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Dido - Queen of Carthage




Definition: Dido is known best as the queen of Carthage who died for love of Aeneas, according to the Aeneid of Vergil (Virgil).

Dido was the daughter of the king of the Phoenician city-state of Tyre. The legend tells us that when the king died, Dido's brother, Pygmalion, killed Dido's wealthy husband, Sychaeus. Then the ghost of Sychaeus revealed to Dido what had happened to him. He also told Dido where he had hidden his treasure. Dido, knowing how dangerous Tyre was with her brother still alive, took the treasure, fled, and wound up in Carthage, in modern Tunisia. Dido bartered with the locals, offering a substantial amount of wealth in exchange for what she could contain within the skin of a bull. When they agreed to what seemed an exchange greatly to their advantage, Dido showed how clever she really was. She cut the hide into strips and laid it out in a semi-circle with the sea forming the other side. Dido then ruled Carthage as queen. The Trojan prince Aeneas met Dido on his way from Troy to Lavinium. When he left her to fulfill his destiny, Dido was devastated and committed suicide. Aeneas saw her again, in the Underworld in Book VI of the Aeneid.

Also Known As: Elissa
Dido of Carthage is known for cutting up the oxhide (bursa) to surround the territory that would become Carthage and for her dramatic suicide when Aeneas abandoned her.
facti de nomine Byrsam,
taurino quantum possent circumdare tergo.

Byrsa they called it therefrom - as much as they could encompass by a bull's hide,
Book I. 367-8; Translation from Virgil. Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid, translated by Fairclough, H R. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 63 & 64. 1916.

The singer Dido is named for the legendary queen of Carthage, at least according to Wikipedia.

Dido's brother is named Pygmalion, but this is not the one whose name is associated with the Broadway musical "My Fair Lady." That Pygmalion was a sculptor, not a murderous usurper.

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