Virgil : The Aeneid Book XI
Translated by A. S. Kline © 2002 All Rights Reserved
This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
Meanwhile Dawn rose and left the ocean waves:
though Aeneas’s sorrow urged him to spend his time
on his comrades’ burial, and his mind was burdened by death,
as victor, at first light, he discharged his vows to the gods.
He planted a great oak trunk, its branches lopped all round,
on a tumulus, and decked it out as a trophy to you, great god of war,
in the gleaming armour stripped from the leader, Mezentius:
he fastened the crests to it, dripping with blood, the warrior’s
broken spears, and the battered breastplate, pierced
in twelve places: he tied the bronze shield to its left side,
and hung the ivory-hilted sword from its neck.
Then he began to encourage his rejoicing comrades:
‘We have done great things, men: banish all fear of what’s left
to do: these are the spoils of a proud king, the first fruits of victory,
and this is Mezentius, fashioned by my hands.
Now our path is towards King Latinus and his city walls.
Look to your weapons, spiritedly, make war your expectation,
so when the gods above give us the sign to take up our standards,
and lead out our soldiers from the camp, no delay may halt us
unawares, or wavering purpose hold us back through fear.
Meanwhile let us commit to earth the unburied bodies
of our friends, the only tribute recognised in Acheron’s depths.
Go,’ he said, ‘grace these noble spirits with your last gifts,
who have won this country for us with their blood,
and first let Pallas’s body be sent to Evander’s grieving city,
he, whom a black day stole, though no way lacking
in courage, and plunged in death’s bitterness.’
So he spoke, weeping, and retraced his steps to the threshold
where Pallas’s lifeless corpse was laid, watched
by old Acoetes, who before had been armour-bearer
to Arcadian Evander, but then, under less happy auspices,
set out as the chosen guardian for his dear foster-child.
All the band of attendants, and the Trojan crowd, stood around,
and the Ilian women, hair loosened as customary in mourning.
As Aeneas entered the tall doorway they struck
their breasts, and raised a great cry to the heavens,
and the royal pavilion rang with sad lamentation.
When he saw the pillowed face and head of Pallas,
pale as snow, and the open wound of the Ausonian spear
in his smooth chest, he spoke, his tears rising:
‘Unhappy child, when Fortune entered smiling was it she
who begrudged you to me, so that you would not see
my kingdom, or ride, victorious, to your father’s house?
This was not the last promise I made your father, Evander,
on leaving, when he embraced me, sending me off
to win a great empire, and warned me with trepidation
that the enemy were brave, a tough race.
And now, greatly deluded by false hopes, he perhaps
is making vows, piling the altars high with gifts,
while we, grieving, follow his son in vain procession,
one who no longer owes any debt to the gods.
Unhappy one, you will see the bitter funeral of your child!
Is this how we return, is this our hoped-for triumph?
Is this what my great promise amounted to?
Yet, Evander, your eyes will not see a son struck down
with shameful wounds, nor be a father praying for death,
accursed because your son came home alive. Alas, how great
was the protector, who is lost to you, Ausonia, and you, Iulus.’
When he had ended his lament, he ordered them to lift
the sad corpse, and he sent a thousand men, chosen
from the ranks, to attend the last rites, and share the father’s tears,
a meagre solace for so great a grief, but owed a father’s sorrow.
Others, without delay, interwove the frame of a bier
with twigs of oak, and shoots of arbutus, shading
the bed they constructed with a covering of leaves.
Here they placed the youth high on his rustic couch:
like a flower plucked by a young girl’s fingers,
a sweet violet or a drooping hyacinth, whose brightness
and beauty have not yet faded, but whose native earth
no longer nourishes it, or gives it strength.
Then Aeneas brought two robes of rigid gold and purple
that Sidonian Dido had made for him once, with her own hands,
delighting in the labour, interweaving the fabric with gold thread.
Sorrowing, he draped the youth with one of these as a last honour,
and veiled that hair, which would be burned, with its cloth,
and heaped up many gifts as well from the Laurentine battle
and ordered the spoils to be carried in a long line:
he added horses and weapons stripped from the enemy.
He had the hands of those he sent as offerings to the shades,
to sprinkle the flames with blood in dying, bound behind their backs,
and ordered the leaders themselves to carry tree-trunks
draped with enemy weapons, with the names of the foe attached.
Unhappy Acoetes, wearied with age, was led along,
now bruising his chest with his fists, now marring his face
with his nails, until he fell, full-length on the ground:
and they led chariots drenched with Rutulian blood.
Behind went the war-horse, Aethon, without his trappings,
mourning, wetting his face with great tear drops.
Others carried Pallas’s spear and helmet, the rest Turnus
held as victor. Then a grieving procession followed,
Trojans, Etruscans, and Arcadians with weapons reversed.
When all the ranks of his comrades had advanced far ahead,
Aeneas halted, and added this, with a deep sigh:
‘This same harsh fate of warfare calls me from here
to other weeping: my salute for eternity to you, noble Pallas,
and for eternity, farewell.’ Without speaking more he turned
his steps toward the camp and headed for the walls.
And now ambassadors, shaded with olive branches,
came from the Latin city, seeking favours: they asked him
to return the bodies of men, felled by the sword, overflowing
the plain, and allow them to be buried under a mound of earth.
there could be no quarrel with the lost, devoid of the light:
let him spare those who were once hosts and fathers of brides.
Aeneas courteously granted prayers he could not refuse,
and added these words as well: ‘Latins, what shameful
mischance has entangled you in a war like this,
so that you fly from being our friends? Do you
seek peace for your dead killed by fate in battle?
I would gladly grant it to the living too. I would not
be here, if fate had not granted me a place, a home,
nor do I wage war on your people: your king abandoned
our friendship, and thought Turnus’s army greater.
