AENEAS AND DIDO
BY V. C. TURNBULL
Hardly less renowned than the wanderings of
crafty Ulysses, after the fall of Troy, are those
of pious Æneas, the Trojan. Many were his adventures
and heavy his losses, for he was pursued evermore by
the hatred of Juno, who detested all Trojans, and but
for the protecting care of his mother Venus he must
On the Sicilian shore he had lost his aged father,
Anchises, and Æneas mourned his good old sire, whom
he had carried on his shoulders from burning Troy.
Thence he set sail with his son Iulus to Italy. But
when they had put forth to sea, Juno smote them with a
terrible storm, so that Æneas lost all but seven ships of
his fleet and not a few of his comrades perished. He
himself, with his son Iulus and his friend Achates, was
driven out of his course and carried to the shores of
Libya. Here the Trojans disembarked and thankfully
rested their brine-drenched limbs on the beach. And
when they had feasted off the grain brought from their
ships, and the venison procured for them by their captain's
bow, Æneas, taking with him only Achates, set
forth to survey this unexplored country.
On their way through a forest they met a fair maid
in the garb of a huntress, and of her they inquired what
land this might be and who dwelt therein. She told them
they had come to the land and city of Carthage, over
which ruled the Tyrian Queen Dido. She told them,
moreover, that the Queen had once ruled in Tyre, the
consort of Sichæus, a Phœnician prince, and that when
her lord had been murdered by his cruel brother Pygmalion,
she had fled to Libya, where even now she was
rearing the stately city of Carthage. And she bade them
seek the Queen and throw themselves on her protection.
Æneas had gazed in wonder and admiration at the
maiden, deeming her some nymph of Dian's train, and
he was about, on bended knee, to give her thanks when
she turned on him a parting glance. And lo! the goddess
stood revealed, radiant in celestial beauty; and as he
recognized his mother, she had vanished from his sight.
Cheered by this vision, Æneas and Achates pressed forward,
and, that none might molest them, Venus wrapped
them in a thick mist. Emerging from the forest they
climbed a hill overlooking the city of Carthage, where
skilled workmen were on all sides busied rearing stately
buildings. In the midst of the city, with a flight of marble
stairs and surrounded by a grove of trees, stood a
temple to Juno, its gates of brass glittering in the morning
sun. And Æneas, drawing near, marveled to find
the walls of this temple painted with pictures of the
Trojan War—aye, and himself he saw portrayed fighting
against the Grecian leaders.
Whilst Æneas and Achates were still gazing, Queen
Dido drew near with a great retinue of maidens and
youths. She seated herself on a throne under the dome
of the temple, for here it was her custom to deal justice
and apportion work to her subjects, urging forward with
cheerful words the building of her city. Among the
first to appear before the Queen, Æneas and Achates
saw with astonishment certain of their own friends—Ilioneus,
Antheus, Sergestus, and Cloanthus, whom they
had supposed to have been drowned in the storm. These,
coming before Dido, told her of their sufferings and entreated
her protection in that strange country.
"We had for our king Æneas," said Ilioneus, the
spokesman, "than whom none was more pious and brave.
If he yet lives we shall not despair, neither shalt thou,
O Queen, repent thee of thy hospitality."
Queen Dido answered the Trojans graciously, promising
them all they asked and more.
"And would," she added, "that your prince Æneas
too were here! But my messengers shall search the
Libyan coasts, and if he has been cast ashore he shall
Even as she spoke, the mist that hid Æneas and
Achates suddenly parted, and Æneas stood forth in the
bright light like a god; and, joyfully embracing his
friends, poured out his gratitude to Dido.
The voice of the Queen was even gentler than before
as she replied: "I too have been tossed by fortune on the
high seas; I too came to these shores a stranger. What
sorrow was myself have known, and learnt to melt at
Then Dido bade Æneas and Achates to a feast in her
palace, and to their followers on the shore she sent bulls,
lambs, and wine to provide a banquet. Æneas also
despatched Achates to the beach to bring therefrom
the young Iulus, and with him presents for the Queen—a
mantle stiff with gold, a scepter, a necklace of pearls,
and a crown set with double rows of gems and gold.
The gifts made and his son embraced, Æneas was led
into the great hall of the palace, where the guests reclined
on purple couches. In the midst Queen Dido
reclined on a golden couch under a rich canopy, and
beside her lay the boy Iulus. So they feasted and were
merry, and after the banquet Dido pledged her guest in
a loving cup and invited him to tell her all that had befallen
him since the fall of Troy.
And he told her the long tale of his perils by land
and sea, and of the shipwreck which had landed him
upon the hospitable shores of Carthage.
And, as Queen Dido listened, the memory of her dead
husband Sichæus was no longer first in her thoughts, for
a great love sprang up for this princely stranger who
had endured so much and had followed his star, true to
his country and his country's gods. Far into the night
the Queen sat listening to the tale, and in the night
watches the image of the hero haunted her fevered sleep.
At the first dawn she sought her sister Anna, and poured
into sympathetic ears the trouble of her heart, confessing
with shame her fears lest she should prove faithless
to the memory of her dead lord.
But Anna bade her mourn no more for the unheeding
dead, wasting her youth and beauty.
"Surely," said she, "it was Juno who sent the Trojans
to this shore. Think, sister, how your city will flourish,
how your kingdom will wax great from such an alliance!
How will the Carthaginian glory be advanced by Trojan
That day she invited her guest to view all the wonders
of Carthage. She showed him her rising quays and
forts, her palace and its treasures; but even as they conversed
her voice would falter, and her silence and
blushes were tell-tales and betrayed her growing love.
