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© I. Gildenhard and J. Henderson, CC BY 4.0

11.1–4: The Morning After

The long and bloody fighting of Aeneid 10 concludes with the death of the Etruscan king Mezentius, whom Aeneas kills in a duel that prefigures his showdown with Turnus. Mezentius is a complex figure, who contributes much to the thematic economy of the Aeneid. He enters the epic as a wicked tyrant whom his own people drove from his kingdom because of his savage reign. To regain his throne, Mezentius joins the Italic forces that fight Aeneas (7.647–54, 8.6–8), while his former subjects side with the Trojan castaways. Aeneas learns about Mezentius’ evil ways from Evander, including his fiendish habit of tying his (living) adversaries to corpses and letting them rot to death, ‘one of the most repugnant and perverse instruments of death ever devised by the human mind’, among other atrocities (8.478–95).1 He is explicitly singled out as a ‘despiser of the gods’ (7.648: contemptor divum; 8.7: contemptor deum) — what in Greek would be called theomachos, ‘one who fights [machos] the gods [theo]’. Indeed, one of the (many) etymologies for his name is Μὴ Ζὴν τίων [Mê–Zèn-tíôn], which translates, literally, as ‘He who does not honour Zeus’ (Rivero García and Librán Moreno 2011: 464). And if one changes the accent from Ζὴν [Zèn] to Ζῆν [Zên], one gets ‘He who does not honour life’ — a reference to his nasty habit of tying living humans to rotting corpses as a form of punishment. Ultimately, however, he does not quite manage ‘to live up to this own billing’ as a blasphemous monster in human form.2 In Aeneid 10 he proves his martial prowess on the battlefield, joins the ranks of bereaved parents when Aeneas kills his son Lausus (who is trying to protect his father), interacts movingly with his warhorse Rhaebus (also dispatched by Aeneas), and faces his own death in calm defiance. Over the course of the narrative he thus recovers his humanity, dying as an ‘old, tired, grief-stricken, animal-loving, bereaved father.’3 Here is the final exchange between the two warriors and the ensuing bloodbath (10.896–908):

advolat Aeneas vaginaque eripit ensem

et super haec: ‘ubi nunc Mezentius acer et illa

effera vis animi?’ contra Tyrrhenus, ut auras

suspiciens hausit caelum mentemque recepit:

‘hostis amare, quid increpitas mortemque minaris?


nullum in caede nefas, nec sic ad proelia veni,

nec tecum meus haec pepigit mihi foedera Lausus.

unum hoc per si qua est victis venia hostibus oro:

corpus humo patiare tegi. scio acerba meorum

circumstare odia: hunc, oro, defende furorem


et me consortem nati concede sepulcro.’

haec loquitur, iuguloque haud inscius accipit ensem

undantique animam diffundit in arma cruore.

[Aeneas rushes forward, rips his sword from its sheath and, towering above, cries: ‘Where is bold Mezentius now and that fierce force of his soul?’ In answer the Tuscan says, as looking up to the sky he drank in the breeze and regained his senses: ‘Bitter enemy, why do you taunt me and threaten me with death? There is no sacrilege in slaughter; I did not come to battle on such terms, nor did my son Lausus pledge such a pact between me and you. This alone I ask, if the vanquished can ask a favour from their enemies: allow my body to be properly buried. I know that the harsh hatred of my people surrounds me: protect me, I beg, from this fury and grant me fellowship with my son in the tomb.’ So he speaks and receives the sword in his throat head-on and pours forth his soul over his armour with streams of blood.]

Virgil also deploys a decisive kill as a device of closure at the very end of the Aeneid: he notoriously shuts his epic down on a scene of shock and awe, Aeneas’ slaying of Turnus. In contrast to the terminal closure of Aeneid 12, however, the aftermath of the high drama that concludes Aeneid 10 receives narrative attention — in Aeneid 11. As a book of ‘premature’ resolution, it offers a transitional variant of what we might have expected after the death of Turnus too (but don’t get): attention to the dead, mourning for those killed in battle, a depiction of burials, diplomatic activity between the warring parties resulting in a (temporary) truce.4 Halfway through the book, of course, the war restarts — and in the second half of Aeneid 11 we get yet another high-profile kill that — just like the death of Mezentius — serves as a further prequel to the epic’s final curtain call: the death of Camilla, followed by the death of her killer, Arruns.

The transition between Aeneid 10 and 11, between the gushing blood of Mezentius and the rise of Aurora, is arguably the most abrupt in the poem — but is hardly evidence for its unfinished state.5 Interstices, like those caused by book divisions, matter: they enable the poet to generate narrative gaps, which we as readers are invited to ponder and perhaps fill. In particular, you might want to ask yourself: what has happened to Mezentius’ body between the end of Aeneid 10 and the opening of Aeneid 11? Did Mezentius get what he prayed for? (How does it compare with Turnus’ last request? Does this narrative device tell us both what they have in common and where they part company?)


Oceanum interea surgens Aurora reliquit: this is the only occasion when an Aeneid book opens with a ‘repeat verse’. Virgil uses the same line at 4.129, where it introduces the day of venery (= hunting and sex) in Carthage during which Dido and Aeneas find themselves seeking shelter from the rain in a cave, a divinely engineered coincidence that leads to an encounter of the carnal kind. He calls that day the source of all evil (4.169–70: ille dies primus leti primusque malorum | causa fuit), and that pronouncement may well resonate here as Aeneas, despite emerging victoriously from combat, surveys the devastation and prepares for heartbreaking funerals. See Moskalew (1982: 182): ‘The same dawn had in 4.129 introduced the day of the fateful hunt and the conubium in the cave, but it was a day begun on a joyous note. The lively and colorful pageant of the hunting party stands in stark contrast to the solemn funeral procession of the present scene. Dido’s horse is richly caparisoned (ostroque insignis et auro, 134); Pallas’ horse Aethon is unadorned (positis insignibus, 89) as it sadly follows the chariot.’ The spectre of Dido, who, with her curse, is arguably responsible for many of the trials and tribulations that Aeneas faces in the second half of the poem, raises its head explicitly at 72–75 (see below).6

Oceanum: Oceanus is a transliteration of the Greek Ôkeanos [Ὠκεανός]. The Ô scans long since it represents the Greek ‘big ô’ [Ω, ω], last letter in their alphabet, called ô-mega (in contrast to the ‘little o’ [Ο, ο], which is called o-micron).

interea: ‘interea indicates that the dawn took place between the time of the last event of Book x and that of the events of line 6 of Book xi’ (Kinsey 1979: 264) and tells us to interrelate the two scenarios of Dawn and Aeneas up early — same as in a simile. By thus providing a temporal bridge between the end of the last and the beginning of this book, the adverb encourages us to look back and connect the dots — or not, as the case may be: Fratantuono (2009: 11), for instance, argues that the real import of interea is ‘to contrast the carefree world of the immortals as they carry out their daily journeys across the heavens with the horrific sufferings of mortals that were just embodied in the bloody violence that marked Book X, and to reflect on the almost obscenely casual way life continues after such bloody violence as was witnessed in the previous book.’ Words to ponder — but one wonders how ‘carefree’ the world of the immortals truly is, not least where Aurora is concerned (see next note). JH: aspects of Virgil’s cosmos are tragically implicated in human plight, importing empathetic sublimity along with melodramatic amplification. In Virgil, all time-setting formulae store tonal impact and modulate the episode they introduce: here as usual he works well away from a set Homeric figure, from ‘rosy-fingered Dawn’. ‘Meanwhile’, we must reckon, the finale of Book 10 is very much a diptych with the hinge in the waves of blood spraying out over the book division and on into the rosy dawn (the last word of Book 10 is cruore…).

Aurora: the goddess of dawn, who spends her nights with her ageing husband Tithonus, for whom she requested immortality, but forgot to ask for eternal youth as well. Virgil alludes to the myth explicitly at 4.584–5: et iam prima novo spargebat lumine terras | Tithoni croceum linquens Aurora cubile (‘And now early Dawn, leaving the saffron bed of Tithonus, was sprinkling the earth with fresh light’). Here, surgens (in the double sense of ‘getting up’ and ‘emerging above the horizon’) may bring to mind Aurora’s daily matutinal rise from her tragic bedchamber and increasingly decrepit husband. The eternal lack of funerary rites for immortalized Tithonus also provides a sharp contrast to the upcoming series of burials in the human sphere. The respective sufferings of mortals and immortals put each other in perspective.

reliquit: JH: Book 11 will leave us behind, in death: but these ‘minor characters’ will leave something behind them. (The story of their) funeral rites mean/s we don’t leave them behind (the Pallas episode), and their stories, the memory of their stories (the Camilla episode), leave/s them with the fame attached to their name, because they never made it home, but because, too, they map out the calculus of epic glory: first the sea in retreat leaves the shore, 628, and a spear is left in a mount’s ear, 637; then the colour leaves Arruns’ face, 819, and dying Camilla leaves both reins and weapons, 827, 830, before his comrades leave Arruns’ corpse in the dust, 866, and Turnus leaves his ambush on receiving news of Camilla’s death, 902. Their moment is done, but they never quite leave the story, still around to figure in our bid to make sense of the showdown in Book 12.


Aeneas, quamquam et sociis dare tempus humandis | praecipitant curae turbataque funere mens est, | vota deum primo victor solvebat Eoo: Aeneas is the subject of the main clause (underlined), which spells out what our hero does (vota … solvebat). In the concessive subordinate clause introduced by quamquam (in italics), we learn about his psychic condition, which happens to be at variance with the image of the victorious (cf. victor) action hero who has taken charge in the main clause: he suffers from anxiety attacks and has a troubled mind. (The connectives et and –que coordinate and synchronize the two segments of the quamquam-clause, i.e. praecipitant and turbata … est.) The depiction of Aeneas’ action thus encases, but also clashes with, insights Virgil gives us into the soul-stirring forces that ruffle his inner self — but are not necessarily evident to the characters with whom Aeneas interacts in the world of the Aeneid. The ability to suppress worries (curae) and negative emotions in order to perform in his role as epic leader is a hallmark of Virgil’s protagonist from his first episode (which we will find at the end of Book 3 was his debut as leader of the Trojan boat-people after the death of his father Anchises). After the sea-storm washed up the Trojan fleet on the shores of Carthage, Aeneas delivers a pep talk to buoy his troops (1.198–207), all the while keeping his own sense of desperation under wraps (1.208–9):

Talia voce refert, curisque ingentibus aeger

spem vultu simulat, premit altum corde dolorem.

[Thus he spoke, but he was sick with his enormous cares. He feigned a look of hope, and suppressed his misery deep in his heart.]

Not much has changed between then and now. In Virgil’s epic, cares and sorrows are a constant for Aeneas. Here we get an oblique meditation on the troubling impact of war on both victors and vanquished. What adds to the complexity of Virgil’s characterization are those privileged moments in the narrative when Aeneas’ inner and outer selves are in perfect harmony. In his first narrative appearance, Aeneas, caught in the whirlstorm unleashed by an enraged Juno and so released from inhibitions under cover of the racket, utters a deathwish in utter despair, as his limbs go cold; and in his last narrative appearance, enraged, he unleashes death upon Turnus. Tellingly, in each instance, powerful passions (despair and rage) overpower Aeneas’ rational self and bring actions and emotions into (perverse) harmony…

praecipitant curae: the verb and subject of the first segment of the bipartite quamquam-clause; the direct object (eum, sc. Aeneas) has to be supplied. The placement of praecipitant in enjambment at the beginning of the line — and the inversion of the normal word order, with the verb coming before the subject — is a minor form of enactment: the signifier ‘praecipitant’ does what the word means, i.e. it doesn’t stop at the end of the verse, but ‘falls over’ into the next and ‘rushes ahead’.

turbataque funere mens est: the second component of the quamquam-clause elaborates on the first: it explicates what impact the need to see to his comrades’ funeral has on Aeneas’ mind: turbata picks up curae and funere the gerundive sociis humandis.

funere: the meaning of funus ranges from ‘death’ to its outcome (‘corpse’) to human means of dealing with it ritually (‘funeral’). Probably all three meanings are active here. Toynbee (1971: 43) gives a sense of why Aeneas felt impelled to act as quickly as possible on religious grounds: ‘All Roman funerary practice was influenced by two basic notions — first, that death brought pollution and demanded from the survivors acts of purification and expiation; secondly, that to leave a corpse unburied had unpleasant repercussions on the fate of the departed soul. The throwing of a little earth upon the body was the minimum requirement for burial, could nothing more be done. But custom ordained that in normal circumstances the obsequies should be carried out with as much solemnity as circumstances in every case allowed.’

vota deum … solvebat: here as elsewhere, Virgil uses technical religious idiom suitably adjusted to the requirements of literary discourse. Invocation of divine help at Rome followed a strict protocol and a quasi-legalistic logic. A mortal would utter a prayer asking for support from the gods while offering something in return should the prayer be answered. The Latin for ‘making a vow’ is vota facere (or suscipere or nuncupare). Someone who had made a vow was deemed to be voti reus (‘debtor of a vow’) in the sense that he had committed himself to some form of ‘repayment’, i.e. to carry out a certain course of action if the gods chose to answer his prayers. (‘”Reus” is used in Roman law with a gen. of the thing in respect of which a person is bound’: Conington / Nettleship ad Aen. 5.237; see further Henriksén 2012: 185–6.) Someone who had been granted what he had prayed for was considered bound to fulfil his part of the bargain and do what he had vowed. Fulfilling a vow was called vota solvere (or reddere).

vota deum: the syncopated genitive deum (= deorum) is best understood as possessive: the prayers for divine support apparently uttered by Aeneas in the battle just concluded (‘apparently’, since Virgil does not feature them in his narrative) are now ‘owned’ by the gods since they accepted the bargain: Aeneas, after all, emerged from the battle victoriously. Vows and prayers in general always imply (the possibility of) reciprocal obligation between humans and deities. The placement of the phrase at the beginning of the verse is programmatic: ‘The object is thrust forward to give due prominence to Aeneas’ preference’ (Horsfall 2003: 51): the repayment of direct debt to the gods overrides any other consideration (which may also be religious in nature, like seeing to the proper burial of fallen comrades).

vota … victor: the alliteration underscores the thematic nexus between (the need for) divine support and victory in warfare. There are other touches that underscore Aeneas’ pietas: see the notes above on vota deum (4) and primo … Eoo (4), which complement his military prowess: Virgil, with elegant simplicity, tags him as victor (4).

primo … Eoo: at the first sign of dawn, i.e. literally at the earliest possible opportunity: primo, reinforced by hyperbaton, is yet another stylistic touch to prime the reader that when it comes to religious obligations, Aeneas doesn’t cut any corners. Eous is a loanword from the Greek êoios [ἠοῖος] or eôios [ἑῷος]. The two alternative spellings account for the fact that the initial E of the Latin equivalent can be either short (transliterating the Greek epsilon) or long (transliterating the Greek êta). Here it is the former. The first o scans long since it represents the long Greek letter ô-mega. JH: Notice how the ‘new day / episode’ formula is bracketed between Latin Aurora and Greek Eous, the cosmic and the human parallel levels as close and as distinct as in the transaction of translation, from the live but everyday Latin Personificatrix to the precious but matt Greek dummy-substantive ‘the Dawnish’ = Morning Star. What E-o-o leaves to echo on through Book 11, however, is the un-Latin howling noise it makes, open long vowels to set a funereal note. Indeed, the imagery recalls the simile in Book 8 that compared Pallas upon his departure for war to the Morning Star (cited above 19), and the celestial references thus bracket his trajectory from rising to fallen prodigy.

solvebat: the standard aspects of the Latin imperfect are duration, iteration, or attempt in the past (durative, iterative, conative); here a fourth possible aspect — inchoative or inceptive — is in play: Aeneas began to take care of his religious duties at first Dawn (and then continued doing so until all were properly dispatched).

The passage overall features an expressive use of metre, as Virgil deploys dactyls and spondees in neat alignment with his thematic concerns:

2 – – | – – | – u u | – u u | – u u | – x

3 – u u | – – | – – | – u u | – u u | – x

4 – u u | – – | – – | – – | – u u | – x

The opening spondees in line 2 (Aeneas quamquam et) arguably hint at the mental conflict Aeneas is experiencing, as he is pulled in different directions: he should see to the customary duties owed to his fallen comrades awaiting burial, but must also repay the contractual debts with the gods he incurred personally by praying for their support in battle and receiving it. The dilemma is a serious one, especially for someone sporting the epithet pius: it pitches two types of religious obligations against one another. In the rest of line 2 and the opening of line 3, the metre speeds along in dactyls, enacting the main verb of the quamquam-clause, praecipitant. It slows down in foot 2 and 3 of line 3, around the spondaic curae, which bridges the second and third foot. While his sorrows urge Aeneas towards one course of action, Virgil gives the impression that this would have been a rash mis-judgment of priorities, and in line 4, which returns us to the main clause, the countervailing spondees of foot 2, 3, and 4 convey the sense that Aeneas managed to put a brake on the course of action his anxieties and his troubled mind push him to pursue. The stately metre suits Aeneas’ conscientious fulfilment of his religious obligations: he has emerged victorious (victor) and hence needs to take care of his part of the bargain and fulfil the pledges he made to the gods before the battle in return for victory (vota deum).

Fig. 16 Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677), Aeneas erects a trophy of the weapons of Mezentius [n.d.], Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto,

11.5–11: Epic DIY, or: How to Build a Victory Trophy

Among the momentous events recounted in Aeneid 10, Turnus’ slaying of Pallas, son of Evander, king of Pallanteum (the Arcadian settlement at the future site of Rome visited by Aeneas in Aeneid 8) stands out: Virgil devotes the entire first-third of Aeneid 11 to meditate on its implications. Turnus’ victory over the teenager (and how he dealt with it) will come back to haunt him at the end: struck down in his final face-off with Aeneas, he pleads for mercy and is about to succeed in swaying the mind of his opponent; but then Aeneas catches sight of Pallas’ sword-belt, which Turnus inadvisably donned in his arrogance, and sees red: flying into a royal rage, he buries his sword in his enemy, sending him to the shades below. At the end of Aeneid 10, Aeneas disposed of another Italic warrior-tyrant, of a far nastier calibre than Turnus, the Etruscan king Mezentius (after his likeable son Lausus, who was slain trying to protect his father). In victory Aeneas recovers control and remembers his obligations towards the gods. These include the proper disposal of spolia, i.e. armour stripped from a defeated enemy (in this case Mezentius). Within the Aeneid, it is decidedly not OK to wear such spoils yourself. Those who do so (notably Turnus) are going to die. What you can do is to carry spoils in a triumph, nail them up on your doorpost, burn them on the battlefield — or use them to construct an effigy of your enemy as a victory monument (a so-called tropaeum), which is best dedicated to a divinity. This is precisely what we see Aeneas doing with methodical efficiency in lines 5–11. Setting aside his worries and personal obligations (which, it is important to note, also involve ties of pietas), he sets to work as if following a construction manual for a tropaeum. As Cleary (1982: 21) points out: ‘Note the verbs induit (6), aptat (8), subligat and suspendit (11). Each denotes the careful handling used with these weapons, and each reinforces the idea that enemy spolia adorn, are fitted or tied to, or are hung from a replica of the warrior, a tropaeum made from an oak tree, but they are not fitted to a living person [got this, Turnus?], nor are they used again in battle.’

Lines 5–11 form one long sentence, with a bit of a — thematically appropriate — breather after bellipotens, halfway through. The basic syntax is resolutely paratactic: it does not present significant problems. But there are tricky patches to do with connectives and the cluster of accusative objects. Overall, the passage has a ‘Lego-feel’ to it, of different parts of hardware ritually assembled into the artificial equivalent of a real (if now dead) individual. The mark-up underscores the craftsmanship of Virgil’s lego-poetics:

ingentem quercum decisis undique ramis


constituit tumulo fulgentiaque induit arma,

Mezenti ducis exuvias, tibi, magne, tropaeum,

bellipotens; aptat rorantis sanguine cristas

telaque trunca viri, et bis sex thoraca petitum

perfossumque locis, clipeumque ex aere sinistrae


subligat atque ensem collo suspendit eburnum.


  • Bold = main verbs
  • Italics underlined = accusative objects
  • Italics = modifications of accusative objects
  • Shaded = invocation of Mars
  • Roman = further items to do with the construction of the victory monument and connectives

Let’s begin by sorting out the connectives (some of which link verbs, others accusative objects):

  • the –que after fulgentia (6) links constituit and induit;
  • the –que after tela (9) links cristas and tela;
  • the et (9) links tela and thoraca;
  • the –que after clipeum (10) links thoraca and clipeum;
  • and the atque (11) links subligat and suspendit.

But as always, what’s not in the text is just as important as what is: do note the absence of a connective between induit and aptat: the asyndetic continuation generates a powerful stop after bellipotens, reinforced by metre: the word forms a self-contained metrical unit known as a choriamb (– u u –). The apostrophe of Mars, set up by tibi, magne, stands at the very centre of this block of verses.

Lines 5–7 explain the construction of the victory monument in general terms; lines 8–11 give details of the design: aptat, subligat, and suspendit all elaborate on induit arma. The main verbs are symmetrically distributed across the block, with the first two (connected via homoioteleuton: –tuit … –duit) and the last two (connected via alliteration: su–… su–) sharing one line and similar distribution across the verse (beginning and penultimate position), whereas the single aptat is located more centrally. The accusative objects manifest a similar distribution: the verbs constituit (quercum) and induit (arma, expanded via two appositions: exuvias, tropaeum) govern one accusative object each; aptat governs three (cristas, tela, thoraca); subligat (clipeum) and suspendit (ensem) again one each. JH: Mezentius is to be re-membered as a ‘fully-developed’ star epic figure worth Virgil’s engineering: no blankly negative exemplum he, nor to be dismissed lightly, this heartless oak tree effigy presiding over Book 11 (and through to The End).


ingentem quercum: the oak is a tree sacred to Jupiter and plays an important role in the imagery of the Aeneid. Virgil connects the tree with the Cyclopes (3.680), Aeneas standing firm against Dido’s pleading (4.441), preparation for battle (7.509), the arms Venus gets for Aeneas from Vulcan (8.615–16), the giant figures of Pandarus and Bitias (9.681), and as recipient of the spoils of Halaesus that Pallas promises to hang up in honour of pater Thybris (10.423). See further Fratantuono and Smith (2018: 642), with additional bibliography.

decisis undique ramis: an ablative absolute: the oak-trunk is shorn of its branches and is hence ‘trunca’ — just like Mezentius’ weapons (9: telaque trunca).


arma | … exuvias … tropaeum: arma is the direct object of induit; the (implied) indirect object is the oak, i.e. quercui. Both exuvias and tropaeum stand in apposition to arma. All three words refer to the same objects, which undergo symbolic transformation: initially they are weapons meant for fighting (arma); once their wearer has been killed in battle, they become the spoils of the victor (exuviae); and in a final step, the spoils are turned into a victory monument (tropaeum). JH: No doubt Virgil welcomes the hint of rhetorical / poetic ‘trope’ in the Greek word tropos (naturalised in Latin as tropus). Dressing up a mock-Mezentius is a ritual of metaphor, a translatio, and dressing up warrior monuments is just what epic poets do. The word graced the poem for the first time in Book 10 (x 2); the remaining occurrences (5) stud the text of Book 11.

Mezentius ending up as a tropaeum is a case of cosmic irony (and justice?), in the light of his blasphemous pronouncement just before his fatal showdown with Aeneas (10.773–76):

‘dextra mihi deus et telum, quod missile libro,

nunc adsint! voveo praedonis corpore raptis

indutum spoliis ipsum te, Lause, tropaeum


[‘May this right hand, my deity, and the hurtling weapon I poise, now aid me! I vow you, Lausus, your very self, clad in spoils stripped from the robber’s corpse, as my trophy over Aeneas.’]

As Nielson (1983: 28) explains: ‘Mezentius, as contemptor deorum, is parodying the usual formula one finds occurring in Homeric heroism prior to single combat. He names his right arm as the god whose strength he is invoking, and also calls upon his spear. He then proceeds in an extraordinary manner to dedicate his spoils to his son, Lausus, who will become a living trophy, clad in the arms torn from the body of Aeneas. Mezentius thus blasphemes the gods and the terrible power that the armor of the dead enemy holds, and would further include his son in the danger of clothing him in Aeneas’ arms.’

tropaeum: a Latin loanword from the Greek (τρόπαιον / tropaion), etymologically related to trope, i.e. ‘turning point’, specifically the place on the battlefield where the enemy first turned to flee. The Greek practice of erecting a trophy right after a victorious encounter seems to have started in the wake of the Persian Wars in imitation of an Eastern custom: it is not a Homeric practice. See Trundle (2018: 123–4), who argues that ‘trophies emerged at a time when, and as a result of the fact that, in the results of pitched battles it became less easy to determine the winner from the loser. Trophies became a means for one side to claim a victory in an age when warfare had become more destructive, longer-lasting and generally more chaotic, and when distinguishing the winner from the loser in a set-piece engagement had actually become more complicated. Trophies became a mechanism, albeit a symbolic one, for a victor to claim the victory no matter how real that victory actually was’. How much of this resonates in Virgil is unclear: he foregrounds the aspect of religious obligation, merging the Greek practice of erecting a tropaeum with the Roman religious speech-act of uttering a pre-battle vow (votum). JH: In the process he allows this fictional founding moment to include a Greek term at the core of his (aetiological?) account of a precious Roman institution (the triumph-cum-funeral complex). (Would Ennius’ epic of Rome saddle his Romulus with a tropaion?)


tibi, magne, … | bellipotens: Virgil here addresses himself directly to the god Mars: magne (and bellipotens: but see below) are in the vocative, set up by the second personal pronoun tibi. The compound adjective bellipotens (bellum + potens), here used substantivally, is first attested in Virgil’s epic predecessor Ennius, but was perhaps already used by Ennius’ predecessor Naevius: see Annals fr. 197–98 (Skutsch): stolidum genus Aeacidarum: | Bellipotentes sunt magis quam sapientipotentes (‘the blockhead clan descended from Aeacus: they are strong in war more so than strong in wisdom’), with Skutsch’s commentary ad locum.

Extra information

Some scholars feel that Aeneas ought to have dedicated the spoils to Jupiter (who is associated with the oak) and construe the lines differently, with magne alone in the vocative (addressing Jupiter) and bellipotens modifying tropaeum. See Rivero García and Librán Moreno (2011: 473–4) who, in a discussion that suggests a close link between (indeed, a virtual identification of) Mezentius and Mars, note that ‘the reference to a quercus would have been more appropriate for spolia opima, ritually dedicated to Jupiter, and not for the spolia secunda that are dedicated to Mars’ [but what about Turnus, you may well ask: the top billing is still to come] and that ‘magne is an invocation — though not an official one — that is more suited to Jupiter’ — and suggest (474–5):

Now it is quite revealing that Virgil’s text, clearly addressed to Mars, can be read at the same time with a different syntactic configuration and, consequently, with a different meaning. It would be sufficient, in fact, not to punctuate after bellipotens: Mezenti ducis exuuias, tibi, Magne, tropaeum / bellipotens (‘spoils of the general Mezentius, for you, Great one, a trophy / mighty in war’). In accordance with this equally grammatical reading, Aeneas would be offering up to Jupiter (Magne) the spoils of Mezentius (Mezenti ducis exuuias) in the form of a tropaeum bellipotens, an expression which would reactivate the Mezentius-Mars link […] the tropaeum of Mezentius would symbolize the banishing of war itself, in a ritual conducted by the priest Aeneas…


aptat rorantis sanguine cristas | telaque trunca viri, et bis sex thoraca petitum | perfossumque locis: the subject of aptat is Aeneas. The verb governs three accusative objects: cristas, tela, thoraca. Each of the first two is modified by a participle (rorantis, trunca), in chiastic order; the third (thoraca) is modified by two (petitum, perfossum: ‘struck and pierced through’) linked by alliteration. The genitive viri goes with all three.

rorantis: NOT the genitive singular, but the alternative third declension accusative plural ending (= rorantes). That the plume of the helmet is still dripping with blood the morning after the battle (rather than clinging to it in coagulated form) is a strikingly vivid detail that recalls the ‘rivers of blood’ that Mezentius shed when Aeneas pierced his jugular (Aen. 10.907–9, cited above): what tends to drip (with dew) in the morning is the Dawn, so the imagery here also recalls and implicates the opening line of the book and (once more) reinforces the meaning of primo … Eoo (4): Aeneas is at it so early that the blood is still fresh… As Fratantuono (2009: 18) points out, we are dealing with a ‘strikingly jarring image’; he cites Boedeker (1984: 64) to explain: ‘Ros [= dew] is […] used in Latin poetry to designate pure, fresh water used in rituals…’

telaque trunca: Horsfall (2003: 54) speaks of ‘marked alliterative brutality’.

bis sex … locis: the adverb bis (= two times) and the indeclinable numeral sex (= six) modify the ablative of place locis. The fact that Mezentius’ cuirass (and hence also his body?) has been pierced a dozen times puzzles: in the duel itself, he was only wounded twice — once below his thorax, once above it (10.783–6, 856–7, 907–8). So where do the additional wounds come from? Was Mezentius’ body mutilated post mortem? As Thomas (2001: 138) and many others have noted, the ‘twelve perforations suggested to readers as early as Servius a ritual desecration of the corpse by each of the twelve Etruscan cities — from which Mezentius had asked Aeneas’ protection at the end of Book 10.’ Whatever the case, there is a shocking exactness to the numerals, rendered more unsettling because the holes remain unexplained in the narrative, a gap Virgil leaves to the imagination of the reader to fill, here pointing up the erasure of the corpse once stripped (soon to be followed by a whole queue of them, see on 81–2 below).

Extra information

There is also a Homeric intertext that encourages us to think of the physical mutilation of Mezentius’ corpse. Aeneas’ speech at 12–28 is modelled on Achilles’ speech right after his duel with Hector at Iliad 22.378–94 (see further below) — and just before this speech (369–75), Homer records how the other Greeks would gather round Hector’s corpse: initially too afraid to draw near and further wound his body, they then encourage each other, step up, and inflict wounds on the corpse.

thoraca: thorax, -acis (m.) is a Greek loanword (the Latin equivalent would be lorica); the form here is the (Greek) accusative singular (the final –a scans short).

perfossum: as Lyne (1989: 113) observes, perfodio, a prosaic word, occurs only here in Virgil, and is used in prose literature ‘for various manual and technological tasks: digging channels through land obstructions and the like’, whereas ‘Vergil transfers it to the action of a weapon’. Arguably, its striking nature is designed to draw attention to the posthumous mutilation that Mezentius’ corpse may have suffered (see note on bis sex … locis).


clipeumque ex aere sinistrae | subligat atque ensem collo suspendit eburnum: Aeneas continues his construction work by attaching Mezentius’ shield on the left side of the tropaeum (with sinistrae supply parti) and hanging his sword around the ‘neck’ of the trunk. As Gransden (1991: 70) notes, ‘collo continues the identification of the tree-trunk with the dead hero of whom it is a symbol’. JH: Notice the decorative twist in sub-ligat … su(b)s-pendit, for opposite forms of attaching, underscored by the decorative opposition of metals, ex aere <=> eburnum.

ex aere: indicates the material out of which the clipeus was fashioned: ‘a shield made of bronze’.

eburnum: this ivory necklace is a sword-hilt, i.e. the blade is decommissioned, and we’re dressing up a dolly.

Much in the description of the victory monument is chilling, not least the conflation of nature and death. See Reckford (2012: 78):

The spoils of Mezentius are hung on the bare trunk as trophies. That is normal Roman procedure […] But now everything is somehow mutilated. Branches are lopped from the living tree, blazing arms put in their place. A short while back, the wounded-yet-living Mezentius rested against a tree and hung his helmet from its branches; now he is dead. The helmet’s plumes shed a bloody dew, and the spears are ‘truncated.’ It is as though the grotesque quality of death in battle had communicated itself to nature. The tree is a death tree…

12–28: Aeneas’ First Speech (Overview)

As in all ancient epics, Virgil gives over a significant percentage of the text to other characters speaking — the longest instance is the account Aeneas gives Dido of his adventures, which makes up virtually all of Books 2 and 3 of the Aeneid.7 As Laird (1999: 153) notes, ‘the relationship between the discourse of the poem’s narrative and the discourse of its characters — Virgil’s “rhetoric of epic” — has a significant role in engineering the distinctive pathos and disturbing political message of the Aeneid.’ The most impressive speeches of Aeneid 11 occur in its middle section, dedicated as it is to the Latin war council. It ‘includes Turnus’ longest speech and the second longest formal speech in the Aeneid’ (Fantham 1999a: 259).8 But the first four speeches of the book belong to Aeneas: 14–28, to his men and allies; 42–58 and 96–8, both addressed to Pallas; and 108–19, responding to the Latin ambassadors. All in all 46 lines — which, for Aeneas, is a mouthful. As Mackie points out (1984: 308, n.1): ‘Aeneas utters 4 speeches, 46 lines in Book 11. The hero’s comparative taciturnity in the Iliadic Aeneid [= Books 7–12] is shown by the fact that only in Book 12 does he speak more — 47 lines.’ See more generally Highet (1972).

The overall design of his first speech is as follows:

tum socios (namque omnis eum stipata tegebat

turba ducum) sic incipiens hortatur ovantis:

‘maxima res effecta, viri; timor omnis abesto,

quod superest; haec sunt spolia et de rege superbo


primitiae manibusque meis Mezentius hic est.

nunc iter ad regem nobis murosque Latinos.

arma parate, animis et spe praesumite bellum,

ne qua mora ignaros, ubi primum vellere signa

adnuerint superi pubemque educere castris,


impediat segnisve metu sententia tardet.

interea socios inhumataque corpora terrae

mandemus, qui solus honos Acheronte sub imo est.

ite’, ait ‘egregias animas, quae sanguine nobis

hanc patriam peperere suo, decorate supremis


muneribus, maestamque Evandri primus ad urbem

mittatur Pallas, quem non virtutis egentem

abstulit atra dies et funere mersit acerbo.’

sic ait inlacrimans...


  • Underlined = Part I
  • Bold = Part II
  • Bold Underlined = Part III
  • Italics = transitions

The speech has a clear structure:

  • (i) 14–16: commentary on recent deeds and the current state of affairs (maxima res effecta…)
  • (ii) 17: transition: where to go from here (nunc iter…)
  • (iii) 18–21: exhortation to be ready (arma parate animis…)
  • (iv) 22–23: transition to the task of burying the dead (interea…)
  • (v) 24–28: instructions for burial, with specific attention to Pallas (ite … , further set up as special by the inserted ait)

As we move through the speech, the way in which Aeneas engages his audience changes. Deictic pronouns (haec, hic) and apodeictic pronouncements (maxima res effecta; timor omnis abesto; haec sunt; hic est) dominate the initial and first transitional segment. In segment three, he switches to imperatives in the second person plural (18: parate, praesumite), without excluding himself from the challenges ahead (17: nobis). The inclusive first person plural registers in segment four, with the exhortatory subjunctive mandemus (23), before Aeneas switches back to the second person plural imperative (ite, decorate) in segment five, saving a vague and poignant impersonal exhortatory subjunctive (mittatur) for Pallas. In segments (i)–(iv) especially, Aeneas uses a series of near-synonymous expressions: spolia–primitiae, regem–murosque, arma–bellum, parate–praesumite, animis–spe, ignaros–segnis, vellere signa–educere castris, impediat–tardet, socios–corpora, abstulit–mersit. They endow his speech with a deliberate and measured regularity. It almost sounds as if a supremely assured Aeneas is going through the motions as he performs his roles of victor and imperator (Horsfall 2003: 57). As we see next, he needs to. Tellingly, apart from one occurrence in the closing line (a ‘citation’ of Aeneid 6.429: see below), the repetitive beat of virtual synonyms fades in the final segment, where emotions of gratitude (for the ultimate sacrifice made by those fallen in combat) mingled with grief (for Pallas in particular) come to the fore. The overall design reinforces this change in stylistic registers: we have three principal (i, iii, v) and two transitional (ii, iv) segments, and all gradually and climactically increase (from 3 to 4 to 5 lines; and from 1 to 2 lines, respectively), as we move from the fulfilment of his vows (i) to future efforts in war (iii) to the burial rites that will dominate the opening section of the book (v). The design indicates that, despite giving priority to the trophy in honour of Mars and his ongoing commitment to the war, Aeneas’ mind and heart are clearly focused on the dead, and Pallas above all. In the final showdown with Turnus, of course, the two concerns will powerfully coalesce: the killing of Turnus is the last rite in Pallas’ funeral.

Virgil’s Homeric model is the speech of Achilles after his showdown with Hector at Iliad 22.378–94, which features a similar tripartite structure: it begins with reflections on his victory in the duel, moves on to an exhortation to test the resolve of the Trojans now that their strongest human bulwark is no more, before stopping himself upon remembering that the corpse of dear Patroclus still lies by the ships, unwept, unburied.

11.12–16: Sic Semper Tyrannis

A speech requires an audience — and so Virgil, who has so far depicted Aeneas building his victory monument as if he was all alone, surrounds him with a crowd of cheering (and distinguished) bystanders (12–13), whom he can address (14–).


tum socios (namque omnis eum stipata tegebat

turba ducum) sic incipiens hortatur ovantis:


  • Italics = (the leaders of) the allies
  • Underlined = Aeneas

In the main clause, Aeneas is the subject and the allies the accusative object; in the parenthesis the grammatical relations are inverted: Aeneas is the object and the throng of allied leaders the subject. The mark-up also illustrates the touch of enactment: the word order, and in particular the two hyperbata socios … ovantis and omnis … turba, reproduces the sense of stipata and tegebat on the level of verse design: the allied leaders crowd around him as Aeneas and his voice rise out of their midst.

socios … ovantis: ovantis is a present participle in the accusative masculine plural (= ovantes). ovo can have the technical sense of celebrating an ovatio, which the Romans granted for a significant military victory that did not quite merit the award of the more prestigious triumph, but could be a stepping stone towards one. This gradation is appropriate to the narrative situation: after Mezentius, Turnus awaits (as diagrammed in the catalogue of those allies in Book 7: top and tail). It is symptomatic that the allies only react to his past and present actions, focusing on the victory in combat, rather than the anxieties about the future that preoccupy Aeneas. Tellingly, while they cheer, Aeneas ends up weeping when his speech draws to a close (29: sic ait inlacrimans). The contrast highlights one of Virgil’s favourite themes: the close proximity, indeed ineluctable imbrication, of triumph and tragedy in human affairs; but it reserves the full force of this realization to a few choice individuals, not the hoi polloi of Virgil’s narrative. The socii in question are both Aeneas’s Trojan comrades and his Italic allies, i.e. Evander’s Arcadians and the contingent from Etruria.

namque omnis eum stipata tegebat | turba ducum: Virgil often gives us Aeneas first in the seemingly splendid isolation of the lone hero before zooming out and recognizing that other figures are part of the picture.9 Here it seems that Aeneas has been all alone on the battlefield while constructing the victory trophy; but now we learn that he had been operating for some time (see the imperfect tegebat) within a crowd of cheering allies. Virgil places the emphasis on their elevated status: like Aeneas himself, those around him are leaders (duces). Aeneas thereby emerges as the ‘leader of leaders’, or as they say in Italian, ‘il capo di tutti capi’. With his emphasis on a crowd of leaders, Virgil offers a prototypical anticipation not just of friends and clients gathering around their patron (which is such a familiar phenomenon of Roman public life throughout the republican and imperial eras), but also of the more specific scenario of the principate, with patrons in their own right gathering (like clients) around a super-patron. (duco will, besides, emerge as the constantly reinforced ‘guiding principle’ of the whole funeral episode, cf., already, 7 ducis, and note on 84 below.)


‘maxima res effecta [est], viri; timor omnis abesto, | quod superest; haec sunt spolia et de rege superbo | primitiae manibusque meis Mezentius hic est: the first segment of the speech is very matter of fact, with a decided preference for esse (or compounds thereof) as verb, including an initial ellipse. As Horsfall (2003: 58) puts it: ‘Ellipse of copula … strips great deeds of trivial words.’ The announcement that the greatest (note the superlative maxima) deed has been accomplished might sound strange given that the climactic duel with Turnus still awaits. We might chalk up this hyperbole to Aeneas’ psychologically shrewd endeavour to rally his troops (‘it’s all downhill from now on…’), whatever the facts of the matter, and perhaps also see in it a sly reference by Virgil to his model in Homer, i.e. Achilles’ speech after his killing of Hector at Iliad 22.378–94, which is indeed the maxima res of that particular epic.

abesto: third person singular future imperative active.

de rege superbo: the expression is again elliptical — a participle like ereptae (‘snatched from’) or sumptae (‘taken from’) is implied; it goes with both spolia and primitiae (an ‘apo-koinou’ construction). JH: While we’re talking ‘over-bearing’ pride and downfall, we should tag together superest … superbo here, with 10.897 (cited above, 172), super haec, to see what the poet can do with a cliché, melding words, deeds, and ideas. We might also contemplate the etymology some have proposed for Mezentius, from meizôn, Greek for ‘bigger, greater’.

primitiae: Aeneas’ description of Mezentius as primitiae (literally, ‘first fruits’) is ‘puzzling’: ‘Mezentius is neither the first worthy fighter killed by the Trojans, nor is he the first killed by Aeneas’ (Nielson 1983: 29). He argues that ‘Mezentius is primitiae not in the literal sense of being the first offering to Mars […], but in the sense of being the most outstanding example of the superbus rex, a proper and dramatic fulfilment of the charge of Anchises [Aeneid 6.851–53]’ (ibid.). An ancient explanation, advanced by the late-antique author Macrobius, links the term to a blasphemous action of the king, found in Cato the Elder’s Origines (and here alluded to by Virgil), namely that Mezentius forced the Rutulians to offer to him the first fruits that they used to offer to the gods, which fits his characterization as a ‘despiser of the gods’ (Macrobius, Saturnalia 3.5.10–11):

sed veram huius contumacissimi nominis causam in primo libro originum Catonis diligens lector inveniet: ait enim Mezentium Rutulis imperasse ut sibi offerrent quas dis primitias offerebant, et Latinos omnes similis imperii metu ita vovisse: ‘Iuppiter, si tibi magis cordi est nos ea tibi dare potius quam Mezentio, uti nos victores facias.’ ergo quod divinos honores sibi exegerat, merito dictus a Vergilio contemptor deorum. hinc pia illa insultatio sacerdotis: … haec sunt spolia et de rege superbo | primitiae, ut nomine contumaciae cui poenas luit raptas de eo notaret exuvias.

[But the attentive reader will find the true origin of this phrase, which denotes the worst sort of defiance, in Book 1 of Cato’s Origins [FRHist F9]: Mezentius had commanded the Rutulians to offer to him the first fruits that they usually offered to the gods, and the people of Latium, fearing a similar command, made the following vow: ‘Jupiter, if you prefer that we make that offering to you rather than Mezentius, we pray that you make us victorious.’ Because he demanded divine honors for himself, then, he earned Virgil’s description as ‘despiser of the gods’: hence the priest’s [= Aeneas’!] pious abuse, ‘…these are the spoils and first fruits taken from the arrogant king…’, signifying that the spoils were taken from him because of the defiance for which he paid the penalty.]

Put differently, the god-defiant recipient of first-fruit offerings has himself been transformed into a first-fruit offer to a god. The link to agriculture is also at the heart of Lyne’s reading (1989: 160): ‘Aeneas exploits “perversion of agriculture” imagery in bitter, one might say, cynical recognition of the destructiveness of what he has been doing. Spoils for Mars are termed first-agricultural fruits; offerings that issue from destruction and war are clothed in language of productiveness and peace. Aeneas recognizes his action to be a ghastly parody of a might-have-been and labels it accordingly, in a grimly exultant irony’.

The striking lexeme recurs in Evander’s apostrophe of Pallas at 11.156 (see below) — a repetition that hints at the analogous narrative function of Pallas and Mezentius: both prefigure (the figure of) the end, i.e. (the death of) Turnus. See Panoussi (2009: 31): ‘The death of Mezentius, the Etruscan leader fighting on the side of the Latins, repeats Pallas’ death in its function as preliminary sacrifice to that of Turnus. This repetition attests the persistence of the problem of ritual perversion. Pallas and Mezentius may appear unlikely partners in this, yet they embody two contradictory aspects important in the portrait of Turnus: his appearance as at once a virginal figure who fails initiation and as a seasoned warrior and opponent worthy of Aeneas.’

manibus meis Mezentius hic est: manibus meis is an ablative of agency: ‘this is Mezentius [as made] by my hands’, i.e. ‘Look here, I’ve killed the man and turned him into a victory trophy in honour of Mars.’

Extra information

JH: Here Aeneas clinches his required performance as exultant trophy-builder with savage mockery, answering his primitive ‘revenge is mine’ dig yelled over his fallen foe at 10.897–98, ‘Ubi nunc Mezentius acer et illa | effera vis animi?’. Answer: ‘Here he is — get it!’ There, Mezentius’ response at once tagged Aeneas’ jibe as crude hatred (‘hostis amare’), while making sure we get what’s going on, as well as he does, in his own check-out pseudo-question (‘quid increpitas mortemque minaris?’, 10.900; see 10.810, where Aeneas chides and threatens Lausus). He nails Aeneas’ in-the-moment lapse to try to reach his better self, briskly scorning death as the stake of battle before appealing in the name of the shared bond of paternity to defend Mezentius & Son from savage revenge — at the hands of their own people (acerba meorum … odia: … defende furorem, 904–05) = by yielding them a shared grave (concede, 906). Mezentius nailed vengeance as the stake (ultor, 864), and tries to bring a crowing Aeneas back to civilized negotiation (as if ‘accepting’ death pledges his half of a bargain, accipit, 907). Unsympathetically, we could observe that tyrants trying to save their skin are forever trying to strike a private ‘deal’ with their people to save their hide (just the kind of foedera Mezentius renounces, 10.902); and this is often allowed to happen in order to keep civil blood off the hands of the new régime. (Gladhill (2016) puts the logic of the foedus at the core of Roman world-shaping.) For the ritualized ‘locker-room’ protocols of alpha-male monomachy Roman-style, see Oakley (1985). Note that back in the day a Roman ‘David’ could decapitate his ‘Goliath’ opponent, but Augustan Livy must explicitly cut this barbarity from his revise (see 7.10.11). For a juicy low-down anecdotal version, see Phaedrus, Fables, Appendix Perottina 10 with Henderson (2001a, Ch. 5: ‘The Price of Fame: Pompey the Great and the Queen’s Shilling (App. 10)’).

11.17–21: Going (Again) for the Jugular…

In Homer, Achilles, after slaying Hector, also encourages his fellow Greeks to make trial of Troy, to see whether the city might surrender now that its greatest warrior is dead (Iliad 22.381–84):

εἰ δ᾽ ἄγετ᾽ ἀμφὶ πόλιν σὺν τεύχεσι πειρηθῶμεν,

ὄφρά κ᾽ ἔτι γνῶμεν Τρώων νόον ὅν τιν᾽ ἔχουσιν,

ἢ καταλείψουσιν πόλιν ἄκρην τοῦδε πεσόντος,

ἦε μένειν μεμάασι καὶ Ἕκτορος οὐκέτ᾽ ἐόντος.

