Dido, Queen of Carthage

The death of Dido by the German painter, Heinrich Friedrich Füger

Ancient Greek and Roman writers said that Dido was the founder and first Queen of Carthage. Carthage was a city in the country now known as Tunisia. Dido lived in the 9th century BC (about 3000 years ago). Some parts of her life may be true. Other parts are myths. She is best known from the story about her in the Aeneid by the Roman poet Virgil. In some writings about her, she is called Alyssa or Elissa. She was also worshipped as a goddess in ancient Carthage.

Early stories about her life

Dido buying the land for Carthage

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
Other Languages
العربية: عليسة
asturianu: Dido
Bân-lâm-gú: Dido
български: Дидона
brezhoneg: Didon
català: Dido
čeština: Dídó
dansk: Dido
Ελληνικά: Διδώ
English: Dido
español: Dido
Esperanto: Dido (antikvo)
euskara: Dido
français: Didon
한국어: 디도
հայերեն: Դիդոնե
hrvatski: Didona
Bahasa Indonesia: Dido (Ratu Kartago)
italiano: Didone
Latina: Dido
lietuvių: Didona
magyar: Dido
Bahasa Melayu: Dido (Ratu Carthage)
Nederlands: Dido (mythologie)
日本語: ディードー
occitan: Didon
polski: Dydona
português: Dido
română: Didona
русский: Дидона
slovenščina: Didona
српски / srpski: Дидона
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Didona
svenska: Dido
українська: Дідона
中文: 狄多