A soap opera of epic proportions

I had never read The Aeneid by Virgil. The title alone was enough to scare me off. But my literary and geographical horizons are expanding as I prepare for my study abroad class in September.

England 2012 Minerva side shot York
Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom and the arts, perched above a street in York, England. 

Words in quotes are from The Aeneid (pronounce Ee-nid).

Book IV of The Aeneid finds the hero of the story, Aeneas (late of Troy) hanging out with Dido, the (soon to be tragic) heroine and queen of Carthage. Aeneas has lost a war but found refuge after sailing into Dido’s harbor and charming her royal socks off. Dido is all aflutter over her “princely soldier” and, at her sister’s urging, plans to marry Aeneas. She has big plans for him – to help her finish building her city and then defend it. She appeals to her gods to make it so. Meanwhile, one of her spurned suitors appeals to his gods for justice. Then the gods try to out-maneuver one another. (Cue the foreboding background music.)

Back in the earthly realm, Aeneas is a happy camper. The queen lavishes him with attention and gifts. He marries her (well sort of) in a cave after a storm and settles in to be her boy toy and build the city walls. But wait, down flies Mercury, that gilded messenger god, to chide Aeneas for becoming a “tame husband” and ignoring his destiny to build a new Troy in “the Italian realm.”

Aeneas does what any warrior would do. He pulls aside his leaders and tells them to “Get the fleet ready for sea, but quietly…” while he looks “for the right occasion, the easiest time to speak, the way to do it.” Denial on steroids: Aeneas believes he can sneakily pack up an entire fleet of ships without anyone noticing.

Is Aeneas really going to dump the queen? Stay tuned for part 2!


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