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

11.498–506: Enter Camilla

The protracted war council that followed upon the funeral scenes (225–444) ends in alarm at the news that Aeneas and his army are on the move, sweeping down on the city. No agreement has been reached, but Turnus and his contemporaries decide to take matters into their own hands and prepare to renew the fight. A key ally is Camilla, whom Turnus meets at the gate to talk strategy. JH: She spells ‘mounted division’ to the rescue (433, agmen agens equitum). Her entrance is detonated by an elaborate simile with Turnus as the runaway horse (nb, 492: fugit) ranging free from the pen and out in his element on the plain, with pasture, mares, river-bathing on his mind. He’s ‘a rich specimen, mane splaying over shoulders and neck’ (492–97), warming us up for ‘his’ filly and her playmates. Where we come (back) in.


Obvia cui Volscorum acie comitante Camilla | occurrit portisque ab equo regina sub ipsis | desiluit, quam tota cohors imitata relictis | ad terram defluxit equis: cui is a connecting relative (= et ei, i.e. Turnus); the dative goes with obvia or occurrit. The two main verbs occurrit and desiluit are linked by the –que after portis. A relative clause (quam … equis) follows, with Camilla as antecedent. She arrives at the head of either a full squadron of cavalry or a personal escort on horseback (scholarly opinion on the meaning of cohors here is divided), who appear very much beholden to their queen. As Frantantuono (2009: 167) points out, the ‘description delineates well the Italian hierarchy: Camilla shows respect to Turnus, after which her Volscians show their respect both to her and to him by imitating their leader.’ JH: She was last but not least of the Italian allies picked out by Turnus just now as ‘so many’ reasons not to despair of turning the tables on the Trojans (429–33), presented in her own supplement, capping the rest as when we first met her, immediately after Turnus, in the Italian catalogue (7.803–17): the repeat introduction here demands that our first impressions are meant to lodge with us (including a whole verse doublet: hos super advenit Volsca de gente Camilla | agmen agens equitum et florentis aere catervas, 7.803–4 ~ est et Volscorum egregia de gente Camilla | agmen agens equitum et florentis aere catervas, 11.432–33). Her role is thus indicated as a key prop for Turnus, here to die for and before him.

Volscorum acie comitante: the genitive Volscorum is dependent on acie and belongs in the ablative absolute (standard prose order would be acie Volscorum comitante). JH: This theme tune bolsters the cue to rewind to 432–33, and then to Turnus’ call to resistance with the enemy at the gate, armari Volscorum edice maniplis, 463; griefstricken Evander had wished his son could have fallen after chopping down these crack troops, 167, caesis Volscorum milibus; and news will indeed reach Turnus, 898: deletas Volscorum acies, cecidisse Camillam.

Camilla | occurrit … regina… | desiluit: the two enjambed verbs underscore Camilla’s forcefulness and energy.

portisque ab equo regina sub ipsis: the massive hyperbaton + anastrophe portis … sub ipsis (= sub portis ipsis) is iconic, forming a notional ‘arch’ under which the queen and her horse are located. JH: The Latin mothers who gawped in amazement, on sight, at Camilla’s turnout on parade (7.813–17), were a moment ago praying to Athena to smash that ‘freebooter’ Aeneas and stretch him flat out on the ground, ‘spill him under this very gateway’ (portis …. effunde sub altis, 485). Ominous, then, that her squadron immediately ‘pour’ from the saddle (next n.). These same mothers will shortly be wailing unto heaven when everything goes belly-up, and these cavalrymen, routed, stampede for safety behind ‘these very’ gates — the first arrivals successful, the rest shut out, battering away to get in while the mothers chuck makeshift missiles from the battlements (matres … portas … portas … portas … matres, 877–91).

desiluit – defluxit: there seems more energy packed into desiluit (Camilla) than defluxit (her cohort): we were emphatically — unbearably — warned of her lightness of being on first acquaintance (7.808–11). But Camilla, too, will soon ‘flow’ from her horse — against her will: 11.828: … ad terram non sponte fluens. See the commentary below on the water imagery.

quam tota cohors imitata relictis | ad terram defluxit equis: a syntactically and stylistically very elaborate and intricate way of saying ‘her troops dismounted too’. The antecedent of the relative pronoun quam is Camilla; quam is the accusative object of the past participle imitata (a deponent verb); and relictis … equis is an ablative absolute. A literal translation might be: ‘imitating whom the entire force slid to the ground, after the horses had been dismounted’, though for the sake of elegance it is best to turn (at the very least) the ablative absolute from passive to active: ‘having dismounted their horses’. Other improvements might involve the translation of the relative clause as a new main clause (‘following her example, the entire force dismounted and slid to the ground…’. JH: Her troops take their cue from their leaderene — soon they will be watching her when she fails to watch out for herself, and bolt for it the instant they’ve lost the boss (800–1, 868, amissa domina). Virgil notes how unRoman military detachments — ‘hordes’ — could get it together: Camilla leads no cohors here, but brings on her catervae (a Gallic word for unRoman units, it was reckoned; 7.804, 11.433).


tum talia fatur: the alliteration and assonance tum ta– –tur deftly sets up the first words of Camilla’s speech (Turne).


‘Turne, sui merito si qua est fiducia forti, | audeo et Aeneadum promitto occurrere turmae | solaque Tyrrhenos equites ire obvia contra: Camilla is already setting about doing what she promises, as her anticipated hostile encounter with the Trojans on the battlefield (occurrere, obvia) that Virgil used to describe her meeting with Turnus (498: obvia; 499: occurrit). Likewise, sola recalls Drances’ insistence that Turnus alone is called upon to fight, back at 220–21: solumque vocari | testatur, solum posci in certamina Turnum, and Turnus’ offer to accept that challenge in the council, 434: quod si me solum… 442: solum Aeneas vocat?). She clearly has a mind (and strategic vision) of her own and tries to persuade Turnus to agree to her plan in authoritative / authorial language on Turnus’ wavelength: these are buddies (next n.). And she sure knows how to get straight to the point: ‘The initial vocative [Turne] is visibly abrupt and urgent’ (Horsfall 2003: 298).

sui merito si qua est fiducia forti: Gossrau rephrases the si-clause as follows: si qui fortis merito aliquam habere potest sui fiduciam….: ‘if anyone brave can justly have any trust in himself’. Virgil opts for fiducia as the subject, expresses possession through esse + dative (forti), and separates the genitive sui from the noun on which it depends (fiducia) through a striking hyperbaton, reinforced by the post-position of the conjunction si. The pronominal attribute qua is in the nominative feminine singular modifying fiducia (= aliqua; but after si, nisi, ne and num, the ali– disappears). fiducia (and ‘daring’: cf. audeo) is a key quality of Turnus, among others: see e.g. 9.126: at non audaci Turno fiducia cessit (‘but confidence did not abandon daring Turnus’), 10.276–77: Haud tamen audaci Turno fiducia cessit | litora praecipere et venientis pellere terra (‘But confidence did not abandon daring Turnus to reach the shore first and drive the incomers from land’), and 10.284 (where he speaks himself): audentis Fortuna iuvat (‘Fortune favours the daring’). Camilla continues to speak Turnuswise, though in the case of ‘daring’ they’re both bold to a fault. Audacity (audacia) is courage (fortitudo) mixed with rashness (temeritas) and a quality that (as both Camilla and Turnus are about to prove) seals an early death — or, in other terms, a ‘dashing’ epic role… The distinction between fortitudo and audacia is of course a fine one, and it is telling that Camilla invokes both, side by side, with forti in the gnomic si-clause and audeo in the main clause.

audeo et … promitto occurrere… –que ire obvia contra: the two infinitives (linked by –que after sola) follow both main verbs (even though one would expect an indirect statement after promitto).

Aeneadum … turmae: the genitive plural Aeneadum (Aeneades = the people of Aeneas) depends on turmae (in the dative singular, to be construed with occurrere).

obvia contra: JH: In flies this speed-merchant volunteer Camilla (7.807, punning at once Volsca … de gente ~ volaret, 803 ~ 808; cf. 11.546, volitabant … Volsci; a mounted unit was a ‘wing’ in Latin, 11.604: ala Camillae). Always already ‘on-the-road’, she’s again putting her confrontational self in Turnus’ shoes, taking her lead from him (438, ibo animis contra).


me sine prima manu temptare pericula belli, | tu pedes ad muros subsiste et moenia serva.’: a tricolon of alliterative imperatives — sine, subsiste, serva — with the first concerning what Turnus is supposed to let Camilla do and the second and third telling Turnus what he should do himself. Camilla devotes a line each to herself and to Turnus and marks the pivot through antithesis (me – tu, placed prominently at the beginning of their respective lines) and asyndeton: there is no connective between the first and second colon (whereas the second and third are linked by et).

me sine … temptare: the imperative sine governs both an accusative object (me) and an infinitive (temptare): ‘Allow me to try…’

prima … pericula belli: the accusative object of temptare. (At first sight, it might seem possible to construe prima with manu (manu, after all, is a feminine noun in the ablative), but attention to metre snuffs this option out quickly enough: for prima to be an ablative, the final –a would have to scan long — instead of short, as it does, hence it is the neuter accusative plural form.) The phrase prima pericula has a nice assonance going for it, with four of the five letters of prima recurring in pericula (and in the same order) and the homoioteleuton –ma, –la. JH: This hussar looks down on the foot-sloggers just the way she should, always in the vanguard, first in the line of fire, and she knows epic conflict should work this way — devil take the hindmost — whereas Virgil often eschews heroics and espouses the caution of Roman-style discipline (the ethos of castra, to which is devoted a whole book’s celebration: Aeneid 9, see next n.).

tu pedes ad muros subsiste et moenia serva: Camilla envisions a cavalry engagement in the open fields for herself, while enjoining Turnus to protect the city with its walls. The emphasis on muri and moenia is fitting for Aeneas’ counterpart, destined to lay the foundations for the altae moenia Romae (1.8). With her dying breath (825–26), Camilla reiterates her earlier advice that Turnus safeguard the city. JH: But he didn’t get the lesson of Book 9, where the Trojans turned down challenges to come out from their camp and fight because under orders not to… and now he does not — cannot — listen.

The Volsci bring an exciting ‘charge’ to the scenes of combat ahead; Virgil determines to freshen up his ‘Iliad’ with a cavalcade strike-force. There is indeed a certain homology with the Roman army of Virgil’s lifetime, where units of mounted citizens had long lapsed in favour of squads of ‘natives’ signed up from within and beyond the imperial frontiers. But he has brought in the Etruscans under Tarchon and Volscians under Camilla to ring the changes on regular (epic) battle, and he has given the affair a thorough twist of surreal strangeness by featuring our Amazonian visitor from the Italian jungle. While Aeneas is away, a daring / devil-may-care Virgil comes out to play (from 184, and then we lie in wait for the main man, from 511 until 904). And, starting with Camilla’s synchronized troopers (nb imitata, 500), the fantasy choreography verges on thrilling… parody. This is going to be melodrama right out of left field. For more on the warhorse in antiquity see Sidnell (2007).

11.507–521: Turnus’ Turn

While appreciative of Camilla’s stalwart offer of support, Turnus, drawing on recent military intelligence provided by his scouts, does precisely the opposite of what Camilla advises him to do: instead of protecting the city with his army, he devises a stratagem that has him go off into the mountains to lay an ambush for Aeneas (not, that is, to meet him in single combat). The plan will misfire badly — when Turnus rushes to the city to protect it from attack — but that will in part be reckless Camilla’s fault, getting herself killed so that her grief-stricken buddy drops his stratagem just when the trap was about to bite.


Turnus ad haec oculos horrenda in virgine fixus: the sentence lacks a main verb, which is easily supplied (sc. dicit or fatur or some such verb of speaking) and governs ad haec (‘in response to this’). oculos horrenda in virgine go with the past participle fixus, which is passive in form, but active in meaning, with oculos as accusative object (‘having fixed his eyes / his gaze on the awe-inspiring maiden’). JH: Everyone must stare at Camilla (from the very start, 7.813–17), and that includes us. Already she packs into one sensational frame a chain of ‘maidens’ spanning from (the helpless prize in martial epic) Lavinia virgo | (479), in with those Latin mothers praying to (the eternal epic Big Gun Athena entirely at home) armipotensTritonia virgo | (483). Virginity is, across the scale, dangerous. It bears saying it twice here: virgine … virgo. As we shall find (n. on 531), a whole regiment of virgines with their lieutenant virgo and their leaderene Diana, Latonis virgo 533–6, 557), are watching the scene from up in the gods, pledging vengeance for, say it again, our star virgo devoted to virginitas (565, 583). ‘Camilla’ is indeed marked out as the maiden voyage for ‘Epic turned Fantasy’.


‘o decus Italiae virgo, quas dicere grates | quasve referre parem?: decus Italiae stands in apposition to the vocative virgo: ‘maiden, glory of Italy…’. The following question has a bipartite design, with the anaphoric repetition of the interrogative adjective quas agreeing with grates. The two parts are linked by –ve, and the accusative object grates (placed in the first part) and the main verb parem (placed in the second part) have to be supplied, respectively, in the other part as well: quas grates dicere parem, quasve grates referre parem? The step from grates dicere to grates referre is climactic: from rendering thanks verbally to returning favours received.

decus Italiae: as a figure from Latium, but with links to other parts of Italy, Camilla is a geopolitical heroine who entirely justifies Turnus’ address to her as decus Italiae. In many ways she is (an embodiment of) Italy: the peninsula’s political and geographical features have come to life in her. See Introduction 26–7.

parem: first person singular present subjunctive active. Horsfall (2003: 302) identifies it as ‘polite “deliberative”’. JH: Turnus called on rhetoric to duel with Drances in the debate, but antirhetoric is called for between buddies. As his next unsophisticated jumble of words acts out:


sed nunc, est omnia quando | iste animus supra, mecum partire laborem: the main verb of the sentence is partire, the present imperative of the deponent verb partior, partiri. The causal subordinate clause (est … supra) introduced by the post-positive quando couldn’t be more jumbled up. Sorted into something resembling standard word order it might read: quando iste animus supra omnia est: ‘since this spirit (of yours) soars above all else’. The postponement of the preposition supra and its separation from the word it governs (omnia) is particularly striking (if not all that unusual). ‘All that’, is the thought behind the phrasing — but the only words that matter to Turnus in this company are mecum and laborem.

quando: Adams (2007: 159): ‘as an interrogative, indefinite or causal conjunction the word is common in classical Latin’. Here the meaning is causal.


Aeneas, ut fama fidem missique reportant | exploratores, equitum levia improbus arma | praemisit, quaterent campos: subject and verb of the main sentence are Aeneaspraemisit. improbus modifies Aeneas in predicative position (‘being the villain that he is’). ut introduces a parenthetical subordinate clause in the indicative (ut = as) with fama (the final –a scans short) and missi … exploratores as subjects linked by the –que after missi and reportant as verb (plural, matching the number of the closer of the two subjects). The sentence concludes with a iussive clause (quaterent campos) with the conjunction (ut + subjunctive) elided.

ut fama fidem missique reportant | exploratores: fidem, the accusative object of reportant, here has the sense of ‘trustworthy piece of military intelligence’, referring to what Aeneas and his army are currently up to: ‘as word-of-mouth and scouts sent out (on reconnaissance) report back as <no longer (dubious)> word-of-mouth, but <confirmed)> trustworthy information’. Turnus is talking fast; he knows his stuff.


ipse ardua montis | per deserta iugo superans adventat ad urbem: there are various ways to sort out the topographical indicators and the verbs (the participle superans and the main verb adventat). ardua and deserta are both in the neuter plural, either both used substantively (with ardua montis the accusative object of superans and per deserta going with adventat), or with one as attribute of the other in a phrase governed by the preposition per: per ardua deserta / deserta ardua montis: ‘overcoming the steep heights of the mountain (montis is a partitive genitive), he marches on the ridge through deserted regions to the city’. Or one could contemplate construing ardua montis per deserta iugo all with superans (‘overcoming the steep heights of the mountain (by moving) through deserted areas on / over the ridge’), thus adding drama to his sudden appearance at the city gates (adventat ad urbem). JH: Virgil again catches a savvy commander’s grasp of military procedure and thinking: where speed is of the essence, there is not a moment to lose in jazzing up some tricksy speechifying when you have a cunning plan to cook up, a trick, yes, but right out of the manual, a bona fide aspect of waging war (515: furta … belli, a phrase quoted from Sallust, Historiae in Servius’ note here; parem, 509 ~ paro, 515).


furta paro belli convexo in tramite silvae, | ut bivias armato obsidam milite fauces: the ut-clause features a symmetrical design with bivias modifying fauces, armato agreeing with milite, and the verb (obsidam) at the centre: adjectivea – adjectiveb – verb – nounb – nouna.

convexo in tramite silvae: anastrophe (= in convexo tramite silvae). Horsfall (1982: 50) draws attention to the conventional nature of topographical descriptions, with reference to similarities between this passage and Livy’s account of the Caudine Forks episode, in which the Romans were trapped like rats and soundly humiliated by Italian guerrillas (9.2.7). According to Stahl (1990: 186) the topography feeds into characterization: ‘[…]Turnus leaves the battle for a ruse. In the eyes of the reader, the discrepancy between words and deeds certainly discredits Turnus.’ The following description of the place where Turnus plans to set up his ambush reinforces the negative impression (11.522–25 — not part of the set text but worth a look here):

Est curvo anfractu valles, accommoda fraudi

armorumque dolis, quam densis frondibus atrum

urget utrimque latus, tenuis quo semita ducit

angustaeque ferunt fauces aditusque maligni.


[There is a valley with a winding curve, suited to deceit and the stratagems of warfare; darkened by dense foliage, it is hemmed in on either side; a narrow path leads into it, the entry points of the ravine are narrow and the approach is treacherous.]

Stahl also points out that Virgil’s ‘parecphrasis ascribes predicates of human deceit to the place of the ambush. […] the procedure of characterizing is indirect, but the reader can hardly avoid drawing conclusions from the quality of the landscape — fraudi; dolis; maligni; cf. silvis … iniquis, 531 — regarding the character of its user Turnus who is familiar with the area (nota … regione, 530) when planning his furta belli (515).’ JH: But using your superior knowledge of the terrain isn’t in itself a failing in a general, and ‘discrediting’ Turnus in order to ‘credit’ Aeneas is in the end a disappointingly flat response to Virgil’s mix of excitement and gravity in his dramatization of the complexities of war. The Aeneid can be as multi-perspectival as War & Peace (if a whole lot shorter). Besides, the Caudine Forks episode presents a telling conundrum: the Samnites had to decide between letting the Romans go free, thus putting them under an obligation, and wiping them out, thus winning this war at a stroke; but they chose the for once ill-advised middle way of letting them go but humiliating them, thus ensuring the need for tergiversation and revenge, and getting the worst of all worlds. It’s plain to see how the shifty and disputatious parable bears loudly on the ‘end’ of the Aeneid, on the ‘logic’ of Roman imperialism. Can any war be terminated without bloodshed? And/or without humiliation?

armato … milite: a collective singular: ‘soldiers in arms’.


tu Tyrrhenum equitem conlatis excipe signis: the emphatic vocative tu is superfluous from a grammatical point of view, but brings out the very different tasks that Turnus has in mind for himself and Camilla. JH: She had her ideas for a twin-strike campaign (| me… | tu, 504, 505), but Turnus countermands (<I>, 515–16, | tu… | tecum …. tu, 517–18) — ‘I set an ambush, you engage in a frontal clash with their enemy’s cavalry’. excipio, however, is what a huntress should do, awaiting the game the beaters stampede toward her. The pair of them are going to find that ‘entering’ into an ambush can be a ‘malign’ boomerang — and, in case we missed it, that was our tipoff in the last word of the setup at 525.

Tyrrhenum equitem: like milite (516), equitem is a collective singular: ‘the Tyrrhenian cavalry’ (the accusative object of excipe).

conlatis … signis: an ablative absolute.


tecum acer Messapus erit turmaeque Latinae | Tiburtique manus, ducis et tu concipe curam.’: the first main clause (tecum … manus) has a tripartite subject — Messapus, turmae, manus — linked by the –que after turmae and Tiburti, with erit as verb (singular, matching in number the closest of the three subjects). After this tricolon Virgil uses a different connective (et) to add another main clause with the (again, strictly speaking superfluous) vocative tu as subject and the imperative concipe as verb.

Messapus: according to Horsfall (2000: 451) Messapus is ‘a major figure in Aeneid 7–12, possibly once of greater importance in the Aeneas-legend’. He certainly has his moments (alongside Camilla again at 11.603–4), starting with his impressive entry in the catalogue of Latin troops in Aeneid 7.691–705. In Virgil’s narrative, however, he never really comes into his own — ceding much of the limelight to Camilla. As Ash (2002: 259) puts it: ‘Messapus speaks only once (Aeneid 12.296), when he kills Achates in battle, and we certainly never see him conversing with Turnus in direct speech. Instead, Camilla tends to play that role, as we can see when Turnus explains to her his plan to set up an ambush for Aeneas’ men (Aeneid 11.508–19). Moreover, although Messapus appears in the narrative on numerous occasions, he is almost always described as doing something: only twice does Virgil offer any insight into what Messapus is feeling.’ JH: Nevertheless, he is the first warrior listed by Turnus as a reason why the Latins need not be down-hearted, and his apparent survival of the Aeneid, along with the other character named, the augur ‘lucky Tolumnius’ (11.429, cf. 464), as between them they help to wreck the first truce arranged for the Turnus-Aeneas duel (12.258–65; 289–96), means that the casualties, Camilla and Turnus, left the confederate cause still up and running, to participate in the Italian future (see n. on 11.831). In Messapus’ case, we heard first of him that nobody could lay him low ‘with fire or steel’, so he was always an odds-on survivor (7.691–94).

Tiburti … manus: Tiburtus was one of the three sons of the Argive Catillus, who came to Italy after the death of his father and is said to have founded Tibur. See Aeneid 7.670–77.

ducis … curam: the genitive ducis (referring to Camilla: the genitive is subjective), in emphatic front position, depends on curam.


sic ait, et paribus Messapum in proelia dictis | hortatur sociosque duces et pergit in hostem: a sequence of three main verbs — ait, hortatur, pergit — linked by the two et. The –que after socios links the two accusative objects of hortatur, i.e. Messapum and duces. These include those duces cited by Turnus in the debate (11.430).

11.532–596: The Story of Camilla (as Told by Diana): Overview

532–35a: the narrative frame: Diana gets ready to address Opis (3+ lines)

535b–94: Diana’s speech


535b–37a: the current situation: Camilla, her favourite servant, is going to war (2)


537b–38: Diana shifts into expository mode (cf. enim) (1+)


539–84a: the aetiological tale proper (45+ verses)


539–46: family background, birth, and flight into exile as newborn (8)


547–66: the moment at which Camilla becomes Diana’s servant (20)


567–84a: her infancy and childhood (17+)


584b–86: Diana returns to the present with a counterfactual wish (2+)


587–94: Camilla’s death and instruction to Opis to exact revenge on Camilla’s killer, while she takes care of Camilla’s body (8)


595–96: Opis acts at Diana’s behest (2)

Diana begins her discourse in the present, proceeds to sketch in Camilla’s backstory, and returns to the present by uttering a counterfactual wish, which in turn sets up the last part of her speech, which anticipates Camilla’s impending death on the battlefield, with instructions for the aftermath. 584b–86 stand out: this is the moment Camilla’s story takes a tragic turn, highlighted on the lexical level in particular at the beginning and the end of the speech: tristis … voces (534); bellum … crudele (535); fatis … acerbis (587); tristis … pugna (589); infausto … omine (589). Camilla herself is given two attributes that underscore the tragic nature of her story: infelix (563 — about midway through the speech: line 29 of 60) and miserandae (593).