It would have been more just for Turnus himself to meet
this death. If he seeks to end the war by force, and drive out
the Trojans, he should have fought me with these weapons, he
whom the gods, or his right hand granted life, would have survived.
Now go and light the fires for your unfortunate countrymen.’
Aeneas had spoken. They were silent, struck dumb,
and kept their faces and their gaze fixed on one another.
Then Drances, an elder, always hostile to young Turnus,
shown in his dislike and reproaches, replied in turn, so:
‘O, Trojan hero, great in fame, greater in battle,
how can I praise you to the skies enough? Should I
wonder first at your justice, or your efforts in war?
Indeed we will gratefully carry these words back
to our native city, and if Fortune offers a way, we will
ally you to our king. Let Turnus seek treaties for himself.
It will be a delight even to raise those massive walls
and lift the stones of Troy on our shoulders.’
He spoke, and they all murmured assent with one voice.
They fixed a twelve day truce, and with peace as mediator,
Trojans and Latins wandered together, in safety,
through the wooded hills. The tall ash rang to the two-edged axe,
they felled pine-trees towering to the heavens, and they never
ceased splitting the oaks, and fragrant cedars, with wedges,
or carrying away the manna ash in rumbling wagons.
And now Rumour filled Evander’s ears, and the palace’s
and the city’s, flying there, bringing news of that great grief:
Rumour, that a moment since was carrying Pallas’s victory
to Latium. The Arcadians ran to the gates, and following
ancient custom, seized torches for the funeral: the road shone
with the long ranks of flames, parting the distant fields.
The Trojan column, approaching, merged its files of mourners
with them. When the women saw them nearing
the houses, grief set the city ablaze with its clamour.
But no force could restrain Evander, and he ran into their midst,
flung himself on Pallas’s body, once the bier was set down,
clinging to it with tears and groans, till at last, he spoke,
his grief scarcely allowing a path for his voice:
‘O Pallas, this was not the promise you made your father,
that you would enter this savage war with caution.
I am not ignorant how great new pride in weapons
can be, and honour won in a first conflict is very sweet.
Alas for the first fruits of your young life, and your
harsh schooling in a war so near us, and for my vows
and prayers unheard by any god! Happy were you, O my
most sacred Queen, in a death that saved you from this sorrow!
I, by living on, have exceeded my fate, to survive as father
without son. I should have marched with the allied armies
of Troy and been killed by those Rutulian spears! I should have
given my life, and this pomp should have carried me, not Pallas, home!
Yet I do not blame you, Trojans, or our treaty, or the hands
we clasped in friendship: my white hairs are the cause of this.
And if an untimely death awaited my son it is my joy that he fell
leading the Trojans into Latium, killing Volscians in thousands.
Indeed, Pallas, I thought you worthy of no other funeral
than this that virtuous Aeneas, the great Phyrgians,
the Etruscan leaders and all the Etruscans chose.
Those, whom your right hand dealt death to, bring great trophies:
Turnus, you too would be standing here, a vast tree-trunk hung with
weapons, if years and mature strength had been alike in both.
But why in my unhappiness do I keep the Trojans from war?
Go, and remember to take this message to your king:
if I prolong a life that’s hateful to me, now Pallas is dead,
it’s because you know your right hand owes father and son
the death of Turnus. That is the one path of kindness to me
and success for you that lies open. I don’t ask for joy while alive,
(that’s not allowed me) but to carry it to my son deep among the shades.’
Dawn, meanwhile, had raised her kindly light on high
for wretched men, calling them again to work and toil:
now Aeneas the leader, now Tarchon, had erected pyres
on the curving bay. Here according to ancestral custom they each
brought the bodies of their people, and as the gloomy fires
were lit beneath, the high sky was veiled in a dark mist.
Three times they circled the blazing piles, clad in gleaming
armour, three times they rounded the mournful
funeral flames on horseback, and uttered wailing cries.
Tears sprinkled the earth, and sprinkled the armour,
the clamour of men and blare of trumpets climbed to the heavens.
Then some flung spoils, stripped from the slaughtered Latins,
onto the fire, helmets and noble swords, bridles and swift wheels:
others, gifts familiar to the dead, their shields and luckless weapons.
Many head of cattle were sacrificed round these, to Death.
They cut the throats of bristling boars, and flocks culled
from the whole country, over the flames. Then they watched
their comrades burn, all along the shore, and kept guard
over the charred pyres, and could not tear themselves away
till dew-wet night wheeled the sky round, inset with shining stars.
Elsewhere too the wretched Latins built innumerable pyres.
Some of the many corpses they buried in the earth, some they took
and carried to the fields nearby, or sent onwards to the city.
The rest, a vast pile of indiscriminate dead, they burnt
without count, and without honours: then the wide fields
on every side shone thick with fires, in emulation.
The third dawn dispelled chill shadows from the sky:
grieving, they raked the bones, mixed with a depth of ash,
from the pyres, and heaped a mound of warm earth over them.
Meanwhile, the main clamour, and the heart of their prolonged
lamentation, was inside the walls, in the city of rich Latinus.
Here mothers and unhappy daughters-in-law, here the loving hearts
of grieving sisters, and boys robbed of their fathers, cursed the dreadful
war, and the marriage Turnus had intended, and demanded that he
and he alone should fight it out with armour and blade, he who
claimed for himself the kingdom of Italy, and the foremost honours.
Cruelly, Drances added to this and testified that Turnus alone
was summoned, that he alone was challenged to battle.
At the same time many an opinion in varied words was against it,
and for Turnus, and the Queen’s noble name protected him,
while his great fame, and the trophies he’d earned, spoke for him.
Amongst this stir, at the heart of the blaze of dissension,
behold, to crown it all, the ambassadors brought an answer
from Diomedes’s great city, sad that nothing had been achieved
at the cost of all their efforts, presents and gold
and heartfelt prayers had been useless, the Latins must find
other armies or seek peace with the Trojan king.
