The purple cloak worn by Aeneas, woven by Dido, in lines 4.261-4 of the Aeneid, has connections to Homeric and Hellenistic epic, Greek tragedy, Roman lyric and elegiac poetry, and Horace’s Epodes. This lecture will explore the rich resonances of this passage in the Aeneid, and show that these connections combine to imply that Dido has woven this cloak as an attempt to play the role of a good Roman wife, but that her attempt is undercut by mistakes in her choices of literary and mythical models. This both emphasizes her perception of the relationship with Aeneas as a marriage and undermines its legitimacy in the eyes of a Roman reader, supporting Aeneas’ choice to leave her.
Dr. Aven McMaster received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Classics from the University of Toronto. She was an Associate Professor in the Ancient Studies Department at Thorneloe University, federated with Laurentian University, until the university was forced to close this spring because of Laurentian’s financial difficulties. She is currently teaching courses at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. Her specialization is Latin poetry, especially of the late Republic and Augustan periods, and its connections to the patron-client system of Rome and related concerns over gratitude, obligation, and status. She has also published on ancient sexuality and modern reception of the classical world. She is an active public scholar: she is the co-host of a podcast on language and history (The Endless Knot Podcast) and helps produce videos for a related YouTube channel on etymology. Most recently, she has been considering issues around Indigenization and Classics.