The Vanity of Nero

The ‘artist’ whose vanity and profligacy wasted public resources, the traces of which the following generation spent years trying to destroy and forget about.

            The Emperor Nero is well known for being the man who ‘fiddled whilst Rome burnt’. Although fiddled would technically not be an accurate phrase, it adds a touch of poetic license to the ode to the sack of Troy which he performed (according to Tacitus) on a private stage at Antium, whilst the city of Rome was enveloped in flames and all but four districts were raised to the ground. However whilst the story of Nero’s absence and supposed rejoice at the burning of his great city is well known, the story which in my opinion is all the more shocking is the aftermath in which Nero’s licentiousness transcends all known boundaries and he exploits viciously the fire which left so many of his people homeless.

            Tacitus’ Annals XV.42 is given over to documenting various building projects undertaken by the Emperor Nero, the aim being to expose him as being exploitative and selfish. Before I turn to the main focus of this article I want to move briefly to another of Nero’s projects. He attempted to build a canal from Lake Avernus in Campania to the River Tibur at Ostia. Tacitus leaves us in no doubt as to what he thought of this effort: an absolute waste of time and money. However is it not the concept of the project itself which Tacitus takes offence at – the shores of the western coast of the Italian peninsula were dangerous, so to secure the grain supply by providing an alternative passage of transport was a sensible suggestion – but it was the manner of such a huge project and the ambition associated with it which troubled him. Tacitus does everything from placing the two ends of the canal at opposing ends of the sentence to outright declaring that ‘even if the desired results were possible the project would not be worth the effort’. However he describes Nero as a ‘lover for all things impossible’ – this unbridled ambition meant Nero would not accept that the natural world presented challenges which realistically could not be overcome. Such an idealist was he that he squandered huge amounts of public money trying to undertake this project even though it would (and did) inevitably fail.

            However Nero’s lavishness and wastefulness did not end there. The main focus of Tacitus’ work is on the infamous ‘Golden Palace’. Nero seized the land of the inhabitants and built himself a huge palace on the Palatine hill. Tacitus marvels at this palace: it was the epitome of self-serving ambition. Gilded with gold and precious jewels and containing open fields, forests, a huge lake and sporting ‘unrivalled views’, one does not need to read far into Tacitus’ description to get the idea – the place was huge. In terms of realising one’s ambition, to Nero his palace served as a symbol of his rule. But it also served as a symbol of his family and the corruption of the Imperial system. It is maybe unsurprising then that when Nero was finally driven to suicide by his increasing unpopularity, his successors found the Golden Palace a severe embarrassment.

            The following 30 years saw a huge program of ‘de-Nerofication’. In the same way the Allies at the end of World War Two had to rid Germany of all traces of the Nazi regime, a period of history for which the German’s felt a huge amount of collective guilt and discomfort, the Flavian Emperors strove to rid the city of traces of Nero’s grandeur. Not at least because it symbolised the corruption of the very system they were now the leaders of. Whether to appease the Roman masses or simply out of guilt, the Flavian Emperors filled in the grounds of Nero’s palace and having stripped the palace of all its gold and precious stones the whole site was built over. Many public buildings were built on the site: The Baths of Titus, The Coliseum, The Baths of Trajan and The Temple of Venus and Rome. These projects saw a complete reversal in which the land reverted from symbolising the greed and ambition of one man, to being an icon for civic development, which the entire populus could benefit from.

            There is no doubt from Tacitus’ tone that Nero’s actions were self-interested and selfish, but despite this it is hard to argue that the ensuing guilt in the political system did not see the land regenerated into something much better. In abusing his office and setting such a negative precedent, his successors if only to restore faith in the political system had to increase the provision of civic facilities. So even if at the time Nero’s own interests saw the ordinary people oppressed and their taxes wasted on his daft schemes; at the end of the day in the subsequent years they did get a better deal. But to finish, focusing on Nero himself, I hope that if the only impression you had of him was that he ‘fiddled whilst Rome burnt’, this short article has helped you to get a more realistic image of the sort of man Nero was. If you are an academic who knows Tacitus inside out already, then hopefully I may have helped you re-evaluate the long term impacts of Nero’s schemes. He was undoubtedly a man of corrupt, licentiousness who valued his own lifestyle and personal advancement over the Empire – but in being so shameless he did at least partially soften the treatment of the people of Rome by the future Emperors.


