Attention to Duty and Love

Attention to Duty and Love

Pentecost 53

Last week at, Charlotte Hilton Andersen wrote about love at first sight and how it is not the key to a lasting and satisfying romance. Andersen reported on findings based on a study from the University of Texas that interviewed over one hundred and sixty couples with relationships lasting from three months to fifty-three years. The research showed that knowing someone for a period of time led to lasting love, not love at first sight.

Dido and Aeneas, two popular characters of Greek mythology and central to Virgil’s “Aeneid”, would have disagreed with the Texas study. The founder of the Roman city of North African coastal city of Carthage, the former prophetess who was originally from Tyre greeted a group of veterans of the Trojan War. The stately queen naturally was introduced to the leader of the soldiers, a brave warrior named Aeneas. IT was, according to legend, love at first sight and seemed like the perfect match.

Aeneas is considered one of the ancestral founders of Rome and after living together with Dido as man and wife, the gods sent a messenger to remind him of his supposed destiny. Aeneas was to found a new city, not stay in Carthage and rule as king to Dido’s monarchy. Anxious to fulfill his duty, Aeneas makes his apologies to Dido and leaves. As his ships leave the port of Carthage, Dido takes her own life, vowing that Carthage and Rome would always be enemies.

Carthage had been settled by Phoenicians from Tyre and grew to become a very successful and wealthy city. Although it had its differences with the Greeks and in spite of Dido’s proclamation, Carthage and Rome enjoyed a beneficial partnership and ally status for quite a few years. However, unlike relationships that seem to thrive with more time, Carthage and Rome grew to become enemies in what history called the Punic Wars, Punic being the Latin name for Phoenicians.

In 264 BCE, Rome decided to become a part of a dispute on the island of Sicily which was a Carthaginian province and involved soldiers from two cities – Syracuse, supposed by Carthage and Messina, supported by Rome. What began as soldiers from two minor cities grew into all-out war between Carthage and Rome for control of Sicily. Carthage was clearly the more dominant naval power and yet, within twenty years, Rome had scored a huge victory and gained its first province – Sicily.

In all there were three wars between Carthage and Rome. The three Punic Wars as they are known took place over almost one hundred years and eventually led to the destruction of Carthage in 146 BCE and Rome acquiring yet another province – Africa. Rome also moved troops into Macedonia during the same year as the fall of Carthage and within a year, Rome had a mighty empire that stretched fromt eh Atlantic coastline of Spain to the border between Greece and Asia Minor, the present-day country of Turkey.

Interestingly enough, the poet Virgil who penned the love-struck tale of Dido and Aeneas might also have written some of the best advice for finding true love and how to live with loyalty, adhering best to one’s duty and destiny. “Time passes irrevocably.” I like that – time, the countless seconds of life, continue forward conclusively. I have found great comfort in that one essential truth.

Virgil’s other quotes also concur with the Texas study on how to have a lasting relationship. “Come what may, all bad fortune is to be conquered with endurance.” “Endure the present and watch for better things.” Anyone who has ever argued with a spouse knows that being right does not make you a winner. Sometimes staying the course and giving up the distinction of right and/or wrong is the winning prize.

What about those who follow duty? To those engaged in conflict or a seemingly impossible struggle, Virgil offers this: “They succeed, because they think they can.” “They can conquer who believe they can.” Sometimes we do our best on the job because we want a raise or promotion or, like Aeneas, feel it is what we are supposed to be doing. It all comes down to not only love of another but also love of ourselves. Virgil had a hint at how to achieve success at living, whether it was living one’s work or finding romance: “Love conquers all.”


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