The overall design of Diana’s discourse is fairly symmetrical, especially the central part (539–94): 8 – 20 – 17.5 + 2.5 – 8. Despite the sense of foreboding and doom that hangs over the tale, there are also touches that are dramatic (without being tragic) or even playful, such as Diana’s authorial voice (the goddess is of the ‘Me, myself, and I’ persuasion and somehow manages to feature herself in her discourse in the first, second, and third person); the ambiguous figure of Metabus, who is chased out by the Volscians in what appears to be an all-out revolt (there are parallels to Mezentius, but he is a far less obnoxious figure); the disappearing mother, and her partial replacement by her father, who not only ensconces Camilla in two womb-like encasings (the fold of his garment; the bark of an oak-tree), but also nurses her: we get a detailed description of suckling milk; the fast-and-loose narrative, with some implausible touches, well (but not quite fully) glossed over (forte); the way Diana lingers on circumstantial details: the swollen river, the immense spear. In fact, if one turns Diana’s speech into a word cloud (see below) (, the word for spear (telum) takes centre stage: since the tableau foregrounds cavalry fighting we expect the epic’s standard weaponry to be varied, and with it many of the formulaic expectations and valuations attached to our reading of them: Camilla spells as challenging a diversion from arma as virgo from vir (see n. on 542–43).

Diana’s epiphany is in many ways surprising. See de Grummond (1997: 161):

Then suddenly, with no more warning than an interea (532), the poet introduces the goddess Diana herself. The shift of scene to a heavenly setting is, of course, typically Virgilian in manner. The actions of the human protagonists are continually reflected, paralleled, or symbolically embodied in the speech and action of the gods in the Aeneid, and these Olympian scenes are in many ways firmly modelled on Homeric precedent. Diana’s entry, nonetheless, comes as something of a surprise. Although Dido has been compared to Diana in a famous simile (1. 498–504) […] and although there are […] a number of indirect references to Diana in the Aeneid, nowhere in the poem previously has the goddess herself actually appeared — nor is she to be found again, after this passage. And what is more, the spoken narrative of Diana which follows, sixty lines long (11. 535–94), is utterly without Homeric precedent: Artemis speaks twice in the Iliad, in brief exchanges with the other gods, and never in the Odyssey.

He argues that Diana has a significant subliminal presence throughout the Aeneid — and, while it appears that her role here is to introduce and foreground Camilla, one could also view it the other way around: the figure of Camilla serves to bring Diana and her world to the narrative surface: ‘far from dragging Diana into the poem as an artificial way of enhancing the role of Camilla, Virgil has introduced Camilla into the Aeneid largely for the purpose of making manifest and intelligible the importance — the power — of Diana’ (de Grummond (1997: 163).

Whatever the relative importance of the two characters may be (and why can’t they mutually enrich each other in their respective contributions to the world of the Aeneid?), they are joined by a third, equally mysterious figure, Opis, who first acts as text-internal audience for Diana’s disquisition and then enters the action at her mistress’ behest. Opis is a nymph from Diana’s entourage who here figures as the text-internal addressee of Diana’s tale about Camilla and will be charged with killing Camilla’s killer. She is arguably picked out for these tasks since she serves as Camilla’s double, not least in her swiftness (532: velocem; cf. 7.807–11 for Camilla’s speed). That both are maidens (536: o virgo) goes without saying(!). The association of Diana with Opis (indeed Diana as Opis) goes back to the Greek poet Callimachus. See Thomas (1999: 133). Yet the Latin (N.B. Latin) noun ops, opis, f. (‘help’, ‘resources’, ‘power’, ‘wealth’) may also resonate in the name, as a case of ‘etymology e contrario’: despite her name, Opis does not, cannot help Camilla. She therefore represents a theological paradox (even a goddess named ‘Help’ may be — at least partially — disempowered) that goes well with the adverb nequiquam in 536 (for which see below). For this ‘leading principle of ancient etymological practice, namely that things that sound even vaguely similar are the same in origin’, see Katz (2010: 342). JH: At the same time, the (N.B. Greek) word-truth that ‘Op-is’ imports poetic ‘optics’, since she’s here to be sent down to ‘visit’ the battlefield and get whoever kills Camilla (in-vise, 588) she also ‘helps’ us ‘see’ that no power on earth or heaven is any ‘help’ to her. All through Camilla’s Big Scene we’ll be (un)comfortably aware of Diana watching as Opis watches for her cue from her seat in the front row of the gods (836–37: in montibus… | summis alta sedet) before moving to the wings ready for her entrance (853: tumulo … ab alto). And what this watching amounts to is, finally, (swift) ‘vengeance’ (opis in Greek): ultricem … sagittam, 590, neque … inultae, 845–47. There can be a lot in a name (a lottery, indeed).

11.532–538: A Virginal Threesome (Diana, Opis, Camilla)

After Turnus finished his speech, he is off to his ambush and positions himself in the treacherous woods, in wait for Aeneas. Before we return to any further action, Diana suddenly appears in the narrative to fill us in on Camilla’s backstory.

532–35: Velocem interea superis in sedibus Opim, | unam ex virginibus sociis sacraque caterva, | compellabat et has tristis Latonia voces | ore dabat: the (long-delayed) subject of the sentence is Latonia = the daughter of Latona, i.e. Diana. Before we reach her and the first verb, Virgil devotes two lines to the accusative object of compellabat: velocem … Opim, who receives a one-line gloss in apposition (533: unam…). The second part of the sentence sets up Diana’s speech: has (tristis) voces is the accusative object of dabat. Given that the last syllable of tristis scans long by position here, it could be either the alternative third declension accusative plural form (= tristes) modifying voces or the nominative singular modifying Latonia — or (best) both: the goddess gives voice to her sadness.

velocem … Opim: a massive hyperbaton spanning the entire line, with the attribute speeding ahead of the noun it modifies.

interea: marks the next step in the narrative sequence and/or this scene in heaven unfolds simultaneously with the events on earth just narrated…

superis in sedibus: anastrophe (= in superis sedibus): the action moves skywards.

unam ex virginibus sociis sacraque caterva: ex is here used in the partitive sense after the cardinal number unam — ‘one (out) of…’ — governing two chiastically arranged (noun + adjective :: adjective + noun) but essentially synonymous phrases, linked by the –que after sacra and forming a hendiadys: Diana tends to move about with an entourage (caterva) of virgin maidens (virginibus). The ‘vowel score’ of the two phrases, and the way Virgil has fitted them into his metre, is another instance of the musicality of his verse: the dactylic virginibus sociis (– u u | – u u | –) features five syllables with the ‘light’ vowel ‘i’, whereas heavier ‘a’ sounds dominate in the more spondaic sacraque caterva (– | – u u | – –). Both phrases take up two-and-a-half feet, though the first opens at the beginning of a foot and comes to an end in the middle of one, whereas the inverse is the case with second, thus reinforcing the chiastic design and providing a proper moment of closure. The two attributes, linked via alliteration, emphasize the close-knit nature of the coterie (sociis) and its purity and holiness (sacra). JH: So this bunch of girls, don’t get this wrong, is, at once, one holy horde. We have here one more in Virgil’s long line of phrases linked by –que, which indicates ‘more than one idea, less than two’, as much ‘=’ as ‘and’, so two ways to freight the same unit.

compellabat … dabat: both main verbs are in the imperfect, but for different reasons: in compellabat the tense signifies iteration, in dabat inception. The enjambment and placement of the two verbs at the beginning of their respective lines reinforces the jingling homoioteleuton –labat, dabat (though note that the metrical stress shifts from –la– to –bat).

has tristis … voces: all syllables in this phrase scan long, in line with the sombre mood of Diana’s upcoming speech. Camilla’s fate is a tragic one (with tristis invoking the genre).

ore dabat: the metrical pattern (– u u –), called a choriamb, brings the longish run up to Diana’s direct speech to a well-defined end.


‘graditur bellum ad crudele Camilla, | o virgo, et nostris nequiquam cingitur armis, | cara mihi ante alias: two main clauses linked by et, the first followed by a direct address to Opis (o virgo), the second by a phrase in apposition to Camilla (cara mihi ante alias), though virgo would also suit Camilla (as well as Diana of course) and Opis, too, is a privileged member of Diana’s entourage, so we have a deliberate triangulation and assimilation of the goddess, her divine confidante, and her human protégée. As Fratantuono (2009: 181) elaborates: ‘o uirgo applies to all three women: is Diana specifically addressing Opis here (probably), or emotionally sighing over the virgin Camilla (perhaps)? As usual in such cases, we must not rush to insist on one at the expense of the other.’ JH: We are told to get on with it, from the start: Velocem … So I think we should rush in, and not play the fool.

graditur bellum ad crudele Camilla: the inversion of normal word order in the first clause, where the verb (graditur) comes first and the subject (Camilla) last (rather than vice versa), can perhaps be read as indicative of Diana’s reluctance to see her darling go to her death — just as the anastrophe and inversion of the regular word order in the phrase bellum ad crudele (= ad crudele bellum) foregrounds the prophetic power of the adjective, not least by placing it right next to Camilla: the juxtaposition produces both stylistic (c-alliteration) and thematic effects: crudele anticipates her death in the savage slaughter of the battlefield.

nostris … armis: Diana’s weaponry, via hyperbaton, seems to clad Camilla (the subject of cingitur) in protective armour, but Diana knows that any sense of security is misplaced (nequiquam). JH: There’s a touch in graditur <-> bellum of Mars ‘marching off to war’ (hence his name ‘Gradivus’), and the cockpit of arma virum is no place for Diana’s weapons (vir-go … armis).

nequiquam: Horsfall’s note brings out the wider theological and literary background invoked by the adverb: ‘Artemis had not been able to save Hippolytus […]; from Homer on, the gods, even when concerned to help, were powerless in the face of death, even that of their own offspring […]; Diana’s inability to help her beloved servant (and her awareness thereof), derive from a long and tragic tradition (Zeus-Sarpedon, Thetis-Achilles), etc.)’ (2003: 315).

cara mihi ante alias: JH: the phrase stands in apposition to — and phonically embraces — Ca-ami-i-()-()-a-l-i-a (even the elisions help the effect). We are going to savour this fancy name. [And I think there’s a touch of rhetorical upgrading in the step up from Camilla | to caramihantalias. Emotional upgrading, too, as Diana’s fancy rhetoric intensifies the bittersweet taste of her own words, which fire as well as express a shot of love: dulcedine is ‘in tension with’ tristis (which includes ‘bitter’.]

ante alias: ante here functions as preposition + accusative: ‘above others’.


neque enim novus iste Dianae | venit amor subitaque animum dulcedine movit: Diana (referring to herself in the third person, with Caesarian grandeur and/or tragic pathos) now explains why Camilla commands the top spot in her affection. (Her preferences change from text to text: in Ovid, Metamorphoses 2, her favourite is Callisto. But this could be a top spot, ‘above (some, not necessarily all) others’!). The –que after subita links venit and movit. The denial of novelty through the negation of novus amor and subita dulcedine amounts to a meta-literary joke (reinforced, perhaps, by the switch into the third person, which makes these lines read like an authorial comment): given that the figure of Camilla is a Virgilian creation, the love Diana feels for her is anything but long-established, whatever her protestations: the love is new, her delightful charm is sudden, the tradition she here tries to invoke is an invention. JH: And, brags the Aeneid, the tableau beats any other Artemis myth hands down — including, though not limited to, the instantly ‘moving’ fairytale we are now moving on to (… movit. |).

novus iste … amor: the adjective novus, modifying amor, is perhaps best rendered adverbially (‘this love of Diana has not arrived recently…’). Commentators debate whether the genitive is subjective (Diana loves Camilla) or objective (Camilla’s love for Diana), but the ambiguity instantly delights. The noun amor features with paraded frequency in a tale from and about a supposedly asexual virgin goddess and her coterie of acolytes. See also 549: Metabus’ love for his daughter and 583: Camilla’s love for Diana(’s lifestyle). JH: Welcome to the sorority — arma virumque is going out on a limb: this special pang gets special (novus) treatment, reserving the word dulcedo for its one and only use here.

11.539–546: ‘They F*** You up, Your Mum and Dad. They May not Mean to, but They Do.’1

Since Camilla is a Virgilian invention, all aspects of her story, and in particular all names, are meaningful choices. Diana starts Camilla’s tale with her parents — the local tyrant Metabus (driven out from Privernum by his subjects while his daughter was still a baby) and the nymph Casmilla, from whom she got her name. Parental background and influence during her early years prove formative: ‘Even before she is abandoned to the care of Diana, Camilla is bred to a life of pride and hatred amid warfare and, later, exile’ (de Grummond 1997: 165). The names of her parents offer further clues about Camilla’s ‘nature’.

Metabus: tricky to decode. One namesake from Greek myth is the legendary founder of Metapontium, a city in Southern Italy: see Strabo, Geography 6.1.15. Metabos of Metapontium yields a bilingual pun: pontos is Greek for vast expanse of water (‘the sea’), whereas pons is Latin for bridge — Metabos, the founder of the city beyond (meta) the sea, will provide ‘a (makeshift) bridge over troubled water’ for his daughter. More generally, he is someone who crosses boundaries, whether imaginary or real: he is trangressive in his pride and exercise of power, but also in the ‘motherly’ care he lavishes upon his baby daughter. Like her dad, Camilla will grow into a figure of trangression who bends gender norms and exhibits haughtiness as she glories in her martial prowess.

Casmilla: JH: Pressure on etymologists to hunt down this high-profile specimen mounts! An elaborate chain of far-fetched argumentation stemming from Varro, maestro of Latin linguistics (De lingua Latina 7.34) tracks to the wanted result: ‘The initial part of Casmilla, can be identified with a Greek element which meant or connoted “arms” or “armor”. “Casmilla”, accordingly, should mean something like “armor woman”’ (Egan 1983: 20). As we noted, the Camilla episode bristles with words for ‘weapons’, pride of place taken by nostris … armis (536). The name-change (metonomasia) could indicate an element of translation involved; but ‘camilla’ is also a regular Latin word for a girl acolyte in temple cult (what her father will dub a famula, 557; cf. 533: sacra … caterva, 591: sacrum … corpus), and Camilla’s story will track her through her own chain of changes, as she swiftly grows up from tyrant’s baby to huntress and Diana’s favourite; she has by now become her people’s queen of hearts and a killer warrior: our first stare at her showed how her ‘pastoral myrtle’ (Venus’ plant) comes now ‘ready-tipped with a spear-point’ (7.817, end of the Book). She’s by nature, then, elusive, morphic, a symbolic figure; reconfigured, indeed, by being hurled into the Aeneid’s epic carnage. In her case, it’s more the (re-)naming, less the name, that signifies.


pulsus ob invidiam regno virisque superbas | Priverno antiqua Metabus cum excederet urbe, | infantem fugiens media inter proelia belli | sustulit exsilio comitem, matrisque vocavit | nomine Casmillae mutata parte Camillam: rephrased in prose the sentence would go: cum Metabus, ob invidiam virisque superbas regno pulsus, Priverno, antiqua urbe, excederet, inter media proelia belli fugiens infantem exsilio comitem sustulit et nomine matris Casmillae, parte [sc. nominis] mutata, Camillam vocavit. In other words, we have:

  • a temporal cum-clause (though the word cum is difficult to spot, hidden away as it is in 540 (and appearing suspiciously close to the ablative urbe: don’t get fooled into thinking that you are dealing with the preposition…), with Metabus as subject and excederet as verb;
  • as part of the cum-clause: the past participle pulsus, modifying Metabus and governing the ablative of separation regno as well as the prepositional phrases ob invidiam and (ob) viris superbas, which are linked by the –que after viris;
  • a bipartite main clause with Metabus continuing as subject and sustulit and vocavit (linked by the –que after matris) as verbs;
  • as part of the first main clause: the present participle fugiens, governing the prepositional phrase media inter proelia belli;
  • as part of the second main clause: the ablative absolute mutata parte.

The sentence gives us dramatically confusing glimpses of Camilla’s earliest infancy. We start with the exile of her father, which is orderly without any implication of bloodshed and violence in the initial cum-clause (pulsus, excederet), before turning into a flight during skirmishes in an all-out war (fugiens media inter proelia belli). Within this chaos and confusion Camilla appears as an unnamed infant whom Metabus carries off with himself into exile, seemingly naming her in that very act after her mother Casmilla — but Diana curiously glosses over what became of Casmilla herself: did she perhaps die in childbirth (or) on the battlefield? Diana passes over these details in silence. You might ask yourself why.

ob invidiam … virisque superbas: viris is NOT the ablative or dative plural of vir, but the accusative plural (= vires) of vis. The phrase (a hendiadys of sorts in the form of a husteron proteron) supplies the reason why the inhabitants of Privernum drove out Metabus: they felt hatred for him (invidia) owing to his arrogant or hubristic (cf. superbas) abuse of power (the term vis signifies illegitimate use of physical force). For invidia see further Kaster (2005), for superbia Baraz (2008) (2014). JH: That Lausus seems not to inherit his father Mezentius’ tyrannical nature may be enough to exonerate Camilla too; but patrilinear continuities are the engine of aetiological-aristocratic (hi)story, and Virgil risks all in disturbing their presumption.

Priverno antiqua … urbe: antiqua … urbe stands in apposition to Priverno, an ablative of separation. Privernum was a city in Latium. Adkin (2010), cited by O’Hara (2016: xxiv), etymologizes the name of the city (and the eponymous warrior Privernus) from primus and vis, which would turn viris superbas in the previous line into an anticipating gloss of the name of the town (and Metabus’ relationship to it).

media inter proelia belli: here the anastrophe enacts the meaning of the preposition inter, which is placed ‘between’ the attribute (media) and noun (proelia) it governs.

infantem… | sustulit exsilio comitem: infantem is the accusative object of sustulit with comitem in predicative position (‘… as companion in exile’). JH: Verbal tension between in-fantem, ‘outside language’ and vocavit | nomine, ‘made the noise that brought her into language by conferring a social identity’, stresses that this speech is itself ‘all about’ naming-as-faming. Normal Roman fathers acknowledged their children by ‘lifting them in their arms’ (sustulit, 542, sinu prae se portans, 544) at the hearth, and naming a girl would, so they say, happen at nine days old (a boy at eight days).

matrisque vocavit | nomine Casmillae mutata parte Camillam: Casmillae stands in apposition to the possessive genitive matris, which is dependent on nomine, an ablative of origin: ‘he called her Camilla, from her mother’s name, Casmilla’. vocavit here governs a double accusative (‘to call somebody something’), so eam or infantem has to be supplied from the previous clause. The inversion of standard word order ensures the climactic placement of Camilla’s name at the end of the sentence.


ipse sinu prae se portans iuga longa petebat | solorum nemorum: tela undique saeva premebant | et circumfuso volitabant milite Volsci: dramatic parataxis with an asyndetic shift in focus after nemorum from Metabus to the weapons (tela) as well as their wielders, the Volscians. The elided accusative objects (supply eam – sc. Camillam – with the participle portans as well as eos – sc. Metabum et Camillam – with premebant) add further urgency to the narration.

ipse sinu prae se portans: gender matters start to register as Metabus is ‘almost feminized by the absence of Casmilla’, with Virgil’s phrase evoking ‘marsupial shades’ (Fratantuono 2009: 185).

iuga longa… | solorum nemorum: the sonorous homoioteleuton –lorum, morum is Diana’s way of hamming up her habitat: she is the deity who presides over wild woods and peaks. (Metabus will call on her as cultrix nemorum at 557 below.) JH: Does Artemis step into the story, too, by becoming a weird ‘second mother’ to Camilla, as goddess of childbirth (see Horace, Odes 3.22, Montium custos nemorumque virgo, | quae laborantis utero puellas | ter vocata audis adimisque leto, | diva triformis)?

circumfuso … milite: ablative absolute; milite is a collective singular.

volitabant … Volsci: an alliteration involving the entire first syllable, as good as a figura etymologica (see n. on 504 above).

11.547–556: A Stroke of Inspearation

In mid-flight Metabus finds himself thwarted by the river Amasenus, which is swollen to torrential size after a recent downpour and hence uncrossable with a baby in wrap. A flash of genius comes to the rescue: he ties Camilla to his massive spear. The telum immane (552) stands at the very centre of this block of verses (5 + 5). The narrative adds further faux-aetiological details about the figure of Camilla, starting with the river’s name: ‘Virgil seems to have introduced the swollen “Amasenus” into the story of “Amazon” Camilla because it evokes μαστός (μαζός) [the Greek word for ‘breast’]’ (Paschalis 1997: 378). He further suggests (and you might want to debate how plausibly): ‘“Metabus” and his activities relate to the crossing of boundaries; the spear-cast across the “swollen” “Amasenus” suggests that Camilla’s breasts will never be swollen with milk. Hence, the spear that lodges beneath Camilla’s nipple (“papillam”) suckles not milk (cf. 571–72) but a maiden’s blood (“uirgineum … bibit … cruorem” (804)).’


ecce fugae medio summis Amasenus abundans | spumabat ripis, tantus se nubibus imber | ruperat: the sentence dramatizes the moment (ecce!) when Metabus reaches the river Amasenus, which is impossible to cross with Camilla in tow. Diana stresses the impasse through circumstantial detail of a recent downpour (tantus … ruperat).

ecce: ‘Insofar as it [sc. ecce] has a definable meaning, it is that of expressing immediacy and engagement, in relation to happenings, people or thoughts, whether visible or not’ (Dionisotti 2007: 83).

summis Amasenus abundans | spumabat ripis: after the friction between juxtaposed medio and summis, the massive hyperbaton summis … ripis, reinforced by enjambment is iconic: the riverbanks frame and (barely) contain the swollen river, which foams within. (There is further expressive soundplay in abundans (unda hides within) spumabat.)

tantus se nubibus imber | ruperat: Diana now adds, in asyndetic parataxis, the reason why the Amasenus river is almost overflowing its banks: a downpour of epic proportions (cf. tantus: ‘so torrential a downpour’). ruperat, deftly placed in enjambment for explosive effect, reinforced by the diairesis after the first foot, is pluperfect indicative, indicating an earlier stage than the imperfect spumabat. To have the rain as subject, ‘bursting itself’ (see the reflexive pronoun se) out of the clouds (nubibus is an ablative of separation), may sound passing strange: compare Aeneid 9.670–71: Iuppiter… | … caelo cava nubila rumpit: ‘Jupiter bursts the hollow clouds in heaven’. But our divine narrator Diana might have been disinclined to feature another god in her narrative. (Those learning German might be inclined to think of the word for ‘downpour’, i.e. ‘Wolkenbruch’, which also uses the image of clouds bursting apart.) JH: Instead, this locale of Privernum and the Amasenus (cf. 7.685), either of them scarcely troubling history with a mention, comes alive, as does so much of Italy in Virgil’s devoted hands; and becomes grand, too, with this epic flash flood (in a tall-tale teacup): but you might suspect that it insinuates ‘Amazon’ into Camilla’s text at her ‘baptism’ (cf. 647) with the distinctive Italic twist of an intervocalic –s– (in Latin, this becomes –r–).


ille innare parans infantis amore | tardatur caroque oneri timet: another instance of metrical enactment: as Metabus prepares himself to jump into the river and swim across, the thought of his baby s l o w s h i m d o w n: there is a telling caesura after parans, which sets up the alliterative antithesis between his intention to swim (in-nare parans: – | – u u | –) and love of his newborn baby girl (in-fantis amo-re: – | – u u | – u), two phrases that resemble each other from a metrical point of view. Love wins out, and Metabus comes to an enjambed halt with the three spondees of tardatur (– – | –) that lead up to the caesura, followed by two more in caro (– | –). JH: If you like, the father in the story carries the child to a ‘second birth’ (onus meaning a pregnancy), matching the ‘stepmother’ narrator’s (un)natural affection (caro ~ cara, 537, 586).


omnia secum | versanti subito vix haec sententia sedit: versanti is a present participle in the dative singular modifying an implied ei.

subito vix … sedit: for the apparently contradictory force of the two adverbs, see Horsfall (2003: 322): ‘the solution came to Metabus “in a flash” [subito], but “the resolution was arrived at with reluctance” [vix] (so Page), for obvious reasons.’ sedit is a shock, given the nature of the plan, but this is a final tweak to the paradox-mongering storyteller’s flourish.


telum immane manu valida quod forte gerebat | bellator, solidum nodis et robore cocto, | huic natam libro et silvestri subere clausam | implicat atque habilem mediae circumligat hastae: the narrative now homes in on the saving piece of equipment: a massive spear (telum immane). To give this key object due prominence, Diana elaborates on it further with (a) a relative clause introduced by quod (manu … bellator) with telum as antecedent and (b) an adjectival phrase in predicative position (solidum, governing the two ablatives nodis and robore cocto). Then — off breaks the sentence, incomplete as it is, in an anacoluthon, as we restart with the demonstrative pronoun huic, which picks up telum, but in the dative (with implicat): ‘the giant javelin, which the warrior happened to wield in his stalwart paw, hard as it was because of its knots and the fire-tempered wood — to this (sc. javelin), he tied his daughter…’

manu valida: the phrase belongs in the relative clause introduced by quod, but its positioning up front generates the satisfying juxtaposition of the giant javelin with the mighty hand that wields it, an effect reinforced by the assonance of im-man-e and man-u.

forte: the adverb means ‘by chance’ or ‘as it happens’, and might just be a facetious signal that the facts of Diana’s tale are a bit unlikely: how fortuitous that Metabus, who was carrying his baby hugged to his chest just a moment ago, has also managed to bring along a mighty spear.

bellator: in context something of a surprise touch, made more prominent by the enjambment and the caesura right after it (a trithemimeres). From a syntactical point of view, the noun is quite superfluous; and from a thematic point of view, it could even appear a tad ironic, given that our valiant warrior is now in full flight. But Diana knows what she is doing: the bellator has fathered a bellatrix (cf. 7.785), and the noun reinforces the family’s epic credentials and helps to gloss over the implausibility of him being equipped with a telum immane at this very moment: a bellator is fitted with such equipment as standard.

solidum nodis et robore cocto: the two ablatives express both quality of material and cause: the spear is virtually unbreakable (solidum) because it consists of oak-wood (robur) that features many knots (nodis) and whose wood (robore) has been hardened in the fire (cocto).