References from Tacitus XV.42 and Suetonius’ biographies of Nero, Vespasian and Titus.


In his speech Jupiter instructs Mercury to remind Aeneas of his future and outlines a grand speech which Mercury should repeat. In this passage Jupiter asserts his authority as King of the Gods both through the power paragon created by his instructions and through the grand language and elaborate descriptions he uses.

            Jupiter’s power is clearly illustrated in the opening lines of his speech. He is portrayed by Virgil as officious in the imperatives vade, age, voca and labere (meaning ‘go’, ‘perform’, ‘call’ and ‘glide’) all of which fall in the first line. The effect of these imperatives demonstrates that Jupiter has supreme power over Mercury. The language used by Jupiter also makes the gods sound ethereal: the words labere pennis (glide on your wings!) make Mercury’s descent to Carthage seem more vivid. Similarly using the words defer mea dicta per auras (carry my words through the sky) Virgil uses a chiastic structure of assonance ‘-er’, ‘-a’, ‘-a’, ‘er’ to make the words seem light, especially with the iambs which fall on the middle ‘-a’s. Virgil also includes a large hyperbaton between the verb adloquere (speak/address) and its object Dardanium ducem (Dardanian leader) which alludes to the large journey Mercury is about to make but also symbolises the distance between men and the gods and adds a mysterious tone to the writing.

            Virgil’s descriptions of Aeneas in Jupiter’s speech depict Aeneas as the bearer of fate and therefore confer on him the responsibility for the founding of the Roman race. There is no mention in this passage of either Dido or Iarbas; it would seem that Virgil has used Iarbas’ speech as a wake-up-call for Jupiter of Aeneas’ marriage to Dido. When Jupiter muses on his actions in Carthage he says ‘non illum nobis genetrix pulcherrima talem promisit’; therefore Aeneas’ only purpose in the eyes of Jupiter is to act as a vessel for the enactment of fate. Virgil’s choice of ‘gravidam’ (pregnant) to describe Aeneas is particularly symbolic as it conveys Aeneas’ role: to father the Roman race. Virgil uses grand descriptions of the future glory of Rome to underpin his speech and persuade Aeneas that he should continue on his voyage. The description of what Jupiter expects of Aeneas uses a chiastic word structure of nouns and attributes to make his personal qualities stand out and appear more vivid. At the end of his description, the pinnacle is the revelation that the Romans will conquer the entire world: the word ‘orbem’ (world) is delayed to the very end of the line to create a tense build-up to this revelation.

            Following this Jupiter goes on to say that Aeneas should not deny Ascanius the future glory of the Roman race, even if he isn’t keen to win himself glory. Virgil’s writing continues to create vivid descriptions: Jupiter uses the word accendit to describe how Aeneas should be ‘inflamed’ by these prospects, which coupled with the homeoteleuton of tantarum… rerum (such [great] things) creates a passionate image of the gloria (glory) of Rome. Jupiter speaks of Latium and Italy at the end of his speech: the positioning of Latium at the end of the speech compared to Carthage at the beginning represents Aeneas’ impending journey.

            In conclusion, Virgil uses rich and vivid descriptions to emphasise Jupiter’s grandeur. Jupiter’s focus within the speech is clearly meant to be on the future of Rome and its significance, not on Aeneas personally. The absence of Dido and Iarbas in the speech shows their trivialness in comparison with Aeneas’ mission, the Carthaginians receive the description of inimica (alien) which reinforces their incompatibility with the future of Rome. The speech also confirms the hierarchy of classical mythology. Aeneas is leader of the Trojans and ‘married’ to the Queen of Carthage; the fact that the gods can exert such power over someone who by mortal standards represents the pinnacle of all power amongst the Trojans shows clearly how much stronger than mortals the gods are.

