“... Already Dido was head over heels in love. Unable to sleep that night, she confided in her sister as the next day dawned. ‘Anna, how could anyone think this stranger not goddess-born? How else could any man be so noble, brave and enduring? If I had not set my face against love after my first and only lover and husband Sychaeus cheated me by dying, to this one man I might have given myself - but I would sooner die than break my word!’
To which Anna answered: ‘Sister, dearer to me than life itself, do you really think the dead care anything about vows? Until now, no other man has moved your heart to love - so why run from one who does? Think how much sense marriage to such a man would make. All around us here are hostile tribes, and your brother still threatens to invade us from Tyre. Surely, great Juno herself must have arranged this stranger’s coming while fate compels his stay and winter rages at sea. Imagine, sister, how glorious Carthage might become with two such mighty peoples mingled in it!’
So she encouraged her sister who with every passing hour burned fiercer in love, like a doe pierced by the hunter’s arrow and ranging ceaselessly through Cretan woods without relief. Like any lover she was vague and distracted. She blushed, could not sleep - roamed the empty hall at night, throwing herself on the couch where the man she adored had been lying. Meanwhile the bustle of her city slowed and the building works stopped. Even war-training was left off.
‘Well, well, what a huge achievement!’ the wife of Jove said mockingly to Venus. ‘Two gods between them managing to subdue one mortal woman. Come, neither of us can win this contest, so let us arrange a marriage and alliance between the lovers. That way we will both win.’
But Venus knew well her hidden aim, which was to turn the empire away from Italy and towards Libya. ‘It would be madness for me to dispute with you,’ she agreed, ‘but will great Jove approve of what you have in mind? You are his wife - you sound him out.’
‘I will,’ answered Juno. ‘Meanwhile, this is what I suggest. Tomorrow, Dido and the Trojan chief go hunting. I will arrange for a storm to drive them to the same shelter apart from all the rest. There, alone in the wild, let them consummate their passion.’
So the next dawn broke on an uproar and bustle of young men, nets, spears, hounds and horses. Beautiful Dido left her apartments surrounded by a crowd of courtiers, to be joined on her way by Aeneas’ brilliant band. As when Apollo leaves his winter home in Lycia to visit his mother’s island of Delos, so the hero glittered in his magnificence. Soon they were in mountain country among rushes of goats and deer tumbling down the steep cliff-sides while in the valleys below young Ascanius galloped ahead of everyone, praying for a great foaming boar or a tawny lion to show itself among these timider beasts.
Suddenly a storm broke. Trojans and Tyrians all ran for shelter, and to the selfsame cave came Dido and the Trojan chief. Primal Earth and nuptial Juno gave the sign, fire flashed, and on the heights the nymphs screamed in witness of their union. So dawned the day of death and disaster - for Dido now no longer bothered with appearances. She called her affair marriage and with that word veiled her sin ....”
Revered In the Middle Ages as a prophet, even as a wizard, no poet of the pagan classical past influenced future ages more profoundly than Virgil did.
The Aeneid is an epic of imperial destiny. Its first part, modelled closely on Homer’s Odyssey, describes the hero Aeneas’s voyaging from burning Troy to the mouth of the Tiber. Its second half, modelled closely on Homer’s Iliad deals with the war the hero then had to wage before being able to found his new city destined one day to become Rome.