Aeneid Questions and Answers
by Virgil

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What is the relationship between Aeneas and Dido in the Aeneid?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Dido, queen of Carthage, loves and lusts for Aeneas in a way he cannot reciprocate. Dido has been pierced by Cupid's dart so that she will love and protect Aeneas, a man Jupiter has destined to transplant Troy into the new city of Rome and set the foundation for a powerful kingdom.

Aeneas helps Dido in Carthage and has sex with her but has no plans to stay with her forever. She, however, interprets their affair as a marriage. When Aeneas says he is leaving her, as Jupiter urges him to do, she is therefore devastated. Aeneas reminds her he never took any marriage vows to her. She is, however, heartbroken and can't face life without him. She feels he is betraying and deserting her.

Aeneas reminds her that duty comes first—he has a duty and destiny, and...

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robyn-bird96 | Student

I wanted to add that before Aeneas landed on Carthage, Dido was a strong, independent, and fair ruler. She was diligently building her city, making fair laws, kind of like the efficiency of an ant hill or of a bee hive.  

When Aeneas came, Venus realized that she needed to protect her, because he was a foreigner.  She sent her son Eros to pose as Aeneas' son Iulus (Ascanius), to make Dido fall in love.  Dido became so inflamed by this burning passion for Aeneas that she believed that she had gone against honoring her dead husband.  However, Juno wanted to keep Aeneas from ever reaching Italy, so she tried to get Venus to go along with a "marriage" between Aeneas and Dido.  Venus realized it was a trick and she played along.  

When Aeneas and Dido went hunting in the woods one day, Juno made it storm, so they had to seek cover in a cave.  Juno then sent false signs of matrimony (omens of dark things to come), and Aeneas and Dido consummated "their marriage."  After that day, Aeneas and Dido were never separated, and Aeneas considered even rebuilding his race at Carthage.

Dido during this time, had forgotten about her image/reputation as a queen, and her city began to fall apart.  

Venus approached Jupiter to send Aeneas on his way to fulfill his fate.  Jupiter then sent Mercury to tell Aeneas that it was time to go.  Dido and Aeneas have a confrontation, and Aeneas leaves for Italy.  

Meanwhile, Dido who had lost everything to Aeneas - her name, her reputation, her purity - committed suicide, as she was driven mad by her love and by her guilt.