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IAS Fellows’ Seminar –  The Secret History of Dido: unravelling an ancient literary snare to reveal a feminist role-model and a new foundation myth, by Magdalena Zira (Fantastico Theatro)

November 13, 2023 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Image courtesy of CJ Romas (iStock)

IAS Fellows’ Seminar by Dr Magdalena Zira (Fantastico Theatro)


A new play about Carthaginian Queen Dido, the result of an academic-creative collaboration between Professor Edith Hall and Dr Magdalena Zira, first performed in Cyprus in Modern Greek, is being re-worked here in Durham in English. Based on virtually unknown historiographical evidence, in which Dido is great leader, a political refugee and feminist icon untouched by Virgil’s invented love story with Aeneas, the play also contains elements of fiction inspired by historical research. It is an epic tale with a visionary female protagonist. In the original performance, the play drew from the oral Cypriot folk tradition of narrative songs, which allude to the form of ancient epic. Through this device, we aimed to deconstruct a familiar ancient story and then make it familiar again, by framing it as a new foundation myth for Mediterranean cultures: while unpicking the Virgilian imperialist, sexist narrative, we imagined the lost Carthaginian songs to weave together history and fiction into a feminist re-telling through the mediums of oral poetry and narrative song, creating in performance an atmosphere evoking tradition, myth and legend.  

Today the feminist perspective in classical reception contains reflections on issues such as (im)migration, imperialism and the crisis in our relationship with the natural world. This project is no exception.  While in Durham, Dr Magdalena Zira will conduct literary, historical, archaeological and ethnomusicological research, as well as workshops of the text, in order to explore how this play can have contemporary resonance while still maintaining the elements that lend it a mythical status for an English-speaking audience.  

 Places are limited and so any academic colleagues or students interested in attending in person should register HERE.


November 13, 2023
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Event Category:


Cosin’s Hall, Palace Green Durham
Cosin's Hall, Palace Green
Durham, DH1 3RL United Kingdom
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