When the evening feast was ended she asked again to
hear the tale of Troy, and hung again on his lips.
For the next day, to divert her guest, the Queen
ordered a great hunt, and an army of beaters was sent to
scour the hills and drive in the game. At dawn a gallant
company—all the proud lords of Carthage and the
comrades of Æneas—gathered at the palace gates and
waited for the Queen. At length she descended from
her chamber, robed in gold and purple, and the long
cavalcade rode forth headed by Dido and Æneas. When
they reached the hills they scattered far and wide in the
ardor of the chase, and the royal pair found themselves
alone. On a sudden the heavens were darkened and the
rain descended in torrents, and Dido and Æneas betook
themselves for shelter to a mountain cave. Thus had
Juno planned it, for she hated the Trojans and would
have kept Æneas in Carthage. There, in the dark cavern,
the Trojan plighted his troth to the Carthaginian Queen.
That day the tide of death set in. The heavens thundered
and the mountain nymphs wailed over their bridal.
But the triumph of Juno was short-lived, for Jupiter,
from his throne on Olympus, beheld the founder of the
Roman race forgetful of his destiny and sunk in soft
dalliance. He called to him his son Mercury, and bade
him bind on his winged sandals, and bear to Carthage
this stern reproof: "Shame on thee, degenerate hero,
false to thy mother and thy son, thus sunk in luxury and
ease! Set sail and leave this fatal shore."
The heart of the hero, when he heard this message,
was torn in twain. How could he disobey the voice of
the god? How could he bring himself to desert the
Queen whose heart he had won, and break his troth?
But what were the closest of human ties when the
god had spoken? So he called to him his comrades and
bade them in secret make ready the ships for departure.
But lovers' ears are keen, and rumors of the preparation
reached the Queen in her palace. She raved
like a madwoman, and called down curses on the perjured
traitor. Grown calmer, she sought Æneas and,
with mingled reproaches and appeals to his pity, besought
him at least to delay his departure. The lover's
heart was touched, but the hero was unmoved; and with
the gentlest words he could frame, he told the Queen
that he had no choice but to follow his weird as Heaven
ordained. He could never forget her lovingkindness,
and would cherish her memory to his dying day.
Then the Queen knew that she was betrayed, and
flatteries and soft words served but to rekindle her rage.
She bade the perjured wretch begone; she cursed his
false gods and their lying message, and swore that she
would pursue him with black flames, and that after
death her ghost would haunt him in every place. This
said, she turned and left him, and he saw her nevermore.
Æneas would fain have stayed to calm her grief and
soothe her rage, but duty bade him go, and he urged on
his men to equip the fleet for departure. They, nothing
loath, set to, and the harbor was like an ant-hill, with the
sailors shaping new oars and loading the beached vessels.
Soon the black keels rode the waters all along the shore.
Dido, perceiving this from her tower, sent her sister Anna
with a last message imploring Æneas yet a little to
delay. But Æneas, steadfast as a rock, turned to her a
deaf ear, and into the heart of the unhappy Dido came
despair and thoughts of death.
To death, indeed, dark omens turned her mind. For
when she offered sacrifice, the wine which she poured
upon the smoking incense turned to blood; and at night,
when kneeling before the shrine of her dead husband, she
heard his voice bidding her arise and come to him.
So the Queen, interpreting these dark signs as her
sick heart dictated, made ready to die.
Calling her sister Anna, she declared that she would
now make use of a magic charm given to her by a
priestess to bring back faithless lovers or make the love-sick
whole. To work this spell it was necessary to collect
and burn all tokens of the light of love.
"Do you, therefore," said Dido to Anna, "gather together
the arms and garments which Æneas in his haste
to be gone has left behind him, and lay these upon a
vast funeral pile, which I beseech you to erect secretly in
the inner court of the palace, under the open sky."
As she spoke, a deadly pallor overspread the face of
Dido. But her sister Anna, suspecting nothing, made
haste to obey the Queen. The great pile was quickly
erected, with torches and fagots of oak, and crowned with
funeral boughs. On it were placed the weapons and
raiment of Æneas, while the Queen offered sacrifices, and
herbs cut by moonlight with brazen sickles.
Next morning, before daybreak, Æneas called upon
his comrades to set sail. With his own sword he cut the
hawsers, and his men, pushing off, smote the sounding
waves with their oars, and the wind filling their unfurled
sails, they swept out into the open sea as the sun rose
over the waters.
From the tower of her palace Queen Dido saw them
depart. And lifting up her voice she laid a curse upon
them, prophesying that for ages to come dire enmity
should rage between the race of Æneas and the Carthaginian
Then, very pale, she entered the inner court and
mounted the funeral pile. A little while she paused,
musing and shedding her last tears.
Anon she spoke, and bade farewell to the light of the
sun: "I have lived my life; I have finished the course
ordained to me by Fate. I have raised a glorious city.
I descend illustrious to the shades below."
She paused, and her voice fell to a low wail as she
added: "Happy, ah, too happy, my lot had the Trojan
ships never touched my shores!"
Then, unsheathing the sword, she plunged it into her
bosom and fell down upon the pyre.
Her handmaidens, seeing her fall, rent the air with
their cries. And Anna, rushing in, raised her dying sister
in her arms, striving in vain to stanch the flowing blood,
and crying with tears: "Oh, sister, was it for this that
you bade me raise the pyre? Ah, would that you had let
me be your companion in death!"
But the last words of Dido, Queen of Carthage, had
Far out at sea, Æneas saw a great smoke rising from
Carthage, as it were from a funeral pyre. And a sore
pang smote him, and bitterly he divined what had passed.
But he held upon his destined way, nor looked he back
again, but turned his eyes towards the promised land