Posted by Eric » 4 Comments »
Here is the opening of Venus’ speech to Aeneas when she is disguised as a Tyrian huntress:
- Tum Venus: ‘Haud equidem tali me dignor honore;
- virginibus Tyriis mos est gestare pharetram,
- purpureoque alte suras vincire cothurno.
Venus says that it is the custom for Tyrian maidens to wear high boots–or, more properly, to bind or tie them on. The word-order in 337 perfectly illustrates the sense: the adjective “purpureo” and the noun “cothurno” surround the word for “legs” (“suras”), so that the reader gets a word-picture of her putting the crimson boots on.
A couple of other notes: Venus toys with Aeneas in her deception by picking up his vocabulary. Aeneas believes that the figure before him is divine: namque haud tibi vultus/mortalis, nec vox hominem sonat (327-8). At the beginning of her speech, Venus says that “by no means” (haud) is she worthy of such an honor.
Dido is also assimilated (cruelly, in retrospect) to the disguised goddess. Aeneas addresses Venus as “virgo,” and Venus, Artemis-like, takes up this word and uses it of herself (“virginibus”). Shortly afterwards, Dido is described at the time of her marriage to Sychaeus as “intactam.” But the reader later learns how Venus sports with Dido vis-a-vis marriage to Aeneas. This one who appears to Aeneas as an innocent maiden proves to be anything but that, and the formerly “untouched” Dido becomes the plaything of the goddess of love.