Dido was a princess in the city of Tyre, off the coast of modern day Lebanon. Dido had a brother whose name was Pygmalion. She was married to Sychaeus, who was a nobleman of Tyre. When her father King Belus died, he decided to split the kingdom evenly between Dido and Pygmalion. When Pygmalion heard this, he decided to kill Sychaeus in secret. Dido was told in a dream, by her dead husband, that she must escape Tyre before Pygmalion could kill her as well. She quickly gathered her husband’s riches, a few crew members, one of the boats in the marina and left. She sailed for a while until she arrived at the tip of modern day Algeria. There she met a local ruler named Iarbus. She wanted to buy some land to start a city, but he refused, so Dido came up with a clever plan. She requested to purchase, for a fair amount of money, as much land as she could cover with a cow’s hide. Iarbus, thinking of the money, agreed. Dido took the cow’s hide and cut it into small strips which she laid out in a semi-circle around the coast, where Dido founded Carthage and became Queen.
In The Aeneid, Virgil tells us how the hero Aeneas, and his men, flee from the ashes of Troy and are shipwrecked on the shores of Carthage. Queen Dido takes them in and Listens to their heartbreaking story of trials. Eventually, prompted by the gods Juno and Venus, Aeneas and Dido fall in love. However, Aeneas is called away to Italy by fate and the gods and says he can not stay. He leaves Dido heartbroken where she commits suicide in sorrow.
Many Literary analysts see Dido as a distraction or digression from the hero’s main quest. This “distraction character” is shown to be in many other stories as well. In the Odyssey, the sea nymph Calypso kept Odysseus with her distracting him from returning home. Medea was Jason’s love distraction in the tale of The Argonautica. These characters can be viewed either positively or negatively. In a positive way, Dido can be seen as a good opportunity. A way for Aeneas to settle down into a good life even though it’s not what he may have originally planned. On the other hand, especially in the case of Odysseus, this character could be seen as a temptation trying to through the hero off course. In either case, we see that our hero never stays permanently.
As I look closer at the details I think that Aeneas loved Dido and did not want to leave her. The only reason he did so was to appease the gods. If this had not happened, I think that they would have made a good match. At a closer look, Aeneas and Dido are very similar. Both of them are royals from their homeland who were forced to leave their homes behind. Aeneas and Dido were also Widowed and both were visited by the ghost of a loved one. I think that due to some of these similarities Dido was able to sympathize with Aeneas, which led to her falling in love with him, regardless of the hand of Cupid.
Every story has its twists and turns, Dido, though she may not seem to be, is one of them. However I believe that she is a vital part of the story. Without the tragic story of Dido, I think that the Aeneid would be a little less intriguing. The story would become that of a straightforward journey and a battle, Dido gives Aeneas an option for digression.