Hesperia, however, continued to elude them. Scarcely a few miles out at sea, a vicious storm tossed the Trojans onto another island, which was inhabited by the Harpies, a group of ugly winged creatures with women’s faces.
Before Aeneas and his people could get away from the island, the Harpies had stolen their food and attacked them. Celaeno, a prophetic Harpy, told them that she had received an oracle from Apollo that foretold of much hardship ahead for the Trojans. She said Apollo predicted that hunger would cause them to eat their tables when they finally found Hesperia.
Disgusted by the sight of the ugly bird-women and confused by Apollo’s oracle, the Trojans packed up and left the island in a hurry. They enjoyed a well-deserved rest at Actium on the western coast of Greece, where they played games and socialized for many months. Then, they sailed farther up the coast to Buthrotum, where Aeneas consulted with Helenus, an exiled Trojan ruler.
Helenus told the Trojans that the land the Greeks called Hesperia was still a long way off. He also warned them that they should not sail through the strait between Italy and Sicily, but must take the long way around Sicily to avoid Scylla and Charybdis, the two terrible monsters that guarded the strait. Scylla had six heads and used them to snatch men from ships that came too close to the Italian shore. Charybdis, a whirlpool, sucked the ships down as they tried to escape from Scylla.
With this warning in mind, the Trojan fleet set out for the Italian peninsula and sailed safely around the coast of Sicily, where the men went ashore. Suddenly, a giant one-eyed creature appeared and began to move down the mountain toward them.
Having heard horrible stories about the Cyclopes, the Trojan men fled back to their ship. One Cyclops, who had recently been blinded, waded out into the water and stumbled in the direction of the escaping ship. The sight of the fearsome creature frightened the Trojans. They quickly pulled in their anchor, raised their sails, and rowed out to sea.
After escaping from the Cyclops, the Trojans stopped to rest at Drepanum, on the northwestern end of the island of Sicily. There, Anchises died. The oracle had not foretold this horrible tragedy, and Aeneas became spiritless and depressed at the loss of his beloved father.
After a prolonged period of mourning, Aeneas pulled himself together and ordered the ships to set a course north through the Tyrrhenian Sea. Aeneas' fleet was suddenly faced with the treachery of Juno, who realized that the Trojans might actually succeed in finding their way to Italy.
To deter the Trojans, Juno concocted a scheme with Aeolus, god of the wind, to create a great storm at sea and drown the fleet. Aeolus’ breath tossed the ships from side to side and forward and backward creating great waves that hit the Trojan ships from all directions.
Women and children screamed in fear as the waves washed men and equipment overboard. The helmsmen were unable to hold a course, and for the first time since leaving Troy, Aeneas feared for his life.
Then, just when survival seemed unlikely and the Trojans prepared to die at sea, the wind ceased. Neptune, god of the sea and an ally of the Trojans, awoke from his sleep. He scolded Aeolus for causing a storm without his permission, then gently guided the fleet to a quiet harbor along the northern coast of Africa.
After the ships had dropped anchor, Aeneas helped carry the women and children to shore. He covered their shivering bodies with dry grain sacks and assured them that they would indeed find their ancestral homeland and should not lose hope.
While the Trojans were recovering from their terrible ordeal at sea, Venus visited with Juno’s husband, Jupiter. Venus reminded him that he once had promised her that he would guide Aeneas to Italy. Jupiter assured her that he had not forgotten this promise:
In Italy he will fight a massive war,
Beat down fierce armies,
then for the people there
Establish city walls and a way of life.
Beat down fierce armies,
then for the people there
Establish city walls and a way of life.
In the meantime, Aeneas and his best friend, Achates, set off on foot to explore the shores of enorthern Africa. Along the way, they stopped and conversed with a young huntress - Aeneas’ immortal mother, Venus, in disguise.
Venus feared that the Carthaginians would harm her son and his friend, so she enveloped them an invisible cloud before saying goodbye. Soon, Aeneas and Achates reached the city of Carthage and came to a temple dedicated to Juno, which was set off in a dense olive grove.
Standing beside the door of the temple, the men heard Queen Dido offering advice and counsel to three Trojan men, whom Aeneas believed had been lost at sea. The men were telling about their perilous journey from Troy, but before they could finish, Dido interrupted and asked if she could meet their leader. Aeneas and Achates wasted no time slipping from beneath their invisible cloud.
When Aeneas stepped forward and admitted that he was the leader of the Trojan people, the queen smiled warmly and asked that he finish telling the tale at a banquet that she would give in his honor. Aeneas accepted the invitation and asked if he could bring along his young son, Ascanius. The queen agreed.
On the evening of the palace banquet, Venus sent her immortal son, Cupid, the god of love, to the palace disguised as Ascanius. She believed that Dido would not harm Aeneas if the queen fell in love with him. So according to his mother’s instructions, Cupid sat on Dido's lap and cast his spell. While Aeneas entertained Queen Dido’s dinner guests with the long saga of the Trojans' journey to Carthage, Cupid made Dido fall helplessly in love with the young Trojan.
That night, Dido confessed to her sister Anna that she had fallen in love with Aeneas. Now she had a dilemma. She could no longer honor the vow she had taken to remain faithful to her dead husband. Anna reminded Dido that she had been a widow long enough and suggested that the city of Carthage might benefit from the presence of the Trojans, who would discourage invasions of other, more warlike foreigners.