[Come, let us make trial in arms about the city, so that we may know what the Trojans have in mind, whether they will leave their high city now that this man is fallen or are minded to remain, even though Hector is no more.]


nunc iter [faciendum est] ad regem nobis murosque Latinos: the first transitional segment, marked by the temporal adverb nunc. Aeneas is again sparse with words, suppressing the verb.

nobis: dative of authorship with the understood gerundive faciendum est.

ad regem: the rex here is Latinus, who dwells in — some city or other, somewhere: ‘Latinus’ city is neither explicitly named nor precisely located in Virgil’s text…, perhaps deliberately’ (Horsfall 2003: 105). In Book 7.170–91, Virgil described the palace of Latinus as a majestic proto-Roman house, a tectum augustum (!). Situated in no-man’s land, his city is an imaginary placeholder for Aeneas’ own foundation(s) — as announced in the proem (1.5–7):

multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem,


inferretque deos Latio, genus unde Latinum,

Albanique patres, atque altae moenia Romae.

[much he suffered also in war before he could found the city and carry his gods into Latium. This was the beginning of the Latin race, the Alban fathers and the walls of high Rome.]

(The city that Aeneas founds is Lavinium, the mother-city of Alba Longa, the birthplace of the twins Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome.)


arma parate animis et spe praesumite bellum | ne qua mora ignaros, ubi primum vellere signa | adnuerint superi pubemque educere castris | impediat segnisve metu sententia tardet.


  • Underlined = main clause
  • Italics = ne-clause
  • Roman = ubi primum-clause

The imperatives parate and praesumite (18) segue into a negative indirect command clause introduced by ne, which consists of two parts, linked by the enclitic –ve after segnis (21). The two subjects of the ne-clause are qua mora and sententia, the verbs impediat and tardet. ignaros and segnis are in the accusative (though see below). ubi primum introduces a further (temporal) subordinate clause, with adnuerint as verb and superi as subject. The –que after pubem links the infinitive phrases vellere signa and pubem educere castris. The phrasing in the first component of the ne-clause is a bit awkward: ‘lest some delay obstructs those unaware’ = ‘lest those unaware cause any delay’.

arma parate, animis et spe praesumite bellum: the design looks like a perfect chiasmus: accusative object + verb + ablative :: ablative + verb + accusative object, with the two halves linked by et. But many scholars, including Mynors, the editor of the Oxford Classical Text (the prescribed edition), put a comma after parate – in which case the et does not link the two verbs parate and praesumite, but the two ablatives animis and spe, both to be construed with praesumite (which follows on parate asyndetically). JH: In this case, the formulation is an instance of Virgilian ‘theme and variation’, where a proposition is phrased and then rephrased with a new spin on it, within a single verse unit, here riffing precisely on the (still chiastic) sequencing, and so acting out the point (arma ~ bellum; animis => spe; parate => prae-sumite). To ‘ready arms’, the good soldier always already anticipates the engagement ahead, steeling his mettle by looking forward to the chances of achieving the objective.

Nisbet (1990: 387–88) characterizes this part of Aeneas’ speech as follows (in a more general discussion of his qualities as proto-Roman imperator): ‘He gives commands to his army with the menacing understatement of a successful soldier (17 “nunc iter ad regem nobis murosque Latinos”); in the manner of the later Roman army, which [officially] avoided unconsidered offensives, he aims at careful material and psychological preparation (18 “arma parate, animis et spe praesumite bellum”).’

animis et spe: approximates to a hendiadys (‘with hopeful courage’).

ne qua mora: qua = aliqua, modifying mora (‘any delay’). (Remember that after si, nisi, num and ne, the ali- of the indefinite pronoun isn’t used.)

vellere signa: pulling the standards to march into battle had augural significance in Rome: if they came out easily, it was considered an auspicious sign of divine approval; if they refused to budge, disaster loomed (see further Konrad 2004). In other words, Aeneas, by using technical terminology and figures of thought from Rome’s civic religion, here prefigures aspects of the political culture of the community he is destined to found.

adnuerint superi: The Romans developed various means of ascertaining the will of the gods, which were thought to communicate with mortals by means of (empirical) signs. Consultation of the gods before any weighty decision, especially in military matters, was de rigueur. This exercise, which tended to involve not just the magistrates in charge but also religious functionaries and attendants, also had social benefits: it was a way to build up consensus around a course of action that could very well backfire and thus enabled the magistrate in charge to manage (= reduce) risk. Someone who went to war without consulting the will of the gods, or did so perhaps even in defiance of divine dissuasion, was alone responsible for any ensuing defeat; those who abided by the protocols of Rome’s civic religion and consensual decisionmaking, by checking with their divine fellow citizens first via the approved procedures, were less exposed in case matters went awry. In short, this is another instance where Virgil’s Aeneas, by highlighting the importance of seeking divine approval before embarking on a course of action, manifests proto-Roman religious sensibilities. (See also above on vota deum.)

segnis: could be either nominative singular (modifying sententia in predicative position) or accusative plural (as a freestanding adjective used as a noun); given that it yields a parallel construction with the unambiguous ignaros, the latter is perhaps more likely. Just as ignaros looks back to arma parate (don’t be caught unawares!), segnis looks back to praesumite bellum (prepare yourselves mentally for war: don’t be paralyzed by fear!).

metu: to be taken either with segnis (‘those sluggish because of fear’) or sententia (‘deliberation arising from fear’) — or indeed both.

11.22–28: …But not Before Tending to the Dead

Just like Achilles before him Aeneas puts his desire to go after the enemy onto momentary hold in remembrance of the dead. Yet unlike Achilles, who only thinks of Patroclus, Aeneas also remembers all the other allies who were killed in the preceding day’s battle. And when his thoughts turn to Pallas, he focuses on the dead boy and his grieving father — unlike Achilles, who (at least initially) only thinks of himself. In line with this show of emotional control that feeds into an image of good leadership, Aeneas does not accompany Pallas’ corpse to Pallanteum — again in contrast to Achilles. See Iliad 22.385–90:

ἀλλὰ τί ἤ μοι ταῦτα φίλος διελέξατο θυμός;


κεῖται πὰρ νήεσσι νέκυς ἄκλαυτος ἄθαπτος

Πάτροκλος: τοῦ δ᾽ οὐκ ἐπιλήσομαι, ὄφρ᾽ ἂν ἔγωγε

ζωοῖσιν μετέω καί μοι φίλα γούνατ᾽ ὀρώρῃ:

εἰ δὲ θανόντων περ καταλήθοντ᾽ εἰν Ἀΐδαο

αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ καὶ κεῖθι φίλου μεμνήσομ᾽ ἑταίρου.


[But why does my heart speak to me thus? A corpse lies by the ships, unwept, unburied: Patroclus. Him I shall not forget as long as I remain among the living and my knees are quick. But if in the house of Hades men forget their dead, even there I shall remember my dear comrade.]


interea socios inhumataque corpora terrae | mandemus, qui solus honos Acheronte sub imo est: the second transitional segment, marked by the temporal adverb interea. In his speech, Aeneas moves from preparation for further warfare to taking care of the dead. He switches from imperatives addressed to his subordinates to the first person plural exhortative subjunctive (mandemus). Yet while the army sorts its dead, Aeneas and his troops are busy all the while gearing up, geeing themselves up, for the march on Latinus’ city, for what they’re going to do to ‘them’. This solemn trip Evandri … ad urbem | 26 is going to fan the fire in their bellies for the sortie ahead ad regem … murosque Latinos, 17, and don’t forget it: they shan’t.

JH: ‘Meanwhile’, notice that the responsion of interea socios inhumataque corpora terrae (22) with interea … sociis dare tempus humandis | prae-cipitant (2–3) reminds us that the pressing priority of getting the fallen interred was postponed by the call for earliest payment of religious dues (esp. in the shape and size of the tropaeum offering to Mars). We will find that dealing with the dead, enemy and friend alike, are two sides of the same coin, linked by a bridge between the Greek trophy claiming the battlefield and its Roman mobile adaptation in the form of floats at the triumph and their reprise in the funeral parade. Mezentius and Pallas share a single ‘co-present’ episode.

socios inhumataque corpora: hendiadys (= inhumata corpora sociorum).

terrae: dative, the indirect object of mandemus (23).

qui solus honos … est: the relative pronoun qui, while agreeing with the subject of the relative clause (honos) refers back to the action of proper burial.

Acheronte sub imo: anastrophe (= sub imo Acheronte). The Greek term Ἀχέρων / Acheron, which designates one of the Underworld rivers of Greek mythology, brings to mind Aeneas’ trip to Hell in Aeneid 6. He is one of the handful of mortals to walk the earth with first-hand experience of the beyond (or below). His unique autopsy of underworld topography endows his discourse here with special authority.


ite’, ait ‘egregias animas, quae sanguine nobis | hanc patriam peperere suo, decorate supremis | muneribus, maestamque Evandri primus ad urbem | mittatur Pallas, quem non virtutis egentem | abstulit atra dies et funere mersit acerbo.’: the final part of the speech, marked off as special by ait, divides the fallen into two distinct sets — everyone else and Pallas. (The –que after maestam links decorate and mittatur.) By and large, parallel syntax with subtle variations underscores the common fate as well as Pallas’ special status in Aeneas’ thoughts. In the first segment we get two imperatives in asyndetic sequence (ite, decorate), the dead as accusative object (egregias animas), and a relative clause, with the animae as subject, that elaborates on their special achievement (quae … suo); in the second segment, we get an exhortative subjunctive in the third person singular passive (mittatur), the dead as subject (Pallas), and a relative clause, with Pallas as accusative object, that offers an apologetic gloss on his premature death (quem … acerbo).

ite … decorate: asyndeton: ‘go honour’

egregias animas: perhaps reminiscent of Homer’s ‘strong souls’ (ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς / iphthimous psuchas) at Iliad 1.2 — a poem that starts by invoking the descent of a host of heroic souls to Hades because of a conflict within the Greek camp. The Latin adjective sets them up as already ‘standing out of the herd’, but Pallas will emerge as the special one (sc. standing out from their herd).

quae sanguine nobis | hanc patriam peperere suo: the antecedent of quae, the subject of the relative clause, is animas. Aeneas here points out that the Italian allies, through their selfless sacrifice (a notion enhanced by the hyperbaton sanguine … suo) created a new homeland (patria) for the Trojans. The deictic pronoun hanc reinforces the sense that there is no way back: the refugees from Troy have come to stay and (their claim is that they) have already taken ownership of the land, paid for in blood.

peperere: the alternative third-person plural perfect indicative active (= pepererunt).

maestamque Evandri … ad urbem: The urbs maesta is none other than the prototype of Rome, Evander’s foundation Pallanteum, though we are arguably dealing with a transposed epithet (not unlike Aeneid 1.7: altae moenia Romae). The constant use of the epithet maestus (‘sad’) is ‘the most striking example of repetition in Book XI’ (Gransden 1991: 28) and, employed eleven times (more than in any other book), a crucial leitmotif in Aeneid 11.

primus … | mittatur Pallas: Aeneas switches from the second person plural imperative active to the third person singular subjunctive passive: ‘first of all (primus is an adjective in lieu of adverb), let Pallas be sent…’ The more indirect exhortative subjunctive articulates grief. JH: A specially lacerating pun may lurk here, as if Pallas ‘the spear-launcher’ (Greek pallô) was always destined to wind up as a missile launched (mittatur) at his father and their people(’s hearts) — sure as ‘Pallas-to-Pallanteum’.

non virtutis egentem: JH: litotes that parades more sadomasochistic name punning, as Eu-ander’s son naturally inherited his share of uir-tus (Greek eu-, ‘well, plentiful’ cashing out non … egentem, and andreia translating ‘manliness, courage, virtue’ as virtus. We here are all feeling the pain, but some ice-cold commentator would note that the father’s etymology embraces his son’s, and another that compound-plentiful Greek regularly requires such rhetorical shifts as this for conversion to emphatically simple Latinity.

abstulit atra dies et funere mersit acerbo: The line is a repetition of 6.429. The context in which it occurs there is worth citing in full (6.426–29):

Continuo auditae voces vagitus et ingens
infantumque animae flentes, in limine primo
quos dulcis vitae exsortis et ab ubere raptos
abstulit atra dies et funere mersit acerbo

[At once are heard voices and enormous wailing — the souls of infants weeping, whom, on the very threshold of the sweet life they shared not, torn from the breast, the black day swept off and plunged in bitter death.]

The transposition of a line that was previously part of authorial narration into Aeneas’ speech arguably highlights his enhanced knowledge and experience, not unlike his earlier reference to the river Acheron (which is picked up by mersit). Aeneas has emerged from his trip to hell as an authoritative expert in underworld matters — and tells it like Virgil did. The repetition also conveys the sense that Aeneas considers Turnus guilty of infanticide — a slaughter of an innocent nursling rather than a fledgling warrior. This is a distorted point of view — Aeneas’ sense of reality is compromised by grief — but it arguably helps to explain the emotional explosion of furor and pietas that pushes him into sinking his sword into the pleading Turnus in the notorious final scene of the epic.

More generally, Moskalew (1982: 100) points out that such emphatic repetitions have a universalizing thrust, functioning ‘in much the same way as a traditional heroic epithet that is applied to a man, not to single out some individual trait, but rather to put him in the same class with all other bearers of that epithet’ — and uses ‘the recurrent theme of praematura mors —  of youth cut down before its prime’ to illustrate the point: ‘Pallas is the example that immediately comes to mind, but the same tragic destiny also awaits Lausus, Euryalus, and Marcellus.’ And (we’re bound to add) Camilla.

atra dies: dies ater means ‘day of misfortune’. For a discussion of the origins of the phrase and its meanings see Rüpke (2014: 102–08). (Note that the grammatical gender of dies oscillates between feminine and masculine.)

acerbo: JH: bitter, we noted, because unripe. The boy getting taken away leaves us with the taste in Aeneas’ mouth here to stay, lingering on, past the triple a-lliteration, in the long -o of his last word. We now share (in funere mersit acerbo) just what was doing Aeneas’ head in back where we came in (3 turbata … funere mens).

11.29–41: Necrophilia, Anyone?

As the mark-up illustrates, Virgil has organized this passage in a loose form of ring composition, reminiscent of Homeric poetry:

Sic ait inlacrimans, recipitque ad limina gressum

A1 + B1

corpus ubi exanimi positum Pallantis Acoetes



servabat senior, qui Parrhasio Evandro

armiger ante fuit, sed non felicibus aeque

tum comes auspiciis caro datus ibat alumno.

circum omnis famulumque manus Troianaque turba


et maestum Iliades crinem de more solutae.


ut vero Aeneas foribus sese intulit altis


ingentem gemitum tunsis ad sidera tollunt


pectoribus, maestoque immugit regia luctu.

ipse caput nivei fultum Pallantis et ora


ut vidit levique patens in pectore vulnus


cuspidis Ausoniae, lacrimis ita fatur obortis:


  • A (bold): The passage begins and ends with reference to Aeneas speaking (ait ~ fatur) and crying (inlacrimans ~ lacrimis ... obortis).
  • B (bold italics): We get two references to Aeneas returning to his temporary lodgings (recipit gressum ~ sese intulit; ad limina ~ foribus ... altis)
  • C (Italics): Virgil lingers twice on the corpse of Pallas (who is also named twice), focusing first on Acoetes’ ritual attendance (servabat), then on Aeneas’ gaze (vidit). The correspondence extends to syntax: see below on 39–41.
  • D (Shaded): In addition to Acoetes and Aeneas, an anonymous crowd of mourners, including in particular the Trojan women, is part of the picture: they are first introduced as surrounding the corpse of Pallas attended to by Acoetes and then start howling in grief upon Aeneas’ arrival.

So the overall order is A1 – B1 – C1 – D1 – B2 – D2 – C2 – A2, yielding two interlaced chiastic patterns: A1B1B2A2, covering Aeneas’ speech and movement, and C1D1D2C2, covering Pallas’ corpse and the mourning crowd in attendance. The arrangement recalls Homer’s penchant for ring composition, without committing the aesthetic sin of slavish imitation. (Homer would likely have opted for the perfectly symmetrical A1 – B1 – C1 – D1 –D2 – C2 – B2 – A2.)


The passage starts off with a long sentence comprising five verses. The syntax is fairly straightforward: after the bipartite main clause, which features Aeneas as subject (the –que after recipit links the two main verbs ait and recipit), we get a spatial ubi-clause (picking up on ad limina), which describes Acoetes keeping watch over the corpse of Pallas (30–1: corpus … senior), followed by a bipartite relative clause (with Acoetes as antecedent): qui … fuit, sed … ibat


inlacrimans: Aeneas wells up at the end of the speech he has just given and then again at the beginning of the speech he is about to deliver (41: lacrimis ita fatur obortis). Heroism and weeping are not incompatible. The ‘stiff upper lip’ or the Stoic sage who has his emotions under perfect control, responding to whatever life throws at him with mental equanimity, are notions that do not belong, or at least not initially, in the Graeco-Roman literary tradition. In the Iliad, we meet Achilles weeping at the shores of the sea after the slight he suffered at the hands of Agamemnon. Our first sight of Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey has the protagonist sitting at a beach on the island of Ogygia crying his heart out as he longs for a return home. And, to choose an example from a non-epic genre, much of Sophocles’ tragedy Philoctetes features the hero wailing in pain on an abandoned island. Aeneas, though, usually keeps his emotions in check, especially in the second half of the poem. We are therefore dealing with a marked exception, as Highet (1974: 228) points out: ‘Aeneas rarely speaks under the pressure of the softer emotions at any time after his entry into the underworld. Twice more he weeps bitterly: once when addressing the ghost of Dido (6. 455 + 476) and once when speaking of the dead Pallas (11. 29 + 41, 11.59).’ His physical response highlights the intensity of Aeneas’ grief, recalling Achilles’ grief over Patroclus in the Iliad. It is the breeding ground for the red mist that descends on Aeneas in his final showdown with Pallas’ killer Turnus. The degree of emotional intensity here matches the degree of emotional intensity there, as inconsolable grief transforms into uncontrollable wrath. There is then an apologetic subtext running throughout the grief-sodden stretches of Aeneid 11, which prepares the ground for Pallas’ sudden reappearance at the end of the poem, where Aeneas announces ‘It is Pallas who kills you’ before sinking his sword into Turnus. This is not just violence breeding violence: in principle, Aeneas is quite willing to spare Turnus. It is his grief and sense of guilt that fuel the cycle of revenge killings.

JH: By the time we reach this dénouement, we will have been handed so many considerations and ‘deals’ to weigh up that even the most ethically driven among us might find themselves prepared to absolve any of Aeneas’ motivations as means to a (greater) end. Everything that happens on the Aeneid’s killing fields will feed into that final decisive moment, without benefit of epilogue or follow-up. Pallas and Camilla both pay into the reckoning we all have to make. Through the tears, and the rage. The outrage: ‘In World War II the average age of the combat soldier was twenty-six | In inininininin Vietnam s/he was nineteen…’.

ad limina: the passage contains a number of architectural terms; apart from limina, see foribus … altis (36) and regia (38). They all refer to what will have been Aeneas’ headquarters, which Virgil implicitly likens to a royal palace.


corpus ubi exanimi positum Pallantis Acoetes | servabat senior: the ubi-clause features carefully interlaced word order, with two words each (always separated by an intervening lexeme) for the accusative object (italics: the laid-out corpse), the genitive attribute (underlined: life-less Pallas) and the subject (shaded: old Acoetes). The meticulous design, reinforced by alliteration (positum Pallantis, servabat senior) and the measured metre at the opening of 31 (five spondees), suggest that Pallas’ corpse has been carefully laid out, with Acoetes in dutiful attendance. The imperfect servabat – as well as the etymology of his name – indicates the uninterrupted duration of Acoetes’ watch.

Acoetes: for an appreciation of this (Greek) speaking name see Paschalis (1997: 371): ‘”Acoetes” is the proper-name form of akoitês; it literally means “bedfellow”, “husband” and hints at a close relationship between “Acoetes” and Pallas, possibly an erotic one. The semantic content of this relationship is distorted following the death of Pallas. “Acoetes” is assigned the task of “watching over” Pallas’ body that has been “laid out” for burial: the cluster “corpus … positum … Acoetes” suggests keîmai (“be laid”, “lie dead”); the cluster “Acoetes seruabat” implies that “Acoetes” may have remained “sleepless” [akoitos] all night long.’ JH: Too late to keep his charge safe, but here to take his share of the guilt along with Aeneas — and just about everybody. He is introduced in person in readiness for his vital cameo at 85–87.


As Moskalew (1982: 182) notes, 11.31–33 stand in dialogue with 9.647–49, which depict Butes, the armour-bearer of Ascanius (and formerly of Anchises):

qui Parrhasio Euandro

armiger ante fuit, sed non felicibus aeque

tum comes auspiciis caro datus ibat alumno


hic Dardanio Anchisae

armiger ante fuit fidusque ad limina custos;

tum comitem Ascanio pater addidit.


[He (sc. Butes) in time past was armour bearer to Dardan Anchises, and trusty watcher at his gate; thereafter the child’s father made him associate to Ascanius.]

The italics are those of Moskalew and highlight the intratextual correspondences. He adds: ‘It is in the shape of Butes that Apollo had restrained Ascanius from plunging into the heat of the battle, and thereby probably saved him from a fate like Pallas’.’ Ascanius and Pallas are complementary figures, one representing triumph, the other tragedy, one profiting from divine guardianship, the other perishing unprotected, with the divinities turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the piteous supplications of his father Evander. The pair ensure that Aeneas is a particularly complex father-figure. See Introduction 34–5.


Parrhasio Evandro: the phrase contains two metrical peculiarities: a hiatus (the final –o of Parrhasio and the initial E- of Evandro are both read, without elision); and a spondaic fifth foot: – u u | – – | – –. According to Dainotti (2015: 186), ‘hiatus and spondaic line-end emphasize Evander’s royalty’. (You might ask yourself how and why.) Parrhasio, which refers to Parrhasia, a region of Arcadia in mainland Greece, is the first such ethnic-geographical marker in this passage. We also get references to Troy (34: Troianaque turba; 35: Iliades) and Italy (41: cuspidis Ausoniae). Pallas, who died as protégé of the Trojan Aeneas, was the son of an exiled Greek dwelling at the future site of Rome (Evander) and his Italic spouse — he thus represents the three different strands out of which Virgil fashions Roman identity in the Aeneid, an epic that is, not least, about migration and ethnic mingling as the genepool for a non-racist society: the exiled Trojan, the exiled Greek, and the native Italic, all three reconceived as proto-Roman. This complex identity defies any easy binary that pitches Greeks against Trojans or the Trojans and their allies against their Italic enemies, rendering it difficult to differentiate the self from the other in any clear-cut way. In a sense, then, Pallas is the victim of a civil war — the kind of grievous self-mutilation that Dido (who awaits us one more time round the next narrative corner: see 74 below) wished down on Aeneas and his people. (See 4.584–629, esp. 617–8: videatque indigna suorum | funera.) JH: At the same time, magically, Virgil the poet who started out foregrounding the bucolic world of a primitivist Arcadia winds up featuring them as victim players in the mix he masters in order to generate the imperial superpower of Rome. He couldn’t have known what he would do, he must have lived it.


armiger ante fuit: literally, armi-ger means ‘armour-bearer’. Virgil uses the noun six times in the Aeneid (2.477, 5.255, 9.330, 564 and 648, 11.32) and may have ‘introduced the role of the armor-bearer, not a Homeric type, into heroic epic. In Homer, we hear of charioteers and companions, free men who help the heroes, not armor-bearers (which seem more apt for hoplite warfare)’ (Anderson 1983: 11 n.1).


sed non felicibus aeque … auspiciis … ibat: literally, ‘but he went with not-equally happy auspices’. In the political culture of republican Rome, auspicia publica designated the right of high magistrates (holders of imperium, ‘the rightful power to issue commands’) or certain priests to ascertain the will of the gods (especially Jupiter’s) on behalf of the commonwealth through certain prescribed procedures. See e.g. Drogula (2015: 69): ‘Auspicium was absolutely essential to military commanders, who needed to consult the will of the gods before committing their armies to war or other dangerous undertakings that would have a critical effect on the well-being of the state.’ Divine will manifested itself in empirical signs: ex caelo = from the sky (thunder and lightening), ex avibus = from the flight of birds, ex tripudio = the way chickens ate when fed from a tripedal vessel, which religious functionaries interpreted as ‘favourable’ or ‘unfavourable’. Virgil does not imply that any such formal procedure as taking the auspices was in place in archaic Pallanteum; but he uses technical vocabulary from the Roman system of ascertaining the presence (or absence) of divine support before risky ventures to suggest that Pallas’ participation in the war took place without divine backing.


tum … ibat: corresponds to ante and fuit.

comes … caro datus … alumno: literally, ‘having been given / appointed (datus — the perfect passive participle of do, dare) as companion (comes) to the beloved son’. There is, perhaps, an upgrade from the servant role of armiger, in which Acoetes performed with respect to his coeval Evander, to the status of comes (a peer, lower in rank but superior in seniority) to Pallas. The hyperbaton caro … alumno produces an affectionate alliteration (comes … caro); both devices underscore stylistically how beloved Pallas was. comes links back to Dido through her sister Anna (4.77) and on to Turnus through his sister Juturna (12.881).

alumno: note the assonance and quasi-rhyme with Evandro (31). Aeneas’ acerbo echoes on.


circum omnis famulumque manus Troianaque turba | et maestum Iliades crinem de more solutae: the sentence lacks a verb: we need to supply something like stabant or erant. The subjects, linked by the two –que and the et, are (i) omnis famulum manus; (ii) Troiana turba; (iii) Iliades. Technically speaking, the –que after famulum is superfluous, but the polysyndeton adds to the image of mourning groups crowding indiscriminately around the body.

famulum: = famulorum, i.e. the older form of the genitive plural of the second declension.

crinem … solutae: reflexive (or ‘middle’) use of the perfect passive participle modifying Iliades, with crinem as accusative object.


foribus sese intulit altis: a minor form of enactment, with the word order mirroring Aeneas passing through the door frames.


ipse caput nivei fultum Pallantis et ora | ut vidit levique patens in pectore vulnus | cuspidis Ausoniae: the temporal ut-clause (with a much-postponed conjunction) echoes the interlaced word-order Virgil already used in 30–1 to describe the corpse of Pallas. The et (epexegetical: ‘the second phrase parallels, explains or paraphrases the first rather than adding to it’: Gransden 1991: 73) in 39 links caput and ora, the –que after levi, links ora and vulnus. caput, ora, and vulnus are all accusative objects of vidit. The word order arguably tracks Aeneas’ gaze across his fallen protégé. ipse sets him up as the subject of the sentence, but before we even reach the conjunction ut, the propped-up head — and more specifically the snow-white face — of Pallas comes suddenly into view, an effect enhanced by the staggering of caput et ora and the transferred epithet nivei; and when the gaze moves down from the face the fatal wound that gapes in his chest comes into Aeneas’ ken, as we transition from an image of deathly beauty to one of lethal brutality.

After 30–31, this is the second time the corpse of Pallas comes into focus, and the two passages purposefully mirror each other. Similarities include:

  • the postponed conjunction (30: ubi; 40: ut)
  • the emphasis on the display of the corpse (30: corpus … positum; 39: caput … fultum)
  • the repetition of Pallas’ name in the genitive, with a modifying attribute that emphasizes that his body is lifeless (30: exanimis … Pallantis; 39: nivei … Pallantis)
  • more generally, the very deliberate use of bipartite phrases (here: caput fultum, nivei Pallantis, levi pectore, patens vulnus, cuspidis Ausoniae, with the exception being et ora, which hence stands out even further)

The moment is fraught: Aeneas’ gaze meets the propped-up corpse of Pallas, which manifests beauty and brutality in equal degree: its appearance is aesthetically pleasing in its youthful shiny smoothness and (if you swing that way) may even carry a sensual erotic charge (see below on nivei and levi); at the same time, there is that gaping hole in his chest… In significant contrast to the dummy of Mezentius and his body, then, which vanished from the narrative, Virgil dwells in obsessive detail on the corpse of Pallas. He mentions his corpus (30) and his caput (39), with a specific reference to his face (39: ora), and we get a detailed description of the wound in his ‘smooth’ chest (40: levique patens in pectore vulnus). Despite being, or because lifeless, his complexion holds fair (exanimi … Pallantis; nivei … Pallantis). The doubling of his name highlights identity and difference between the person and the body of a human being.

nivei: the late-antique commentator Servius notes the wide semantic spectrum (and ideological connotations) of this colour term (from nix, nivis, f. snow), from smooth-skinned beauty to the pallor of death: late patet hoc epitheton: referri enim potest ad candorem pristinae pulchritudinis, et ad pallorem ex morte venientem, et ad frigus quod proprium mortuorum est. (‘The semantic range of the attribute is wide: it can refer to the white glow of his former beauty or to the pallor that comes from death or to the coldness characteristic of corpses.’) Putnam reads niveus together with levis as amounting to a sensual appreciation of Pallas’ erotic appeal (1985: 10–11): ‘Two words are gratuitous in this description — niveus, snowy, and levis, smooth — and both are highly sensual. What Aeneas takes note of is the adolescent, androgynous beauty of the youth. Niveus has nothing to do with the whiteness of death (Virgil would have used pallidus) and everything to do with physical allure […] Smoothness of skin is also a mark of youthful beauty.’ Some details of the argument are questionable — as Servius’ comment shows, the apodeictic rejection that niveus has anything to do with death is off the mark; and to use pallidus with reference to Pallas would have been a trifle ham-fisted, quite unworthy of Virgil who delights in teasing riddles: niveus puns on Pallas, without ramming the point home. But the sensuality of Virgil’s language here is well appreciated. Reed (2009: 20–1) develops it further, with explicit reference to Greek homoeroticism: ‘One might add that mention of ora, Pallas’ face, reminds us of his youthful, beardless appearance, a requisite of the junior partner in a male-male relationship — in Greek terms, the erômenos, the “beloved.” Elsewhere we encounter the downy male faces of Euryalus (9.181) and Clytius (10.324), erômenoi both. The “smooth chest” of “snowy Pallas” reminds us of Euryalus’ candida pectora, and this connection reinforces the erotic slant of both scenes.’ In contrast, Fratantuono (2009: 29) declares ‘no romantic or sexual relationship between Aeneas and Pallas, to be sure’ — which may be right; but the Homeric analogue, the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, appeared to quite a few ancient readers as sexually charged and the intertextual echo invites us to ponder Aeneas’ protective instincts for Pallas in a similar light — if only to reject the possibility as irrelevant. What remains striking is Virgil’s investment in the pathos of youthful death both on the battlefield (Lausus, Pallas, Camilla, Turnus) and elsewhere (Icarus, Marcellus). JH: And what Pallas may never dissociate from entirely, dead or alive, is that other etymology hung on him, ‘from’ pallakê, ‘girl’, or, more ‘sensually’, ‘concubine’ (but see on 68 below).

levi … in pectore: anastrophe (= in levi pectore), here reinforced by the intrusion of patens (which does what it means, i.e. opens up a gap). Note that the e in levi is long. JH: The cult of militarist courage fetishes the noble wound ‘in front’ — it’s no good getting hit in the back — or, apparently, in the head … or guts. No one’s gonna love you for that (55–56).

cuspidis Ausoniae: vulnus is frequently construed with a genitive ‘indicating cause or source’: see OLD s.v. 1b. ‘There is bitterness or paradox in the adj.: Pallas is himself half-Arcadian, half-Samnite (8.510) and Italian-born, just as Turnus’s Greek origins had had their moment of importance (7.371f.); he has therefore in some sense died in civil war (for his magister, the “invader” Aeneas, is likewise — 7.205ff. — not altogether externus’ (Horsfall 2003: 73–4).


lacrimis fatetur obortis: JH: the phrasing echoes the opening of Anchises’ speech at 6.882, on Marcellus, Augustus’ nephew-son-in-law-and-heir-apparent, whose death at 21 in 23 BCE came just as Virgil was finishing up the Aeneid, but who nonetheless forced his way into the poem to join his mythical avatars. The news bulletin became the flashforward of the foundation narrative. See further Reed (2009: 182) on cross-generational assimilation and Aeneas’ co-option of authoritative idiom (narratorial or paternal).

42–58: Aeneas’ Speech (Overview)

(i) Address to Pallas – and meditation on his unfulfiled promise:

tene’, inquit ‘miserande puer, cum laeta veniret,


invidit Fortuna mihi, ne regna videres

nostra neque ad sedes victor veherere paternas?


(ii) Flashback: Recollection of his promise to Evander and Evander’s fears:

non haec Evandro de te promissa parenti



discedens dederam, cum me complexus euntem

mitteret in magnum imperium metuensque moneret


acris esse viros, cum dura proelia gente.

(iii) The situation now: fears have come true, hope (and religious efforts) have been in vain, promise has been broken:

et nunc ille quidem spe multum captus inani


fors et vota facit cumulatque altaria donis,


nos iuvenem exanimum et nil iam caelestibus ullis


debentem vano maesti comitamur honore.

(iv) Addresses to Evander, rhetorical questions addressed to himself, and addresses to Italy and Iulus:

infelix, nati funus crudele videbis!


hi nostri reditus exspectatique triumphi?


haec mea magna fides? at non, Evandre, pudendis


C3 + E2

vulneribus pulsum aspicies, nec sospite dirum

optabis nato funus pater. ei mihi quantum


praesidium, Ausonia, et quantum tu perdis, Iule!’

Key to mark-up and letters:

  • Bold italics = primary focus on Pallas
  • Bold = primary focus on Aeneas (and Iulus)
  • Italics = primary focus on Evander
  • Shaded = vocatives, personal names, pronouns, pronominal adjectives
  • A = reference to the future status of Pallas in Aeneas’ story had his life not been cut short
  • B = a triumphal return previously imagined, though in vain
  • C = Aeneas’ promise to Evander to return Pallas home safely — and the acknowledgement that he broke it (haec mea magna fides?)
  • D = Evander’s fears and forebodings and his religious efforts to avert disaster
  • E = direct addresses to Evander as a bereaved parent who can be proud of his son

The speech explores the implications of Pallas’ death for Pallas himself, as well as Aeneas and Evander (including their respective relationships with Pallas and with each other). Aeneas devotes 3 lines to Pallas (bold italics), 6.5 lines to his own involvement in the tragedy (bold), and 7.5 lines to Pallas’ father Evander (italics). The slight privileging of Evander in terms of verse quantity is counterbalanced by the way in which Aeneas interweaves a focus on himself with a focus on Evander: he begins and ends by foregrounding the impact of the tragedy on himself, both in terms of its implications for his character (he believes he has broken a promise) and his mission (Italy and his own son have suffered a grievous loss).

The overall design of the speech again features ring composition with variation: A1 – B1 – C1 – D1 – D2 – C2 – E1 – B2 – C3 – E2 – A2. There are two variations that upset the otherwise orderly sequence of A1B1C1D1D2C2B2A2, namely E1, C3, E2, i.e. a third reference to his broken promise framed by two direct addresses to Evander. The departures from perfect symmetry carry emotional and thematic significance and yield insight into Aeneas’ character.

To appreciate Aeneas’ speech fully (as well as Evander’s lament over Pallas, coming up at 151–81), we need a flashback to Aeneid 8, where Evander bids farewell to his son Pallas with a moving prayer to the gods that he return alive (8.558–84):

tum pater Evandrus dextram complexus euntis

haeret inexpletus lacrimans ac talia fatur:

‘o mihi praeteritos referat si Iuppiter annos,


qualis eram cum primam aciem Praeneste sub ipsa

stravi scutorumque incendi victor acervos

et regem hac Erulum dextra sub Tartara misi,

non ego nunc dulci amplexu divellerer usquam,

nate, tuo, neque finitimo Mezentius umquam

huic capiti insultans tot ferro saeva dedisset


funera, tam multis viduasset civibus urbem.

at vos, o superi, et divum tu maxime rector

Iuppiter, Arcadii, quaeso, miserescite regis

et patrias audite preces. si numina vestra

incolumem Pallanta mihi, si fata reservant,


si visurus eum vivo et venturus in unum,

vitam oro, patior quemvis durare laborem.

sin aliquem infandum casum, Fortuna, minaris,

nunc, nunc o liceat crudelem abrumpere vitam,

dum curae ambiguae, dum spes incerta futuri,


dum te, care puer, mea sola et sera voluptas,

complexu teneo, gravior neu nuntius auris

vulneret.’ haec genitor digressu dicta supremo

fundebat; famuli conlapsum in tecta ferebant.

[Then father Evander, clasping the hand of his departing son, clings to him weeping inconsolably and speaks thus: ‘If only Jupiter gave me back the years that are past, and restored me to how I was when under Praeneste’s very walls I struck down the front row of the enemy’s battle-line, burned the piled-up shields as victor, and with this right hand sent down to Tartarus King Erulus…, then never should I now be torn, my son, from your sweet embrace. Never on this his neighbour’s head would Mezentius have heaped scorn, handed out so many cruel deaths with his sword, nor widowed the city of so many of her citizens! But you powers above, and you, Greatest Jupiter, ruler of the gods, pity, I pray, the Arcadian king, and hear a father’s prayer. If your will, if destiny keep Pallas safe for me, if I live still to see him, still to meet him, I pray for life; I have patience to endure any toil. But if, Fortune, you threaten some unspeakable mischance, now, oh, now may I break off cruel life — while fears are doubtful, while hope faces an uncertain future, while you, beloved boy, my one pleasure late in life, are held in my arms; and may no heavier news wound my ear!’ These words the father poured forth at their last parting; his servants bore him collapsed into the palace.]

11.42–48: Of a Promise Broken

Aeneas’ speech here recalls ‘Achilles’ pre-rampage lament over Patroklos, just before he vowed to accomplish human sacrifice in his anger’ (Callen King 1982: 52) at Iliad 18.324–27:

ὢ πόποι ἦ ῥ᾽ ἅλιον ἔπος ἔκβαλον ἤματι κείνῳ

θαρσύνων ἥρωα Μενοίτιον ἐν μεγάροισι:

φῆν δέ οἱ εἰς Ὀπόεντα περικλυτὸν υἱὸν ἀπάξειν

Ἴλιον ἐκπέρσαντα, λαχόντα τε ληΐδος αἶσαν.

[Alas, the word I uttered on that day was in vain, when I tried to hearten the warrior Menoetius in our halls; and said that when I had sacked Ilios I would bring him his glorious son back to Opoeis with the share of the spoil that should fall to his lot.]

This echo of destructive fury about to be unleashed does not disable Aeneas from acting in a statesmanlike fashion shortly thereafter in his reception of Latin emissaries (see below 100–21). It is, rather, part of an ongoing dialectic of assimilation and differentiation between Aeneas and Achilles throughout this part of the poem: ‘In Books 10 and 11, then, we see a repeated alternation in Aeneas’ character. He moves from beneficent pietas to a furiously destructive perversion of pietas and back to controlled beneficence as Vergil merges him with and then separates him from the character of the grief-stricken Homeric Achilles’ (Callen King 1982: 53). But matters might be more complex: instead of speaking of beneficent pietas and its perversion, it must be more appropriate (if more unsettling) to think of pietas as comprising both a beneficent and a destructive potential.


‘tene’, inquit ‘miserande puer, cum laeta veniret, | invidit Fortuna mihi, ne regna videres | nostra neque ad sedes victor veherere paternas?: the main verb invidit here governs three constructions. We get:

  • an accusative of the item begrudged (te)
  • a dative of the person who attracts the envy (mihi) and
  • a ne-clause that details what happy future events jealous Fortune refused to grant to Pallas (and hence also to Aeneas).

The target of Fortune’s envy is not (as one might have expected) Pallas, but Aeneas. There is a close parallel to the end of Aeneid 6: when Anchises laments the untimely death of Augustus’ heir apparent Marcellus (see on 41 above), he identifies as the reason the desire for some kind of cosmic balance: Marcellus himself had done nothing wrong, but he had to die nevertheless for Rome to avoid the charge of hubris. From Aeneas’ self-centred point of view, Pallas is not the prime target; it is a means by which Fortune can get at himself. Pallas is an innocent victim within a plot that revolves around Aeneas alone. Powell (2008: 151) argues that these verses suggest a homoerotic relationship between Aeneas and Pallas, within an overall approach to the erotic that surfaces in the Aeneid only in tragic settings: ‘Virgil’s eroticism in the mortal sphere is reserved for contexts of misery and death.’

tene: not the present imperative singular of teneo, but the personal pronoun in the accusative (te) + the interrogative particle –ne.

inquit: strictly speaking quite unnecessary, given fatur in the previous line. But the repetition of the verb of speaking further increases the pronounced pathos invested in te: ‘No greater emphasis could have been given: “so it was you, was it, … that Fortune?”’ (Horsfall 2003: 74).

miserande puer: miserande is the (2nd declension) vocative singular of the gerundive of miseror: ‘o boy who must be pitied’ = ‘pitiable boy’. The address flags up the rhetorical mood of the speech under way. Aeneas uses the same noun in his apostrophe as Evander in his departure speech (581: … te, care puer…), though the attribute has changed. Pallas is not the first character thus addressed in the poem: Anchises uses the same phrase of Marcellus (6.882) and Aeneas of Lausus (10.825): ‘These are the three main characters whom Vergil addresses as miserande [“to be pitied”]; the link among the three seems even stronger than merely linguistic. Both Pallas and Lausus represent Marcellus; they, however, die with the glory of achievement, which in Marcellus’ case was never attained, only forecast’ (Benario 2000: 202, noting a fourth instance of the phrase at 10.327, where it is used of the minor character Cydon). For the age range of puer as a form of address see Dickey (2002: 192): ‘The addressee may be a baby, a boy, or a youth just old enough to enter battle, like Vergil’s Pallas. In such uses puer is a friendly address, normally indicating the kind of generalized fondness that adults feel for the young. It is often modified by terms of affection (care puer “dear boy”, Sil. 6. 537), pity (miserande puer “pitiable boy”, Verg. A. 6. 882), or praise (fortunate puer “fortunate boy”, Verg. Ecl. 5. 49).’ In the encounter with Turnus, Pallas was clearly overmatched. See 10.459: viribus imparibus.

cum laeta veniret: the subject of the cum-clause is Fortuna, with laeta in predicative position: ‘when she came smiling [on me]’.

laeta – Fortuna – invidit: Aeneas’ question presupposes a theology of Fortuna — an interesting goddess, not least in a Roman context and in the Aeneid in particular. In light of Aeneas’ musings that she might have acted out of jealousy in depriving Pallas of a triumphant return home, we have to reckon with four rather different understandings of the deified concept.

  • Fortuna:1 the Romans were quite aware that Fortune was fickle, but deemed it possible to rein in her unpredictability, at least a bit, through the tried and tested means of their civic religion. The notion that Fortuna is to some extent predictable, in a rational way, if for a limited period of time (the Romans dedicated a temple to Fortuna Huiusce Diei — ‘The Fortune of this Day’) also underwrites such adages as Fortuna fortes adiuvat (‘Fortune favours the brave’), where she is thought to dispense her goodwill according to meritocratic criteria.
  • Fortuna:2 in her second instantiation, Fortuna embodies the principle of chance, very much like her Greek counterpart tuche, who acts according to her whim and will. She is random happenstance personified, a cosmic principle of chaos, and delights in turmoil for the sake of turmoil. Any attempts at ‘domestication’ are pointless.
  • Fortuna:3 Aeneas here ‘anthropomorphizes’ this chaotic Fortuna / Tuche by endowing her with the capacity to feel ‘envy’. The notion that divine beings look upon (excessive) human success invidiously — or at the very least reserve the right to thwart human aspirations — dates back to early Greek thought, though what the phrase phthonos theôn (conventionally glossed as ‘envy of the gods’) actually means remains controversial: ‘It has been interpreted as a blast of malice, likely to be wholly undeserved by its targets; a revelation of godly avarice; an instrument of divine justice, delivered as punishment for some impiety (be it action or character); a godly slapdown intended to keep mortals under control; and/or a mechanism for the maintenance of cosmic boundaries.’10 In the Hellenistic period, notably in Polybius, Tuche becomes a force that imposes some kind of cosmic equilibrium on the mortal sphere.11 She grants favours (cum laeta veniret), but ensures that they are counterbalanced by misfortunes. She thereby embodies the coincidence of tragedy and triumph, joy and grief, that is also a hallmark of Virgil’s poetry. Here her calibrating powers recall the analogous scenario at the end of Aeneid 6: Marcellus, the nephew of Augustus and his heir apparent, has to die young, otherwise Roman might would reach hubristic, theomachic proportions. (For Marcellus see e.g. the sensitive discussion by Reed 2009: 148–72.)
  • Fortuna:4 in the context of the Aeneid more generally and here in particular, Fortuna also brings to mind the figure of Dido — who is a figure of fortuna, just as much as Aeneas is a figure of fatum (though the binary breaks down in interesting ways: through her suicide, she turned her miserable fortune into part of Aeneas’ fate).

regna … nostra: Aeneas’ choice of vocabulary recalls his earlier use of patriam (25), but now also includes an entitlement to (future) kingship: he is confident that his mission will succeed and that he will ultimately end up in charge of an empire in Italy. The phrase picks up on laeta and mihi: Aeneas imagines Fortune as favouring him — she will grant him his sought-after regna — but also feeling a kickback of envy at the prospect of such success, which causes her to spoil his happiness with the tragedy of Pallas. (Is there a hint that Lady Luck sees this as a quid pro quo rather than a tit-for-tat?) Egocentrism reigns: this is about him — and about him seeing Pallas seeing him as king in his kingdom. The fact that this item takes pole position in the ne-clause seems to imply that he considers himself being king basking in the admiration of his charges a greater source of joy than seeing Pallas return victoriously to his father.

ad sedes … paternas: after pondering his own role in the affair Aeneas proceeds to consider the impact of Pallas’ death on his father Evander (cf. paternas).

victor veherere: veherere is the alternative form of the 2nd person singular imperfect subjunctive passive (= vehereris). Aeneas imagines Pallas as victorious imperator who returns home riding on a triumphal chariot. The connection to the arch-Roman ritual of the triumph is spelled out explicitly in 54: exspectatique triumphi. Instead of a victory procession, we get its dark shadow, a funeral parade.


non haec Evandro de te promissa parenti | discedens dederam, cum me complexus euntem | mitteret in magnum imperium metuensque moneret | acris esse viros, cum dura proelia gente: the main-clause (non … dederam) is followed by an extensive cum-clause (cum me … gente), which concludes with an indirect statement introduced by moneret (acris … gente). (Note that cum in 46 is a conjunction, while cum in 48 is the preposition + ablative.) The cum-clause features a lot of verbal activity. Of the three circumstantial participles, two, i.e. complexus and metuens, modify the subject of the clause (Evander) and form a chiasmus with the two finite verbs mitteret and moneret linked by the –que after metuens; one modifies the object, i.e. me (euntem, the accusative masculine singular of the present active participle of eo, ire, to go).