Extra information

The nodi in question are those that wood experts refer to as ‘tight knots’ that toughen up the surrounding timber: ‘As a tree grows and increases the circumference of its trunk, the growing trunk begins to overtake the branches that grow out from it. Knots form around these branches, building up trunk material as the tree continues to expand. Since the branches are still growing as they are overtaken by the trunk, the knot that forms is solid and contains living wood throughout. The wood of the knot is typically tougher than the surrounding wood [our italics!] and may form a bulge around the branch emerging from its center.’2

libro et silvestri subere clausam: the past participle clausam modifies natam. libro et silvestri subere is a hendiadys: for the occasion, Camilla has been wrapped ‘in bark of forest oak’. It is the second womb-like enclosure for Camilla on this flight: previously she enjoyed transport in her father’s sinus (544). The Freudians among you will be titillated by the fact that the Latin term for this particular type of oak (suber) contains within itself the Latin term for lactating teat (uber). Again Metabus emerges as mum and dad in one.

habilem mediae circumligat hastae: habilem describes baby Camilla, who, ensconced as she is in protective bark, is now ‘easy to handle’, ‘eminently transportable by spear’, or ‘with her seatbelt fastened and ready for departure’ (or whatever habilis is supposed to mean here). Her father, at any rate, ties her to the middle of the javelin for safe dispatch and proper balance: mediae … hastae is a dative with circumligat.


quam dextra ingenti librans ita ad aethera fatur: quam is a connecting relative (= et eam), referring back to hasta (555). The form aethera (short –a for accusative singular) follows Greek morphology (fittingly so, as aether is a loanword from the Greek αἰθήρ). JH: Librans is not involved in wordplay with libro (552); nor has this the slightest nuance of metatextuality, binding Metabus’s baby / story into the middle of the book (liber) and launching it beyond, making a splash. But stories about birth do have a well-known knack of delivering the birth of stories.

11.557–566: Camilla Speared

Belted to the spear, Camilla is now ready for takeoff, but Metabus does not let her fly without the requisite prayer to Diana to spare her a crash landing. Diana accepts the bargain Metabus offers: if his daughter gets down safely, he will ensure that she will become a devotee of the goddess. In a sense, then, she remains tied to the spear for life (and death).


“alma, tibi hanc, nemorum cultrix, Latonia virgo, | ipse pater famulam voveo; tua prima per auras | tela tenens supplex hostem fugit. accipe, testor, | diva tuam, quae nunc dubiis committitur auris.”: Diana now quotes — in direct speech — Metabus’ prayer to herself. Parataxis dominates: the prayer consists of three main clauses (voveo – fugit – accipe) in asyndetic sequence.

alma … nemorum cultrix … Latonia virgo: Metabus interlaces his vow with three invocations of Diana, and here’s another touch of the maternal (alma, cf. n. on 545). She’ll not stop watching over her ‘nursling’.

tibi hanc … ipse pater famulam voveo: the self-referential ipse pater is grammatically speaking superfluous, but underscores the aspect of Metabus’ identity of particular relevance to the vow: he acts as a prototypical paterfamilias who is legally in charge of every member of his household and has the right to decree their destiny — up to and including the imposition of capital punishment or devoting one of his children to religious service (the so-called ius vitae necisque). Camilla’s very name brings precisely such a practice to mind: as we saw, the Latin term camillus (or, for female devotees, camilla) designates a religious acolyte. famulam is a predicative complement of hanc: ‘I, the very father, vow her to you as servant.’ Roman vows operate on the do-ut-des (‘I give so that you may give’) principle (thus Roman generals regularly vowed to build a temple in the heat of battle in return for victory). The exchange Metabus proposes consists of him giving his daughter Camilla to Diana in return for her safety.

tua prima … tela tenens: the participle agrees with the subject of fugit, i.e. Camilla. Technically speaking, the spear holds her rather than the other way around, but Metabus here thinks of the spear as belonging to Diana (tua … tela) and of Camilla as already a devotee of the goddess of the hunt, here wielding her first (prima tela) weapon.

per auras … supplex hostem fugit: the prepositional phrase per auras goes with fugit, with supplex in predicative position (‘she flees … as a suppliant’). hostis is technically speaking an external enemy: put differently, Metabus here disenfranchises himself and his child, labelling their former community as enemies. JH: This is Camilla’s launch: never forget that whenever she ‘flees’, a warhead is whizzing on its way (see below on infelix).

accipe … tuam: sc. famulam.

testor: Metabus underscores again that he means what he says: if his baby daughter survives the flight and lands safely, she will become Diana’s.

diva: another vocative.

nunc … committitur: dramatic present tense: as he utters the last sentence, Metabus has his daughter already in mid-air.


dixit, et adducto contortum hastile lacerto | immittit: sonuere undae, rapidum super amnem | infelix fugit in iaculo stridente Camilla: as Metabus concludes his speech (dixit), the narrative focuses on the decisive throw. The rest of line 561 is devoted to building up tension as Metabus prepares to throw his javelin; the verb of throwing follows — as so often in descriptions of sudden action — in enjambment (562: immittit — three spondees: the metre lingers on the action, generating suspense as to its outcome). The shift in focus to the resounding waters of the river is a deft touch of drama: it is as if the waves roar up in protest, keen to snatch the child (an effect sharpened by the asyndetic juxtaposition of immittit and sonuere). The next clause also follows in asyndeton: rapidum super amnem rephrases undae, but the waters now get demoted from subject to a prepositional phrase.

adducto … lacerto: a circumstantial ablative absolute.

contortum hastile: cf. 578: torsit — like father like daughter.

sonuere: the alternative third person plural perfect indicative active form (sonuerunt).

rapidum super amnem: anastrophe (= super rapidum amnem). JH: By the sounds of it, the spate seems to want to make a ‘grab’ for the flying babe on her way over (rapidus from rapio). But she’s already doing her hovercraft thing, contactless whizzing ‘over fields of corn or choppy waves’ (7.808–11).

infelix: the spondaic infelix (– – | –) at the opening of 562 generates a moment of lingering doubt before it becomes clear that Diana is using the attribute proleptically, in anticipation of Camilla’s fate in the here and now: within the inset narrative she speeds without further ado or caesura to safety (after infelix, the rest of the line is predominantly dactylic: u u | – u u | – – | – u u | – u).

fugit: JH: after fugiens, 541, fugae, 547, fugit, 558, we are unlikely to forget that this superphallic father-daughter christening stunt will be the making of Camilla (see n. on 654). Seriously, once this superbabe starts flying into action, she’ll be a chip off the block of her ‘runaway warrior’ dad. Don’t miss this when the Volscians ride into town. (In her own weird and disconcerting way, this people’s princess is on board with the Aeneid and its refugee hero ‘on the run’ from Troy all the way to Rome and world conquest, fato profugus, 1.2).

in iaculo stridente: in here in the sense of ‘tied onto’. stridente is a present participle in the neuter ablative singular modifying iaculo.


at Metabus magna propius iam urgente caterva | dat sese fluvio, atque hastam cum virgine victor | gramineo, donum Triviae, de caespite vellit: after throwing his baby over the river, Metabus sees to his own safety. The verse design shows the familiar dramatic pattern of the action-verb (dat) in enjambment. With Metabus in the water, Diana fast-forwards, despite the impression of tight sequence generated by atque: right from the start of the second main clause, the narrative focus has shifted back to the missile and the baby (hastam cum virgine), which Metabus, having somehow managed to cross the river, extracts from the ground (vellit).

magna propius iam urgente caterva: an ablative absolute with caterva (modified by magna) as noun and urgente as participle.

victor: in predicative position to the subject of the sentence, i.e. Metabus. The noun has alliterative (and thematic) links with virgine and vellit. Metabus has emerged victorious since he is able to pluck the spear with his maiden-daughter from the ground. In the militarist culture of Rome, the attribute victor resonated in powerfully triumphalist key. See above 231.

gramineo … de caespite: anastrophe (= de gramineo caespite). This must count as a soft landing. Diana is already Camilla’s fairy godmother.

donum Triviae: Trivia is an alternative designation for Diana, who is herself telling us this gift consists in finding his daughter (and the spear) safe and sound, exactly what he prayed for. Her selected name underlines that this is a ‘crossroads’ moment (and temples were regularly sited at these).

11.567–572: Got Milk?

After the miraculous rescue, Metabus and Camilla go primitive: eschewing all human settlements (or contact even), they lead a nomadic existence of bucolic bliss on the wild mountain ranges, as daddy feeds his daughter on a steady diet of mare’s milk. We are right back at the dawn of civilization. In the ethnographic tradition, the consumption of mare’s milk is characteristic of savage people with ecologically sound but nonetheless revolting customs who lead a nomadic existence at the very periphery of the known world. Here is Herodotus on the Scythians and their ways of milking mares (not an easy thing to do) (Histories 4.2):

Now the Scythians blind all their slaves, by reason of the milk whereof they drink; and this is the way of their getting it: taking pipes of bone very like flutes, they thrust these into the secret parts of the mares and blow into them, some blowing and others milking. By what they say, their reason for so doing is that the blowing makes the mare’s veins to swell and her udder to be let down. When milking is done, they pour the milk into deep wooden buckets, and make their slaves to stand about the buckets and shake the milk; the surface part of it they draw off, and this they most value; what lies at the bottom is less esteemed. It is for this cause that the Scythians blind all prisoners whom they take; for they are not tillers of the soil, but wandering nomads.

Camilla is not the only infant in the epic nurtured on unusual dairy products: a scene on the shield of Aeneas in Book 8 depicts the she-wolf suckling the twins while licking them into shape (8.630–34). What you suckled on is as much what you are as what you eat.


non illum tectis ullae, non moenibus urbes | accepere (neque ipse manus feritate dedisset), | pastorum et solis exegit montibus aevum: it is again useful to rephrase the two main clauses in prose to bring out the rhetorical design of the verses: nullae urbes illum tectis aut moenibus acceperunt … et solis montibus pastorum aevum exegit. Diana dramatizes the apparent inability of Metabus and Camilla to find shelter in a city through the anaphora of non, but the impression that father and daughter did the rounds of Italy’s cities begging for admission only to be turned away is quickly revealed as misleading: as emerges in the parenthesis, Metabus seems not to have tried! dedisset is the apodosis of a truncated past counterfactual conditional sequence, which runs as follows: ‘and even if cities had extended an offer to receive them, he would not have given in because of his wildness.’ So the statement that no city welcomed them remains factually correct, but the reason lies just as much with Metabus for not asking as with the cities.

accepere: the alternative third person plural perfect indicative active form (= acceperunt).

manus … dedisset: manus is in the accusative plural. The phrase manus dare means ‘to yield’, ‘to surrender’: OLD s.v. do 18.

feritate: an ablative of cause.

pastorum et solis exegit montibus aevum: the genitive pastorum depends on aevum: ‘and he led a life of / akin to shepherds on the lonely mountains’.


hic natam in dumis interque horrentia lustra | armentalis equae mammis et lacte ferino | nutribat teneris immulgens ubera labris: the main verb here is nutribat (long in the coming and in enjambment), which takes natam (placed strategically at the outset of the sentence) as accusative object. In between we get two prepositional phrases linked by –que after inter that indicate location (in dumis, inter horrentia lustra) and two instrumental ablatives linked by et (mammis et lacte ferino); the genitive armentalis equae goes with both. The present participle immulgens, which agrees with the subject of the sentence (i.e. Metabus), governs the accusative ubera and the dative teneris … labris.

armentalis equae mammis et lacte ferino: a hendiadys: ‘with the free-range milk from the udders of a rustic mare’. armentalis (‘rustic’) inevitably brings to mind arma. See Egan (1983: 23–24): ‘Here the poet uses the rare adjective armentalis (a hapax in Vergil, and in Latin before Statius) to describe the mare which suckles the armor-child Camilla. The adjective is of course semantically appropriate here, but it is likely that Vergil had additional considerations which prompted him to use it, perhaps indeed to coin it, for describing the source of nourishment of a child who is being reared with weapons.’ Also, these wild ‘Cossacks’ live so close to their horses, they’re programmed to be natural riders.

teneris immulgens ubera labris: Camilla sucks horse-milk straight from the udder, with daddy Metabus as facilitator: what an image of bucolic bliss and fecundity! JH: Who needs ‘civilization’? Not our current hostess Diana. (By the way it has been suggested that the name ‘Meta-bos’ may also speak to a ‘shift to bu-colic’ register).

11.573–586: How to Raise a Wild Warrior Princess

After bringing the escape narrative to an end, Diana proceeds to trace the different stages of Camilla growing up, from birth to infancy to childhood to nubile age. Camilla consistently deviates from the norm:




at home

on the battlefield


nourished by human milk

nourished with horse milk


womanly skills; interest in jewellery and pretty clothing

training in martial arts; dressed in animal hides

Coming of age

marriage / kinship

refusal to marry

See de Grummond (1997: 166): ‘From her father Camilla learned to live with and among wild animals, feeding upon them and slaying them — in short she lived as an animal herself, without human intercourse and without the refinements and softening influences with which other girls her age were normally surrounded.’ Other scholars insist that the notion that Camilla rejects all social relationships requires modification; she is not entirely ‘othered’: ‘Camilla spent her childhood with her father, her adolescence in the society of Diana and the hunting nymphs, and then her short adulthood as an army officer in her conventional and ancestral position as warlord of her people. For all its wildness and symbolic rejection of norms, this is still a very different background from the deviant female society of Amazons’ (Sharrock 2015: 162 — as Sharrock recognizes, of course, Camilla is likened to an Amazon (queen) later on in the narrative: see below on 648–63).

JH: Rather, this upbringing locks Camilla into her place as another Achilles, who was entrusted for childcare to the centaur Chiron by one of his parents, either his father Peleus or his mother the goddess Thetis). In our surviving narrative, the mini-epic Achilleid by Statius, the making of the speed-merchant warrior from whom there is no escape in flight is traced (by Achilles himself) from infancy through toddlerdom to puberty, all lion and wolf offal babyfood, deer racing, tiger and lion hunting, bows and arrows followed by martial arts and arms training (Ach. 2.96–167). That this tough guy in short trousers is famously delivered from Chiron’s nursery to the island of Skyros for secondary education to live as one sister in a palace full of princesses, learning what girls learn in readiness for wifedom, before his masculinity outs itself and is outed, is a story-pattern lurking behind our ferociously wild heroine’s (see Ach. 1): Diana’s Camilla may now be lost to the world of arma virumque but she’s still a growing woman ‘underneath’ (see n. on 778–84). She’d make a lovely bride, gawped those Italian mums, undeterred by her regal battledress (7. 813–17).


utque pedum primis infans vestigia plantis | institerat, iaculo palmas armavit acuto | spiculaque ex umero parvae suspendit et arcum: Diana uses a temporal ut-clause (with infans as subject and institerat as verb), followed by two main clauses linked by –que after spicula (armavit, suspendit: in each case the subject is Metabus), to describe Camilla’s period as toddler. The et links the two accusative objects of suspendit, i.e. spicula and arcum. She toddles around armed to her teeth. The hyperbaton iaculo … acuto and the separation of the two accusative objects spicula … et arcum give an iconic impression of Camilla as a walking arsenal.

pedum primis … plantis: JH: Once again we recap Camilla’s début tiptoeing into the poem (pedum … plantas. | (7.807, 811)

ex umero parvae: lit. ‘from the shoulder of the small one’. Horsfall (2003: 335) suggests taking parvae in a concessive sense: ‘small though she was’.


pro crinali auro, pro longae tegmine pallae | tigridis exuviae per dorsum a vertice pendent: Camilla isn’t your ordinary princess: she is more action figure than Barbie doll: instead of prettifying jewellery and enveloping female garments she is covered from head to waist in the skin of a tigress. exuviae is the subject, pendent the verb. JH: No, not sure where this wild bunch can have got a tigress skin from in however primeval a central Italy; but we get the point. And the hint that she never stops being a girl, however the get-up as a brave might, rightly but wrongly, tell some people not to treat her as one. She’ll keep puzzling us, if not Diana.

Meantime, for a decent attempt at a solution to the conundrum of the tigress skin see Reed (2009: 58–59: ‘Whence did she acquire this rarity? Are there tigers in Italy? No, according to Virgil in his praise of Italy at Georgics 2.151–52: “raging tigers and the fierce race of lions are absent” (at rabidae tigres absunt et saeva leonum / semina). Camilla’s attire has nothing to do with her life as a forest-dwelling huntress, but rather envisions a trade route stretching from the Italian woodlands to the furthest East and back, the satisfaction of far-reaching desires. Their taste for Eastern luxury goods in general folds the Italians into an Oriental identity: the poem’s encoding of royal wealth and power as Oriental holds true in Latium as elsewhere.’

pro … pro: negative anaphora (‘instead of’), recalling the non … non… of 567: Diana likes to define Camilla’s peculiar identity negatively, specifying in what ways she deviates from the norm.

longae … pallae: the genitive depends on tegmine.


tela manu iam tum tenera puerilia torsit | et fundam tereti circum caput egit habena | Strymoniamque gruem aut album deiecit olorem: three main clauses (linked by et and the –que after Strymoniam) offer a paratactic description of Camilla’s advanced childhood (see puerilia), which she seems to have spent chasing birds with an array of weapons. The verses contain three hyperbata: tela … puerilia; manu … tenera; tereti … habena.

Strymoniamque gruem: the adjective Strymonius refers to the Strymon river in Thrace (which was famous for its cranes), but also to the region more generally. See Harrison (1991: 144) on Aeneid 10.265, where Virgil already used the phrase Strymoniae … grues; he notes that ‘grus […] is an onomatopoeic name based on the bird’s cry.’ Thrace is an appropriate point of geographical reference, as the notorious habitat of Amazons and other uncivilised tribes.


multae illam frustra Tyrrhena per oppida matres | optavere nurum: Camilla is now of nubile age, which in ancient Rome coincided with sexual maturity, so young (early teens). multae modifies matres in a hyperbaton spanning the entire line (‘many — and I mean many — mothers…’); the verb comes in enjambment and takes illam as accusative object with nurum as predicative complement (‘they desired her as daughter-in-law’). The sentence re-cites Camilla’s début again, where the crowd of Italian mothers gawp at her stunning turn-out (7.813–14), but contains a touch of Catullus 62, which is a flyting match between a chorus of boys, who argue in favour of marriage, and a chorus of girls, who reject marriage in the strongest possible terms. The girls’ song includes those lines comparing a girl to a flower (Catullus 62.39–47, cited above n. on 64–71). According to the girls, the loss of virginity in marriage constitutes an act of pollution that entails the loss of appeal and attraction more generally.

Tyrrhena per oppida: anastrophe: = per Tyrrhena oppida. The reference is to the cities of Tuscany.


sola contenta Diana | aeternum telorum et virginitatis amorem | intemerata colit: the two predicative attributes contenta and intemerata frame and gloss the majestic accusative object of colit (and the objective genitives dependent on it), which take up all of line 583: sola contenta Diana anticipates telorum and intemerata picks up virginitatis.

sola contenta Diana: sola (the final syllable scans long, so it has to be in the ablative) modifies Diana. The ablative phrase depends on contenta (in the nominative: the final syllable scans short): ‘satisfied with Diana alone’.

aeternum telorum et virginitatis amorem: the attribute aeternum modifies amorem on which the two genitives (linked by et) depend. telum + virginitas = ‘virgin huntress’, i.e. Diana. Put differently, Diana, just after naming herself as the sole focus of Camilla’s existence, glosses herself with reference to her two quintessential hallmarks, to which Camilla has committed herself with everlasting passion. The phrase virginitatis amorem sounds more than a little paradoxical (amor, after all, is the domain of Diana’s antithetical counterpart in the divine realm, i.e. Venus: think Euripides, Hippolytus). In this timeout from arma virumque epic, its usual parameters don’t apply: should we feel something approaching an ‘incestuous / homoerotic’ charge in this as in all relationships between the virgin goddess and her single-sex community of devotees?


vellem haud correpta fuisset | militia tali conata lacessere Teucros: vellem (first person singular imperfect subjunctive active of volo, I wish) introduces a present counterfactual wish, with the ut elided: ‘I wish she had not been carried away…’ (but she was). conata modifies the subject of the wish clause, i.e. Camilla, and governs the infinitive lacessere, which takes Teucros as accusative object. As frequently, the past participle of the deponent indicates contemporaneous action. The ablative phrase militia tali is poised between correpta fuisset and conata lacessere and best construed with both (apo koinou). JH: Telling how all those bourgeois mothers, who ‘wished’ to hook Camilla for their sons, cue Diana to have done with narration and come right out with what she’d ‘wish’ right now — that Camilla had stayed away, stayed with her, and hadn’t got snarled up in the Aeneid (optavere … vellem). We’ve already had more than enough connotations smuggled in with ‘Opis’, but here’s one more — option (from Latin ‘opto’).

correpta fuisset: third person singular pluperfect subjunctive passive of corripere, which here means something like ‘swept away by enthusiasm for military action’.


cara mihi comitumque foret nunc una mearum: foret is the third person singular imperfect subjunctive active of fore and forms part of the apodosis of a conditional sequence for which the protasis has to be supplied from the previous sentence: (if she had not been carried away…), ‘she would now be precious to me and one of my companions’. (The –que after comitum links cara and una.) But she has been carried away: hence, as vexed, thwarted, guardian angel and owner Diana may be implying, Camilla is no longer equally precious to her (though she will avenge her death) and has at any rate ceased to be a member of her coterie. JH: At the least, she intimates that being cara mihi (535) ought to equate to staying in the gang exclusively. The recall of the Catullus 62 passage — so crucial in bonding Pallas to Camilla as such affecting wastage in war — underlines this, as the girl chorus rams home that the moment of ‘defloration’ turns any maiden from cara suis to no draw for the boys nec cara puellis (45, 47).

