The Story of Dido and Aeneas Virgil Book IV contents Chapter 1: Dido in love Chapter 2: Interference from above Chapter 3: Marriage in the cave Chapter 4: Rumour spreads the news Chapter 5: The gods intervene – again!


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The Story of Dido and Aeneas

Virgil Book IV


Chapter 1: Dido in love

Chapter 2: Interference from above

Chapter 3: Marriage in the cave

Chapter 4: Rumour spreads the news

Chapter 5: The gods intervene – again!

Chapter 6: The Lovers Meet

Chapter 7: Dido’s solution

Chapter 8: The gods take pity

iamdudum – for a long time now

saucia – wounded

gravi..cura – with a deep concern

vulnus alit venis – feeds the wound with her life’s blood

caecus – blind, hidden

carere – pluck, tear away

recusare – run back, return

gens gentis – race, people

pectus – chest, heart

infixus – planted in

vultus – face, expression
hapter 1 – Dido in Love

at regina gravi iamdudum saucia cura
vulnus alit venis et caeco carpitur igni.
multa viri virtus animo multusque recursat
gentis honos: haerent infixi pectore vultus

verbaque nec placidam membris dat cura quietem. 5

How do we know from lines 1-2 that love is no pleasure for Dido?

Does she want it to stop?

What are the qualities of Aeneas which she tells us appeal to her in lines 3-5?

How does line 5 echo the meaning of line 1?

insomnia – dreams

suspensus – anxious, on edge

sedes – home

quis novus sucessit – what a man is this who has entered…

quem sese ore ferens – what an expression he has!

vana – empty, vain

fides – belief
he confides her feelings to her sister, Anna
'Anna soror, quae me suspensam insomnia terrent! 9

quis novus hic nostris successit sedibus hospes,   


quem sese ore ferens, quam forti pectore et armis!

credo equidem, nec vana fides, genus esse deorum. 12

In line 9, how is she sleeping at night?

In line 11, what is about Aeneas that makes her wobbly at the knees??!!

What, in line 12, does she say she believes about Aeneas?

Dido had previously been married but her husband is now dead. She thinks of his memory and says she would rather go down to the Underworld :

ante…quam – before

pudor – conscience

iura – oaths

resolve =- break

ante, pudor, quam te violo aut tua iura resolvo 27
What does she mean by this?

At the end of her declaration of honour and duty, Virgil writes this line:

effari – to speak

sinus – fold of dress

impleo – to fill

obortus – risen up

Sic effata sinum lacrimis implevit abortis 30
What does this make you think about her declaration???

If you were her sister, Anna, what advice would you give now??

Did you get it right?

Anna advises her to forget her old husband – he’s dead anyway! - and take the opportunity offered by the arrival of Aeneas for love and for the protection of the city. She is filled with love for him.

uror – burn

vagari – to wander

ritur infelix Dido totaque vagatur urbe furens (68)

What words does Virgil use to show the strength of her passion?

Which word makes us think that Virgil feels sorry for her?


nunc media Aenean secum per moenia ducit

moenia – city walls

Sidonias opes – the riches of Sidon ie of Carthage

ostendo – to show

incipio – to begin

resistere – to stop short

Ilicos labores – troubles at Troy

os oris – mouth

Sidoniasque ostentat opes urbemque paratam, 75
incipit effari mediaque in uoce resistit;
nunc eadem labente die conuiuia quaerit,
Iliacosque iterum demens audire labores
exposcit pendetque iterum narrantis ab ore.

How does she try to impress Aeneas in lines 74–75?

What effect does he have on her in line 76?

In line 78 find another Latin word meaning the same as ‘furens

She asks him to continue to tell her the story of his Trojan adventures – can you work out which line means the equivalent in English of ‘she hangs on his every word’?
(Dido)illum absens absentem audit videtque 83
If you were Aeneas how would you react to all this?


turris – tower

coeptae – begun

iuventus – youth, young men

portus – harbour

propugnaculua – ramparts

bello tuta – to give safety in war

opera – work

pendent – hang

But ……..what is the effect on the city of Carthage while their queen enjoys being in love?

non coeptae adsurgunt turres, non arma iuuentus

exercet portusve aut propugnacula bello

tuta parant: / pendent opera interrupta

Chapter 2 – Interference from above

Juno and Venus - the mother of Aeneas – hatch a plot.