Antigone and Phaedra as the best and worst of women

                Two women in Euripides and Sophocles’ tragedies, Phaedra and Antigone both represent very different characters in their respective plays. Antigone is a woman who opposes the law of the king to obey the divine laws of Zeus; whereas Phaedra is forced to love Hippolytus by Aphrodite, but is spurned and having taken her own life seeks to destroy his.

            Antigone’s actions represent a true sense of divine duty and pietas to the gods. She has clearly prioritised the law of heaven over the law of man and hence when challenged by Creon she replies: ‘It was not Zeus who published this decree.’ She is adamant that the rules of Zeus always overrule the will of man further stating: ‘nor could I think of any decree of yours – a man – which could override the law of heaven’. Antigone’s standpoint is supported by the chorus who sing ‘not any mortal can oppose thee [Zeus]’. As the chorus are intended to represent the people of Athens it is clear that Antigone has the moral support of the rest of the city.

            Antigone behaves however in a way which although has a sense of duty, verges on religious zealotry. She is consistently defiant of male authority – something which would not have garnered her popularity with the male Athenian audience – and through use of stichomythia in her confrontation with Creon, she is made to sound obstinate and argumentative. Her religious zealotry also causes her to abuse her sister Ismene for whom she declares her ‘hatred’ when she refuses to assist her in burying Polyneices’ corpse. Although she is presented with an elevated sense of duty to her brother for whom she declares her commitment in the words ‘no one will say I failed him’, she appears not to share this for Ismene who she says will ‘die a coward’s death’. She accepts her punishment gracefully and is led away from Creon without fight – she is prepared to die for her brother, but redeems herself for her treatment of Ismene as when she posits the suggestion of dying with her, Antigone vehemently refuses to allow her to take the blame for what she did, insisting to Creon that her life should be spared.

            Phaedra however is portrayed very negatively in the later part of Hippolytus. Whereas Antigone had nothing but devotion to her brothers, Phaedra is deceitful and manipulative. In her vengeance for Hippolytus’ refusal to accept her love she leaves a letter in which she levels the accusations of rape against Hippolytus, her own stepson. In doing so, Phaedra is knowingly lying and deceiving her husband, who has Hippolytus put to death despite his chaste vows to Artemis and his protests of innocence. However it is arguable to what extent any of the events were in fact Phaedra’s fault; although she is culpable for leaving the letter, her actual love was instigated by Aphrodite as a punishment for Hippolytus not showing her the respect which was due to her. In terms of her conduct before her death, with one notable exception, she behaves with complete dignity – she would prefer to die that to lose her dignity by having her love exposed. Phaedra is clearly well aware of the shamefulness of her love for Hippolytus as she continually refuses to tell the nurse any details about why she is so gravely afflicted by love-sickness. Her sense of shame however does come to be her downfall in terms of the nurse: after the nurse manages to prise out of Phaedra the confession that she loves Hippolytus, she tells not only the people of Athens (the chorus) but also Hippolytus himself, as she thinks she is doing the virtuous thing. However Phaedra’s shame at being in love with Hippolytus is so strong that she abuses and dismisses the nurses.

            In conclusion, despite her actions at the end of Hippolytus, Phaedra extols the virtues of a person devoted to their partner. The fact that she is prepared to and later does die than admit her love for her stepson reveals that she had a clear understanding of shame. She was even prepared to dismiss her nurse (who we assume is one of her oldest companions and friend) to protect her secret from being aired. Antigone extols the virtues of a religious devotee and despite what her zealotry would have made us think, the revelation from the chorus that none of the people of the city consider her a traitor or indeed a criminal shows that her religious devotion was in fact normal across Athens. The fact that she redeems herself with Ismene also shows that although she becomes angry in defence of her religious beliefs, she is committed to her family and extols the best qualities of a religious, pious woman. Phaedra represents some negative qualities, but on the whole, behaves with good conduct despite her feelings being out of her control.