Aeneas continues his address to Pallas (de te), but, following up on the last word of the previous line (44: paternas), now brings Pallas’ father Evander forcefully into the picture. He revisits (perhaps also reimagines) the moment of departure from Pallanteum, with Evander sending the war party reluctantly on its way. (In Virgil’s account of the scene in Aeneid 8.558–59, Aeneas does not make any promises to Evander to bring Pallas back alive — though Aeneas’ words here clearly echo those of Virgil: tum pater Evandrus dextram complexus euntis | haeret inexpletus lacrimans ac talia fatur). Aeneas here recalls that Evander experienced dire foreboding of the tragedy that would befall him and his son. His sense of guilt seems to affect his recollection. This is subtle psychology on Virgil’s part. His protagonist hasn’t broken his promises, but feels he has: objectively, he has done nothing wrong; subjectively, he is racked by guilt. His urge to expiate his perceived failure to keep his word will climax in the final scene of the poem.

Aeneas uses syntax to project a tragic sense of foreboding into the farewell, with an oblique set of antitheses between finite verbs and participles. There are latent tensions between discedens and (promissa) … dederam, between complexus and euntem (holding back — going away) and between mitteret and metuensque moneret (sending off — with a fearful warning). The heavy m-alliteration arguably intensifies the anticipation of doom that hovers over the sentence.

haec Evandro de te promissa parenti: note the interlaced word order: A1 (haec) – B1 (Evandro) – A2 (promissa) – B2 (parenti), with the reference to Pallas (in direct address) dead centre (de te).

in magnum imperium: The original meaning of imperium was ‘the right to command’; during the late republic it then also acquired the sense of ‘territory over which one had the right to issue orders’, i.e. ‘empire’. Here the territorial sense is to the fore — Evander sends Aeneas against a great empire, peopled by fierce fighters and a hardy people (see the acres viri and the dura gens in the following line), i.e. proto-Roman in outlook. The phrasing, in which the resident king of proto-Rome sends forth his son and his Trojan ally against proto-Romans thus feeds the ironic complexities of Romano-Italic and polyethnic nation building that Virgil explores throughout the second half of the Aeneid. The lexeme imperium thus joins patria (25) and regna (43) in flagging up the fact that Virgil is giving us an epic aetiology of the geopolitical realities of all of Roman history, here in a nascent state. The phrasing perhaps also hints at hierarchies in the world of command, designated by the comparatives maius and minus (imperium), a live issue also in Augustan times: does the imperium of the princeps outrank that of the consuls or provincial governors?

acris esse viros, cum dura proelia gente: an accusative + infinitive, in two parts, depending on moneret (47). There is a slight shift in the meaning of esse, which needs to be supplied in the second part, from auxiliary to full verb. acres viri and dura gens are virtual synonyms. Both resonate powerfully in Roman ideology. Aeneas and his men go to war with a people that represent the tough Italic stock that will form the foundation of Rome. Fratantuono (2009: 31) spots a contrast between ‘the power and strength of the native Italians’ and ‘Trojan effeminacy’, though in the two passages he cites in support of the latter (4.206–18, Iarbas speaking; and 9.598–620, Numanus speaking) we get the views of sworn enemies of Aeneas and his Trojans. The fact of the matter is that the Trojans — and Aeneas in particular — prove just as hardy as their enemies (even though they may have their softie moments).

acris: the alternative accusative plural ending of the third declension, scanning long (= acres).

cum dura proelia gente: scanning the line will reveal the long –a of dura, hence modifying the feminine ablative singular gente (not the short neuter accusative plural proelia).

11.49–58: How Do I Break this to Dad? Well, at Least Pallas Wasn’t a Cold-Footed, Useless Swine!


et nunc ille quidem spe multum captus inani | fors et vota facit cumulatque altaria donis, | nos iuvenem exanimum et nil iam caelestibus ullis | debentem vano maesti comitamur honore: Aeneas’ thoughts turn from past to the present (et nunc). The quartet of verses revolves around a brutal antithesis (49: ille quidem – 51: nos), rendered all the more effective by the absence of any adversative link or particle. In 49–50 Aeneas conjures up Evander still doing his utmost to please the gods to ensure a safe return home for his son, though he already marks his efforts delusional (spe multum captus inani); in 51–52 Evander’s religious investments clash with reality: his endeavours to cultivate divine support have proven vain. The language again harks back to Evander’s speech in Aeneid 8, more specifically the desire to be spared the news of his son’s death — which includes the wish, in the event of Pallas’ death, to be struck dead before this is confirmed (580: dum curae ambiguae, dum spes incerta futuri).

et nunc: et is here best translated in an adversative, rather than additive, sense: ‘even now’.

ille quidem: the particle quidem highlights the preceding pronoun ille and thereby reinforces the differential in knowledge between Evander, who still harbours hope, and Aeneas, who knows that these hopes are groundless. It also introduces a colloquial touch: Harrison (2010: 277).

spe multum captus inani: multum is an adverb. The hyperbaton spe … inani, with the attribute cancelling out the noun it modifies, underscores Aeneas’ despair. In a sense, the phrase spes inanis stands in contrapost to the ideology of the Aeneid overall: ‘The Aeneid is, among other things, a poem about the founding of Rome, but it casts that past event into the future, and so hope plays a significant role in the epic: throughout the narrative, spes is a primary marker of Rome’s future glory, focalized in a number of different ways and with a number of different effects’ (Fulkerson 2017: 211, who goes on to show that within the narrative, hope is often an act, misplaced, or disappointed). JH: The Aeneid text is studded with the palindromic marker of the hollow emptiness of human experience echoing on at verse-ending: in-a-ni |. Humanists are here to underline that all representations (art, text…) are containers of signs with their referents absent — and reality often feels that way (cf. 1.465): but ‘emptiness’ functions for characters and readers both as part of the ordeal of making sense even of ‘meaninglessness’.

fors: here used in an adverbial sense (‘maybe’), modifying both facit and cumulat: Aeneas does not know for sure what Evander is currently up to, but his speculation is hardly far off the mark. For this adverbial use of fors, see Austin (1964: 76) on Aeneid 2.139: ‘a Virgilian innovation, perhaps an archaism’.

et vota facit cumulatque altaria donis: et and –que coordinate the two main verbs facit and cumulat (‘both … and…’). Aeneas imagines Evander trying his best to involve the gods in an exchange of services, uttering vows and offering sacrifices in return for the safe homecoming of his son, clinging on to the hope that Pallas is still alive: Aeneas imagines that the news has not yet reached him. In Virgil’s literary universe in particular and Roman culture more generally, a positive response by the gods to human overtures is not a given. Another character who tries her utmost (albeit also in vain) to win divine approval for her chosen course of action is Dido. See Aeneid 4.54–67 with Gildenhard (2012). The line issues a tacit rebuke to the divinities, who refuse to accept Evander’s offerings.

The passage thus continues the religious argument that started with the opening gesture to jealous Fortune: for someone known for his pietas, the unwillingness of gods to enter into predictable reciprocities according to the principle do-ut-des (‘I give, so that you give’, in this case vows and gifts in exchange for Pallas’ safe return) is a particularly bitter experience. vota continues the theme of failed verbal bonds: unlike the promises Aeneas thinks to have broken, the promises Evander made to the gods were never ‘countersigned’, insofar as the gods refused to take them up.

nos: nominative plural of the first person pronoun: technically speaking superfluous, its use here generates a strong antithesis with ille (49).

iuvenem exanimum et: the double elision that turns the phrase into a blur is arguably expressive of the speaker’s mental state: ‘Aeneas can hardly bear to speak the words’ (Fratantuono 2009: 32).

nil iam caelestibus ullis | debentem: bitterly dismissive: the religious reciprocities that sustain life are here all broken in death. Death renders all religious obligations to any divinity, even those who might have favoured the deceased in life and would thus be ‘creditors’, null and void. The focus of Aeneas’ musings about reciprocal bonds between mortals and immortals shifts from father to son, in tragic symmetry: just as the gods refused to put themselves in Evander’s ‘debt’ by accepting his vows and sacrifices, so Pallas’ death has cancelled out any ‘debt’ he may have had with any supernatural agent. (Aeneas, though, has acquired a debt to the shades below…)

vano … honore: in chiastic response to spe … inani (49). The hope feels as hollow as the honour.

maesti: nominative plural, in predicative position to the subject of the sentence (‘we’).


infelix, nati funus crudele videbis!: heavy spondees, apart from the fifth foot, again expressive of the speaker’s outlook, as Fratantuono (2009: 32) notes: ‘Appropriately spondaic, with an early caesura [after infelix] that reflects Aeneas’ emotional ruin.’ Virgil uses infelix of those undergoing a tragic experience in the Aeneid, starting with Dido. The sentence also recalls one of the most pathos-fraught moments in Aeneas’ underworld journey. As Reed (2009: 183) notes: ‘Line 53 […] is a reminiscence of Anchises over Brutus, executioner of his own sons (6.822): infelix, utcumque ferent ea facta minores (“unhappy, however posterity will judge his deed”); it also picks up the various other deaths of sons, sometimes at their fathers’ hands, in the Pageant of Heroes.’ See further Petrini (1997: 57–8): ‘In the Aeneid the love between parents and children (and the domestic world generally) cannot coexist with the virtus of civic life’, with note 32: ‘Polybius (6.54) suggests that fathers condemning their sons is a characteristically Roman sort of civic piety; e.g. Val. Max. 5.8.3–5 and Accius Brutus.’ This, of course, is precisely what Evander wished to avoid at all costs: his staggered plea to the gods (and Fortune) included a Plan B in case the best case scenario, i.e. a safe return of his son, was not in the offing, namely to be struck dead before Pallas’ departure so as to be spared watching his funeral: 8.579: nunc, nunc o liceat crudelem abrumpere vitam. Aeneas reuses the key attribute crudelis, shifting it from life to death.

crudelem: the notion of crudelitas invoked here captures the unpredictable vagaries of the human condition. Elsewhere it is an ethnic quality that Romans associated with barbarian tribes, the exact opposite of civilized values.


hi nostri reditus exspectatique triumphi?: supply sunt. ‘Nostri and exspectati are both, naturally, to be understood with both nouns, just as the nouns themselves are to be understood in virtual hendiadys’ (Horsfall 2003: 81). The –que after exspectati links reditus (nominative plural of the fourth declension noun) and triumphi.


haec mea magna fides: fides — an arch-Roman value: see Hölkeskamp (2004) — here refers to Aeneas’ (misplaced) trust in the gods as well as his own (now compromised) trustworthiness. See Monti (1981) 94: ‘Fides requires of him [sc. Aeneas] not the return of a corpse, but a victor’s parade. By Evander’s and Aeneas’ recognition of the obligations of their foedus, Vergil indicates that the killing of Turnus is an act of violence undertaken in the vindication of fides.’ This is not the first time Aeneas takes issue with the reliability of divine support: when he encounters Palinurus dead in the underworld, he accuses Apollo of misleading him, concluding his protest with the exclamation en haec promissa fides est? (6.346), only to be corrected by Palinurus.


at non, Evandre, pudendis | vulneribus pulsum aspicies, nec sospite dirum | optabis nato funus pater: the adversative particle at marks Aeneas’ pivot from grief and remonstration to consolation. Pallas is dead, but at least he died honourably, showing courage on the battlefield. non pudendis vulneribus harks back to 40: levi patens in pectore vulnus. The apostrophe of the absent Evander is symptomatic of Aeneas’ ‘understandable obsession with Evander’s reaction’ (Reed 2007: 183).

nec sospite dirum | optabis nato funus pater: the consolatory discourse continues by means of a slightly bizarre hypothetical scenario. Aeneas seems to be saying that there is something worse than having to bury a son, especially a son who has died an honourable death — namely to wish a son dead who disgraced himself. What this disgrace would consist in is left open — in the context of the battle perhaps a shameful retreat. What resonates here is the dira cupido of Brutus from Aeneid 6 — and the Roman patria potestas + exempla of fathers executing or disowning their sons for actions against the res publica. But Virgil nowhere implies that Pallas deserves a paternal death-wish. In fact, anyone else, and in particular Aeneas who recommends as much to Lausus, would have understood if he had backed away from a confrontation with Turnus.

The pattern adjective1 (sospite) – adjective2 (dirum) – verb (optabis) – noun1 (nato) – noun2 (funus) is akin to the pattern of a so-called golden line, an Alexandrian mannerism celebrating beauty, balance, and craftsmanship. Here of course it is distorted by the verse-break — and the trailing pater, who is responsible for the abominable desire to see his own disgraced son dead. The fractured and distorted verse design thus arguably enacts the content.


ei mihi quantum | praesidium, Ausonia, [sc. perdis] et quantum [praesidium] tu perdis, Iule!’: Ausonia (initially a Greek term for Magna Graecia, then extended to cover all of Italy: see further Dalby 2002: 21–81) and Iule are two further apostrophes. In his concluding thought, Aeneas links the death of Pallas to two components of his proto-Augustan political vision, i.e. Italy and the gens Iulia. Both have to do without Pallas’ support — just as Augustan Rome has to do without Marcellus. The relation of Pallas to Ausonia is tragic: see Fratantuono (2009: 34): ‘From victim of an Ausonian spear-point (41) to her bulwark: deliberate emphasis on the civil nature of the war in Italy; had Pallas lived he would have defended the very people who have killed him.’ That Aeneas brings his own son Iulus into play here, however, injects a note of (unconscious — uncalled-for?) optimism into his discourse: in many ways, Pallas functions as a surrogate victim for Ascanius / Iulus, the boy partly responsible for causing the outbreak of the war, but the one young hero who emerges from it unscathed, striding forward into the future. And by situating the death of Pallas in relation to wider geographical and genealogical coordinates, he begins the transformation of acute grief into lasting memory. As Seider (2013: 151) puts it: ‘Aeneas provides a model of commemoration for an audience larger than Evander in these lines. His address of Ausonia and Iulus imagines a future community ruled over by his son. Within this expansive context, Aeneas strives to define the standardized memory of Pallas. Pallas’ defeat remains a loss, but it is also an act of glorious heroism that shatters neither the group’s spirit nor its bond.’ The common construction (quantum … et quantum) says otherwise, but what matters most (‘mihi => emphatic tu’) is saved for last: ‘Iule’ |.

ei: not the dative of the demonstrative pronoun is, ea, id, but an interjection that expresses anguish.

11.59–71: Overview

This section falls into three segments, which form a symmetrical pattern (5 + 3 + 5):

Haec ubi deflevit, tolli miserabile corpus

imperat et toto lectos ex agmine mittit


mille viros, qui supremum comitentur honorem

intersintque patris lacrimis, solacia luctus

exigua ingentis, misero sed debita patri.

haud segnes alii crates et molle feretrum

arbuteis texunt virgis et vimine querno


exstructosque toros obtentu frondis inumbrant.

hic iuvenem agresti sublimem stramine ponunt,

qualem virgineo demessum pollice florem

seu mollis violae seu languentis hyacinthi,

cui neque fulgor adhuc nec dum sua forma recessit:


non iam mater alit tellus viresque ministrat.

At the centre (64–66) stands the description of the bier. It is flanked by two portrayals of the dead Pallas, referred to programmatically at the outset of each as, respectively and in poignant contrast, miserabile corpus (59) and iuvenem … sublimem (67). In generic terms, the first segment features him in the world of high epic — of military command (60: imperat), impressive entourage (60–61: toto lectos ex agmine … mille viros), rank and standing (61: honorem), and social obligations (63: … debita patri). The middle segment effects a transition to the world of nature, with a detailed description of the bier and its construction out of tree branches, including its shading through foliage (66: obtentu frondis inumbrant). The third segment continues this imagery with the simile of the plucked flower that, while fatally separated from life-sustaining mother earth, has not yet lost its vigour and beauty.

But by means of allusion, Virgil already anticipates the bucolic turn in segment one. The phrase ‘wretched body’ — as well as other charged diction to do with weeping, mourning, funerals, and lamenting the injustices of this world — arguably recalls the lament for Daphnis from Eclogue 5.20–3:

Exstinctum Nymphae crudeli funere Daphnin


flebant (vos coryli testes et flumina Nymphis),

cum complexa sui corpus miserabile nati

atque deos atque astra vocat crudelia mater.

[The Nymphs wept for Daphnis, cut off by a cruel death (you hazels and rivers bear witness to the Nymphs), when, clasping her son’s pitiable corpse, his mother calls both gods and stars cruel.]

Horsfall (2003: 84) suggests that this passage resonates in Aeneid 11: ‘Possibly self-quotation (of Daphnis) sui corpus miserabile nati (Buc. 5.22), though not distinctively bucolic in tone.’ If the lament for Daphnis (a cipher for Caesar?) raises the humble bucolic discourse of the Eclogues to the level of high politics, so the allusion to the Eclogues here resituates epic action in nature, more specifically a landscape of loss and mourning.

After the first segment, a sub-epic idiom takes over that is variously reminiscent of Virgil’s previous poetry (the pastoral Eclogues and the agricultural Georgics, which explore the worlds of herdsmen and farming) as well as the highly personal oeuvre of Catullus — even before the flower-simile in the third segment. References to the world of nature, farming, and artisanship abound (crates, feretrum, arbuteis … virgis, vimine querco, obtentu frondis, agresti … stramine, mollis violae, languentis hyacinthi, tellus), supported by terms of a distinctly non-epic mood and sensibility (inumbrant, molle, mollis, virgineo). We are returning from high epic endeavours to dealing with their aftermath in a different sphere as Virgil combines the high honours of a state funeral with the invocation of individual tragedy and grief.

In this passage, epic embraces bucolic and georgic imagery, or, in generic terms, the genres that Virgil wrote in (the bucolic Eclogues and the agricultural Georgics) before moving on to the Aeneid — though it is important to bear in mind that all three works employ the ‘epic’ hexameter and, as such, can be deemed to constitute different variants of epic poetry. From this point of view, Virgil’s oeuvre appears as a continuous crescendo that keeps in touch with itself from start to finish. Here he puts neoteric (cf. 63: exigua) and bucolic miniatures to work in creating exequies of epic, if grief-stricken (‘tragic’) monumentality.

11.59–63: The Final Escort


haec ubi deflevit: haec (neuter accusative plural of the demonstrative pronoun hic, haec, hoc) sums up the preceding speech; it belongs in the ubi-clause as the accusative object of deflevit.


tolli miserabile corpus | imperat: the verb is ‘enjambed in the first dactyl to suggest energetic command’ (Horsfall 2003: 84). Usually, impero governs an ut-clause; here it is the passive infinitive tolli. See above on the allusion to Virgil, Eclogue 5.20–3.


toto lectos ex agmine mittit | mille viros: a rephrasing of the sentence in prose — mille viros ex toto agmine lectos mittit — brings out the multiple inversions of usual word order and hyperbata. The design underscores the key fact that Aeneas selected (lectos) these men from the entirety (toto) of his army: they are representatives of the multi-ethnic host (Etruscans, Greeks, Trojans) that went to battle with him. Here the set piece is revving up for the fullest treatment.


qui supremum comitentur honorem | intersintque patris lacrimis: comitentur and intersint, the two verbs of the relative clause (the antecedent of qui is mille viros), are in the present subjunctive, indicating purpose (… mille viros mittit ut ii supremum honorem comitentur…: ‘…he sends a thousand men to attend the last rites…’ Note that the superlative adjective supremus combines ‘last’ with ‘highest’, and the line announces the rhetoric of ritual pathos cranked up to eleven. The words recall a line from the preceding speech (51–52: nil iam caelestibus ullis | debentem vano maesti comitamur honore), with a telling shift in focus that opens up a contrast between Aeneas’ (self-reflective) words and his thoughts: the respect (honor) he pays to the dead Pallas is ultimately pointless (vanus): it will make no difference to him; but he wills the stately funeral procession he has put together to assuage Evander’s grief.


solacia luctus | exigua ingentis, misero sed debita patri: the accusative phrase solacia … exigua, sed … debita stands in apposition to mille viros and the ideas contained in the following qui-clause. The first part consists of two interlaced antitheses, with both nouns (solacia, luctus) and their modifying adjectives (exigua, ingentis) clashing. debita recalls debentem at 52 (for full citation see previous note), with Aeneas shifting the focus from what Pallas and Evander owe the gods: nothing; to what he owes Evander and Pallas: utmost respect and support in grief and a glorious funeral.

11.64–71: The Aesthetics of Death-Floration

The flower simile at 67–71 stands in a rich tradition of literary history that is worth exploring. The use of flower imagery to depict the death of a warrior dates back to Homer. When Teucer shoots an arrow into the chest of peerless Gorgythion, one of Priam’s valiant sons, Homer compares him to a poppy (μήκων) to capture the consequences (Iliad 8.306–8):12

μήκων δ᾽ ὡς ἑτέρωσε κάρη βάλεν, ἥ τ᾽ ἐνὶ κήπῳ

καρπῷ βριθομένη νοτίῃσί τε εἰαρινῇσιν,

ὣς ἑτέρωσ᾽ ἤμυσε κάρη πήληκι βαρυνθέν.

[And he bowed his head to one side like a poppy that in a garden is weighed down by its fruit and the rains of spring; so to one side he bowed his head, heavy with his helmet.]

Other authors, such as Sappho and Apollonius Rhodius, followed. Another important predecessor for Virgil was Catullus who invested in the flower as a symbol of his personal voice, of (ephemeral) youth, (artistic) beauty, and (sexual) innocence. In carmen 11, he imagines his beloved Lesbia breaking the balls of three hundred Romans in the city’s back-alleys in an orgiastic outburst of sexual energy utterly devoid of love, while his own tender feelings — indeed he himself — wither away like a flower mortally wounded by a passing plough (11.21–4):

nec meum respectet, ut ante, amorem,

qui illius culpa cecidit velut prati

ultimi flos, praetereunte postquam

tactus aratro est.

[And let her not look back to my love, as previously, which by her fault has dropped like a flower on the edge of a meadow, after it has been touched by a passing plough.]

In a similar spirit, the girl chorus of carmen 62 invoke the planted and flourishing flower as a symbol of their virginity, which guarantees admiration and attention — whereas the loss thereof is equivalent to a plucked flower that no-one cares about (62.39–47):13

Ut flos in saeptis secretus nascitur hortis,

ignotus pecori, nullo convulsus aratro,

quem mulcent aurae, firmat sol, educat imber;

multi illum pueri, multae optavere puellae:

idem cum tenui carptus defloruit ungui,

nulli illum pueri, nullae optavere puellae:

sic virgo, dum intacta manet, dum cara suis est;

cum castum amisit polluto corpore florem,

nec pueris iucunda manet, nec cara puellis.

[As a flower springs up secretly in a fenced garden, unknown to the cattle, torn up by no plough, which the winds caress, the sun strengthens, the rain makes grow, many boys, many girls desire it; when the same flower fades, plucked by a sharp nail, no boys, no girls desire it: so a maiden, as long as she remains untouched, she is dear to her own; when she has lost her chaste flower with her body tainted, she remains neither pleasing to boys nor dear to girls.]

More generally, in Catullus, the flower is a symbol for an unorthodox way of life at variance with the norms of gender that prevail in (Homeric) epic and Roman aristocratic culture, defined as they are by a celebration of masculine prowess and the imperative of (hetero-)sexual reproduction (which does not rule out instances of promiscuous and repulsive romping). Against these realities, Catullus musters an ideology of genuine love (the discarded flower — himself — of carmen 11), of virginal (yet biologically sterile) innocence (the flower of the girls’ chorus in carmen 62), and of ephebic (and ephemeral) male beauty that may well inspire homoerotic longings but irrevocably fades with the onset of manhood (even if one tries to arrest this development as does Attis, the gymnasi flos of carmen 63, in an ecstatic act of devotion through self-castration). These moments are intimations of a Greek aesthetics that celebrates youthful exuberance, authentic feelings, the fluidity of gender roles and sexual preferences, and a fragile ideal of beauty, all situated in an imaginary world of fleeting relevance, death-bound and destined to be brutalized by Roman realities. In Catullus, the flos becomes representative of a gender-bending individual who claims virginal purity, at least of intent if not of action, and is ultimately cast aside to die at the margin.

The Aeneid is one huge epic tomb for such ‘Catullan’ heroes — budding warriors, male and female, who died young trampled on by (Roman) history on the march: Marcellus – (Nisus and) Euryalus – Lausus – Pallas – Camilla – Turnus. Virgil kills, but does not discard them: his narrative endows them with epic immortality, in a wider meditation on (Greek) beauty and (Roman) power prefigured by Catullus. Before reaching Pallas, Virgil already used this aesthetics of death-floration to capture the death of young Euryalus (9.433–37):

volvitur Euryalus leto, pulchrosque per artus

it cruor; inque umeros cervix conlapsa recumbit:

purpureus veluti cum flos succisus aratro

languescit moriens, lassove papavera collo

demisere caput pluvia cum forte gravantur.

[Euryalus rolled in death, the blood flowed over his beautiful limbs, his neck collapsed and his head came to rest on his shoulders, like a scarlet flower droops dying, cut by a plough, or like poppies bow their heads with weary necks when rain weighs them down.]

Johnson (1976: 64) brings out the incongruous nature of Virgil’s intertextual / intersexual poetics, his seemingly perverse merging of Homeric and Catullan sensibilities to produce an aesthetic experience entirely unique:

Where Homer had allowed us only to guess at Gorgythion’s looks from his descriptions of [his mother] Castianeira and from the indirect and terse imagery that evokes the poppy, Vergil emphatically asserts the beauty of Euryalus (pulchros per artus) and elaborates on it further by his handling of purpureus flos and papavera. This beauty is not merely vulnerable, it is utterly defenseless, and its pitiful demise is unrelieved by wider perspectives: we are locked into a sweet, tained melancholy […]. The echo of Catullus’ self-mocking, pathetic lover, a dear little flower mangled by Vagina Dentata, merges (or, rather, fails to merge) with the echo of Homer’s unfortunate young warrior.

The moment of poetic delicacy is bound to be trampled by the lead-boots of commentary, mangled by exposition.


haud segnes alii: litotes. alii must refer to those not chosen for Pallas’ guard of honour.


crates et molle feretrum | … texunt: crates and feretrum (linked by et) are the objects of texunt — what the alii weave together out of branches from the strawberry tree and the oak. What the crates are — or how they relate to the feretrum — is not entirely straightforward: try (perhaps) ‘wicker-works forming a soft bier’, and reckon that the ‘softness’ is the product of giving the bier special bucolic treatment, a touch in a military epic, but at home in this ‘soft primitivist’ moment of all-out sentimentality. Note that the keynote verb fero will weave through the parade as due process is carried out (73 extulit, 82 inferiae, 84 ferre, 91 ferunt, on to the very last word of the episode at 99: ferebat).


arbuteis … virgis et vimine querno: the two ablative phrases (linked by et) specify the material out of which Aeneas’ men weave the crates and the feretrum. Their arrangement is chiastic: adjective – noun – noun – adjective. The arbutus is what’s known as the wild strawberry tree. See Eclogue 3.82, where it is identified as agreeable nourishment for weaned kids, and 7.46. JH: It has evergreen leaves and thick foliage (hence inumbrat?) and with querno, from quercus, oak, it brackets the bier as itself a well-wrought poetic icon, boasting the interleaved dovetailing, as promised, of ‘the exiguous’ with the ‘mighty’: alliteratively, chiastically, ‘building up’ this textual bed with a whole second verse to match the first, before telling us this is what’s afoot, ‘shading’ the poetry with affective chiar-oscuro (| exstructos … inumbrant |).


inumbrant: the ambiguity inherent in umbra — a soothing protection against the heat on a blazing summer day, an ominous anticipation of the end, recalling the shades of the dead — resonates throughout Virgil’s poetry, in particular the Eclogues, and, not least, the programmatic first: at its opening we find Tityrus relaxing in the shade (4: lentus in umbra); the end of the poem builds to nightfall (83: maioresque cadunt altis de montibus umbrae), prequel, it turns out, to the end of the Aeneid: the entire narrative is heading towards the shadows: in the last line of the poem, the life of Turnus flees indignantly to the shades below (12.952: vitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras). See further Davis (2015) and Theodorakopoulos (1997: 162–64) on umbra as a term of (terminal) closure in Virgil’s oeuvre.


hic: the adverb, not the demonstrative pronoun.

iuvenem agresti sublimem stramine: another stark contrast, given special force and poignancy by the interlacing of nouns (iuvenem, stramine) and adjectives (agresti, sublimem), here also in chiastic order, which produces the sharp clash between agresti and sublimem and between sublimem and stramine (etymologically speaking, the exact opposite of ‘lofty’: it comes from sterno, to lay flat, level, strike down). Straw fit for a prince? Yes, it fits, in the ‘purple passage’ of pathos.

ponunt: JH: the verse captures what 64–66 have just ‘laid down’ and ‘put up’, as prelude to the graphic set piece of the full-grown ‘Homeric simile’ ahead. As billed, Virgil will craft sublimity from flowery miniaturism (note that softening refrain: mollis 69). Laying out the dead does call for stage management of an artful tableau.


qualem … florem | seu mollis violae seu languentis hyacinthi: syntactically, florem stands in apposition to iuvenem, with qualem setting up the simile (‘…the young man, like a flower…’). The genitives violae and hyacinthi indicate that florem, on which they depend, here has the sense of ‘blossom’. Both flowers have associations with death. Latin viola is never far from viole(n)t overtones, from violation and blood-red-through-purple; and Greek hyacinthus has its mythological origins in the tragic death of the youthful Hyacinthus, who was accidentally killed by his lover Apollo (Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.162–219). At Eclogue 3.62, mention of this flower adds ‘a touch of sorrow to the joyous picture of spring’ (Coleman 1977: 118). JH: The ‘alternative’ image, seu languentis hyacinthi, need not — as you might worry — blur the sharpness of the picture; rather, its exotic rhythms allied with semantic content are here to make us linger and drool over the length of the limp cadaver.

virgineo … pollice: as Catullus, whose flower in the parallel passage in 62 is plucked by a fingernail (62.43: ungui), Virgil uses synecdoche — the thumb stands in for the hand: see Gransden (1991: 76), who also notes that the adjective virgineo (instead of virginis) ‘is particularly poignant, for the reader will transfer it from the maiden who plucks the flower, to Pallas, the flower itself’: both the thumb that does the plucking is virginal (after all, the perpetrator of Pallas’ death-floration, Turnus (and his thumb), may count as ‘virginal’, unmarried as he is) and the flower that is being plucked. JH: Looming over the princeling and lurking in both words is, always, the parthenos (virgin), Pallas Athene.

demessum … florem: demeto (‘to mow down’) is a peculiar verb to use here, better suited to agriculture and harvesting than the cultivation and plucking of flowers. The verb occurs only once in Virgil — and once in Catullus, which renders it likely that we are dealing with an allusive gesture (so also Horsfall 2003: 90: ‘presumably a precise and specific borrowing’), especially since the contexts in which the authors use the word is identical: a simile from the world of nature to illustrate the brutality of epic bloodshed. In Catullus’ carmen 64, the verb captures Achilles’ indiscriminate slaughter of innumerable Trojans (64.353–55):

namque velut densas praecerpens messor aristas

sole sub ardenti flaventia demetit arva,

Troiugenum infesto prosternet corpora ferro.

[For as the farmer cropping the thick ears of corn mows down the yellow fields under the burning sun, so he will lay low the bodies of the sons of Troy with hostile sword.]

But whereas the image of Achilles as grim reaper of bodies on the battlefield renders the idiom of harvest fitting in Catullus, the same is not the case in Virgil: flowers don’t get reaped. The dissonance opens a gap for Catullan ideology to flood into Virgil’s narrative: the song of the Parcae from carmen 64 to which demessum alludes stains in the strongest possible terms the world of epic, its quintessential hero Achilles, and his glorifier Homer. Yes, Virgil is Rome’s Homer — but there on his palette he can always call on the anti-Homeric ‘lyric’ sensibilities of Catullus — of Catullan epic.


cui neque fulgor adhuc nec dum sua forma recessit: | non iam mater alit tellus viresque ministrat: the state of the flowers after they have been plucked is tragically liminal: they have not yet lost their beauty and vigor, but are to droop soon, having been cut off from the source of their strength and nourishment. The alliterative pairing fulgor and forma refers to appearance and shape. mater is used adjectivally here: ‘mother earth’, the subject of both alit and ministrat (linked by –que). There is an implied contrast here, unmarked by an adversative particle: see West (1990: 274): ‘There he lay like a flower cut by the thumbnail of a young girl, a soft violet or drooping lily, still with its sheen and its shape, though Mother Earth no longer feeds it and gives it strength’ (my italics). Logically we are dealing with a husteron proteron: the thought that mother earth no longer provides nourishment precedes the idea that the plucked flower has so far been retaining its fulgor and forma. JH: The viewing lengthens, the moment prolongs, ‘no, no, nothing’ can interrupt our fascinated — enchanted — gaze, here to drink in sheen and shape, and shudder at the switch-off of life support of this mother’s son.

11.72–84: The Return of the Dead & Dead Men Walking

Just like the previous block of verses, this chunk of text features a tripartite structure, though this time the central unit is one verse longer than those that flank it (4 + 5 + 4) — but one could also divide the passage in two halves (72–77, 78–84), according to theme (see below). There are also a significant number of lexical and grammatical doublets that give this narrative stretch coherence: 74: suis … manibus ~ 81: manus; 75: telas ~ 80: tela; 77: induit ~ 83: indutos; 77: arsuras ~ 82: sparsurus – flammas; 77: obnubit ~ 81: umbris; 79: duci ~ 84: duces; 80: tela – hostem ~ 83: hostilibus armis; 80: hostem ~ 84: inimicaque nomina; 79: iubet ~ 83: iubet.

(i) Flashback to Dido – and Aeneid 4

tum geminas vestis auroque ostroque rigentis

extulit Aeneas, quas illi laeta laborum

ipsa suis quondam manibus Sidonia Dido

fecerat et tenui telas discreverat auro.


(ii) Shrouding the corpse and arranging the (material) spoils for the procession

harum unam iuveni supremum maestus honorem

induit arsurasque comas obnubit amictu,

multaque praeterea Laurentis praemia pugnae

aggerat et longo praedam iubet ordine duci;

addit equos et tela quibus spoliaverat hostem.


(iii) Arranging the human element of the procession: prisoners of war destined for sacrifice and army leaders displaying spolia

vinxerat et post terga manus, quos mitteret umbris

inferias, caeso sparsurus sanguine flammas,

indutosque iubet truncos hostilibus armis

ipsos ferre duces inimicaque nomina figi.

Virgil here brings together discrete (and extreme) areas of experience: the spectre of passionate love turned into murderous passion; funerary rites blending with the ritual of the triumph; and a person parading the epithet pius making preparations for perpetrating human sacrifice. A potent subtext unifies this cluster of themes: the power of Dido’s curse to shape the narrative of the Aeneid — and the history of Rome.

In a supreme act of personal and material sacrifice in honour of Pallas, Aeneas turns one of the two luxury robes he received back in Carthage from Dido, who fashioned the garments herself in a labour of love, into a burial shroud for his surrogate son. Unbeknowst to him, the gesture is fraught with symbolic significance: the unexpected reappearance of the suicidal queen at this moment of profound doom and desperation cannot help but bring to mind the vicious curse she sent after her departing lover. Virgil weaves together the narrative fates of Dido and Pallas by the intratextual reiteration of an entire verse: line 11.75 is identical to 4.264, which is part of a passage that decks Aeneas out in Punic finery founding the wrong city (4.261–64):

atque illi stellatus iaspide fulva

ensis erat Tyrioque ardebat murice laena

demissa ex umeris, dives quae munera Dido

fecerat, et tenui telas discreverat auro.

[And his sword was starred with yellow jasper, and a cloak hung from his shoulders ablaze with Tyrian purple — a gift that wealthy Dido had wrought, interweaving the web with thread of gold.]

The metaphorical fire ablaze in the passage (cf. 262: ardebat) will soon ignite for real — and we can trace a trajectory from Dido’s funeral pyre bursting into flames back in Carthage to the death and upcoming cremation of Pallas, from Dido devoting herself to vengeance in her suicidal sacrifice to the human sacrifice that awaits us just down the line — and the sacrificial killing that Aeneas will perform at the epic’s end. As Moskalew (1982: 182–83) observes:

As an act honoring Pallas (supremum honorem, 76) it recalls the shrouding of Sarpedon, Patroclus, and Hector in the Iliad, but there is no Homeric precedent to explain why Pallas should be covered with a very special mantle. This allusion to Dido transforms a common burial rite into a symbolic gesture. The memory of a happier past (laeta laborum) intensifies the present grief, but the mantle also evokes Aeneas’ neglect of his mission and his paternal duty to Ascanius, for when Mercury approaches him to relay the message of Jupiter, he finds him decked out in Tyrian finery supervising the building of Carthage (4.262–64). […] Aeneas must choose, and he chooses his son. As Dido’s love changes to hate, her gifts become destructive symbols of her wrath. They perpetuate her memory and cast an ominous shadow on later events. Ascanius leads the war games mounted on Dido’s stallion; Nisus does not live to claim the Carthaginian crater (quem dat Sidonia Dido, 9.266) he was promised. But the baleful implications of her gifts find their most vivid expression in the present scene, where Dido’s mantle, which once witnessed dereliction of duty and a painful choice, becomes a shroud for the son-figure Pallas, as if in recognition of her role in Troy’s enduring agony.

The spectre of Dido evoked in lines 72–75 continues to hover over the subsequent sections. In 76–80, we get the conflation of two distinct rituals: the funerary procession; and the victory parade. The coincidence of tragedy and triumph produces a confused semiotics peculiarly apt for the occasion. Pallas distinguished himself on the battlefield before running into Turnus and Aeneas managed to secure a military victory overall, a turning point even in the war — but at a deadly price, also to his humanity. Lines 81–84 pick up on the passage in Aeneid 10, where Aeneas (ablaze in fury rather than purple) takes eight prisoners of war to sacrifice them at Pallas’ funeral (10.513–20):

proxima quaeque metit gladio latumque per agmen

ardens limitem agit ferro, te, Turne, superbum

caede nova quaerens. Pallas, Evander, in ipsis


omnia sunt oculis, mensae quas advena primas

tunc adiit, dextraeque datae. Sulmone creatos

quattuor hic iuvenes, totidem quos educat Ufens,

viventis rapit, inferias quos immolet umbris

captivoque rogi perfundat sanguine flammas.


[With his sword he (sc. Aeneas) mows down everyone close by and ablaze drives a broad path through the enemy rank with his sword, seeking you, Turnus, glorying in your recent slaughter. Pallas, Evander, everything is before his eyes — the feasts he first approached as stranger and the right hands given. Then he captures alive four youths born of Sulmo, and as many reared by Ufens, to sacrifice as offerings to the shades below and to douse the flames of the pyre with captive blood.]

This atrocity has a Homeric precedent, negatively magnified by Catullus 64. In the Iliad, Achilles states his desire to sacrifice twelve Trojans at Patroclus’ funeral pyre (18.336–37), then methodically captures his victims (21.26–33), reiterates his intent (23.22–23), before perpetrating the slaughter (23.175–83). He indulges in this form of bestial barbarity even after his own death (and chronicled by a writer who came after Homer). In a climactic act of inhumanity that concludes the catalogue of savage deeds enumerated by the Parcae in Catullus 64, Achilles insists, from beyond the grave, on the sacrifice of the Trojan princess Polyxena at his tomb, in a perverse wedding to death (64.366–70), this quintessential tragic theme of human life imploding:

nam simul ac fessis dederit fors copiam Achivis

urbis Dardaniae Neptunia solvere vincla,

alta Polyxenia madefient caede sepulcra;

quae, velut ancipiti succumbens victima ferro,

proiciet truncum summisso poplite corpus.

[For as soon as Chance shall give to the exhausted Achaens the power to loose the Neptune-built circle of the Dardanian town [= Troy], the high tomb will be wetted with the blood of slaughtered Polyxena, who like a sacrificial victim falling under the two-edged steel, will prostrate her decapitated body, with her knees buckling.]

In Catullus’ anti-epic, Achilles’ postmortem savagery entails a world-historical rupture: revolted by human trangression, the gods decide to withdraw from mortal affairs, leaving us to our own vices. Catullus makes it explicit that the new era that comes into being in the aftermath of the Trojan War is his own — a prescient diagnosis at least as far as human sacrifice is concerned. For in addition to the Homeric model, there is a historical prequel (or sequel) to Aeneas’ sacrificial vengeance. During the Perusine War — fought between Caesar Octavianus (the future princeps Augustus) and Lucius Antonius (the brother of the triumvir Mark Antony) and Fulvia (Mark Antony’s wife) in 40–41 BCE, Octavian is rumoured to have slaughtered a line-up of captured forces at an altar dedicated to the deified Julius Caesar (his adoptive father). See Suetonius, Life of Augustus 15:14

Perusia capta in plurimos animadvertit, orare veniam vel excusare se conantibus una voce occurrens ‘moriendum esse’. scribunt quidam trecentos ex dediticiis electos utriusque ordinis ad aram Divo Julio exstructam Idibus Martiis hostiarum more mactatos.

[After the capture of Perugia he took vengeance on many, meeting all attempts to beg for pardon or to make excuses with the one reply, ‘You must die.’ Some write that three hundred men of both orders were selected from the prisoners of war and slaughtered on the Ides of March like sacrificial victims at the altar raised to the Deified Julius.]

Human sacrifice — that contradiction in terms — is an extreme form of savagery in Graeco-Roman thought. It is therefore shocking that Virgil has his protagonist perpetrate this sickening outrage, Homeric precedent or not. Some scholars argue that he uses the figure of Aeneas and his actions to offer a fierce critique of the princeps and his past. Others wonder whether he embeds the brutality of human sacrifice within apologetic scripts that, while not justifying the practice as such (it is unjustifiable), explain why it may happen nevertheless. Homer configures the hero at the intersection of transcendence and transgression, a paradigm no longer (fully) applicable to Virgil’s Roman narrative; still, it remains present as a powerful literary pedigree and (a moralizing) meditation on the potential of humanity for good and for evil — and offers a narrative horizon against which even (?) someone like Aeneas can be pushed to extremes by acute experiences and emotions. Likewise, the analogous relation between Aeneas’ human sacrifice and that allegedly committed by his distant descendant Octavian at Perugia offers a striking illustration that Dido’s curse remains efficacious long after the epic itself has come to an end. The Aeneid may close on another act of sacrificial (as well as foundational) violence, but — right in line with the epic’s aetiological spirit — the history of (sacrificial) bloodshed that unfolded in its opening chapters will then repeat itself, with the foundational fratricide by Romulus, Rome’s interminable wars against outside foes (in particular Dido’s Carthage and her avenger Hannibal), and the century of internecine bloodshed that only comes to an end with Actium and Augustus. Only at that point, Virgil’s generation hoped against hope, has Dido’s curse arguably run its course.

Further thoughts on the (larger) structure: JH: I would break 72–77 with amictu as a section where Virgil pulls out all the stops for a blast of his tragic epic mode; after that we troop off to the military ceremonial world of Roman imperial historical epic after Ennius in the procession of 78–94, which is in two halves, 78–84 captured enemy (and) spoils, 85–94 grieving comrades and allies, enveloped by 78–79 ~ 94. The third leg of the procession of epic honorifics begins here at 78, outdoing both the neoteric-lyric flower simile and the tragic-romantic dressing up with cloth by crashing through to imperial-martial amassing of big numbers and grand scale (prequelled at 60–61, ex agmine … mille viros). What follows is a double whammy of a march-past on parade, first spoils, then comrades, to be closed with the responsion 94, longe … praecesserat ordo to 79, longo praedam … ordine. But the main thrust in this ordering of ‘loads and loads’ of ‘heaps’ plus ‘the rest of the hardware’ (multa … aggerat … addit … et) is their marshalling into a single ‘long procession’ (of ranks, in lines — of verse). This Virgil rolls out the might of epic arma to honour one more virum, drawing out a drumroll catalogue of praemia, praedam, equos, tela, captives, trophies, joined by ex-armiger, currus, equus, hastam … galeamque, phalanx, allies et his own people (78–83). All summed up in the last word: armis (93).


tum geminas vestis auroque ostroque rigentis | extulit Aeneas, quas illi laeta laborum | ipsa suis quondam manibus Sidonia Dido | fecerat et tenui telas discreverat auro: both vestis and the present participle rigentis, which modifies vestis, are in the accusative plural (the alternative forms for vestes and rigentes). vestis, the accusative object of extulit, is the antecedent of the relative pronoun quas. illi (dative singular) refers to Aeneas. The deftly alliterative phrase laeta laborum stands in apposition to the subject of the relative clause, i.e. Sidonia Dido.

The lines recall Iliad 24.580–91, in which handmaiden leave two robes and a tunic for Achilles, who uses one of the two robes (and the tunic) to shroud the corpse of Hector before returning it to Priam; but, more importantly, they transport us back to Carthage and Aeneid 4. Here Aeneas and Dido meet again. Aeneas is the subject of the main clause; Dido the subject of the relative clause. The position of subjects and verbs is suitably chiastic extulit Aeneas – ipsa … Sidonia Dido fecerat, a symmetrical design further reinforced by the enjambment of both verbs, which occur in the same metrical position, taking up the first foot of lines 73 and 75. Aeneas and Dido also share the same accusative object: he was her man, he wore her robes, until death and destruction did them part. The garments constitute a last(ing) tie that binds them together. Something of Dido and Carthage has clearly rubbed off during his stay (or was there from the start — their respective places of origin, Troy and Phoenicia, are located in the same part of the world) that manifests itself in an esteem for luxury items: Aeneas here veils the rustic simplicity of the Italic countryside that has furnished the material for the bier in ‘Eastern’ opulence. As Petrini (1997: 68) puts it: ‘Dido’s gold and purple cloaks stand out sharply against the crude bier on which Pallas lies (agresti stramine, A. 11.67, and lines 64–66) and draw attention to the distance between Carthage, with all that it exemplifies, and the idealized simplicity of Pallas’ life and realm.’

tum geminas vestis … rigentis: the fact that Aeneas has two cloaks from Dido has puzzled commentators. Reed (2009: 82) offers the following interpretation: ‘What does he do with the other [sc. cloak]? Presumably that is his own, the one he was wearing in Book 4 and will continue to use; he honors Pallas with the spare, and both wear the Orientalness that Dido still can impose on the embryonic nation. Yet Dido surely did not weave him an extra cloak in case of a fancy funeral; she wove two — twins — so that they could both wear them together on twin thrones in Carthage (one thinks of her hunting attire at 4.139, a purple-dyed garment with a golden clasp).’ But why would the cloak she meant for herself end up in Aeneas’ treasure chest? There is no suggestion that he plundered her wardrobe before his departure. It is more likely that the intended recipient was Ascanius: see Fratantuono (2004: 862–63). Dido wished him dead — not something she can achieve — and in a sense Pallas stands in for Ascanius; him her curse can lay low. Supporting evidence comes from the fact that the lines here recall specifically 4.261–64 (cited above 256), which portray Aeneas founding the wrong city (Carthage instead of Rome), which outrages Jupiter, who accuses Aeneas of sacrificing Ascanius’ (Roman) future. JH: Coming from another angle, Dido laid on Aeneas a portable permanent reminder that someone was missing, and when would he miss anyone more than his soulmate (her)?

