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129–172: The Hunting Party

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 [1]

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 After the divine interlude the action switches back to the human plane. The basic structure of the section is as follows:

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 129: Indication of time

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 130–50: Preparation for the hunt and departure

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 130–35: Nameless attendants from Carthage

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 130–32: The youth and Massylian horsemen

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 133–35: Punic princes

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 136–39: Queen Dido

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 140–41a: Aeneas’ companions, above all his son Iulus/ Ascanius

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 141b–50: Aeneas, including simile that compares him to Apollo, correlating with the Dido-Diana simile in Book 1.494–504.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 151–59: The hunt

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 151–55: General activities

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 156–59: Ascanius/ Iulus enjoying the hunt

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 160–72: The perfect storm

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 160–64: Scattering of the companions

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 165–72: The encounter in the cave

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 In broad outline, 129–172 recount the events that Juno had anticipated in 117–127, but the match is uneven. In particular, Virgil elaborates on the preparation for the hunt (the one and a half lines 117–18: uenatum Aeneas unaque miserrima Dido/ in nemus ire parant prefigure 130–50) and the hunt itself (the one line 121: dum trepidant alae saltusque indagine cingunt prefigures 151–59). More intriguingly, Virgil manages to keep Juno’s notion that a ‘marriage’ is in the works resonant throughout. He follows up the programmatic announcement ‘hic hymenaeus erit’ with subtle hints that assimilate the proceedings to a Roman wedding ceremony, leading up to the climax in the cave. ‘Echoes of wedding language and imagery’ include 133: thalamo; 133: cunctantem; 137–39: Dido’s incongruously ornate dress; 142: iungit; perhaps also 165: dux.[2] Possibly, Virgil encourages the reader to recall the ‘long poems’ by Catullus (61–68) and in particular Catullus 61, the famous wedding poem, which features many thematic parallels to this section of Aeneid 4, most conspicuously perhaps the belated appearance of the ‘bride’/ Dido.[3] These persistent hints open up various avenues of interpretation: (i) to begin with, they serve as subtle reminders that Juno is orchestrating events in the background for a specific purpose; (ii) at the same time, the oblique and refracted gestures to a proper Roman wedding ceremony cannot help but highlight that the ‘wedding’ that is unfolding here is profoundly distorted and deeply flawed: if hic hymenaeus erit (127) stands at the beginning of the section, death (letum) and evil (mala) mark the end: ille dies primus leti primusque malorum/ causa fuit (169–70);[4] (iii) more specifically, the conflation of a hunt and a wedding produces jarring results, as it brings into close contact two cultural spheres that are often configured as diametrically opposed: if wedding and marriage revolve around a domestic union for the purpose of procreation, hunting is about going off into the wild for the purpose of killing. Likewise, hunting in ancient thought is a sexually charged activity, but the erotics associated with hunting are of the violent, trangressing kind, as opposed to the civilized values that inform proper marital arrangements. In English, as John Henderson reminds me, ‘venery’ traditionally covers both hunting and sex.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 The joining of Carthaginians and Trojans in the hunt extends the theme of union beyond the two leaders to include two ethnic groupings: the two mingle, and Virgil uses the language of social ties (4.142: infert se socium) in the run-up to the physical mingling in the cave, thus recapitulating the two modes of civic and ethnic union that the two goddesses voiced in their plotting. The intermingling of Carthaginians and Trojans raises the question whether Virgil uses the occasion to demarcate ethnic differences. But at least on the level of the entourage, similarities outweigh differences: in fact, Virgil opts for studied symmetry in how he presents the two peoples. At first sight the same does not quite apply to the same degree to the two leaders: here differences dominate, also on the syntactical level. As Syed points out:[5]

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 The description of Dido’s appearance in lines 133–39 starts out with Dido as the grammatical object, being awaited by her companions (4.133–34: reginam … exspectant). She is the subject of hardly a single active verb, excepting the (ironically) deponent progreditur in 4.136. For the most part, she is watched for (4.134: exspectant), surrounded (4.136: stipante), clothed (4.137: circumdata), her hair tied (4.138: nodantur), her brooch clasping her dress (4.139: subnectit). By contrast, Aeneas and Apollo to whom Aeneas is compared, are insistently active, they are the subjects of active verbs in the passage: Aeneas joins Dido (4.142: infert se socium) and unites his companions with hers (4.142: agmina iungit). In the simile, Apollo leaves Lycia (4.144: deserit) and comes to Delos (4.144: invisit). He renews dances (4.145: instaurat), he walks (4.147: graditur), he presses his locks (4.148: premit crinem) and braids them with gold (4.148: implicat auro). Just so, Aeneas, too, walks (4.149: haud illo segnior ibat).

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 There is, then, a much greater emphasis on Aeneas in this section, who re-enters the text with a vengeance. But on inspection, the differentiation between Dido and Aeneas is perhaps less marked than Syed makes it out to be. It is true that Dido, throughout this passage, remains strangely out of focus and her agency marginalized. But this does not square at all with Syed’s conclusion that ‘Dido is the object of the reader’s gaze.’ Instead, Virgil directs the attention of his audience onto Aeneas, his comparandum Apollo, and Ascanius/ Iulus: they are the protagonists in the unfolding drama of the hunt and regain the narrative limelight. And there are subtle touches through which Virgil breaks down any stark opposition between the Trojan hero and the Phoenician queen: many of the thematic concerns that dominate the stretch on Dido, in particular ‘gold’ and ‘hair’ recur in the simile that compares Aeneas to Apollo. Also in light of the fact that we later meet Aeneas as if dressed for a Punic catwalk, with a cloak aflame in Phoenician gold and purple (4.261-64), we may legitimately wonder whether his attire here does not provide a fitting match for that of the queen. And as for syntax, just as Dido, Apollo, too, struts about in a deponent: graditur (147). The passage, then, seems studiously ambiguous about the countervailing dynamics of assimilation and differentiation.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 129: Oceanum interea surgens Aurora