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Virgil’S Dido and the Heroism of Hannibal in Silius’ Pvnica

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Chapter Summary

Virgil presents Dido's prayer as the origin of the Second Punic War, and by doing so suggests, on the metaliterary level, the opportunity for another epic, a poem that presents this confrontation as a result of the disastrous love affair between Aeneas and Dido, and thus also as a sequel to the Aeneid. Tiberius Catius Asconius Silius Italicus takes up this challenge and gives Dido a special role in his treatment of Hannibal's war against Rome in the Punica. This chapter examines the key passages where Dido's story appears and shows how the mythical queen both shapes Hannibal's character and explains the tragic nature of his heroism. Silius presents Hannibal as a fascinating villain and lavishes more than half of the epic on the general's stunning successes in the first three years of the conflict, culminating in his devastating victory at Cannae in 216 BC.

Keywords: Aeneid; Dido; Hannibal's heroism; Punica; Rome; Second Punic War; Tiberius Catius Asconius Silius Italicus; Virgil

10.1163/9789004217119_005
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