The present counterfactual thus concludes the story of their lifelong companionship: somehow Camilla, who has spent her entire life in the wilds in devoted service to the goddess, re-enters the sociopolitical domain, gets drawn into the military fray triggered by the arrival of Aeneas, and renders herself vulnerable to the vagaries of battle. Not at all in keeping with her father’s ‘vow’ (558). How much here is her decision, i.e. did she retain an element of free will and independent agency? How much was prescripted destiny (as Diana implies in the following sentence)? Why would she rejoin the Volscians after the people almost killed her father and herself? Diana’s narrative is highly allusive — and leaves much to your imagination! What we know, and no thanks to Diana, is that the Volscian nation now rides with the Italians, with Turnus, under their queen, and she caps the lot of them (7.803–17).

11.587–596: Lady Vengeance, or: Diana’s Black Ops Commando

After rehearsing Camilla’s past and regretting her present situation, Diana brings her account to a close with an intervention into her (former) ward’s tragic future. She knows that Camilla’s death is imminent (even though she is in the dark about details) and prepares for the aftermath: she plans to secure possession of her body and weaponry and mete out instant punishment to her killer — the mission she assigns to Opis, who descends upon earth in a black whirlwind.


verum age, quandoquidem fatis urgetur acerbis, | labere, nympha, polo finisque invise Latinos, | tristis ubi infausto committitur omine pugna: the sequence of subordinate clause (introduced by quandoquidem) with passive verb (urgetur) :: imperative (labere) :: imperative (invise) :: subordinate clause (introduced by ubi) with passive verb (committitur) deftly mirrors Diana’s scope for action within predetermined coordinates over which she has no control: she cannot prevent the bitter destiny that inexorably leads Camilla to her death in the upcoming battle; but she can issue orders to her subordinate to oversee the event and ‘visit’ punishment on the killer.

polo: an ablative of separation (with labere).

verum age: ‘But come’

finis … Latinos: finis is the alternative accusative plural ending of the third declension (= fines). finis Latinos is the accusative object of the imperative invise.

tristis ubi infausto committitur omine pugna: a beautifully crafted verse, with two attributes (tristis, infausto) up front, the verb (com-mittitur) holding together the centre, and two nouns (omine, pugna), picking up the attributes in chiastic order (tristis … pugna, infausto … omine), at the end. The postponement of the conjunction ubi places extra stress on tristis, which points back to 534: has tristis Latonia voces.


haec cape et ultricem pharetra deprome sagittam: | hac, quicumque sacrum violarit vulnere corpus, | Tros Italusque, mihi pariter det sanguine poenas: The imperatives (cape, deprome) continue. Diana now sets up Opis for a revenge killing. Interestingly, she only knows Camilla’s destiny in rough outline: neither the identity of her killer nor the precise nature of her death form part of her knowledge. There are two possible reasons for this: (i) her degree of insight into the workings of fate, while substantial, does not amount to complete omniscience; (ii) Camilla’s fate has only been fixed in rough outline: the precise details remain open; in other words, nobody knows what exactly will happen to her. The instruction to remove an arrow from her quiver might seem somewhat premature, but it fits in with Diana’s fixation on weaponry and anticipates (seemingly unbeknownst to the goddess) the manner of Camilla’s death: she is laid low by a missile, which endows pariter with tragic irony.

pharetra: an ablative of separation.

ultricem … sagittam: ultricem modifies sagittam: the attribute (‘avenging’) personifies the arrow, turning it into the agent of vengeance: the end will come arrowing in ‘swift’ as the archer (532).

sacrum … corpus: Camilla’s body is sacred to Diana since Metabus signed over his daughter to the goddess.

Tros Italusque: the –que here has a disjunctive sense (‘or’): Camilla is facing an alliance of Trojans and Italians, and her killer could come from either ethnic grouping. Diana doesn’t care who it is, or in what cause; she wants revenge (in one of so many refigurations of the end of the Aeneid in vengeance slaughter).

violarit vulnere: an expressive figura etymologica; violarit is the syncopated form of the future perfect (viola/ve/rit).


post ego nube cava miserandae corpus et arma | inspoliata feram tumulo patriaeque reponam.’: two main clauses linked by the –que after patriae. While Diana is unsure about the identity of Camilla’s killer, she does know that her charge will return from battle in a body bag: the future tense of feram and reponam is unconditional.

post: the adverb (‘thereafter’) rather than the preposition.

nube cava: hollow clouds are a common device for divine action hidden from mortal eyes.

miserandae corpus et arma | inspoliata: the genitive miserandae (sc. Camillae) goes with both accusative objects (linked by et). Diana plans to remove and repatriate (patriae … reponam) the body and weaponry of her charge before any despoilment can take place. inspoliata, placed emphatically in enjambment, recalls intemerata (584), which occupies the same metrical position and scans identically (– u u | – u), though there is a telling shift from nominative feminine singular to accusative neuter plural: all that’s left of Camilla now are her corpse and her weapons. or rather, she maintains her purity in both life and death, forever: aeternum telorum et virginitatis amorem (583).


dixit, at illa levis caeli delapsa per auras | insonuit nigro circumdata turbine corpus: The lines convey the audio-visual effect of Opis’ descent from heaven to earth, as she turns into a cosmic force of vengeance at the behest of her mistress. Virgil again places the main verb in enjambment; the design of the verse, with a caesura after insonuit, which forms a metrical unit (a choriamb: – u u –) in its own right, gives added prominence to insonuit, which is flanked on either side by a participle construction (delapsa, circumdata).

illa… | insonuit: the intransitive use of insono with a person as subject is somewhat unusual. Elsewhere in the Aeneid, features of the landscape tend to resound, such as hollow caves (2.53: cavae … cavernae) or deep woods (7.515: silvae … profundae). The less spectacular option is that she causes the noise through the impact of her supersonic fall on the surrounding atmosphere; but if Opis herself resounds, she collects an extra dose of awe-inspiring numinosity.

levis caeli + delapsa + per auras: = per levis auras caeli delapsa: here the anastrophe generates an iconic representation of the action, with delapsa right in the middle of the phrase that describes the medium through which she descends. levis is an alternative accusative plural ending (= leves).

nigro circumdata turbine corpus: Opis’ transition from the divine to the human sphere is not only marked by an impressive soundtrack; the visuals, too, are something to behold: Opis, having shrouded her virginal body (the passive participle circumdata is best understood as middle-reflexive) in a black whirlwind, resembles a tornado. And tornadoes make an almighty chaotic racket. No fewer decibels than our chérie Camilla deserves.

11.648–663: Camilla’s Martial Arts

After Diana’s disquisition on Camilla, the narrative (with another transitional interea: 597: at manus interea muris Troiana propinquat — ‘but meanwhile the Trojan troop approaches the walls’) moves straight to the opposing armies. Hostilities break out without much further ado, and after a panoptic view of the ongoing battle, Virgil zooms in on Camilla, who can be found in the thick of it. The initial section of this narrative stretch (= 16 verses), which will end with her death and that of her killer Arruns at 867 (but only 648–89 and 725–835 are set in Latin), falls into three parts:

648–54: focus on Camilla (7 lines)

655–58: focus on her entourage (4 lines)

659–63: focus on both Camilla and her entourage (5 lines)

The use of the striking verb exsultare in the first and last line of the passage (648: exsultat; 663: exsultant) reinforces thematic coherence: Camilla and her personally selected band of female stormtroopers are at the very centre of the fighting and love every minute of it: the semantic range of exsultare stretches from ‘to skip, dance, prance about’ to ‘to be (overjoyed)’, ‘burst with delight’, with the distinct possibility of unbridled excess. These women clearly find bloodshed intoxicating. Camilla in particular is depicted as showing off her dazzling skills with improbably diverse weapons in attack and retreat.


At medias inter caedes exsultat Amazon | unum exserta latus pugnae, pharetrata Camilla, | et nunc lenta manu spargens hastilia denset, | nunc validam dextra rapit indefessa bipennem: three main clauses: the first describes the general joy of Camilla in the middle of the carnage (exsultat); Virgil uses the connective et to link it to the second (denset) and third (rapit), each devoted specifically to one of the weapons Camilla handles. They are marked by the anaphora of nunc and juxtaposed in asyndeton, perhaps to bring out the speed with which Camilla makes strategic adjustment in her choice of weaponry in the heat of the battle. She puts the whole array of her martial arts on display: equipped with bow and quiver (cf. pharetrata), she throws javelins (lenta … hastilia), and wields a two-edged battle-axe (validam … bipennem)  — as the occasion demands or permits.

medias inter caedes: anastrophe (= inter medias caedes), which ensures that the placement and meaning of the preposition coincide.

exsultat Amazon: inversion of subject and verb, with exsultat doing what it means, i.e. ‘leaping forwards’. Camilla, in a ‘compressed comparison’ (Sayce 2008: 33) or rather metaphorical gloss (‘the Amazon Camilla’ — ignoring the fact that she actually is a Volscian princess), has seemingly turned into one of the notorious female warriors of Greek myth. JH: As we have seen, she is a match for her alter ego Achilles, given their wilderness upbringing, but she gets a shoddy deal when her killer, unlike her Homeric cycle equivalent Penthesilea, Troy’s last hope, turns out to be a skulking rat. In some versions, Achilles falls for his Amazon queen as she falls dying on his sword-thrust, and something of this sick weakness for the attraction of slaughter is powering our reading of Camilla throughout. Enjoy!

unum exserta latus pugnae: exserta is a past passive participle, but active in meaning, with retained accusative object (unum … latus): like an Amazon, Camilla has one side of her chest (unum … latus) bared for the fight (pugnae is a dative of purpose). David West (as reported by O’Hara 1996: 292) suggests that the phrase glosses Amazon in the previous line (the Greek word for latus is μᾶζα). Some readers (I am sure) will claim to find this kind of learned bilingual pun more thrilling than Camilla’s sex appeal in this passage, which is toned down in comparison to that of her counterpart Penthesilea in Aeneid 1. Sharrock (2015: 163) tries valiantly to save us:

Vergil reuses the image of the exposed breast with regard to Camilla (11.648–49), but in her case its main purpose seems to be to enable the etymological play on Amazons being breastless, with exposure standing for mutilation. It is for the sake of this play that here, Vergil gives Camilla the epithet “Amazon,” which is clearly not intended as a literal ethnographic designation. Although surely designed for minor titillation under the guise of a learned game, Camilla’s exposed breast lacks the voyeuristic directness of Penthesilea’s, with its golden frame and Aeneas’s transfixed gaze. The replacement of the explicit word mammae (literally “breasts”) for Penthesilea with the indirect latus (literally “side”) for Camilla softens the tone […].

JH: But Aeneas back then was falling for Dido as the sight of her merged into the image of Penthesilea, and he is doomed to play the Aeneid’s reluctant Achilles, responsible for killing both our ‘Amazons’ without delivering the blow himself. We are protected much more by cutting a chunk of Camilla’s meaty killing spree from the set text than we are by withdrawal into scholarship, which actually heads from ‘the right breast was traditionally exposed (perhaps originally mutilated)’ straight to Amazons in art, clocking ‘some with the left breast exposed, some with the right’ (Gransden’s note here). Virgil’s fault: ‘one’ is going to make anyone ask ‘which one?’ And he must take some flak, too, for shoving in our direction a mastectomy by extruding <the scar where there once was> a breast?

pharetrata Camilla: Camilla comes ‘equipped with a quiver’ — the adjective pharetratus, –a, –um derives from the noun pharetra (‘quiver’), a loanword from the Greek (φαρέτρα).

et nunc… | nunc…: The two clauses introduced by anaphoric nunc are similar in design: (i) temporal adverb: nunc – (ii) attribute of the respective weapon: lenta, validam – (iii) reference to the hand that wields it: manu, dextra (sc. manu) – (iv) participle modifying the subject of the sentence: spargens, indefessa – (v) the weapon: hastilia, bipennem – (vi) main verb: denset, rapit.


aureus ex umero sonat arcus et arma Dianae: an extensive gloss on pharetrata in the previous line, which celebrates, in an attempt at metrical light-heartedness through a completely dactylic verse (at once ruined by recall of Diana’s take on her lost cadet), the one weapon not yet portrayed in active use — just in time for the following couplet when bow and arrow will come in handy. The reference to her golden bow reminds the reader of the chapter cut from Diana’s biography: her transformation from venatrix into the imperatrix we first encounter in Aeneid 7, which went along with a change in clothes and equipment — from animal hides and rustic weapons to purple garments and deluxe regalia. The mention of the expensive hardware here links Camilla to the description of Aeneas and Dido in Aeneid 4 (the day of the fateful hunt that sees both of them end up in the same cave) and anticipates her equally fateful encounter with Chloreus, who too has a golden bow on his shoulder (774: aureus ex umeris erat arcus…). (Note that at Aeneid 7.815–17, cited in the Introduction 23, her quiver was not yet described as golden — only the brooch in her hair.) For ex umero / is in the sense of ‘on the shoulder(s)’ see Heyworth (2007: 160).


illa etiam, si quando in tergum pulsa recessit, | spicula converso fugientia derigit arcu: si quando introduces the protasis of an indefinite condition (‘whenever’); one might expect the subjunctive, but Virgil opts for the perfect indicative (recessit), followed by present indicative in the apodosis (derigit) for increased vividness.

quando: = aliquando (after si, nisi, ne and num, ali– disappears).

spicula … fugientia: the accusative object of derigit; the present participle fugientia captures the phenomenon that the arrows and the shooter move in opposite directions, so it is as it were a transferred epithet: as Camilla withdraws (fugiens), she shoots arrows at her attackers — a tactic associated with Amazons (as well as Parthians). JH: Follow the motif, heralded in the runaway horse simile that lets her loose on the saga (492: fugit), together with its complement, sequor, ‘chase down’, and you’d find Camilla, who gallops in now, after we caught up with the Latins in full flight (623: fugiunt), herself giving chase (674: sequitur), and using the trick for fun at 694–95: fugiens … sequitur … sequentem; she then overtakes a trickster trying to escape her at 706: fugam, 713, fugax, 723, consequitur. It is by giving chase that she is herself caught (781: sequebatur), but the sequence in turn overtakes her killer (806: fugit, cf. 809: sequantur, 815: fuga); and Camilla’s last words will tell her sister to escape and alert Turnus (825: effuge). Triggered by her death, the real rout ensues at 869–70: fugit … fugiunt … fugit, but there’s no escape, 881, nec … effugiunt. The party trick ends in wholesale massacre. A suitably weird Virgilian ‘tribute’ to her.

converso … arcu: an ablative absolute.


at circum lectae comites, Larinaque virgo | Tullaque et aeratam quatiens Tarpeia securim, | Italides, quas ipsa decus sibi dia Camilla | delegit pacisque bonas bellique ministras: the narrative focus shifts from Camilla to her companions. Virgil refers to them collectively at the beginning and the end (lectae comites, Italides) and singles out three for special mention: Larina, Tulla, and Tarpeia, linked in polysyndeton by the two –que after Larina and Tulla and et. The main verb (sc. sunt, with the adverbial circum) has to be supplied. The two –que after pacis and belli coordinate, again in polysyndeton, the two objective genitives dependent on bonas ministras (et pacis et belli).

Larina – Tulla – Tarpeia: for the meaning of the names see Sharrock (2015: 164):

These daughters of Italy have significant names. Amazons, too, often have “speaking” names, but these appellations indicate their martial and violent nature: Antiope, Penthesilea, Hippolyte, Andromache. Vergil’s female soldiers, by contrast, have names that place them in Italian and pre-Roman geographical and genealogical history. As Servius says (ad loc.): “these are names of the most noble women of Italy.” The first derives from the Samnian town (modern Larino) from which Cicero’s client Cluentius came. Tulla is the feminine form of a Roman praenomen held by the third king of Rome, Tullus Hostilius. […] According to the normal practice of Vergilian name games (and accepted etymology), Tulla could also offer a hint at the more common Roman name famously held by M. Tullius Cicero. Third comes Tarpeia, the most immediately obvious and most problematic of companions, since the first famous holder of this Roman appellation was the young woman who betrayed Rome to the Sabines (Liv. 1.11.5–9).

aeratam quatiens Tarpeia securim: at 7.804, the forces of Camilla are described as ‘flowering in bronze’ (florentis aere catervas).

quas … decus … delegit: delegit governs a double accusative.

Italides: the lexeme Italis, –idis, f. (pl. Italides) = ‘an Italian woman’ follows Greek morphology (the equivalent in Latin morphology would be Italae).

ipsa … dia Camilla: like Diana, dia is a calque on Greek dîos, –a, –on, domesticated by Ennius in his Annals (frs. 19, 60, 106 Skutsch): see Horsfall (2003: 368).

pacisque bonas bellique ministras: the phrase stands in apposition to quas.


quales Threiciae cum flumina Thermodontis | pulsant et pictis bellantur Amazones armis, | seu circum Hippolyten seu cum se Martia curru | Penthesilea refert, magnoque ululante tumultu | feminea exsultant lunatis agmina peltis: Virgil illustrates the appearance and action of Camilla and her troop of female warriors through a simile, which continues the assimilation of the women to Amazons. The antecedent of quales, i.e. tales (erant), is elided. The design of the simile itself is expressive of the Amazons’ hustle and bustle. Note in particular:

  • the attribute Threiciae (659) modifies Amazones (660, scanning u – u u);
  • the seu … seu… (661) correlate a phrase in the accusative (circum Hippolyten) with another cum-clause (a completely regular design would have featured another leading Amazon to parallel Hippolyte; instead Penthesilea gets her own subordinate clause);
  • the –que after magno links refert and exsultant.Hence: ‘[They were such] as the Thracian Amazons, when they make [the banks of: but we can also imagine the flumina frozen] the streams of Thermodon resound and engage themselves in war in their coloured weaponry, either around Hippolyte or when Penthesilea, offspring of Mars, returns in her chariot and the female formations with their crescent shields do their mounted war-dance in joy, among a great whooping hubbub.’ The links between narrative and simile are complex. See Sayce (2008: 32–33): this simile ‘contains both general and particular comparisons: that of Camilla and her attendants with Amazons in general, and by implication that of Camilla herself with individual named Amazons. In XI. 648 Amazon stands in apposition to Camilla in the following line and identifies Camilla as an Amazon-like figure […]. The passage beginning with quales in XI. 659 refers to lectae comites and ministras: Camilla’s followers are likened to the Thracian Amazons surrounding Hippolyte or Penthesilea, but this implicitly compares Camilla herself to the figures of Hippolyte and Penthesilea, around whom they gather.’ The choice of these two names is hardly coincidental: both were killed by their male adversaries (Hippolyte by Hercules, Penthesilea by Achilles) and thereby partly foreshadow Camilla’s fate — partly, because she too gets killed, but not, as the intertextual analogy would suggest, by the A-list superhero Aeneas (the Hercules and Achilles of the Aeneid), but by his contemptible double Arruns — think Danny DeVito to Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins (1988). Cf. Bär (2009: 183, n. 519). JH: Yes, this is as good as it’s going to get. Actually Amazons ride into classical stories to be routed by epic heroes — Hercules, Theseus, and… not Aeneas, as we shall see. Poor Camilla!

flumina Thermodontis: a so-called versus spondiacus (with a spondee in the fifth foot; Thermodontis scans – – – –). In the geographical imaginary of ancient Greece, the river Thermodon belongs to the North-East of Asia Minor and not to Thrace — though both locations, which Virgil here conflates (inducing the late-antique commentator Servius to relocate the Thermodon in Thrace), are situated at the periphery of the Graeco-Roman world and hence suitable habitats for Amazons. Apollonius Rhodius in his Argonautica (an epic poem about Jason’s quest for the golden fleece and his abduction of Medea) gives an extended description of the River Thermodon and its estuary joined up with an ethnography of the local tribes of Amazons (2.962–1001). For more on the Thermodon see Bär (2009: 169–72; 454).

bellantur: the passive form is perhaps best taken in a reflexive (‘middle’) sense.

Hippolyten: a queen of the Amazons, who featured in one of Hercules’ labours (he had to win her belt). Her name literally means ‘she who sets horses loose’ (so, think ‘Wild Horses’). She is also a character in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, stars as a superheroine in DC Comics, and appeared on screen in Wonder Woman (2017, played by Connie Inge-Lise Nielsen).

Martia … Penthesilea: another queen of the Amazons (in some variants the sister of Hippolyte, whom she ended up killing accidentally), fathered by Ares / Mars (hence the attribute Martia). But in the so-called Epic Cycle, she came to the aid of Troy, only to be killed by Achilles — a tale summarised in Aeneid 1, where she is one of the figures depicted on the temple of Juno at Carthage (491–93). See Introduction 25–6. Here she appears as a triumphatrix, returning (victoriously from war?) on her chariot (curru), to the cheers of the crowd.

magnoque ululante tumultu: an onomatopoeic ablative absolute in the present tense. As Horsfall (2003: 370) observes: ‘It is the actual tumultus that howls, by […] transference’ transference’ – into the mighty soprano yelling of the next verse. Listen: f e m i n e a exsULTANT LUNATis a-g-m-i-n-a peLTis:

feminea exsultant lunatis agmina peltis: the pattern adjectivea – verb – adjectiveb – nouna – nounb is almost ‘golden’ and generates a sense of closure. Penthesilea and her maiden troopers are also represented as wearing moon-shaped shields (lunatis … peltis) on the temple of Juno at Carthage (Aeneid 1.490–91: ducit Amazonidum lunatis agmina peltis | Penthesilea furens…). These two are our two earliest literary instances of Amazons coming equipped with moon-shaped shields (Bär 2009: 422–25) — perhaps a means by which Virgil strengthens their association with the moon-goddess Diana.

11.664–689: The Opening Part of Camilla’s Aristeia (Overview)

Quem telo primum, quem postremum, aspera virgo,

deicis? aut quot humi morientia corpora fundis?


Eunaeum Clytio primum patre, cuius apertum

adversi longa transverberat abiete pectus.

sanguinis ille vomens rivos cadit atque cruentam

mandit humum moriensque suo se in vulnere versat.

tum Lirim Pagasumque super, quorum alter habenas


suffuso revolutus equo dum colligit, alter

dum subit ac dextram labenti tendit inermem,

praecipites pariterque ruunt. his addit Amastrum

Hippotaden, sequiturque incumbens eminus hasta

Tereaque Harpalycumque et Demophoonta Chromimque;


quotque emissa manu contorsit spicula virgo,

tot Phrygii cecidere viri. procul Ornytus armis

ignotis et equo venator Iapyge fertur,

cui pellis latos umeros erepta iuvenco

pugnatori operit, caput ingens oris hiatus


et malae texere lupi cum dentibus albis,

agrestisque manus armat sparus; ipse catervis

vertitur in mediis et toto vertice supra est.

hunc illa exceptum (neque enim labor agmine verso)

traicit et super haec inimico pectore fatur:


‘silvis te, Tyrrhene, feras agitare putasti?

advenit qui vestra dies muliebribus armis

verba redargueret. nomen tamen haud leve patrum

manibus hoc referes, telo cecidisse Camillae.’

