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Dido & Aeneas: Through the Ages Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 in Latin Language, Roman culture

Salvete Omnes,

I would like to take some time this week to indulge in one of my favorite love stories: Dido and Aeneas. Over this weekend, I saw at the Los Angeles Opera Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas;” and it got me thinking about the countless retellings of this couple and their themes of love and fate.

Banner at the LA Opera of Dido & Aeneas from my personal camera.

Banner at the LA Opera of Dido & Aeneas from my personal camera.

The opera that I saw was an interesting retelling (debuted in 1688) felt extremely Shakespearean and far removed from the Latin and Roman myth. There are no gods and fate is not the villain, but instead three witches.  I have provided the opera in its entirety, and interestingly enough it is one of few operas in English.

OR- if you prefer a quicker rendition of it the opera; check this out!

Artwork has constantly retold and reimagined the myth of love and fate to become one of the first (if not the first) star-crossed lovers.

Aeneid, Book IV, Death of Dido. From the Vergilius Vaticanus (Vatican Library, Cod. Vat. lat. 3225). Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Aeneid, Book IV, Death of Dido. From the Vergilius Vaticanus (Vatican Library, Cod. Vat. lat. 3225). Courtesy of WikiCommons

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the myth of Dido and Aeneas, it is quite heart-breaking. Aeneas is a Trojan survivor who in his own right is a “hero.” A hero in the sense that his parentage is one involving a god and a mortal. His mother was Venus and his father was a Trojan commander known as Anchises. Aeneas is fated to find Rome and on the way his fleet arrive at Carthage where Dido reigns. Upon his arrival, Dido’s cold heart ( widowed and bitter) is melted by Aeneas and Cupid. However their love is not meant to be, because Aeneas must find Troy and Rome and Carthage must have their resentment and bad relationship for future strife.  Therefore, Aeneas leaves to find Rome at the bequest of the gods visiting him and reminding him of his fate. And, thus- Dido out of love (perhaps rampaged crazy Cupid causing love) kills herself and curses Aeneas and his people (Romans).

Dido, attributed to Christophe Cochet, formerly at Marly (Louvre). Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Dido, attributed to Christophe Cochet, formerly at Marly (Louvre). Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Furthermore,  this story of Aeneas and Dido from Vergil’s Aeneid has also found its way into modern television and retellings. There is a wonderful article on how the Aeneid ( an thus Dido and Aeneas) is retold in Battlestar Galactica (the article is here). The Aeneid even finds it way into the Star Trek lore; as seen (here).

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About the Author: Brittany Britanniae

Hello There! Please feel free to ask me anything about Latin Grammar, Syntax, or the Ancient World.


Comments:

  1. Joseph T. Madawela:

    I have not seen it but isn’t “Oedipus Rex” the opera by Stravinsky entirelynin Latin?

    • Brittany Britanniae:

      @Joseph T. Madawela This is true. “Oedipus Rex” was written by Jean Cocteau in French and then translated by Abbé Jean Daniélou into Latin. Good Eye!

  2. John Ege:

    I was reading your article on the Aeneid “Dido and Aeneas through the ages” and though you reference Star Trek, it seems people have failed to realize that there is an episode of Original Trek which is so close to a re-enactment, that it could be considered a re-telling of the story. In the Aeneid, queen Dido, a woman before her time, must die for Rome to come into existence. in the episode of TOS: “A City on the Edge of Forever” Edith Keeler, ahead of her time, played by Joan Collins, must die in order for the Federation to come into existence. You’ll find other parallels in that episode, but this is so close I am surprised no one else has written about it. In 2000, my professor suggested my compare and contrast could be literary thesis, and I in 2004 I wrote a fan fiction of star trek in which I explore that theme further, remarking on how not only had things not changed in 2000 year since it was written, but how the media continues to elevate heroes like Aeneas, Kirk, as men who can’t ever be happy but must continue the quest for love and civilization, at the cost of the women they encounter.
    But nice article. 🙂
    john