When Juno saw that Dido was mad with love for Aeneas and was quite beyond caring for her reputation, the Queen of the gods approached Venus.

‘Well, you’ve done a good job there making a helpless woman fall in love. I know you don’t want Carthage to become powerful but it wouldn’t it be better for us to make peace rather than fight? You’ve got what you wanted – Dido is madly in love so why don’t we unite and arrange a marriage between them ? Dido will have a Trojan husband and you will have power over Carthage also through their wedding.’

Venus was not fooled by this talk and knew that Juno was simply trying to stop Rome being founded in Italy but to be founded in Africa instead. However she replied peacefully:

It is indeed ridiculous for us to fight but you had better ask your husband, Juppiter, whether he wants them to join in one city.

Queen Juno replied:

‘Fine – that is a problem for the future but for now, let us go ahead. Aeneas and his unfortunate queen intend to go hunting in the woods tomorrow as soon as the sun has risen and covered the world with its rays. On these two, I will pour down a dark rain-storm and hail with thunder that will fill the sky. The rest of the hunt will all disperse but Dido and Aeneas will find their way to the same cave. They will meet there and I, as the goddess of marriage, shall join them together.’

And Venus agreed to her plan.

Who has the best interests of Dido and Aeneas at heart in this plan?

miscere – mix, throw into turmoil

caelum – heaven

grando – hail

nimbus – rain

Tyrii – Dido’s countrymen

tecta – shelter, houses

petiere – make for

amnes – rivers

mons, montis – mountain
hapter 3 – Marriage in the Cave

Interea magno misceri murmure caelum 160
incipit, insequitur commixta grandine nimbus,
et Tyrii comites passim et Troiana iuventus
Dardaniusque nepos Veneris diversa per agros
tecta metu petiere; ruunt de montibus amnes.
Virgil gives 3 ways in which nature shows that this is a terrible and chaotic moment – what are they?

Where do all the Trojans and countrymen of Dido go?


spelunca – cave

eadem – the same

prima Tellus – primeval Earth

pronuba – brides’s sponsor

conscius – witness

fulsere – shine flash

aether – heaven

conubium – marriage

ululare – to howl

vertice – from the high point

speluncam Dido dux et Troianus eandem 165
deveniunt. prima et Tellus et pronuba Iuno
dant signum; fulsere ignes et conscius aether

conubiis summoque ulularunt vertice Nymphae.

Where do Dido and Aeneas go?

Find all the parodies of a proper wedding – bridesmaids, witnesses, light, singers etc.

dies – day

letum – death doom

malum – trouble, evil

species – outward appearance, show

fama – reputation

ille dies primus leti primusque malorum
causa fuit; neque enim specie famave movetur 170
Instead of a day of happiness, how does Virgil describe it?


mediator – to think, consider

coniugium – marriage

hoc…nomine – by this name

praetegere – to conceal, hide

culpa – blame, fault, wrong, sin
ido has ‘come out’ – what no longer concerns her?
nec iam furtivum Dido meditatur amorem:
coniugium vocat, hoc praetexit nomine culpam.
Translate these two lines above – does Virgil blame Dido or does he want to arouse sympathy for her?

Be prepared to justify your opinion!!

Chapter 4 Rumour spreads the news.

Virgil describes Rumour as
‘The swiftest traveller of all the ills on Earth

Thriving on movement, gathering strength as it goes; at the start

A small cowardly thing, it soon puffs itself up….’

Here is the version which the goddess Rumour spread around Carthage:

Rumour was now regaling the people with various scandal

In great glee, announcing fact and fiction indiscriminately:

Item: Aeneas has come here, a prince of Trojan blood

And the beautiful Dido deigns to have her name linked to his:

The couple are spending the winter in debauchery, the whole long

Winter, forgetting their kingdoms, rapt in a trance of lust.

Imagine your group are the reporters and interviewers for a slot on the 10 o’clock news when this story is being reported.

How will you present the story – as a romantic one, as a scandal, as society gossip?? How do you think the followers of Dido will be reacting? What will the followers of Aeneas be thinking? How many people will be glad or angry??

Be prepared to act out your news bulletin to the other group.

Roman Mosaic of Dido and Aeneas out hunting

Chapter 5 The gods intervene – again!