It is also worth noting that Dido, in weaving robes for Aeneas, reciprocates: among the treasures that Aeneas gifts to Dido in return for her hospitality is ‘a mantle stiff with figures wrought in gold’ (1.648: … pallam signis auroque rigentem). If Aeneas regaled Dido with a stiff palla at the start of their romance, Dido, in her wrath, reciprocates with a stiff Pallas. Her curse certainly manifests itself here, though in robing Pallas in a triumphal gown Aeneas perhaps also wishes to transfer some of his destined glory upon his dead ward (so Delvigo 1999).

extulit: JH: Aeneas is ‘burying’ (effero) his twin ‘loves’, Pallas wrapped in Dido.

auroque ostroque: the double –que coordinates the instrumental ablatives: ‘both … and …’. See Harrison (1991: 83) on Aeneid 10.91 (Europamque Asiamque): ‘this use of –que… –que, has Ennian colour and imitates the Homeric τε … τε’ (with reference to further literature). The royal purple dye (an extremely expensive substance to make) and the gold evoke Dido’s ethnic background as well as her personal story: she is from Phoenicia — a land of wealth and luxury — and she fled the land after having recuperated the household gold. At 4.134, her horse is described as ostroque insignis et auro. ‘Sidonian’ (below) underlines ‘Phoenician’, which means ‘(dyed) red-purple’.

illi: these are not any old garments but ones that Dido made specially for Aeneas (the referent of illi) — a labour of love, in other words.

laeta laborum: the alliterative phrase is pregnant with meaning. See e.g. Gross (2003–4: 143–44): ‘Although Dido was certainly laeta (happy) as she wove in book 4, that adjective is absent from the text. By inserting laeta into the recollected image of Dido creating the mantles, Vergil not only brings her to life again but also revives the reader’s memory of the hero’s transient happiness. The moment and the image of Dido weaving are frozen in time with laeta signifying the reciprocal love of Dido and Aeneas’ or Reed (2009: 83): ‘In the quick, faint focalization of laeta laborum is the queen of Carthage herself, somehow both viewer and corpse. Here most clearly the ghost of Dido returns to reenact her happiness and her tragedy.’

Sidonia Dido: Sidonia is an adjective formed from the place-name Sidon, located in Phoenicia — hence ‘Phoenician Dido’ or ‘Dido from Sidon’. The passage abounds in wordplay. See Paschalis (1997: 49): ‘The epithet “Sidonia” is applied to “Dido” when she offers gifts [in Greek ‘give’ is ‘didomi’], while the name “Dido” associates her with Giving in a broader sense (including gift-giving). Her story starts when her father “gave” her (“dederat”) to Sychaeus and when Sychaeus gave her his gold as “aid” for the voyage. In Carthage she appears as a Giver, a feature manifested in her hospitable reception of Aeneas. A semantic component of “(Sidonia) Dido”, and of Carthage and the Carthaginians in general, is Wealth, which can be traced back to her marriage to “ditissimus” Sychaeus.’ He goes on to discuss insidious and inflaming gifts — what we have here is just the last instance of this phenomenon, with Dido reaching out from beyond the grave, haunting Aeneas, seeing to the fulfilment of her curse. In his economic reading of the Aeneid, Coffee (2009: 67) argues that exchange relations with the Carthaginian queen are inherently skewed — despite her name: ‘Dido’s failure at reciprocity comes with a heavy irony. Vergil often clusters the words Sidonia, Dido, and dona, creating through repetition of the second syllable of the queen’s name an encapsulation of her difficulties as a Phoenician (Sidonia) in managing reciprocal relations (dona). Dido’s name is associated with the very word for gifts only to emphasize her inability to handle them properly.’ More generally speaking, Dido comes with a range of epithets, and each tells part of her story. As Daniels (1930: 168) notes: ‘The life-history of Dido could be deduced from the descriptive adjectives applied to her and, in particular, from the order in which some of them occur in the poem: Tyria, Sidonia, Phoenissa, laetissima, pulcherrima, optima, inops, moritura, demens, effera, infelix.’ Our lines here recall her entire background and narrative fate in the Aeneid, from her ethnic origins to her happy love with Aeneas to the ensuing tragedy (and vicious curse) that has just struck home (again). What Laocoon says of the Greek (timeo Danaos et dona ferentes — I fear the Greeks even [or rather: especially] when they bring gifts) holds true of Dido as well. See Aeneid 5.571 with Fratantuono and Smith (2015: 554–55) and 9.266 (one of the gifts that Anchises promises to Nisus and Euryalus ahead of their ill-omened night mission is an ‘ancient bowl which Sidonian Dido gives’ (cratera antiquum quem dat Sidonia Dido). JH: Where the bier was Virgil’s tribute of emotive poetry to Pallas, this one comes from Aeneas, from the heart. It bears more than he can say, or know.

tenui telas discreverat auro: JH: picking up on auroque ostroque rigentis, discriminating detail complementing the lavish backdrop fit for royalty, once more matching the ‘exiguous’ to the ‘mighty’ (63). Only very overwrought readers will hear the tela (80) in these telas. Ouch!


harum unam iuveni supremum maestus honorem | induit arsurasque comas obnubit amictu, | multaque praeterea Laurentis praemia pugnae | aggerat et longo praedam iubet ordine duci; | addit equos et tela quibus spoliaverat hostem: a series of four main clauses (induit, obnubit, aggerat, iubet) linked by the two –que (attached to arsuras and multa) and the et (after aggerat). iubet governs an indirect statement with praedam as subject accusative and duci as (present passive) infinitive. Virgil then ‘adds’ a fifth main clause in asyndetic parataxis (addit). There is a whiff of enactment here: the addition of another element even after everything had been set out in order (longo … ordine: note the hyperbaton for emphasis) brings out Aeneas’ inability to leave well enough alone when it comes to honouring Pallas.

harum unam: picking up geminas vestis.

supremum … honorem: the accusative stands in apposition to the sentence: Horsfall (2003: 94). Aeneas shrouds Pallas in Dido’s cloak as a last — untoppable — honour (reprising the entrée at 61).

maestus: adjective instead of adverb, modifying the subject of the sentence (Aeneas).

arsuras: the future active participle of ardeo, modifying comas and anticipating Pallas’ cremation. Hair that is ablaze is another image in the Aeneid that conflates the triumphant and the tragic. See Reed (2009: 82–83): ‘Pallas’ “hair that was soon to burn” on the pyre unites a remembrance (together with the other allusions) of Dido’s pyre with a melancholy echo of the miraculously flaming hair of Ascanius and Lavinia (2.679–91, 7.71–80), which is prophetic of a divinely approved national foundation.’

obnubitque amictu: this ‘veiling’ applies to the body what the flora brought to the bier (66: obtentu frondis inumbrant). As Newman and Newman (2005: 163) note, Virgil’s choice of verb here is pregnant with the sense of a future foiled and unrealized erotic potential: ‘obnubit (unique in the poem) at the end is suggestive. It was perhaps a term originally associated with the bride at the Roman marriage rite, nuptiae.’

multaque praeterea Laurentis praemia pugnae | aggerat: the interlaced word order (multa … praemia; Laurentis … pugnae) mimics Aeneas’ heaping of spoils. The adjective Laurens, -ntis (‘of or belonging to Laurentum’) refers to the people and the region over which King Latinus holds sway, historically an ancient settlement in Latium. See further Nussbaum (1973).

quibus spoliaverat hostem: the antecedents of the relative pronoun quibus (in the ablative of separation with spoliaverat) are equos et tela. The subject of the relative clause remains unclear: is it Aeneas, the subject of all main clauses in this passage, or perhaps Pallas, which would pair him with Dido, the subject of another (comparable) relative clause in this passage: 73–75? The fact that Virgil uses pluperfect verbs with Dido as subject in 75 (fecerat, discreverat) and a pluperfect here (spoliaverat) is — pace Fratantuono (2009: 42) — hardly an argument in favour of Pallas, given that we get Aeneas as the subject of a pluperfect verb (vinxerat) in the following line: see next comment.


vinxerat et post terga manus [eorum], quos mitteret umbris | inferias, caeso sparsurus sanguine flammas, | indutosque iubet truncos hostilibus armis | ipsos ferre duces inimicaque nomina figi: there is an odd break in syntax between 80 and 81. The sacrificial victims form part of the catalogue of items that Aeneas adds to the procession of spoils. Indeed, the pluperfect vinxerat indicates that the binding of the victims took place at about the same time as the despoiling of the slain enemies (spoliaverat), referring back to the scene in Book 10.517–20 (quoted above). Put differently, a ‘natural’ sequence would have featured the action of binding in a relative clause: addit (a) equos et tela quibus spoliaverat hostem et (b) eos quorum manus vinxerat post terga… Virgil, however, here returns to the level of the main sentence, linking vinxerat to addit (80) via the postponed et, irrespective of the odd chronological (and logical) sequence that ensues as we move from present (80: addit) to pluperfect (81: vinxerat) back to present (83: iubet, linked to vinxerat by the –que after indutos).

What do you think: is this a fault (a sign of hasty composition or, perhaps, unfinished business) or a feature (a deliberate rupture in sense and syntax to highlight Aeneas’ arguably most repellent action in the Aeneid)?

manus: accusative plural of the fourth declension noun manus, –us, f. (‘hands’) — the object of vinxerat.

quos mitteret umbris | inferias: a relative clause of purpose (hence the subjunctive). The antecedent has to be supplied: the genitive plural of is (eorum) dependent on manus (‘the hands of those, whom…’). umbris is a dative of destination (‘…to the shades’). JH: Now is the moment to cash out that loudly alliterative com-mmmmisssioning in 47 which opened with | mitteret. Pallas’ grisly final send-off by Aeneas is pinned to Evander’s hug and adieu: he won’t lack for company.

inferias: in apposition to the relative pronoun (and accusative object) quos: ‘as offerings to the spirits of the underworld’. For the phenomenon see Lott (2012: 185):

Inferiae (always plural) are offerings or gifts to the Manes (or Di Manes, always plural), the spirits of the dead either collectively or, as here, of a particular person (cf. Paulus 112M/99L: inferiae sacrificia, quae dis Manibus inferebant). Ordinarily, inferiae were private devotions offered by family members or well-wishers at the tomb or cremation site of the deceased rather than public rituals of state. They could be offered whenever someone visited a tomb (e.g. Catullus (101.2, 8) writes of offering them to his brother when he visited his tomb at Troy), but they were especially associated with the birthday of the deceased and with Parentalia (or dies parentales), a collection of festal days from February 13 to 21 ending in Feralia, a holiday when Romans visited family graves.

In our context, the term signals ghastly perversion of customary rites. See Panoussi (2009: 34): ‘Both the use of the word inferias to indicate human offerings and the sprinkling of the funeral flames with blood are inconsistent with regular funerary ritual (see Toynbee 1971: 50).’

caeso sparsurus sanguine flammas: sparsurus is the future active participle of spargo, modifying the subject of the sentence — which is slightly odd since Aeneas won’t be present during the funeral. But there is no alibi here: the construction ensures that he retains agency over — and so responsibility for — the human sacrifice if only figuratively. caeso … sanguine means literally ‘with slaughtered blood’, sc. ‘with the blood of those who have been slaughtered’ and manifests the theme of perverted sacrifice: ‘Vergil’s verb for slaughter, caedo, is associated with animal sacrifice elsewhere in the Aeneid’ (Wiltshire 1989: 25). JH: Now here’s another sick thought lurking in the poetry: sparsurus … flammas is the counterpart of arsuras … comas, 77. There’ll be blood on Dido’s ‘veil’. With this pointer to the butchery ahead, in the course of a two-pronged sentence linked at verse-junction by a mere –que (between | inferias … and | indutos…), we finesse the massacre in cold blood, and suture the cut by returning to the topic ‘spoils of war’ (…tela quibus spoliaverat hostem => <= indutos … hostilibus armis). Seamlessly, the missing prisoners yield to the figure of the old retainer, ‘led’ in the line as if himself another prisoner (| ducitur… | sternitur, 85, 87). Meantime, you could reckon that we have already anticipated the (Achillean massacre) ‘harvesting’ imagery displaced into the floral simile (68); cremation of Pallas’ hair has melded into the blood set to sputter in the fire (77, 82). And, next, enter more captives, already soaked red in blood (sc. back before Aeneas’ atrocity, back in the battle: sanguine, 82 ~ perfusos sanguine, 88; as often, Rutulians are named for their semantic value as ‘Men of scarlet’). So the massacre remains obstinately there, poking clean through Virgil’s ‘fade’. This dirty war won’t be exactly how we thought Arms and Heroes would play out — but the Aeneid will pull much the same kind of fast one at the death, when the poem ‘cuts out’ — cuts reckoning up the outcome of Turnus’ execution, as such, leaving us to feed into the deal everything we learned through Mezentius, Pallas, Camilla, and the rest.

indutosque iubet truncos hostilibus armis | ipsos ferre duces inimicaque nomina figi: the main verb iubet introduces a bipartite indirect statement, with ferre and figi as infinitives, linked by the –que after inimica. There is some debate over the subjective accusative of the first part: is it truncos (so Fratantuono 2009: 44, following the late-antique commentator Servius) or ipsos duces? If we take truncos as subject accusative and ipsos duces as accusative object of ferre, we get intimations of crucifixion and a parade of (dead?) princes affixed to tree-trunks (not so shocking, perhaps, given that Aeneas also plans human sacrifice); alternatively, take ipsos … duces as subject accusative and truncos as accusative object of ferre: ‘he ordered leaders of the army to carry tree trunks dressed up with weapons captured from the enemy…’ Perhaps Virgil is deliberately ambiguous? So Dyson (2001: 187, stepping around the issue of crucifixion through the nimble use of brackets): ‘A meaningful grammatical ambiguity here further confuses men with trees: the two accusatives make it unclear whether Aeneas commands “the leaders to bear the trunks” or “the trunks to bear the (spoils and hence identities of the) leaders,” as the trunk with which the book opens “is” Mezentius.’ This is, at any rate, not the first time that the duces appear in this part. See also Virgil’s persistent use of the verb ducere here: 79: duci, 85: ducitur; 88: ducunt.

indutosque … truncos hostilibus armis: essentially portable variants of the tropaeum that Virgil constructed for Aeneas at the beginning of the book, which itself constitutes the supremely portable and infinitely replicable representation of his win. hostilibus armis = armis hostium.

ferre … inimicaque nomina figi: a husteron proteron. Aeneas orders the names of the slain enemies to be attached (figi) to the effigies, which he wants the leaders to carry (ferre) in the procession. inimica nomina = nomina inimicorum / hostium. The images continue to be reminiscent of the ritual of the triumph, which often involved the display of labeled spoils. (JH: Let’s look back: did Aeneas post up ‘MEZENTIUS’, and point, at 16 (hic)?)

The creative use of tenses in this narrative stretch underlines the presence of the (epic past): we begin with a perfect (73: extulit) and pluperfects (75: fecerat; discreverat). The main verbs in 76–80 (induit, obnuit, aggerat, iubet, addit) are all in the present tense, but the section concludes with a pluperfect in a subordinate clause (80: spoliaverat). The next main verb — 81: vinxerat — is also in the pluperfect (it refers to the same moment in time as spoliaverat). The future participle sparsurus (82) seems poorly integrated in terms of sense and syntax: it picks up on 10.520 (cited above), specifically Aeneas’ intent to douse Pallas’ funeral pyre in sacrificial blood, but by now it is clear that he will not be present at the cremation: he does not join the procession back to Pallanteum. Virgil concludes with a main verb in the present tense (83: iubet).

11.85–93: The Grief Parade

ducitur infelix aevo confectus Acoetes,


pectora nunc foedans pugnis, nunc unguibus ora,

sternitur et toto proiectus corpore terrae;

ducunt et Rutulo perfusos sanguine currus.

post bellator equus positis insignibus Aethon

it lacrimans guttisque umectat grandibus ora.


hastam alii galeamque ferunt, nam cetera Turnus

victor habet. tum maesta phalanx Teucrique sequuntur

Tyrrhenique omnes et versis Arcades armis.


  • Bold = subjects
  • Underlined = main verbs

Virgil’s depiction of the procession begins with three blocks of three lines each. The first two bring into focus Pallas’ tutor Acoetes (85–87) and his war horse Aethon (88–90) and show significant elements of symmetry in their design:

(a) Grammar and syntax:

  • Each triplet features a main verb in the first (85: ducitur; 88: ducunt) and the third (87: sternitur; 90: it) line.
  • The two names are placed in prominent position at the end of the line (85: Acoetes; 89: Aethon), preceded by further descriptors (85: infelix aevo confectus; 89: bellator equus).
  • Each of the two figures governs one or more circumstantial participles (86: foedans; 87: proiectus; 90: lacrimans), with an element of variation: in the case of Aethon, we get a second main verb (90: umectat, glossing lacrimans), instead of a second circumstantial participle.
  • In each triplet, one line is dedicated entirely to the depiction of grief, with a climactic reference to ora at verse-end (86, 90): the chiasmus (pectora – pugnis :: unguibus – ora) and anaphora (nunc, nunc) of 86 correlate with the tautological emphasis on Aethon’s tears, heightened through plaintive sound play (lacrimans, umectat: lactat; mame) and alliteration (grandibus … guttis).

(b) Inversion of natural sequence: in the case of Acoetes, it is easier to imagine him sprawled on the ground first (sternitur) before he is being led as part of the procession (ducitur); in the case of Aethon, he has been displaced from pulling chariots to following them.

(c) Loss of agency not involving the expression of grief: Acoetes does not walk on his own accord — he is being led; others move the chariots: Aethon walks behind them.

The stylistic and thematic bond between 85–87 and 88–90 also emerges by negative contrast to the three lines that follow, which feature an entirely different design. We get six different subjects (alii, Turnus victor, maesta phalanx, Teucri, Tyrrheni omnes, and Arcades); the main verbs occur in the middle of the line (91: ferunt; 92: habet) or at the end (92: sequuntur) rather than the beginning. The one identical item is therefore particularly striking, even though it also heightens the contrast: Virgil has placed the perpetrator that has reduced Acoetes and Aethon to such a wretched state at verse end too (91: Turnus). His presence here, in the middle of a catalogue of different groups marching in Pallas’ funeral procession, sticks out like a sore thumb; and to add insult to injury, Virgil adds the galling descriptor victor (92) in enjambment.


ducitur infelix aevo confectus Acoetes, | pectora nunc foedans pugnis, nunc unguibus ora, | sternitur et toto proiectus corpore terrae: the three lines paint a disturbing picture of Pallas’ comrade Acoetes in an extreme state of emotional distress, caught in between the individual articulation of his unfathomable grief and modes of social coercion that channel the experience of bereavement into culturally acceptable forms. Tellingly, Virgil has inverted what would have been a natural sequence that begins with personal denial, moves on to (ritual) self-harm, and concludes with (aided) participation in a collective exercise (the funeral procession). Instead, we begin with Acoetes being led (85), then encounter him actively mutilating himself (having broken free of his guides?) (86), and end with him lying prostrate on the ground, grinding any movement to a halt (87) — and undoing the social reintegration of the mourner. Put differently, the procession gets off to a fitful and halting start, as Virgil recombines conventional elements in unconventional ways.

Extra information

On the semiotics of self-harm in the context of grief see Glucklich (2001) 35: ‘Self-mutilation is extremely pervasive in rites of mourning around the world. A recent survey of seventy-eight societies has documented thirty-one in which self-injury prevails and thirty-two in which it is attempted in varying degrees of success. Acts of self-hurting vary from mild hair-pulling and chest-beating to extremely violent forms of self-abuse.’ The meaning and function of such self-inflicted pain are open to various interpretations, from the psychological to the sociological: ‘If the hurt is understood as a spontaneous display of grief it could be conceived in terms of psychological explanations […]. For instance, extreme grief may consist of an uneasy balance of guilt and anger, and if this is so, self-hurt may be imagined in terms of the punitive aspects of the juridical model. But if the self-mutilation is rigorously scripted in order to provoke strong emotions or even beliefs, its meaning would have to be conceptualized in a different manner. For instance, such pain might belong in the communal-vicarious model, as a sacrificial act that is aimed at furthering the journey of the departed spirit, or easing the emotional burden of the surviving relatives’ (36).

infelix: Virgil’s standard epithet for characters destined for tragedy (in particular Dido). Like her, the superannuated armour-bearer will bear no sons, both have lost the boys they never had (felix properly connotes fertility). See further Rebert (1928) on the ‘felicity of infelix’ in the Aeneid, which, he argues, ‘lies in the singularly effective way it sets forth, artistically, dramatically, and tragically, a poetical concept which lay very close to the poet’s heart’ (71).

pectora nunc foedans pugnis, nunc unguibus ora: a finely wrought line featuring anaphora of nunc and chiastic arrangement of accusative objects (pectora, ora) and instrumental ablatives (pugnis, unguibus). The placement of foedans, which is somewhat off-centre, and the slightly asymmetrical placement of the two nunc introduce an element of unpredictability and disturbance into the design. The expression of grief here is as ritualized as it is personal.

sternitur et: the post-positive et links ducitur and sternitur (= et sternitur).


ducunt et Rutulo perfusos sanguine currus: the odd scenario of anonymous individuals leading (or pulling?) either Pallas’ own (empty) chariot or the chariots of slain Rutulians darkly resembles the image of the triumphant Roman general, who is carried on his chariot along the via triumphalis, behind the captured enemy chieftains. (Cf. Cicero, in Verrem 5.67: archipiratam … quem ante currum tuum duceres; Livy 3.29.4: ducti ante currum hostium duces; Ovid, Tristia 4.2.47: hos super in curru, Caesar, victore veheris.)


post bellator equus positis insignibus Aethon | it lacrimans guttisque umectat grandibus ora: the –que after guttis links it (the third person present active indicative of eo, ire) and umectat. Line 90 recalls 86, the grief of the horse matching the grief of Acoetes. Note the homoioteleuta (guttis ~ pugnis, grandibus ~ unguibus) and the use of ora in the final foot of the hexameter as well as the repeated sound patterns, as set out by Moskalew (1982: 100):

11.86: pectora nunc foedáns pugnís, nunc unguibus óra

11.90: it lacrimáns guttísque umectat grandibus óra,

who sees the parallels as ‘intensifying the feeling of universal loss at the death of Pallas’.

It is unclear whether Virgil here recognizes the fact that animals can experience emotions such as grief or engages in anthropomorphizing Pallas’ horse. The special relationship of the epic warrior and his steed(s) has at any rate excellent Homeric credentials: Achilles’ horses weep at the death of Patroclus (Iliad 17.426–28) and his horse Xanthus later on predicts his master’s downfall (Iliad 19.405–18). Likewise, the relationship of Mezentius with his faithful horse Rhaebus was, along with his paternal love, one of the more agreeable features of the tyrant (Aeneid 10.860–69).15 Even if it does mark him an outcast from human sociality…

post: an adverb (rather than a preposition).

bellator equus: Virgil had already used the phrase at Georgics 2.145 (bellator equus campo sese arduus infert). JH: Just as the horse is in counterpoise with the enemy equos (80), so Pallas’ armour not stripped from him by Turnus (91–92) will see and outbid the tela stripped from the foe (80).

positis insignibus: an ablative absolute; positis = depositis, i.e. Virgil uses the simple form of the verb ponere in lieu of the composite de-ponere. The lack of shining armour reinforces the sombre mood; contrast Cicero’s boast upon his triumphant return from exile in his speech of thanksgiving to the senate (Red. Sen. 28): equis insignibus et curru aurato reportati (sumus). Aethon of course remains an equus insignis, but is no longer wearing insignia.

Aethon: the Greek name means ‘blazing’, ‘burning’, ‘fiery red’ (extinguished by his wet (red-hot) tears). See Paschalis (1997: 371–72): ‘In relation to Pallas’ chariot reeking with Rutulian blood, the horse-name “Aethon” marks the horse’s (and the hero’s) “fiery spirit” displayed in battle: the cluster “bellator equus … Aethon” (= “ardens”) varies 7. 781–82 “ardentis … bella”. But in relation to the funeral procession, “Aethon” anticipates the cremation of Pallas’ body at Pallanteum (77 “arsurasque comas”; 82 “caeso sparsurus sanguine flammas”): War–fire is distorted into its outcome, Pyre–fire.’

it lacrimans: the monosyllable it, placed for maximum emphasis in enjambment at the beginning of the line, followed by the circumstantial participle lacrimans form a metrical unit: the pattern – u u – is called a choriamb. The purpose of the design is to shock with poignant pathos. JH: The cortège (or cavalcade) resumes without fuss as the mount makes a dignified, disciplined, ‘trooper’, whereas the bodyguard broke down before everybody, spoiling the show, but did it for one and all, Aeneas included. Someone had to bare their grief, so no one will wonder if it was there. (Someone, but not the dux, the imperator, who’s more like the trusty steed, cf. 29: il-lacrimans).

guttisque umectat grandibus ora: the rest of the verse glosses lacrimans and assimilates Aethon to Acoetes (see above 271–2). JH: Even without his rosettes, this high-tone bellator equus is bound to weep ‘huge droplets’, add them to the list of variants on exigua weighing in as ingentis (63, just after 62: lacrimis).


hastam alii galeamque ferunt, nam cetera Turnus | victor habet. tum maesta phalanx Teucrique sequuntur | Tyrrhenique omnes et versis Arcades armis: Virgil continues with a seemingly innocuous and rather bland enumeration of other pieces of Pallas’ equipment which anonymous ‘others’ (alii) carry. But the opening half verse hastam … ferunt sets up a shocker: the laconic and brutal reminder, so consequential for what follows, that Pallas was partially despoiled by his killer Turnus (before Aeneas trumped him, 80 above). See Henry (1989: 27): ‘One of the reasons why Pallas’ funeral appears so desolate is that the men who follow his weeping horse Aethon can carry only his spear and helmet […]. This reference to Turnus and the plunder which will (as the reader was warned at X. 504) one day be hateful to him leads readily to Aeneas’ change of focus.’ (Turnus made off with the baldric.) The subsequent sentence features four nouns (phalanx, Teucri, Tyrrheni, Arcades) and one verb (sequuntur). The –que after Teucri links phalanx and Teucri, the –que after Tyrrheni, Teucri and Tyrrheni. Virgil continues to emphasize the multiculturalism of Aeneas’ army, which comprises contingents of Trojans (Teucri), Etruscans (Tyrrheni), and Greeks from Arcadia (Arcades). JH: The peaceful Arcadians jar loudly against these arma at the end of their parade (indeed versis signals the punful oxymoron: the epic has turned everything upside-down, back-to-front).

phalanx: a Greek loanword (phalanx), referring originally to the Macedonian infantry, which was armed with long pikes and advanced as a closely arrayed unit. There is verbal responsion in sequuntur, since the formation attacked by tramping forward unstoppably. Virgil uses the term for any closely packed body of men. (See 2.254, 6.489, 12.277.)

versis … armis: ablative absolute. JH: As we have seen throughout the episode, funeral rites for dead soldiers find their own symbolic ways to turn warfare into their own idiom, replaying back the gains and losses involved in the particular case through the formulae devised for casualties in general. The hero’s arma provide the vocabulary for this prize purpose, but with a difference. The first word of the epic, here they seal the tribute as the last.

11.94–99: The Parting of the Ways

postquam omnis longe comitum praecesserat ordo,

substitit Aeneas gemituque haec addidit alto:

motion | speech

‘nos alias hinc ad lacrimas eadem horrida belli

fata vocant: salve aeternum mihi, maxime Palla,

aeternumque vale.’ nec plura effatus ad altos


tendebat muros gressumque in castra ferebat.


Virgil uses a triple chiasmus to mark the parting of the ways. The first frames Aeneas’ farewell speech. In 95, movement ends (substitit) and speech begins: (haec addidit); after the speech has come to an end (98: nec plura effatus) movement restarts: tendebat … gressum … ferebat (99). Within the speech, Aeneas uses chiasmus twice: the figure underscores the parting of himself and Pallas: nos (personal pronoun in oblique case) – hinc (spatio-temporal adverb) – vocant (verb) :: salve (verb) – aeternum (temporal adverb) – mihi (personal pronoun in oblique case); and, reinforced by gemination, brings out the terminal finality of his final greeting (salve aeternum :: aeternum vale). It is telling that Aeneas features himself only in oblique cases (accusative, dative): in what unfolds here, his agency is compromised — he is unable to do anything else for Pallas; forces beyond his control call him away.

Among other models, Aeneas’ speech recalls two famous farewell addresses to the dead in particular: that of Achilles to Patroclus in Homer’s Iliad; and that of Catullus to his brother. Here is Achilles, who is worth listening to not least because his last words to his fallen comrade, coming right after butchering the captive Trojans at Patroclus’ pyre, differ decisively from those of Aeneas (Iliad 23.178–83; cf. 23.19–23):

ᾤμωξέν τ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἔπειτα, φίλον δ᾽ ὀνόμηνεν ἑταῖρον:

‘χαῖρέ μοι ὦ Πάτροκλε καὶ εἰν Ἀΐδαο δόμοισι:

πάντα γὰρ ἤδη τοι τελέω τὰ πάροιθεν ὑπέστην,

δώδεκα μὲν Τρώων μεγαθύμων υἱέας ἐσθλοὺς

τοὺς ἅμα σοὶ πάντας πῦρ ἐσθίει: Ἕκτορα δ᾽ οὔ τι

δώσω Πριαμίδην πυρὶ δαπτέμεν, ἀλλὰ κύνεσσιν.’

[Then he groaned and called on his dear comrade by name: ‘Farewell, Patroclus, I hail you even in the House of Hades, for now I am bringing to pass all that I have previously promised you. Twelve noble sons of the great-hearted Trojans, all of them together with you the fire devours: but Hector, son of Priam, I shall not give to the fire to feed on, but to dogs.’]

And here Catullus, which opens with a miniature odyssey (carmen 101):

Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus

advenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias,

ut te postremo donarem munere mortis

et mutam nequiquam alloquerer cinerem,

quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum,


heu miser indigen frater adempte mihi.

nunc tamen interea haec, prisco quae more parentum

tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias,

accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu,

atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.

[Having wandered through many peoples and across many seas, I arrive, brother, at these wretched funeral rites, to present you with the last gift of death and address, though in vain, your silent ashes, since fortune has taken your own self away from me — alas, my wretched brother so cruelly torn from me. Still, meanwhile receive these offerings now, which by the custom of our fathers have been handed down as a sad gift for funeral rites, dripping with many a fraternal tear and forever, brother, hail and farewell.]


postquam omnis longe comitum praecesserat ordo, | substitit Aeneas gemituque haec addidit alto: the subject of the postquam-clause is omnis … ordo; the –que after gemitu links substitit and addidit. The two phrases featuring hyperbaton (omnis – ordo :: gemitu – alto) are arranged chiastically (adjective – noun :: noun – adjective); in each case, the hyperbaton reinforces the meaning of the attribute. The ring back to 60–1: tot … ex agmine … qui comitentur now closes.

postquam … praecesserat: Horsfall (2003: 103) notes that ‘the use of postquam with pluperfect is extremely rare’. (It is usually construed with the perfect tense.) The implied object of praecesserat is Aeneas: ‘the procession passes him by’. The words are livened up by the conceptual clash of ‘post-‘ coming before ‘prae-‘.

comitum: genitive plural of comes, dependent on ordo.

substitit Aeneas: the inversion of natural word order and the placement of substitit at the beginning of the line generate a bump of enactment, achieving an iconic depiction of Aeneas coming to a halt. (The momentum in 89–92 post … tum … sequuntur runs the grand file on the move into the commander, who stops the train by abrupt standstill. As 98–89 makes pretty clear, Aeneas, unable to let go, has gone with the procession out of the camp, if at lower speed.) But he herewith draws a line under proceedings.

haec: ‘the following’ — looking forward to the speech.


‘nos alias hinc ad lacrimas eadem horrida belli | fata vocant: salve aeternum mihi, maxime Palla, | aeternumque vale.’: Aeneas adds a final brief farewell, including an (apologetic) explanation why he will now take his leave from the procession: he has been bumped along from everywhere he’s stopped at since leaving Troy, and still ineluctable fate requires him to proceed with the war; there is to be no respite, no rest, for him. The little speech thus splits in half: first Aeneas outlines what is in store for him in the idiom of the authorial narrator (nos … vocant); then he utters his final farewell to Pallas in a statement that is the last word in rhetorical polish (salve … vale). The first part of the speech acquires its punch through intratextual echoes, the second through intertextual echoes (details in the lemmata below): in under one verse length, Aeneas packs in the double whammy of a Virgilian, then a Catullan voice.

nos: accusative plural of the first person personal pronoun, the object of vocant. Aeneas contrasts his obligations as commanding general with the dead Pallas (obviously relieved of any further military duties) and the members of the guard of honour that accompanies his corpse back to Pallanteum. By now he knows that he is ‘on call’ when the fates beckon: the formulation recalls what the Sibyl told him when clueing him in on the fateful Golden Bough: it will come off the tree easily si te fata vocant (6.147: ‘if the fates call you’).

alias … ad lacrimas: hyperbaton and anastrophe (= ad alias lacrimas). Lacrimae (‘tears’) have been a programmatic presence tearing through the poem from 1.462 onwards, when Aeneas, as part of his reaction to the murals of the Trojan war on display at Juno’s temple in Dido’s Carthage, coins the mot: sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt (‘The world is a world of tears, and the burdens of mortality touch the heart’; trans. Fagles), and especially at the opening of this bleak Book 11. See 41, 86, 90: everyone is wretched. For Aeneas, future warfare means an escalator to further tragedy, not to glory.

eadem horrida belli | fata: fata is the subject of vocant (and this is etymologically reinforced since fatum says ‘what has been vocalized’ (from the verb for, fari); it is modified by two attributes (eadem and horrida) and the genitive belli. This is the only place in the poem in which horrida modifies fata. After 6.86–87 (the Sybil speaking to Aeneas): bella, horrida bella, | et Thybrim multo spumantem sanguine cerno and 7.41 (the proem in the middle, Virgil addressing the Muse): tu vatem, tu, diva, mone. dicam horrida bella, we would surely expect the adjective to go with bellum: both the Sibyl and Virgil use horridus (‘dreadful’) as an attribute of war. Aeneas, however, coins the new phrase horrida belli fata (‘the dreadful destinies of warfare’), perhaps recalling Dido’s horrified phrase horrida iussa (4.378, outraged at Aeneas’ claim of a divine injunction to leave Carthage). By mixing and mingling the language of the Sibyl, the narrator, and perhaps Dido, Aeneas manages to taint the fata and convey his bleak outlook on his mission. Elsewhere, the fates might be dire, but when they call they do so with purpose (as with the Golden Bough; see also 10.113: fata viam invenient). By switching horrida from bella to fata, Aeneas poignantly evokes his continuing struggle with his destiny, which he finds horrific: he is at war with it: ‘the same (cf. eadem — often omitted by translators) fates that have been on my case ever since and are now set to generate more dreadful slaughter call me.’

salve … vale: Aeneas addresses Pallas directly, engaging in dialogue with the dead. For the phenomenon see Poccetti (2010: 106–7):

Another type of fictitious dialogue, much more common among ordinary people in the Hellenistic and Roman world, is that found in sepulchral inscriptions with greetings to or from the deceased. The Romans, like other populations of ancient Italy, imitated the Greek convention of addressing the dead with greetings also used to living persons, such as Greek χαῖρε and Latin salve, (h)ave, vale. In Greek this custom is attested as far back as Homer, who depicts Achilles saying to Patroclus’ corpse ‘Farewell, Patroklos, I hail you even in the House of Hades’ (Il. 23.19 [= 23.179]). […] In the Roman world, an enormous quantity of Latin inscriptions from the late Republican period onwards attests this practice of imitating oral greeting. […] A particularly Latin feature of this practice is the combination of two different greeting expressions. […] Literary poetry also contains examples of this compound greeting, as Catullus’ lament to his brother […] or Virgil’s depiction of Aeneas’ farewell to Pallas.

Poccetti proceeds to discuss the seemingly paradoxical nature of such greetings — but goes on to argue that the point here is that no meaningful interaction is any longer possible. For the importance of Catullus 101 (cited above), see Brenk (1999: 125): ‘Vergil intentionally evokes the pathos of Catullus’ famous verses on the death of his brother (accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu | atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale (101.9–10). Thus, Vergil’s salve is rooted both in the religious tradition of Greek and Latin literature and in the semi-religious usage of secular poetry.’ (At Aeneid 5.80–81, Aeneas, after pouring libations at his father’s tomb, greets him with salve, sancte parens, iterum; salvete, recepti | nequiquam cineres animaeque umbraeque paternae… (‘Hail, holy father, once again; hail, ashes, rescued though in vain, and you, paternal soul and shade…’) There is no ‘fare forever well’ — after all, Aeneas is going to see his dad again in the subsequent book.)


nec plura effatus ad altos | tendebat muros gressumque in castra ferebat: effatus is the past participle of the deponent effari, modifying the subject of the sentence (Aeneas) and taking plura as accusative object. The –que after gressum links the two (somewhat tautological) main verbs tendebat and (gressum) ferebat.

nec plura effatus: JH: no inert formula, this points to the gem of rhetorical compression to maximum expressiveness that Virgil just hit us with. So short a farewell, so repetitive the circular ‘so long’, yet all of time in it (twice). As from the moment he left burning Troy, Aeneas must cut out from the past and face the future.

ad altos | … muros … in castra: the phrase anticipates the future Rome; castra captures the nature of the present arrangement. JH: We climb back up to epic grandeur in its own right (from deep groaning for a dead kid to those towering walls a-building for Rome: gemitu … alto | 95 => altos | … muros 98), closing the timeout to give Pallas his send-off by retracking in gressumque in castra ferebat to 29: recipitque ad limina gressum |. The ‘theme and variation’ unpacks ‘heading for the city’ as ‘trudging into war’ (back, again). Verbally the pairing of ad with in leads into the chiasmus that pairs off muros with castra, and tendebat with gressum … ferebat. (There is even a hint of verbal bleeding between the two formulations, since soldiers in camps ‘pitch tents’, and that is what tendo would mean in that scenario.) Where Aeneid 1–6 turned on the state figured as ship(s), Books 7–12 image the Trojan-Roman mission as castra, the mobile core image of imperium Romanum, the precursor to the walled settlement, Urbs. Our narrative trajectory melds camp into polity and along the way we run into all manner of manifestations and transmogrifications of the theme, including the dramatized ins and outs of our truce.

11.100–107: Latin Oratory

Aeneas’ enemies present no unified front. Internal tensions and divisions are rife within the Latin alliance, starting with the troubled relationship of Turnus and Latinus. Initially, Latinus, forewarned by prophecies, welcomed Aeneas as his future son-in-law, though he had already foolishly betrothed his daughter Lavinia to the up-and-coming local strongman Turnus. Conflict is thus pre-programmed, especially since Latinus’ wife Amata, set upon by the Fury Allecto, Juno’s agent from Hell, supports Turnus. (Sadly, Lavinia has no say in all this.) And Turnus manages to upset the accord that had been all but brokered if not yet fully ratified. All-out war ensues, even though Turnus never gained the unanimous support of the Latins. Now, in the wake of the disastrous battle, his enemies stir again. Their first move is to send an embassy to Aeneas, led by Drances, cast as Turnus’ inveterate adversary, to plead for an armistice to bury the dead and perhaps also for a return to the negotiation table to broker a peace for legendary times.

This passage divides neatly into 2 + 4 + 2 verses, with the first two announcing the arrival of envoys with the task to beg for a temporary truce to bury the dead (100–1). Their speech follows, in indirect discourse (102–5). The final two lines (106–7) give Aeneas’ positive reaction to the request and set up his verbal response (which follows in direct speech from 108–19). The envoys’ brief is not entirely clear. Are they simply meant to ask for a ‘soft’ temporary truce or rather to plead for a ‘hard’ permanent peace? The first two lines of their speech only concern the need to make proper arrangements for burying those who are already dead. The speech then broadens out from the dead to the (defeated) living — and the final line (105) could be taken either as emotive support of their plea for a temporary truce or as paving the way for more long-term diplomacy that might lead to the restoration of the status quo before the outbreak of hostilities, when the Latins were hosts to the Trojans (hospites) and indeed prospective fathers-in-law (soceri).


Iamque oratores aderant ex urbe Latina | velati ramis oleae veniamque rogantes: the focus shifts from past to future, from matters internal to the Trojan community (and their allies) to negotiations with the enemy, from emotions to politics: an embassy appears, dispatched from the city of King Latinus (though it remains unclear who is responsible for dispatching it: Latinus? or Turnus? or a groundswell of popular opinion?).

iamque … aderant: in Latin, the adverbs adhuc, etiam, and (as here) iam ‘denote the relative position in time of two different events’ (English equivalents are ‘already’, ‘still’, ‘yet’: Pinkster 2015: 856). Here it is Aeneas’ return to the camp after the departure of Pallas and the arrival of the Latin envoys. The series of pointers to where Aeneas is headed is instead met by those heading in his direction: ad lacrimasad altos … muros … in castra 96–99 <=> aderant ex urbe. The pluperfect aderant (‘were present’, ‘had arrived’) may even suggest that Aeneas kept the ambassadors waiting until Pallas was properly on his way and thus underscores his sense of priorities.

oratores: in settings of international diplomacy, orator tends to mean ‘envoy’, ‘ambassador’ (rather than ‘orator’ or ‘public speaker’, even though envoys of course come charged with the task of representing their community in speech). The noun derives from the verb oro, –are, –avi, –atum, the primary meaning of which is ‘to pray to’, ‘beseech’, ‘supplicate’ — and this sense comes alive in the case of envoys of a faltering (already losing?) side (see on 111). The scene here has a counterpart at 7.152–55, where Aeneas, upon arrival in Latium, chooses a hundred of his men as envoys (oratores) to send to Latinus on a peace-keeping mission:

tum satus Anchisa delectos ordine ab omni

centum oratores augusta ad moenia regis

ire iubet, ramis velatos Palladis omnis,

donaque ferre viro pacemque exposcere Teucris.

[Then Anchises’ son [= Aeneas] ordered a hundred envoys, chosen from every rank, to go to the august walls of King (Latinus), all bearing boughs of Pallas [= branches of the olive tree] wreathed in wool, to bear gifts to the man [= Latinus], and ask for peace for the Trojans.]

And it sets up the desperate attempt on the part of Latinus to sue for peace later on in the book (11.330–34, Latinus speaking):

centum oratores prima de gente Latinos

ire placet pacisque manu praetendere ramos,

munera portantis aurique eborisque talenta

et sellam regni trabeamque insignia nostri.

[I also hold that a hundred envoys, Latins of highest birth, go and hold out the boughs of peace in their hands, bearing gifts, talents of gold and ivory and a throne and robe, emblems of our kingship.]

Meantime, we are waiting for the upshot of the corresponding diplomatic mission designed to summon reinforcements to join the Latins’ fight against the Trojan invaders, sent off Diomedis ad urbem way back at the start of the war (8.9) but about to return empty-handed Diomedis ab urbe (11.226). See further Hine (1987: 177):

In the second half of the poem the issue of whether to resolve conflict by words or by force becomes prominent. When Aeneas realizes that he has reached his destination he opens negotiations with the Italians (7.153–54 ‘centum oratores augusta ad moenia regis | ire iubet’), and the negotiations are continuing successfully until Allecto intervenes at Juno’s command. When Aeneas receives the Italian envoys in book 11, he expresses the wish that war had never started (11.108–19, especially 110–11 ‘pacem me exanimis et Martis sorte peremptis | oratis? equidem et vivis concedere vellem’). Later, the Latin envoys return unsuccessfully from Diomedes, reporting that he recommends a treaty rather than armed struggle (11.292–93). Latinus then proposes that they negotiate peace with the Trojans: 11.330–32 ‘praeterea, qui dicta ferant et foedera firment | centum oratores prima de gente Latinos | ire placet pacisque manu praetendere ramos, | …’ This echoes the centum oratores sent by Aeneas in 7.153–54, quoted above; orators would have been better than armies.

ex urbe Latina: The text here recalls Aeneas’ earlier exhortation: nunc iter ad regem nobis murosque Latinos (17), just reversing the direction (and intent).

velati ramis oleae veniamque rogantes: the –que after veniam links the two participles velati and rogantes, placed at either end of the line. A literal translation of velati ramis oleae would be ‘crowned with branches of the olive-tree’ and that is how the OLD seems to understand this passage (as well as its parallel 7.154 cited above): see s.v. velo 3: ‘to cover (esp. the head) for ritual or ceremonial purposes’. But the ancient commentator Servius (followed by Horsfall) disagrees, noting: non coronati […] sed instructi et ornati, id est in manibus olivae ramos ferentes, which means, loosely, ‘not crowned […] but equipped with the sign of suppliants, namely carrying branches of the olive-tree (covered in wool) in their hands’. The reference here is to the velamentum, which is an olive-branch wrapped in wool, that functioned as an emblem of peace carried by a suppliant. On this reading, the envoys aren’t wrapped or covered, the olive branches are. Cf. Livy’s ‘prose equivalent’ (29.16.6): velamenta supplicum, ramos oleae, ut Graecis mos est, porrigentes. JH: The motif pointedly riffs on the straightforwardness of Aeneas’ would-be disarming ‘We come in peace’ approach to the Arcadians at the site of Rome, paciferae […] manu ramum praetendit olivae (8.116). Things are by now moving on…

veniam: the semantics of venia, the lexeme that frames the passage (101 ~ 107), depends on the situation: is it specific kindness or more general mercy (= clementia)? The ambiguity here surely picks up divisions within the Latin camp that later on in the book will come forcefully to the fore. Some want to sue for peace; others only want a temporary truce, to keep on fighting after the burial. Either way, in the first instance the envoys do not plead for peace, let alone mercy. They want to arrange for proper burial of their fallen comrades: and what sort of party to a parlay could turn that down?