From then on, Dido was consumed by Cupid's spell and her love for Aeneas. She could not get Aeneas out of her mind, much less her heart, and she soon began to neglect the business of building her city. Likewise, Aeneas was captivated by Dido’s beauty and charm and visited her every evening. Together these lovers roamed Carthage's narrow winding streets lined with tall, closely packed houses, and they often went to visit the harbor.
Aeneas was impressed with the city's modern double-ringed harbor. The outer harbor accommodated trading ships. The inner harbor, a large, rounded area lined with hundreds of sheds, protected Dido’s warships.
Soon, the couple was spending so much time together that Dido had completely neglected her royal duties. Juno decided that perhaps Dido might be more inclined to concentrate on building and governing her city if she and Aeneas were married.
Marriage would also mean that Aeneas would remain in Carthage. So one day, while Dido and Aeneas were out riding, Juno caused a violent thunderstorm. The weather was so inclement that the couple had to seek shelter in a small cave. When the storm cleared, Aeneas and Dido left the cave. Juno wasted no time exposing their secret affair.
The rumor spread quickly throughout the city and among the gods, and when Jupiter heard the story, he became alarmed. Quickly, Jupiter summoned Mercury, the messenger god, and instructed him to visit the lovesick Trojan leader to remind him that he had an obligation to the gods and to his people to lead the Trojans to a new homeland. Mercury also reminded Aeneas that his young son, Ascanius, would never lay claim to land of his own if the Trojans remained forever in Carthage.
Finally, Aeneas understood the consequences of his actions. He agreed with Mercury that the Trojans must leave Carthage, but the decision to leave the woman he loved broke his heart. Still, Aeneas told his men to prepare to set sail the following morning. But the young lover, lacking the courage to break the news to Dido, made his preparations in secret.
The queen soon learned the truth, and she hurried off to confront her lover:
You even hoped to keep me in the dark
As to this outrage, did you, two-faced man,
And slip away in silence? Can our love
Not hold you, can the pledge we gave not hold you,
Can Dido not, now sure to die in pain?
Aeneas tried to make the beautiful queen understand that the decision to leave Carthage had not been his own, but had been decreed by the gods. He assured her that he loved her but explained that his love for the gods, his people, the memory of his dead father, and his son’s future, were even more important.
Aeneas’ determination to leave and his explanations only made Dido angrier. She warned him that if he left, she would haunt him for the rest of his life.
I hope and pray that on some grinding reef
Midway at sea you’ll drink your punishment
And call and call on Dido’s name!
From far away I shall come after you
With my black fires, and when cold death has parted
Body from soul I shall be everywhere
A shade to haunt you! You will pay for this.
That night, Aeneas tossed restlessly in his sleep until Mercury awakened him to warn him of the queen’s plan to burn his entire fleet in the morning. Mercury advised Aeneas to leave Carthage right away under cover of darkness. Always respectful of Mercury’s warnings, Aeneas awoke his people and told them to prepare for immediate departure. Then, in the still of a dark moonless night, the fleet sailed quietly out of the harbor.
The following morning, Dido saw from her window the sails of the Trojan ships far off in the distance. Her chance to burn the fleet had been lost, and the ships were already too far out at sea for her ships to take pursuit. Angrier than she had ever been, Dido called out to the gods to hear her vengeful prophecy:
Let him see the unmerited deaths of those
Around and with him, and accepting peace
On unjust terms, let him not, even so,
Enjoy his kingdom or the life he longs for,
But fall in battle before his time and lie
Unburied on the sand! This I implore,
This is my last cry, as my last blood flows.
Then, O my Tyrians, besiege with hate
His progeny and all his race to come:
Make this offering to my dust. No love,
No pact must be between our peoples; No,
But rise up from my bones, avenging spirit!
After Aeneas left Carthage, the beautiful Dido became overwhelmed with despair. She had broken her vows to her dead husband after she had fallen in love with Aeneas, and now she had lost her self-respect because Aeneas had rejected her. Dido called her sister Anna to her side and asked that she have built a funeral pyre upon which the queen would burn everything that Aeneas had left behind him, including their love.
As the funeral pyre was being built, Dido secretly watched from her window. When it was completed, she rushed out into the courtyard carrying a long shining sword - a gift from Aeneas - and climbed onto the pyre.
Then before her sister or attendants could stop her, Queen Dido plunged the sword into her own chest. As Anna approached, the life began to leave Dido's body. The queen struggled to raise herself on one elbow:
"I die unavenged," she said,"but let me die.
This way, this way, a blessed relief to go
Into the undergloom. Let the cold Trojan,
Far at sea, drink in this conflagration [fire]
And take with him the omen of my death!"
Anna took the dying queen in her arms and sobbed helplessly.
It came to this, then, sister? You deceived me?
The pyre meant this, altars and fires meant this?
What shall I mourn first, being abandoned? Did you
Scorn your sister's company in death?
You should have called me out to the same fate!
Juno looked down on the dying queen and suffered a brief moment of regret. Her failed scheme had caused Dido to suffer more than the goddess had intended. Then, Juno took pity on the young queen and sent a messenger to free Dido's soul from her dying body.