Dido’s sacrifice to Juno

(Virgil, Aeneid IV, 54 ff.)

Dido has fallen so in love with Aeneas she can no longer fulfil her role as queen: her love makes her powerless and her lover consumes her every thought. Knowing that Aeneas may not be able to stay with her, she calls on the gods for help. After all, a little divine support in tempting the fates never hurt anyone…

Just as Queen Dido is about to pour water between the horns of a sacrificial animal – a young white steer – the priest points to a statue of Juno, the goddess of marriage, who is accompanied by her symbolic peacock. Dido hopes her sacrifice will allow Aeneas to stay in Carthage as her husband. Whether her prayers will be answered remains to be seen: the sacrificial party prepares to eviscerate the steer and read its entrails.

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