Dido’s Problem

Queen Dido of Carthage is better known for her bitter romance with Aeneas, as reported in Vergil’s Aeneid. Her being a historical or mere mythological figures is still debatable and most probably she never met Aeneas (which makes Vergil’s verses not less wonderful); you can figure out her whole story here.  Less known is that she gave name to the isoperimetric problem, which is to determine a plane figure of the largest possible area whose boundary has a specified length.

Shortly explained (and avoiding any attempt of being exhaustive about the many variations of the story): Dido was the daughter of the king of Tyre (Lebanon), she had a young brother named Pygmalion and was married with her uncle Acerbas, a high priest. When her father died, her brother became ruler of Tyre and possibly killed her husband, so that she had to flee from her land. She was joined in her flight by some of her people and together they searched for refuge in the coast of north Africa, where Dido got from Berber king Iarbas permission to settle, but only on so much land as could be covered by one single oxhide. She then cut the hide in thin stripes making a long string and with it she marked the borders for the city of Carthage.

To my picture. A woman: she had to flee and has neither land nor home anymore. She barely gets a safety blanket for cover. World, we have a problem.

Dido’s problem, oil on canvas, 100 x 120 cm, 2016.