King Latinus sank beneath this vast disappointment.
The angry gods and the fresh graves before his eyes, had given
warning that this fateful Aeneas was clearly sent by divine will.
So, summoning his high council, the leaders of his people,
by royal command, he gathered them within his tall gates.
They convened, streaming to the king’s palace, through
the crowded streets. Latinus, the oldest and most powerful,
seated himself at their centre, with no pleasure in his aspect.
And he ordered the ambassadors, back from the Aetolian city,
to tell their news, asking for all the answers in order.
Then all tongues fell silent, and, obeying
his order, Venulus began as follows:
‘O citizens, we have seen Diomedes and his Argive camp,
completed our journey, overcome all dangers,
and grasped that hand by which the land of Troy fell.
As victor over the Iapygian fields, by the Garganus hills, he was
founding the city of Argyripa, named after his father’s people.
When we had entered, and were given leave to speak to him
in person, we offered our gifts, and declared our name and country:
who had made war on us: and what had brought us to Arpi.
He listened and replied in this way with a calm look:
“O fortunate nations, realms of Saturn, ancient peoples
of Ausonia, what fortune troubles your peace
and persuades you to invite base war?
We who violated the fields of Troy with our blades,
(forgetting what we endured in battle beneath her high walls,
or those warriors Simois drowned) have paid in atrocious suffering,
and every kind of punishment, for our sins, throughout the world,
a crew that even Priam would have pitied: Minerva’s dark star
and that cliff of Euboea, Caphereus the avenger, know it.
Menelaus, son of Atreus, driven from that warfare to distant shores,
was exiled as far as Egypt, and the Pillars of Proteus,
while Ulysses has viewed the Cyclopes of Aetna.
Even Mycenean Agamemnon, leader of the mighty Greeks,
was struck down at the hand of his wicked wife, when barely
over the threshold: he conquered Asia, but an adulterer lurked.
Need I speak of the kingdom of Neoptolemus, Idomeneus’s
household overthrown, or the Locrians living on Libya’s coast?
How the gods begrudged me my return to my country’s
altars: the wife I longed for: and lovely Calydon?
Even now visitations pursue me, dreadful to see:
my lost comrades, as birds, sought the sky with their wings
or haunt the streams (alas a dire punishment for my people!)
and fill the cliffs with their mournful cries.
This was the fate I should have expected from that moment
when, in madness, I attacked Venus’s heavenly body
with my sword, and harmed her hand by wounding it.
Do not, in truth, do not urge me to such conflict. Since Troy’s
towers have fallen I have no quarrel with Teucer’s race,
nor have I joyful memories of those ancient evils.
Take the gifts your bring me, from your country,
to Aeneas. I have withstood his cruel weapons and fought him
hand to hand: trust my knowledge of how he looms
tall above his shield, with what power he hurls his spear.
Had the Troad produced two other men like him,
the Trojans would have reached the Greek cities,
and Greece would be grieving, their fates reversed.
During all that time we spent facing the walls of enduring Troy
a Greek victory was stalled at the hands of Hector
and Aeneas, and denied us till the tenth year.
Both were outstanding in courage and weaponry:
Aeneas was first in virtue. Join hands with him in confederation,
as best you can, but beware of crossing swords with him.”
Noblest of kings, you have heard, in one, what their king replies
and what his counsels are concerning this great war.’
The ambassadors had scarcely finished speaking when diverse
murmurs passed swiftly among the troubled Italian faces, just as
when rocks detain a flowing river a muttering rises from the imprisoned
eddies, and the banks, that border it echo with splashing waves.
As soon as thoughts were calmer and anxious lips were quiet, the king
began to speak, from his high throne, first calling on the gods:
‘Latins, I wish we had decided on this vital matter before now,
and it would have been better not to convene the council at such
a moment, when the enemy is settled in front of our walls.
Citizens we are waging a wrong-headed war with a divine race,
unconquered warriors whom no battles weary, and who
will not relinquish the sword even when beaten.
If you had hopes of the alliance with Aetolian armies,
forgo them. Each has his own hopes: but see how slight they are.
As for the rest of our affairs, the utter ruin they lie in
is in front of your eyes and under your hands.
I accuse no one: what the utmost courage could do has
been done: the conflict has taken all the strength of our kingdom.
So let me explain the decision of my deliberating mind,
and I will outline it briefly (apply your thoughts to it).
There’s an ancient domain of mine along the Tuscan river,
stretching westward, to the Sicanian border and beyond:
Auruncans and Rutulians work the stubborn hills with the plough,
sow seed there, and use the roughest slopes as pasture.
Let us yield all this region, with the pine-clad tract of high hills,
to the Trojans in friendship, and spell out the just terms
of a treaty, and invite them to share our kingdom:
let them settle, if their desire is such, and build their city.
But if their wish is to conquer other territories
and some other nation, and they might leave our soil,
let us fashion twenty ships of Italian oak: or more if they
can fill them, all the timber lies close to the water:
let them set out the number and design of their fleet
themselves: we’ll give the labour, the shipyard and the bronze.
Moreover, I want a hundred envoys to go to carry the news
and seal the pact, Latins of noblest birth, holding out branches
as peace tokens in their hands, and bearing gifts, talents
of ivory and gold, and the throne and the robe, symbols of royalty.
Consult together, and repair our weary fortunes.’
Then Drances, whom Turnus’s glory provoked with the bitter
sting of secret envy, rose, hostile as before,: lavish
of his wealth, and a better speaker, but with a hand
frozen in battle: held to be no mean adviser in council,
and powerful in a quarrel (his mother’s high birth
granted him nobility, his father’s origin was uncertain):
and with these words added weight and substance to their anger:
‘O gracious king, you consult us on a subject clear to all,
and needing no speech from us: everyone acknowledges
they know what the public good demands, but shrink from speech.