The plea of the Latin envoys is given in indirect speech, but Virgil initially blurs the boundaries: the first verb we encounter, iacebant, the verb of the relative clause introduced by quae, is in the indicative. According to the rules of indirect discourse this is odd (strictly speaking, it ought to be in the subjunctive), so at the end of verse 102, readers might be forgiven for thinking that they are listening to direct speech. It is only with imperfect subjunctive redderet in the following line (which corresponds to the imperative redde in direct speech) that the type of discourse Virgil has chosen to represent the speech of the Latins becomes clear.


corpora, per campos ferro quae fusa iacebant, | redderet ac tumulo sineret succedere terrae: the design of the relative clause is of poignant beauty, with the delayed relative pronoun quae in central position, doubly framed by the alliterative participial construction ferro … fusa and the formulation per campos … iacebant. The inner and the outer frame interrelate in a chronological sequence: struck down by the sword, the bodies are now lying where they fell. The choice of the imperfect indicative enhances the iconic quality of the construction, as it lifts the clause above the normal rules of indirect speech, endowing it with a ‘deictic’ (Horsfall 2003: 107) force, almost in the voice of the narrator: the unburied corpses on the battlefield are an indisputable fact, which the envoys in turn use to enhance the emotional appeal of their address to Aeneas. The main clause corpora … redderet supplies a third frame, with both accusative object and verb taking up the emphatic initial position in their respective lines. The enjambment nicely underscores the shift from the plaintive invocation of the battlefield realities to the exhortation that Aeneas do his part towards remedying the outrage. Prettily put and impossible to ignore = well-executed negotiation.


nullum cum victis certamen et aethere cassis: the verb of the sentence (esse, in the infinitive since we are still in indirect speech, used as a full verb: ‘there is no…’) needs to be supplied; the subject accusative is nullum … certamen, with nullum placed emphatically up front. The et links victis and cassis — those vanquished (and still alive), and those killed in the recent battle.

aethere: ablative of separation with cassis. The ambassadors dignify the dead with high-flown phrasing.


parceret hospitibus quondam socerisque vocatis: parco takes an object in the dative (eis), which has been elided. The implied pronoun governs the perfect passive participle vocatis, with hospitibus and soceris (linked by –que) in predicative position: ‘those who were once called hosts and in-laws (or more precisely ‘fathers-in-law)’. To be lenient towards conquered enemies is famously part of Anchises’ ‘mission statement’ towards the end of Aeneid 6.853, when he advises ‘the Roman’ ‘to spare the conquered and war down the proud’ (parcere subiectis et debellare superbos). Here, as elsewhere, Aeneas is quite good at putting both principles into practice, though he of course famously fails to spare the vanquished Turnus at the end. The orators here recall (and reformulate) a line from the speech Latinus gave in Aeneid 7 (See 7.264–65: si iungi hospitio properat sociusque vocari | adveniat — ‘if Aeneas is keen to be joined in friendship and be called our alley, let him come in person’, with Scholz 1999: 459). Speech acts instantly create ‘guest-friendships’, but they pledge intermarriage for later.

quondam: the adverb goes with the participle vocatis and refers back to the situation in Book 7.


quos bonus Aeneas haud aspernanda precantis | prosequitur venia et verbis haec insuper addit: quos is a connecting relative (= et eos), the accusative object of the main verb prosequitur, which also governs the ablative venia. The present participle precantis (= precantes) agrees with quos and takes (ea) haud aspernanda as its accusative object. (The final –a of aspernanda scans short: it is the neuter accusative plural of the gerundive.) Literally: ‘Aeneas honours (prosequitur) them (quos), as they were asking (precantis) things not to be spurned (haud aspernanda), with kindness (venia) = grants them their request.’

bonus Aeneas: the seemingly banal attribute bonus is in fact high praise. Vir bonus congratulates a person of outstanding character and principled ethics. Cf. Cairns (1989: 73): ‘When the Latin ambassadors ask a truce for the burial of their dead, Aeneas, like the virtuous king he is (cf. esp. bonus Aeneas, 11.106), offers them a permanent peace (11.108–19). He follows up his offer by proposing the means to peace, single combat between himself and Turnus.’ JH: Virgil makes sure we can’t miss the return of a civilised Aeneas after the barbarities of killing and trophy through the genteel protocols of diplomacy. He could ‘not scorn’ the ritual formalities of 101, but was obliged to see them and raise them: rogantes ~ precantis; veniam ~ venia; prosequitur … et insuper addit. Aeneas’ answer ‘follows’ the wording of the request and is courteous into the bargain (prosequor).

insuper: a compound adverb, made up of the prepositions in and super: ‘in addition’, ‘besides’, ‘over and above’. It is technically speaking redundant since the idea of ‘adding something on’ is already expressed by the verb (addit): see Sangmeister (1978: 29), who speaks of ‘poetic redundancy’. But rhetorically speaking, the addition makes good on the ethical claim to qualify as bonus.

verbis … addit: after conveying his benevolence through body-language and/or gesture, Aeneas ‘adds’ another, differently weighted, speech, here glossing and nuancing his initial response: addit matches addidit (95).

11.108–121: ‘No Hero In History Has Been Treated More Unfairly!’

The design of Aeneas’ speech (his fourth and last in Book 11) is as follows:

‘quaenam vos tanto fortuna indigna, Latini,

implicuit bello, qui nos fugiatis amicos?

pacem me exanimis et Martis sorte peremptis



equidem et vivis concedere vellem.

nec veni, nisi fata locum sedemque dedissent,

nec bellum cum gente gero; rex nostra reliquit

hospitia et Turni potius se credidit armis.

aequius huic Turnum fuerat se opponere morti.


si bellum finire manu, si pellere Teucros

apparat, his mecum decuit concurrere telis:

vixet cui vitam deus aut sua dextra dedisset.

nunc ite et miseris supponite civibus ignem.’

dixerat Aeneas. illi obstipuere silentes


conversique oculos inter se atque ora tenebant.

Aeneas here positions himself vis-à-vis his interlocutors, the oratores who are representatives of the gens Latina, king Latinus (the ‘head of state’), and Turnus. He explains his own position and involvement, clarifying a few issues, apportioning praise and blame, reaching out to the people. The formatting illustrates how his discourse alternates between longer sections in which he provides commentary on the current situation (kept in bold) and shorty, punchy sentences that state a wish (111), a gnomic assessment (115), and an order (119) (held in italics). These one-liners either play a transitional role by providing a thematic link between sections (111: Aeneas’ apology, picking up on me in 110 and setting up nec veni etc. in 112–14; 115: Turnus’ failure to face him in single combat, picking up Turni ... armis in 114, with Turnus’ name in the same metrical position in both verses (Wills 1996: 389–90), and setting up the past and future possibility of a duel discussed in 117–19) or provide ring-composition and closure (120):

108–11: Of course I grant your request for a truce to bury the dead – I wish I could strike a permanent peace with the living!

112–15: Look, I’ve got a destiny to fulfil, and my beef is not with you guys but your king and his henchman Turnusindeed, he should have faced up to death, not your kinsmen who lie here!

116–19: For the future, the showdown with me he just shunned remains a standing invitationin the meantime, go and cremate your dead.

In quantitative terms, the alternation falls into a fairly regular pattern of 3 + 1 (x3), with the only (minor) departure occurring in 111 with the enjambment of oratis. Lyne, who takes the speech to be an illustration of Aeneas the magnanimous, summarizes it as follows (2007: 121): ‘Peace is his desire for the living Latins. His own role in Italy is imposed upon him by fate. The war, for which he professes no desire or enthusiasm, has occurred only because Latinus and Turnus abandoned the peace that had been agreed, and obstructed his fate-ordained role. He and Turnus (he suggests rationally) should fight it out in a duel — the fairest, most expeditious solution. Again, therefore, we have the Stoic-imperial hero — with that added ingredient, a measured sympathy: miseris supponite ciuibus ignem.’


‘quaenam vos tanto fortuna indigna, Latini, | implicuit bello, qui nos fugiatis amicos?: Aeneas’ opening gambit contains a twofold apologetic thrust: he emphasizes that he never had anything but friendly intentions towards the Latins (thus rejecting any responsibility for the recent hostilities); but he also prudently refrains from blaming his counterparts outright (which would have served no purpose in the present context). The goddess (or the concept) of happenstance is a handy ploy to bring into play whenever it seems fitting to downplay responsibility of human agents: chance is capricious, unpredictable, and perhaps even malicious — and certainly uninterested in justice (which is the point of the adjective indigna). (Note that Aeneas a couple of lines further down pinpoints a human culprit nonetheless: Turnus. But his issue is explicitly with a particular individual, not the Latin nation. So the opening of his speech is a captatio benevolentiae, designed to drive a wedge between Turnus and the civic community he represents.)

The mention of fortuna here also sets up his invocation of fatum at 112: the two terms offer two extreme and complementary perspectives on the human condition, with the former emphasizing chaotic unpredictability and the latter ineluctable, predetermined destiny. The former, fortuna, enables human choice — the latter, fatum, eliminates it. Again, Aeneas exculpates himself and incriminates his opponents: whereas his hands are bound by supernatural strings, the Latins (and Turnus) operate in a realm of contingency and have freedom of will. (He is of course unaware of the supernatural meddling — amounting to compulsion — by Juno and Allecto.)

quaenam: a combination of the interrogative adjective (quae), modifying fortuna, and the particle (nam), which provides ‘an occasional intensification of the simple interrogative’ (Horsfall 2003: 109) and here arguably introduces a touch of irritation, either at the Latins, who needlessly broke up friendly relations with the Trojans, or at Fortune (or both). As far as Aeneas is concerned, the recent bloodshed was utterly unnecessary. He certainly is no friend of Fortune: see above 228.

tanto … bello: the war that broke out was indeed of massive scale, involving all of central Italy and resulting in the death of powerful and distinguished individuals (Pallas, Mezentius). So the hyperbaton (putting further stress on tanto) is entirely appropriate.

Latini: vocative plural.

implicuit: implico ‘to involve (a person, etc.) in circumstances from which it is hard to withdraw’ is ‘a favorite verb’ of Virgil: ‘The connotation is of a morass; the Latin have found themselves ensnared in something unwieldy and beyond their capacity to handle, and completely without necessity, since Aeneas seems to have desired only friendship with them’ (Fratantuono 2009: 51). The winding word order (quaenama vosb tantoc fortunaa indignaa, Latinib, implicuitd belloc) together with the enjambment vividly mimics the mess (of their own making) that the Latins find themselves in.

qui nos fugiatis amicos?: Aeneas concludes his opening rhetorical question with a consecutive relative clause (hence the subjunctive). The verb fugio can be either intransitive (to flee) or (as here) transitive: nos is the accusative object, with the emphatically placed amicos in predicative position and adversative force (nos … ami-cos are also linked by homoioteleuton): ‘…so that you shun us (as if we are adversaries even though we are) friends.’ JH: the match of quae … vos to qui nos lays on thick the ‘unfitting’ contrast between the positions imposed on the parties: the paradox that ‘entanglement’ has caused ‘flight’ imports a touch of the absurd; you’re supposed to ‘run’ to, not from, ‘friends’.


pacem me exanimis et Martis sorte peremptis | oratis?: the opening of this second rhetorical question, pacem me, corresponds metrically to the opening of the first, quaenam vos, formally correlating the Latin envoys (vos) and their interlocutor (me). oro here governs a double accusative — of the person addressed (me) and of the thing requested (pacem) — as well as a dative object (exanimis et Martis sorte peremptis). The tone of irritation continues, reinforced by the emphatic placement of both pacem and peremptis, linked by alliteration, at the beginning and the end of the line: ‘we were (and should be) friends and allies — and now you come begging me for a truce to bury your dead?’ These spokesmen have lowered themselves to ‘pleading’ (cf. on 100 oratores), and this — oratis — is the keyword to the rhetorical colour of the speech.

exanimis et Martis sorte peremptis: an elaborate tautology (exanimis and Martis sorte peremptis are virtually synonymous), stylistically unified by means of homoioteleuton (exanimis – peremptis) and arranged climactically: the rather flat exanimus (‘lifeless’), which simply states the condition, is followed by a vivid evocation of what caused death. Sound play reinforces the rhetorical effect: witness the reiteration of ‘r’ and ‘t’ across all three words of the phrase Martis sorte peremptis. Aeneas here picks up on, in chiastic variation, the equally elaborate tautology ‘nullum cum victis certamen et aethere cassis’ (104) uttered by the Latin envoys: exanimis correlates with aethere cassis and Martis sorte peremptis caps victis.

Martis sorte: the phrase can be understood either literally, with the god of war, Mars, portioning out death on the battlefield, or figuratively, with Mars as metonym for ‘battle’ or ‘war’ (‘through the vagaries of warfare’), i.e. the sphere of operation under his control. Given that the formulation occurs in a speech, one could even entertain the possibility of divergent focalization: what looks like a trope to us, Aeneas might be taken to mean literally. On the other hand, Aeneas was doing his best in Book 10 to make sure to inflict maximum casualties, and for all that the notion that warfare is a particularly unpredictable environment is a common theme (e.g. Cicero, pro Marcello 6), so that each battle was a throw of the dice (cf. fortuna, 108), with the outcome uncertain, along a spectrum defined by the ultimate extremes of life and death, he doesn’t mean those soldiers were plain unlucky to run into him — they shouldn’t have been there to start with.

Extra information

Matzner (2016: 202) notes that ‘the names of gods are often used as stock examples of metonymy in rhetorical handbooks’ (Venus = love; Dionysus = wine; Ceres = grain, this sort of thing), but at the same time recognizes ‘the impossibility of determining the exact semantic range of what is denoted (or else metonymically implied) by the name of a god’, given the peculiarities of ancient religious belief and practice. The phenomenon occurs from Homer onwards, already with considerable ambiguity. At Iliad 2.426, for instance, the Greeks roast innards ‘holding them over Hephaistos’ (… ὑπείρεχον Ἡφαίστοιο), the god of fire, where the god clearly is / stands for the flame — but at Iliad 9.468 (where swine are singed ‘over the flame of Hephaistos’: διὰ φλογὸς Ἡφαίστοιο), and 17.88 (where bronze is said to flash ‘like the flame of Hephaistos’: φλογὶ εἴκελος Ἡφαίστοιο), Hephaistos is imagined as presiding over the domain of fire (rather than being identical with it). From Homer onwards, then, it is often tricky to decide whether the name of a god is used literally or figuratively, not least when the divinity concerned is (Greek) Ares / (Roman) Mars. Instances from Greek tragedy illustrate the point: when Aeschylus writes ‘Ares will clash with Ares, justice with justice’ (Libation Bearers 461), ‘when Ares turns domestic’ (Eumenides 355–56), or ‘internecine Ares that emboldens them to fight each other’ (Eumenides 862), modern translators tend to substitute the name of the god with a concept such as ‘Violence’ (as Sommerstein does in all three instances in his Loeb translation); yet if we understand Ares to refer to one or more demonic spirits, such a figurative reading is not inevitable. Thus, according to Untersteiner (2002: 315), in the line from the Libation Bearers spoken by Orestes, the first Ares corresponds, literally, to the ‘avenging spirit’ (Alastor in Greek) of his father Agamemnon and the second to the ‘avenging spirit’ of his mother Clytaemnestra. (For Ares as a demonic force bent on slaughter see Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1509–11: ‘black Ares forces his way, with further streams of kindred blood’.)


equidem et vivis concedere vellem: the preceding rhetorical question so obviously implies its answer (‘of course I grant peace to the dead!’) that Aeneas does not spell it out — instead, he counters what he considers an absurdly minimalist request on the part of the Latins with a counterfactual wish (vellem, in the imperfect subjunctive). As far as he is concerned, he would also (et) make peace (pacem is the implied accusative object of concedere) with the living. (The adjective vivus is here used as a noun, which contrasts sharply with exanimis et Martis sorte peremptis in the previous line.) Granting their (rather more modest) request for a temporary break in the fighting thus goes here literally without saying (though Aeneas makes it explicit in the last line of his speech: 119). With concedere Aeneas presses home that their ‘pleading’ hands him the upper hand — and (nb) he accepts it.

equidem: with a first person singular, the particle equidem is used for ‘emphasizing an implied or expressed ego in various ways’, often introducing a contrast between the views of the speaker and those of others, not least in replies to requests (OLD s.v. 1): ‘I for my part’. Aeneas here contrasts his own generosity and the broad vision of his strategic thinking with the vapid and uninspired mission of the Latins, which — so he implies — reflects unfavourably on him, grounded as it is in a completely wrongheaded understanding of himself and his mission: they must think of him as a ruthless warlord, who might even stoop to refusing his fallen foes a proper burial if he is not suitably supplicated. But at the same time, his exclamation does presume that he’s in the driving seat, with their lives or deaths in his gift. There are two sides, so (let’s not forget) there are two sides to every dividing line between them.


nec veni, nisi fata locum sedemque dedissent, | nec bellum cum gente gero: Aeneas makes two points here: (i) Look, I wouldn’t have come to your country at all if the fates had not compelled me to do so; (ii) but now that I am here (nolens volens, compelled by fate), I have absolutely no desire to wage war against your people. But in the event, he gets his grammar a bit muddled up: the first point calls for a past unreal conditional sequence, which would have required a pluperfect or imperfect subjunctive in the protasis as well as the apodosis, i.e. nec venissem / venirem, nisi fata locum sedemque dedissent; in turn, the perfect indicative (veni) that we do get might lead one to suppose that Aeneas wanted to continue with a purpose clause: ‘I didn’t come to wage war with your people’: nec veni, ut bellum cum gente gererem / geram.16 But Aeneas, after the nisi-clause, continues with another main clause (the nec links the perfect veni and the present gero) that neatly sidesteps the untoward implications of a purpose clause, by which he would have conceded that he has been waging war with the Latins. Instead, he asserts that this is precisely not the case: his enmity towards the Latins is a misunderstanding, promulgated by the FAKE NEWS media (a.k.a. Fama). Aeneas is either unaware of — or deliberately misrepresents — the facts of the matter, namely that the Latins were keen to go to war, whereas their king Latinus was not. See 7.583–86 (ilicet infandum cuncti contra omina bellum, | contra fata deum perverso numine poscunt. | certatim regis circumstant tecta Latini; | ille velut pelago rupes immota resistit — ‘Straightway they all, against the omens, against the prophetic utterances of the gods, with perverse will clamour for unholy war. With emulous zeal they surround the palace of King Latinus. He, like an unmoved cliff in the ocean, resists’) and 7.616–22 (Juno opening the gates of war in the temple of Janus since Latinus refuses). But concentrating animus on individuals — rather than an entire people — is a smart rhetorical move.

What are we to make of the grammatical mess here? The ‘irregular’ conditional sequence (perfect indicative active — pluperfect subjunctive) is arguably indicative of Aeneas’ conflicting outlook, caught as he is between a counterfactual ideal (see 4.340–44: if he had his wish, he would still live in Troy) and the need to adjust to present realities. The possible substitution of a main clause for a potential clause of purpose is smart rhetoric, advancing the main objective of his speech, i.e. to drive a wedge between the Latins and Turnus; but the tricky grammar, compounded by more at 115, may (also) be a give-away: see below on 120–21.

locum sedemque: locus refers to a geographical location; sedes implies the right to settle. JH: So this –que is meant to smear into one equivocation the (glaring) trouble with Aeneas’ pitch: the Trojan refugees have ‘landed’ in Italy, fine; but their claim to a right to ‘settle’ there is precisely what is in dispute. No wonder his rhetoric is ‘entangling’ him here, because there’s no getting away from the fact that the Trojans are by now an elite fighting force who mean to stay, and call it Destiny! Right now, any patriotic Latin could easily hear Might dictating terms for what is Right. Diplomacy is, of course, also war, the war with words, grandiloquence from generalissimos, a major part of Virgil’s presentation of arma virumque.


rex nostra reliquit | hospitia: interlaced word order, with rex … reliquit (reinforced by alliteration) and nostra … hospitia (broken up by the enjambment) going together: the ties of hospitality initially brokered in Book 7 have come apart. On the institution of hospitium, see e.g. Patterson (2006a: 141): ‘Essentially this was a relationship between two men of similar (elite) status who belonged to different communities, and entailed the obligation to provide each other with hospitality and (if appropriate) other forms of assistance. The relationship could be symbolised by the casting of a bronze plaque known as a tessera hospitalis.’ He notes that ‘although hospitium was originally — and continued to be — a relationship between individuals, we can also see during the Republic the development of formalised links between leading men at Rome and communities collectively, which we find continuing (in a way) in the ties of civic patronage familiar from the late Republic and Empire’; or Lomas (2012: 202–3): ‘Hospitium appears to be a relationship which could cover a wide range of different uses and degrees of contact. Its basic function was to provide a relationship of reciprocal hospitality, which could be solemnised and recorded by an inscribed tessera hospitalis, which may have been kept as proof of the relationship. Hospitium was a hereditary relationship, and could link families together over several generations. There is persuasive evidence that from an early date many communities in Italy were linked together by personal relationships of this type between leading citizens.’


et Turni potius se credidit armis: The genitive Turni depends on armis. The sentence works an antithesis between nostra and Turni and hospitia and armis, with the two verbs reliquit and se credidit mapping out Latinus’ apparent change of mind. JH: Latinus faced and was faced down by a demo of protesting patriots led by Turnus, and washed his hands of the whole show with a suitable volley of doomy execrations in 7. If Latinus was running his kingdom when he negotiated with Aeneas to make them a ‘we’ (nostra), and he’s still running it now, then what could explain why the Latins have marched out to fight the Trojans other than that he has broken this ‘us’ apart and hooked up with Turnus instead? Unlike us, Aeneas hasn’t been told that Latinus has ‘dropped the reins’ of power (7.600), and ‘was ordered to formally declare war on Aeneas’ people’ (7.616–17).


aequius huic Turnum fuerat se opponere morti: the main clause is aequius … fuerat, which is pluperfect indicative, where one could have expected the pluperfect subjunctive (fuisset). But Virgil might have opted for the former to express a past (if unrealized) obligation on Turnus’ part. aequius … fuerat introduces an indirect statement with Turnum as subject accusative and opponere as infinitive. huic goes with morti: the deictic pronoun accompanies a gesture by Aeneas to the corpses still littering the battlefield: this death here, which, (so the implication) afflicted undeserving others because of Turnus’ cowardice. This rhetoric playing between (and with) realities and hypotheticals latches onto that of 112–13.

aequius: the notion that Aeneas brings into play here — aequitas — calls up a fundamental principle of Roman legal thought. iustitia means ‘justice’, aequitas ‘fairness’ — if iustitia is associated with (positive) law (ius), aequitas refers to the ‘spirit of the law’ in guaranteeing equal and fair treatment (cf. the principle summum ius summa iniuria — the interpretation of law strictly by the letter can lead to injustice; aequitas provides a countervailing force). See e.g. Adolf Berger’s definition of aequitas (aequum) in Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman Law (1953: 354): ‘Related to justice (iustitia, iustum) but distinguished from positive law, ius. One of the fundamental principles which direct or should direct the development of law; it is the corrective and creative element in such development. A law which is guided by aequitas is ius aequum its antonym is ius iniquum. In the legal sphere aequitas may be realized either by interpreting the existing law or by supplementing it where an exact legal provision is missing. Aequitas, as the word itself indicates, implies the element of equality.’ Turnus was under no legal obligation to seek out single combat with Aeneas; but it would have been in the spirit of heroic ethics to face up to the challenge rather than let others die on his behalf. The statement implies that the Latins were badly let down by their leader. For aequitas as an imperial virtue, see Noreña (2001: 157–58; and 2011: 63–67).


si bellum finire manu, si pellere Teucros | apparat, his mecum decuit concurrere telis: a mixed condition with the protasis in the present indicative (apparat: Turnus is still planning to repulse the Trojans), and the apodosis in the perfect indicative (decuit: referring to the opportunity just missed to confront Aeneas in single combat on the battlefield). apparat governs two infinitive constructions, with the verbs and their accusative objects in chiastic order: bellum finire :: pellere Teucros. The double construction contains the implied message that any peaceful resolution to the war, without resort to further violence (cf. manu), would mean conceding that the Trojans are here to stay (see on 112–13).


vixet cui vitam deus aut sua dextra dedisset: vixet the contracted form of the pluperfect subjunctive (= vixisset). The antecedent (is) of the relative pronoun cui is implied: ‘He would have lived, to whom…’). The subjects of the relative clause, linked by aut, are deus and sua dextra, with the singular verb (dedisset) agreeing with the closest. Aeneas recognizes that in warfare martial prowess alone (sua dextra), while essential, may not suffice to secure victory — another (rather more intangible) factor is divine support or sheer luck (deus).


nunc ite et miseris supponite civibus ignem. Saunders (1925: 354) draws attention to the fact that the Latin envoys begged for the bodies of their fallen warriors to be entombed (11.102–3): ‘The expression tumulo succedere terrae does not preclude burning the dead and putting the ashes in the tumulus but the choice of the word corpora as its subject lends color to the belief that the oratores had inhumation in view. Moreover, the gracious tone of Aeneas’ reply makes it probable that his command to burn the Latins was not a refusal to allow them to employ their particular rites but was merely an unconscious reflection of his own familiar practice.’


dixerat Aeneas. illi obstipuere silentes | conversique oculos inter se atque ora tenebant: Heavy tautology: obstipuere, silentes, and ora tenebant are virtual synonyms: they were dumbstruck, standing in silence and averting their eyes, and kept their voices in check. The –que after conversi links the two participles silentes and conversi, the atque the two main verbs obstipuere and tenebant. The reaction of the envoys could indicate that they acknowledge that Aeneas has a point: they are shamed into silence, confronted with a mixture of rebuke and generosity, realizing that they have done Aeneas an injustice — by holding an unjustifiably negative opinion of him. They are shamefaced: put to shame by Aeneas’ magnanimity, and now feel shame at their unwarranted negative views of his character.

JH: On the other hand, silence in narratives is indeed always pregnant, there to prompt us to fill it in. And so, the excessive emphasis here amounts to an invitation, a prod even, to find difference in — between — these reactions: these envoys have got more than they bargained — or asked — for, from this response to their request/s. For example, this Trojan Strong Man has told them what’s what, iron fist in velvet glove / he betrays telltale discomfort with his own spin through his tricksy grammar / he totally misreads the political situation in HQ Latium / he gets Turnus’ role as the rival he needs to dispose of dead right / he’s out to drive wedges between the Latins / he’s delivered a challenge as an ultimatum (see further on 132). As for us readers, we are being told in no uncertain terms, for one more of the umpteenth times in Aeneid 7–12, that settling a war was once upon a time doable through man–at–arms–to–man–at–arms single combat. Making like the Wild West, or the Later Roman Empire, or… . In the end, Book 12 will set about forcing us to get on board with this and accept both that this must happen and, into the bargain, we (must) want it to.

obstipuere: the alternative third person plural perfect indicative active (= obstipuerunt).

Extra information

Virgil’s scenario here had an interesting afterlife in later epic. See e.g. Statius, Thebaid 2.173–75 and Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 4.187–92 (with Murgatroyd 2009: 114) — as well as Juvencus, a fourth-century-CE poet, who versified the Gospels in an epic entitled Evangeliorum Libri Quattuor with the help of much Virgilian idiom. In Matthew 22, Jesus engages in learned disputation with the Pharisees and other religious groups and ends up besting them in argument, ultimately striking them dumb: ‘And no man was able to answer him a word: neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions’ (Mt 22:46: et nemo poterat respondere ei verbum neque ausus fuit quisquam ex illa die eum amplius interrogare). Juvencus’ versified account of this incident reads as follows (4.51):

talia salvator; cuncti obstipuere silentes

[So spoke the Savior; all stood silent, stunned.]

For a reading, see McGill (2016: 239): ‘The description of the response to Jesus varies Mt 22:46, which states that no one could reply to his words and that no one afterward dared to ask him more questions. “All stood silent, stunned” is cuncti obstipuere silentes. This recasts illi obstipuere silentes at Virgil, Aen. 11.120, describing the reaction of the members of the Latin embassy when Aeneas grants them a truce to bury the dead, states that he would have always preferred peace, and offers to fight Turnus in single combat to settle the war. While modern critics find ambiguity in the Latin reaction, Juvencus could well have followed the lead of Drances, the embassy’s head, and seen in their thunderstruck silence admiration for Aeneas (see Aen. 11.123–26). Juvencus might have then wished through allusion to imply that all felt similar admiration for Jesus.’

11.122–132: Drances Lets Rip

The introduction of the character Drances and his speech can be divided into four components of 2+ lines each, with one significant departure from the pattern:

122–24a: Drances

124b–26: Drances’ praise of Aeneas

127–29a: Drances’ promise of support for Aeneas and his Trojans

129b: dismissal of Turnus

130–31: Drances’ promise of support for Aeneas and his Trojans (cont.)

132: unanimous support for Drances’ speech

Tum senior semperque odiis et crimine Drances

infensus iuveni Turno sic ore vicissim

orsa refert:

‘o fama ingens, ingentior armis,

vir Troiane, quibus caelo te laudibus aequem?


iustitiaene prius mirer belline laborum?

nos vero haec patriam grati referemus ad urbem

et te, si qua viam dederit Fortuna, Latino

iungemus regi.

quaerat sibi foedera Turnus.

quin et fatalis murorum attollere moles


saxaque subvectare umeris Troiana iuvabit.’

dixerat haec unoque omnes eadem ore fremebant.

Put differently, we first get Drances (bold) and Aeneas (italics) separately (122–26 = 6 lines); but the two parties merge (bold italics) (127–31 = 6 lines). The odd one out is Turnus (underlined), whom Drances sends packing: once he is eliminated, nothing stands in the way of the peaceful integration of Latins and Trojans. Turnus is effectively isolated and dismissed in a syntactic unit that sharply contrasts in mood and tense (quaerat is in the present subjunctive) with the futures referemus, iungemus, and iuvabit. Interestingly, Virgil couches the run-up to Drances’ response in the same language he used to set up Turnus’ reply to Allecto in Aeneid 7.435–36: Hic iuvenis vatem inridens sic orsa vicissim | ore refert (‘now the youth, mocking the seer, thus in turn takes up the speech’).

A closer look at Drances:

Drances is ‘a purely Vergilian invention who does not appear in other accounts of Aeneas’ adventures in Latium’ (Burke 1978: 15). Virgil makes him one of the highest-ranking Latin statesmen: in the great war council later on in the book, he speaks right after the king.17 The run-up to this speech includes a more extensive portrait of his character, worth a closer look (11.336–42):

Tum Drances idem infensus, quem gloria Turni

obliqua invidia stimulisque agitabat amaris,

largus opum et lingua melior, sed frigida bello

dextera, consiliis habitus non futtilis auctor,

seditione potens (genus huic materna superbum


nobilitas dabat, incertum de patre ferebat),

surgit et his onerat dictis atque aggerat iras:

[Then Drances, hostile as before, whom the renown of Turnus goaded with the bitter stings of furtive envy, lavish with his wealth and even better with his tongue, though his hand was cold in battle, in counsel deemed no mean adviser, strong in stirring discord (his mother’s high birth ennobled his lineage; from his father he drew obscure rank), rises and with these words loads and heaps high their anger.]

In terms of agnatic lineage (paternal ancestry), his pedigree is obscure; on the (less important) maternal side (cognatic lineage), he belongs to the socio-political elite (nobilitas is an anachronism: in its technical sense, it refers to the segment of the Roman republican ruling elite that had a consul in its ancestry). He cannot hack it in warfare: Turnus, in his reply, mocks him for his unwarlike character (11.389–91: imus in adversos—quid cessas? an tibi Mavors | ventosa in lingua pedibusque fugacibus istis | semper erit?).18 But he is rich, eloquent, and a pretty effective counsellor — though liable to stir up unsettling emotions (seditione potens: not necessarily revolution, but still engaging in unhelpful agitation). He argues for peace and reconciliation, but does so at least in part because of gnawing envy and hatred of Turnus’ (military) glory. One of his Homeric equivalents is Thersites — the ugly commoner who ignominiously abused his betters, only to receive a beating by Odysseus (Iliad 2.225–67). In comparison to his memorable counterpart in the Iliad, plenty of scholars have deemed Drances eminently forgettable, owing to Virgil’s inability to endow his minor characters with enduring appeal. See, for instance, Highet (1972: 251):

Yet why is it that everyone knows Thersites, while only a few know Drances? In the Iliad Thersites is a rootless character, who appears for a few minutes and then vanishes. But the Greeks after Homer eagerly invented stories about him. They gave him noble ancestry, making him a kinsman of Diomede; they had him crippled by Meleager, killed by Achilles, and sent to the underworld. He lived on in paintings and proverbs and fantasies. After many centuries he was reborn in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, railing at Greeks and Trojans and even himself, ‘bastard in mind, bastard in valour.’ But Drances? Why did he never win such fame? Vergil could not create minor characters who came alive. The name Drances sounds unpleasant, suggesting draco and rancens [‘snake’ + ‘stinker’], but Thersites, Bragson, is more vivid and apt. Of Drances we can form no clear picture: we know his mind and emotions, not his face and form. Thersites is pictured with incomparable clarity; and while Drances merely aggerat iras, Thersites can actually be heard ὀξέα κεκληγώς / oxéa keklêgós. Nothing happens to Drances, who fades into the background with the ineffectual elders; but Thersites is publicly thrashed with a golden scepter, and sits wiping away his tears. Drances and Turnus are enemies but almost equals. Thersites makes a superb contrast with Achilles the bravest, with Agamemnon the royallest, and with Odysseus the wisest of the Achaeans. Exaggerated though he is, he is the first impressive comic figure in literature; Drances, like so many of Vergil’s people, is a voice without a body. Drances makes a better speech; Thersites is a more vital and memorable character.

At the same time, as Burke (1978: 19) suggests, he complements Turnus: ‘Drances is a bad man who supports the good cause (cessation of war); Turnus is essentially a good man who is committed to a bad cause.’ Another line of interpretation to consider is that Drances somehow prefigures Cicero — or at least the type of politician that Cicero represents — i.e. someone whose career is based above all on the mastery of persuasive oratory. See e.g. McDermott (1980) or Scholz (1999). JH: And Virgil presents politicking not in the primitive terms of a bunch of face-to-face chieftains, but with the well-developed institutions and strategies of the postlapsarian culture that his Roman readers share with us. Homer had no eye on aetiological, historicist linkage and continuity.


Tum senior semperque odiis et crimine Drances | infensus iuveni Turno sic ore vicissim | orsa refert: the –que after semper links the two attributes that modify Drances in predicative position, i.e. senior and infensus. Translators disagree on whether to construe infensus actively (‘Then Drances, an older man who had always hated the young warrior Turnus, and spoken against him, began to make his reply’: West) or passively (‘Then old Drances, loathed by the youthful Turnus for his hatred and accusations replied aloud to his speech’: Horsfall). If the former, the ablatives odiis et crimine are instrumental and the dative iuveni Turno goes with infensus; if the latter, the ablatives are causal, and the dative is one of agency. Why choose? Suppose Virgil’s syntax is studiously ambiguous, and then the loathing Drances and Turnus have for each other is entirely reciprocal. This ought to make them deserve each other, as pot and kettle. But when we see and hear them clash, we might have to reconsider (336–444, picking up the thread with tum Drances idem infensus, quem gloria Turni…).

senior … Drances | … iuveni Turno: a generational contrast reinforces the mutual hatred. JH: This contrast ought to load things along ageist lines and cash out to mean that Drances should be a responsibly hardened counsellor (as encapsulated in the semantics of senator) and Turnus a hothead. In itself that ought after all to predispose us to expect to go along with the lead Drances is about to take.

infensus: personal enmity in republican politics was dysfunctional in a system grounded in consensus. See Joseph (2012: 9, n. 27) for Virgil’s preference (shared by Tacitus) for infensus over infestus (preferred by the prose writers Cicero, Sallust, Livy, and Seneca).

orsa: the perfect passive participle of ordior here used substantivally. JH: ‘Initiative’ may be implied here, as Drances’ mouth opens where his colleagues still hold theirs (ora, 121); inset with vicissim … refert, the jingle ore … orsa may signal that his return of Aeneas’ serve matches him in ‘starting up’ more of a move than required by the job in hand. Whereabouts exactly will Drances see Aeneas, in upping the ante?


‘o fama ingens, ingentior armis, | vir Troiane, quibus caelo te laudibus aequem? | iustitiaene prius mirer belline laborum?: As Hardie (2012: 137) notes, ‘the first two lines of [Drances’] address to Aeneas are an encapsulation of the subject of the Aeneid viewed as praise poetry’. Drances indeed indulges in some succulent panegyric here, of the sort that might make you retch, but while you reach for the bucket remember that in antiquity orators had (and have) a tendency to lay it on with a trowel. As a result, it is quite difficult to draw a line between conventional and ironic hyperbole (and at times the latter may hide within the former). The late republican and early imperial periods in particular saw the need to develop an idiom in which to capture pre-eminent figures in (flattering) discourse, but any such attempt should not be reducible to flattery (or, indeed, the dichotomy between fulsome flattery and ironic subversion, authentic praise and insincere refusal). In his speech of thanksgiving addressed to Caesar for the dictator’s pardoning of his inveterate enemy Marcellus (cos. 51), Cicero uses similarly hymnic language, including, like Drances, the self-reflexive question ‘with what praise shall we extol you?’ (pro Marcello 10: quibus laudibus efferemus?). These were attempts by the subalterns to acknowledge, negotiate and hence also to limit power by establishing common ground across steep hierarchies of authority and integrating the omnipotent other into some form of dialogue and exchange. The sentence from Cicero is a case in point: the format and content resembles a hymn addressed to a divine being — but Cicero will end the speech by emphasizing Caesar’s humanity and mortality, stressing that the only kind of immortality open to him is a good reputation among future generations: whereas the sentence suggests that Caesar has stepped over the mortal-immortal divide, the speech as a whole — from the Senate’s senior statesman — retrenches the boundary. The dynamics of inflation and deflation, elevation and cutting down to size, is typical of panegyric discourse in late-republican and early-imperial Rome, where the ideals of the emperor as the primus inter pares or a princeps civilis set the politicos such an excruciating challenge.

fama ingens, ingentior armis: a spectacular chiasmus, designed climactically, with the ablatives of specification flanking the repetition of ingens. Drances’ move from positive to comparative sets up his ‘superlative’ elevation to the heaven that follows. ingens is ‘Virgil’s preferred epithet of greatness’ (Worstbrock 1963: 65); there is regularly a hint of ‘genetic’ programming, as here in anticipation of Troiane, which supposedly amplifies the degree of greatness of reputation implicit in the award of the status of vir.

armis | vir: JH: in this reprise of the poem’s thematic slogan, we are reminded that (this) epic is ‘all about’ settling the terms for glory (fama) in the register of militarism. Obviously another Thersites could never do, but would you accept Drances as the one to voice the message of your Aeneid?

vir Troiane: Aeneas was already the recipient of this ‘flatteringly honorific’ address at 10.598 (Harrison 1991: 220, who notes that vir here has the sense of ‘hero’).

quibus caelo te laudibus aequem?: the interrogative adjective quibus modifies laudibus. Here, Drances suggests that Aeneas deserves to be elevated to the heavens, but is unsure which words of praise are best suited for the task. He thereby tweaks two orthodox panegyric ploys: the rhetorical question and the protestation that discourse is unable to capture the greatness under consideration. In panegyric, the sky’s the limit, though potentially a perilous one. As long as the elevation in question remained figurative, we are dealing with rhetorical hyperbole. But in the Graeco-Roman imaginary, rising up to the sky was also literally possible: witness the giants’ attack on Mt. Olympus and the practice of deification. Drances’ phrasing suggests that he conceives of the elevation (primarily) in terms of a rhetorical exercise; but the words he uses render Aeneas larger than life, an ontological category apart. (Pace Horsfall and Fratantuono, who seem curiously certain that we don’t even catch a whiff of flirting with deification here.) JH: The score so far? Drances pushed the boat out in 124, which acknowledges that Aeneas just spoke from a position of superior military strength (armis), but pulled away from that by designating his words as panegyric while so far leaving the honorifics at the unvarnished ‘You’re from Troy’, which may not amount to much in terms of a reputation as a warrior. How much glory Aeneas is going to secure in Latium from his deeds up to Book 10 remains to be seen, but is meanwhile claimed as in Drances’ gift.

prius: the primary sense of the adverb is temporal (‘at an earlier time’), but it also can be used (as here) to weigh preferences (‘rather’): see OLD s.v. 2.

mirer: a deliberative subjunctive; miror (a deponent) is here construed with the genitives iustitiae and laborum, coordinated by the interrogative particles ne … ne… . The genitive of specification belli is dependent on laborum. JH: Here Drances the encomiast elegantly converts the ‘stunning’ impact of Aeneas’ speech on the envoys into wonderstruck ‘amazement’, as he seizes the opportunity to dramatize his rhetorical mastery of the calculus of (pseudo-)‘dilemma’: first he pretends to separate out (i) from ‘repetition’ (of ingens) fama vs (ii) comparatively greater arma as (if) a ‘gradation’, then he sets his problem as (iii) one of ‘equating’ (to (iv) the ‘superlative’ within caelum), and now (v) he (re-)formulates this as a challenge to ‘prioritize’. But in setting up his first two-pronged phrasing in 124 he already obliged himself to ‘prioritize’ fama above armis as preceding it, and now he performatively answers his own question by setting ‘justice’ before ‘war record’. Indeed he only concocted his question in order to advertise his ‘answer’. Nice one: he meant all along to reverse his upfront ranking of armis as trumping fama in order to position arma within an overall rating in terms of fama, which we now realise preceded, so outranked, the followup phrase. For the orator, what a soldier does is always going to be represented in terms of the praise awarded his virtus. And what Drances chooses to peddle is (epic) fama — while in fact belittling arma, as belli … labores, which in the ambience of vir Troiane still speaks to the Trojans as, however ‘just’, defeated losers, rather than prospectively the triumphant victors as they are to emerge, thanks to the Aeneid, between Books 10 and 12. Ovid makes a Big Deal out of this (scandalous?) view that oratorical rehearsal of epic deeds trumps those deeds themselves when Ulysses trounces Ajax in pitting their rival claims to inherit Achilles’ arms, and in the process re-narration of the Iliad is displaced in this rebel epic by rhetorical controversia (staged debate) (Metamorphoses Book 13).

iustitiae … laborum: Drances, self-servingly, rates Aeneas’ ethical qualities higher than — or as high as — his martial deeds. Cicero opts for the same panegyric strategy with respect to Caesar in the pro Marcello. At issue is the phenomenon of self-restrained omnipotence. JH: Appositely, Drances undercuts his acknowledgment of the upper hand Aeneas’ recent victory has (may have?) handed him, by casting victory as ‘toils’ — and the present negotiations are indeed precisely marking one phase in a so-far unconcluded chain of ‘sufferings’, which has resulted in losses inflicted on both sides, a Pallas for every Mezentius. That is the immediate, and maybe the only, business in hand.


nos vero haec patriam grati referemus ad urbem | et te, si qua viam dederit Fortuna, Latino | iungemus regi: after his praise of Aeneas, Drances’ focus shifts to himself and the Latin envoys. The prominently placed nos (first person pronoun in the nominative plural) claims right away that he speaks for all of them and he asserts his authority through the discourse particle vero (‘in truth’). haec, the accusative object of referemus, are the words (and attitude) of Aeneas. patriam turns out to be NOT the accusative singular of the noun patria, –ae, f. (‘native land’), as we are bound to anticipate, but the accusative singular of the adjective patrius (pater + ius), modifying urbem in pronounced hyperbaton and anastrophe (regular word order would be ad patriam urbem), a design that foregrounds urbem, placed climactically at the end of the verse and thus feeding into alignment of Drances’ speech with the authorial discourse of the proem. grati is an adjective in the nominative plural, in predicative position to nos (‘as grateful ones’) in lieu of an adverb (‘gratefully’).

The et joins the two main verbs referemus and iungemus, the latter taking te as accusative object and Latino regi (dative singular of rex, rather than the present passive infinitive of regere) as indirect object. The word order is mimetic: at the moment, Aeneas (te) and King Latinus (regi) stand far apart — a distance Drances is intent on bridging.

iungemus also functions as the apodosis of a conditional sequence. qua = aliqua (after si, nisi, num, and ne, the ‘ali–’ gets dropped). The idiom is somewhat odd: one would expect the adjective to modify via, rather than Fortuna: ‘if Fortune has granted any kind of way’, rather than ‘if any kind of Fortune has granted a way’, which implies a curious fragmentation of the divinity. The type of ‘coming together’ covered by iungere covers a range of possibilities: the basic meaning is ‘to put animals together in the yoke’, but iungere can refer to the (physical) joining of any two things and in socio-political contexts often has the meaning of ‘to unite’ (in marriage, in friendship, in alliance). In a sexual sense, it means ‘to join in intercourse’ (venerem iungere = to have sex). The notion of two discrete units being joined together is a vital concern of the entire poem: the aborted mingling (in all senses of the word) of Trojans and Carthaginians constituted an unsuccessful dress rehearsal for the drama that plays itself out in the second half of the poem and sets up the (more or less successful) integration of the Trojan refugees in Italy. JH: Here though, in responding (as if) empathetically to Aeneas’ speech (quaenam … fortuna, 108), Drances insinuates that when he ‘joins together’ the two separate matters of reporting back to base and intervening in Latinus’ future state policy, it will be on the same — non-conditional — terms, as surely as iungemus joins referemus, and as surely as | et joins the two promises, | nos … ad urbem | to te … Latino |. Once again Virgil’s orator signals what he is doing, as he does it, so as to do it. This is more flash rhetoric redoubled.

