When it comes to Greek mythology, most of us know all the major players. There are the gods and goddesses, heroes, monsters, and other popular figures. However, there are some that aren’t as well known, but that still played an important role. Dido, Queen of Ancient Carthage is one such figure. Here’s what you should know about Dido, the queen who is said to have died for love.
Get to Know Dido
Dido, also known as Elissa or Alyssa, was the founder and first queen of Carthage. Carthage was a Phoenician city-state located in what is now Tunisia. The name Dido may come from the same root as David, which means “beloved.” Another theory is that the name Dido means “the wanderer.”
Dido’s father was the Tyrian King Mutto, also known as Agenor or Belus. Dido’s brother was Pygmalion, who would succeed the throne after their father died. Dido married Acerbas, also known by Sychaeus, a priest of Hercules. He was a very wealthy man who Pygmalion was jealous of and would murder for this reason.
The date of the founding of Carthage and the founding of Rome are given various dates by ancient historians. There is no archaeological evidence at the site of Carthage that dates prior to the last quarter of the 8th century BC.
The earliest known writing about Dido was by the Greek historian by the name of Timaeus of Taormina.Unfortunately, his writings have not survived, but his work was referenced later by other writers. Timaeus wrote that Dido founded Carthage around 814 – 812 BC.
Dido and Aeneas
In the “Aeneid,” an epic poem written by Virgil, it is written that the Trojan Prince Aeneas met Dido as he made his way to Lavinium from Troy. He came upon a city that was under construction and there he fell in love with and attempted to win the heart of Dido who did not like him until she was struck with Cupid’s arrow. When Prince Aeneas left to fulfill his destiny, Dido was so heartbroken that she committed suicide. Aeneas would see her again, this time in the Underworld in the “Aeneid.”
Another version of Dido’s reason for suicide was that she would have rather died than to marry a king from a neighboring city. In this version, Aeneas was not involved at all.
In the Roman tradition of the story of Dido and Aeneas, Letter 7 of “Heroides,” written by Ovid, is a feigned letter from her to him written before she ascends the pyre. In this version, the sequel focuses on Dido’s sister Anna and Aeneas.
Tradition of Dido
In the Divine Comedy, Dido is condemned to be blasted in Hell for eternity for her consuming lust. That particular legend was the inspiration for Christopher Marlowe’s drama titled Dido, Queen of Carthage.
The story of Dido and Aeneas continued to be popular through the post-Renaissance era and throughout history. Some of the operas that were inspired by Dido include: La Didone by Francesco Cavalli (1641); Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell (1689); Didone abbandonata by Leonardo Vinci (1726); Didon by Niccolo Piccinni (1770); Les Troyens by Hector Berlioz (1860); and Aeneas and Dido by James Rolfe (2007) to name a few.
This post was written by Greek Boston