night in fruitless pain,
    I to my longing friends return again,
    Amaz'd th' augmented number to behold,
    Of men and matrons mix'd, of young and old;
    A wretched exil'd crew together brought,
    With arms appointed, and with treasure fraught,
    Resolv'd, and willing, under my command,
    To run all hazards both of sea and land.

    Vergil Aeneid Book II, Dryden Translation

  6. They take precious items with symbolic significance with them on their flight. The Phoenicians were tradesmen extraordinaire and wealthy, so Dido took wealth.
    Dido

    They seize a fleet, which ready rigg'd they find;
    Nor is Pygmalion's treasure left behind.
    Vergil Aeneid Book I, Dryden Translation

    The Romans valued their piety, and so Aeneas took the penates gods.

    Aeneas

    Next, you, my servants, heed my strict commands:
    ...
    Our country gods, the relics, and the bands,
    Hold you, my father, in your guiltless hands:
    In me 't is impious holy things to bear....

    Vergil Aeneid Book II, Dryden Translation

    In "Dido, Aeneas, and the Concept of 'Pietas'," (Greece & Rome 1972; pp. 127-135), Kenneth McLeish mentions that although it bothered her, Dido's pietas weakened when she succumbed to love.

  7. Both Dido and Aeneas have been widowed. Dido's brother killed her husband, Sychaeus.
    Dido

    Then strife ensued, and cursed gold the cause.
    The monarch, blinded with desire of wealth,
    With steel invades his brother's life by stealth;
    Before the sacred altar made him bleed,
    And long from her conceal'd the cruel deed.
    Vergil Aeneid Book I, Dryden Translation

    Aeneas' wife Creusa disappeared while they were in transit.

    Aeneas

    Alas! I lost Creusa: hard to tell
    If by her fatal destiny she fell,
    Or weary sate, or wander'd with affright;
    But she was lost for ever to my sight.

    Vergil Aeneid Book II, Dryden Translation

  8. Both Dido and Aeneas encounter the advice-giving ghosts of their former spouses.
    Dido

    At length, in dead of night, the ghost appears
    Of her unhappy lord: the specter stares,
    And, with erected eyes, his bloody bosom bares.
    The cruel altars and his fate he tells,
    And the dire secret of his house reveals,
    Then warns the widow, with her household gods,
    To seek a refuge in remote abodes.
    Last, to support her in so long a way,
    He shows her where his hidden treasure lay.
    Vergil Aeneid Book I, Dryden Translation

    Aeneas

    Then, with ungovern'd madness, I proclaim,
    Thro' all the silent street, Creusa's name:
    Creusa still I call; at length she hears,
    And sudden thro' the shades of night appears-
    Appears, no more Creusa, nor my wife,
    But a pale specter, larger than the life.
    Aghast, astonish'd, and struck dumb with fear,
    I stood; like bristles rose my stiffen'd hair.
    Then thus the ghost began to soothe my grief
    'Nor tears, nor cries, can give the dead relief.
    Desist, my much-lov'd lord,'t indulge your pain;
    You bear no more than what the gods ordain.
    My fates permit me not from hence to fly;
    Nor he, the great controller of the sky.
    Long wand'ring ways for you the pow'rs decree;
    On land hard labors, and a length of sea.
    Then, after many painful years are past,
    On Latium's happy shore you shall be cast,
    Where gentle Tiber from his bed beholds
    The flow'ry meadows, and the feeding folds.
    There end your toils; and there your fates provide
    A quiet kingdom, and a royal bride:
    There fortune shall the Trojan line restore,
    And you for lost Creusa weep no more.

    Vergil Aeneid Book II, Dryden Translation

  9. Both Dido and Aeneas have a patron goddess. Hera/Juno supported Dido and her city of Carthage:

    Dido/Juno

    Against the Tiber's mouth, but far away,
    An ancient town was seated on the sea;
    A Tyrian colony; the people made
    Stout for the war, and studious of their trade:
    Carthage the name; belov'd by Juno more
    Than her own Argos, or the Samian shore.

    Vergil Aeneid Book I, Dryden Translation

    Aphrodite/Venus supported her son Aeneas.

    Aeneas/Venus

    When Venus saw, she with a lowly look,
    Not free from tears, her heav'nly sire bespoke:
    "O King of Gods and Men! whose awful hand
    Disperses thunder on the seas and land,
    Disposing all with absolute command;
    How could my pious son thy pow'r incense?
    Or what, alas! is vanish'd Troy's offense?
    Our hope of Italy not only lost,
    On various seas by various tempests toss'd,
    But shut from ev'ry shore, and barr'd from ev'ry coast.
    You promis'd once, a progeny divine
    Of Romans, rising from the Trojan line,
    In after times should hold the world in awe,
    And to the land and ocean give the law.
    How is your doom revers'd, which eas'd my care
    When Troy was ruin'd in that cruel war?
    Then fates to fates I could oppose; but now,
    When Fortune still pursues her former blow,
    What can I hope? What worse can still succeed?
    What end of labors has your will decreed?
    Antenor, from the midst of Grecian hosts,
    Could pass secure, and pierce th' Illyrian coasts,
    Where, rolling down the steep, Timavus raves
    And thro' nine channels disembogues his waves.
    At length he founded Padua's happy seat,
    And gave his Trojans a secure retreat;
    There fix'd their arms, and there renew'd their name,
    And there in quiet rules, and crown'd with fame.
    But we, descended from your sacred line,
    Entitled to your heav'n and rites divine,
    Are banish'd earth; and, for the wrath of one,
    Remov'd from Latium and the promis'd throne.
    Are these our scepters? these our due rewards?
    And is it thus that Jove his plighted faith regards?"

    Vergil Aeneid Book I, Dryden Translation

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