Dido - Encyclopedia

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DIDO, or ELISSA, the reputed founder of Carthage, in Africa, daughter of the Tyrian king Metten (Mutto, Methres, Belus), wife of Acerbas (more correctly Sicharbas; Sychaeus in Virgil), a priest of Hercules. Her husband having been slain by her brother Pygmalion, Dido fled to Cyprus, and thence to the coast of Africa, where she purchased from a local chieftain Iarbas a piece of land on which she built Carthage. The city soon began to prosper and Iarbas sought Dido's hand in marriage, threatening her with war in case of refusal. To escape from him, Dido constructed a funeral pile, on which she stabbed herself before the people (Justin xviii. 4-7). Virgil, in defiance of the usually accepted chronology, makes Dido a contemporary of Aeneas, with whom she fell in love after his landing in Africa, and attributes her suicide to her abandonment by him at the command of Jupiter (Aeneid, iv.). Dido was worshipped at Carthage as a divinity under the name of Caelestis, the Roman counterpart of Tanit, the tutelary goddess of Carthage. According to Timaeus, the oldest authority for the story, her name was Theiosso, in Phoenician Helissa, and she was called Dido from her wanderings, Dido being the Phoenician equivalent of irXavijres (Etymologicum Magnum, s.v.); some modern scholars, however, translate the name by "beloved." Timaeus makes no mention of Aeneas, who seems to have been introduced by Naevius in his Bellum Poenicum, followed by Ennius in his A nnales. For the variations of the legend in earlier and later Latin authors, see O. Rossbach in Pauly-Wissowa's Realencyclopddie, v. pt. I (1905); O. Meltzer's Geschichte der Karthager, i. (1879), and his article in Roscher's Lexikon der Mythologie.

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