Let that man, through whose inauspicious leadership
and perverse ways (speak I will though he threaten me
with violence or death) we have seen so many glorious leaders
fall, and the city sunk in mourning, while he attacks the Trojan camp,
trusting in flight, and frightens heaven with his weapons, let him
grant freedom of speech, and cease his arrogance.
Add one further gift to the many you order us to send
and communicate to the Trojans, one more, gracious king,
why not, as a father may, and let no man’s violence prevent you,
give your daughter to an illustrious man in a marriage
worthy of her, binding this peace with an everlasting contract.
But if fear of doing such possesses our minds and hearts,
let us appeal to the prince, and beg permission from him:
to yield, and give up his rights in favour of his king and his country.
O Turnus, you who are the source and reason for all these problems
for Latium, why do you so often hurl your wretched countrymen
into obvious danger? There’s no remedy in war, we all ask you
for peace, together with the sole inviolable pledge of peace.
I first of all, whom you imagine to be your enemy (and I
will not contest it) come as a suppliant. Pity your people,
set your pride aside, and conquered, give way. Routed,
we have seen enough of death and made broad acres desolate.
Or, if glory stirs you, if you harbour such strength of feeling,
and if a palace as dowry is so dear to you, be bold,
and carry yourself confidently against the enemy.
Surely we whose lives are worthless should be scattered
over the fields, unburied and unwept, so that Turnus
might gain his royal bride? And you too, if you have
any strength, if you have any of your father’s warlike spirit,
you must look into the face of your challenger.’
Turnus’s fury blazed at such a speech. He gasped
and from the depths of his heart gave vent to these words:
‘Drances, it’s true you always have more than plenty to say
whenever war calls for men, and you’re first to appear when the senate
is called together. But there’s no need to fill the council-house with words,
that fly so freely from you when you are safe, when the rampart walls
keep the enemy off and the ditches are not yet drowned in blood.
So thunder away, eloquently (as is your wont) Drances, and charge
me with cowardice when your hand has produced like mounds
of Trojan dead, and dotted the fields everywhere
with trophies. You’re free to try what raw courage can do,
and certainly we don’t need to search far for enemies:
they’re surrounding the walls on every side.
Shall we go against them? Why hesitate?
Will your appetite for war always remain
in your airy tongue and fleeing feet?
I, beaten? You total disgrace, can anyone who sees
the Tiber swollen with Trojan blood, and all Evander’s
house and race toppled, and the Arcadians stripped
of weapons, say with justice I am beaten?
Bitias, and giant Pandarus, and the thousand men that I as victor
sent down to Tartarus in one day, did not find it so, imprisoned
though I was by the walls, and hedged by enemy ramparts.
No safety in war? Madman, sing such about the Trojan’s life,
and your possessions. Go on then, troubling everyone
with your great fears, and extolling the powers of a race
twice-defeated, while disparaging Latinus’s army.
Now even Myrmidon princes, now Diomede, Tydeus’s
son, and Larissean Achilles, tremble at Trojan weapons,
and Aufidus’s river flows backwards from the Adriatic waves.
And what when he pretends he’s afraid to quarrel with me,
the cunning rascal, and intensifies the charge with false terror.
You’ll not lose a life like yours to my right hand
(don’t shrink) keep it, let it remain in your breast.
Now, old father, I return to you and your great debate.
If you place no further hope in our forces,
if we’re so desolate, if one reverse for our troops
has utterly destroyed us, and our Fortunes cannot return,
let’s stretch out our helpless hands, and sue for peace.
Oh if only our traditional courage was here, though.
That man to me would be happy in his efforts, and outstanding
in spirit, who had fallen in death, so as not to see
such things, and who had bitten the dust once and for all.
Yet if we still have our wealth and manhood intact
and nations and cities of Italy are still our allies,
if the Trojans won glory with great bloodshed,
(they too have their dead, the storm of war’s the same for all)
why do we lose heart, shamefully, on the very threshold?
Why does fear seize our limbs before the trumpets sound?
Many things change for the better with time, and the various
labours of altering years: Fortune toys with many a man,
then, visiting him in turn, sets him on solid ground again.
The Aetolian and his Arpi will be no help to us:
but Messapus will, and Tolumnius, the fortunate,
and all those leaders sent by many a people: no little glory
will accrue to the flower of Latium and Laurentine fields.
We have Camilla too, of the glorious Volscian nation,
leading her troop of riders, and squadrons bright with bronze.
But if the Trojans only call me to fight, and that’s your wish,
if I’m so great an obstacle to the common good, Victory is far
from having fled these hands of mine with such hatred
that I should refuse to try anything for a hope so sweet.
I’d face him with courage though he outclassed great Achilles,
and wore armour to match, fashioned by Vulcan’s hands.
I, Turnus, not second in virtue to any of my ancestors,
dedicate my life to you all, and to Latinus, father of my bride,
Aeneas challenges me alone? I pray that he does so challenge:
and, if the gods’ anger is in this, that it is not Drances rather than I
who appeases them in death, or if there’s worth and glory, takes it all.
Arguing among themselves, they debated the issues
in doubt: while Aeneas was moving his camp and lines.
See, a messenger runs through the royal palace,
with great commotion, filling the city with huge alarm:
the Trojans, ready for battle, and the Etruscan ranks
were sweeping down from the river Tiber, over the plain.
At once people’s minds were troubled, their hearts shaken,
and their deep anger roused by the ungentle shock.
Anxiously they called for weapons: weapons the young men
shouted, while their sad fathers wept and murmured.
And now a great clamour filled with discord rose to heaven
on every side, as when a flock of birds settles by chance
in some tall grove, or when the swans give their hoarse calls,
among noisy pools, by Padusa’s fish-filled streams.
‘Yes, oh citizens,’ Turnus cried, seizing his moment,
‘convene your council and sit there praising peace:
while they attack us with weapons.’ He said no more
but sprang up and went swiftly from the high halls.