Fama: Horror and Revulsion in Aeneid IV

           In Aeneid IV, Fama is the personification of the vilest aspects of rumour: slander and gossip. Virgil aims not only to create revulsion at Fama’s actions, the slandering of Dido and Aeneas, but also at the concept of Fama herself.

            Virgil uses negative language with words such as ‘malus’ and ‘metu’ meaning ‘evil’ and ‘fear’ to set the tone within the first few lines. Virgil places the words ‘luce’ (light) and ‘nocte’ (night) at the start of lines to highlight that she is active all the time; the comparative ‘velocius’ (swifter) is used to emphasise Fama’s invasiveness, the comparative elevates Fama’s qualities above anyone else. More words to this effect are added with Virgil describing Fama as growing in ‘viris’ (strength) and thriving (‘viget’) on movement; these words connote power and reinforce how rumour makes her stronger. By placing the words ‘parva’ (small) and ‘in auras’ (in the clouds) at opposing ends of the line Virgil emphasises the increase in size and power and the haste with which Fama obtains this malicious power. A massive hyperbaton on line 189 demonstrates that Fama is everywhere: Virgil sandwiches the adjective and noun ‘multiplici’ and ‘sermone’ (various scandal) amongst the other words of the sentence to show how Fama’s rumours prevail ubiquitously.

            Virgil uses rich and vivid descriptions to convey Fama’s sinister qualities. The anaphora of the repeated ‘tot’ and variants such as ‘totidem’ (as many) emphasise the seemly endless methods by which Fama can observe and spread her rumours. The structure of these descriptions is very sensory; Virgil moves around various sensory organs including the: ‘oculi’ (eyes), ‘linguae’ (tongue), ‘ora’ (mouth) and ‘auris’ (ears) using asyndeton to speed up the rhythm and make the imagery seem more vivid. This description forms part of a longer 6 line description in which Virgil links asyndetically many clauses which describe the origins of Fama which are equally sinister. Virgil describes Fama as a primordial goddess (‘Terra’) which creates an atmosphere of intrigue and mystery. Virgil writes that Fama was born to a mother ‘ira inritata’ (enraged to anger): the pleonasm used in this phrase enables the audience to understand the origins of Fama’s conception – she was born out of anger and hatred. In explaining Fama’s personality the poet uses the verb ‘canebat’ (sang) and the participle ‘gaudens’ (rejoiced) to show Fama’s sadistic personality: the words convey the glee with which Fama spreads her rumours. Virgil places the words ‘et’ and ‘atque’ before the words ‘facta’ and ‘infecta’ (fact/fiction), an example of polysyndeton which gives an endless feeling to rumours which Fama spreads, especially when one translates the word ‘pariter’ (equally) as ‘indiscriminately’.

            However it is not only the description of Fama’s actions that are designed to evoke horror amongst the readership but also the way in which she phrases her scandal. Fama exalts neither Dido nor Aeneas in her description: she scathingly criticises Dido for ‘dignetur’ (deigning) to join herself to Aeneas and in speaking in such a way treats Aeneas with contempt. Furthermore her speech consecrates what was merely alluded to in the cave scene: ‘luxu’ (indulgence) most definitely has sexual connotations when one considers the word ‘turpique’ (shameless).

            Overall Virgil’s portrayal is of a brazen character who rejoices in spreading misery and ruin to as many people as possible. In creating a character that propagates such vicious rumour Virgil encourages the audience to feel nothing but revulsion. Amongst his use of vivid imagery to emphasise the invasive nature of Fama’s activities Virgil uses the most forceful words: ‘monstrum horrendum’ (a horrible monster) and ‘foeda’ (vile). His departure from the rich description to these blunt adjectives possibly represents the fact that Fama is so vile these are the only words that will do her justice. She has no apparent bias and indiscriminately spreads rumours about both Dido and Aeneas adding to her character as someone who revels in causing as much damage as possible.


