One of the most famous love stories in all literature is that of Dido and Aeneas from Virgil’s Aeneid. In his Confessions, Augustine even tells of how this particular story was used as part of his rhetorical education, as the students were taught how to read the story of Dido and make themselves weep. Unfortunately, those people who like to imagine a historic basis for their legends are out of luck on this one. Dido, the founding Queen of Carthage, and Aeneas, the fugitive from Troy’s destruction, could never have met. The traditional date for the founding of Carthage, derived from the Greek historian Timaeus, is 814 B.C. The date of the Trojan War is either 1250 B.C. (according to Herodotus) or around 1184 B.C. (according to Eratosthenes). So unless Aeneas wandered the Mediterranean for about 400 years, there was no chance that he ever met up with Dido.
“Ithobalus, the priest of Astarte…reigned thirty-two years, and lived sixty-eight years: he was succeeded by his son Badezorus, who lived forty-five years, and reigned six years: he was succeeded by Matgenus his son; he lived thirty-two years, and reigned nine years: Pygmalion succeeded him; he lived fifty-six years, and reigned forty-seven years. Now in the seventh year of his reign, his sister fled away from him, and built the city Carthage in Libya.” (Josephus, Against Apion 1.18)
Remember, though, I told you I had a fun, interesting connection for you? Here it is. Ithobaal/Ethbaal was a usurper. He was a priest who killed the king and started a new dynasty. Naturally he would want to ally himself with his neighbors to cement his reign. At the time, one powerful southern neighbor was Israel. King Ahab of Israel (874 – 853) was particularly militaristic and strong. As an aside, we know from other historical records that when Shalmaneser III of Assyria tried to push west, he was opposed by a coalition of twelve kings, which included Ahab. Ahab brought the strongest military force of all the kings, numbering 2,000 chariots and 10,000 infantry. So Ithobaal married his daughter off to Ahab of Israel as we read in 1 Kings 16:31, “…he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians…”
So, in case you haven’t been keeping up, the whole Dido and Aeneas thing is pure fiction with no historical basis whatever: a nice story, but nothing more. However, Dido, founder of Carthage, did have another famous connection, her great-aunt Jezebel of Biblical fame. And if you’re like me, you find that “It’s a Small World After All” vibe to be pretty cool.