Latino | … regi: another hyperbaton, this time reinforced by enjambment. There is an ambiguity in meaning here: Latinus rex could mean either ‘King Latinus’ (with Latinus as proper name) or ‘the Latin king’ (with Latinus as geographical adjective); Drances’ point, however, is that he is making a (bragging) claim that he will direct policy, he can guarantee it, for all that Latinus is (supposedly) king.


quaerat sibi foedera Turnus: quaerat is a iussive subjunctive. Drances dismisses Turnus and his concerns with spiteful glee. Essentially, Turnus is here cast out — ostracized from his community, left to fend for himself. foedus is a term that affords deep insights into the way the Romans thought about the world, carrying associations of a formalized ritual alliance: see further Gladhill (2016). JH: Notice that Drances again smuggles in acquiescence to the idea that the deputation implicitly represents a plea, as if cap-in-hand: as he offers Aeneas a deal off his own bat (read: submission, throwing in the towel…), he lets him understand that that’s what the delegation has come to ‘request’, to ‘get for’ — Latium.


quin et fatalis murorum attollere moles | saxaque subvectare umeris Troiana iuvabit.’ The –que after saxa links the two infinitives governed by iuvabit, i.e. attollere and subvectare. Drances, in his eagerness to show what a willing subordinate he wishes to be, uses a husteron proteron by speaking of the construction (walls) before the building material (stones). The phrases resemble each other in design, both featuring a hyperbaton (fatalis … moles; saxa … Troiana) in chiastic order (adjective : noun :: noun : adjective) and alliteration (murorum, moles; saxa, subvectare). Drances’ idiom, and in particular the phrase fatalis murorum … moles, recalls the (extended) proem, combining the references to fate (1.2: fato profugus) and walls (1.7: altae moenia Romae) in the opening lines with the reference to tremendous effort (moles) in the proem’s concluding verse (1.33: tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem). As Smith (2005: 140) puts it (though underplaying the extent to which the proem here resonates): ‘Drances evokes the Aeneid’s prologue through his allusion to wall building, an activity evocative of the entire mission. The synecdoche of walls for the city of Rome indicates the extent of Drances’ desire for his people to be among those who lay the very foundations of Aeneas’ new empire.’ JH: Drances again parrots Aeneas back to him (fata 112), accepting his claim to be set on ‘a spot to settle’ (112), and in this final flourish he thoroughly enjoys coming up with the answer to his own rhetorical question of 125: These phrases are the praises he showers on Aeneas, prioritizing ‘lifting him to heaven’ by picturing his vanquished enemies ‘raising up his massive walls’ for him, before and above the scenario of those same enemies ‘submitting’ themselves to hard labour (post-war, contrast 126 belli laborum). When Drances joins these two propositions together, they team up vertically, ‘lifting up’ by ‘shouldering under’. He may be promising (as if) on behalf of nos (127), not just himself, not just the envoys, not just ‘King’ Latinus, but the whole Latin people: the impersonal verb iuvabit allows the equivocation. But one thing’s for sure, he’s really been enjoying himself already.

quin: quin here functions as an emphatic adverb (rather than a conjunction), ‘introducing a statement that corroborates and amplifies what precedes’ (OLD s.v. 2): not only does Drances hold out the prospect of a ‘working alliance’; he even offers hands-on, servile support for Aeneas’ project of empire-building.

murorum … moles: JH: this is where the envoys came in (100, cf. 98–99 ad altos | … muros), and as we have noted it is where the epic project lifts us, to the proem’s goal, altae moenia Romae | (1.7), building with every verse. The famous epic topos that is up next will feature the alta … fraxinus and actas ad sidera pinus, amplified by intertextual weight, and sensory overdrive (sound, smell, anthropomorphization), and keeps the rhetorical amplification a-swelling. It both tops off the ‘truce’ episode and is (only) preparatory for the extended series of pyres built and lit by first Arcadian–Trojan–and–allies, and then the corresponding Latin versions (139–224). We will be put through a staggered ordeal of community-wide grief culminating in a chorus of heartfelt execration of war — and encouraged to join in.

saxa … Troiana: a truly abject surrender of cultural identity: the stones are, if anything, Italian, but in Drances’ discourse already turn into Trojan building material. Drances essentially bows his native knee to the colonial master. He accepts the yoke — and takes pleasure from it (iuvabit).

subvectare: the so-called frequentative or intensive form of subveho: Gildersleeve & Lodge 138. Virgil also uses it for motion from river bank to river bank at Aeneid 6.303: ipse (Charon) … ferruginea subvectat corpora cumba (‘in his murky skiff he ferries the bodies’). Drances here asserts that the Latins will gladly undertake an equally menial and mindless, repetitive and laborious, task on behalf of Aeneas and his Trojans, as if already reduced to subject status. Virgil’s choice of the frequentative here nicely feeds into his characterization of Drances as unctuously subservient.


dixerat haec unoque omnes eadem ore fremebant: the –que after uno links the two main verbs dixerat and fremebant. The arrangement of the verbs and their accusative objects (haec, eadem) is chiastic. After the articulate discourse of Drances, the group are only up to making indistinct if supportive noises.

uno … omnes … ore: a powerful show of unity and support enhanced via stylistic means, such as the juxtaposition of one (uno) and all (omnes), hyperbaton (uno … ore, a phrase that embraces omnes and eadem — one + all + the same), and alliteration (omnes, ore). At face value, all of the Rutulians suddenly speak with one voice: that of Drances. JH: But they ‘bay’, they don’t ‘speak’, they still keep their ‘voice’ to themselves, or rather they consent to report back faithfully haec (127), namely Aeneas’ agreement to a truce for burying the fallen plus his challenge to Turnus. How many more of Drances’ effusions (haec) their unanimous nonverbal ‘hear-hear’ commits them to (in eadem) is still for us to speculate on: Drances pops up here to do the dirty work in the name of the deputation standing there awkwardly. As you recall they are (variously?) stunned or unwilling to come out with the response required by Aeneas’ surprise extension of the field of reference in the negotiation — which must include an element of (unauthorized, undignified) submission — and they are waiting for someone to utter the words out loud, looking round the faces in their circle to see whose mouth will open (nb os = ‘face’, featuring eyes, and = ‘mouth’) and betray the thinking behind those searching eyes. Are they all on the same wavelength, or not, and will whoever speaks mean what any, or all, of the rest would want them to… ? (= 120–21). ‘One baying mouth’ lets the mission nail the truce, which is what (or all?) they came for — but how much else of Drances’ ‘mouthing’ were they owning, with what element of affirmation? Any? The envoys have suffered a double whammy: wrongfooted by Aeneas’ ‘overtures’, they were then wrongfooted by Drances’ ‘initiative’, which goes way beyond their commission. Agreeing with Drances puts anyone else in a bind: even if you weren’t against what he sponsors, you might loathe how he puts it, and hate his cheek / panache in daring to come out with it just like that on the spot. So, as he regularly does, Virgil has plunged us right inside the politicking in diplomacy. And the Aeneid is, throughout, at least as invested in the cut-and-thrust of position-taking as in hardware.

fremebant: Moskalew (1982: 96) lists other instances in the poem (1.559–60 = 5.385–86:… cuncti simul ore fremebant | Dardanidae) and explicates the Homeric background (Iliad 1.22 = 1.376: ἔνθ᾽ ἄλλοι μὲν πάντες ἐπευφήμησαν Ἀχαιοὶ: ‘Then all the rest of the Achaians shouted assent’; and 7.403 = 9.50: ὣς ἔφαθ᾽, οἳ δ᾽ ἄρα πάντες ἐπίαχον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν: ‘so he spoke, and all the sons of the Achaeans shouted aloud’). Varro, Lingua Latina 6.67, includes fremere in a list of onomatopoetic words.

11.133–138: An Epic Case of Peaceful Deforestation

The abrupt transition from talks to action coincides with a change in narrative pace, well captured by Adema (2017: 80): ‘Once the Latins and Trojans have made their arrangements, they immediately start with the actions following from their arrangements. There seems to be no time for talking any more and the only sounds presented by the narrator are the sounds of axes and falling trees (ferro sonat; evertunt … pinus). The narrator of the Aeneid here varies the rhythm of his text in order to highlight the main points in the discussion between Aeneas and, on the Latin side, Drances.’ JH: All the same, the approving noises finally emanating from the envoys, fremebant |, echo through into the pathetic fallacy — a.k.a. the empathetic poetry — in the groans of the wood hacked down to make the funeral pyres, as advertised in f-erro sonat, echoed in | fr-axinus (as if from frango, break, smash, as explicitly in Ennius’ version of the topos, see below), and carried on into the finale with gementibus. And to confirm that the embassy was all along on a quest for this, there is audible continuity in displacement when first the pines ‘raised to the stars’ are thrown down, whereas Drances looked forward to raising mighty walls (actas ad sidera 136 overturning attollere moles, 130) only to give away to the plosive wagons (plaustrum as if from plaudo, beat, clap, etc) ‘shoulder’ their load of timber to build up the pyres (vectare), where Drances conjured up Latins building up Trojan battlements by ‘shouldering’ their rocks (subvectare 131). Now, however, the oratorical jawing over and done with, the communities level with each other, their differences dissolved by pact and common purpose (134).


bis senos pepigere dies, et pace sequestra | per silvas Teucri mixtique impune Latini | erravere iugis: Virgil uses paratactic syntax: we get two main clauses linked by et. pepigere is the third person plural perfect indicative active of pango (= pepigerunt), erravere of erro (= erraverunt). The –que after mixti links the two subjects of the sentence, i.e. Teucri and Latini. Virgil brings out the current parity of the two peoples by not opting for the construction ‘x mixed with y’, which would feature one of the parties in an oblique case. The Teucri and Latini are studiously presented as grammatical equals: mixti is used in an absolute sense: intermingled, Trojans and Latins roamed…’. For mixti as ‘a key ethnographic term’ see Fratantuono and Smith (2015: 350). Here we have a ‘salad bowl’ intermingling, with each item retaining its discrete (racial) identity; the Aeneid will lead up to a ‘melting pot’ intermingling: Trojans and Latins end up intermarrying. Note that pax derives from a ‘pact’ (pango).

bis senos … dies: the adverb bis (twice) modifies the numerical adjective senos (six) which agrees in case, number, and gender with the noun it modifies, i.e. dies: twice six = twelve days. JH: ‘Twelve’ (duodecim) won’t scan in dactylic verse; but ‘twice 6’ blesses the pact with an enabling / mood-setting touch of reciprocal equality between the two parties to the bargain. It’s as if they volunteered one week each, but didn’t discriminate to which side each week belonged — now this fortnight was theirs to share. And ours to enjoy, straightforwardly, airbrushing Drances right out of mind: Dilke (1967: 325) even saw meta-literary meaning in the emphatic placement of bis senos at the opening of the tableau, in numerically pinpointing Virgilian design: the previous six verses (127–132) covered Drances’ promise to report back to base re the truce and now the following six verses (133–38) deliver on said truce, i.e. we are dealing with a segment made up of 2 x 6 verses (which, as noted, end respectively with subvectareore fremebant | and vectare … gementibus ornis |). This may be corroborated at once in the phrasing of pace sequestra, which has ‘the truce follow’ as the upshot of the negotiations.

pace sequestra: nominal ablative absolute (i.e. an ablative absolute missing the participle — ‘with peace as mediator/ by the mediation of peace’). The phrase is challenging. Peace, personified, functions as mediator and guarantor between the warring parties that the terms of the agreed truce will be kept. Gebhardt (2009: 254, n. 25) notes that in Roman civil law the sequester is a trusted person charged with keeping safe an item that has become the object of a legal quarrel, citing the Digest 50.16.110 (“sequester dicitur, apud quem plures eandem rem, de qua controversia est, deposuerunt: dictus ab eo, quod occurrenti aut quasi sequenti eos qui contendunt committitur). On this basis he argues that in our passage here ‘peace’ (as it were) functions as arbiter between the two warring parties (‘Bei Vergil fungiert der Friede gleichsam als Vermittler zwischen den beiden Kriegsparteien’).

In what one might call a paxadox given Rome’s zest for military conquest, pax is a key Roman value. But its semantics, especially in late-republican times, are anything but simple.19 As Lavan (2017: 102–3) puts it:

It is clear that Romans saw no contradiction in idealising peace and militarism simultaneously. Many scholars who have noted these incongruities have explained them by positing that pax means different things in the spheres of domestic politics and foreign relations, denoting concord in the former and the subjugation of enemies in the latter. Although it has its uses as a first approximation for those unfamiliar with the Latin language of pax, this dichotomy is reductive. It collapses the ambiguities that gave the language of peace such enduring appeal. Even when writing about subject peoples, Roman writers often use pax to denote the absence of internal conflict and external threat as well as conformity to the Roman order. Moreover, the distinction between domestic and foreign spheres is often blurred. Indeed, it is precisely its capacity to denote any or all of civic concord, stability in the provinces and expansion in the periphery that made it such a strong and persuasive word for both rulers and subjects.

(i) pax was usually the outcome of military conquest that established Rome as the superior party in the agreement. A fragment of Suetonius (citing our passage from the Aeneid) rehearses possible modes of suspending or ending a state of war, such as armistice, treaty, or peace (Suetonius, Reliquiae, fr. 276 Reiff):

INDVCIAS FOEDUS et PACEM hoc interest, quod induciae numero dierum finiuntur, quod et sequestram pacem appellant ut ‘pace sequestra bis senos pepigere dies’; foedus in perpetuum aut in annorum certum numerum feritur; pax cum eo populo conponitur, qui imbecillior est altero praevalente, qui existimet tutius esse sibi descendere in condicionis pacis quam dubiam belli fortunam experiri.

[The difference between Armistice, Treaty and Peace is that an armistice (induciae) is for a limited number of days, which they also call a ‘truce’ (sequestra pax) as does Virgil: ‘through a truce they arranged a twelve-day cessation of hostilities’. A treaty (foedus) is struck forever or a certain number of years; peace (pax) is established with a people that is weaker than the other more powerful one and considers it safer for itself to enter into the condition of peace than to gamble on the uncertain outcome of war.]

As Gladhill (2016: 23) notes: ‘Suetonius focuses on the differing ways a cessation of war might come about. Pax establishes a recognized and accepted imbalance of power between victores (conquerors) and victi (conquered). Indutiae is a cessation of violence until a later point in time when pax can be settled. Foedus, here, potentially negates the brutal consequences of pax by preemptive measures of alliance, which in most cases acknowledges a superior party, and like pax, an aeternum foedus institutes this imbalance in perpetuity.’ The notion that pax is the result of a decisive military victory remains a crucial element also in Augustan ideology: as the first princeps says himself in his Res Gestae (13), his was a peace secured by victories (parta victoriis pax) — very much in line with the prevalent idea that victory on the battlefield manifests more than anything else the support of the gods and the divinely sanctioned right to rule.20

(ii) But not just subjugation: a cynical take on the Roman politics of peace on the basis of military conquest could stop here. At least in discourse, however, the correlation of peace and power in ancient Rome turn out to be more complex: ‘Pax was no longer a pact among equals or peace but submission to Rome, just as pacare began to refer to conquest. But submission guaranteed peaceful life and the Romans liked to stress this point.’21 As Lavan (2017: 112, n. 9) notes, citing Weinstock, much subsequent scholarship ignores the qualification in his last sentence and exclusively emphasizes domination and subjection, without regard to the benefits the Romans thought (their) peace would bring, brushing this aspect aside as mere rhetoric. But, he goes on to argue, there is no such thing as ‘mere’ rhetoric: we should take the language of power seriously.22 As Lavan (2017: 112) points out, the ideology informs the actions and (self-)perceptions of both rulers and subjects: ‘The language of peace-making is obviously ideological in that it ascribes a larger purpose to Roman expansion. If anyone was “duped” by this, it was surely the imperial elite as much as their provincial subjects. It allowed them to see themselves as working in the service of a grand project of almost cosmological ambition.’ For what it is worth, some passages, even in the work of an author as cynical as Tacitus, concede that the provinces came to see the benefits of peace guaranteed by autocratic presence. And for our purposes (with the focus on the analysis of a literary text) discourse and ideology are just as important as the imperial realities on the ground — and the question to what extent Roman rule lived up to Roman ideology.

(iii) The language of pax and the paradoxes of civil warfare: if initially bellum was between the Roman populus and another (foreign) people, increasingly violent conflicts erupted that pitched one element of the Roman community (broadly conceived) against another. Internal conflict in late-republican Rome included instances of politically motivated murder, outright civil war between different factions of the Roman oligarchy, but also the Social War between Rome and its allies (91–89 BCE), which led to an extension of Roman citizenship. (The legal inclusion of large swathes of the population of Italy, which had first turned from ally into enemy, only to become an integral part of the enlarged civic community, challenged historical notions and boundaries of ‘self’ and ‘other’.) In this period, terms traditionally used to define the relation between Rome and foreign powers (bellum, pax, hostis, but also such institutions as the triumph: can you triumph in civil war?) came to be applied to scenarios internal to Rome.23 The (paradoxical) phrases bellum civile and bellum sociale began to be bandied about to capture the realities of communal infighting;24 and citizens were turned into enemies by means of legal (and rhetorical) ‘hostis-declarations’, joining other measures such as the senatus consultum ultimum, designed to empower consuls at moments of (internal) crisis. Conversely, pax (as the antithesis of bellum) also acquired prominence in domestic discourse to describe a desired condition of internal peace. See Cornwell (2017b: 88): ‘War (bellum) and peace (pax) were part of the language through which one described the enemies and subjects of the res publica. The fear of the situation in the 40s drew on the language of war and its external aspect to contextualise relations between Romans, and in turn brought the concept of pax more explicitly into discussions of domestic stability.’ Both Cicero and Caesar are much invested in the concept in the run-up to (and during) the renewed outbreak of civil war in 49 BCE, the former in an attempt to play the role of peace-broker, the latter in order to cast his enemies as the true warmongers.

(iv) The Augustan settlement: complex tussles over the meaning (and the proprietorship) of internal peace remained part of Roman political discourse after Caesar’s victory (and his assassination: Cicero notably interrelates ‘genuine’ pax and libertas in the Philippics) and continued until the battle of Actium in 31 BCE, culminating in the way Octavian chose to represent the conflict: by casting the confrontation as one between East and West (tota Italia), Egypt and Italy, he re-established clear faultlines between ‘self’ and ‘other’ — while recognizing that there were (debased) Roman elements fighting on the other side. The solution to the confrontation remained complete military victory (rather than reconciliation). It formed the basis for peace (pax) and a revival of aristocratic concordia in an autocratic key.

(v) The Aeneid: Virgil’s epic offers a profound engagement with this complex history of war and peace on various levels, not least in the way he conflates external and internal warfare in the second half of the poem. The status of the conflict between Trojans and Rutulians (or, more broadly, Latins) is unequivocally ambiguous: is it a war between two distinct peoples — or a variant of civil war? After all, it turns out, much to our surprise, that Aeneas’ lineage, according to the poem, hailed initially from Italy — and the warring parties will ultimately merge into one people. Even on the intertextual level, internal and external confrontations resonate in equal measure: if we read the second half of the Aeneid against the Iliad, we get a foreign invasion (with the Trojans cast as conquerors); if against the Odyssey, a homecoming that results in suicidal slaughter. In addition to these large-scale analogies with late-republican developments, in particular the situation in which two parties belonging to the same entity are at loggerheads with one another, Virgil’s epic invites us to ponder issues of relevance in early Augustan Rome, such as the willingness to resolve conflict without resorting to arms (as Caesar presented himself doing in his commentarii de bello civili and Cicero pursued as well); the possibility (some would call it inevitability) of armed conflict and the emergence of an undisputed victor as the only lasting solution; or the need to find terms of coexistence and integration for a community split apart by violent conflict. The advantage of the aetiological idiom is always that it systematically eludes secure discrimination between what was once but has changed since, and what persists, however much original clarities have lost shape, altered formulation, or got buried on the way; but pertinence is never lost, nor active power in understanding and (re-)creating the future by reflecting back through the centuries and ruminating on the (hi)story.

per silvas… | erravere iugis: lit. ‘through the woods … they roamed on the ridges’. Virgil splits the idea of ‘wooded mountain-ranges’ into per silvas (‘through the woods’) and iugis (‘on the ridges’). The scenario brings to mind the opening of Aeneid 6 when Aeneas and his men arrive in Italy and engage in similar freedom of movement: see Gildenhard (2012: 240–43). JH: As peace follows, it unfolds into an evocative scene (p-ace s-equestra | > | p-er s-ilvas – overturned twice in s-onat .. bi-p-enni | … s-idera p-inus |, 135–36) — and here in this temporary island of innocence the woods are full of precisely these sounds, from start to peroration, without cessation (… nec p-laustris ce-ss-ant, 138). Right away, however, both sides commit drastic ‘mistakes’ by ‘wandering’ recklessly out in the woods and getting ‘mixed up’ with enemy troops; but neither pays for their indiscipline because both ‘let each other off’. The truce effects the temporary ‘mercy’ just negotiated (venia, 101, 107 ~ impune, 134).


ferro sonat alta bipenni | fraxinus, evertunt actas ad sidera pinus, | robora nec cuneis et olentem scindere cedrum | nec plaustris cessant vectare gementibus ornos: parataxis continues with three main clauses (sonatevertuntcessant), the first two in asyndeton, the second and third linked by et. The nec … nec… coordinates the two infinitives (scindere, vectare) governed by cessant.

Virgil here intertwines two catalogues, one featuring trees, one the different steps it takes to fell them (Schmidt 1997: 64–65). Presented in the form of a table we have the following sequence (see Schmidt 1997: 65):






Carrying off











As Schmidt points out, though all trees of course undergo the full procedure, each tree is associated with a specific (and specifically appropriate) activity: the tough wood of the ash tree (fraxinus) resounds when set upon with axes; the tallness of the pine trees (actas ad sidera…) makes them a fitting object of evertunt; the oak tree (robur) is particularly ‘fissile’, and splitting the cedar (cedrus) has distinct odiferous consequences. The catalogue comes full circle with another reference to a (specific kind of) ash tree, the mountain ash (ornus), which is a particularly heavy kind of wood — hence it serves nicely to underscore the effort involved in carrying off the timber.

ferro … alta bipenni | fraxinus: note the interlaced word order (ferro … bipenni, alta … fraxinus), reinforced by enjambment and the chiastic sequence of nouns and adjectives (noun : adjective :: adjective : noun). As a result, the twin blades of the axe (bipenni) are firmly embedded in — and are cutting apart — the tall (alta) ash tree (fraxinus).

fraxinus … pinus: both fraxinus and pinus are nouns of feminine gender, but fraxinus (second declension) is in the nominative singular (the subject of sonat), whereas pinus (fourth declension) is in the accusative plural (the object of evertunt; the subject is ‘they’, i.e. both Trojans and Rutulians).

actas ad sidera pinus: with plants, ago (basic meaning: ‘to drive’) in the passive can have the meaning ‘to grow’ — so ‘pine trees having shot up to the stars’.

vectare: the frequentative form of veho (see on subvectare, 131 above).

gementibus: JH: recall that heroic warriors are routinely likened to trees in the wood (esp. robora, 137): the violence inflicted on this primeval forest loudly evokes the carnage that produced the sterling corpses in need of cremation, in turn resulting in ‘toppled’ and ‘cleft’ dead trees now being loaded onto their own kind of ‘bier’ as they are carried off to (make) the pyres, and setting off ‘groans’ of grief. Already in the description of the felling, epic narration has flown at supersonic speed (Fama volans) to prequel and give notice of the scene ahead, which develops the keening that marks the arrival of Pallas’ cadaver (tanti prae-nuntia luctus). Just as fremebant was to leak into the truce’s gementibus, so plaustris … gementibus will now leak straight into plangentia … agmina …, clamoribus, gemens (145–50), as the Arcadians ‘crash down’ (ruere, 142), snatch pinewood torches, and set the street alight with flames, with all this epic noise as good as ‘setting the city on fire’ (incendunt clamoribus urbem, 147, like another pyre), with their king ‘crashing down’ on his son’s body (procubuit, 150, like another Virgilian pitch pine) and winding up this section with climactic ‘groaning’ of his own (gemensque |, 150), to match the end of the previous section’s close with gementibus ornos |, 138).

ornos: as we noted, the ornus is a particular type of ash tree (fraxinus).

Extra information

The massive deforestation here depicted by Virgil has intertextual and intratextual precedents, as his ancient readers realized. The prototype of the scene occurs in the penultimate book of the Iliad, when the Greeks make preparations for the funeral of Patroclus (Iliad 23.110–24):

ἀτὰρ κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων


οὐρῆάς τ᾽ ὄτρυνε καὶ ἀνέρας ἀξέμεν ὕλην

πάντοθεν ἐκ κλισιῶν· ἐπὶ δ᾽ ἀνὴρ ἐσθλὸς ὀρώρει

Μηριόνης θεράπων ἀγαπήνορος Ἰδομενῆος.

οἳ δ᾽ ἴσαν ὑλοτόμους πελέκεας ἐν χερσὶν ἔχοντες

σειράς τ᾽ εὐπλέκτους· πρὸ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ οὐρῆες κίον αὐτῶν.


πολλὰ δ᾽ ἄναντα κάταντα πάραντά τε δόχμιά τ᾽ ἦλθον·

ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δὴ κνημοὺς προσέβαν πολυπίδακος Ἴδης,

αὐτίκ᾽ ἄρα δρῦς ὑψικόμους ταναήκεϊ χαλκῷ

τάμνον ἐπειγόμενοι· ταὶ δὲ μεγάλα κτυπέουσαι

πῖπτον· τὰς μὲν ἔπειτα διαπλήσσοντες Ἀχαιοὶ


ἔκδεον ἡμιόνων· ταὶ δὲ χθόνα ποσσὶ δατεῦντο

ἐλδόμεναι πεδίοιο διὰ ῥωπήϊα πυκνά.

πάντες δ᾽ ὑλοτόμοι φιτροὺς φέρον· ὣς γὰρ ἀνώγει

Μηριόνης θεράπων ἀγαπήνορος Ἰδομενῆος.

[But the lord Agamemnon sent forth mules and men from all sides from out the huts to fetch wood; and a man of valour watched thereover, Meriones, squire of kindly Idomeneus. And they went forth bearing in their hands axes for the cutting of wood and well-woven ropes, and before them went the mules; and ever upward, downward, sideward, and aslant they fared. But when they were come to the spurs of many-fountained Ida, forthwith they set them to fell high-crested oaks with the long-edged bronze in busy haste; and with a mighty crash the trees kept falling. Then the Achaeans split the trunk asunder and bound them behind the mules, and these tore up the earth with their feet as they hasted toward the plain through the thick underbrush. And all the woodcutters bore logs; for so were they bidden of Meriones, squire of kindly Idomeneus.]

The first surviving literary tree-felling in Latin comes from Ennius’ epic Annals (the precise context is unfortunately unknown, though Skutsch imagines the fragment as coming from Book 6, which covered Rome’s war against Pyrrhus). See Annals 175–79 Skutsch:

Incedunt arbusta per alta, securibus caedunt,

percellunt magnas quercus, exciditur ilex,

fraxinus frangitur atque abies consternitur alta,

pinus proceras pervortunt: omne sonabat

arbustum fremitu silvai frondosai.

[They stride through the lofty copses. They hack with their axes: they send great oaks flying, the holm oak is cut down, the ash smashed and the towering fir laid low, they overturn tall pines: the whole copse resounds with the leafy wood’s rumbling.]

Some critics have felt that Ennius’ art is over the top (Newman 1967: 93):

The irregular rhythms here give a strange effect. In the first hexameter we start with spondees and the solemn processional word incedunt, but this slowness is followed by a weak, light caesura and dactylic fourth and fifth feet. A spondaic line ensues, then comes a largely dactylic third line with much coincidence of accent and ictus. In the fourth line we are back to spondees, with heavy alliteration. In the last line there is another unexpected development: after a straightforward beginning with spondee and dactyl we find at the end a spondaic fifth foot and violent assonance. There is throughout the lines emphatic repetition of sounds, notably s, c, p, fr. What is wrong with this passage of Ennius is that there is too much art. The slow march through the forest, the quicker dactyls for the wielding of the axes, again spondees for the felling of the mighty oaks, the more rapid fall of the lighter ashes and firs, back to spondees for the pines, s alliteration for the rustle of leaves in the forest, and the final triumphant flourish of the assonance in silvai frondosai.

In Aeneid 6 (another funerary context: Aeneas and the Trojans need to bury the bugle-player Misenus), Virgil rewrites the exuberant Ennian passage in a modernizing key (6.176–82):25

tum iussa Sibyllae,

haud mora, festinant flentes aramque sepulcri

congerere arboribus caeloque educere certant.

itur in antiquam silvam, stabula alta ferarum;

procumbunt piceae, sonat icta securibus ilex


fraxineaeque trabes cuneis et fissile robur

scinditur, advolvunt ingentis montibus ornos.

[Then, weeping, they hasten to carry out the Sibyl’s orders without delay and strive to pile up trees for the altar of his tomb and raise it to the sky. Into the ancient forest they go, the deep lairs of wild beasts; the pitchy pines fall, and the ilex rings to the stroke of the axe; ashen logs and splintering oak are cleft with wedges, and from the mountains they roll down huge ash trees.]

The two accounts have offered prime material for ‘compare and contrast’ exercises ever since antiquity.26 See for instance Williams (1968: 260–67) or Goldberg (1995: 83–84): ‘Vergil recalls Ennius through the borrowing of significant details, the strategic placement of key words, and more generally through his greater interest in the trees than the woodcutters. He deftly modernizes the prosody (thus fraxineae replaces the archaic scansion fraxinŭs), and he lightens the metrical effects, or at least brings his own passage to closure with a less extraordinary set of spondees. One great poet thus pays homage to another and in doing so declares both the ancestry and the progress of Latin epic.’ Hinds (1998: 13) offers a metapoetic reading of the allusive relationship: ‘Itur in antiquam silvam: on this interpretation the allusion includes its self-annotation; the epic project of the poet is seen to move in step with the epic project of the hero. As Aeneas finds his silva, so too does Virgil: the tour de force of allusion to poetic material from the Aeneid’s archaic predecessor, the Annales, is figured as a harvest of mighty timber from an old-growth forest — in a landscape (that of Aeneid 6) charged with associations of awe and venerability.’ JH: Similarly, watch Book 11’s ensemble cast wander in amongst the lumber that constitutes the ‘raw materials’ (silvae) from which the epic topos is assembled — and ‘pay no penalty’ for so doing. It’s all in a good cause.

11.139–151: Mourning Becomes Evander

The funeral procession for Pallas reaches his hometown Pallanteum, anticipated by news of his death. In addition to the narrative sequence, the verses also map out a topography of grief, with distinct positions for individuals and collectives in an overall chiastic order that brings out different degrees of affiliation and affliction:

Et iam Fama volans, tanti praenuntia luctus,


Evandrum Evandrique domos et moenia replet,


quae modo victorem Latio Pallanta ferebat.

Arcades ad portas ruere et de more vetusto


funereas rapuere faces; lucet via longo

ordine flammarum et late discriminat agros.

contra turba Phrygum veniens plangentia iungit



agmina. quae postquam matres succedere tectis


viderunt, maestam incendunt clamoribus urbem.

at non Evandrum potis est vis ulla tenere,


sed venit in medios. feretro Pallante reposto

procubuit super atque haeret lacrimansque gemensque,


et via vix tandem voci laxata dolore est:


  • Bold (A1 and A2) = Evander and Pallas
  • Italics (B1 and B2) = Arcadians
  • Bold italics (C) = Trojans
  • Shaded = Individuals and collectives

The passage begins and ends (A1 and A2) with a focus on father (Evander) and son (Pallas). In between, we get the Arcadians as a collective, first generically (B1), then with reference to a specific subgroup (mothers: B2). And at the very centre (also in terms of line-distribution: 6 + 1 + 6), we get a reference to the Trojans (turba Phrygum) that accompany the corpse (C). The sequence of 3 + 3 + 3 + 4 verses ensures that the forceful framing receives further quantitative emphasis: Virgil dwells more on the father Evander (7 verses) than the rest of the Arcadians and the Trojans (6 verses). The mourning procession towards the city, which is met by mourners streaming out of it, and the fields ablaze with funeral torches form the apocalyptic backdrop for the father Evander coming face-to-face with the corpse of his son Pallas. In fact, the passage oscillates, and blurs the distinction, between city and countryside: domos et moenia (140), ad portas (142), agros (144), tectis (146), maestam … urbem (147); and it alternates in its emphasis on sound and sight, including some synaesthetic blurring in the striking formulation maestam incendunt clamoribus urbem, which imports the visual effects of the funeral torches (cf. incendunt) into the auditory articulation of grief (cf. clamoribus).


Et iam Fama volans, tanti praenuntia luctus, | Evandrum Evandrique domos et moenia replet, | quae modo victorem Latio Pallanta ferebat: Virgil here returns to the narrative sequence involving Pallas. Depending on the speed with which Fama operates, iam can either be understood as referring to the time that has elapsed since (a) Pallas’ death in Book 10 or (b) the departure of the procession accompanying the corpse at 11.99.

Fama volans: volans is the present active participle of volo, volare, ‘to fly’ (to be kept distinct from volens, the present active participle of volo, velle, ‘to want’. Rumour flies elsewhere in the poem (3.121, 4.184, 8.554) and in her personification in Aeneid 4, one of Fama’s features are wings. But her role has shifted: ‘Fama, so constantly associated with marriage earlier in the epic, brings news of the youth’s death’ (Nelis 2001: 324). This, so Nelis argues, is part of a larger thematic nexus in the Aeneid that intertwines wedding and death: ‘Employing a motif from Greek tragedy, Vergil shows Pallas is marrying Death rather than a human beloved. Pallas, like Nisus, Euryalus and Camilla, is an example of doomed youth and the death of all these tragic figures is inextricably connected with their sexuality’ (321). For the role of Fama in and as the epic (and more specifically Book 11) see further Hardie (2012) and Clément-Tarantino (2017).

tanti praenuntia luctus: praenuntia stands in apposition to Fama (or fama), governing the objective genitive tanti … luctus.

Evandrum Evandrique: the archetype of this kind of polyptoton ‘where a proper name is repeated, although a genitive or possessive pronoun would have sufficed’ (Wills 1996: 34) goes back to Homeric formulae. See e.g. Iliad 1.255: ἦ κεν γηθήσαι Πρίαμος Πριάμοιό τε παῖδες [‘Priam surely would rejoice and the sons of Priam’] or Iliad 4.47: καὶ Πρίαμος καὶ λαὸς ἐϋμμελίω Πριάμοιο [‘and Priam and the people of Priam, armed with a good ashen spear’]. He argues that the Homeric formulae constitute an intertext here: ‘The parallel in sense between Evander, king of the new Troy, and Priam is so clear that no verbal echo is needed, for the repetition device is sufficiently marked to make the association: Euandrum Euandrique domos ~ Πρίαμος Πριάμοιό τε παῖδες. Although Evander has parallels to Priam, the mere mention of Evander’s name does not alone evoke Priam; nor is domus entirely the Latin equivalent for the Greek παῖδες or λαός. Rather, some other marking must be added — here it is the repetition of the king’s name in an unusual syntagm, grammatically otiose but literarily allusive’ (1996: 37–38).

replet: repleo tends to feature as a two-unit verb, with an accusative being (re-)filled by an ablative; and in instances without one or the other, the missing component can often be easily understood. The usage here is not quite so straightforward. We have three accusative objects, linked and grouped (1 + 2) by –que and et (i.e. Evandrum, domos; moenia) that Fama fills up — but with what? Herself? Or grief (luctus)? Or both? The ambiguity may be deliberate, to reinforce the meaning of tanti praenuntia luctus — what is filling up Evander and his city is not yet grief itself, but the foreboding of grief. The phrase tanti praenuntia luctus thus serves as an elegant substitute for two missing ablatives (say, rumore and luctu). What’s not in doubt is that this marker rhetorically programmes the new scene, which will couch communal grief for the fallen in terms of ‘family and polity’, articulated through the king as father: Virgil promises a ‘fully packed’ epic tableau of properly organized high-octane exsequies.

quae: the antecedent of the relative pronoun is Fama (139). We are dealing with a different — indeed antithetical — piece of rumour, disseminated by one and the same Fama.

modo: here in the temporal sense of ‘just recently’: the sudden shift from triumph to tragedy is a pointed reminder of the vagaries of fortune in warfare.

victorem … Pallanta: victor, here as predicative complement to Pallanta (‘she carried Pallas as victor’), is a key noun in the Aeneid, and also in Book 11 (see also 4, 44, 92, 247, 397, 565). At 10.463 Pallas imagines himself in a prayer to Hercules as victor over Turnus (victoremque ferant morientia lumina Turni): naturally, Fama has overheard the utterance and picks up on Pallas’ own wishful thinking.

Latio: commentators debate whether we are dealing with an ablative to be construed with victorem — in Latium (indicating location, though some suppose an adversative sense: ‘The talk was no longer of Pallas, conqueror of Latium’ — so West) or a dative to be construed with ferebat (to Latium).

ferebat: ‘The force of the imperfect is that the news of the victory was still being disseminated when the reversal of his fortune started to be announced’ (Fratantuono 2009: 60). The use of ferre here, in the sense of ‘to announce’, with reference to insubstantial and ultimately unsubstantiated news, anticipates referre at 163, where it refers to the bringing back of Pallas’ body, on the feretro of 149 (linking back to the cortège as it left us, cf. on 64–65). The grim irony twists the knife in the mental wound, as the two uses highlight this sick conceptual punning made from the difference between ‘fake news’ and ‘material presence’.


Arcades ad portas ruere et de more vetusto | funereas rapuere faces: the husteron proteron (the Arcadians will first have snatched the funeral torches and then rushed to the gates) enacts the haste and confusion that takes hold of the community in reaction to the grievous news.

ruere … et … rapuere: alternative forms of the third person plural perfect indicative active (= ruerunt, rapuerunt).

de more vetusto: some relate this to the Roman custom to bury children at night but Pallas’ cremation (or inhumation) does not seem to have taken place until the following dawn (see below 182–202) and the movement of the corpse here is anyway not out of, but into, the city. These torches anyhow bear their general significance, beyond highlighting Pallas’ youth. On the use of torches during funerals (by day or night) see Ochs (1993: 90):

The phenomenon of fire, for the Romans, was a reality inspiring worship. […] Fire, as a fact of nature, was both friend and foe, boon and bane. When controlled, fire warmed, lighted, and aided; uncontrolled, fire devastated and destroyed. As a symbol, fire could be both light and life as well as destruction and death. Few symbols have the richness of ambiguity that fire has. When used as a significant feature in the Roman funeral procession the lighted torches, therefore, are equally rich in rhetorical impact. The living control the torches; the deceased, like the flame, is controlled. Flames move; the deceased is moved. Torches dispel darkness; the deceased is carried into darkness. The mourners, as a collective, share the beneficial effects of the flames; the deceased is ushered toward his or her new state of existence with a visual symbol denoting both life and death. Rhetorically, the torchlit procession along with the other symbolic behaviors of marginalization, work to take the living to the edge of life and the dead to the threshold of their new state of existence. Boundaries are symbolically and actually established.

As often in this epic we find that back at the origins tradition was already age-old (so, we are to twig: timeless?). And Arcadia was typically regarded as the cradle of primeval culture.


lucet via longo | ordine flammarum et late discriminat agros: the enjambment longo | ordine nicely enacts the drawn-out nature of the torch-lit procession of mourners that comes out to meet Pallas, and matches the parade we saw leave as it reaches journey’s end (cf. 79 longo … ordine). By lining the roadside, the stampeding inhabitants of Pallanteum automatically form an ordered procession of their own (see ordine here and agmina at 146 below). Thus it is true as well as graphic that the via ‘marks out’ (discriminat) the fields far and wide, lit by the longus ordo flammarum.


contra turba Phrygum veniens plangentia iungit | agmina: Again, one would have expected the onrushing Arcadians to form a ‘crowd’ (turba) and the arriving Trojans to march as an agmen. Instead, it is the other way around: the Trojans arrive as a crowd, joining in with the seemingly well-ordered formations that meet them from the city. Virgil confuses matters further by turning the long file of torch-bearers on the path into several distinct groupings in motion (agmina). The terse depiction of the Trojans comes across as emotionally deadpan (veniens, indeed!), especially in contrast to the highly charged portrayal of the Arcadians. The contrast is reinforced by the nondescript turba vis-à-vis the highly specific agmina (a technical military term). Also, in the chiastic design of nouns and present participles (turba veniens — plangentia agmina), the second half overpowers the first in terms of both quantity of syllables and quality of semantic interest. A further emphatic touch is the enjambment of plangentia… | agmina, which mirrors that of longo | ordine at 143–44. The emphasis is appropriate. As Horsfall (2003: 129) notes, ‘above all, it is an Arcadian tragedy.’ At the same time, the phrase turba Phrygum also resonates powerfully — and links up with other passages in the Aeneid, such as 2.580: Iliadum turba. (At Seneca, Agamemnon 757, turba … Phrygum refers to the Troades, the crowd of grieving Trojan women.) JH: yet the phrasing of turba Phrygum can unpack to disgorge a primal ‘horde’ of wild Asiatic worshippers of the mother goddess Cybele (as e.g. prayed to by Aeneas on arrival in Italy, 7.139). These are as yet no Romans, they retain within them trademark exotic otherness — and can always connote the apogee of orgiastic ecstasy. It may not show, but Aeneas’ grieving Trojans are wild inside.

contra: used adverbially, with the present participle veniens.


quae postquam matres succedere tectis | viderunt, maestam incendunt clamoribus urbem: this sentence suddenly introduces a gender angle into the processing of the grievous news of Pallas’ death: the Arcades (142) who rushed out to meet the returnees, we here learn, did not include these respectable matrons (matres), who watched the encounter between the two groups and then saw the joined forces approach their homes before filling the city with their wails. The scene recalls the moment in Book 8 when the army departed, watched anxiously by the mothers who remained behind (8.592–93): stant pavidae in muris matres oculisque sequuntur | pulveream nubem et fulgentis aere catervas (‘On the walls mothers stand trembling, and follow with their eyes the dusty cloud and the squadrons gleaming with bronze’). Grieving mothers haunt Greek and Latin literature from Homer onwards, of course, but they have a particular presence in elegy and tragedy — or in such anti-epic endeavours as Catullus 64 (see 348–49: illius egregias virtutes claraque facta | saepe fatebuntur natorum in funere matres: ‘his outstanding qualities and famous deeds mothers will often admit at the funeral of their sons’). In the Aeneid, the grieving mother par excellence is Euryalus’ (9.473–502). Pallas’ own mother has already passed away, but the collective of mothers always undertook the function of performing a community’s lamentations out in public view; here they provide the right choir of extras to back and enhance the entry of the grieving father — also a time-honoured figure, going back to Homer’s Priam (and Achilles’ father Peleus). Mothers are also very much in evidence around Camilla: see below 454. More generally, grief management tends to be gendered (in the ancient world): ‘Lament is preeminently the women’s contribution to celebrating the life and death of a man or a community’ (Fantham 1999b: 221).27

quae: a connecting relative (= et ea), which refers back to the agmina (now joined by the turba) and belongs in the postquam-clause (= et postquam ea…). It is the subject accusative of the indirect statement governed by viderunt.

incendunt: incendunt arguably continues the fire imagery and the whole progress towards the pyre, but transposes it into the different discursive realm of emotional release. As heralded at the outset (140, Evandrum Evandrique domos et moenia), through the behaviour of ‘Evander’s city’ Virgil stokes up the temperature for ‘Evander’s own’ virtuoso aria. See Harrison (1991: 281) on the similar formulation clamore incendunt caelum at Aeneid 10.895: ‘sound is described in terms of bright heat, mixing the aural and the visual senses, a device known as … synaesthesia found in both Latin and Greek poetry’ (with further bibliography).

maestam … urbem: a transferred epithet (from matres, the subject of the sentence) or a touch of personification.


at non Evandrum potis est vis ulla tenere, | sed venit in medios: the subject of the first clause is vis, modified by non … ulla (= nulla), with est as verb and the adjective potis as predicative complement (‘no power was able to’). potis takes the supplementary infinitive tenere (Virgil uses the simple verb for the composite retinere), which takes Evandrum as accusative object. The subject of venit is Evander. Virgil manages to have his king ‘come’ out to join his people plainly (undemonstratively, with dignity…), but inside he’s beyond all control. (We’re not to picture anyone actually trying to hold him back by force.)

potis est: = potest.


feretro Pallante reposto | procubuit super atque haeret lacrimansque gemensque, | et via vix tandem voci laxata dolore est: the inclusion of Pallante (or Pallanta: see below), to be construed with procubuit, within the ablative absolute feretro … reposto violates standard prose word order, but achieves an iconic and poignant juxtaposition (and assimilation) of corpse and bier. Commentators are divided as to whether the intermingling of two different ablative constructions is defensible — and some prefer to read Pallanta (accusative) instead, governed by the (much delayed) preposition super (= feretro reposto, Evander super Pallanta procubuit). Those who retain the ablative Pallante construe super adverbially. JH: The instant that the bier and, laid on it, the son arrive, there is nothing on earth, no protocol or self-control, that could hold the dam of emotional expression. The call of the name explodes the human from within the father from within the king; and first his body acts out grief, then this releases the words. The speech is going to take some mighty powers of delivery… when you try doing it justice… when reading it out.

lacrimansque gemensque: et lacrimans et gemens.

et via vix tandem voci laxata dolore est: the alliterative pattern of ‘v’ and ‘x’ is perhaps expressive of ‘the convulsive sobs that choke his utterance’ (Page 1909: 368), though one could also argue the contrary, namely that ‘the voice’s alliterative way is widened by another v-’ in voci (Horsfall 2003: 132; he construes dolore as an ablative of separation). As always, you will want to worry how wayward it is to wrest potentially whimsical meanings from Virgil’s (wilful?) alliterative wonders; but Virgil did promise to ‘pack’ this tableau ‘chock-full’ of intensity…

vix tandem: ‘hardly at last’ — the two adverbs clash in antithesis, as each compromises the other. The friction generated by their juxtaposition conveys a sense of stress and emotional choking. JH: The shift from non … vis ulla to vix tandem and non … tenere to laxata … est maintains the king’s devotion to complete decorum as the measure of his ‘collapse’ into ungovernable ‘pain’. His threnos (lament) will be a true ‘epikedion’ (speech delivered over a dead body), but it will have a very distinctive twist of impassioned aggression to it, aptly in a martial epic. (Contrast material in Alexiou 1971/2002.)

152–181: Evander’s Speech (Overall Analysis)

Note of advice: Evander’s stand-out speech is long and difficult. Commentators have chewed over an unusually high number of ‘“strained”, “contorted” or “difficult” constructions or connexions of thought in these lines; they are likely to be intended as a sign of the strain under which Evander is speaking’ (Horsfall 2003: 133). The following pages try to bring the speech as a whole into view, ahead of the line-by-line commentary. But you may wish to work through the verses in detail first, before engaging with the more comprehensive analysis offered here.

1. First Orientation

The speech falls into three basic parts (with further subdivisions indicated in brackets):

Part (i) 152–63 (3 x 4) = 12 verses

Part (ii) 164–72 (5 + 4) = 9 verses

Part (iii) 173–82 (4 + 5) = 9 verses

The overriding concern of (i) is dolor (‘grief’); of (ii) the attempt to transform dolor into decus (‘honour’ or ‘glory’); of (iii) revenge. At the end of each part, Evander uses the verb ferre or one of its composites (referre, perferre), which signal the (broken) to and fro between father and son in the wider context of desire for glory in warfare and premature death.

Cutting across this tripartite structure, certain themes register throughout, including:

(a) The Human Condition (Life and Death, Beginning and End, Youth and Old Age)

(b) (Supernatural) environment

(c) Warfare

(d) Warring parties (individuals and collectives)

(e) Valour and glory

(f) Social relations and obligations

A third notable feature is the sequence of (changing) audiences that Evander addresses, between stretches in which he reflects on his own situation: his dead son Pallas, his deceased wife, the Trojans, Turnus (the killer of his son), and Aeneas (the avenger). As Barchiesi (2015: 166) points out: ‘The originality of the monologic structure is evident if one considers the articulation of the apostrophes; Evander addresses successively his dead wife (158), the Trojans present at the funeral rites (164), then again his deceased son Pallas (169), and finally the absent Turnus and Aeneas (173–75; 177–79). With this final turn Evander’s lament assumes a narrative function in the economy of the poem; not simply a manifestation of grief as an end in itself but also a message (mandata, 176) that makes Aeneas confront the necessity to exact vengeance from Turnus.’

The following is an attempt to bring out these organizing principles visually: the tripartite structure (with further subdivisions) is indicated by titles and spacing; the highlights are designed to bring out the thematic economy of the speech; the various addressees are listed in the right margin:

(i) dolor

‘non haec, o Palla, dederas promissa parenti,


cautius ut saevo velles te credere Marti.

haud ignarus eram quantum nova gloria in armis

et praedulce decus primo certamine posset.


primitiae iuvenis miserae bellique propinqui

dura rudimenta, et nulli exaudita deorum

vota precesque meae! tuque, o sanctissima coniunx,


felix morte tua neque in hunc servata dolorem!

contra ego vivendo vici mea fata, superstes


restarem ut genitor. Troum socia arma secutum

obruerent Rutuli telis! animam ipse dedissem

atque haec pompa domum me, non Pallanta, referret!