These 26 verses constitute the opening part of Camilla’s killing spree (also known by the Greek term aristeia = an epic description of a warrior’s most outstanding moments on the battlefield that attest to superior martial prowess). Their overall design is symmetrical: 6 + 14 [7 + 7] + 6 verses. After the traditional opening tag of the epic narrator for such a catalogue of kills (664–65), the opening section focuses on one individual, Eunaeus. The middle section has its centre in the correlation of tot – quot (676–67), with 670–75 listing victim after victim in quick succession (Liris, Pagasus, Amastrus, Tereus, Harpalycus, Demophoon, Chromis), summed up in the collective Phrygii viri (677) — as the saying goes, every bullet finds a billet. We then get a moment of respite from Camilla’s industrial slaughter as the narrative lingers lovingly on Ornytus, who stands out head and shoulders from the rest (677–83). But he too will (of course) become a victim of Camilla’s bloodlust in the closing six verses of this section (684–89), correlating with Eunaeus. JH: But no, not so fast, this is a foreclosure, Camilla still has another three kills to thrill us with before we reach the end of the line (postremum), sealed by the full simile shimmering and shivering in the sky (721–24). The catalogue breaks up celebrating just ‘how easy’ it’s all been for her (721: quam facile…).

11.664–669: Getting the Massacre Underway

As noted above, kill catalogues are a defining feature of ‘heroic’ epic poetry. In this particular instance, one of the models is the aristeia of Patroclus in Iliad 16, which begins with a similar address to the character, followed by an enumeration of his victims (16.692–97):

ἔνθα τίνα πρῶτον τίνα δ᾽ ὕστατον ἐξενάριξας

Πατρόκλεις, ὅτε δή σε θεοὶ θάνατον δὲ κάλεσσαν;

Ἄδρηστον μὲν πρῶτα καὶ Αὐτόνοον καὶ Ἔχεκλον

καὶ Πέριμον Μεγάδην καὶ Ἐπίστορα καὶ Μελάνιππον,

αὐτὰρ ἔπειτ᾽ Ἔλασον καὶ Μούλιον ἠδὲ Πυλάρτην:

τοὺς ἕλεν:…

[Then whom first, whom last did you kill, Patroclus, when the gods called you deathward? Adrastus first, and Autonous, and Echeclus, and Perimus, son of Megas, and Epistor, and Melanippus, and thereafter Elasus, and Mulius, and Pylartes: these he killed…]


Quem telo primum, quem postremum, aspera virgo, | deicis? aut quot humi morientia corpora fundis?: Virgil addresses Camilla in apostrophe, choosing a paradoxical expression to capture her quintessential nature as a savage maiden. The question is of course entirely rhetorical: Virgil knows and Camilla can’t answer! Still, the personal rapport between author and character that such an apostrophe suggests is an effective rhetorical gambit: it enhances the drama and immediacy of the narrative. The main verb deicis, in vivid present tense, is placed in enjambment, taking the interrogative pronouns quem – quem (an emphatic anaphora in asyndeton) as accusative objects. primum and postremum function as predicative complements of their respective quem, but are perhaps best translated adverbially (‘whom are you laying low first, whom last…’?). After a focus on specific individuals, the next rhetorical question goes for quantity. The phrase morientia corpora, a neuter accusative plural agreeing with the indeclinable interrogative adjective quot, which reduces individual humans, each with a distinct personality and ‘soul’, to a mass of dying bodies, well brings out the volume killing that heroes (and, as here, the odd heroine) are compelled to perpetrate to merit immortality through epic fame.

aspera virgo: there is a pun in the sound-sequence –ra virgo = virago, a term denoting a female warrior distinct for her virility, and thereby transgressing the norms traditionally associated with her gender. (Turnus’ sister and driver will be one such at 12.468.) aspera signals the rhetorical turn given to the set piece ahead. It will be a rough ride.


Eunaeum Clytio primum patre, cuius apertum | adversi longa transverberat abiete pectus: Virgil now answers his own rhetorical questions. The verb of the main clause (deiecit) has to be supplied from the previous sentence. It takes Eunaeum as accusative object, who is the antecedent of the relative pronoun cuius — a genitive of possession dependent on apertum pectus, the accusative object of transverberat. The adjective adversi agrees with cuius, in predicative position: ‘whose unprotected chest she pierced as he faces her’.

Clytio … patre: either an ablative of origin or a nominal ablative absolute.

primum: delivering on 664, with a second adjective in predicative position (modifying Eunaeum) best translated adverbially (‘first’).

apertum | … longa transverberat abiete pectus: the hyperbaton of apertum pectus, with attribute and noun both placed prominently at line’s end, ‘opens up’ a gap within which Virgil places the phrase for the lethal weapon (longa … abiete) and, centrally, the verb of piercing (transverberat): an iconic representation of the kill. JH: The going gets rough, and the rough gets going: you have been warned. Virgil, as promised, roughs us up with appalling rhetorical choreography. This poor guy’s father(‘s name) tells us he was ‘Into Fame’ (klut-ios), and (that’s why) he called his boy ‘In Bed’ (eunaios is an ordinary Greek adjective). So although the ‘movie’ shows a mounted cavalry(wo)man hurl a spear into her opposite number’s chest, and he falls face down in death throes, the language tells us instead how the first of these many corpses ‘poured on the ground’ (665: humi morientia … fundis) got there when a virgin (664) came up and metaphorically pinned him flat on his back (apertum | adversi … pectus) with an almighty huge and straight lump of tree, right through the heart (pectus); instead of merely ‘pouring out’, he ‘vomited streams of blood’ (rivos), and instead of falling ‘on the ground’, he ‘died chewing the ground’ mixed with his own blood (mandit humum moriens); no last chance to claim a stake in epic ‘fame’ for him, his mouth is stuffed, and instead of mixing it in bed, the only ‘humping’ he gets is his own body impaled on the girl’s enormous pole (se … versat); no son for him. Thanks to unrelenting poetic obscenity, No. 1 thus entirely confirms Diana’s story that defined Camilla as born(e) on and as her father’s huge hard pole wanging across the river in spate.

transverberat: this is what a hunter (huntress) would love to do to her quarry.

longa … abiete: an instrumental ablative. Note that abiete scans as three syllables (abjete). JH: This ‘fir-tree’ of a spear is the sort of grotesque (unprecedented?) abuse of taste that Virgil somehow gets away with. ‘Playing’ with ideas needn’t mean they don’t hurt any more.


sanguinis ille vomens rivos cadit atque cruentam | mandit humum moriensque suo se in vulnere versat: Virgil continues in brutal realism: the javelin skewered Eunaeus’ lungs and now he is vomiting blood, before biting the bloodied earth (the Latin equivalent of ‘biting the dust’; the English idiom is biblical in origin: Psalm 72, King James Version, 1611: ‘They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him and his enemies shall lick the dust’) and writhing in his own blood. The idiom and imagery have impeccable epic pedigree. See e.g. Iliad 16.345–50 and earlier kill scenes in the Aeneid (e.g. 9.349–50, 10.348–49).

sanguinis … vomens rivos: the genitive sanguinis is dependent on rivos, which is the accusative object of the present participle vomens, agreeing with ille.

suo … in vulnere: anastrophe (= in suo vulnere). The placement of the reflexive pronoun se in between suo and in vulnere not only generates the alliteration suo – se (matched by vulnere versat), but also highlights that the centre of Eunaeus’ life (and body) has become the wound through his chest. This is what prey such as wild boar will do, wriggle up the spear that impales them; hunters even devised a special bar to stop them doing it.

11.670–683: The Death Toll Rises


tum Lirim Pagasumque super, quorum alter habenas | suffuso revolutus equo dum colligit, alter | dum subit ac dextram labenti tendit inermem, | praecipites pariterque ruunt: an involved, therefore difficult sentence. For the translation, it is perhaps best to rewrite it in prose: tum Camilla Lirim Pagasumque super fudit, quorum alter suffuso equo revolutus, dum habenas colligit, [interfectus est], alter [interfectus est], dum subit ac labenti inermem dextram tendit, et pariter praecipitesque ruunt. Things to note include:

  • a main verb, fudit, with Camilla as subject, still has to be supplied from 665: fundis above (the Liris was an Italian river);
  • Lirim Pagasumque are the accusative objects of the implied verb fudit and the antecedents of the relative pronoun quorum. The relative clause first splits into two subjects (alter – alter) and then comes together in praecipites, which refers to both. (This is odd, in the sense that the partitive genitive quorum only makes sense with alter – alter and not with praecipites.) The verb of the relative clause is ruunt, but it helps to supply a notional interfectus est with both alter;
  • in each part of the relative clause, Virgil has included a dum-clause; note that in the first part the accusative object of colligit, i.e. habenas, has been placed way ahead of the dum-clause into which it belongs;
  • equo is ablative of separation with revolutus, governing the participle suffuso;
  • the dative participle labenti modifies an implied ei, referring back to Liris, to whom Pagasus is trying to lend a hand;
  • the –que after pariter links praecipites and pariter.

Hence, very literally: ‘Then on top (super) she laid low Liris and Pagasus, of whom the one [who is not a mythic horse, Pegasus — was killed] while he gathered up the reins, having been rolled backwards (revolutus) as his horse had been sprawled underneath (or, reading suffosso, had been stabbed), the other [was killed] while he came up and stretched out an unarmed hand to the one who was falling (labenti) and they fall headlong together.’ JH: The cannon-fodder are objects piling up (super), and they’re two-a-penny: however polarized the way they die it makes no difference, first it’s two at a time, with both X and Y plunging headfirst together simultaneously (pariterque) as a pair, for all that one must go first: X’s horse goes down from under him, Y tries to support X from underneath (suf-fuso … sub-it); X grabs reins <in his hands>, the other <jettisons weapons> and lends a hand instead to Y on his way down. So together they fall! And we’ll never quite know if and how Camilla brought that horse down, landing two for the price of one. Next, indiscriminate slaughter ‘adds’ to the count.

super: JH: Does fiendish Camilla kindly (poetically?) provide the flat-out Mr In Bed with a couple of coverlets ‘on top’, to tuck him up in death?


his addit Amastrum | Hippotaden, sequiturque incumbens eminus hasta | Tereaque Harpalycumque et Demophoonta Chromimque: the list goes on: ‘to these she adds Amastrus, the son of Hippotas, and, applying herself vigorously (incumbens), pursues from afar (eminus) with her spear Tereus, Harpalycus, Demophoon, and Chromis.’ The –que after sequitur links addit and sequitur. Line 675, which consists entirely of the names of four of Camilla’s victims, with its polysyndeton, elisions (… que Har … , … que et), and lack of clear caesura, brings out well how swiftly and efficiently our warrior princess turned killing machine slaughters her foes.

Our first victim here fits the bill twice over, as ‘Near-Amazon and Horse-son’, and three of the other four names (Tereus, Harpalycus, and Demophoon) recall characters in Greek myth that have a connection to Thrace. Cf. Saunders (1940: 542): ‘In view of the close relations existing between Thrace and Troy, it is satisfying to find at least 4 names of Vergil’s Trojans (Demophoön, Harpalycus, Itys, Tereus) associated with Thracian myths, but no Latin names with this connection.’ It is no coincidence that the Italian lady responsible for their slaughter has just been assimilated with the Thracian Amazons (659–60: Threiciae … Amazones): the dire reputation of Thrace as a particularly savage corner of the globe (but also the trans-global savagery of warfare) and intimations of civil war (but also the apparent superiority of the Italic stock) might all play into this ‘Thracian moment’.

sequitur: JH: ‘follow’, yes — but ‘chase down’. Camilla comes nowhere close; she lays it on with her throwing spear, first one, at least given his parentage, then a row of them, without bothering who or how, it’s just one after another but all the same. Compensating for non-glorious scalps by a multiplication effect. We’re crossing over to Virgil’s second question at 665, quot…

Hippotaden: the suitably ‘horsey’ Greek patronymic sports a Greek accusative ending.

Terea – Demophoonta – Chromim: Greek accusatives. The last named is, appropriately in the circumstances, ‘Sir Non-Descript’, the ‘generic’ name of an array of assorted characters in myth.


quotque emissa manu contorsit spicula virgo, | tot Phrygii cecidere viri: quot and tot are indeclinable and, respectively, modify spicula and viri: ‘and as many weapons as the maiden drew up and sent flying from her hand, so many Phrygian men fell dead.’ The etymological play with virgo – viri encapsulates the gendered paradox embodied by a warrior princess who lays low enemies of the opposite sex, supposedly endowed with superior virtus (‘manliness’ in the sense of ‘martial prowess’). The past participle emissa (modifying spicula and chiming with eminus, 674) and the main verb contorsit form a husteron proteron (weapons tend to be drawn up first before being sent on their way), which is an entirely appropriate enactment of the breakneck speed at which Camilla operates. Her launch frequency resembles a machine-gun, and Virgil’s syntax is hard put to keep up.


procul Ornytus armis | ignotis et equo venator Iapyge fertur, | cui pellis latos umeros erepta iuvenco | pugnatori operit, caput ingens oris hiatus | et malae texere lupi cum dentibus albis, | agrestisque manus armat sparus; ipse catervis | vertitur in mediis et toto vertice supra est: after some lines devoted to conveyor-belt killing, Virgil now counterbalances quantity with quality: Camilla’s next victim, Ornytus, gets singled out for special attention before he bites the dust. The syntax again plays fast and loose:

  • We start with the main clause (procul … fertur: underlined)
  • A relative clause follows, introduced by the relative pronoun cui (in the dative of reference or possession) with Ornytus as antecedent: it consists of three cola (the first juxtaposed asyndetically, the second and third linked by the –que after agrestis), all featuring a subject phrase consisting of a piece (or pieces) of equipment, a direct object consisting of a part of Ornytus’ anatomy, and a verb, as follows:

    cui … pugnatori

    subject phrase

    direct object


    Colon 1

    pellis … erepta iuvenco

    latos umeros


    Colon 2

    ingens oris hiatus et malae lupi cum dentibus albis



    Colon 3

    agrestis … sparus



    In his text, Virgil varies the sequence of these elements, shifting the subject ever further back, from subject + direct object + verb (colon 1) to direct object + subject + verb (colon 2) to direct object + verb + subject (colon 3).

  • The description concludes with another main clause (underlined), in asyndetic juxtaposition.

armis | ignotis et equo … Iapyge: Ornytus comes ‘in unknown armour and on an Iapygian horse’, referring to his undistinguished lineage and CV and his region of origin: the geographical label Iapyx refers to Apulia, a region in South-East Italy. JH: Camilla comes a long way over to make contact with him, and hand him reflected glory (armis | ignotis ~ nomen, 689). Having silenced the pedigreed Eunaeus, she talks to this one, womxn to man, if only to tell him he’s in the wrong place with the wrong head on.

venator: in apposition to Ornytus, correlating with pugnatori (see below): Ornytus, who has so far (only) proved his mettle in the hunt now finds himself on a battlefield, having undergone a similar transformation as Camilla, whom he resembles in various ways (but, in his wolf-attire he is also a double of Arruns, her killer: see below).

pellis … erepta iuvenco: a hide stripped from a steer (iuvenco is ablative of separation). JH: In his time this tearaway has taken on a challenge or two, and now sports calfhide (not even a bull), which says it all. Message received, loud and clear: these ‘broad shoulders’ make an easy target. Some ‘fighter’!

pugnatori: the noun in the dative modifies the relative pronoun cui (‘whom, as a fighter…’) and plays off venator, to bring out the inappropriate nature of his attire — he goes to war as if dressed for the hunt. In conflating the two domains of warfare (pugnator) and hunting (venator), he mirrors Camilla, who (remember) is introduced as a warrior (bellatrix) in Aeneid 7, but began as a huntress (venatrix) according to Aeneid 11. In this particular encounter, she will retain the upper hand, but she too will fall prey to a huntsman-like figure (Arruns).

ingens oris hiatus | et malae texere lupi cum dentibus albis: hiatus, further modified by the attribute ingens and the genitive oris and malae are the two subjects of texere (the alternative third person plural perfect indicative active form = texerunt), linked by et. lupi is genitive singular modifying both hiatus and malae: ‘a huge gape of the mouth and the white-fanged jaws of a wolf.’ (JH: Theoretically, ingens could modify caput, but was the tall and broad Ornytus literally big-headed? The ‘poetic’ point is that this mutt sports a ‘Big Gob’, with rows of ‘healthy gnashers’, but he’s a pushover for our maiden (‘no sweat’, 684), who’s going to do all the talking here, and her words are going to hurt bad, for real.)

agrestisque manus … sparus: agrestis could be the alternative third declension accusative plural ending (= agrestes), modifying manus (accusative plural of the fourth declension noun), but ‘rustic hands’ does not yield much sense. Better to take it as a nominative singular modifying sparus: ‘a rustic pike’. Lightweight!

catervis … in mediis: anastrophe (= in mediis catervis).

toto vertice supra est: JH: whatever the size of his cranium, Ornytus is a head taller than anybody else: he sticks out — just like Turnus as leader bringing up the rear of the catalogue in 7.783–84, ipse inter primos praestanti corpore Turnus | vertitur arma tenens et toto vertice supra est, but a garish impostor who’s skulking in the safety of the formation around him, and is just asking to be cut down to size. When Virgil chooses vertex for someone’s head, he’ll often touch off the etymology from verto, ‘turn’, and this must apply here; this head is ‘spinning’, as its owner presumes he’s made the change from huntsman to epic battler. Camilla at once turns the tables on him (agmine verso), it’s a breeze, and squishes his non-verbal brag with an attention-grabbing ‘look at me’ climax to this first section of the aristeia that is bringing her epic fame. Trouble is, the same great splash of rig-out that attracts her to out of his depth Ornytus is soon enough to sucker her into chasing Chloreus, take her eye off the ball, and cause her own comeuppance (see below). She should read this story more carefully, and listen to what she’s about to come out with. Biters ask to get bitten. ‘Big Gob, yourself, Camilla!’

11.684–689: The Hunter Hunted

Camilla makes swift work of Ornytus and sends him to the shades with a pretty (ugly: aspera) taunt: he was plain out of his depth when he tested his mettle on the battlefield, but has the honour of being killed by Camilla as consolation prize. As Egan (1983: 22) notes with reference to exceptum (648), the weapon-fanatic Camilla seems to pick Ornytus out, ‘precisely because of his unorthodox arms’.


hunc illa exceptum (neque enim labor agmine verso) | traicit et super haec inimico pectore fatur: the verse design enacts the swiftness of the kill. Virgil juxtaposes Camilla and her victim via the demonstrative pronouns hunc and illa up front, followed by the past participle that signifies the end of the chase (‘him … having being caught’). A retarding parenthesis follows that explains why Camilla caught up with her foe so effortlessly: there was a general rout going on. agmine verso is an ablative absolute; the verb (erat) in the parenthesis needs to be supplied. The killing verb comes in dramatic enjambment: there is not one whiff of resistance on Ornytus’ part.

super: probably adverbial, rather than the preposition + accusative. The haec that follows is the direct object of the deponent fatur. Yes, right now Camilla’s right ‘on top’ (670, super, 674, incumbens).

inimico pectore: ‘with hostile heart’.


‘silvis te, Tyrrhene, feras agitare putasti?: putasti is syncopated second person singular perfect indicative active (puta / vi / sti). It introduces an indirect statement with te as subject accusative and agitare as infinitive (feras is accusative object of agitare, silvis an ablative of place). Even though Ornytus is riding a horse from Southern Italy, Camilla addresses him, perhaps erroneously, as ‘Tuscan’ (Tyrrhene is in the vocative singular). Virgil does not tell us how she knows — or why she gets it wrong (if she does). JH: But he does make us wonder if she’s blathering, and liking the idea that this jumped-up weirdo is some (sleek, idle, voluptuary, rich) Etruscan (732–40 below), just as out of place in the jungle here, she taunts, as a giant herdsman, so much that she’s the one not ‘thinking’ straight any more.


advenit qui vestra dies muliebribus armis | verba redargueret. nomen tamen haud leve patrum | manibus hoc referes, telo cecidisse Camillae.’: the antecedent of the relative pronoun qui is dies (which has been sucked into the relative clause). vestra modifies verba: ‘The day has come that refutes your words with weapons worn by women.’ With nomen … haud leve (a litotes) Camilla refers either to herself or perhaps the ‘fame’ that Ornytus acquired by being one of Camilla’s victims (so Horsfall 2003: 381: ‘C. starts with fame, defines it as ample, then eventually specifies it as hoc, directly before explaining that she is herself the source of this ample and consolatory fame; word-order as a powerful instrument of soldierly pride’). Hence: ‘You shall nevertheless carry a famous name / significant fame to the shades (manibus is from manes, not from manus) of your ancestors, namely this (hoc), that you fell by the spear of CAMILLA.’ (I.e. Camilla uses her own name as exclamation mark at the end of her speech.)

Her ‘consolatory taunt’ is notably different in tone from Aeneas’ words of noble pity addressed to the dying Lausus (10.825–30):

‘quid tibi nunc, miserande puer, pro laudibus istis,


quid pius Aeneas tanta dabit indole dignum?

arma, quibus laetatus, habe tua; teque parentum

manibus et cineri, si qua est ea cura, remitto.

hoc tamen infelix miseram solabere mortem:

Aeneae magni dextra cadis.’


[‘What now, pitiable boy, will righteous Aeneas give you in recognition of these glorious deeds? What reward worthy of such a heart? Keep your armour in which you took joy; and if you care at all for this, I return you to the shades and ashes of your ancestors. This at least, unfortunate boy, will console you for your wretched death: you fall by the hand of great Aeneas.’]

JH: Camilla’s words, we heard, come from a heart consumed with hostility (685). But she’s also in love with the very best preciosities known to Hellenistic / Roman scholarship, since ‘Ornytus’ worthless name means ‘to start game’ (ornumai), and though he’s spoken not one word out loud, he’s going to take a name down to his dead ancestors (he must have some: patrum), and the two of them are going to share this figura etymologica together, because her own name is also her weapon; it always has been since she was bound to that missile of her father’s, since ‘Camilla’, as we saw, means ‘weapon’ (telo … Camillae ||). And, again, ‘all of you’, our (Villanelle-style) heroine wants this job, this moment, this episode, to shove ‘all your (plural) words right back at you (plural)’. Not just poor Ornytus, but through him all the viri who think ‘womxn’s weapons’ are out of place in the glorious world of arma virumque: vestra muliebribus armis | verba redargueret. Ornytus already has his revenge, though: to snaffle him Camilla had to turn (back) huntress (684: exceptum), and so…

The saga is turning, from Diana’s tristis (534), through Virgil’s aspera (664), to Camilla’s own acerbum for her showdown (823).

muliebribus armis: the phrase is marked, and has given rise to much gender-anxious commentary since antiquity. See Keith (2000: 28):

The emphasis on gender deviance is particularly striking in Camilla’s own reference to her ‘woman’s weapons’, the sole appearance of the adjective muliebris in the Virgilian corpus […]. Servius carefully [= inventively] explains that Virgil uses muliebris here not in the strict sense of ‘belonging to a married woman’ but in the looser sense of ‘belonging to the female sex’, and Donatus paraphrases ‘recognise that you are now such that women can conquer you, women kill you’ (2.519.21–22). Donatus underscores the shame inherent in this inversion of the natural hierarchy of gender in his commentary on Camilla’s vaunt: ‘She herself out of anger deprecates her own action by saying that it is a great disgrace for men to die by a woman’s arms … for she says you receive the greatest reproach because a woman brought you to death’ (2.159.24–30).

11.725–740: Shaming, Naming, Blaming: Tarchon Rallies the Troops

OCR spares us all another 34 lines of sexy slaughterhouse action gone wacky by Camilla (690–724), as she slays Butes, Orsilochus, and the disgusting Ligurian son of Aunus (who manages to get her off her horse so he can escape on his, but finds she can outrace horses and she overtakes easy as pie). By now, she’s really wheeled out her martial arts repertoire: from abies, hasta, spicula, telum, on to cuspis, and securis, ‘axe’, and finally ensis, ‘sword’. We rejoin the narrative at the point when Jupiter has seen enough of her battlefield dominance and decides to put an end to it. His intervention takes the form of imperceptibly stirring the wrath of the Etruscan commander Tarchon.

