The Tragic and Powerful Myth of Queen Dido

Lindsay Werner (’25) explores the powerful and passionate language used by Dido as she confronts her faithless lover Aeneas in Book 4 of Vergil’s Aeneid.

Classical city under construction along the banks of a river.
“Dido building Carthage, or The Rise of the Carthaginian Empire,” Joseph Mallord William Turner (1815). National Gallery, London.

Vergil, Aeneid 4.365–370, 373-376, 382-387, translated by Lindsay Werner:

You do not have a goddess as your parent, nor is Dardanus the founder of your line, treacherous man; but the Caucasus teeming with hard crags produced you and the Hyrcanean tigresses moved their breasts towards you. For why do I pretend, or what greater things do I hold myself back for? He has not groaned with (respect for) my weeping, has he? He has not turned his eyes, has he? He hasn’t cried tears having been won over, or pitied his lover, has he?

Trust is safe nowhere. Having been expelled onto the shore, I received the needy man, and I placed him in a part of my kingdom insanely; I brought back (his) lost fleet, I brought back the comrades from death. Oh inflamed I am being carried by frenzy!

Indeed I hope that, if the pious gods have any power, he will drain the cup of punishments in the middle of the rocks, and that he will often call out Dido by name. Being away I will follow with black fires, and, when cold death has severed my limbs from my soul, my ghost will be present in all places. You will pay the price, wicked man. I will hear and this rumor will come to me under the deepest shades (the underworld).

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