(ii) From dolor to decus

nec vos arguerim, Teucri, nec foedera nec quas


iunximus hospitio dextras: sors ista senectae


debita erat nostrae. quod si immatura manebat

mors gnatum, caesis Volscorum milibus ante

ducentem in Latium Teucros cecidisse iuvabit.

quin ego non alio digner te funere, Palla,


quam pius Aeneas et quam magni Phryges et quam


Tyrrhenique duces, Tyrrhenum exercitus omnis.

magna tropaea ferunt quos dat tua dextera leto;

(iii) Revenge

tu quoque nunc stares immanis truncus in arvis,


esset par aetas et idem si robur ab annis,

Turne. sed infelix Teucros quid demoror armis?


vadite et haec memores regi mandata referte:


quod vitam moror invisam Pallante perempto

dextera causa tua est, Turnum gnatoque patrique


quam debere vides. meritis vacat hic tibi solus

fortunaeque locus. non vitae gaudia quaero,


nec fas, sed gnato manis perferre sub imos.’

NB: Some phrases belong to more than one semantic field, and where possible this is reflected in the highlighting: for instance, socia arma (160) ‘allied arms’, invokes ‘social relations and obligations’ (adjective socia) and ‘warfare’ (noun arma) and the highlights reflect this polyvalence. In some cases, the highlighting wasn’t so straightforward: saevo…Marti belongs to both ‘warfare’ and ‘(supernatural) environment’. More generally, grouping words into semantic fields is not an exact science, and you may well come up with a somewhat different thematic fabric from the one teased out here.

2. Structure

The speech moves from grief (dolor) in part (i) to an attempt at its sublimation (decus) in part (ii) before concluding with a single-minded focus on revenge (ultio) in part (iii). Differences in grammar and syntax (especially in the use of moods and tenses — though the subjunctive features in all three parts, symptomatic of Evander protesting against reality) as well as style endow each of the three parts with a coherence of its own.

Part (i) is about the core family of father, mother, and son in a mood of personal anguish (cf. 159: in hunc dolorem). Evander moves from a focus on Pallas (4 verses: 152–55) to a series of exclamations relating to Pallas, himself, and his wife (4 verses: 156–59) to a focus on himself (4 verses: 160–63), more specifically the unbearable scenario that Pallas is dead while he is alive. The tenses and moods convey something of Evander’s difficult relation with reality: he manages to do without using the present tense in this opening part, opting for a series of highly emotive exclamations consisting of a sequence of nouns in the vocative without a corresponding verb. In his struggle to come to terms with the facts, he opts for past indicatives (perfect / imperfect / pluperfect) in revisiting key moments on the road to disaster, often in a counterfactual key: dederas (152), eram (154), vici (160), debita erat (166), manebat (in si-clause).

Part (ii) features an attempt (however feeble) to transform grief into glory. Evander strains and stretches to transform dolor into decus, to see the heroic in the tragic. This part of the speech features all three temporal levels (past – future – present), with the one future indicative iuvabit as pivot. The present indicatives (settling down) and one future indicative (prospects) signal his efforts to cope with grief productively: the discourse becomes factual about the present as Evander comes to terms with reality, before focusing on the actions to be taken. In addition to present indicatives — ferunt (172), demoror (175), moror (177), est (178), vides (179), vacat (179), quaero (180) — Evander resorts to imperatives: vadite et … referte (176). He is polite enough to restrict the use of the bossy mood to his interaction with the Trojan representatives; it is not part of his message to Aeneas himself. But in many ways, the use of the indicative to state his expectation that Aeneas is now obliged to kill Turnus is as cutting as it is polite. The prospect of future joy is squeezed out — and the future figures in a really odd conditional clause (166–68: quod si … iuvabit), which marks the transition from the block of 5 verses devoted to the Trojans, to the block of 4 dedicated to Pallas.

Part (iii): Revenge: the final part consists — in chiastic inversion — of a block of 4 verses (with a focus on Turnus and an address to the Trojans), followed by a block consisting of 5 (with the focus on Aeneas). Present counterfactuals, imperatives, and indicatives dominate as Evander now copes with grief destructively: he surrenders to an implacable desire for remorseless retribution. A novel — and deadly — sense of purpose arises from the wreckage of grief and infects the epic’s eponymous hero: if Aeneas wishes to escape the opprobrium of disloyalty and (further) failure, he needs to bring Turnus to terminal justice: a spectre of the poem’s nightmarish end, which dovetails sacrificial violence and the dawn of Roman civilization, starts haunting the narrative inexorably from now on.

3. Thematic Coherence

Several interrelated themes prevail throughout and sustain a larger, overall argument:

(a) Life and Death, Beginning and End, Youth and Old Age

Unsurprisingly, much of Evander’s thought revolves around the basic dichotomy of life and death:

  • Life: 160: vivendo vici mea fata; 160–61: superstes | restarem; 177: vitam … invisam; 180: vitae
  • Death: 159: felix morte tua; 162: animam … dedissem; 163: pompa (sc. funebris); 166–67: immatura … mors; 168: cecidisse; 169: funere; 172: leto; 173: nunc stares … truncus; 177: Pallante perempto; 181: manis … sub imos

References to beginnings, novel experiences, and youth (154: nova gloria; 155: primo certamine; 156: primitiae iuvenis; 157: rudimenta; 174: par aetas) as well as old age (165: senectae) map out a natural trajectory of growing up and growing old. Yet in Evander’s speech a chilling inversion of these basic coordinates occurs: he twins old age (or himself) with life, painfully prolonged, and youth (or Pallas) with death, traumatic and premature. Timely death becomes associated with happiness (cf. 159, about his deceased wife: felix morte tua); continued existence — as well as untimely death — with unhappiness (cf. 156: primitiae iuvenis miserae; 175: infelix).

(b) (Supernatural) environment

Evander situates his tragedy within wider parameters, not least the unpredictability of fortune. He is coping with contingency. The battlefield in particular is an unpredictable environment (153: saevo … Marte, with commentary ad loc.). He rails against his lot in life (160: mea fata; 165: sors ista): in and for him, any sense of cosmic order has become unhinged. He is explicit about the fact that the gods have refused to listen to his prayers (157–58: nulli exaudita deorum | vota precesque meae) — and given that communication with the supernatural sphere has failed, it is unsurprising that he is not interested in the divine law that sustains the universe (181: fas). His only concern are the shades that dwell in the underworld (181: manis … sub imos). The only concession to a positive sense of supernatural involvement is the choice of the attribute pius with reference to Aeneas (170), though this pietas is now being put to the test: for Evander, it boils down to his (sacrificial) termination of Turnus (in direct conflict with Anchises’ injunction earlier on in the epic to spare conquered foes…). But apart from reminding the reader of Virgil’s opening question (1.8–11), which heralds a (literary) world in which the gods do not inevitably reward piety and justice, its use here has more to do with Aeneas’ trustworthiness in human relations than his privileged position vis-à-vis the gods. (Put differently, it probably ought to be shaded, rather than underlined.)

(c) Warfare:

Lexemes to do with warfare occur on a regular basis throughout (most) of the speech: 153: saevo … Marte; 154: in armis; 155: primo certamine; 156: bellique propinqui; 161: socia arma; 162: telis; 167: caesis … milibus; 171: duces; 171: exercitus omnis; 172: magna tropaea. But given the topic, there is one significant gap: in the third part, we get only one reference to warfare (175: armis) and none at all in the final subdivision (177–81), at precisely the moment when Evander insists that it is Aeneas’ obligation to avenge Pallas by killing Turnus. This reticence about the bloodshed he desires arguably enhances the ominous nature of his discourse — and situates the revenge killing beyond the bounds of ordinary warfare, on a deeper, personal level, more sinister and primal.

(d) Warring parties:

Throughout the speech, Evander references individuals and collectives involved in the current conflict:

  • Individuals: 152: Palla; 163: Pallanta; 169: Palla; 170: Aeneas; 175: Turne; 176: regi (= Aeneas); 177: Pallante; 178: Turnum
  • Collectives: 161: Troum; 162: Rutuli; 164: Teucri; 167: Volscorum; 168: Teucros; 170: Phryges; 171: Tyrrheni duces and Tyrrhenum exercitus; 175: Teucros

The scaling back and eventual disappearance of references to the accoutrements of warfare coincide with a shift in personnel. While Evander has Pallas in mind throughout (152: Palla; 163: Pallanta; 169: Palla; 177: Pallante), his focus gradually shifts from collectives in parts (i) and (ii) (161: Troum; 162: Rutuli; 164: Teucri; 167: Volscorum; 168: Teucros; 170: Phryges; 171: Tyrrheni duces and Tyrrhenum exercitus) to a pair of individuals in part (iii) (175: Turne; 176: regi [sc. Aeneas]; 178: Turnum). The exceptions are a reference to Aeneas at the end of part (ii) (170: Aeneas), which enables Evander to bring Aeneas obliquely into play, and a reference to the Trojans (175: Teucros) in part (iii), where they function as messengers and intermediaries between him and Aeneas (rather than as a warring party). In a sense, Evander’s discourse thus offers a small-scale reenactment of the second half of the Aeneid, which also begins with large-scale warfare between diverse ethnic groupings only to culminate in the duel between Turnus and Aeneas. The two heroes clash as representatives of a wider geopolitical conflict and as individuals linked on a personal level through Turnus’ killing of Pallas.

(e) Valour

Since Homer, one way to cope with the battlefield death of a brave and youthful warrior is to see it as a source of glory — a way to acquire immortality through postmortem fame. In the first part of his speech, where the focus is very much on grief, Evander uses two key Roman terms to capture this outcome — gloria and decus. And in this opening section both qualities are modified by adjectives that depress their seemingly self-evident status as desirables: nova gloria and praedulce decus. Evander’s rhetoric tries to defy reality — and founders miserably. The terms designed to sublimate the harrowing anguish do not come fully into their own, endowed as they are with attributes that suggest that Pallas’ pursuit of battlefield fame was mistimed and misconceived. As a result the rhetoric supposed to sustain them as values appears insecure and brittle. gloria and decus are feeble proxies for a living son, and the valour he showed in the way he died affords little consolation and reassurance for the grieving father. The second part makes a valiant effort to locate some triumph in the tragedy, as Evander recalls Pallas’ heroic deeds within the wider context of Aeneas’ historical mission. He died for a worthy cause (169: digner) and with honour after an impressive performance on the battlefield (172: magna tropaea; tua dextera). Evander also tells himself that Pallas, too, will find the thought pleasing — though the use of iuvabit (168) is decidedly odd (see below). So the attempt at transforming dolor into decus remains feeble and arguably fails. As Seider (2013: 152) puts it: ‘When Evander does eventually view his son’s body, his words match the bitterness of Euryalus’ mother’s and forgo the expansive perspective of Aeneas’. Evander’s grief has the potential to indict any celebratory view of Pallas’ death even more forcefully than the words of Euryalus’ mother, for Evander speaks as one who is an elite member of society and who himself sent Pallas off to war.’

The last term belonging to this semantic field occurs in part (iii): 179: meritis. Evander employs it to single out the killing of Turnus as the last item still missing from Aeneas’ CV — implying at the same time that failure to complete this task would gravely compromise his previous achievements. Again, heroism gets refocused: the end is not glory, but the remorseless pursuit of revenge. The telos of Evander’s narrative is not the founding of Rome, but the termination of Turnus…

(f) Social relations and obligations

Evander dwells on his core family of father, mother, and son: 152: parenti; 158: sanctissima coniunx; 161: genitor; 167: gnatum; 178: gnatoque patrique; 181: gnato. But just as his prayers proved inefficacious, the promises he received from his son turned out to be empty (162: dederas promissa). Pallas was too trusting (153: credere). The breakdown of his family unit, with him as sole survivor, was ultimately caused through his alliance with the Trojans (161: socia arma). He emphasizes that he does not hold the Trojans responsible for the death of his son and his personal tragedy (164–65: arguerim; foedera; quas | iunximus hospitio dextras) — even to the point of blaming himself for living too long (166: debita). But he does insist, in the third part, that Aeneas is now under an obligation to avenge his son (176: mandata; 179: debere). The right hand (165, 178) bonds and kills — and in Aeneas’ case, it needs to do both: he cannot shy away from his responsibility to kill Turnus as Evander will hold him to account for his failure to bring his son back alive.

4. Overall Argument — And How it Fits into the Poem as a Whole

A cluster of themes, then, resounds throughout, adding up to an argument about the world Evander lives in, as defined by his most recent experiences (the arrival of Aeneas and the Trojans, the tragic alliance, the loss of his son) — and the ensuing challenges to position himself within it, both on the personal and the socio-political level. He remains committed to a normative vision of the world that has turned out to be counterfactual — and accordingly rails, counterfactually, against reality, invoking notions of equity, parity, justice in the human sphere (174: par aetas), all grounded in a cosmic order guaranteed by responsive divinities (157–58: deorum, vota precesque; 181: fas): for him, any sense of this cosmic order has collapsed. He lives in a world of rampant contingency, brutal disruptions, unfair encounters, and inattentive gods — and attempts to redress the balance by righting the wrongs through further death and destruction — but none of this is oriented towards a bright future: it is cast as a commitment to the dead. At the end, there is only darkness visible. Evander is one of Virgil’s several characters who is profoundly disillusioned and harmed to the core of their being. Like Dido, he henceforth avowedly finds a raison d’être in revenge, as the only meaningful pursuit in a joyless existence.

It is not the celebratory pomp that dominates Evander’s grief; what keeps him going is the desire for revenge. Hatred, not pride, triumphs over despair. We get the sequence of deep despondency — pathetic pride — relentless hate. In his speech the prospect of glory flashes up briefly before being drowned again in a toxic brew of grievous and implacable wrath, as he signs off by issuing Aeneas with a straightforward mandate: terminate Turnus. As such, Evander gives fresh impetus to the pursuit of warfare for purely personal reasons: he is not interested in foedera or pax; all he wants at this stage is revenge. The logic of payback on the individual level runs alongside the geopolitical agenda in which Aeneas and Turnus represent their respective peoples. The intertwining also operates here: in Evander’s speech the patchwork ethnic profile of pre-Roman Italy is very much to the fore: Etruscans, Rutulians, Volscians, etc. The multiplicity of peoples will eventually disappear, subsumed within an emergent Roman identity. But, at the moment, and within the epic narrative more generally, the ‘human interest’ level takes precedence: on this level, violent emotions are even more difficult to keep in check than on the socio-political level. Throughout the Aeneid explores the impact of the personal (often in the form of women: Dido, Amata) on the political, tapping into experiences and emotions to which readers cannot fail to relate. If kings are especially useful to traditional narratives because they span the person and the symbolic metonym (standing for a people), nonetheless, in Augustus, Virgil’s Rome was rapidly sampling the structural logic of monarchy for real, after many centuries of a system run on Republican sociopolitical lines.

Evander here seals the tragedy of Turnus. His keynote (and, indeed, his entire discourse) pick up on Virgil’s gnomic conclusion to Pallas’ fatal showdown with Turnus at 10.500–9, when the Aeneid’s narrator breaks cover for a rare — exclamatory — intrusion:

quo nunc Turnus ovat spolio gaudetque potitus.

nescia mens hominum fati sortisque futurae

et servare modum rebus sublata secundis!

Turno tempus erit magno cum optaverit emptum

intactum Pallanta, et cum spolia ista diemque

oderit. at socii multo gemitu lacrimisque


impositum scuto referunt Pallanta frequentes.

o dolor atque decus magnum rediture parenti,

haec te prima dies bello dedit, haec eadem aufert,

cum tamen ingentis Rutulorum linquis acervos!

[In this spoil Turnus now exults and glories in its capture. O the mind of mortals, ignorant of fate and what the future holds in store and how to keep a measure when uplifted by favouring fortune! To Turnus shall come the time when for a great price he will wish Pallas had been ransomed unharmed, and when he will loathe those spoils and that day. But with many moans and tears his comrades throng round Pallas and bear him back laid out on his shield. O Pallas, about to return home as a great grief and a great glory to your father, this day first gave you to war, this also takes you from it, the day when yet you leave behind vast piles of dead Rutulians!]

Virgil here ponders the future implications of the showdown between Turnus and Pallas (as well as its immediate aftermath, Turnus’ despoiling of the corpse).

11.153–163: O Pallas, Ardent for some Desperate Glory…

In youthful exuberance, Pallas entered the duel with Turnus confidently predicting that his father Evander would be fine with either a glorious victory or a praiseworthy death in defeat (10.449–51):

‘aut spoliis ego iam raptis laudabor opimis

aut leto insigni: sorti pater aequus utrique est.

tolle minas.’

[‘Soon I shall either be praised for having won supreme spoils or for a glorious death: my father is equal to either lot. Away with your threats!’]

He is, in other words, blithely oblivious to the nature and depth of Evander’s paternal affection. Tellingly, in the opening third of his speech, Evander initially dwells on the foolish rashness that tends to overcome young warriors like his son when faced with their first experience of battle. Ignorance and youthful naiveté result in the tragedy of a premature death. He anticipated the possibility of a tragic outcome at the moment Pallas and Aeneas departed for war, and in lines 157–63 he revisits his parting words from Aeneid 8.572–84 (cited above 225–6). At the moment of departure, Evander prayed for either one of two scenarios. Option A had both him and Pallas come out of this alive (and if Pallas returned, Evander would have happily endured any kind of toil or misery). The ‘unspeakable’ (578: infandum) Option B saw both of them dead: if it was Pallas’ fortune to get killed in battle, Evander yearned for instant death (or at least before he had to hear the news). What he absolutely did not want was to survive the demise of his son — but this is precisely what has come to pass, as he himself intuited when he broke down at the end of his speech.

The outlook he adopts in this opening part resembles that of Euryalus’ mother grieving for her son in Aeneid 9.473–502. But then his discourse takes a decisive turn. See Fantham (1999b: 225): ‘In his anguish the old man utters a speech almost identical in its opening movement to that of Euryalus’ mother, longing for his own death […], but it moves ahead from backward-looking grief to the need for vengeance on Turnus. Rather than delay the Trojans from renewing the action, Evander thinks as a commander and addresses his chosen successor, sending a last message or challenge to Aeneas: it is his duty to father and son to take Turnus’s life.’


‘non haec, o Palla, dederas promissa parenti, | cautius ut saevo velles te credere Marti: commentators disagree on how to connect lines 152 and 153. Two possible solutions are:

(i) to assume an implied participle modifying parenti (such as petenti): ‘Not these, o Pallas, were the promises you had given to your father [as he entreated you] to entrust yourself to savage Mars with caution’;

(ii) to understand ut … velles in the sense of utinam … voluisses, i.e. as a self-standing main clause, articulating a counterfactual wish in the past (with imperfect for pluperfect subjunctive for greater vividness), which has the advantage of making the comparative cautius easier to understand: ‘Would that you had entrusted yourself to savage Mars more cautiously!’

The supplementary infinitive credere takes both an accusative object (the reflexive personal pronoun te) and a dative (saevo … Marti): ‘to commit yourself to savage warfare’.

Evander’s address to Pallas forcefully recalls that of Aeneas at 11.42–48, in particular lines 45–46: non haec Evandro de te promissa parenti | discedens dederam (‘Not these were the promises about you [sc. Pallas] that I gave to Evander when I parted’). Aeneas blames himself; Evander shifts the blame onto his son (and thereby implicitly exculpates Aeneas — he will do so explicitly later on in his speech). For him, the causes of Pallas’ death are the reckless enthusiasm of youth and the villainy of Turnus. The mourning of Aeneas and Evander, lexically intertwined as it is, is therefore, in Alessandro Barchiesi’s words, ‘reciprocally integrated and strategic, weaving a sort of dialogue from afar that prepares and makes necessary the concluding vendetta’ (Barchiesi 2015: 166). In so doing, he departs from Homeric precedent: ‘Vergil has reworked the literary form of the funeral lament into an instrument of narrative anticipation; in this lies its absolute independence from the Iliad, where the laments for Hector are rather an effective means of conclusion and closure’ (ibid.).

haec … promissa: promissa (‘assurances’, ‘promises’) is the perfect passive participle of promitto, here used as a noun.

cautius: the adverb (in the comparative) belongs in the ut-clause; its proleptic placement at the beginning of the line gives it the requisite emphasis.

saevo … Marti: For the metonymy see above 297. The hyperbaton is arguably expressive of the all-enveloping nature of war.


haud ignarus eram quantum nova gloria in armis | et praedulce decus primo certamine posset: Evander now explains why he beseeched his son to be cautious before letting him go into battle: the swell of pride in armed combat and the opportunity to distinguish oneself in battle tend to overpower any level-headed risk assessment. As Conte (1986: 190) observes: ‘Deaths suffered with naive confidence, with disenchantment, are all the more bitter because of the contrast between what the heart had wished and what reality, with heedless cruelty, has imposed — and precisely during the first experience, when enthusiasm is greatest.’

haud ignarus eram: ‘I was not ignorant’ = ‘I knew full well’: a negative (haud) and a negative (ignarus) cancel each other out, producing a forceful positive — a stylistic device known as litotes. So ‘| You didn’t, … | I wasn’t…’.

quantum … posset: an indirect question (hence the imperfect subjunctive posset), with two subjects (gloria and decus): ‘how potent are…’

nova gloria in armis: the basic meaning of gloria is ‘honour’ or ‘glory’ actually earned, but it can also refer to ‘prospective glory’ or shade into the (negative) sense of ‘(false) feeling of pride’, which the term has here: Pallas glories in his armour, which he wears into battle for the first time, and perhaps also his initial victories, and therefore begins to overestimate his abilities. For negative gloria (vainglory) see also 11.708.

praedulce decus primo certamine: decus is an unequivocally positive synonym of the basic sense of gloria, i.e. (shining) ‘honour’ or ‘glory’. Evander manages to introduce a touch of negativity via the attribute praedulce. The ‘prae–’ introduces the notion of excess (‘oversweet’), again implying that the rush of adrenaline (or, to stay with the image of praedulce, sugar high) Pallas experienced after winning his first few encounters clouded his judgment and he threw caution to the winds; and a denunciatory barrage also starts here, pre-suming pre-mature ambition and juvenile pre-cocity in the kid debutant (primo, primitiae, rudimenta).


primitiae iuvenis miserae bellique propinqui | dura rudimenta, et nulli exaudita deorum | vota precesque meae!: Evander bursts into a series of vocatives:

  • primitiae … miserae, further qualified by the genitive iuvenis;
  • dura rudimenta, further qualified by the genitive belli propinqui;
  • vota precesque meae, further qualified by the past participle exaudita, to be construed with the dative of agency nulli, on which the partitive genitive deorum depends.

The cola of the tricolon crescens are linked by the –que after belli and et. The –que after preces links vota and preces.

primitiae iuvenis miserae: a difficult phrase. The basic meaning of primitiae is ‘first-fruits’, and the word, which Aeneas had used with respect to Mezentius (see 15–16 above), here arguably refers to Pallas’ initial victories, which caused him to overestimate his abilities and to take on Turnus despite his youth — with disastrous results (hence miserae). To gloss, rather than translate: ‘o wretched first-fruits of victory that cause the young to get themselves killed’.

bellique propinqui | dura rudimenta: rudimentum here means ‘a first attempt’ or ‘initial trial’. Richardson (1933: 6) notes that the adjective propinqui ‘has been taken either of place — e.g. “bitter prelude of the war upon our borders”… — or of time — e.g. “cruel essay of impending war”’. He argues that the sense here continues the emphasis Virgil lays on Pallas’ inexperience of war and translates: ‘his harsh noviciate in war brought home to him.’ (Cf. 8.556, before the outbreak of hostilities: propiusque periclo | it timor et maior Martis iam apparet imago: fear comes closer because of the danger and the image of Mars now looms larger.)

nulli exaudita deorum | vota precesque meae: the perfect passive participle exaudita is in the nominative neuter plural, agreeing with vota (but also to be construed with preces). A votum is a ‘vow’, i.e. a solemn promise made to a god to do something (such as building a temple or performing a sacrifice) in return for a service or favour; a prex is a prayer or entreaty to a divinity. The former appeals to the gods’ sense of utilitarian reciprocity, the latter to their kindness and pity towards those who turn to them for support. In Evander’s case, the gods proved indifferent to both the bargain and the plea. nulli is dative of agency with the participle exaudita (‘… granted by none of the gods’).


tuque, o sanctissima coniunx, | felix morte tua neque in hunc servata dolorem!: Evander continues in vocative mode, now calling on his dead wife: her timely death has saved her from the pain of seeing her son dead. Put differently, she was granted (felix does imply divine blessing) what he asked for in vain, i.e. a timely death that would have spared him the news that his son has fallen.

Virgil plays with the language of Roman funerary epitaphs, in which husbands mourn for their deceased wives. Here the emphasis shifts from a premature death to be mourned to a timely death to be celebrated — because it spares the deceased excruciating anguish in the here and now. (A parallel is the opening of Cicero’s Brutus, where Cicero argues that Hortensius died just in time, on the eve of Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, thus sparing himself the painful experience of civil war and the rise of autocracy in Rome; for the topos of ‘timely death so as to eschew the experience of acute grief’, see also de Oratore 3.7.)

sanctissima: the attribute captures the sanctity of marriage as an institution. See Ferri (2003: 368) and Brenk (1999a: 128): ‘What is absent from Vergil is the Homeric sense of the sacredness of all nature. [Unlike Homer’s use of the Greek equivalent hieros,] Vergil restricts the application of sanctus to objects, which have a special relationship with the divine.’ With specific reference to our passage, he notes that ‘in the case of coniunx the primary stress is probably on “faithful,” “chaste,” but with the added connotation of “revered dead”’ (131).

neque: links felix and servata.

in hunc servata dolorem!: servo here means ‘to keep’, ‘reserve’ for a specified purpose. To articulate this purpose, Latin can use various constructions: the dative or the prepositions + acc. ad and (as here) in. See OLD s.v. seruo 8. in hunc … dolorem refers to the grief over the premature death of their son.


contra ego vivendo vici mea fata, superstes | restarem ut genitor: ego and mea fata correlate antithetically with tu (158) and morte tua (159): after the addresses to his dead son and his dead wife, Evander’s thoughts turn to himself as he articulates his despair at being alive. The diction recalls the words of Mezentius weeping over the body of his dead son Lausus, who died protecting his father (10.846–49):

‘tantane me tenuit vivendi, nate, voluptas,

ut pro me hostili paterer succedere dextrae,

quem genui? tuane haec genitor per vulnera servor

morte tua vivens?…’

[‘My son, did such desire to live get hold of me that in my place I suffered you, whom I fathered, to meet the enemy’s hand? Am I, your father, saved by these wounds of yours, living on through your death?…’]

vivendo vici mea fata: OLD s.v. fata 4. The formulation is doubly paradoxical: it turns on its head the idea that no one is able to outlive their allotted time on earth (see Appendix Vergiliana, Catalepton 13a: ferrea sed nulli vincere fata datur: ‘but to no-one it is given to overcome iron fate’); and the unnatural notion that the natural order of a mortal’s destiny has been broken is further enhanced by the ablative of means vivendo — simply by living. The phrasing further exacerbates the contradiction by running together the ideas of life / winning and death / destiny.

superstes | restarem ut genitor: the anastrophe of ut and the unusual word order foreground the paradox that the father (genitor, emphatically and effectively placed at the end of the ut-clause) is alive (superstes), while the son is dead. superstes (…) and restarem (…) play etymologically with stare and the prepositions super– and re–: over and above, and left behind.


Troum socia arma secutum | obruerent Rutuli telis!: Rutuli is the subject, obruerent the verb; the accusative object is an implied me, agreeing with the past participle secutum, which takes socia arma as accusative object. Scholars differ in how to explain the (somewhat unusual) imperfect subjunctive obruerent. Page (1909: 369) gives two options, potential or half-imperative: ‘(1) obruere debebant or (2) utinam obruerent — (1) “following the Trojan arms (’tis me) the Rutuli should o’erwhelm with darts, myself I should have yielded up the ghost…”; or (2) “O that the Rutuli o’erwhelmed me”.’ One could also take it as a past counterfactual wish (= utinam me obruissent), with imperfect for pluperfect subjunctive to enhance its passionate urgency. But the sentiment and the syntax remain undeniably weird; the thought Evander may be trying to articulate is: ‘I wish I had been able to follow Aeneas so that I could have died in battle.’ Troum socia arma secutum certainly harks back to the opening of Evander’s parting speech back in the day, in which he expressed a desire for rejuvenation (8.560: ‘o mihi praeteritos referat si Iuppiter annos…’: ‘if only Jupiter would bring me back the years…’), so he could join in the expedition. But anguish and clarity of thought rarely coincide, and what he says may well reflect his fraught state of mind, with the notion of the enemy’s overwhelming onslaught dominating the sentence, and the suppression of the personal pronoun me enacting the physical annihilation Evander wishes for.


animam ipse dedissem | atque haec pompa domum me, non Pallanta, referret!: the past counterfactual wishes continue, in (chrono-)logical sequence: Evander’s wish to have given up his life on behalf of his son (see ipse) naturally precedes (pluperfect: dedissem) his wish to be the one who is carried back home in the funeral procession (imperfect: referret). Like Mezentius (see 10.853–54: debueram patriae poenas odiisque meorum: | omnis per mortis animam sontem ipse dedissem!), Evander is a father who would gladly have died to save his son. JH: The reprise of 141, Pallanta ferebat |, brings back the taste of that sick pun.

domum: accusative of direction towards.

Pallanta: the (Greek) accusative singular of Pallas.

11.164–172: The Old Lie: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

In the second part of the speech, Evander tries hard to wrest some meaning out of Pallas’ premature death, by exculpating the Trojans (and, perversely, blaming his own longevity) and attempting an appreciation of Pallas’ heroism, not least by inscribing his son into the world-historical plot that animates the Aeneid. But the hyperboles to which he resorts ring hollow.


nec vos arguerim, Teucri, nec foedera nec quas | iunximus hospitio dextras: sors ista senectae | debita erat nostrae. arguerim, which Page (1909: 369) identifies as ‘the polite perfect subjunctive of modest statement’ and Horsfall (2003: 138) as a ‘standard perfect subjunctive of tentative assertion’, takes three accusative objects: vos, foedera, and dextras joined together by polysyndeton (nec – nec – nec). dextras, despite being placed after the relative clause quas iunximus hospitio, is the antecedent of quas. senectae … nostrae is dative with debita erat (‘… was owed to…’).

Teucri: Evander now directly addresses the Trojan contingent of Pallas’ escort; he will use them to send a message to Aeneas in the final part of the speech (see below).

hospitio: see 113–14.

sors ista senectae | debita erat nostrae: two nouns linked by alliteration (sors, senectae), each followed by a pronominal specification (ista, nostrae) that personalizes the tragedy and renders a general statement about the lot of old age acutely specific: ista refers to the fact that he is forced to mourn his son (and, as Page (1909: 369) suggests, is ‘pointing to the corpse’), and nostrae picks up on his earlier point that he has outlived his allotted years: there is, therefore, a protest built into the juxtaposition of sors and senectae, with debita erat complementing arguerim and explaining why he does not fault the Trojans: ‘my (excessive) age is to blame for the lot that has befallen me.’


quod si immatura manebat | mors gnatum, caesis Volscorum milibus ante | ducentem in Latium Teucros cecidisse iuvabit: the conditional sequence (with imperfect indicative in the protasis: manebat), and future tense in the apodosis (iuvabit) sounds out of place: there is, after all, nothing ‘conditional’ about Pallas’ immatura mors. That Evander nevertheless uses this construction (rather than, say, a causal subordinate clause) is perhaps symptomatic of his struggle to adjust to the facts — though the use of the indicative shows that he has moved beyond denial (although he suppresses the mihi with iuvabit, which virtually all translators add). Evander singles out two elements about the circumstances of Pallas’ death, which may eventually sublimate grief into glory: his son has had his ‘Homeric’ moment, his aristeia, on the battlefield; and he lost his life while taking the lead in establishing the Trojans in Latium (thus turning himself into a key figure in the nascent story of Rome — or, more precisely, its prehistory).

Some readers extrapolate optimism from these verses. See e.g. Henry (1989: 152): ‘This passage shocks modern readers. […] In the future, Aeneas and Evander are saying, these events will not be the appalling scenes of waste and suffering that they are now; the waste and suffering will not be forgotten, but the fulfilment of divinely willed historic purpose will make them otherwise.’ True, Virgil places iuvabit at the central location (at the end of line 5 in a section of 9 lines) in the central section of the tripartite speech: it sits right at the heart of Evander’s discourse. But as an attempt at self-consolation, it is tenuous — even though the scenario that a future retrospective of a traumatic present might turn out to be a source of pleasure is established as a theme early on in the poem: Aeneas famously mooted the possibility to his storm-tossed troops washed up on the shore of Carthage that ‘perhaps it will be pleasing to remember even this at some indefinite time in the future’ (1.203: forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit). The phenomenon that time and memory can turn pain into pleasure is an interesting one, and underwrites the power of (epic) poetry as a genre of commemoration. In this particular instance, however, the dynamic evoked by Aeneas in Book 1 arguably fails to kick in. He was talking to survivors with the capacity to look back on their own experiences. Whether the (heroic) death of Pallas will ever turn into a source of pleasure for Evander is quite another question. Hurt has filled this ancient peaceable Arcadian refugee with wholehearted bloodlust.

immatura manebat | mors gnatum: the intrusion of manebat and the placement of mors in enjambment (where the monosyllable comes down heavily after the polysyllabic conclusion to the previous line) are suggestive of Evander’s endeavour to delay the finality of death, at least rhetorically. Whitton (2013: 80) draws attention to the ‘lugubrious’ assonance in the phrase immatura mors, which is widespread in Latin literature (see e.g. Catullus 96.5, Lucretius 5.221, Livy 2.40.9, Pliny, Epistles 2.1). No less important are parallels from epigraphy: see Nielsen (1997: 200–2). Seneca wrote an entire treatise on the topic (de Immatura Morte), which, appropriately enough, has not survived (see Lausberg 1970: 153–67).

gnatum: an alternative spelling of natum (‘son’, from the stem *gen–), frequent in Roman comedy (Plautus, Terence); its use by later authors tends to be ‘archaizing’, not least in emotionally wrought contexts such as this one.

caesis Volscorum milibus ante: an ablative absolute, though with loose word order; Volscorum is a partitive genitive dependent on milibus (from milia: thousands). The (paradoxical) placement of the adverbial ante (‘beforehand’) after the participle it modifies (and outside the usual noun–participle bracket formed by ablative absolutes) arguably follows the same logic as the hyperbaton and enjambment of immatura… | mors: Evander dwells on Pallas’ moment of glory and tries to stave off thoughts of what followed for as long as possible. The Volsci were one of primordial Italy’s ancient tribes, who inhabited the region south of Latium. After centuries of warfare, they gradually succumbed to Roman might. (In 493, Gaius Marcius Coriolanus, he of Shakespearean fame, acquired his cognomen for sacking the Volscian town of Corioli.) Their most famous representative in the Aeneid is Camilla.

ducentem in Latium Teucros: ducentem is a present active participle in the accusative singular modifying the implied subject accusative eum and governing the accusative object Teucros.


quin ego non alio digner te funere, Palla, | quam pius Aeneas et quam magni Phryges et quam | Tyrrhenique duces, Tyrrhenum exercitus omnis: after gesturing towards the possibility of future pleasure in his son’s military deeds, Evander refocuses his attention on the massive funeral procession that accompanies the body of Pallas, to give voice to another positive emotion he is now able to feel, i.e. paternal pride in the postmortem honours accorded to his son by Aeneas, his troop of Trojans, and their Etruscan allies (both leaders and the army more generally). The triple anaphora of quam interrelates four elements in parallelism (with variation) as Virgil moves from the (single) leader of the Trojans (Aeneas) to the Trojans more generally (magni Phryges) and then uses the third quam to add the leaders (plural) of the Etruscans (Tyrrheni duces) and the Etruscan army more generally (Tyrrhenum exercitus omnis): ‘And yes, Pallas, I could think you worthy of no other funeral than loyal Aeneas, [and] than the mighty Phrygians, [and] than both the Etruscan captains and the entire Etruscan army.’ As Gransden (1991: 86) points out, the repetition TyrrheniTyrrhenum ‘replaces the second –que’. At this moment, the personal and the political intertwine, as funera reinforce foedera, forging a link between three Eastern ethnicities that wind up settling in Italy: Evander’s Greek Arcadians, Aeneas’ Trojans, and the Etruscans (who originally hail from Lydia in Asia Minor). See Gladhill (2016: 144):

The body of Pallas is the binding link that actualizes the foedus, a symbol recognized by Evander. […] The Arcadian king accepts both Phrygians and Etruscans, two ethnicities that have migrated from Phrygia and Lydia respectively. The death of Pallas binds the three nonindigenous peoples of Italy into a unified group. That Evander’s language moves from pius Aeneas, then to the Phrygians and Etruscans, suggests a broader realization of the political consequences of the private foedus made between Aeneas and Evander; it has come to encompass all the non-Italian people.

quin: here ‘an emphatic adverb, introducing a statement that corroborates and amplifies what precedes’ (OLD s.v. 2): ‘And yes’, ‘indeed’.

ego non alio digner te funere, Palla, | quam: the deponent dignor (here in the 1st person singular present subjunctive, with potential force) is here construed with an accusative and an ablative: to consider someone (here: te) worthy of (here: alio … funere).

Palla: the (highly emotive) vocative of Pallas.

pius Aeneas: it is important to realize that pietas in late-republican Rome (and Virgil’s Aeneid) is not an equivalent of Judeo-Christian ‘piety’. It did involve dutiful worship of the gods — but also the need to honour socio-political obligations, not least the duty to exact revenge on behalf of one’s kin. See Clausen (2002: 208): ‘Pietas, his awareness of a sacred obligation, requires that Aeneas — “pius Aeneas”, as Evander calls him on receiving Pallas’ body (11.170) — take vengeance on Turnus. So Evander expects, so Virgil’s Roman reader would expect. Pietas, the password at the Battle of Munda (45 BC), obliged Pompey’s sons to avenge their father’s death. And pietas obliged Octavian, the adopted son, to take vengeance on Caesar’s assassins.’


magna tropaea ferunt quos dat tua dextera leto: scholars dispute what precisely this line means, more specifically, who the subject of ferunt is. Is it magna tropaea (in which case supply eos as accusative object and antecedent of quos): ‘great trophies bear those who…’ (so Fratantuono 2009: 69); or members of the entourage listed in the previous lines (in which case supply eorum as antecedent of quos): ‘they carry the spoils of those whom Pallas has slain’ (so Horsfall 2003: 141)? The subject of the relative clause is tua dextera, which gives over (dat: note the vivid use of the present tense) the men (quos) to death (leto).

11.173–181: Vengeance Is Yours!

The central theme of the third and final part of Evander’s speech is revenge. The economic idiom here (esp. 179: debere; meritis) recalls Turnus’ taunt to (the absent) Evander after he killed his son. See 10.492: qualem meruit, Pallanta remitto. For Turnus, the kill is payback for the hospitality father and son extended to Aeneas (10.494–95: haud illi stabunt Aeneïa parvo | hospitia). See Stahl (2016: 113–14):

The experienced warrior Turnus has not granted young Pallas the dignity of taking seriously his courage on his first day (10.508) of fighting on the battlefield. For superior Turnus the unequal fight was nothing but a welcome opportunity to make father Evander pay a price he ‘owed’ Turnus (cf. mihi … debeatur 442f.), in other words: for Turnus Pallas’ death was a commercial transaction, a payment in blood for hospitality granted to Aeneas.

Evander now in turn holds Turnus to account: his ‘transaction’ will come back to haunt him. And just as the still young but already battle-hardened Turnus gets the upper hand over the novice in warfare Pallas (iuvenis over puer, as it were), so he himself get his comeuppance when he has to face up to a yet more senior warrior. See Chaudhuri (2014: 71–72, n. 41):

The question of one’s prime is a recurring feature of the second half of the Aeneid. Evander regrets his old age and the consequent necessity for young Pallas to fight (Aen. 8.560–71), and after his son’s death he claims that if Pallas had been in his prime he would have defeated Turnus (Aen. 11.173–75). Whether this claim is true or merely the emotional words of a bereaved yet proud father, nevertheless it raises the question of the timing of one’s involvement in events. Apollo permits the young Ascanius one deadly intervention in the war before ordering him to cease because he is too young (Aen. 9.653–56). And, perhaps most importantly, the repeated stress on Turnus’ youth (called iuuenis fourteen times, at Aen. 7.420, 435, 446, 456; 9.16, 806; 10.623, 686; 11.123, 530, 897; 12.19, 149, 598; iuuentae 7.473) assimilates him to the other doomed young warriors, Euryalus, Pallas, and Lausus, and suggests that he cannot hope to have parity with the seasoned combatant Aeneas. Behind Juno’s use of iuuenem lies this pattern of fateful timing: nunc iuuenem imparibus uideo concurrere fatis (‘now I see the young man meeting unequal fates’, Aen. 12.149).


tu quoque nunc stares immanis truncus in arvis, | esset par aetas et idem si robur ab annis, | Turne: Evander turns to Turnus in a textbook present counterfactual condition, with both the protasis (esset) and apodosis (stares) in the imperfect subjunctive: he is convinced that if Pallas and Turnus had been coevals (they were not), his son would have emerged victorious from the encounter — and he would now be able to write Turnus’ epitaph, as in a sense he does anyway. See Horsfall (2000: 46) on tu quoque as a common element of epitaphs, both literary and epigraphical, and Dinter (2013: 312): ‘This pre-epitaph […] constitutes an epitaphic gesture which, framed by the epitaphic marker tu quoque and the name of the would-be-deceased Turnus, foreshadows the end of the Aeneid with the death of Aeneas’ antagonist.’

tu quoque … Turne: Horsfall (2003: 142): ‘The prodigious hyperbaton (two whole lines) casts the greatest possible emphasis on the name of Pallas’ killer.’ Et | tu –… | Tu-rne.

immanis truncus: Evander envisions a victory monument similar to that put together by Aeneas at the beginning of the book after his defeat of Mezentius (11.5–11), with similar ambiguities: truncus may refer to the tree trunk used for the tropaeum or Turnus’ mutilated body (recalling the fate of Priam at Aen. 2.557–58: iacet ingens litore truncus | avulsumque umeris caput et sine nomine corpus: ‘he lies, a huge trunk upon the shore, a head severed from the neck, a corpse without a name’). The attribute immanis captures both Turnus’ powerful physique (and hence sets up the si-clause: Pallas, in due course, would have acquired an equally heroic stature) and his savage nature.

in arvis: an alternative reading is in armis. Either way, the end of verse rhyme adds resonance: in arv / mis | ~ ab annis |.

esset par aetas et idem si robur ab annis: the conjunction (si) of the conditional clause is much delayed. The singular verb (esset) goes with both subjects (par aetas and idem … robur, linked by et).

ab annis: an ablative of origin. Equal strength originates from an equal number of years of growth.


sed infelix Teucros quid demoror armis?: Evander here addresses himself as infelix (in explicit contrast to his deceased spouse whom he calls felix: 159): it refers both to his general condition and specifically to the delay his grief imposes on the resumption of warfare. demoror governs an accusative object and an ablative (of separation): ‘why (quid) do I keep the Trojans (acc.) from their arms (abl.)?’ The word order mirrors sense with demoror standing between Teucros and armis. Likewise, much like the si in 174, the interrogative quid is much delayed, located (perhaps not coincidentally) next to the verb (demoror), which means precisely this.


vadite et haec memores regi mandata referte: Evander now gives two orders to the Trojans (vadite et … referte). referte governs both an accusative object (haec … mandata) and an indirect object in the dative (regi, i.e. Aeneas). memores is in the nominative plural, agreeing with the addressees of the imperatives. What the Trojans are to be mindful of are the mandata Evander is about to issue: ‘Go and remember to take these orders to your king!’ Aeneas’ absence, which ensures the need for intermediaries, enables Evander to boss the messengers with imperatives but address Aeneas in the indicative. See Adema (2017: 262): ‘The message is embedded as a direct speech within this larger speech. Thus, Euander quotes himself, as it were, and is able to use the second person to address Aeneas.’


quod vitam moror invisam Pallante perempto | dextera causa tua est, Turnum gnatoque patrique | quam debere vides: ‘The reason (causa) why I hold on to life even though it is hateful (invisam) now that Pallas has been killed, is your right hand…’ The antecedent of the relative clause, introduced by the relative pronoun quam (yet another instance of ‘post-positivism’ in the speech, here reinforced through enjambment), is dextera. The seemingly innocuous phrase dextera tua is emotionally profoundly charged, designed to cut to the quick in more ways than one. As Seider (2013: 152–53) observes: ‘The phrase bites Aeneas in two ways. Most obviously, “right hand” (dextera) refers to Aeneas’ fighting skills, which ought to have kept Pallas safe before and which ought to kill Turnus now. Yet the right hand also ratifies a treaty (8.169) and serves as a marker of hospitality (11.165), and Aeneas had just seen an image of his hand joined with Evander’s. According to Evander, Aeneas ought to feel doubly responsible for Pallas’ death: his right hand initiated Pallas’ entry into war and then failed to protect him once battle began.’

quod vitam moror invisam: – – | – u u | – – | –… Arguably the spondaic opening (with the exception of the two shorts in moror, all syllables scan long) is expressive of the way Evander drags out his life. JH: Does the jingle of vitam … invisam help you hear morior in vitam moror?

Pallante perempto: a plaintively alliterative ablative absolute.

dextera causa tua est: tua modifies dextera: ‘the interwoven order lends strong emphasis to three successive words’ (Horsfall 2003: 144).

Turnum gnatoque patrique | quam debere vides: the relative pronoun quam is both the direct object of vides and the subject accusative of the indirect statement: ‘… which, you see, owes Turnus to both son and father’. debere is part of the terminology that defines the contractual nature of socio-political relationships at Rome. See Monti (1981: 29): ‘Evander claims the death of Turnus as a debt owed to him for his foedus with Aeneas. The rendering of one service demands repayment by the performance of another service in return. This is the essence of gratia.’ As Gebhardt (2009: 264–65) notes, Virgil avoids the notion of punishment as debt throughout the final book of the poem — until the very end when it forcefully reappears in the moment Aeneas kills Turnus (12.948–49: Pallas … poenam sumit, which, like poenas debere, is a legal phrase that articulates guilt).


meritis vacat hic tibi solus | fortunaeque locus: the subject is hic … solus … locus; the –que links the two datives meritis and fortunae, which are dependent on locus: ‘this place [in the sense of ‘room’, ‘scope’, ‘opening’, ‘opportunity’] alone for merits and fortune is left open to you (vacat tibi).’ The attribute solus receives emphasis through hyperbaton and enjambment. Put differently, everything else (the foundation of Rome, his place in history, etc.) is in the bag. See Fratantuono (2007a: 328): ‘Whether Turnus lives or dies, Rome will be founded. No, Evander is right; this “place,” this “opening,” is what is left to Aeneas as he accumulates merits and fortune (i.e., it is good fortune to see your enemies vanquished, and bad fortune for your friends to die unavenged).’


non vitae gaudia quaero, | nec fas, sed gnato manis perferre sub imos.’: ‘I do not seek joys for life (this would be in violation of divine law), but to carry joyful news to my son down to the shades below [sc. once I am dead].’ quaero governs both an accusative object (gaudia) and an infinitive (perferre, perhaps with an implied gaudia as accusative object); the constructions are linked by sed. vitae could be either dative or genitive; the former has the advantage of generating a parallel between vitae and gnato. nec fas is an abbreviated gloss (nec fas est) on the idea of Evander seeking any joy in life: he dismisses this as perverse.

gnato: = nato.

per-ferre: JH: closing the ring back to 141, this time reprising that sick pun about ‘fetching the news’, but completing the cortège scene to THE final destination. With the superlative imus, we reach the bottom, the end of the line, and this is where Evander already wants to be, back with his son forever. His hellbound cry of pain was always heading there.

manis … sub imos: anastrophe with additional inversion of noun and attribute (= sub imos manis); manis is the alternative third conjugation accusative plural (= manes).

