Aeneas and Anna Perenna

Patricia Johnston (Brandeis University)

In Vergil’s Aeneid, Dido’s sister Anna serves as her confidante and also as an intermediary between her sister and Aeneas. In Ovid’s Fasti and again in Silius Italicus’ Punica, we learn that Anna, driven into exile after the fall of Carthage to Iarbas, made her way to Italy, where she became the local goddess Anna Perenna.

After the death of Dido, Anna’s story does not end. In Ovid’s Fasti 8, and then in Silius Italicus’s Punica, we learn that after the queen’s death, Iarbas and his Numidian forces invaded Carthage and drove Dido’s Tyrians into exile on Malta, from where they were were again driven into exile by Pygmalion, Dido’s and Anna’s evil brother. Consequently, Anna—following a pattern curiously similar to that followed by Aeneas—sets sail in search of a new land. Like Aeneas, she is overwhelmed by a storm at sea and is cast—conveniently—onto Italy’s Laurentine shores. By the time Anna reaches Italy, Ovid tells us, “Aeneas had already been “increased” (the word auctus tends to suggest Augustus’ new name) by Latinus’ kingdom and by his daughter (F. 8.601-2). At the very time when Anna lands in Latium, Aeneas happens to be walking along that very beach. Ovid pointedly refers to this beach as the litore dotali (603), “the shore he had received as a dowry.” Anna is graciously welcome to Italy by Ovid’s Aeneas, and invited to stay and enjoy the “conveniences” (commoda) of his new situation. He takes her to his new home and introduces her to his wife, Lavinia.

Ovid’s Lavinia, however, is no longer the malleable, shy creature we saw in Vergil: she is now a jealous wife. While she agrees to welcome Anna into their home, she conceals an imagined injury [falsum volnus] and silently [tacita mente] masks her anxiety. She observes that her husband offers many gifts in her presence, but suspects many more are given in secret. Whereas Vergil’s Lavinia would not question the decisions made by others, Ovid’s Lavinia rages insanely—responding (furialiter) as strongly as her mother did to adversity. And so she prepares a trap, and is ready, like Amata, to die for her cause.

In this paper the contrasting interactions between Anna, Aeneas and Lavinia in Ovid and Vergil (with due consideration of Silius Italicus’ account) and their implications will be examined.

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