Notes for

Ovid, Heroides VII

Aeneas:  Son of the human Anchises and the goddess Venus.  He was a cousin of King Priam of Troy and was the leader of Troy's Dardanian allies during the Trojan War.  He fought bravely in the Trojan War, and when Troy was being sacked by the Greeks, he fought on until he was ordered to leave by the gods.  He finally fled the city, carrying his father and his household gods on his shoulders.  His wife (Creusa) was lost in the confusion, but his son (Ascanius, or Iulus) escaped with him.  He led a band of Trojan refugees to Italy, after many wanderings, and became the founder of Roman civilization (although not the founder of the city itself).  He was supposed to have been the ancestor of the Julian gens, the family or clan of Julius Caesar and Augustus.  He was famed for his "piety," or devotion to duty.  The Roman poet Virgil made him the hero of his epic, the Aeneid.  During his wanderings on the way to Italy, Aeneas was cast ashore on the Mediterranean coast of Africa and was hospitably received by Dido, the ruler of the city of Carthage (near the modern city of Tunis, in Tunisia).  According to Virgil, the goddesses Juno and Venus plotted to make Dido fall in love with Aeneas, and a sexual affair or marriage ensued.  Aeneas lingered in Carthage so long that his destiny as Rome's founder seemed threatened.  The god Mercury was sent to order him to depart, and Aeneas reluctantly sailed away. Dido, mad with grief, had a funeral pyre prepared and committed suicide on it with Aeneas's own sword, after giving an impassioned speech in which she alternately cursed Aeneas and expressed her love for him. When Aeneas later encountered her shade on a trip to the underworld, she turned away from him, still refusing to forgive his desertion of her.  In later Roman history, the cities of Carthage and Rome were bitter rivals; they fought three major wars (the Punic Wars), and Carthage was eventually destroyed.

Anchises:  Father of Aeneas, and human husband of the goddess Venus.  Anchises had died earlier in the journey that brought Aeneas to Carthage.

Anna:  Dido's sister, who had advised her to yield to her love for Aeneas and marry him.

Ascanius, Iulus:  Son of Aeneas by his first wife, Creusa.  He was called both Ascanius and Iulus.  Although Creusa perished in the destruction of Troy, Ascanius/Iulus escaped safely with Aeneas.  Iulus (or Julus) was supposedly the namesake of the Julian gens, the family or clan of Julius Caesar and Augustus.  

brother:  Pygmalion.   

brother Love, your brother:  Amor, or Cupid, son of Venus.  Aeneas was also a son of Venus, and so Cupid was his half-brother.  Cupid was famous for inducing love with his arrows.  For his role in creating Dido's love for Aeneas, see the note on Venus.

Carthage:  Phoenician city on the northern coast of Africa, near modern Tunis (in Tunisia).  According to legend, it was founded by Dido and other refugees from the Phoenician city of Tyre (in modern Lebanon).  Dido was Carthage's ruler.  For more details, see the note on Dido.

Cythera:  An island off the coast of the Greek Peloponnesus.  According to one version of Venus' birth, she was born from the sea-foam near Cythera.  Venus herself was often called Cytheraea, or the Cytheraean goddess.

Dardanus:  Son of Jove and son-in-law of Teucer.  He was a principal (and often-cited) member of the legendary founding family of Troy.

daughter-in-law:  Dido, since she considered herself married to Venus' son, Aeneas.

Dido:  (Also called Elissa).  Daughter of the king of Tyre, and founder of the city of Carthage.  After her father died, her brother, Pygmalion, became king of Tyre and killed her husband, Sychaeus.  Dido and her followers then fled Tyre (in modern-day Lebanon), and settled on the Mediterranean coast of Africa (near the modern city of Tunis, in Tunisia).  The local king would only sell her as much land as could be enclosed by a bull's hide; she had the hide cut into very thin strips and used it to outline an area large enough to build a fortress, which became the nucleus of the city of Carthage.  She was pressured by neighboring rulers to marry one of them, with Iarbus, king of the Gaetulians, being the chief of her suitors, but she swore undying allegiance to her first husband, Sychaeus.  When Aeneas and his band of Trojan refugees arrived on her shores, she made them welcome as honored guests.  According to the Roman poet Virgil, the goddesses Venus and Juno plotted to make her fall in love with Aeneas.  She had a sexual affair with him, and she considered the two of them married.  Aeneas, however, had a different destiny to fulfill--the founding of Rome.  The god Mercury appeared to him and ordered him to leave, and he reluctantly departed.  Dido, driven mad by love and grief, had a funeral pyre prepared and committed suicide on top of it with Aeneas' own sword, after giving an impassioned speech in which she alternately cursed Aeneas and expressed her love for him; in this speech she foretells the bitter enmity between Rome and Carthage, which will lead to the three Punic Wars and the eventual destruction of Carthage.  Our last glimpse of Dido in the Aeneid is during Aeneas' visit to the underworld; Dido turns her face from him and rejoins her first husband, Sychaeus.  

driven about by hostile winds:  After the fall of Troy, Aeneas and his followers wandered widely through the Mediterranean in their attempt to get to Italy.  Obstacles were put in their way especially by the goddess Juno, who wished to prevent Aeneas from founding Rome.  At the time of his arrival at Carthage, Aeneas had been wandering for seven years.

Elissa:  Another name for Dido.

Eumenides:  The Furies, terrifying goddesses who avenge human crimes.

Eurus:  The southeasterly wind.

father:  Anchises, father of Aeneas.  For the story of Aeneas carrying his father out of Troy, see the notes on Aeneas and on Penates.