Mercury brings a message from Juppiter to Aeneas who is now richly dressed in purple, more like a king of Carthage than a Trojan refugee.

struo – build

otia terere – waste time

surgo – grow up

Ascanius (also called Iulus) – son of Aeneas and his heir

respicio – consider

cui – to whom

tellus – land

quid struis, aut qua spe Libycis teris otia terris?

si te nulla movet tantarum gloria rerum,

Ascanium surgentem et spes heredis Iuli 275

respice, cui regnum Italiae Romanaque tellus debetur.”

Line 273-What is Aeneas doing wrong?

275-6 – What should be his main concerns?


The effect on Aeneas is electric!! Translate the next two lines to find out more….

obmutescere – be struck dumb

amens – stupefied

arrectae – stood on end

coma – hair

fauces pl – throat

haereo – to stick

at vero Aeneas aspectu obmutuit amens 280

arrectaeque horrore comae, et vox faucibus haesit.


ardeo – to burn with longing

dulcis – sweet, dearly loved

monitus – warning

imperium – command

ago – to do

ambire – approach

adfatus – speech, words

audio – to dare

ardet abire fuga dulcisque relinquere terras,

attonitus tanto monitu imperioque deorum.

heu quid agat? quo nunc reginam ambire furentem

audeat adfatu?

What does he want to do?

Which lands do you think are meant by ‘dulcis terras’? Why are they ‘dulcis’?

BUT – what is the problem???? How is the queen described???

He calls his men to him and tells them to (secretly) begin preparations for leaving Carthage while he tries to think of a good way to tell Dido. Unfortunately for him, Dido finds out before he speaks to her, for Rumour again takes a hand in the story.
Dido’s own instincts also tell her something is wrong. As Virgil says: quis fallere possit amantem (for who can deceive a lover?)

Guess her reaction! Translate the lines below!
saevio – to rage

inops animi – at her wits’ end

bacchari – to rave, go mad like a follower possessed by the god Bacchus
aevit inops animi, totamque incensa per urbem 300


Do you consider her behaviour unreasonable?

Would a Roman male agree with you?

Chapter The Lovers Meet

If you were Aeneas what would you say to Dido?

If you were Dido what would you say to Aeneas?

Prepare to act out the meeting between the two lovers. Work together on their speeches and then elect two members of your group to act out the scene.

think about whether your speech would be angry, persuasive, begging, full of love?

how much she loves him

how much she has helped him

what condition he was in when he arrived

how he has been dressed recently

what hopes she had

and any more ideas you can think of.

think aboutwhether your speech would be firm, pleading, making excuses, blaming her, blaming himself, blaming the gods, full of love?

how much you think he loves her

his traumatic escape from Troy and his recent sufferings

his mission to found Rome

the interference of the gods – Mercury, Juno and Venus

the position she can offer him here in Carthage as her consort

and any more ideas you can think of.

Dido actually says: (305 ff paraphrased)

Did you really think, faithless one, you could hide so great a wrong and sneak quietly away from my lands? Does our love, our right hands joined in marriage and the fact that Dido will die a cruel death have no effect on you? Are you really going to sail in the bad weather – are you that desperate to go? I beg you with tears and by our shared mariage, our time together, if I have ever deserved well of you, if I have ever meant anything to you, change your mind. I put my country at risk, I compromised my honour for you. If only I had had a baby which would remind me of you then I would have had some small reminder of you.

Aeneas (struggling and mindful of the gods’ commands) actually says: (330 ff paraphrased)

I will never deny all those things you have said and that you deserve well of me. I will never regret, as long as I live, the time I spent with you. Just listen for a while. I was not intending just to sneak away and I never pretended that we were married. If the gods were to grant me my wish, my first prority would be re-found Troy. Now a message has come from the gods telling me that must happen in Italy – there lies my love and my (new) native land. You know how much your land here means to you so surely you can understand this. I have to go. Don’t torture both of us with your laments.

He finishes with one of the most famous lines of the whole poem:

Italiam non sponte sequor sponte – of my own accord

How do you rate his speech?


I – imperataive from the verb to go

ventis – winds

pia numina – gods who reward piety

supplicia – punishment

hausurum – drink in

scopulis – rocks

ido is not convinced and finally curses him:

i, sequere Italiam uentis, pete regna per undas.

spero equidem mediis, si quid pia numina possunt,

supplicia hausurum scopulis et nomine Dido

saepe uocaturum.