JH: The joust we missed is wittily couched as the ‘finale’ to Camilla’s aristeia, by selecting a Ligurian fall guy, come all this way from the ‘last frontier’ of Italy to be her ‘last but not least’ (haud Ligurum extremus, 701). Camilla, at least, underlined his behaviour as confirming one more ‘ethnographic’ stereotype / slur: Aunus’ son’s, and his father’s cheating proves, she claims, to be typical of their fatherland! (fallere, 701, dolos et astu, 705, ‘fidis … crede, fraudem’, 706–8, dolo, 712; ‘nequiquam patrias temptasti lubricus artis … fraus … fallaci … Auno’, 716–17). Servius on 700 quoted Cato: ‘Ligures autem omnes fallaces sunt’! (Farney 2007: 197). But let’s not miss the important qualification of Camilla’s heroic standing and the part this last tableau makes in building the economy of Book 11 as a whole. Camilla finally outstrips her nameless victim, calling him out as ‘vain’ (vane, 715) in answer to his con ‘You’ll find out whom windy (ventosa, 708) (vain)glory brings deception’. We know Camilla ‘outstrips the winds’ (ventos, 7.807) and when she brings the cheater down off his high horse (frustra … elate, 715), she proves him a non-entity, with a father but with no name / fame (in complete contrast with her last scalp, Ornytus). BUT he has in the exchange brought her down to earth too (aequo … solo, 706–7), and it’s never wise to denounce anyone else’s vanity, which always boomerangs (as we saw at 686–89, where Camilla thought she was warring, not hunting (the guy dolled up in calfhide and wolf fangs), but then at once proceeded to ‘track down’, hunt, her next victim, sequiturque sequentem, 695): a duel always draws out the latent similarity between opponents, as the basic polarity ‘cavalry’ vs ‘infantry’ deconstructed (par in Latin, ‘a pair / equals’) — just at the point when their disparity is clinched (cf. paribus … in armis, 710). This is what became of (savage, vaunting) Aeneas as the killer of Mezentius at the start of Book 11, programmatically setting the agenda for the smaller bouts featuring small-fry ahead. News of Camilla’s victim’s rubbing out will reach his father — just as Pallas’ did Evander (cf. vano … honore, 52; nova gloria, 153; domum … Pallanta referret, 163; nato manis perferre sub imos, 181). So with Ornytus, nomenpatrum | manibus hoc referes (688–89), and then in turn his nameless successor, exercising patrias … artisnec fraus te … perferet Auno, 716–17. The same counters shuffle through the tightwound chain of episodes, to create a rich discourse on the core issue of cost / benefit of armed conflict: arma virumque. The stakes of monomachy will go on to reach an ultimate extreme when Arruns’ deal forfeits honour, but he prays to get home (reducem ut patria alta videret, 797) and means to get there in one piece (patrias remeabo inglorius urbes, 793): his people erase his memory and leave him there, dust to dust (obliti ignoto camporum in pulvere linquunt, 866). Which is where we came in: see n. on 1, reliquit.


At non haec nullis hominum sator atque deorum | observans oculis summo sedet altus Olympo: The adversative particle at signals a shift in focus from the human to the divine sphere. In keeping with the narrative appearance of the cosmic boss, the craftsmanship of these lines is deliberate and majestic. Note in particular the pervasive use of alliteration (non – nullis, sator – summo – sedet, observans – oculis – Olympo) and hyperbaton (haec … observans, nullis … oculis, sator … altus, summo … Olympo). JH: The immediate referent in haec is the wondrous simile for how easily the predatory hawk Camilla (ac-cipiter, ‘hawk’, is another ‘huntress’, cf. ex-cipio) stuck it to her latest — in fact sneaky — ‘dove’ victim. What drew Jupiter’s (so many) eyes to the scene was this hawk swooping ab alto on the dove ‘high in the clouds’, ripping it to pieces so ‘blood tips, and (so many) plucked feathers flutter down ab aethere’. The prompt in turn presages what his intervention is going to do down below, where the bloody plumage is touching down.

non … nullis… | observans oculis: non nullis seems an oddly contrived litotes (a double negation, emphasizing that Jupiter was indeed observing the battle with his eyes — a tautological and seemingly superfluous ablative phrase with observans: he could hardly have used another part of his anatomy). It is given further prominence by the placement of haec (the accusative object of observans) between non and nullis, the hyperbaton nullis … oculis across the verse break, and the n- and o-alliteration. The spreading about of the phrase must be iconic of Jupiter’s panoptic view from above. The tautological phrasing also reflects mischievous engagement with a Homeric formula. In the Iliad and the Odyssey, various gods are said not to keep ‘blind watch’, which compelled a scholiast to comment that this is a proverbial expression to be understood figuratively, that is, not in the sense of ‘blind in observation’, but ‘looking the other way’.

hominum sator atque deorum: such a periphrasis of Jupiter is a standard feature in the Graeco-Roman epic tradition, going back to the Homeric πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε (e.g. Iliad 1.544, 5.246, 15.47, etc.). Ennius renders it as pater divumque hominumque (Annals fr. 203 Skutsch). Variations also include divum pater atque hominum rex (see e.g. Virgil, Aeneid 1.65, 2.648, 10.2, 10.743; and cf. 12.829 in the Introduction 38). Note the polarity between mortals and immortals (here subsumed under Jupiter’s procreational powers), which is again a hallmark of epic poetry: human affairs unfold within a supernatural horizon. The emphasis is on Jupiter’s seminal capacity to procreate and rule over all higher forms of life in the universe.

summo … Olympo: As Allen and Greenough point out (§293), ‘Superlatives (and more rarely Comparatives) denoting order and succession […] usually designate not what object, but what part of it, is meant’ — hence summus mons = the top of the hill (rather than ‘the highest hill’), in colle medio = halfway up the hill (rather than ‘on the middle hill’), etc. Here, however, both senses are in play: Jupiter sits on top of Mt. Olympus, which is also deemed to be the tallest mountain in the Graeco-Roman imaginary, hence he also sits on Olympus, the highest mountain.

altus: an adjective for an adverb, here somewhat strange since usually Jupiter commands superlatives rather than positives (e.g. in his cult title Jupiter Optimus Maximus; but cf. 1.7: altae moenia Romae). In combination with summo, altus may appear somewhat tautological, but may refer to Jupiter’s elevated status, not just his elevated position.


Tyrrhenum genitor Tarchonem in proelia saeva | suscitat et stimulis haud mollibus inicit iras: the two main clauses, linked by et, are arranged in rough chiastic order: accusative object (Tyrrhenum … Tarchonem) – verb (suscitat) – verb (inicit) – accusative object (iras). Both verbs are preceded by a further specification: the prepositional phrase in proelia saeva and the instrumental ablative stimulis haud mollibus, both in the pattern of noun + attribute. The arrangement helps to generate the alliterative sequence saeva – suscitat – stimulis (joining Tyrrhenum … Tarchonem and inicit iras in adding alliterative colour) and places emphasis on saeva and haud mollibus — as well as (via enjambment) suscitat.

Tyrrhenum … Tarchonem: the adjective Tyrrhenus (= ‘Etruscan’) derives from the figure of Tyrrhenus, who according to Greek legend headed a group of colonists from Lydia who came to settle in Italy (Herodotus 1.94, Timaeus FGrHist 566 F62). In some sources Tarchon is the brother of Tyrrhenus (Lycophron, Alexandra 1245–49). In his Origines, Cato the Elder makes Tarchon Tyrrhenus’ son (see FRHist F70). And in Strabo (5.2.19) Tyrrhenus puts Tarchon in charge of founding the Etruscan cities, though some authors consider the Etruscans autochthonous: see e.g. Dionysius of Halicarnassus 1.28.1. JH: Roman aetiology had always faced a challenge in dealing with the Etruscan legacy, since so much they wanted to be foundational for their culture (e.g. haruspicy, 739–40) was traditionally ascribed to the period of the kings, including Tarquinius Priscus; yet the foundation of the republic meant expulsion of autocracy along with the last Tarquin (Rex) and all his clan. The Aeneid splits Etruscans between bad king Mezentius, already expelled for tyranny, and good commander and statesman ‘Tarchon’, who earlier stepped forward to sign a foreigner for head of state in accordance with an oracle (8.506), linked Aeneas with the role of striking a treaty (8.603, 10.153), and has now matched Camilla in coming to bail out the Trojan side in time of need (10.290). With his entry into the war, conflict between Italians kicks in, Etruscans v Latins, Volscians, etc., for all Augustans to feel as well as to see — after lifetimes filled with waves of civil war that cut every which way, and an apparent end to conflict reached at the price of a new monarchy lacking just the name.

genitor: another standard way of referring to Jupiter, virtually synonymous with sator.

Extra information

Because of the virtual tautology of sator and genitor, some readers have even felt the need to posit an interpolation. See Mackail (1930: 452): ‘There is a certain awkwardness in the repetition of the subject (sator, genitor), and it may be noticed that if the words summo sedet altus Olympo Tyrrhenum genitor were omitted, the remaining three lines of the sentence would be both clear and complete.’ A cop-out, surely? Try this: Virgil is here engaging in allusive theological polemics, correcting a conception of Jupiter such as that propounded by Valerius Soranus in the following two hexameters:

Iuppiter omnipotens, regum rerumque deumque

progenitor genetrixque deum, deus unus et omnes.

[Almighty Jupiter, begetter of kings and things and gods; at once one god and all gods.]

In his de Civitate Dei 7.9, Augustine cites these lines together with their explication by Varro in his de Cultu Deorum (Worship of the Gods): cum marem existimarent qui semen emitteret, feminam quae acciperet, Iovemque esse mundum et eum omnia semina ex se emittere et in se recipere, cum causa, inquit, scripsit Soranus ‘Iuppiter progenitor genetrixque’, nec minus cum causa unum et omnia idem esse; mundus enim unus et in eo omnia sunt (‘since they believe that it was the male who expelled the seed and the female who received it, and Jupiter is the world and both expels all seeds out of him and receives them into him, it is “with good reason”, Varro says, “that Soranus described Jupiter as both father and mother”, and with no less justification also said that he was both one and all, for the world is one, and within that one all things are contained’).3 Valerius Soranus conceives of Jupiter in Stoic terms as a universal androgynous divinity necessarily embodying both maternal and paternal principles as he assumes the dual role of seed-expelling procreater and seed-receiving generative matrix; by contrast, Virgil casts his own god in unequivocally masculine terms, as sower (sator) and begetter (genitor), who moreover uses his (toxic?) masculinity to strengthen patriarchy and male pride by intervening against the battlefield career of a woman who has so successfully challenged traditional notions of male superiority.

stimulis haud mollibus: another litotes (cf. 452, same phrase); an ablative of means or instrument. Here the double negative subtly anticipates the vituperation — Tarchon upbraids his Etruscans for their unwarlike mollitia (‘softness’). JH: You’d think he’s just been listening to Camilla’s misguided putdown of Ornytus (686–89)… But the verbal ‘lashing’ will pass on Jupiter’s injection of wrath, aptly ‘whipping’ and ‘spurring’ these horsemen (instigat), and converting the Almighty’s power into a ‘spraygun’ rhetorical performance (variis … vocibus). Controlled composition is not the rhetoric for this moment (the register is ‘wrath’).


ergo inter caedes cedentiaque agmina Tarchon | fertur equo variisque instigat vocibus alas | nomine quemque vocans, reficitque in proelia pulsos: three main clauses (fertur – instigat – reficit), linked by the two –que after variis and reficit. The placement of the verbs in the sentence mirrors the circumstances and impact of Tarchon’s intervention:

  • the first clause is dominated by the fleeing troops (inter … agmina), with the subject and passive verb (Tarchon | fertur) positioned towards the end of the clause;
  • the design of the second clause reflects the verbal pressure Tarchon places on his troops: the accusative object alas is placed in between the main verb instigat towards the beginning of the clause (framed by the alliterative variis … vocibus) and a participle construction which reiterates and glosses with greater specificity the action of the main verb (nomine quemque vocans, with vocans continuing the v-alliteration and adding a figura etymologica: vox – vocare);
  • in the third and final clause, the verb comes first and the accusative object (eos) pulsos last.

So the (initially fleeing) troops and their divinely goaded leader Tarchon undergo inverse trajectories, as he gradually re-establishes his authority and command.

caedes cedentiaque: JH: the jingle suggests that caedo and cedo amount to two sides of the same coin. And that is the idea.

fertur equo: JH: the cavalry engagement continues, along with Virgil’s exercise of apppropriately far-out fantasy for surprise distortions of ‘regular’ epic combat. The workout after Camilla’s entrée at 498 includes: equus x 17 (x 4 in 1–497; equa at 494), sonipes x 2, quadripedans / -es x 2, eques x 2 (+ Camilla at 433); add turma x 4, ala x 3; habenae x 5, frena, x 2 (+ 195), ungula x 1 (+ iubae, colla, armos, at 497). In fact as everyone foots it or rides to the Latins’ city (911), chargers will make a paddock of Book 11 to the very end… of the day, when the Sun wets his horses in the river of the far west (914)…

nomine quemque vocans, reficitque in proelia pulsos: JH: even in this context, the phrasing whispers that ‘expelled’ Tarquins try to ‘recover’ their kingdom in Rome. And tells us that this is what it’s whispering: the only name check we have here is Tarchon’s, who just got the call from Big Daddy, and this is smuggled in by recourse to the formulaic indicator of any good officer rallying his troops by the personal touch of fitting individual names to faces. In aetiology, contrary positive and negative aspects are held co-present through every instantiation — it was always already all there.


‘quis metus, o numquam dolituri, o semper inertes | Tyrrheni, quae tanta animis ignavia venit?: Two rhetorical questions frame two invocations of the Etruscans (o … o…). animis and venit also go with quis metus. Both metus (‘fear’) and ignavia (‘idleness’, or, more specifically ‘slothful avoidance of duties coupled with cowardice’) frequently register as antonyms of the arch-Roman quality of virtus (‘manliness’, especially courage in war and martial prowess): see e.g. Ennius, Hectoris Lytra fr. 155 Jocelyn; Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 3.17; Sallust, Bellum Catilinae 20.2; or Livy 24.44.8.

o numquam dolituri, o semper inertes | Tyrrheni: dolituri is the future active participle in the vocative masculine plural of doleo, modifying Tyrrheni: ‘O Etruscans, never to feel any discomfort, always slothful.’ The antithetical extremes numquam and semper nicely underscore the Etruscans’ seemingly total inertia.


femina palantis agit atque haec agmina vertit!: a husteron proteron: we first get Camilla driving the army in disorder (femina palantis agit) before she turns the ranks (haec agmina vertit). As often, husteron proteron, a figure of speech that inverts the natural sequence of events, is used to articulate the topsy-turvy, the chaotic, or the perverse.

agit … agmina vertit: JH: Straggler-harassing is one thing, but taking on troops in formation, that’s something else entirely! (cf. 684, agmine verso). The rhyme … venit? | … vertit? | carries on the derisory chanting effect of the reduplication in quis … quae around o numquam … o semper and reinforced in this sarcastic verse by the internal rhyme and quasi-pun of femina … agit ~ agmina vertit.

femina: contemptuous

palantis: the accusative masculine plural of the present participle (= palantes), modifying an implied vos (the accusative object of agit: a woman drives you, who…).


quo ferrum quidve haec gerimus tela inrita dextris?: two rhetorical questions linked by the enclitic –ve after quid. gerimus (and perhaps dextris) go also with quo ferrum: lit. ‘to what purpose (are we carrying) steel (in our right hands) and why are we carrying these spears in our hands?’ JH: The chain of redoubled phrases continues here, this time signalled as such: quo … quidve. Tarchon is also indicating in the shift from haec to haec that his weapons are same as theirs; the regiment should watch what he does with his, then do likewise. In just the one touch needed, his speech rustles up a ‘we-here-now’ from within its second-person address (gerimus). They are all in this together (agmina … alas, 729–30 ~ agmina, 734) — aren’t ‘you’ (exspectate, 738)? See how inclusion / exclusion works in a solidarity speech? And how the officer turns his charge list report on his horrible shower into a parodic order, the expected climax to his rallying call.


at non in Venerem segnes nocturnaque bella, | aut ubi curva choros indixit tibia Bacchi: the subject (vos) and the verb (estis) need to be supplied; segnes (nominative masculine plural) is the predicative complement: non (vos) estis segnes in … aut ubi…: ‘you are not slow for … or where…’. Sexual license and alcohol-fuelled lack of inhibition animate debauchery.

at non segnes: JH: i.e. he was letting them off lightly in calling them semper inertes! Similarly, the one time and place they aren’t afraid (metus, 732) is in bed, at night, where they indeed ‘never will mind, or even feel, the knocks’ you’re bound to pick up in the heat of ‘battle’ (numquam dolituri ~ nocturna … bella). Tarchon does manage to ‘inject’ a sergeant-major's jovial drollery into his outrage!

in Venerem … nocturnaque bella: the preposition in governs both accusative phrases (linked by the –que after nocturna), another ‘reduplicative’ phrase referring to one and the same thing: ‘erotic passion’ manifesting itself in ‘coital hanky-panky’. The idea of sex as war between the genders is peculiarly appropriate here: the Etruscans are quite happy to engage females in their bedrooms, but refuse to face Camilla on the battlefield. They comport themselves like the pyjama warriors of love elegy, happy to partake in a bedroom joust in the pursuit of erotic conquest but turning tail in a real military encounter. See e.g. Propertius 2.1.45, 3.8.32 or Ovid, Amores 1.9.1: militat omnis amans et habet sua castra Cupido (‘Every lover serves as soldier, and Cupid, too, has his camps’).

aut: another doublet, then, to expand on –ve (735).

aut ubi curva choros indixit tibia Bacchi: curva modifies tibia, which is the subject of the ubi-clause. The genitive Bacchi could be attached to choros and/or tibia. Dancing, especially of the orgiastic kind associated with such divinities as Bacchus or Cybele, was hard to reconcile with the comportment deemed appropriate for a member of Rome’s ruling elite with its emphasis on gravitas. The very dress code of a senator limited any free-flowing movement. Put differently, togas don’t dance. It was a Greek practice that never ceased to amaze Roman observers. JH: What the galloping major is on about here, mind, is the shambles of a squadron his troopers amount to: here they are ‘backing off’ (cedentia, 729), but if the bugle sounded ‘Charge’, this crack unit would at once and as one launch off in perfect formation exactly the way they’re meant to! As it is, you bet, they’d jump to it in a perfectly synchronized high-stepping chorus line the instant the top brass calls party time. No, the army doesn’t use a ‘bent reed’ — guess why, or read on!


exspectate dapes et plenae pocula mensae | (hic amor, hoc studium) dum sacra secundus haruspex | nuntiet ac lucos vocet hostia pinguis in altos!’: a sudden, contemptuous imperative (exspectate…), followed by an equally scornful parenthesis (hic amor, hoc studium), and a subordinate dum-clause. JH: In Bacchus’ army, a feast is ‘declared’ (the correct object of indixit was bella, the wrong referent). And instead of battle, the signal posts one more of Tarchon’s flood of two-pronged hendiadys phrasings — the boozed-up spread. Instead of caedes (729), here’s to Bacchus, and the cup that always overflows. Tally-ho.

(hic amor, hoc studium): the verb (est) needs to be supplied. The elision, the repetition of the demonstrative pronoun (hic – hoc), and the asyndeton give the periphrasis proper rhetorical punch: once more Virgil rubs in Tarchon’s double-take technique, insulting the men with the charge that their vocation for the regiment is really a cover for living it up, when their studium ought precisely to be their amor.

dum sacra secundus haruspex | nuntiet ac lucos vocet hostia pinguis in altos: JH: the wing commander winds up with a last flourish to cap his volley of assorted doublets denouncing the ways these two-faced frauds risk blotting the regiment’s escutcheon. It’s a brilliant signing off, too: Jupiter gave Tarchon the personal going-over, and that’s what the officer is now doing to his guys, addressing them personally but collectively (nomine quemque … , Tyrrheni), just as he will now act out himself, one for all. His job is to call them out, call them to attention, and to call them to action, to stop turning their backs and (so) getting butchered (caedes cedentiaque, 729) and instead sally forth and do their sacred duty for their own, for their unit’s, and for their country’s, sake (vocans => vocet). In this rhetorical stunt, sarcastic Tarchon gets to play the Etruscan priest who’s in charge of when it’s right to perform the rites, as the haruspex did in any Roman army’s decision to march off on campaign, into any dangerous jungle in any dangerous defile through mountain terrain. Like any dashing charismatic officer, Tarchon’s attitude to soldiering is to head off madly into the ‘field’ as if going to a wild rave, knowing perfectly well that the likely result will be to provide the enemy with a juicy victim to cut to pieces, and to provide his own side with a sacrificial victim that will ensure victory. They all know, too, that battle is just as topsy-turvy a world as Bacchus’: myth has Bacchus invade the western world with a crazed horde of wild devotees, before he is incorporated into culture as the joker in the polytheism pack, his nighttime rites up on the mountains requiring the city’s womenfolk to range loose, ripping animals apart and who knows what. In fact Tarchon & co. know perfectly well that troops do head into action well-feasted as if it’s their last meal and well-primed with appropriate chemicals, whether alcoholic or otherwise. The end result of all this exhortatory fantasizing is to ‘deliver the message’ (for Jupiter) and ‘sound the charge’ in one ‘full, fat’ parabolic summons to prefer the better script on offer and grab the right side of Tarchon’s alternative worlds, not the wrong. And this horseman, set on his mount among the rest, underlines how well he knows how war works, since sending men out as beasts for sacrifice is the primal scene of conflict, enshrined in the bind of hostia, ‘victim’ to hostis, ‘enemy’ (743). See Servius on Aeneid 1.334: hostiae dicuntur sacrificia quae ab his fiunt qui in hostem pergunt. Once more, Virgil contrives to make his text signal the importance of the message, loud and clear (nuntiet): listen to Tarchon ‘say the word’, and the word is hostia! Next we get to watch him do it.

nuntiet ac … vocet: present subjunctives, anticipating a future state of affairs. See Gildersleeve & Lodge 366–67.

secundus haruspex: the attribute secundus, while not out of place with haruspex, would more naturally go with sacra: sacra secunda (‘favourable auspices obtained through the inspection of the entrails of a sacrificial victim’) is what a haruspex was supposed to produce. In his chapter entitled ‘Anatomy of a Style’, Gian Biago Conte discusses the phrasing as an instance of ‘expressive defamiliarization’, a moment where Virgil thwarts the reader’s expectation, forcing us (or at least the commentators) to stop, think, and consider: it remains unclear whether we are dealing point blank with a transferred epithet (so for instance Gransden 1991: 132: ‘the adjective is predicative, having been, as it were, transferred from the omens (the sacra) to the soothsayers) or a more complex semantic interactivity: Horsfall (2003: 400), for instance, maintains that the attribute may well apply to both the signs from the gods (secunda sacra) and their interpreter (secundus haruspex); and it could not have done such double duty, or at least not as strikingly, if it had modified sacra. JH: Tarchon’s feat will precisely be to get his men to ‘follow’ his blessed lead and do likewise (secundus ~ secuti, 758). And they will be doing the bidding of the Almighty.

lucos … in altos: anastrophe (= in altos lucos).