‘You, Volusus,’ he shouted, ‘tell the Volscian troops to arm,
and lead the Rutulians. Messapus, and Coras with your brother,
deploy the cavalry, under arms, over the wide plain.
Let some secure the city gates, and occupy the towers:
the rest carry their weapons with me, where I order.’
At once there was a rush to the walls all over the city.
King Latinus himself left the council, dismayed by the darkness
of the hour, and abandoned his great plan, reproaching himself
again and again for not having freely received Trojan Aeneas,
and adopted him as his son-in-law for the city’s sake.
Some dug trenches in front of the gates or carried stones
and stakes. The harsh trumpet gave the cruel call to war.
Then a diverse circle of mothers and sons
ringed the walls: this final trial summoned them all.
Moreover the Queen, with a great crowd of women,
drove to Pallas’s temple on the heights of the citadel
carrying gifts, virgin Lavinia next to her as her companion,
a source of so much trouble, her beautiful eyes cast down.
The women climbed to the temple, filled it with incense
fumes, and poured out sad prayers from the high threshold:
‘Tritonian Virgin, mighty in weapons, ruler of war, shatter
the spear of the Trojan robber, with your hand, hurl him flat
on the earth, stretch him prone beneath our high gates.’
Turnus, in a fury of zeal, armed himself for battle.
He was already dressed in his glowing breastplate,
bristling with bronze scales, his legs sheathed in gold,
his temples still bare, his sword buckled to his side,
shining, splendid, as he ran down from the citadel’s heights,
exultant in spirit, already anticipating the enemy in hope:
like a stallion, breaking his tether and fleeing his stall,
free at last, lord of the open plain, who either heads
for the pastures and the herds of mares, or, used to bathing
in some familiar river, gallops away, and, with head held high,
neighs with pleasure, his mane playing over neck and shoulder.
Camilla sped to meet him, accompanied by her Volscian
troops, and alighted from her horse close by the gates,
all her company leaving their mounts at her example,
and slipping to earth: then she spoke as follows:
‘Turnus, if the brave may rightly have faith in themselves,
I dare to, and promise to, encounter Aeneas’s cavalry,
and ride to meet the Etruscan horsemen alone.
Let me attempt the first dangers of the battle with my hand
while you stay by the walls and protect the ramparts.’
Turnus replied, his gaze fixed on this amazing girl:
‘O virgin glory of Italy, how should I attempt
to thank you or repay you? But as your spirit
soars beyond us all, share the task with me.
Aeneas, so rumour says, and scouts sent out confirm,
has deployed his light cavalry to search the plains
thoroughly: he himself climbing the ridge, marches
through the desolate heights towards the town.
I am preparing an ambush on a deep track in the woods,
so as to block both entrances to the gorge with armed men:
you must wait for the Etruscan cavalry charge:
brave Messapus will be with you, and the Latin troops,
and Tiburtus’s band, and you must take command as leader.’
So he spoke, and exhorted Messapus and all the allied generals
to battle, with similar words, then moved against the enemy.
There’s a valley with a winding bend, suitable for the tricks
and stratagems of warfare, crowded on both sides
by a dark wall of dense leaves, to which a narrow track
leads: it has a confined floor, and a difficult entrance.
Above it, among the look-outs of the high mountain tops,
lies a hidden level and a secure shelter,
whether one wishes to attack to right or left,
or make a stand on the ridge and roll huge boulders down.
Here the warrior hurried by a well known network of paths
and taking position he occupied the treacherous woods.
Meanwhile, in heaven’s halls, Diana, Latona’s daughter,
spoke to swift Opis, one of her sacred band of virgin
followers, and gave voice to these sorrowful words:
‘O girl, Camilla, is going to the cruel war, and takes up
my weapons in vain. She’s dearer to me than all others,
and this is no new love that comes to Diana,
or moves my spirit with sudden sweetness.
When Metabus was driven from his throne by hatred
of his tyrannical power, and was leaving Privernum,
his ancient city, fleeing amidst the conflict of war,
he took his child to share his exile, and, slightly altering
her mother’s name Casmilla, called her Camilla.
Carrying her in front of him at his breast he sought a long ridge
of lonely forests: fierce weapons threatened him on every side,
and the Volscians hovered round him with their troops.
While they were still in mid-flight, see, the Ausenus overflowed,
foaming to the top of its banks, so great a downpour burst
from the clouds. He, preparing to swim across, was held back
by love of his child, and fear for his dear burden. Quickly,
debating all options with himself, he settled reluctantly
on this idea: the warrior fastened his daughter to the giant spear,
solid with knots and of seasoned oak, he chanced to be carrying
in his strong hand, wrapping her in the bark of a cork-tree
from the woods, and tying her wisely to the middle of the shaft:
then balancing it in his mighty hand he cried out to the heavens:
‘Kind virgin daughter of Latona, dweller in the woods, I her father
dedicate this child to your service: fleeing the enemy through the air,
yours is the first weapon she clasps as a suppliant. Goddess I beg you
to accept as your own this that I now commit to the uncertain breeze.’
He spoke, and drawing back his arm hurled the spinning shaft:
the waters roared, and the wretched Camilla flew
over the rushing river on the hissing steel. And Metabus,
with a great crowd of his enemies pressing him closely,
gave himself to the flood, and victoriously snatched his gift
to Diana from the grassy turf, the spear and the little maid.
No city would accept him within their houses or their walls,
(nor would he in his savagery have given himself up to them)
he passed his life among shepherds on the lonely mountains.
Here, among the thickets of savage lairs, he nourished
his child at the udders of a mare from the herd, and milk
from wild creatures, squeezing the teats into her delicate mouth.
As soon as the infant had taken her first steps,
he placed a sharp lance in her hands, and hung
bow and quiver from the little one’s shoulder.