Gaetulian:  The Gaetulians inhabited a portion of the interior of North Africa, and were ruled by Iarbas.

gods:  The Penates, which Aeneas rescued from the burning of Troy.

gods or your father ever rest on your shoulders:  Aeneas is supposed to have carried his father and the household gods out of Troy on his shoulders.  See the notes on Aeneas and on Penates for more details.

Hector:  Son of King Priam of Troy.  He was the mightiest warrior among the Trojans, and was greatly feared by the Greeks.  He was finally slain by the greatest of the Greek warriors, Achilles.  

His nature:  Aeneas' nature.

hostess:  Ovid uses the word "hospita," which means, roughly, "one who receives a guest into her home."  It can also mean "guest-friend" or "stranger."

husband:  Sychaeus.  

Iarbas:  King of the Gaetulians.  He was a son of Jupiter (Jove) Ammon, and had threatened war if Dido did not marry him..

Ilion:  Troy.

kingdoms of Italy:  It was prophesied that Aeneas would settle in Italy and found the most powerful city in the world, Rome; he would only accomplish this after many struggles and much suffering.

Maeander:  River in Asia Minor (in modern-day Turkey).  It was noted for its winding, "meandering" course.

Mars:  God of war.

mother:  Venus.

mother of lovely Iulus:  Creusa, Aeneas' first wife.  She became separated from Aeneas as they fled through the smoke and confusion of Troy's final hours.  Aeneas tried to find her, but departed after her ghost appeared to him, telling him to go without her.

mother of Loves:  Venus.

Mycenae:  Greek city which was the home of Agamemnon, the chief commander of the Greek armies that conquered Troy.

nymphs:  Minor goddesses associated with forests, springs, mountains, etc.

Penates:  Household gods.  Each Roman household had its own Lares and Penates, or gods of hearth and home.  When Aeneas finally fled the burning city of Troy, he carried his father on his shoulders, and his father held the Lares and Penates (Aeneas himself had been stained by blood and war, and could not touch the Lares and Penates without first purifying himself).

Pergamum:  The central fortress of Troy.  Also often used to designate the city of Troy itself.

Phrygian:  Phrygia was an area in Asia Minor, near Troy (the home of Aeneas).  In poetry, "Phrygian" was often used as a synonym for "Trojan."

Phthia:  An area of Thessaly, in Greece, which was the home of the greatest of the Greek warriors, Achilles.

Punic:  Phoenician.  The Phoenicians were a seafaring people, originally from the Levant (in and around modern-day Lebanon) who established a trading empire in the Mediterranean.  Carthage was a Phoenician, or Punic, city.  

purchase this shore:  For the story of the stratagem by which Dido purchased enough land to build the original fortress of Carthage, see the note on Dido.

Pygmalion:  Son of the king of Tyre and brother of Dido.  After his father's death, Pygmalion became king of Tyre.  He killed Dido's husband, Sychaeus, in order to take his wealth.  As a result of this murder, Dido fled from Tyre and founded Carthage

seventh winter:  Aeneas and his followers wandered for seven years after the fall of Troy, before coming to Carthage.  In Virgil's Aeneid, Dido falls in love with Aeneas while he is telling the tale of his adventures.

Simois:  River near Troy.

sudden rain:  Juno sent a storm that caused Dido and Aeneas to seek shelter in a cave.  Their sexual involvement began at that time.  See the note on Venus for more details on how their love affair was arranged by Venus and Juno.

swan:  The swan, ordinarily not a song-bird, was supposed to sing a beautiful song in the moments just prior to its death.  

Sychaeus:  Dido's first husband.  Dido's brother, Pygmalion, the king of Tyre, killed Sychaeus in order to take his wealth.  Sychaeus then appeared to Dido in a dream, urging her to flee from Tyre and telling her where to find a hidden store of treasure.  After Sychaeus' death, Dido swore never to marry again.

Teucrians:  Trojans.  Teucer was the legendary founder of Troy and ancestor of the Trojan kings; hence the people of Troy were often called "Teucrians."

Tiber:  The principal river of Rome.

Triton:  A minor sea-god; son of Neptune and Amphitrite.  He is sometimes described as riding across the sea's surface on sea-horses.  There were also Tritons who were mermen, and who blew upon trumpets made of shells in order to calm the waves.

Trojan sword:  Aeneas' sword, which he had given to Dido.

Tyrian city:  Carthage was founded by refugees from the Phoenician city of Tyre; hence, it is called a "Tyrian" city.

Venus:  Goddess of love and sexual desire; husband of the human Anchises, and mother of Aeneas.  According to Virgil's account in the Aeneid, Venus and Juno plotted to make Dido fall in love with Aeneas:  Venus, as protector of Aeneas, wanted to ensure her son's safety in Carthage; Juno, as patroness of Carthage, hoped to ensnare Aeneas and preventing him from founding Rome, which was fated to destroy Carthage.  Venus sent her son, Amor (or Cupid), to impersonate Aeneas' son, Ascanius.  While Dido held Cupid/Ascanius on her lap, he infected her with an overwhelming fire of love for Aeneas.  Later, when Aeneas and Dido were out hunting, Juno sent a sudden storm; separated from their companions, the two of them took shelter in a cave, where they consummated their love.

wife:  Dido.

you:  Aeneas.

your god orders you to go:  The god Mercury appeared to Aeneas in his sleep and ordered him to depart from Carthage immediately, so that he could fulfill his destiny and found Rome.




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Last updated 06/22/2013