Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dido, Queen of Carthage

Here is Dido, Queen of Carthage; in her hand, the sword of her lover, Aeneas.  I first heard of Dido when I read the Aenead years ago.  She was the queen who died for love, when Aeneas, a wandering survivor of the battle of Troy, deserted her.  My professor said, 'Aeneas had to found Rome, a duty greater than love.'  

I hadn't known anything about Dido's life before she met Aeneas.  It turns out she had had marvelous adventures and founded a great kingdom herself.  She had lived in Tyre with her royal husband.  After his murder, he appeared to her as a ghost and told her where his fortune was hidden.  Escaping with the great hoard of gold, Dido founded Carthage.  It was an unlucky day when Aeneas came ashore.  Though he might have become her consort, he sailed away. It is said that Dido climbed a funeral pyre and killed herself with Aeneas's sword.  Did he see the smoke from her burning body as he sailed away?

What if he had never left her?  Someone else might have founded Rome, but let's imagine otherwise.  Let's imagine there had never been a Rome, no crucifixions, no Roman roads, no gladiators.  The Etruscans would have continued to flourish.  I would miss the great poetry of Horace and an espresso with a crema.


 Sure, I'm being flip, but why can't love triumph as it does here in Veronese's painting?  If you embiggen, you might see pale drops of milk spurting from Venus's  breast. 


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