A tiger’s pelt hung over head and down her back
instead of a gold clasp for her hair, and a long trailing robe.
Even then she was hurling childish spears with tender hand,
whirling a smooth-thonged sling round her head,
bringing down Strymonian cranes and snowy swans.
Many a mother in Etruscan fortresses wished for her
as a daughter-in-law in vain: she, pure, content with Diana
alone, cherished her love of her weapons and maidenhood.
I wish she had not been swept up into such warfare,
trying to challenge the Trojans: she would be
my darling, and one of my company still.
Come now, nymph, since bitter fate drives her on,
slip from the sky and seek out the Latin borders,
where with evil omen they join in sad battle.
Take these weapons and draw an avenging arrow from the quiver,
and if anyone violates her sacred flesh by wounding her,
Trojan or Italian, pay me with their equal punishment in blood.
Then I’ll carry the body and untouched weapons of the poor girl
in a cavernous cloud to a sepulchre, and bury her in her own land.’
She spoke, and Opis slid down with a sound through
heaven’s light air, her body veiled in a dark whirlwind.
In the meantime the Trojan band with the Etruscan
leaders, and all the cavalry, approached the walls,
marshalled in squadrons troop by troop. Warhorses
neighing, cavorted over the whole area, fighting the tight rein,
prancing this way and that: the field bristled far and wide
with the steel of spears, and the plain blazed with lifted weapons.
On the other side, also, Messapus, and the swift Latins,
Coras with his brother, and virgin Camilla’s wing appeared,
opposing them on the plain, and drawing their right arms far back
they thrust their lances forward, the spear-points quivered:
the march of men and the neighing of horses increased.
And now both halted their advance within a spear’s throw:
they ran forward with a sudden shout and spurred on
their maddened horses, spears showered from all sides at once
as dense as snowflakes, and the sky was veiled in darkness.
Immediately Tyrrhenus and brave Aconteus charged
each other, with levelled spears, and were the first to fall
with a mighty crash, shattering their horses’ breastbones
as they collided: Aconteus, hurled like a thunderbolt
or a heavy stone shot from a catapult, was thrown
some distance, and wasted his breath of life on the air.
At once the ranks wavered, and the Latins slung their shields
behind them, and turned their mounts towards the walls.
The Trojans pursued, Asilas their leader heading the squadrons.
Now they were nearing the gates when the Latins again
raised a shout, and turned their horse’s responsive necks:
the Trojans now fled, and retreated to a distance with loose reins,
like the sea running in with alternate waves,
now rushing to shore, dashing over the rocks
in a foaming flood, drenching the furthest sands
with its swell, now retreating quickly, sucking rolling
pebbles in its wash, leaving dry sand as the shallows ebbed:
twice the Tuscans drove the routed Rutulians to the city, twice,
repulsed, they looked behind, defending their backs with their shields.
But when they clashed in a third encounter their lines
locked tight, and man marked man, then truly, the battle
swelled fiercely among the groans of the dying,
with weapons, bodies, and horses in their death-throes,
in pools of blood, entangled with slaughtered riders.
Orsilochus hurled a lance at Remulus’s horse, fearing
to attack the man, and left the point embedded beneath its ear:
The rearing charger, maddened by the blow, and unable to bear
the wound, lifted its chest, and thrashed high with its forelegs,
Remulus thrown clear, rolled on the ground. Catillus
felled Iollas and Herminius, a giant in courage, a giant
in torso and limbs, tawny hair on his head, his shoulders bare,
for whom wounds held no terror he spread so wide in his armour.
The driven spear passed quivering through his broad shoulders,
and, piercing him, doubled him up with pain. Dark blood
streamed everywhere: clashing with swords, they dealt death
and sought a glorious ending through their wounds.
But an Amazon exulted in the midst of the slaughter,
with one breast bared for battle: Camilla, armed with her quiver:
now she showered sturdy javelins, scattering them from her hands,
now she lifted a strong battle-axe in her unwearied grasp:
and Diana’s weapon, a golden bow, rattled on her shoulder.
Even when she retreated, attacked from behind,
she reversed her bow and fired arrows while fleeing.
And around her were chosen comrades, virgin Larina,
and Tulla, and Tarpeia wielding her axe of bronze,
the Italides, daughters of Italy, whom noble Camilla
chose herself as her glory, faithful servants in peace or war:
such were the Amazons of Thrace, treading Thermodon’s
streams, and fighting with ornate weapons, around
Hippolyte, or when Penthesilea returned, in her chariot,
and the ranks of women with crescent shields exulted.
Whom did you strike, first and last, with your spear, fierce girl?
How many bodies did you spill over the earth?
Euneus, son of Clytius, was the first, whose exposed chest
she pierced with her long shaft of pine, as he faced her.
He fell, spewing streams of blood, and bit
the gory dust, and, dying, writhed on his wound.
Then she killed Liris and Pagasus too, one gathering
the reins of his wounded horse as he rolled from it, the other
nearing to stretch out a defenceless hand to the falling man,
both flung headlong together. She added to them Amastrus,
son of Hippotas, and, leaning forward to throw, sent her spear
after Tereus, Harpalycus, Demophoon and Cromis:
and as many spears as the girl sent spinning from her hand,
so many Trojan warriors fell. The huntsman Ornytus
was riding far off, in unfamiliar armour, on his Iapygian
horse, the hide stripped from a bullock covering his broad
shoulders, his head protected by a wolf’s huge gaping mask,
and white-toothed jaws, a rustic’s hunting-spear in his hand:
he moved along in the centre of the army, a full head
above the rest. Catching him she struck him (no effort
in the routed ranks) then with pitiless heart spoke above him:
‘Did you think you chased prey in the forest, Tuscan?
The day is here that proves your words wrong, with
a woman’s weapons. But you’ll carry no small fame
to your father’s shades, you fell to Camilla’s spear.’
