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Haec ait, et partis animum versabat in omnis,               630
invisam quaerens quam primum abrumpere lucem.
tum breviter Barcen nutricem adfata Sychaei,
namque suam patria antiqua cinis ater habebat:
'Annam, cara mihi nutrix, huc siste sororem:
dic corpus properet fluviali spargere lympha,               635
et pecudes secum et monstrata piacula ducat.
sic veniat, tuque ipsa pia tege tempora vitta.
sacra Iovi Stygio, quae rite incepta paravi,
perficere est animus finemque imponere curis
Dardaniique rogum capitis permittere flammae.'          640
sic ait. illa gradum studio celebrabat anili.
at trepida et coeptis immanibus effera Dido
sanguineam volvens aciem, maculisque trementis
interfusa genas et pallida morte futura,
interiora domus inrumpit limina et altos                        645
conscendit furibunda rogos ensemque recludit
Dardanium, non hos quaesitum munus in usus.
hic, postquam Iliacas vestis notumque cubile
conspexit, paulum lacrimis et mente morata
incubuitque toro dixitque novissima verba:                   650
'dulces exuviae, dum fata deusque sinebat,
accipite hanc animam meque his exsolvite curis.
vixi et quem dederat cursum Fortuna peregi,
et nunc magna mei sub terras ibit imago.

She spoke, and turned her thoughts this way and that,considering how to destroy her hateful life. Then she spoke briefly to Barce, Sychaeus’s nurse, since dark ashes concealed her own, in her former country: “Dear nurse, bring my sister Anna here: tell her to hurry, and sprinkle herself with water from the river, and bring the sacrificial victims and noble offerings. Let her come, and you yourself veil your brow with sacred ribbons. My purpose is to complete the rites of Stygian Jupiter, that I commanded, and have duly begun, and put an end to sorrow, and entrust the pyre of that Trojan leader to the flames.” So she said. The old woman zealously hastened her steps. But Dido restless, wild with desperate purpose, rolling her bloodshot eyes, her trembling cheeks stained with red flushes, yet pallid at approaching death, rushed into the house through its inner threshold, furiously climbed the tall funeral pyre, and  unsheathed a Trojan sword, a gift that was never acquired to this end. Then as she saw the Ilian clothing and the familiar couch, she lingered a while, in tears and thought, then cast herself on the bed, and spoke her last words: “Reminders, sweet while fate and the god allowed it, accept this soul, and loose me from my sorrows. I have lived, and I have completed the course that Fortune granted,and now my noble spirit will pass beneath the earth.


urbem praeclaram statui, mea moenia vidi,                   655
ulta virum poenas inimico a fratre recepi,
felix, heu nimium felix, si litora tantum
numquam Dardaniae tetigissent nostra carinae.'
dixit, et os impressa toro 'moriemur inultae,
sed moriamur' ait. 'sic, sic iuvat ire sub umbras.           660
hauriat hunc oculis ignem crudelis ab alto
Dardanus, et nostrae secum ferat omina mortis.'
dixerat, atque illam media inter talia ferro
conlapsam aspiciunt comites, ensemque cruore
spumantem sparsasque manus. it clamor ad alta          665
atria: concussam bacchatur Fama per urbem.
lamentis gemituque et femineo ululatu
tecta fremunt, resonat magnis plangoribus aether,
non aliter quam si immissis ruat hostibus omnis
Karthago aut antiqua Tyros, flammaeque furentes       670
culmina perque hominum volvantur perque deorum.
audiit exanimis trepidoque exterrita cursu
unguibus ora soror foedans et pectora pugnis
per medios ruit, ac morientem nomine clamat:
'hoc illud, germana, fuit? me fraude petebas?                675
hoc rogus iste mihi, hoc ignes araeque parabant?
quid primum deserta querar? comitemne sororem
sprevisti moriens? eadem me ad fata vocasses,
idem ambas ferro dolor atque eadem hora tulisset.
his etiam struxi manibus patriosque vocavi                   680
voce deos, sic te ut posita, crudelis, abessem?
exstinxti te meque, soror, populumque patresque
Sidonios urbemque tuam. date, vulnera lymphis
abluam et, extremus si quis super halitus errat,
ore legam.' sic fata gradus evaserat altos,                       685
semianimemque sinu germanam amplexa fovebat
cum gemitu atque atros siccabat veste cruores.
illa gravis oculos conata attollere rursus
deficit; infixum stridit sub pectore vulnus.
ter sese attollens cubitoque adnixa levavit,                    690
ter revoluta toro est oculisque errantibus alto
quaesivit caelo lucem ingemuitque reperta.

Tum Iuno omnipotens longum miserata dolorem
difficilisque obitus Irim demisit Olympo
quae luctantem animam nexosque resolveret artus.    695
nam quia nec fato merita nec morte peribat,
sed misera ante diem subitoque accensa furore,
nondum illi flavum Proserpina vertice crinem
abstulerat Stygioque caput damnaverat Orco.
ergo Iris croceis per caelum roscida pennis                   700
mille trahens varios adverso sole colores
devolat et supra caput astitit. 'hunc ego Diti
sacrum iussa fero teque isto corpore solvo':
sic ait et dextra crinem secat, omnis et una
dilapsus calor atque in ventos vita recessit.                   705

Key Questions

 

  1. How is Dido's emotional state reflected in her physical symptoms?
  2. Pick out the themes and imagery which run through these lines. How do they contribute to our understanding of Dido's situation?
  3. Are the final lines a fitting conclusion to this episode?
  4. To what extent should Dido be regarded as a 'tragic' figure? Does she deserve this end?
  5. What does this passage reveal about prevailing Roman attitudes to women, especially foreign women?
Background, Commentaries and Secondary Reading

 

Other Ancient Texts

 

Websites

 

Film

 

Books and Plays

 

  • Chaucer (c. 1386-88) The Legend of Good Women: Dido.
  • Marlowe (c. 1593) The Tragedie of Dido, Queene of Carthage.
Art

 

Music

 

 

The Death of Dido

Giambattista Tiepolo (c.1696–1770); Pushkin Museum.

© From Google Cultural Institute.

 

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