11.182–202: Overview: Time to Blaze it Up!

The passage takes us from dawn (182: Aurora) to dusk (201–2: nox umida; stellis ardentibus). These markers of time (kept in bold) provide the chronological frame for the description of the funeral proceedings (kept in italics), which are interspersed with references to their impact on the natural environment, in particular the sky (also kept in bold):

Aurora interea miseris mortalibus almam

extulerat lucem referens opera atque labores:

iam pater Aeneas, iam curvo in litore Tarchon

constituere pyras. huc corpora quisque suorum


more tulere patrum, subiectisque ignibus atris

conditur in tenebras altum caligine caelum.

ter circum accensos cincti fulgentibus armis

decurrere rogos, ter maestum funeris ignem

lustravere in equis ululatusque ore dedere.


spargitur et tellus lacrimis, sparguntur et arma,

it caelo clamorque virum clangorque tubarum.

hic alii spolia occisis derepta Latinis

coniciunt igni, galeas ensisque decoros

frenaque ferventisque rotas; pars munera nota,


ipsorum clipeos et non felicia tela.

multa boum circa mactantur corpora Morti,

saetigerosque sues raptasque ex omnibus agris

in flammam iugulant pecudes. tum litore toto

ardentis spectant socios semustaque servant


busta, neque avelli possunt, nox umida donec

invertit caelum stellis ardentibus aptum.

The passage thus alternates between depictions of the natural environment (bold) and human endeavours (italics), yielding another instance of literary architecture. The first half of the passage (182–92) is designed symmetrically: 2 + 3 + 1 + 3 + 2. The last line of these 11 verses (192; bold underlined) occupies the exact middle of the passage as a whole (10 + 1 + 10). Importantly, the two realms of nature and culture interact. We start in the sky and repeatedly return to it: sunrise spurs the mortals into action to proceed with the funeral, which in turn results in a clouding of the sky by the smoke that issues forth from the pyres (187). Likewise, the ensuing ritual ‘spills over’ into nature (191: spargitur et tellus lacrimis) and again impacts on the heavens (192: it caelo…). Ultimately the two spheres merge here: ‘The repeated references to air, earth, fire, give the whole passage an elemental quality which is not broken by introducing the name of any god. The offerings are not made to Vulcan or Mars, but to the universal Death, just as “wretched mankind” in the first line makes lamentation universal’ Henry (1989: 25).

The lengthy description of the funerary rites draws on different sources, well surveyed by Henry (1989: 25):

In the ritual followed by Aeneas’ men, some details are Iliadic (the burning of the hero’s weapons with him, and the leading of horses round the pyre), while some actions follow Arcadian or Etruscan practice (the burning of the enemy shields, as Evander earlier said he did when young, and as Livy said Tarquinius Priscus did when he defeated the Sabines). The Homeric and Italian details are followed by animal sacrifices, the oxen, pigs, and sheep of the Roman suovetaurilia, a ritual which had no military associations, although the offerings at the Ambarualia and at the censorial lustrum were made to Mars. The purpose of the suovetaurilia was, in both these cases, a purificatory one (lustratio). Virgil’s choice of lustrare as the verb for the ceremonial ride round the blazing pyre is evocative.

She argues that we here see a proto-Roman unity emerging out of diverse cultural (and literary) traditions. It is symptomatic of the narrative that foundational imagery occurs in a funerary setting. After the Dido episode, death is written into the foundation of Rome.

182–192: Fire Darkness


Aurora interea miseris mortalibus almam | extulerat lucem referens opera atque labores: the second dawn of the book: see 11.1 above. After heavy use of ferre and various of its compounds in Evander’s speech, Virgil continues to draw on different forms of this lexeme here with extulerat and referens. A contrast opens up: the unique and fraught transactions that dominate Evander’s discourse are here repositioned within wider, unassuming parameters: the daily rhythm of sunrise and the (ensuing) return to the tasks of the day (opera atque labores). The transition is abruptness itself. See Adema (2017: 262): ‘The narrator does not explicitly [N.B.] conclude Euander’s speech. Instead, he switches back to the site of the war and describes the return of dawn […]. This motif from Greek literature of the return of dawn bringing labour to mortals befits Euander’s call to action and marks the transition from mourning to the actions of burial, anticipating also another, inevitable, transition, viz. that of burials back to fighting (Verg. Aen. 11.445ff).’ Indeed, the invocation of a natural, quotidian routine, which announces that, however focused on terminal revenge Evander may be, ordinary life carries on (re-fero is reclaimed from the funereal, vs e.g. 163), soon loses its redemptive force: the sun doesn’t shine for long…

Extra information

Gransden (1979: 161) calls this the ‘Dawn-work topos’ and compares A. E. Housman, Last Poems 11:

Yonder see the morning blink:

The sun is up and so must I,

To wash and dress and eat and drink

And look at things and talk and think

And work, and God knows why.

miseris mortalibus: ‘wretched mortals’ is a standard notion from Homer onwards. See e.g. Iliad 21.463–64, 22.31, Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.944 and 6.1 (mortalibus aegris), or Virgil, Georgics 3.66. But why are mortals called ‘wretched’? Perhaps Virgil reflects on the human condition more generally, using Evander’s tragedy as a case in point and point of departure for a universalizing comment on what it means to be human; or the adjective may be proleptic: yes, daylight is life-giving and nurturing, but it also signals that the peace and quiet of nightly rest are over and the day’s toils beckon. The anthropological idiom here has its origins in the Homeric distinction between ‘wretched mortals’ and ‘blessed immortals’, which is such an essential hallmark of his — ‘timeless’ — epic world. JH: Yes, this is a cliché of the genre, but you still may suck up sound-play, and savour ‘mournful’ m-alliteration, arguably resolved by the soothing ms in the phrase almam … lucem, the opening syllables of which also resonate with the preceding mort–al–ibus. Clichés can come alive when the time is right and ban-al-ity can itself enhance pathos.

almam … lucem: the adjective reinforces the association of ‘light’ with ‘life’. (You might be familiar with it in the phrase alma mater.) Compare e.g. Virgil, Georgics 4.255: corpora luce carentum; Aeneid 12.873: qua tibi lucem arte morer?


iam pater Aeneas, iam curvo in litore Tarchon | constituere pyras: the anaphora of iam signals that both Aeneas and Tarchon are up and about at the break of dawn, renewing their labours. The (long delayed) pyras is a Latin loan word from the Greek (pura, i.e. the ‘fire’ we’ve been igniting for so long, ‘pur’; Virgil uses the equivalent Latin term (rogus) in 189): it ensures that death remains squarely on the agenda.

curvo in litore: an instance of anastrophe (‘inversion’). The standard word order would be in curvo litore. JH: Why ‘curved’, you ask? If you can find room in your heart for implicit clichés lurking in the language, then Latin bays are ‘sinus’, which are also the folds in clothing which cover the heart, so a standard metonym for ‘heartfelt feelings’.

Tarchon: Etruscan king (indeed the Etruscan for ‘king’, as in the Tarquin dynasty of Roman kings), founder of Mantua (Virgil’s birthplace), brother of Tyrrhenios, the first king of the Etruscans. He is in many ways the good counterpart of Mezentius, and a double of Aeneas in his association with religious observance, as ‘the eponymous founder of Tarquinia, religious center of the twelve cities comprising the Etruscan league, and father of the gens Tarquinia’ and hence ‘the human repository of Etruscan pietas’ (Nielson 1984: 29). His first appearance occurs in 8.502–11, and he then resurfaces at regular intervals (e.g. 10.148–56 and, notably, 11.727–50, for which see below). For an overall assessment of his character before Book 11 see Nielson (1984: 30):

Vergil, even in these few passages, has created a character of integrity and maturity, a man who honors the gods and seeks to fulfill fate. He is a man of action […] Tarchon’s similarity to Aeneas even at this point is thus established through similar functions; both are leaders with pietas, who have the ability to act decisively when necessary or right. Tarchon and his men are not indigenous to Italian soil, like the Trojans, yet have sought to raise a civilization there, a civilization based upon strict religious principles. And both leaders are closely connected with the notion of fate.

constituere: alternative form of the third person plural perfect indicative active (= constituerunt).


huc corpora quisque suorum | more tulere patrum, subiectisque ignibus atris | conditur in tenebras altum caligine caelum: the verses feature two main clauses (huc … patrum; conditur … caelum), linked by the –que after subiectis, the participle of the ablative absolute subiectis ignibus atris. The word order is very unsettled and rendered more difficult by the ambiguous status of suorum: is it pronominal and dependent on corpora or adjectival and modifying patrum — or both? Rephrased in prose, the Latin might read: quisque corpora [suorum] more [suorum] patrum huc tulere et, ignibus atris subiectis, altum caelum caligine in tenebras conditur. In each case, we get a hyperbaton (corpora … suorum; suorum more … patrum). The overall effect is an iconic representation of the many individuals moving about, each looking after the cremation of their kin, according to ancestral custom. The second clause changes voice (from active to passive) and focus (from the human realm to nature), but continues to defy regular word order, with the inversion of subject-verb in the ablative absolute and the second main clause, here reinforced by the positioning of alliterative verb (conditur) and subject (caelum) at the very beginning and end of the line.

(suorum) more … patrum: mos (‘custom’) is a central aspect of Rome’s political culture (mores maiorum) — and of culture more generally, a counterpart to ethnicity (which emphasizes blood kinship). Cultural diversity is a key issue in Roman republican history (the gradual rise of Rome to hegemonic status over a culturally and ethnically diverse Italy, culminating in the Social War of 91–89, arguably anticipated and pre-enacted in the second half of the Aeneid) and in the Aeneid itself, not least in the final bargain struck between Juno and Jupiter, in which Juno seems to get her wish of annihilating the cultural dimensions of Trojan identity even if the Trojan stock lives on in the ethnic melting pot of Rome. See the note on 142 above.

quisque … tulere: the first main clause features a singular subject and a plural verb since quisque implies a plurality of individuals (each one of several). tulere is the alternative form of the third person plural perfect indicative active (tulerunt).

ignibus atris: ater, notoriously, is the first colour term in the Aeneid, used to describe the darkness of the storm that gets the poem going and will brood over the whole ‘oceanic’ text (1.89: ponto nox incubat ater). It is associated with chaos and rage, death and darkness.

conditur in tenebras altum caligine caelum: the entire second clause is a gloss on ignibus atris, more specifically the effect of the dark smoke that billows up sky-high from the pyres and plunges the entire world into darkness, cancelling out the alma lux of dawn. A literal translation of the seemingly tautological in tenebras and caligine is challenging: ‘high heaven is veiled in the gloom of darkness’ (Gold); ‘the sky was plunged into darkness as blackness reached its heights’ (Horsfall, who encourages us to understand caligine not as an instrumental or local ablative but as an ‘ablative in explanation of an adjective’ (148), i.e. altum).


ter circum accensos cincti fulgentibus armis | decurrere rogos, ter maestum funeris ignem | lustravere in equis ululatusque ore dedere: Virgil gives us a double (rather than triple) anaphora of ter, though the basic design of these three verses is the tricolon, with three main verbs: decurrerelustraverededere (all in the third person plural perfect indicative active = decurrerunt, lustraverunt, dederunt). The first two cola are juxtaposed asyndetically and the second and third colon are linked by the –que after ululatus. The massive hyperbaton + enjambment circum accensos … rogos neatly enact the circling motion of the mourners.

cincti fulgentibus armis: cincti is a perfect passive participle in the nominative plural modifying the implied subject: ‘girt in shining armour’. JH: The soldiers’ arms gleam proudly on duty, but they gleam all the more in the flames from dead soldiers burning on the pyres. The spectacular rituals choreograph sorrow; they reflect it, they don’t banish it.

maestum funeris ignem lustravere: they ceremonially circle ‘the sad fire of the funeral-pyre’ (funeris is genitive singular of funus). The verb lustravere evokes the ritual of lustratio, performed in ancient Rome to purify (re-found) the civic community and on occasion involving a suovetaurilia (the sacrifice of a pig, a sheep, and a bull), a prototypical variant of which Virgil goes on to sketch out below.

in equis: ‘on horseback’.

ululatusque … dedere: ululatus is in the accusative plural, the object of dedere.


spargitur et tellus lacrimis, sparguntur et arma, | it caelo clamorque virum clangorque tubarum: after conditur, we have another switch into the passive voice. Despite the proliferation of connective particles, the tricolon of verbs spargitur – sparguntur – it (all heading their clauses) is asyndetic: the two et after spargitur and sparguntur have the sense of ‘also’ or ‘even’, i.e. are to be taken with the following nouns (tellus and arma); and the –que…–que in the third colon do not link it with the preceding verb, but coordinate the two subject phrases clamor virum and clangor tubarum (‘both … and…’). The tricolon also falls into two halves (191 + 192), a division reinforced by the repetition spargitur – sparguntur (on which see Wills 1996: 291) and the antithesis of tellus (191) and caelo (192): together the tears and the tumult measure out the cosmos in both directions, from earth to heaven.

Line 192 recalls, somewhat incongruously, 2.313 (exoritur clamorque virum clangorque tubarum), which comes from Virgil’s description of the destruction of Troy. See Moskalew (1982: 125) on the meaning of this intratextual reminiscence: ‘Clamor virum and clangor tubarum tend to evoke a martial rather than a funereal setting, and perhaps this was part of Vergil’s intention. The apparent incongruity makes the line stand out from its context so as to recall the destruction of Troy, linking this most traumatic and bitter memory of the Trojans with their present grief over their fallen comrades and over the tragic death of Pallas.’ As he goes on to note, ‘reminiscences of Troy tend to occur at moments of pain and grief’, whereas ‘Italy generally has more positive associations’. JH: Alternatively, these funeral rites are being handled with emphatically military precision, indeed like clockwork, putting Evander’s torrent of feelings behind us: the deafening line would belong in Ennius’ epic of Roman campaigns, exactly the note wanted in the present context (and the Armageddon of Troy is the odd man out).

it caelo clamorque virum clangorque tubarum: Fratantuono (2009: 74) calls this ‘a line of alliterative resonance and stately power’. JH: It is also epic seizing the moment to pull out all the stops to make its ‘arms’ lift its ‘heroes’ to ‘epic heights’: tear-splashed arma … fanfare for virum (191–92). These blaring brass are of course — think skirling bagpipes — ‘instruments of war’ (cf. Hector’s bugler Misenus, 6.165–66).

caelo: ‘to the sky’; Virgil uses a local dative (denoting ‘the place whither’), instead of the more usual in caelum. See Gildersleeve & Lodge 228. They note: ‘This construction begins with Accius, and is not uncommon in the Augustan poets. […] As a poetical construction it seems to have sprung from personification.’

193–202: Flames, Blood, and Ashes


hic alii spolia occisis derepta Latinis | coniciunt igni, galeas ensisque decoros | frenaque ferventisque rotas: the generic accusative object spolia (‘war spoils’) finds specification in the list of concrete items given in apposition: galeas, ensis, frena, rotas, linked to each other by the sequence of –que. Virgil generates variety by alternating between giving the bare noun (galeas, frena) and supplying the noun with an attribute (ensis decoros, ferventis rotas), though decoros can easily be understood to cover each of the objects.

hic: not the demonstrative pronoun hic, haec, hoc, but the adverb (‘at this stage’, ‘here’), which has a long i (hîc).

spolia occisis derepta Latinis: the perfect passive participle derepta agrees with spolia and governs the ablative of separation Latinis, which is further modified by the perfect passive participle occisis: ‘spoils stripped from slaughtered Latins’. Put differently, occisis … Latinis is NOT an ablative absolute.

coniciunt igni: = in ignem.

ensis: the alternative accusative plural form of the third declension (= enses).

ferventisque rotas: ferventis is the alternative accusative plural form of the third declension (= ferventes). Lyne (1989: 23) brings out brilliantly how much (tragic) meaning Virgil manages to pack into a single, well-chosen word: ‘As Servius saw, feruentis is designed to recall a general characteristic of chariot wheels, their heat in vigorous use […]; this is confirmed by decoros which performs a similar function for enses. In the immediate vicinity of igni, however, feruentis must also bring to mind their imminent literal burning on the pyre […]. It intimates therefore both past vigour and present annihilation, and so contains within itself the sort of contrast which it is a main intention of this part of the poem to convey.’


pars [conicit igni] munera nota, | ipsorum clipeos et non felicia tela: pars correlates with alii, and we need to supply conicit igni from the previous sentence. Virgil again opts for a generic accusative object (munera), rendered more specific by concrete items in apposition (clipeos, tela). Whereas spolia are items taken from the enemy, the munera are pieces of their own equipment as the genitive of the reflexive pronoun ipsorum makes clear: shields that did not protect their owner (one assumes) and spears that did not find their target (non felicia).


multa boum circa mactantur corpora Morti, | saetigerosque sues raptasque ex omnibus agris | in flammam iugulant pecudes: sacrificial bloodshed on a massive scale, rhetorically underscored by massive hyperbata (multa … corpora; raptas … pecudes). We get a tricolon of sacrificial victims (multa boum … corpora; saetigeros sues; pecudes), but only two verbs (mactantur; iugulant), which are linked by the –que after saetigeros. (The –que after raptas links sues and pecudes.) Stylistic touches reinforce the ceremonial qualities of the sacrificial ritual. Note the alternating alliterations multa – mactantur – m / Morti and circa – corpora, which give the entire line a striking phonetic coherence. Alliteration continues with saetigeros … sues. The second clause is designed concentrically, with the victims at the margins (saetigerosque sues raptasque … pecudes) framing the phrases that indicate origin (ex omnibus agris) and final destination (in flammam).

Virgil here describes a key sacrificial rite of ancient Rome called suovetaurilia, which consisted of the sacrifice of a pig (sus), a sheep (ovis — here presented by the alternative word pecudes) and a bull (taurus — Virgil uses the periphrasis boum … corpora). (The use of alternative labels for the sacrificial victims may be deliberate: we are, after all, dealing with an epic prototype of the real thing, which is — like Roman identity more generally — only just in the process of coming into its own.) The addressee of the sacrifice was Mars and its purpose was the purification (lustratio) of the citizen-body: see above on lustravere (190). One of the most famous depictions of the suovetaurilia occurs on the Ara Pacis of Augustus, which the sarcophagus relief shown below imitates:

Fig. 17 Suovetaurilia (sacrifice of a pig, a sheep and a bull) to the god Mars, relief from the panel of a sarcophagus. Marble, Roman artwork, first half of the 1st century CE. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen,

Morti: either a personification or (if spelled with a minuscule) another local dative, which is perhaps the preferable reading: morti would indicate the place whither — just like caelo in 192. The two points of destination create another ‘totalizing’ expression: the funeral proceedings ‘reach out’ in all directions, affecting the entire universe, from Heaven to Hell.

ex omnibus agris: a totalizing expression and as such hyperbolic, but in keeping with Virgil’s vision of all-encompassing grief and universal sacrifice.

JH: At some stage in the course of this pronounced pile-up of enemy spoils, friendly gifts, mass slaughter, you’ll hear sustained echoes of the opening scenes of the book through to the funeral cortège for Pallas, only this time reduced to silently efficient organization, army style, for the generalized casualties, without histrionics: ‘spoils’ minus Mezentius, ‘gifts’ but no Dido, a ‘multitude’ of symbolic props, ritual despatch of blood from the throats of legion victims slit over the fire (spolia, 193 ~ spoliaverat, 80; munera, 195 ~ 73–77; | multa, 197 ~ 78; coniciunt igni …. in flammam iugulant, 194, 199 ~ sparsurus sanguine flammas, 82); and there are more instances of surreal forms of ‘catching fire’ (the chariot wheels are ‘white-hot’ now because they are on the pyre not because they are careering along, 195; and the comrades once so ‘fiery’ do finally ‘burn’, 200 ~ the same way that Pallas’ locks were ‘going to burn’, 77). This time, because the sacrifice consisted of regulation captive animals, rather than local prisoners of war, the scene shows throats cut, rather than being deferred and then ending up on the cutting-room floor. Our concatenation of episodes so far builds into a single ‘funeral procession’ through the string of transposed variations that top pain focussed round close-up individualised pathos with broadside mass epic scale.


tum litore toto | ardentis spectant socios semustaque servant | busta, neque avelli possunt, nox umida donec | invertit caelum stellis ardentibus aptum: the main clause consists of a tricolon (spectant; servant; possunt) linked by the –que after semusta and neque. It is followed by a temporal subordinate clause introduced by donec. (The subject of the donec-clause is nox umida, pulled out in front of the conjunction, perhaps to emphasize the fact that the spectators could not tear themselves away from the tearful sight until night was truly upon them.) Virgil again uses alliteration and the jingling paronomasia semustaque – busta has a grisly sound-pattern to match the ritual activities and a picky ‘figura etymologica’, with bustum as if from bene-ustum, aptly coming after the ‘blazing comrades’ have been well and truly combusted.

litore toto: another totalizing expression: see above on ex omnibus agris. The tableau draws to a close, ringed and completed as curvo … litore, 184 steps up to litore toto |.

ardentis … socios: ardentis is the alternative form of the third declension accusative plural (= ardentes), modifying socios in predicative position: ‘they watch their comrades burning’ (rather than: ‘they watch their burning comrades’). The expression is shockingly graphic — and reinforced by the recurrence of the word in the phrase stellis ardentibus (202), marked as a ‘perversion’ (invertit, 202): such blatant ‘bad taste’, as Virgil tears us, too, away from these pyres, blotting out the flaming bodies with cosmic cool. For stellae are supposed to be ablaze, they ‘fit’; socii aren’t; and the blaze of constellations will always eventually get a dampener from night, no matter how hard you try to ‘keep watch’ as if you could kill time (servant, 200). The ‘change’ arrives without fail — and so does the ‘turnaround’ at the paragraph juncture it signals (invertit, 202). This poet takes huge risks as he sees fit.

neque avelli possunt: the present passive infinitive supplements possunt: ‘they cannot be torn away’. The motif rhymes, clearly, with Evander’s non … potis est vis ulla tenere, etc, 148, though now the men won’t leave, whereas the king tried his hardest not to approach the fallen, before toppling onto the corpse.

caelum stellis ardentibus aptum: aptum modifies the accusative object caelum in predicative position and governs the ablative stellis ardentibus: ‘the heaven fitted with gleaming stars’.

11.203–212: The Latin Dead

After paying attention to the Arcadians (139–81), then Trojans and Etruscans (182–202), Virgil now depicts the funeral activities of the Latins, giving due notice that this passage is ‘just as’ loaded with meaning, whatever its brevity (nec minus), but ‘radically different’ from what has preceded (diversa in parte) — and not just because of the length: ‘the two scenes show two modes of grief, the one intently ceremonial, the other haphazard and despairing’ (Henry 1989: 25). She continues (ibid): ‘For the Latins, there is no possibility of attention to the order of things; they cannot identify or even count their dead. No spoils or treasures are mentioned in their fires, burning for three days in makeshift funerals. No form of ritual is used, so there is no sense of commemoration or of continuing national identity.’ The rhetorical tone is working up to a pitch of intensity, colouring these exequies throughout with loathing (217).


Nec minus et miseri diversa in parte Latini | innumeras struxere pyras, et corpora partim | multa virum terrae infodiunt, avectaque partim | finitimos tollunt in agros urbique remittunt: The sentence maps out a diverse set of activities organized around the four main verbs, the first in the perfect, the others in the present: struxere – infodiunttolluntremittunt. But the first is set apart from the remaining three in terms of both grammar and syntax: the perfect struxere takes innumeras pyras as accusative object and is linked to infodiunt by et. infodiunt, tollunt, and remittunt are all in the present tense, are linked to each other by –que (attached to avecta and urbi), and share the same accusative object (corpora … multa). As the next sentence makes clear, the pyres have been built for the multitude of anonymous corpses. The focus here is on the bodies of those men (the genitive plural virum is poignant) who are deemed deserving of special attention. These corpora receive either one of two treatments, a bipartite division coordinated by partim … partim (both prominently placed at the line’s end): burial on the spot or return to their home city. (It remains unclear what happens to the corpses there.)28 So overall we have four main verbs, two accusative objects, and three ways of dealing with the corpses (cremation, inhumation, dispatch to their city of origin). The syntax thus mirrors the cultural and ethnic diversity of pre-Roman Italy that Virgil flags up throughout this section of text (cf. above on suorum more … patrum).

Nec minus et: Virgil uses a litotes to mark the transition to the final part in the funeral sequence. et here means ‘too’.

diversa in parte: anastrophe (= in diversa parte). The combatants, who intermingled in fetching wood for the pyres, are now again separated for the burials.

miseri … Latini + innumeras … pyras: two emphatic hyperbata, designed to underscore the general wretchedness and its cause, the countless number of battlefield victims.

struxere: alternative form of the third person perfect indicative active (= struxerunt).

corpora… | multa virum: virum is the syncopated genitive plural form of vir (= vir|or|um) dependent on corpora. The enjambment and the quantifying multa reinforce the point that heroes too end up as corpses. After struxere pyras et corpora, reprising constituere pyras. huc corpora… (185), the phrasing blurs, shockingly, into | multa boum … corpora (197). Dead comrades, like so many… cattle!

avectaque partim | finitimos tollunt in agros: the accusative object of tollunt is still corpora, here further modified by the past participle avecta, which forms a sort of husteron proteron with the main verb: the lifting up of the bodies (tollunt) obviously precedes their transport (avecta). avecta governs the prepositional phrase finitimos … in agros (anastrophe: = in finitimos agros). In translating, you may wish to turn the participle into a main verb and arrange the actions in a logical sequence: ‘some (partim) bodies they lift up and carry to the neighbouring fields’. JH: Again, these fields were raided for animal victims (198 ex omnibus agris); this time the human [victims] are returned, in one piece, only to torch those same fields (206, 209).


cetera confusaeque ingentem caedis acervum | nec numero nec honore cremant: the –que after confusae links the two accusative objects of cremant, i.e. cetera (sc. corpora) and acervum. JH: ‘Pyres’ are just piles, but the casualties until now have been properly ‘individuated’ and ‘honoured’ — with spoils they seized and their very own weapons, whereas this lot are only ‘myriad’ lumps of ‘carnage’, dug into the ground or else carted off home (partim … partim ~ alii … pars, 193, 195).

confusaeque ingentem caedis acervum: a massive phrase with the interlacing pattern of attributes (confusae, ingentem) and the nouns they modify (caedis, acervum), arguably generating an iconic representation of the indiscriminately heaped-up corpses. The link via c-alliteration to the preceding cetera (con–, cae–, –cer–) further enhances the effect.

nec numero nec honore: nec numero picks up innumeras struxere pyras (204), whereas nec honore stands in contrast to those corpses that receive inhumation on the spot or are dispatched to their home cities.


tunc undique vasti | certatim crebris conlucent ignibus agri: a concentric design, slightly unsettled (and reinforced) by the enjambment: in the middle stands the verb, conlucent, related by alliteration to the preceding certatim and crebris. It is framed by the instrumental ablative phrase crebris … ignibus. And at the beginning and end, forming a vast (!) hyperbaton and thereby glossing on the formal level the sense of the adverb undique, we get the subject phrase vasti … agri (note that both the adjective and the noun it modifies conclude their verse), which form the geographical setting within which the fires shine.

certatim: different parts of the fields blaze ‘in rivalry’ as each group of Latins tries to fire up the most impressive funeral pyre. JH: But the wide sweep prevails over the different details, to ram home the huge cost of the engagement by counting it: innumeras, multa, ingentem … acervum, nec numero, vasti, crebris.


tertia lux gelidam caelo dimoverat umbram: a tranquil line to savour for its craftsmanship and sound effects: standard prose word order would be quite similar: tertia lux gelidam umbram caelo dimoverat, though without the sparkling musicality. Note, in particular, the repetition of the identical vowel sequence in tertia and gelidam, both leading up to words that end in the deep and dark vowels ‘u’ or ‘o’ (lux, caelo). In addition, gelidam also resonates via homoioteleuton with the noun it modifies (umbram), whereas the placement of umbram, the opposite of lux to which it gives way) in the final foot endows the entire verse with nice antithetical tension.

gelidam … umbram: picking up, with deft variation, nox umida (201), with umbram bringing to mind both nox and (via assonance) umida.


maerentes altum cinerem et confusa ruebant | ossa focis tepidoque onerabant aggere terrae: two main clauses linked by –que after tepido. The et links the two accusative objects altum cinerem and confusa… | ossa. The ossa are also the accusative object of onerabant. In the transitive sense, ruo means ‘to churn or plough up’, ‘disturb violently’ (OLD s.v. 9) or ‘to cause to collapse’, ‘overthrow’, ‘lay flat’ (OLD s.v. 10, where our passage is listed). So literally Virgil is saying ‘They flattened the high/deep ash and the scattered bones from the pyres (focis)’ — which ‘means’ that ‘they flattened the ash-heaps to collect the bones from the pyres (sc. for proper burial)’. As Fratantuono points out (2009: 78) the unorthodox usage is not coincidental: ‘Ruere is usually of hostile or destructive forces; this nuance is precisely the point: the Trojan / Arcadian funerals are stately and Homeric, while the Latin funerals are Lucretian in their horror (cf. DRN VI, 1278–1286).’ JH: Virgil repeats confus– and terrae from 207, 205, which would likely not be admired in other poems, but if he can wire you into the story, into the ‘muddle’ — of bones now, not bodies — you’ll see exactly why he’s laying it on here with a trowel.

maerentes: a circumstantial participle, modifying the subject of the sentence: ‘grieving’.

11.213–224: Necropolitics: Stop the War!

The mourning scene in Pallanteum ended with Evander’s injunction to Aeneas to bring Pallas’ killer Turnus to justice. In the city of King Latinus, we have a similar transition from the articulation of grief over the recent casualties to the consequences, again adumbrating the end — a final showdown between Turnus and Aeneas. If Evander put the emphasis on the personal (without losing sight of the political), here the balance is inverted: personal motives (esp. Drances’ hatred of Turnus) will resonate, but the setting is public and political, as we move from various grieving constituencies and a groundswell of opinion against Latinus’ designated son-in-law, which is channelled and given a coherent voice by Drances, to a public debate on what to do, as yet still uncoordinated, but leading up to a proper war council (225–444, not part of the set text).


iam vero in tectis, praedivitis urbe Latini, | praecipuus fragor et longi pars maxima luctus: the two subjects are fragor and pars, with the verb (est) elided. With a sudden shift in focus, set up by iam vero (for iam, strengthened by vero, in a transition to a new topic, see OLD s.v. iam 8), the narrative turns its attention to the city of King Latinus. The transition leads up to a climax that comes into its own in praecipuus (set up by praedivitis, another four-syllable prae-compound): the mourning on the killing fields is profound — but it is topped by the grief in the city. The superlative attributes praecipuus and maxima continue the notion of competitive grieving from 209 (certatim): the payoff draws near.

prae-divitis urbe Latini: ‘in the city of superrich (King) Latinus’: see above 201–2. Is this a case of ‘One brave down for every million pounds’?

prae-cipuus fragor: the ‘noisy clamour’ or ‘din’ signified by fragor captures both the wailing of the Latins and, as we shall hear presently, their discontent with current policy as the following verses make clear. Nothing like the militarized soundtrack of 192, the decibel count.

longi pars maxima luctus: ‘the greatest part of the prolonged grief’. luctus, modified by longi, is a fourth declension genitive singular, trumping 139, tanti prae-nuntia luctus |; these Latins wail loudest and longest (miseri, maerentes, miserae, maerentum, get it?).


hic matres miseraeque nurus, hic cara sororum | pectora maerentum puerique parentibus orbi | dirum exsecrantur bellum Turnique hymenaeos: the subjects of the sentence are four groups of aggrieved mourners split into two pairs by the anaphoric hîc (adverbial: ‘here’). The two groups in each pair are linked by –que, after miserae and pueri respectively. What follows is a line containing the two accusative objects bellum and hymenaeos (linked by the –que after Turni) and the verb (exsecrantur). The metre of 215 (– – | – u u | – u u | – – | – u u | – –) and 216 (– u u | – – | – u u | – u u | – u u | – –) is predominantly dactylic; but it grinds to a spondaic halt in 217, where dactyls are limited to the fifth foot (– – | – – | – – | – – | – u u | – –). The heavy spondees (and elision of dirum and exsecrantur) lend gravity to the curse. The groups of mourners singled out are dependants, not buddies in uniform — women in three categories: mothers; young and yet unmarried women; and sisters; plus their children who have now lost their father. The sequence matres – sorores – pueri covers three generations within a family, whereas nurus invokes the notion of a marital union (and procreation) denied — and in one word rubs in that this war could be finessed by a single wedding.

matres miseraeque nurus: miserae, which is anyway linked to the preceding matres by mournful alliteration, is best understood as modifying both nouns (apo koinou).

cara sororum | pectora maerentum: an intricately patterned phrase with an interlacing of nominatives (cara pectora) and genitives (sororum maerentum), but a chiastic arrangement of attributes (cara, maerentum) and nouns (sororum, pectora), pivoting around the enjambment and gaining further in stylistic appeal and coherence through the homoioteleuta (–ra, –ra; –rum, –tum). Goold translates cara … pectora with ‘loving hearts’, but the phrase also evokes the beating of breasts by female mourners. See Kraggerud (2016: 155): ‘The most pitiful scene are the matres and miserae nurus; these have lost their sons and their husbands, and the sisters are beating their breasts in desperate sorrow because they have lost their brothers. They are all pitied, but apparently most of all the sisters of the fallen men. To whom are they dear? As the passage seems to suggest: the city’s population sharing their sorrow and taking pity on them because of their love of both their fallen brothers and the bereaved sisters.’ But this moment is also full of outrage and anger, and these womenfolk outmatch the Arcadian matres in their city (146–47), because they will step into the foreground to speak their truth to power. They channel the bad blood of their city.

dirum exsecrantur bellum Turnique hymenaeos: the women cash out the scene; they move from ritual lament during the truce and on to curse war, on the grounds insinuated throughout the narrative; herewith they cross the line, they enter politics, aping Drances’ escalation of the pressing issue to include Aeneas’ challenge to Turnus. hymenaeus = ‘wedding refrain’ (or, personified as Hymenaeus, the Greek god of wedding) and in the plural (as here), ‘wedding’, ‘marriage’. The mourning Latins curse the ill-omened (dirum) war, together with the equally ill-omened match between Turnus and Lavinia (one of its principal causes). As Putnam (1995: 167) notes: ‘The meaning of the coniugium for the war is a constant subject of the last four books.’ JH: And as we have seen, that follows out the logic of any form of monarchy, where personal politics decide alliance, integration, legitimacy or their negation.

Turnique hymenaeos: on the hymenaeus (or as here in the plural hymenaei), the wedding cry or song, and its inauspicious connotations in Latin poetry see Hersch (2010: 239–40): ‘The evidence in Roman poetry suggests that the singing of the hymenaeus (or hymenaei) was performed during the procession of the bride to her new home. […] It is notable that in most of the later sources, the mentions of hymenaei often signal trouble, and perhaps mortal danger […] Virgil uses the word hymenaei metonymically to refer to three unhappy weddings-that-never-were in the Aeneid (the weddings of Helen and Paris, Dido and Aeneas, and Lavinia and Turnus) as well as a joyful wedding that has not yet occurred when the book ends (that of Aeneas and Lavinia).’


ipsum armis ipsumque iubent decernere ferro, | qui regnum Italiae et primos sibi poscat honores: iubent introduces an indirect statement with ipsum (2x) and decernere as verb (to be read also with ipsum armis: the –que after ipsum links the two parts of the indirect statement), followed by a relative clause of characteristic or cause (hence the subjunctive mood of poscat). Taking their cue from Aeneas (see above 115–18), these Latins have come to believe that Turnus alone ought to fight.

regnum Italiae: a gesture of expansive proto-Augustan geography which sends up Turnus, as if Italia was already an organized nation back at — before — the origins of Rome. There never was such a thing (before Caesar, and Augustus…).


ingravat haec saevus Drances solumque vocari | testatur, solum posci in certamina Turnum: The main clause falls into two parts (ingravat – testatur) linked by the –que after solum. testatur introduces a bipartite indirect statement with the emphatically delayed Turnum as subject accusative and two passive infinitives (vocari and posci; in certamina is to be understood with both verbs). Drances maliciously picks up and reinforces the groundswell of opinion from the group of mourners, shifting from the active ‘he should fight himself’ to the passive ‘actually, he alone (repeated twice: solum … solum mirrors the earlier ipsum … ipsum) is being called to a single combat’. The killer here is the reuse of poscere, which the mourners used to describe Turnus’ personal ambitions (219: … sibi poscat…), but here recurs in the passive: he is demanded (posci). The metrical design of the verses is similarly reminiscent of what came before and is again expressive of the theme. They scan as follows:

– u u | – – | – – | – – | – u u | – –

– – | – – | – – | – – | – u u | – –

The only dactyls in these two lines, with the exception of those in the fifth foot, occur in the opening foot of verse 220. In fact, ingravat haec forms a metrical unit called a choriamb (– u u –), and while the nimble shorts would seem out of place for a word that signifies ‘to weigh down on’, the swift rhythm arguably conveys something of the speed by which Drances pounces upon the incriminations leveled against Turnus. And after the speedy opening, the metre indeed slows down as Virgil elaborates on (and adds prosodic weight to) ‘savage’ Drances’ concerted efforts to aggravate the ill will towards his antagonist. He implies that Turnus flinches from the confrontation in a cowardly manner and lets others do the dirty work for him, sending them to fight and die in his stead and for his benefit.

saevus Drances: for Drances (and his savage hatred of Turnus), see above on 122–25. JH: The epithet bleeds from what he is in this intervention into what he always is. The women and children were full of hate but no way hateful, but here they are now, stuck in Drances’ camp as he takes his chance, takes it upon himself to report straight to the people the deal proposed by the enemy chieftain. Like the other envoys, we can’t deny it, we were there (testatur), so we know how Drances jumped straight into bed with Aeneas, already cosying up to him. No one can enjoy thinking like Drances, as the warped way he rephrases what Aeneas actually said exposes to view, but if you won’t go along with it, you’re leaving those mums and kids in the lurch, and the ghastly business of disposing of the mass casualties hasn’t touched you at all. But still and all, Drances taints any cause he backs and he’s capitalizing on the waves of emotion stirred up by the truce. Virgil signals to us what Drances is up to, jazzing it up, twisting the knife, beyond what Aeneas ‘said’ and how the dependants ‘put it’ (ingravat). Next, he takes a moment to give us honorary Latins a nudge and a kick: we must formulate ‘sundry proposals’ of our own around which policy, strategy, might be agreed (sententia); and a major consideration to take into account will be all the ‘many’ successful weaponized trophies lining Turnus’ cabinet, as he writes up an ‘epic’ of his own (fama). Is there one ‘view’ for every ‘feat’? What counts for what with the hordes of readers of the Aeneid? Isn’t there a ‘Turniad in here too?


multa simul contra variis sententia dictis | pro Turno, et magnum reginae nomen obumbrat, | multa virum meritis sustentat fama tropaeis: three difficult lines of awkward Latin, consisting of three main clauses: (i) multa … pro Turno, with the verb to be supplied; (ii) et … obumbrat; (iii) multa … tropaeis; (i) and (ii) are linked by et; but there is no connective between (ii) and (iii). The three subject phrases — multa … sententia; magnum … nomen; multa … fama — resemble each other, especially the first and the third, which are linked by the anaphora of multa, in which magnum partially shares via alliteration. Also in terms of metre, lines 222 (– u u | – – | – u u | – – | – u u | – –) and 224 (– u u | – u u | – – | – – | – u u | – –) resemble each other with their three dactylic feet, whereas the intervening 223 is spondaic except in the fifth (– – | – – | – – | – – | – u u | – –). The lines feature various hyperbata (in addition to the subject phrases, we get variis … dictis and meritis … tropaeis). They surely capture the fractious mood and dissonance among the Latins. After Drances stepped in to capitalize on and fan further the anti-Turnus sentiments, we now hear that he by no means managed to sway everyone: Turnus still commands considerable backing, not least because he enjoys the support and protection of Queen Amata.

multa simul contra variis sententia dictis | pro Turno: expressions of solidarity with Turnus are instant, manifold, and uncoordinated: ‘Many an opinion (multa … sententia) all at once (simul) in opposition (contra is an adverb) expressed in varied statements (variis … dictis) for Turnus’. The absence of the verb is expressive of the supportive hubbub.

magnum reginae nomen obumbrat: the accusative object — sc. Turnum — needs to be supplied here: the august reputation of the queen (Amata) ‘shelters’ or ‘protects’ Turnus (see OLD s.v. obumbro 2b, on the figurative use of the verb, which literally means ‘to cover with shade’, ‘darken’, ‘overshadow’ — cf. umbra). Monarchy gives some women a slice of the political cake, the royals. Virgil’s Augustan Rome would get very used to its Empress Livia’s role in ‘palace politics’.

multa … fama: ‘many a famous tale’.

meritis … tropaeis: there is a faint echo here of the end of Evander’s speech, where he singles out the killing of Turnus as the last meritum still missing on Aeneas’ CV (179–80: meritis vacat hic tibi solus | fortunaeque locus). The phrase sits slightly awkwardly in the sentence: nominally, it is an instrumental ablative to be construed with sustentat, but specifies what it is about the multa fama that generates support: ‘many a famous tale supports the hero with well-won victories’ = ‘many a famous tale about his well-won victories supports the hero’. The episode closes on this watchword of proceedings so far through Book 11 — where we started, with Mezentius as Aeneas’ tropaeum.

1 Rosati (2017: 377), who shows that Mezentius suffers a variant of his own preferred method of torture, as he ends up clinging to his own dead son Lausus shortly before getting killed by Aeneas.

2 See the discussion by Chaudhuri (2014: 69–77), citation from 76.

3 Quotations from Cowan (2005: 23). For exploration of this intriguing trajectory and the figure more generally, see e.g. Burke (1974), Thome (1979), Basson (1984), Gotoff (1984), Kronenberg (2005), and Rivero García and Librán Moreno (2011). Pace Fratantuono (2009: 13), Mezentius is not ‘Pallas’ killer’.

4 The neo-Latin poet Maffeo Vegio (1407–1458) wrote a supplement to the Aeneid (Aeneid 13!), which contains all of the material that Virgil (wisely?) decided to leave in the narrative beyond. For Vegio see Putnam (2004). His original Latin text and a translation are also available on the web. See Check it out – and impress your friends with knowledge of Aeneid 13 and some Virgilian fan fiction!

5 Cf. the discussion by Camps (1969: 127–8).

6 See also Newman (1986: 164), who links 4.129 (the day of the fateful hunt) to 11.1 (the day of the tragic haunt) as follows: ‘Dido is not perhaps hunting Aeneas so much as haunting him, spoiling and frustrating his efforts, forever re-enacting her own fiery death’ (with reference to Pallas’ imminent cremation).

7 See Laird (1999: 154) for a comparative discussion and bibliography.

8 Apart from Fantham, see also Hardie (1998).

9 Gildenhard (2012: 240–43, on the opening of Aeneid 6.

10 Eidinow (2016: 207); in her view ‘narratives of divine phthonos can be said to provide a negotiation of meaning with the unseen: they were used to clarify the sense of apparently random events of fortune and misfortune by offering justifications, validations, consolations and explanations’ with reference to the social dynamics of gift exchange, however futile this endeavour ultimately turned out to be (231). See further Lloyd-Jones (1971), Walcott (1978), and Lanzilotta (2010), who argues that the notion of phthonos theôn is best understood as ‘a “divine refusal” to grant human aspirations’ (92).

11 See Polybius 39.8.2 with Aalders (1979).

12 See also Iliad 17.50–60, where the death of Euphorbus (slain by Menelaus) is compared to the uprooting of a young olive tree.

13 See also Cat. 61.87–90.

14 For discussion see Owen Lee (1979: 14–16) and Farron (1985).

15 For current thinking on grieving animals (though for their own kind) see King, B. J. (2013), ‘When Animals Mourn’ [] and further King (2013).

16 So Fiachra Mac Góráin per litteras. For counterfactuals in the Aeneid see further Frizzarin (2016),, whose dissertation underwrites the discussion here.

17 Cf. Scholz (1999: 457).

18 On the contrast between Drances the orator and Turnus the general see Connolly (2007: 83): ‘In Rome, as in most western cultures, manly men are better known for war-making than wordplay. […] Tricked by Juno in book 10, Turnus had abandoned the battlefield; here, with his belligerent equation of Drances’ oratorical powers with unmanly cowardice, Turnus redeems himself as a man of action…’

19 See e.g. Woolf (1993) and, more recently, the studies by Cornwell (2017a) (2017b) and Lavan (2017).

20 For discussion see e.g. de Souza (2008), the commentary by Cooley (2009), and Havener (2016a).

21 Weinstock (1960: 45).

22 Lavan here draws on Scott (1990), Jameson (1971: 380): ‘Ideology is designed to promote the human dignity and clear conscience of a given class at the same time as it discredits their adversaries’), and Woolf (1994: 118–19).

23 For recent work on civil-war triumphs see Lange (2013) (2018) and Havener (2016b). For the phenomenon of (Roman) civil war more generally see e.g. Henderson (1998), Lange (2008), and Armitage (2017).

24 Brown (2003).

25 One might want to add Aen. 2.627 to the mix, where Virgil uses the simile of tree-felling to illustrate the fall of Troy.

26 See Macrobius, Saturnalia 6.2.27.

27 For lament in the Greek world, and in particular ‘the nexus between lament and vengeance’, see Alexiou (1971/2002), Danforth (1982), and Holst-Warhaft (1992), cited by Fantham (1999b: 221). For a recent study of mourning as a means of symbolic communication in Rome see Degelmann (2018).

28 Horsfall (2003: 156) draws the lines differently on thematic grounds: ‘common soldiers are cremated or buried where they fall, while warriors of note and their kin are returned home for more elaborate burial.’