Then she killed Orsilochus and Butes, two of the largest Trojans,
Butes she fixed with a spear in the back, between
breastplate and helmet, where the rider’s neck
gleams and the shield hangs from the left arm:
while fleeing from Orsilochus, chased in a wide circle,
she eluded him, wheeling inside, pursuing the pursuer:
then, lifting herself higher, drove her strong axe, again and again,
through armour and bone, as he begged and prayed desperately:
the wounds staining his face with warm brain-matter.
Now the warrior son of Aunus, met her, and suddenly
halted, terrified at the sight, he a man of the Apennines,
not the least of the lying Ligurians while fate allowed it.
When he saw he couldn’t escape a fight by a turn of speed,
or divert the queen from her attack, he tried to devise
a stratagem with wit and cunning, as follows:
‘What’s so great about relying on a strong horse, woman?
Forget flight, and trust yourself to fighting me
on level ground, equip yourself to battle on foot:
you’ll soon know whose windy boasting’s an illusion.’
He spoke, and she, raging and burning with bitter resentment,
handed her horse to a friend, and faced him with equal weapons.
on foot and unafraid, with naked sword and plain shield.
But the youth, sure he had won by guile, sped off
(instantly), flicking his reins, took to flight,
pricking his horse to a gallop with spurs of steel.
The girl shouted: ‘Stupid Ligurian, uselessly vaunting
your boastful spirit, you’ve tried your slippery native wiles
in vain, and cunning won’t carry you back to Aunus unharmed.’
And like lightening she intercepted the horse’s path, on swift feet,
and seizing the reins from in front tackled him, and took vengeance
on the blood she hated: as light as a falcon, Apollo’s sacred bird,
swooping from a tall rock, overtaking a dove in flight in the high cloud,
holding her in its talons, and tearing her heart out with its curved talons:
while blood and torn feathers shower from the sky.
But the father of gods and men with watchful eyes
sat throned on high Olympus observing it all.
The maker stirred the Etruscan, Tarchon, to fierce battle
and goaded him to anger with no gentle spur.
So Tarchon rode amidst the slaughter and the wavering ranks,
inciting his squadrons with varied shouts, and calling
each man by name, rallying the routed to the fight.
‘What fear, what utter cowardice has filled your hearts,
O, you ever-sluggish Tuscans, O you who are never ashamed?
Can a woman drive you in disorder and turn your ranks?
Why do we bear swords and spears idle in our right hands?
But you are not slow to love or for nocturnal battles, nor when
the curved pipe proclaims the Bacchic dance. Wait then for the feast
and wine-cups on the loaded tables, (that is your passion
and your pleasure) while the happy seer reports the sacred
omens, and the rich sacrifice calls you into the deep grove!’
So saying, and ready to die, he spurred his mount into the press,
tore at Venulus like a whirlwind, and snatched him from his horse,
and, clasping his enemy to his chest with his right arm,
and stirring himself to a mighty effort, carried him off.
A shout rose to the skies and all the Latins turned their gaze
that way. Tarchon flew over the plain like lightning,
carrying weapons and man: then he broke of the iron tip
of his enemy’s spear, and searched for an unguarded opening
where he might deal a deadly wound: Venulus, struggling with him,
kept the hand from his throat, meeting force with force.
As when a tawny eagle soaring high carries a snake it has caught,
entwined in its feet, with talons clinging, while the wounded serpent
writhes in sinuous coils, and rears its bristling scales, hissing
with its mouth as it rises up, and none the less attacks
its struggling prey, with curved beak, while its wings beat the air:
so Tarchon carried his prize in triumph from the Tiburtian ranks.
Emulating their leader’s example and success, the Etruscans charged.
And now Arruns, a man whose life was owed to the fates,
began to circle swift Camilla, with his javelin,
with skilful cunning, trying for the easiest of chances.
Wherever the girl rode among the ranks, in her fury,
there Arruns shadowed her, and followed her track in silence:
wherever she returned in triumph or withdrew from the foe,
there the youth secretly turned his quick reins.
He tried this approach and that, travelling the whole circuit
on every side, relentlessly brandishing his sure spear.
It chanced that Chloreus, once a priest, sacred to Cybele,
glittered some distance away splendid in Phrygian armour,
spurring his foam-flecked horse, that a hide, plumed
with bronze scales, and clasped with gold, protected.
He himself, shining with deep colours and foreign purple,
fired Gortynian arrows from a Lycian bow:
the weapon was golden on his shoulder, and golden
the seer’s helm: his saffron cloak and its rustling folds of linen
were gathered into a knot with yellow gold, his tunic
and barbaric leg-coverings embroidered by the needle.
The virgin huntress singling him out from all the press
of battle, either hoping to hang his Trojan weapons
in the temple, or to display herself in captured gold,
pursued him blindly, and raged recklessly through the ranks,
with a feminine desire for prizes and spoil,
when Arruns, finally seizing his chance, raised his spear
from ambush and prayed aloud, like this, to heaven:
‘Highest of gods, Apollo, guardian of holy Soracte,
whose chief followers are we for whom the blaze of the pine-wood
fire is fed, and who as worshippers, confident in our faith,
plant our steps on deep embers among the flames,
all-powerful father grant that this shame be effaced
by our weapons. I seek no prize, no trophy of the girl’s defeat,
no spoils: some other deed will bring me fame:
only let this dreadful scourge fall wounded under my blow,
and I’ll return without glory to the cities of my ancestors.’
Phoebus heard him, and granted the success of half the prayer
in his mind, half he scattered on the passing breeze: he agreed
to the prayer that Arruns might bring Camilla to sudden death’s ruin:
but did not grant that his noble country should see him return,
and the gusts carried his words away on the southerly winds.
