| Quote #1
At Dido's head she came to rest.
These lines depict the death of Dido. The Romans believed that Proserpina, the goddess of the underworld, came to cut a lock of hair from a person about to die. Here, because Dido has died before her time, Proserpina hasn't come, so Juno sent down Iris to do the job instead. Aside from these cultural details, these lines are striking for their emphasis on death as a physical process.
| Quote #2
Avernus is a lake near Naples; it was thought to be near the entrance to the underworld, also known as "Dis." It is possible to read the Sibyl's instructions completely literally – but they take on a whole added depth when you realize that she is talking metaphorically. If you don't see the metaphor at first, just think about how many people die, versus how many people die and come back. The way downward is easier, right? (For a highly original twentieth century reimagining of the descent to the underworld, check out the poem "Bavarian Gentians" by D. H. Lawrence.)
| Quote #3
As the Sibyl gives Aeneas her tour, we see more of the greatest hits of the ancient view of the underworld. We say "greatest hits" because most scholars now believe that the underworld as depicted in Book 6 of the Aeneid is a composite of various belief systems, and probably does not, in its entirety, reflect the true religious beliefs of Virgil of his Roman contemporaries. What literary reasons might have influenced Virgil to include this grim spectacle of the unburied, homeless dead?