UCL’s ‘The Bacchae’ – A Review


Students of Greek and Latin at UCL tackled the final masterpiece of one of the most renown Greek tragedians  in a spectacular performance of The Bacchae at the Bloomsbury Theatre last week. In a play which focuses on human relationships with the gods, the cast and chorus brought to life the characters of Dionysus and his followers with tremendous vivacity, homage should be paid to the choreographer and the students portraying the cult of Dionysus whose dancing and chanting was perfectly synchronised yet still succeeded in conveying the wild, frenzied passion the cult is meant to represent.

The stage of the theatre looked admittedly rather sparse as we filled into our seats, however the atmospheric lighting and scenery, built mainly from tyres and drapes meant that the stage could seem both small and cosy yet also vast and desolate. The use of live and recorded instruments and a vocoder added to the eeriness. The moment at  which King Pentheus is stripped of his clothing was executed with superb tact and the use of retro incandescent lighting encapsulated perfectly the passionate fever of the scene. Although I am not sure that the Greeks had Calvin Klein underwear!

Euripides is famous for breaking the traditional rules of Greek theatre and in the text the death on-stage was a key part of the dramatic display at the ending of the Bacchae. UCL students opted for an offstage death, the remains of Pentheus being symbolised by a box and a ball wrapped in jute sack. Initially disappointed with the death scene, the ending was extremely impressive as (should you be able to suspend your disbelief) the conceptual nature of Pentheus’ corpse enabled Charlotte Holtum to convey the raw grief of Agave. The sorrow was palpable. The use of white light meant the stage looked vast and empty: our sole focus as an audience was the agony of Agave, knowing that she had torn her own son limb from limb. A truly stunning performance.

The Bacchae ran at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London, from the 10th-12th Febraury 2015.



Portrayal of the Gods (Lines 90-114)

“Quam simul ac tali persensit peste teneri

cara Iovis coniunx nec famam obstare furore,

talibus adgreditur Venerem Saturnia dictis:”

The entire premise of Dido’s lust for Aeneas in Book IV of Virgil’s Aeneid is that she has been shot by Cupid’s arrow and has fallen in love with Aeneas: love which she cannot control. The speeches of Venus and Juno are laced with irony, both goddesses believe that they are correct but we as the audience are put in the position where we know more than one of the goddesses. The gods and goddesses in Book IV of Virgil’s Aeneid exist as plot devices to oversee the plot progression, as they possess total control over the characters and therefore give a significant contribution towards the unfolding tragedy of Dido.

                Juno and Venus are both characterised as devious in the passage; Juno is trying to preserve the future of the Tyrian race whilst preventing the founding of Rome; whereas Venus, aware of the fate of Aeneas that will inevitably prevail shows support for Juno’s plans insofar as she knows that eventually they will fail. Ironically Venus knows more about Jupiter’s intentions than Juno does (despite her being his wife) and the line ‘tu coniunx’ (‘you are the wife of Jupiter’) from Venus is caustic as she suggests that Juno should seek his advice – Venus, of course, already knows the answer. Virgil presents Juno as being highly persuasive in her first speech: she uses rhetorical questions to press Venus on the matter of their rivalry, the solution to which she presents as being a ‘marriage’ (‘pactosque hymenaeos’) between Aeneas and Dido. Of course Venus sees through this offer immediately and should the audience have been in any doubt Virgil explicitly clarifies that Juno is trying to base the future Italian empire on Carthage. Virgil juxtaposes the words ‘Italiae’ and ‘Libycas’ (the names of the two countries) framed in a chiastic structure, demonstrating the carefully thought through plan of Juno but symbolises the unlikelihood of her wishes.