What does she tell him to do? What does she wish may happen to him? What will he do when it happens?

These are her final words….

ater – black

frigida – cold

seduxerit – separate

artus – limbs

anima – from my mind

umbra – shadow/ghost

poenas do – to pay the penalty

improbus – wicked, vile

Manes – the Shades /Underworld

Imus – deepest

sequar atris ignibus absens

et, cum frigida mors anima seduxerit artus,

omnibus umbra locis adero. dabis, improbe, poenas.

audiam et haec Manis ueniet mihi fama sub imos.

Aeneas – multa gemens - groaning greatly – tries to console her but still he must follow the commands of the gods and continues preparing the fleet ready to sail.
Once more Dido uses her sister Anna, sending her to Aeneas to ask him to stay but:
Unmoved by tearful entreaties he was, adamant against all

Pleadings. Fate blocked them, heaven stopped his ears to make sure

He did not give in’.

Does he have any option??

Chapter 7 Dido’s solution:

I have found a way, Anna, o wish me joy of it

To get him back or else get free of my love for him…’

How might she ‘get free’?

She decides there is only one solution and asks Anna to build a funeral pyre in the courtyard and put on it anything to do with Aeneas – his sword, and an effigy of him, even their marriage bed. Anna thinks Dido is planning to ritually burn all memories of Aeneas.

Meanwhile the gods realise the danger and yet again Mercury delivers to Aeneas the message that he must go without delay.


litus – shore

fluctus – wave

imprecor – I pray

nepotes – descendants

pugno – to fight

ido’s final thoughts reveal no love for Aeneas and as she prepares to die she wishes eternal war and enmity between the peoples of Carthage and of Rome; translate these two lines to find her curse:

litora litoribus contraria, fluctibus undas

imprecor, arma armis: pugnent ipsique nepotesque

From her bones, will arise an avenger who will harass the Roman race. (What nationality was Hannibal ????????). She wishes that Aeneas had never arrived on the shores of Africa.

aspicio – see

conllapsa – collapse

comites – companions

ensis – sword

cruor – blood

spumo – spurt

concussa – stricken

gemitus – groans

uluatus howling

fremo – howl, shake, resound

tecta – rooftops
She is discovered by her companions:

conlapsam aspiciunt comites, ensemque cruore

spumantem sparsasque manus. it clamor ad alta

atria: concussam bacchatur Fama per urbem.

lamentis gemituque et femineo ululatu

tecta fremunt, resonat magnis plangoribus aether

How much pity do you feel for Dido when you read this account of her suffering?

What is the effect on the city and why does Virgil stress this?

Chapter 8: The gods take pity:

attollere – to raise

cubitus – elbow

adnexa – having leant

levo – to raise up

revolve – roll back

errans – wandering

torus – couch

reperio – to find

ingemuit – she groaned
er sese attollens cubitoque adnixa levavit,

ter revoluta toro est oculisque errantibus alto

quaesiuit caelo lucem ingemuitque reperta.

How often does she try to raise herself?

Do you think she now regrets her action?

Juno takes pity on Dido and sends down from Olympus the goddess Iris, whose job it was to escort the dead to the Underworld. Passage to the Underworld was confirmed by the cutting of a lock of hair from the dead person – usually this was performed by the friends or relatives but this will not apply to Dido. Since she is dying nec fato nec merito morte’, (neither due to fate nor by a death deserved). Iris will perform this rite instead.

ergo Iris croceis per caelum roscida pennis

And so Iris, with dew on her golden wings

mille trahens uarios aduerso sole colores

trailing a thousand different colours against the sunlight

deuolat et supra caput astitit. "hunc ego Diti

flew down and stopped above her head; I , to Dis

sacrum iussa fero teque isto corpore solvo":

bring this sacred lock of hair, as ordered , and I release you from that body of yours.

sic ait et dextra crinem secat, omnis et una

So Iris spoke and cut the hair with her right hand, and at the same time

dilapsus calor atque in uentos uita recessit.

All Dido’s body heat slipped away and her life passed into the breezes.

How does Virgil make the final moments of Dido seem beautiful?


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