An excerpt from The Book of the City of Ladies (c. 1407), Part One, chapter 46:
HERE REASON SPEAKS OF THE PRUDENCE AND ATTENTIVENESS OF QUEEN DIDO.
"Just as you yourself said before, prudence means taking pains to be able to finish those tasks which one wishes to undertake. I will give more examples of other powerful ladies to show you that women are attentive in this matter, even in questions of great importance, and the first example is Dido, originally called Elissa. In her works she clearly demonstrated her prudence and erudition, just as I will tell. She founded and built a city called Carthage, in the land of Africa, where she was lady and queen. The way in which she founded her city and acquired and took possession of her land demonstrated her exceptional constancy, nobility, and strength, and without these graces true prudence is impossible. This lady was descended from the Phoenicians, who came from the hinterlands of Egypt to the land of Syria where they founded and built several noble cities and towns. Among these people was a king named Agenor, of whom Dido's father, who was named Belus, was a direct descendant, and he was the king of Phoenicia and conquered the kingdom of Cyprus. This king had only one son, named Pygmalion, along with this maiden Dido, and no other children. As he lay dying, he charged his barons to bear love and loyalty to his two children. He even made them promiseto do so. After the king had died, they crowned Pygmalion, his son, and married Elissa, who was quite beautiful, to a duke who was the most powerful man in the country after the king, whose name was Acerbas Sychaeon or Sychaeus. And this Sychaeus was a high priest in the temple of Hercules, according to their law, and was fantastically rich. Sychaeus and Elissa loved each other very much, and they led a good life. But King Pygmalion was evil,cruel, and extraordinarily greedy: he could not have enough without coveting even more. Elissa, his sister, well acquainted with his greed and realizing that her husband had great wealth and that his wealth was quite famous, counseled and advised her husband to protect himself against the king and to hide his treasure in a secret place so that the king could not take it away from him. Sychaeus believed this advice but neglected to protect his person against the king's ambushes, as she had advised him. One day this king had him killed in order to have his great treasures. Elissa was so grieved at this death that she too nearly died, and for a long time she wept and moaned, piteously lamenting her beloved and her lord while cursing her cruel brother who had had him put to death. But this criminal king, who felt robbed of his expectations because he found little or nothing of Sychaeus' wealth, bore great malice toward his sister, for he thought that she had hidden her husband's treasures. Realizing that her life was in great danger, Elissa's own prudence prompted her to leave her home land and to go into exile. Having considered this question, she courageously reflected on what she should do and armed herself with strength and constancy to put her intended undertaking into effect. This lady knew very well that the king was not at all loved by the barons nor by the people because of the atrocities and crimes he had perpetrated. Therefore, she took with her several princes and citizens, as well as some common people, and after she had sworn them to secrecy, she began to explain her plans eloquently, as long as they agreed to go with her and swear to her that they would be good and faithful subjects. This lady secretly had her ship readied as quickly as possible and left at night with all her great treasures, accompanied by many people, and she ordered her sailors to hurry to depart. This lady was even more clever, for she knew very well that her brother would have her followed as soon as he knew of her departure, and for this reason she had large trunks, coffers, and bundles secretly filled with heavy, worthless objects, as though these were her treasure, so that by turning these trunks and bundles over to her brother's envoys, they would let her go and not impede her voyage. And so it happened: for they had not yet traveled very far when a great number of the king's henchmen came rushing in pursuit to stop her. But the lady spoke well and wisely to them and said she was going on a pilgrimage of her own, unless they cared to prevent her. Seeing that this excuse was worthless, she declared that she knew well that her brother the king had no use for her, but that, in fact,if he wanted to have her treasure she would willingly send it back to him. The king's henchmen, knowing well that he was aiming at nothing else but this, said that she should give the treasure to them immediately, for with this they would try to satisfy the king and reconcile him to her. The lady, therefore, with a sad face as though she did it reluctantly, had all of these trunks and chests delivered to them and loaded on theirships. And they left immediately, thinking that they had acted well andwere bringing the king good news. The queen, without even slightly seemingto do so, turned her thoughts to her voyage as quickly as she could. They kept on traveling, by day and by night, until they arrived at the island of Cyprus. There they rested a little. Then, after offering sacrifices to the gods, she returned to her ship and brought along with her the priest of Jupiter and his household. This same priest had prophesied that a lady from the lands of Phoenicia would come, on whose behalf he would leave his country in order to accompany her. So, leaving the land of Crete behind them, they proceeded, with Sicily to their right, sailing along the coast of Massylia, until they arrived in Africa, where they landed. The people in that country immediately came to look at the ship and its passengers. After they saw the lady and realized that her followers were men of peace, they brought them many provisions. And the lady spoke to them graciously and told them that, because of the good she had heard recounted about this country, they had come to live there, provided that the natives were agreed, who thereupon indicated their willingness. Pretending that she did not wish to make a very large settlement on foreign land, the lady asked them to sell her only as much land on the beach which a cowhide would enclose for building a lodging there for herself and her people. This request was granted to her, and, once the conditions of the sale were drawn up and sworn between them, the lady then demonstrated her cleverness and prudence: she took out a cowhide and cut it into the thinnest possible strips and then connected them together in a kind of belt, which she spread out on the ground around the port and which enclosed a marvelously large piece of land. The sellers were very surprised at this and amazed by the ruse and cleverness of this woman, but, nevertheless, they had to keep their part of the bargain.
"In such a manner this lady acquired land in Africa, and within this enclosure a horse's head was found. According to their divinations, they interpreted this horse's head, along with the flight and cry of birds, to mean that a warrior people, exceptionally valorous at arms, would inhabit the city to be founded there. This lady then summoned workers from everywhere and unpacked her treasure. She had a marvelously beautiful, large, and strong city constructed, which she named Carthage; she called the tower and citadel 'Byrsa,'which means'cowhide.'
"And just as she was beginning to construct her city, she received news that her brother was threatening her and all those who had accompanied her because she had mocked him and duped him of the treasure. But she told all his envoys that the treasure had been perfectly intact when she had given it up to be taken to her brother, and that it could be that those who had received it had stolen it and replaced it with counterfeits, or that, by chance, because of the sin committed by the king in having her husband murdered, the gods had not wanted him to enjoy her husband's treasure and so had transmuted it. As far as his threat was concerned, she thought that with the help of the gods she could defend herself well against her brother. She summoned all those whom she had led and told them that she did not wish them to stay with her unwillingly or reluctantly nor to endure the slightest trouble on her account. For these reasons, if they wished to return, all or any of them, she would compensate them for their labor and send them away. And they all responded unanimously that they would live and die with her, without leaving her for a single day of their lives. These messengers left, and the lady hurried to complete the city as fast as possible. After it was finished, she instituted statutes and ordinances so that the people would live according to the rule of law and justice. So remarkably and prudently did she govern that her reputation spread to all lands. She was spoken of only in terms of her outstanding strength, courage, and her bold undertaking. Because of her prudent government, they changed her name and called her Dido, which is the equivalent of saying virago in Latin, which means 'the woman who has the strength and force of a man.' Thus she lived for a long time in glory and would have lived so the rest of her life if Fortune had not been unfavorable to her, but Fortune, often envious of the prosperous, mixed too harsh a brew for her in the end, just as I will tell you afterward, at the right time and place."