                Venus on the other hand presents a speech that is on the same level of understanding as the audience. The audience knows that Venus has spoken to Jupiter and Venus knows that Juno is lying about her intentions for Aeneas and Dido; therefore, Virgil employs dramatic irony in Venus’ reply as he presents the audience and Venus on a higher plain than Juno. Virgil demonstrates this through the line ‘si modo quod memoras factum fortuna sequatur’ (‘if fortune favours the plan which you propose’) – this line drips with sarcasm as Venus takes pleasure in mocking Juno for being ignorant of Jupiter’s plans. The separation of the words ‘Tyriis’ and ‘Troiaque’ by the words ‘urbem’ (‘city [formed from] Trojans and Tyrians’) reinforces the point Virgil made in the interlude that these are two peoples who are unlikely to come together; the two ideas are again juxtaposed.

Virgil enriches the presentation of the two goddesses in his presentation of Dido. Both goddesses generally present Dido as being a pawn in their master-plans for the future of either Carthage or Italy. Juno condemns Venus’ treatment of Dido; ‘tuque puerque tuus’ (‘You and your boy’) is an example of pleonasm and polyptoton: the repetition of ‘que’ is technically redundant but it serves to emphasise the fact that it is two immortals (‘divum… duorum’) against one mortal; the ‘tuque… tuus’ enforces that it is Venus who is in control of the operation and therefore responsible for Dido’s condition. The word ‘dolo’ invokes pathos for Dido; Juno evidently pities the woman. It is therefore paradoxical for example that having scorned Venus and Cupid’s efforts to ensnare Dido with Aeneas, Juno then makes the suggestion that they should work together to further this entrapment. ‘Pacem aeternam’ (‘eternal peace’) is what Juno strives for; however this is evidently at the expense of Dido as a sham marriage is hardly likely to relieve the burden on Dido’s heart, but rather reinforce and consolidate her relationship to Aeneas, making her believe that they are indeed formally united (as it inevitably does). Virgil shows us that Juno is the patron of Carthage – not of Dido. The fact that they consider their dealings as a rivalry (‘certamine’) highlights the trivial nature of their behaviour. Rivalries tend to have paltry origins and are generally quite harmless: the effect of their rivalry on Dido is certainly not inconsequential.

Overall Juno and Venus both show devious qualities: Juno tries to trick Venus into making an agreement that will disadvantage her; Venus leads Juno to think she has taken the bait despite the fact that Venus understands the fate of Aeneas much better than Juno does. Both speeches are full of irony: the dramatic irony of the audience knowing more about the situation than Juno does makes a mockery out of Jupiter’s consort, as does the fact that Juno is Jupiter’s wife yet is completely ignorant of his policy. There is inconsistency in Juno’s behaviour towards Dido: she feels pity for her but then wants to behave in a way that will only exacerbate her condition. This behaviour therefore comes across as squabbling; they care more about their rivalry than they do about Dido’s feelings, reinforcing the superiority of the gods over mortals.


Dido, the beginning of the end (Lines 1-52)


 “at regina gravi iamdudum saucia cura

vulnus alit venis caeco carpitur igni”

Virgil creates a deeply troubled character in the opening lines of Book 4 of the Aeneid. Ultimately this chapter will be the tragedy of Dido, and Virgil introduces us to a character who will in due course go on to burn herself on the pyre in the centre of Carthage at the end of the book, therefore from the start one can read into the text and see how the actions of Dido and Anna will ultimately be ill-fated, thus making this introduction all the more tragic.