Similar to the speech of Numanus Remulus at Aeneid 9.598–620 (‘a powerful piece of epideictic rhetoric, using the techniques of praise and invective in order to elaborate contrasting racial stereotypes of the Italians and the Trojans’: Hardie 1994: 188; see further Horsfall (1971) and Dickie (1985)), Tarchon’s speech opens with scornful rhetorical questions and closes with a scornful imperative. Tarchon here applies to his own people the abusive idiom of effeminacy and luxury that the enemies of the Trojans (Iarbas, Turnus, Numanus Remulus, etc.) use against Aeneas and his followers. While proprietors of haruspicy, they also have a reputation for being lecherous cowards, interested in food, drink, and debauchery, and effeminate in their indulgence in luxury. The set of shared vituperative stereotypes is not a coincidence if one considers that the Etruscans and Trojans both hail from Asia Minor — and that in turn Aeneas’ lineage is ultimately of Etruscan origins. See Reed (2009: 11):

In tracing Aeneas’ lineage back to this place [i.e. the Etruscan place of Corythus, the alleged hometown of Aeneas’ ancestor Dardanus, who ended up as Trojan royalty], Virgil awakens the possibility that his ancestry is Etruscan — in conformity, one might suppose, with the generally sympathetic treatment of Etruscans in the poem. But that sympathetic treatment must also be read alongside the Etruscans’ originally being Lydian or Maeonian — Asiatic, Oriental like the Trojans — in this poem, in accordance with an account first read in Herodotus 1.94. Etruscans cannot claim Italian soil by virtue of their origins. If Dardanus was Etruscan [he could also be Greek or native Italian], and the Etruscans are originally Lydian, we are sent back to Anatolia and the Trojan sphere.

Arguably the abusive idiom and its geopolitical implications resonated in a contemporary key for Virgil’s original readers. See Viparelli (2008: 15–16):

[…] in the rhetoric of Tarchon’s and Arruns’ invective, there is an echo of the innuendo and arguments that Augustan propaganda used, a short time before, in war-mongering and nationalistic terms, against Cleopatra, a historical queen and enemy of the Romans, who personified a hostis publicus. In other words, the innuendo and arguments are similar to those with which Octavian justified the war against Cleopatra. Octavian sparked off the war against Cleopatra and Antonius by transforming the civil war into a defensive war of men against the tyranny of a woman. […] Opposition to the queen was set not only as the struggle for freedom by the West against the East, but also and primarily by a man against the dangerous despotism of a woman.

JH: Here the special twist is that this is an Etruscan putting down Etruscans to Etruscans, so the rhetorical strategy is to turn on them — re-cite — the (snide) smears of Etruscans by non-Etruscans in order to spur them to refute the (false) smears. It doesn’t amount to any admission that they tell true — as Tarchon will now prove, but means to get the rest to follow his example and smash the stereotype (758–59). Up to them to prove that he’s not the exception that proves the rule. (Virgil, however, may admit reservations: variis … vocibus could include an iffy valuation in the arguments he gets Tarchon to air. In complementary fashion, in 9.595–96 Remulus Numanus’ taunts at the Trojan namby-pambies were dubbed digna atque indigna relatu |, and if you sling enough mud loud enough (| vociferans), some will stick: which leaves us to see if we can tell which of the gibes are above and which below the belt — and which hit, which miss; and which hit / miss what targets.)

11.741–750: Venulus Gets Carried Away

Tarchon practises what he preaches and takes instant action (in altos ~ in medios; cf. incurrunt, 759: attack, attack, attack). The narrative stretch that follows recalls, matches and trumps the last part of Camilla’s aristeia (718–24, just before Jupiter’s intervention, which is not part of the set text):

haec fatur virgo, et pernicibus ignea plantis

transit equum cursu frenisque adversa prehensis

congreditur poenasque inimico ex sanguine sumit:


quam facile accipiter saxo sacer ales ab alto

consequitur pennis sublimem in nube columbam

comprensamque tenet pedibusque eviscerat uncis;

tum cruor et vulsae labuntur ab aethere plumae.

[Thus the maiden speaks and on her swift feet, quick as fire, ran across the horse in its path and, seizing the reins, confronts him face to face and exacts punishment from his hostile blood: as easily as a falcon, a sacred bird, from a rock up high pursues on its wings a dove high in the clouds, catches it, holds it in his clutch, and with crooked claws rips out its entrails, while blood and torn-out feathers fall from the sky.]

After his speech (741: haec effatus) Tarchon too is going to fly over the plain on fire (746: … volat igneus aequore Tarchon) and that inspires the poet to compare him to a bird of prey in an extended simile (751–56) — and while Camilla was compared to a hawk (accipiter) victimizing a dove, Virgil ups the ante by opting for an eagle fighting a snake in mid-air to illustrate Tarchon’s prowess. Before the aerial acrobatics of the simile, however, we get a spectacular stunt on horseback, in what must be one of the most bizarre passages in the entire poem as Tarchon carries off Venulus in tight, yet lethal embrace. If in his speech we had martial imagery applied to the erotic sphere, we now get erotic imagery applied to the martial sphere. See Lyne (1989: 37):

Then, interestingly (with an effect which I find hard to pin down), Vergil turns Tarchon’s imagery on its head. Tarchon had used military language of love: Vergil uses amatory imagery of war. Tarchon promptly rides against the suggestively named “Venulus” (742), “embraces” his foe (“complectitur hostem”), and bears him off “gremium ante suum”. Some might like to make something of “gremium” — and indeed much other detail in this section of text. I leave it like this, with the point made: Vergil turns Tarchon’s imagery round, ironically using amatorily suggestive words of war.

There are other features that render this a remarkable passage, including constant shifts in perspective. See Adema (2017: 295, n. 138):

The shifts in perspective in this brief killing scene are swift and manifold. First the narrator narrates how Tarchon seizes Venulus and drives away […] Then, the attention of the Latins is drawn by cries and they turn to watch Tarchon flying over the battlefield with Venulus under his arm […] Tarchon’s perspective is used in the indirect presentation of his deliberation on where to strike […] , after which the narrator first turns to Venulus […] and then uses his own perspective in the ensuing simile and the clause that indicates the return to the narrative [751–57].


haec effatus equum in medios moriturus et ipse | concitat, et Venulo adversum se turbidus infert | dereptumque ab equo dextra complectitur hostem | et gremium ante suum multa vi concitus aufert: after the speech, we return to (highly peculiar) action. The syntax takes on a paratactic flavour, with just a sprinkling of participles (effatus, moriturus, dereptum, concitus) but no subordinate clauses. The sequence of main verbs, all linked to each other through a straightforward connective (= polysyndeton), is concitatinfertcomplectitur (linked to infert by the –que after dereptum) – aufert.

moriturus et ipse: moriturus is the future participle of mori (‘to die’) modifying the implied subject of the sentence (i.e. Tarchon) and et here has the sense of ‘also’. The literal meaning is ‘about to to die himself as well’, and that’s what we are expecting, with Tarchon offering himself up as the sacrificial victim that will secure victory. We are set up for the legendary scenario of devotio, a favourite Roman ritual in which a commander would ‘devote’ his own life (or some of his soldiers’ lives) to the gods of the netherworld in return for victory. The bargain at the centre of the ritual only kicked in if the devoted person(s) actually died in battle, and to achieve this they would deliberately rush headlong into the thick of the enemy army. (Our sources report that the Greek Pyrrhus, whom Rome fought in Southern Italy at the beginning of the third-century BCE, gave instructions to his soldiers to capture such self-sacrificing kamikaze warriors alive…) The alliterative connection with the preceding in medios moriturus confirms the thematic point; but — spoiler alert — Virgil will in the event not confirm that this is where Tarchon dies to become a paragon. He won’t reappear in the poem, but, notice, moriturus can mean ‘ready to die’, and Tarchon’s willingness to die does set some sort of example for the platoon; yet devotio does require confirmation by dying, so there’s a gap that we’re expecting to fill in when we reach the end of the story.

equum in medios (sc. hostes)… | concitat: note the enjambment. The lines actively reformulate 729–30: ergo inter caedes cedentiaque agmina Tarchon | fertur equo. There is a lot of ‘stirring’ going on in this stretch of the poem. After Jupiter’s stir of Tarchon (728: suscitat; stimulis haud mollibus) and Tarchon’s stir of the Etruscan cavalry (730: instigat … alas + the rousing speech at 732–40), we now have Tarchon stirring his horse, as we move down another notch on the scala naturae (‘the ladder of nature’); lower still, the pits Arruns stirs his spear Camilla-wards (784: concitat). And all this, like any storyteller’s parable, is out to ‘stimulate’ the audience, to do thou likewise.

Venulo adversum: adversum is either an adverb or an adjective referring to Tarchon and standing in predicative position to the reflexive pronoun se; if so, it governs Venulo as a dative of reference (‘opposite to, i.e. facing, Venulus’; but Venulo could also be construed with infert). Either way, the elision enacts the clash. Venulus = ‘Venus’ (little) one’ brings to mind Cupid (or even Aeneas) — and recalls Tarchon’s rebuke of his men, whom he chides for being not at all slothful to get involved in venery (736: non in Venerem segnes). JH: Venulus, mark, was the leader of the unsuccessful Latin embassy to Diomedes, hence himself a telling ‘messenger’ (740). What a way for him to get ridden out of the story…

turbidus: with reference to persons, the adjective refers to highly agitated speech or comportment and elsewhere in the Aeneid is used to describe such unsettled individuals as Turnus (9.57, 10.648, 12.10, 12.671) or Mezentius (10.763). It has thematic (and etymological) affinities with words signifying social (turba) and cosmic (turbo) commotion: matters can get unhinged at the level of the individual, society, or the world at large. As Horsfall puts it (2003: 401): ‘On Venulus, Tarchon descends like a storm.’

dereptumque ab equo dextra complectitur hostem: remember that complector is a deponent verb, passive in form but active in meaning: it takes (the long-delayed) hostem as accusative object; the subject remains Tarchon, who gets it into his head to snatch Venulus from his horse, only to hug him with his right hand (the final –a of dextra scans long: it is an ablative of means). complector tends to be used in an affectionate sense rather than of a situation in which two enemies wrestle with — and try to kill — each other: it belongs to the terms Virgil here transfers from the sphere of (erotic) intimacy to the sphere of warfare. JH: Spectacularly grotesque, indeed, but also one of Virgil’s most ‘ethnographic’ Italian moments, bringing out the underlying ‘nature’ of the Etruscans, sound or evil, through the linkage to tyrant Mezentius’ worst atrocity, another case — only more protracted — of hugging fellow Italians / citizens face-to-face (8.485–88):

mortua quin etiam iungebat corpora vivis

componens manibusque manus atque oribus ora,

tormenti genus, et sanie taboque fluentis

complexu in misero longa sic morte necabat.

[He would even link dead bodies with the living, attaching hand to hand and face to face as a type of torture and kill them thus in slow death as they disintegrated in decay and putrefaction in this wretched embrace.]


tollitur in caelum clamor cunctique Latini | convertere oculos: the two main clauses are linked by the –que after cuncti and a pronounced c-alliteration. The sentence here anticipates 11.799–801, where the whistling of Arruns’ spear on the way to Camilla’s heart turns the minds and eyes of all Volscians (cuncti … Volsci) towards the queen. The soundtrack dials up to eleven, as all at once everyone’s eyes are on the clash.

convertere: the alternative third person plural perfect indicative active form (= converterunt; it might look identical to the present active infinitive, but the penultimate syllable — convertêre — scans long), effectively placed in enjambment, which produces a mild form of metapoetic enactment: the eyes of the reader need to ‘revert’ to the beginning of the next line to complete the sentence.


volat igneus aequore Tarchon | arma virumque ferens: The impression that Tarchon ‘flies’ (volat) across the plain sets up the eagle-snake-simile to follow at 751–58 — apart from conjuring (at least for those readers affected by Virgil’s persistent use of erotic imagery in this passage…) Ganymede, i.e. the handsome Trojan prince whom Jupiter (N.B.!) carried off in the shape of an eagle. Indeed, the proemial tag arma virumque might just help the reader to recall that the Ganymede story figures in the extended proem, as the deepest reason Juno loathes the Trojans (1.28: rapti Ganymedis honores; cf. 5.252–57, the ecphrasis of a cloak which features a visual rendition of Ganymede being snatched away by the eagle).

igneus: a polyvalent attribute, which most obviously refers to Tarchon’s ardent desire to prove himself in battle, but can also carry erotic connotations and goes rather well with volat, conjuring the (fiery) ether (see next note).

aequore: an ablative of location; the noun doesn’t have the meaning you might be most familiar with (‘sea’), but has the more general sense of ‘plain surface, plane’, hence in the ablative, ‘on the plain’. Given the preceding reference to air (through volat: ‘he flies’) and fire (through igneus: Tarchon is a fiery character), one might just wonder, however, whether aequore, by simultaneously hinting at water and signifying earth, is meant to complete the list of the four basic elements.

arma virumque ferens: Virgil repeats the opening tag of the poem (Aeneid 1.1: arma virumque cano: ‘I sing of arms and the man’; we just missed Camilla’s version per arma viro, 696). The intratextual gesture is particularly appropriate if we understand Venulus (‘son? of Venus’) literally: Virgil sings about one son of Venus; Tarchon carries off another. See further Kraggerud (2016: 130):

Twelve times the combination of arma with a form of vir is found in the Aeneid […]. In only two of these instances arma and vir are combined with –que: 1.1 and 11.747. The latter case is altogether different from arma virumque cano: Volat igneus aequore Tarchon / arma virumque ferens. Here the separateness of the two objects is clear, all too clear one might say, arma having its proper meaning of ‘arms’, the equipment of Venulus on the battlefield, whereas the man himself (virum) is seen as wholly at the mercy of his foe. A. 1.1. is, on the other hand, a unit, whereby arma has its figurative meaning, ‘combat’, ‘fighting’, ‘warlike deeds’, and is inseparable from the vir combined with it. Thus an Iliadic-Ennian allusion is stressed in the first word of the epic. As to the Eleventh Book, I have no doubt that Vergil was well aware that he quoted his own opening words and reckoned that others would notice this as well. The point of the echo was to show how differently he handled the syntagm that functions as the title of his epic poem.

JH: We just saw, however, that this ‘hot’ moment is marked out for special, engrossed attention: over before it’s arrived (volat igneus), it brings us in a tiny miniature cameo a ‘still’ that can stand for the whole epic work. This latest twist on the polythetic relationships to be discovered within the iconic ‘man-at-arms’ template has the conceit that this version has our man skip using his weapons against his opponent’s, not bothering with the kill first, but instead proceeding straight to bringing back the booty, corpse and all, in triumph (757–58). You’re meant to kill, then strip, then leave behind your foe, and collect the applause when you rejoin the ranks. What we might detect is how emphatically this cut redefines the poem as turning into ‘civil’ war in Italy, here between Latins and Etruscans (745–46), wherein neither side should face the other as a hostis. As the Trojans begin their destined disappearance into the melting pot, Tarchon hugging Venulus to death makes the perfect ‘badge’.


tum summa ipsius ab hasta | defringit ferrum et partis rimatur apertas, | qua vulnus letale ferat: the sentence elaborates on both parts of arma virumque: Tarchon somehow manages the impressive feat of reducing the unwieldy spear of Venulus to a knife-size stabbing tool by breaking off the tip (all the while holding his enemy in tight embrace) and then probing for a place in his armour to penetrate. This continues to be unorthodox, let’s say: a vir normally uses his own arma. But Tarchon’s a lancer in a hurry (volat) — we heard from him once before, pumping up his crew with his ‘gallant’ idea of bringing a ship to shore, namely by crashing it into the beach, happy to trade in his own smashed vessel if he can only grab a hold of enemy land (10.290–307: arrepta tellure ~ 11.743, dereptum). Arise, Sir Impetuosity. The verse design, with defringit ferrum in enjambment, separating it from summa ipsius ab hasta, enacts the breaking-off of the iron tip from the wooden part of the spear — just as the placement of rimatur in between partis (accusative plural = partes) and apertas conveys a sense of Tarchon’s probing for open fissures in Venulus’ armour.

partis rimatur apertas: JH: Tarchon competes here with Camilla’s hawk, ripping out the dove’s innards (pedibus … eviscerat uncis, 723). Camilla’s version will kill ossa … inter … ad costas; whereas Arruns gets no pathos, just haesit in corpore ferrum, and nobody cares (864).

qua vulnus letale ferat: qua (‘where’) introduces an indirect question (hence the subjunctive ferat).

summa … ab hasta: anastrophe (= ab summa hasta); as with summo … Olympo at 726, summa here does not compare this particular spear to others (‘the highest’), but refers to the tip of the spear.

ipsius: the genitive masculine singular of ipse, referring to Venulus. Hence summa ipsius ab hasta … ferrum = ‘the steel head of Venulus’ spear’ (West).


contra ille repugnans | sustinet a iugulo dextram et vim viribus exit: contra (adverbially, with repugnans) sets up a shift in subject from Tarchon to Venulus. Standard prose order would be ille contra repugnans dextram [eius] a iugulo [suo] sustinet. The placement of dextram at the very end of the clause pinpoints Venulus’ effort to keep the right hand of Tarchon, armed with the dastardly spear-tip, away from his throat.

vim viribus exit: exit is here used transitively, taking vim as accusative object: ‘he eschews force with strength’. For the idiom see Wills (1996: 199): ‘Fighting “hand-to-hand” is infrequent, probably because it was idiomatic (Veget. 1.20 manu ad manum gladiis pugnatur, 3.23 comminus, hoc est manu ad manum, pugnatur, 4.44). One poetic option is lexical replacement, as when Venulus wrestles with Tarchon on horseback at Aen. 11.750.’ He adds in note 29: ‘In addition to transitive exit, Virgil uses the plural to poeticize the usual idiom uim ui arcere.’ JH: This ‘exit’ is as syntactically weird as it is referentially graphic: it’s not all over with, not yet: in vim <-> viribus the plural outbids the singular (matching and trumping multa vi, 744). Just at the critical moment, there’s a ‘dissolve’, into simile, telling us what it was like instead of what it was:

11.751–761: Exemplary Combat: Eagle vs. Snake

If in Tarchon’s ‘flight’ over the plain volare was used metaphorically, Virgil’s narrative now truly takes off in a long, convoluted animal simile that compares the wrestling match on horseback between Tarchon and Venulus to an eagle (aquila) struggling in mid-air with a snake (draco) it snatched in its claws. The design of the simile as a whole reinforces the plot (751–58):

utque volans alte raptum cum fulva draconem

fert aquila implicuitque pedes atque unguibus haesit,

saucius at serpens sinuosa volumina versat

arrectisque horret squamis et sibilat ore

arduus insurgens, illa haud minus urget obunco


luctantem rostro, simul aethera verberat alis:

haud aliter praedam Tiburtum ex agmine Tarchon

portat ovans.

utque…cum… (‘and just as when…’) in 751 and haud aliter (‘no differently…) in 757 coordinate the comparison. The cum-clause is complex, mirroring the remorseless fight between eagle and snake:

  • First we get the eagle in action (751–52)
  • Then we get the snake fighting back (753–55a)
  • But the eagle retains the upper claw (755b–56)

We are dealing with a closely matched encounter, though the eagle gets slightly more verses in subject position (3.5 v. 2.5 for the snake) and its lines sandwich those of its adversary. Other touches underscore the superiority of the eagle: whereas the snake appears as accusative object in the eagle passages (751: raptum … draconem; 756: luctantem), the inverse is not the case: unlike Venulus (in 749–50), the snake never gets grammatical purchase on its predator. Likewise, whereas the snake is reduced to twisting (753: versat), writhing (754: horret), and hissing (754: sibilat), the eagle is depicted as using his claws (752: pedes), talons (752: unguibus) and beak (756: rostro) to tear into his prey.

There is a neat pattern of participles in the nominative and main verbs across the entire simile:

  • Eagle: volans – fert – implicuit – haesit
  • Snake: versat – horret – sibilat – insurgens
  • Eagle and Tarchon: urget – verberat – portat – ovans

We first get the eagle and the snake in chiastic variation (participle + tricolon of main verbs :: tricolon of main verbs + participle); and whereas urget – verberat – portat is not technically speaking a tricolon, given the shift in construction and subject, the continuation of the pattern both helps to embed the simile within the surrounding narrative and to introduce a touch of closure, with ovans gesturing back to volans, both in terms of grammar and assonance.


utque volans alte raptum cum fulva draconem | fert aquila implicuitque pedes atque unguibus haesit: you just might be tempted to think, especially if you misconstrue cum, that fulva is in the ablative. But when you scan the line, you’ll realize that the –a is short, so that can’t be. In fact, fulva is nominative feminine singular — and the attribute modifies aquila in the following line: the predator is a tawny eagle. The interlaced word order (raptum: modifying the snake; fulva: modifying the eagle; draconem: snake; aquila: eagle) anticipates the intertwining of the two animals during their aerial combat. The syntax is by and large paratactic (with the –que linking fert and implicuit), but note the shift from present (fert) to perfect (implicuit and haesit), which highlights the husteron proteron. (Latin does not have a separate tense equivalent to the English present perfect to indicate an action that began in the past and continues in the present, but both implicuit and haesit should be taken in that sense.)

volans … raptum: grounding the simile in its ‘illustrandum’, dereptum … volat (743, 746).

cum: this is not the preposition + ablative, but the conjunction + indicative, introducing a temporal clause.

draconem + aquila: both animals are symbolically highly charged: ‘The eagle is the symbol of Jupiter. Snakes have, with one exception, been symbols of destruction in the Aeneid’ (Nielson 1984: 32, with reference to Knox (1966) and Nethercut (1974)).

implicuit … pedes: the eagle has folded its feet (= talons) around the snake. Usually, of course, snakes do the enfolding.

unguibus: an ablative of means.


saucius at serpens sinuosa volumina versat | arrectisque horret squamis et sibilat ore | arduus insurgens: those of you who get a kick out of onomatopoeic alliterations (and who doesn’t — but it is a hermeneutic passion to be indulged with caution…) should have a field day with these verses: they s-hiss (and v-twist) for all their worth, as snake fights back vs. eagle. As with the eagle, we get three main verbs and a participle; the –que after arrectis links versat and horret.

volumina versat: the snake is twisting its coils with all its might: (alliterating) noun and verb reinforce each other: volumen derives from the verb volvo, which means with respect to snakes ‘to move with a sinuous motion’.

arduus: adjective in lieu of adverb: the snake is rising high.


illa haud minus urget obunco | luctantem rostro, simul aethera verberat alis: illa (nominative feminine singular) refers to the eagle (aquila), which hacks away at the struggling serpent with its hooked beak while trying to remain airborne: the phrase obunco … rostro frames the participle luctantem, which agrees with an implied eum [sc. draconem] — the accusative object of urget — in another instance of iconic word order.

aethera verberat: aether is a loanword from the Greek (αἰθήρ) and here occurs in the (Greek) accusative singular. The near-identical vowel sequence in aethera and verberat — (a)e–e–a –, the assonance in the ending (–ra, –rat), and the coincidence of verse-ictus and accent (both words scan as dactyls (– u u) and occupy their very own metrical foot) convey something of the flapping wings. JH: Jupiter’s eagle gets us back up in the sky (724: ab aethere), where we left Camilla for Jupiter: Tarchon has stopped the ro(u)t, but won no easy victory. The simile has got to grips with the killing, and when we exit from it and rejoin the narrative, it looks very much like that was curtains for our snake in the bosom, Venulus, who is now instantly converted into ‘booty’, so presumed dead. But there’s many a slip: eventus can equivocate between neutral ‘outcome’ and positive ‘success’, and the difference, as we saw, might matter a whole lot. Does Tarchon sacrifice his life to become and so set an ‘example’; and does the success of his exploit depend on it? We might just point out that a dead snake can still be a killer: so Tarchon brings his quarry back and everyone whoops; but was this snake a constrictor, as you might gather from its taking the ‘outside’ track (vim viribus exit vs the ‘insider’ fumbling of partis rimatur apertas, 748) and then applying sinuosa volumina? Or does arrectis … horret squamis image lifting for a strike — and was this in fact venomous? (Besides, venomous constrictors are common enough!) Does (your) Virgil leave it with us to decide whether a double death clinches or burnishes the success of his exemplary parable?


haud aliter praedam Tiburtum ex agmine Tarchon | portat ovans: with the participle ovans (‘glorying triumphantly’) Virgil introduces another proto-Roman touch: ‘Ovatio was a form of victory celebration less lavish and impressive than a triumph, probably of native Roman or Latin origin’ (OCD). In this context, praeda carries the double sense of ‘prey’ and ‘booty’ (of the kind one would display in the parade).