So as the spear whistled through the air, speeding from his hand,
all the Volscians turned their eager eyes and minds
towards the queen. She herself noticed neither breeze
nor sound, nor the weapon falling from the sky,
till the spear went home, fixing itself under her naked
breast, and driven deep, drank of her virgin blood.
Her friends rushed to her anxiously and caught
their falling queen. Arruns, more fearful than the rest,
fled in joy and terror, not daring to trust
his spear further, or meet the virgin’s weapons.
And as a wolf that has killed a shepherd, or a great bullock,
immediately hides itself deep in the pathless mountains
before the hostile spears can reach it, conscious
of its audacious actions, and holds its lowered tail
quivering between its legs, as it heads for the woods:
so Arruns, in turmoil, stole away from sight,
and, content to escape, plunged into the midst of the army.
Camilla tugged at the weapon with dying hands,
but the iron point was fixed between the bones,
near the ribs, deep in the wound. She sank back
bloodless, her eyes sank, chill with death,
the once radiant colour had left her cheeks.
Then, expiring, she spoke to Acca, one of her peers, faithful
to Camilla beyond all others, sole sharer of her sorrows,
and uttered these words to her: ‘Acca, my sister,
my strength lasted this far: now the bitter wound
exhausts me, and all around me darkens with shadows.
Fly, and carry my final commands to Turnus: he must take
my place in the battle, and keep the Trojans from the city.
Now farewell.’ With these words she let go the reins, slipping
helplessly to earth. Then, little by little, growing cold she loosed
herself from her body completely, dipping the unresponsive neck
and that head death had seized, letting go her weapons,
and with a sob her life fled angrily to the shades below.
Then indeed an immense shout rose, reaching
the golden stars: with Camilla fallen, the battle swelled:
the Trojan host, the Etruscan leaders, and Evander’s
Arcadian squadrons rushed on in a mass together.
Now Opis, Diana’s sentinel, had been seated there
on a mountain, for a long time, watching the battle fearlessly.
And when she saw far off, amongst the clamour of raging armies,
that Camilla had paid the penalty of death, she sighed
and uttered these words from the depths of her heart:
‘Ah too cruel, virgin girl, too cruel the sacrifice
you have made, for trying to challenge the Trojans in war!
It has not helped you that you worshipped Diana
in the lonely woods and wore our quiver on your shoulder.
Yet your queen has not left you without honour now
in the extremes of death, nor will your loss be without fame
among the people, nor will you suffer the infamy of dying
un-avenged. For whoever desecrated your body with this wound
will pay the price of death.’ An earthen mound, covered
with shadowy holm-oak, stood beneath the high mountain,
the vast tomb of Dercennus, an ancient Laurentine king:
here the loveliest of goddesses, after swift flight, first set foot
and caught sight of Arruns from the high tumulus.
When she saw him shining in armour, swollen with pride,
she cried: ‘Why go so far away? Turn your steps here,
come this way to destruction, and receive your reward,
worthy of Camilla. May even you not die by Diana’s weapons?’
She spoke: then the Thracian goddess took a winged arrow
from her golden quiver, and stretched the bow in anger,
drawing it far back, until the curving horns met,
and now with levelled arms she touched the steel tip
with her left hand, and her breast and the bow-string with her right.
At the same moment as Arruns heard the hissing dart,
and the rushing air, both one, the steel was fixed in his body.
His allies, oblivious, left him on the unmemorable dust
of the plain, gasping and groaning in extremity:
while Opis winged her way to heavenly Olympus.
Camilla’s light cavalry were first to flee, their mistress lost,
the Rutulians fled in turmoil, brave Atinas fled,
scattered leaders and abandoned troops sought safety,
and, wheeling their horses about, headed for the walls.
No one could check the pursuing, death-dealing
Trojans with weapons, or stand against them
but slung their unstrung bows on bowed shoulders,
and their horses’ hooves shook the crumbling earth in flight.
A cloud of dark murky dust rolled towards the walls,
and mothers, from the watchtowers, raised the womens’
cry to the stars in heaven, as they beat their breasts.
The enemy host pressed hard on those who first broke at speed
through the open gates, mixing with their lines, so they did not
escape a pitiful death, but, pierced through, gasped away their lives
on the very threshold, their country’s walls around them, within
the shelter of their houses. Some closed the gates, and dared not
open a path for their friends or let them inside the walls,
though they begged, and the most pitiful death followed, of those
defending the entrance in arms, and those rushing onto the swords.
Some driven by the rout, shut out, in front of the gaze
and the weeping faces of their parents, rolled headlong
into the ditches, others charging blindly with loose reins
battered at the gates and the tough gate-posts barring their way.
The women themselves when they saw Camilla from the walls
in fierce emulation (true love of country guided them)
threw weapons with their weak hands, and in their haste
used poles of tough oak and fire-hardened stakes instead of steel,
and were ablaze to die in the forefront defending the walls.
Meanwhile in the forest, the bitterest of messages filled Turnus’s
thoughts: Acca had brought the warrior her news of the mighty rout:
the Volscian ranks annihilated, Camilla killed, the enemy
advancing fiercely, sweeping all before them
in the fortune of war, panic now reaching the city.
Maddened he abandoned the ambush among the hills
(so Jove’s cruel will demanded) and left the wild forest.
He had scarcely passed from view, in reaching the plain,
when Aeneas, the leader, mounted the ridge, after entering
the unguarded gorge, and emerging from the dense woods.
So they both marched quickly towards the walls,
in full force, and with no great distance between them:
and at that moment Aeneas saw the plain, far off,
smoking with dust, and caught sight of the Laurentine army,
and Turnus realised that fatal Aeneas was in arms,
and heard the march of feet, and the sound of horses.
They would have joined battle at once and attempted combat,
but rosy Phoebus was already bathing his weary team
in the Spanish deeps, and, day waning, brought back the night.
They camped before the city, and strengthened their defences.
End of Book XI