Early stories about her life
The oldest story about Dido was written by Timaeus. He was an ancient Greek historian who lived in the 3rd century BC. One hundred years later, a Roman historian, Pompeius Trogus, wrote about her. His story about her is now lost, but a later Roman historian, Justin, wrote a summary of Trogus' story. In the stories by Timaeus and Trogus, Dido was the daughter of the King of Tyre (a city in the country now known as Lebanon). She was married to Acerbas who was a priest of Hercules. When Dido's brother Pygmalion killed Acerbas, Dido ran away. She took some of her people with her. They went first to Cyprus, and then to the north coast of Africa in the place now known as Tunisia.
When they got to Africa, Dido asked the Berber ruler, a man named Iarbus, if she could buy some land to for her people to start a city. He said that she could buy as much land as she could cover with the skin of a dead ox. She told her people to cut the skin into very thin strips. They laid all the strips out to mark the borders. This gave them a very big piece of land. Dido and her people built a city on the land. The city was named Carthage, and Dido was its first queen. Carthage grew and became a very rich city. Many Berbers also went to live there.
When he saw what a rich city Carthage was, Iarbus wanted to marry Dido. He told her that if she did not marry him, he would make war on Carthage. Dido did not want to marry Iarbus. She still loved her husband Acerbas (Sychaeus). Before her wedding to Iarbus, she built a large fire. She told him that the fire was a ceremony to honor Acerbas. She said that when the ceremony was finished, Iarbus would be her new husband. Instead, she climbed onto the pyre where the fire was burning. Then she killed herself with a sword. After she died, the people of Carthage worshipped her as a goddess. Carthage stayed a very rich and powerful city for 600 years. It was destroyed by Rome in 146 BC.
Aeneas and Dido in a painting by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin