Venus and Juno provoke Dido's love for Aeneas....
Venus and Juno provoke Dido’s love for Aeneas. Painted Limoges enamel plaque, ca. 1530. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Aeneas is a Trojan hero and son of Anchises and Aphrodite. He’s usually described as the first true hero of Rome.

In Homer‘s Illiad Poseidon prophesizes that Aenas and his descendants will rule the Trojans. Other writers portray Aeneas as the founder of several Greek centers, such as Delos and Crete. Aeneas has also been described as the founder of Lavinium and the head of the Latin League.

The Roman poet Vergil in his Aeneid furthers Homer’s emphasis on Aeneas’ piety by representing him, in keeping with fashionable Roman ideals, as a symbol of filial, societal and spiritual devotion—i.e. devotion to parents, to the glory of Rome and its deities.

Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas draws from the Fourth Book of the Aeneid, dramatizing the aborted marriage of Queen Dido of Carthage and prince Aeneas. A sorceress had convinced Aeneas that Jove (Jupiter) expected him to leave Carthage. The stricken Dido’s sorrowful When I am laid in earth reminds us of the price we might have to pay for listening to dark sorcerers instead of trusting in God and our own good judgment. Wikipedia outlines the story upon which Purcell’s opera is based:

English: "Dido & Aeneas" (2005) Deut...
English: “Dido & Aeneas” (2005) Deutsch: “Dido & Aeneas” (2005) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Aeneas had a year-long affair with the Carthaginian queen Dido (also known as Alyssa), who proposed that the Trojans settle in her land and that she and Aeneas reign jointly over their peoples. A marriage of sorts is arranged between Dido and Aeneas at the instigation of Juno, who was told of the fact that her favorite city would eventually be defeated by the Trojans’ descendants, and Aeneas’s mother Venus (the Roman adaptation of Aphrodite), realizes that her son and his company need a temporary reprieve to reinforce themselves for the journey to come. However, the messenger god Mercury was sent by Jupiter and Venus to remind Aeneas of his journey and his purpose, compelling him to leave secretly. When Dido learned of this, she uttered a curse that would forever pit Carthage against Rome, an enmity that would culminate in the Punic Wars. She then committed suicide by stabbing herself with the same sword she gave Aeneas when they first met.¹



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