In the opening paragraph the audience is held by Virgil as the omniscient narrator, who portrays Dido as deeply troubled and overcome by her feelings of lust for Aeneas. To express the weighty nature of Dido’s emotions Virgil makes a comparison between her love for Aeneas and fire, a theme which features prominently throughout her speech and that of Anna as well. Aside from the evident foreshadowing of the death scene at the end of book 4, fire denotes wildness and unruliness further enforced by ‘caeco carpitur igni’, Dido has lost control of her emotions, she has been ‘seized’ by fire from within. The metaphor of fire is repeated when Dido considers her late husband, saying ‘agnosco veteris vestigial flammae’, Dido is someone who has felt love before but now is feeling those same feelings all over again. Structurally the theme of fire is significant as the ‘carpitur’ is dactylic and connotes the jumping and wild nature of fire whereas the surrounding lines are full of spondees, long sounds which reinforce the grave nature of Dido’s emotions.

Virgil characterises Dido as being filled with self-pity and weakened by her lust for Aeneas. She is evidently nervous of a liaison with Aeneas given her that she is held in ‘vinclo’ by her previous marriage to Sychaeus. These bonds or chains not only practically describe the fact that she is unable due to social convention to remarry, but she feels chained to Sychaeus, as if he has not relinquished her in death. In the alliteration of ‘vinclo vellem’, ‘postquam primus’ and ‘thalami taedetque’ Virgil conveys a sense of resentment from Dido relating to the situation she has found herself in. Similarly Virgil shows that her thoughts are convoluted; ‘deceptam morte fefellit’ in which she appears to blame her husband for his untimely death and later ‘amores abstulit’ which suggests that Sychaeus’ death was a deliberate malicious act. In the latter the enjambement between the two words is a structural representation of the idea of love being ‘broken away’: symbolising of the effect it has had on Dido’s mind.  Her self-deprecation leads her on two occasions to wish that divine intervention might end her life rather than allow her to continue suffering for love; ‘dehiscat’ and ‘adigat me’ describe how she would rather be ‘swallowed up’ or ‘struck down’; they are examples of emotionally heighten language. This is highly ironic as it is divine forces that have instigated these feelings of passion in the first instance. The idea of suffering for love is being reinforced from earlier in the text, in the introduction Virgil has described Dido’s lust for Aeneas as a wound (‘vulnus’) which she feeds with her blood; the wound is representative of Cupid’s arrow. Virgil does not assert that Dido has caused herself to have these feelings of love, but he does suggest that Dido through no fault of her own maintains them.

In Anna’s speech there is a clear contrast which Virgil uses to facilitate our understanding of Dido’s mind. Whereas Dido’s mind was flitting from admiring descriptions of Aeneas to anxiety over the death of her late husband, Anna’s mind is focused closely on Dido and the speech she presents is in comparison logically and rationally organised and presents a clear structured argument: an uplifting introduction and reasons why an alliance with Aeneas would be of benefit to the people of Carthage. Anna emphasizes the mournful image of Dido with words such as ‘maerens’, ‘solane’ and ‘perpetua’, words which are again spondaic and grave in tone. In Anna’s argument she suggests that Dido should accept the proposal as she has turned down many other proposals from neighbouring kings and consequently she is now surrounded by hostile lands. Virgil expresses Anna’s persuasiveness in emphatic adjectives ‘insuperabile’, ‘infreni’, ‘inhospita’ and furentes’; this plethora of adjectives gives more weight to her logical argument but also shows us the susceptibility of Dido’s mind. Anna convinces Dido that an alliance with the Trojan prince will cause Carthage to rise to glorious heights, although wildly optimistic in tone it is also extremely ironic given her eventual fate.

When one reflects on the speech of Dido in comparison with the speech of Anna, it is clear that Dido is deeply affected by her love. Virgil’s use of meter and lexis enable the reader to understand the depth and seriousness of Dido’s infatuation. Virgil presents us with a woman torn between her wild and flame-like passion for Aeneas and her vows of chastity to her former husband. The foundations for the tragedy of Dido are laid down in these opening lines as the resolve of Anna at the end of her speech ultimately sets Dido on a course that will lead to her eventual death at the end the book. Invoking a great deal of pathos Dido is indeed a woman swept up in her emotions and suffering greatly from the ‘wound’ of love.


Latin Student, Post A2, Researching and exploring deeper into my subject