Monday, July 14, 2014

Contrast: Models of vengeance for Virgil's Dido

It can be illuminating to see how different Virgil's Dido is from Ovid's heroine.

The Carthaginian queen's last speech in Aeneid 4 draws upon some of the most violent myths and scenes of tragedy for a few of its purple patches.

Procne avenging Tereus's rape of Philmela; Agave tearing apart her son Pentheus; Medea killing her baby brother to help Jason escape her father's wrath; Medea killing her children by Jason to avenge herself him; Hecuba avenging the deaths of her children upon Polymestor -- all stories told or alluded to in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

...Why dared I not seize on him, rend his body limb from limb, and hurl him piecemeal on the rolling sea?
Or put his troop of followers to the sword,
Ascanius too, and set his flesh before
that father for a feast?

 ... Would I had attacked their camp with torches, kindled flame from ship to ship, until that son and sire, with that whole tribe, were unto ashes burned in one huge holocaust—myself its crown!

Dido evokes these horrific tales, but acts on none. Her prayer culminates in that final curse calling for everlasting enmity between her people and the descendants of Aeneas:

....This dying word is flowing from my heart
with my spilt blood. And—O ye Tyrians! I
sting with your hatred all his seed and tribe
forevermore. This is the offering
my ashes ask. Betwixt our nations twain,
No love! No truce or amity! Arise,
Out of my dust, unknown Avenger, rise!
To harry and lay waste with sword and flame
those Dardan settlers, and to vex them sore,
to-day, to-morrow, and as long as power
is thine to use! My dying curse arrays
shore against shore and the opposing seas
in shock of arms with arms. May living foes
pass down from sire to son insatiate war!”


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Matrullo,

are you the author of the blog "Classics in Sarasota"?
I work for the project Propylaeum of the state library of Bavaria in
Germany (all the details on
The project is a catalog of all the websites and blogs about the
ancient history, archeology etc..
Your site looks interesting, but to be able to categorize that, I need
some informations.
First of all, your full name (Tom Matrullo?); secondly a valid email; third: are you just a curious person or do
you work in the field (student, archaeologist, teacher, researcher
I do not want to bother you, but unfortunately i did not find a page
called "about", in which you present yourself.

Kind regards,
Mattia Marchesini

Tom Matrullo said...

Hi Mattia,

I have prepared an email with the information you have requested. Can you supply your email address?

Thank you,

Tom Matrullo
matrullo (at) gmail (dot) com