Tiburtum: syncopated genitive plural (= Tiburt|or|um), dependent on ex agmine.


ducis exemplum eventumque secuti | Maeonidae incurrunt: Tarchon distinguishes himself as dux by setting an example (exemplum). Note the deft paronomasia exemplum ~ eventum: an exemplum consists of a name + a deed. Maeonidae = the men from Maeonia; Maeonia is an alternative name for Lydia (in Asia Minor), from where the Etruscans originally hailed. JH: The effect of Tarchon’s exploit powered by the Almighty (in all his epic pomp, 725–26) is to turn his troops from effete layabouts into their original grand selves, fit to share a home(r)land with the father of epic (Maeonia was one of Homer’s several claimed birthplaces). So the scene proudly signs itself off as fit to step into the grandest war poem ever.

We rejoin the switchback Camilla story abruptly, but now Jupiter has passed the initiative through Tarchon to her foes. Hidden in the text where you needn’t miss it, the clinch to death continues on into the story of her last ride, as a snake in the grass does a (no?) less Etruscan, but nevertheless unorthodox job on her. The first thing we learn is that he’ll prove just as much of a kamikaze in fact as Tarchon meant to be:


tum fatis debitus Arruns | velocem iaculo et multa prior arte Camillam | circuit, et quae sit fortuna facillima temptat: another instance of iconic word order, which mirrors Arruns’ prowling around a rapidly moving Camilla, probing for an opening: Arruns | velocem iaculo et multa prior arte Camillam | circuit: subject and verb, placed strategically at the end of 759 and the beginning of 760 bracket the accusative object velocem … Camillam: the placement of attribute and noun at the beginning and end of the line generates a striking hyperbaton, which enacts Camilla’s speed — and the difficulty Arruns has in pinning her down prior to attack. iaculo et multa … arte, two ablatives of instrument connected by et in a ‘zeugma of concrete and abstract’ (Horsfall 2003: 407), indicate, however, his deadly intent and suggest that he has the requisite skills to carry it out.

fatis debitus: fatis is in the dative dependent on debitus. As we know from Diana’s speech, whoever kills Camilla is doomed as well: his destiny has become fixed, he is ‘owed to the fates’. He’ll take this ‘exchange’, too, though his successful outcome isn’t going to buy him positive exemplarity (whereas Camilla already inspires the Latin mothers to pitch in from their battlements at 892).

Arruns: Arruns is a shady figure — ‘deliberately introduced enigmatically and suddenly at the very end of the line, with the briefest of introductions […] to balance the prey he stalks, Camilla, at 760’ (Fratantuono 2009: 247). His name points to Etruscan origins, but there were also Volscian Arruntii, and there is something to be said for imagining that Camilla gets killed by someone from her own people (as she will be, qua ‘Italid’, 657, whether or not more precisely qua Volscian; for this is ‘civil war’, and in that winners are losers and so are losers). The most (in)famous Arruns in Roman history and legend is the eponymous son of Tarquinius Superbus, but the name was still in use during Virgil’s time, with one particularly suggestive Lucius Arruntius who started out as an associate of Sextus Pompey in the 40s BCE, but ended up as one of Octavian’s commanders at Actium in 31 BCE: see Fratantuono (2009: 247–50), who explores these and other possibilities of historical allegoresis. In many ways, he is also a distorted double of Aeneas: Kepple (1976) shows the many parallels between the showdown of Arruns and Camilla in Book 11 and that of Aeneas and Turnus in Book 12.

prior: there are various ways to understand Arruns’ ‘priority’: (i) temporal: he seeks out Camilla ‘first’ (and kills her before she gets her chance at preying on him); (ii) spatial: ‘prior circuit is a condensed way of saying “follows her track through its windings, keeping a little ahead of her”, so that when opportunity is given he may check his horse and take a steady aim at her as she passes’ (Mackail 1930: 453); (iii) qualitative, in the sense of ‘having the advantage’ with iaculo et multa … arte as ablatives of respect: ‘in (wielding) the javelin and much craftiness’. (So West, who translates: ‘She was swift of foot, but he was more than her equal with the javelin and far superior in cunning.’) Which solution do you prefer — and why?

circuit: JH: remember that ‘snake’ taking the ‘outside’ route (vi viribus exit) ? Keep it in mind when you get to 765–66: omnemque pererrat | undique circuitum. Arruns is looking for an ‘inside’ way in, the complementary inversion of Camilla’s own party piece of 694–95: magnum … per orbem | eludit gyro interior.

quae sit fortuna facillima: indirect question (hence the subjunctive). facillima is the superlative of facilis in the nominative feminine singular modifying fortuna: ‘which opportunity (to attack) is the easiest’. JH: Quite some ask, given how easily the hawk Camilla crushed her dove, quam facile, 721). But recall that eagle ‘ferreting out whereabouts to strike home’: rimatur … qua vulnus letale ferat (748–49; fortuna comes from fero). That dove managed to trick Camilla down from her horse, and now she’s on foot, she’ll be hunted down by another horseman, so she must have been too hasty in thinking she’d brought him down from overweening pride and that was the end of it (715).

11.762–767: Stalking Camilla

The three couplets describe Arruns’ stalking of Camilla; their regularity — see esp. the double anaphora of qua (762, 764) with corresponding anaphora of hac (763, 765) as well as the repetition hos aditus iamque hos aditus (766) — captures the systematic and resolute approach he adopts in his pursuit of his prey. Wills (1996: 411–12) argues that the interlocking pattern generated by the anaphoras of qua and hac mimics the layout of erotic-elegiac verse, in which hexameter alters with pentameter in regular sequence: ‘The iuuenis Arruns pursues the uirgo Camilla; perhaps the elegiac interlocking adds a touch of the amatory chase.’


qua se cumque furens medio tulit agmine virgo, | hac Arruns subit et tacitus vestigia lustrat: Camilla moves hither and thither, neatly mirrored by the systematic separation of items that go together: qua … cumque, se … tulit, furens … virgo, medio … agmine, with the concentric design of furens medio tulit agmine virgo expressive of her central location in the ranks. By contrast, the main clause is straightforward and steady as Arruns keeps track of his victim.

qua … cumque: a so-called tmesis (‘cutting apart’): quacumque.

hac: ablative of place (just like its counterpart in 765).

tacitus: adjective in lieu of adverb (‘stealthily’) modifying the subject of the sentence (Arruns).


qua victrix redit illa pedemque ex hoste reportat, | hac iuvenis furtim celeris detorquet habenas: the –que after pedem links the virtually synonymous redit and reportat: ‘where she returns victorious (victrix is the female equivalent to victor) and returns (pedem is an internal accusative with reportat) from an encounter with the enemy (ex hoste), there (hac) the young man stealthily turns his swift reins.’ celeris is the alternative third declension accusative plural form of celer (= celeres), modifying habenas. The phrasing, it seems, notches up another successful encounter of Camilla on foot.


hos aditus iamque hos aditus omnemque pererrat | undique circuitum et certam quatit improbus hastam: pererrat governs three accusatives linked by the two –que after iam and omnem: hos aditus, hos aditus, omnem … circuitum. The design omnemque pererrat | undique circuitum with hyperbaton and enjambment is emblematic of Arruns’ circular motion around Camilla: ‘he tests (pererrat) these openings and then those openings and every possible way in (omnem … circuitum) from all sides (undique)…’. JH: Have we forgotten that eagle Tarchon yet, feeling around for where to get the best ‘access’, the best ‘opening’, to his snake’s vitals: partis rimatur apertas | qua vulnus letale ferat ~ hos aditus iamque hos aditus omnemque pererrat | undique circuitum? By now, surely we have had it confirmed that this is cavalry hunting infantry?

certam … hastam: as Horsfall (2003: 409) notes, the epithet certam is here used ‘in tragic anticipation of the fatal throw’. Arruns, however, knows he has one chance and must get that right, however long it takes to set it up.

improbus: Arruns is another sneak, and he has no shame, as he cowardly skulks around his victim, trying to get close enough to kill her from afar with a spear since he would not dare to confront Camilla face-to-face in single combat. He’s right too; he’s no death-and-glory Tarchon, and Camilla’s last victim thought he was safe from her once she’d dismounted, only to find she outran his steed and saw him off in no time flat (705–20). There is a latent clash between certam and improbus that poses troubling questions about Virgil’s theology: why did he choose to have the seemingly glorious Camilla killed by such a dislikeable and inglorious character as Arruns? Why does he turn a creep into an agent of fate?

11.768–777: Spot the Queer Bird

The narrative continues in a zany key with the appearance of Chloreus — in all likelihood a eunuch (Anderson 1999: 206–7) and at any rate a distinct oddball on the battlefield, ‘a walking pile of gold and weapons’ (Dinter 2005: 163), ‘the embodiment of the worst Troy has to offer’ (Fratantuono 2007a: 345). Travestied as he is in the garish attire of a (former) priest of Cybele, whose devotees were required to unman themselves, and sporting an array of decorative — rather than functional — weaponry, he is the spitting image of the invective caricature of an effeminate Trojan as sketched out by figures like Iarbas (Aen. 4.206–18), Turnus’ brother-in-law Numanus Remulus (9.598–620), or Turnus himself (12.95–100).4 Indeed, he would have been a perfect addressee for Tarchon’s earlier outburst against his own troops (11.732–40). Chloreus personifies all of the national characteristics that Aeneas’ enemies like to ascribe to the arrivals from Phrygia — from ritual emasculation (the worshippers of the Phrygian goddess Cybele were eunuchs) to effeminacy, from moral decay to indulgence in luxury (in the form of expensive garments, jewellery, and bejewelled gold), from general slothfulness to a penchant for (orgiastic) dancing. Much here also resonates with Augustan propaganda against the ‘decadent’ and ‘effeminate’ East, represented by the Egyptian queen Cleopatra and her emasculated Roman lover Antony, though Virgil can also rely on Homeric precedents, not least the Carians Amphimachus and Nastes, one of whom came to the aid of Troy in garb similar to that of Chloreus (Iliad 2.872–75) — ‘like a girl’:

ὃς καὶ χρυσὸν ἔχων πόλεμον δ᾽ ἴεν ἠΰτε κούρη

νήπιος, οὐδέ τί οἱ τό γ᾽ ἐπήρκεσε λυγρὸν ὄλεθρον,

ἀλλ᾽ ἐδάμη ὑπὸ χερσὶ ποδώκεος Αἰακίδαο

ἐν ποταμῷ, χρυσὸν δ᾽ Ἀχιλεὺς ἐκόμισσε δαΐφρων.

[And he came to the war all decked with gold, like a girl, fool that he was; but his gold in no wise availed to ward off woeful destruction; no, he was slain in the river beneath the hands of the son of Aeacus, swift of foot; and Achilles, wise of heart, carried off the gold.]

Chloreus’ geographical origins and cultural pedigree are either explicitly specified or revealed through the use of Greek loanwords. Overall, the passage here features a symmetrical design, with 4 + 2 + 4 verses.


Forte sacer Cybelo Chloreus olimque sacerdos | insignis longe Phrygiis fulgebat in armis | spumantemque agitabat equum, quem pellis aenis | in plumam squamis auro conserta tegebat: the lines give a detailed description of Chloreus and his horse in two main clauses (fulgebat — agitabat, linked by the –que after spumantem), followed by a relative clause (quem … tegebat). The second main clause provides the transition between the portrayal of Chloreus (first main clause) and that of his horse (relative clause). The –que after olim links sacer Cybelo and (olim) sacerdos; both phrases stand in apposition to Chloreus: ‘Chloreus, sacred to Cybelus and once a priest…’

Forte: ‘by chance’ — Virgil is writing tongue-in-cheek: it is he who is making it all up, this tale of destiny (759).

sacer Cybelo: sacer belongs among those adjectives (‘of likeness, fitness, friendliness, nearness, and the like, with their opposites’: Gildersleeve & Lodge 228) construed with the dative. Cybelus is a mountain in Phrygia, the epicentre of the cult of Cybele (and the region of Troy!). See further Roller (1999). The phrase is formulaic of gifts dedicated to divinities — and indeed, Dinter (2005: 163) considers Chloreus ‘a dedicatory epigram in the making’: ‘This dedicatory impression is reinforced by his description as sacer Cybelo Chloreus (11.768), a formula also used for dedicatory gifts to gods. Furthermore the reader realizes in the end that we see Chloreus in the same way Camilla focalizes him, eventually pondering the possibility of dedicating his armour (hunc virgo, sive ut templis praefigeret arma / Troia … sequebatur 11.778–81).’

Chloreus: the Greek name for a bird that is impossible to identify: see Saunders (1940: 552) and Paschalis (1997: 367). The name also brings to mind the colour yellow (chlôrós in Greek): see below on croceam. JH: The name sparkles just as much as the bird-man (in plumam), who is next in line after Camilla’s last scalp, that dove, the son of Appenninicolae … Auni (cf. 723: consequitur pennis). He will eventually luck out on a hit list of Turnus’ (12.363). If we’re on the hunt for techniques borrowed from hunting, then the clown costume may paradoxically configure Chloreus as a human ‘formido’, the dazzling net used to scare prey into a hunter’s net: Grattius (Cynegetica 75–89) gives a flash impressionistic description, featuring vulture and swan plumage: ‘when the pliant feathers are dyed with African scarlet and the flaxen cord gleams from its projecting poles, it is rare for any beast to escape the fake terrors…’.

insignis longe … fulgebat: insignis modifies the subject: ‘he glittered resplendent far and wide.’

Phrygiis … in armis: anastrophe (= in Phrygiis armis), further emphasized by the separation of the adjective from the noun it modifies through the intrusion of fulgebat, which places extra stress on Phrygiis. The word order is therefore also explanatory: Chloreus glitters like a Christmas tree because he and his horse are decked out in Phrygian armour. See Jenkyns (1998: 418) for the potentially contemptuous connotations of ‘Phrygian’.

quem pellis aenis | in plumam squamis auro conserta tegebat: Chloreus’ horse is draped in scale-armour (see aenis … squamis: ‘overlapping brass scales’, here in the shape of feathers: in plumam), which in antiquity was used by the cavalry contingents of various Near Eastern peoples, notably (from Virgil’s readers’ point of view) the Parthians. This piece of equipment would make the horse look like a monstrous bird, in line with the name of its rider.


ipse peregrina ferrugine clarus et ostro | spicula torquebat Lycio Gortynia cornu: clarus stands in apposition to ipse (‘he himself, shining…) and governs the ablatives peregrina ferrugine and ostro (of description or specification, or perhaps instrument or cause), linked by et. spicula, modified by the attribute Gortynia, is the accusative object of torquebat; Lycio … cornu is an instrumental ablative. The two phrases form an intertwined chiasmus that places the two geographical markers next to each other at the centre: nouna : adjectiveb :: adjectivea nounb. (Lines that contain two nouns, two corresponding adjectives, and a verb (as does 773) are a neoteric mannerism, much cultivated by Catullus in carmen 64.) In all: ‘He himself, shining in an exotic dark-red hue and purple, kept launching Gortynian arrows from a Lycian bow.’ Gortyn is a city in Crete; Lycia a region in Asia Minor. Significantly, Camilla also has a Lycian bow (Aeneid 7.816: Lyciam … pharetram).

peregrina ferrugine clarus et ostro: perhaps a hendiadys (Goold translates: ‘himself ablaze in the deep hue of foreign purple’). Ancient colour-terms are difficult to pin down and ferrugo (noun) or ferrugineus (adjective) has variously been thought of as referring to ‘red’, ‘blue’, ‘purple or violet’, ‘black’, ‘green’ or just ‘dark’: see Edgeworth (1978: 297–301). He goes on to suggest ‘that all the pertinent data can be reconciled with the hypothesis that (a.) the term designates a single shade of a single hue — namely, dark red, and (b.) there is a shift in emphasis from “dark RED” in earlier centuries to “DARK red” in later centuries’ (301).


aureus ex umeris erat arcus et aurea vati | cassida; tum croceam chlamydemque sinusque crepantis | carbaseos fulvo in nodum collegerat auro | pictus acu tunicas et barbara tegmina crurum: Virgil continues to go through Chloreus’ exotic accoutrements: we get (elaborate) references to a bow (arcus), a helmet (cassida), a saffron-coloured cape (chlamys), further upper garments (tunicae) and trousers (tegmina crurum). These items are distributed across three syntactical units:

  • a main clause with the auxiliary erat as verb, in which the pieces of equipment (arcus and cassida, linked by the et after arcus) are the subjects, with, respectively, aureus and aurea as predicative complements and vati as dative of possession (referring to Chloreus in his — former — capacity as priest).
  • another main clause introduced by tum, with collegerat as verb and Chloreus as (implied) subject. The accusative object of collegerat is the fanciful croceam chlamydemque sinusque crepantis | carbaseos. It means literally: ‘the saffron-coloured cape and the rustling folds made of linen’ (the fourth declension masculine noun sinus, here in the accusative plural, takes two attributes in asyndetic juxtaposition: the present participle crepantis (‘rustling’), here with the alternative accusative plural ending of the third declension (= crepantes), and carbaseos (‘made of linen’); but perhaps it is best to understand the phrase as a hendiadys: ‘the saffron coloured cape with its rustling, linen folds’. Chloreus ‘had gathered’ (collegerat is pluperfect) this saffron cape with its rustling linen folds ‘into a knot’ (in nodum) ‘by means of yellow gold’ (fulvo … auro: the reference seems to be to some kind of clasp or brooch — Virgil only specifies the material out of which it is made, with a third reference to precious metal in these lines).
  • a perfect passive participle (pictus, from pingo), which modifies the implied subject of collegerat, i.e. Chloreus. It governs two accusatives of respect (a use of the case also known as ‘Greek accusative’ since Latin imported this construction from the Greek), i.e. tunicas and barbara tegmina, and an ablative of means (acu): ‘embroidered by means of a needle with respect to tunics and the barbarian coverings of his thighs (= trousers)’. (Chloreus isn’t tattooed, but the construction suggests that the man and his embroideries do form a unit.)

The lines interweave clothing and the articulation of ethnic identity: whatever designer clothes from the Asian East the formidable Chloreus (and the Trojans more generally) may have in their fancy wardrobe is ultimately bargained away by Jupiter who assents to the request by Juno to eradicate markers of Trojan cultural identity (12.821–28; see Introduction 38–40). The outcome of the Aeneid’s plot will be a people dressed in togas, not one wearing trousers: the gens togata of Jupiter’s initial prophecy (1.282).

vati: that Virgil should refer to Chloreus as vates is odd. At 7.41 (cited above 4), he self-identifies as a vates. There and elsewhere in the Aeneid the basic meaning of the term is ‘inspired poet-prophet with privileged access to divine knowledge’; here its meaning seems to be simply ‘priest’, without any indication that Chloreus has special talents in poetry or prophecy (though the fact that he is a devotee of Cybele establishes some affinity with the ecstatic mental state that other vates-figures in the poem experience when they are under divine influence).

croceam: in the Roman imagination, yellow was ‘the colour of the women and the effeminates’ (Horsfall 1971: 1114).

chlamydem: the chlamys (a Greek loanword in Latin) was a short cloak or cape, originally designed for riding on horseback, not least in military contexts. But you don’t really want to be seen wearing a chlamys in the Aeneid. See Putnam (1998: 222, n.14):

The chlamys is associated with six figures in the course of the epic, because it is either worn or received as a gift. The only woman is Dido (4.137), preparing for the hunt (as a man would?). The others are Iulus (3.484, a gift from Andromache), Evander (8.167, a gift from Anchises), Pallas (8.588), the unnamed son of Arcens (9.582), and the priest Chloreus (11.775). We thus have a woman about to depart on an adventure that will lead to her death, three pubescent youths (the father of one of whom will soon lose his son in battle while one other is the son himself), and two warriors (connected verbally: with 9.582 cf. 11.772), one of whom is about to die, the other to become the cynosure of Camilla but who in fact proves her undoing. The garb as associated with the latter two seems to imply effeminacy.

And further Fratantuono and Smith (2018: 314): ‘The garment is thus always linked to the Trojans and their allies, and except for Cloanthus and Ascanius (who are replaced, as it were, by the sacrifices of Camilla and Pallas respectively), all of its wearers die.’

sinusque crepantis | carbaseos: the noun carbasus, –i, m. (another loanword from the Greek: karpasos) means ‘sail’, ‘canvas’, ‘linen cloth’, hence carbaseus = made of linen.

crepantis: the alliteration of c(r) (see underlining) amounts to sound-play that enacts the meaning of the participle: in particular it ‘detonates’ the rare word carbaseus across the verse-break.

tunicas: garments worn under the chlamys, but still visible: Chloreus flashes for all he is worth. The plural too is significant: ‘multiple tunics (Augustus wore four when it was cold, Suet. Aug. 82.2) are a relatively late development and their presence on the heroic battlefield can hardly have failed to arouse some sort of smile of amused disapproval. That they were then also embroidered is naturally another detail of effeminate extravagance’ (Horsfall 2003: 416).

barbara tegmina crurum: tegmina here refers to ‘trousers’, which Romans considered barbarian legwear. Horsfall (2003: 416) draws attention to ‘the natural disgust of any civilized Roman at the very idea of trousers (let alone oriental pantaloons)’ built into the phrase.

11.778–784: The Stalker Stalks the Stalked Stalking

778–84 form one long sentence, comprising seven lines in a symmetrical design:

hunc virgo, sive ut templis praefigeret arma

Troia, captivo sive ut se ferret in auro

venatrix, unum ex omni certamine pugnae


caeca sequebatur totumque incauta per agmen

femineo praedae et spoliorum ardebat amore,

telum ex insidiis cum tandem tempore capto

concitat et superos Arruns sic voce precatur:

We start with the beginning of the main clause (= bold), with a foregrounding of the accusative object (hunc, referring to Chloreus) and the subject (virgo, i.e. Camilla). A subordinate detour into a bipartite ut-clause follows (sive ut…, sive ut…: = italics), which supplies speculation as to the motivation for Camilla’s stalking of Chloreus. The main clause then continues (the two main verbs are sequebatur and ardebat, linked by the –que after totum – the et links the two genitives dependent on amore, i.e. praedae and spoliorum). The sentence concludes with a cum-clause in the indicative (a so-called cum-inversum) (= underlined). In all, Virgil devotes two lines each to the subordinate ut- and cum-clauses, which sandwich the three lines dedicated to the main clause (= 2 + 3 + 2, not least since hunc virgo (– – –) and venatrix (– – –) scan identically). The syntax and verse design, with the proleptic hunc virgo at the start and the surprising reappearance of Arruns at the end, re-enact the narrative situation: Camilla is fully focused on Chloreus, whereas Arruns is literally and grammatically an afterthought — if that. But it is precisely this marginal position on the battlefield (and in the sentence) that enables him to strike the fatal blow. The verse at the centre (781) features the two attributes that will prove to be Camilla’s undoing: she is blind (caeca) and careless (incauta).

hunc virgo … | … |… unum… | caeca sequebatur: the main clause stretches across four verses. Virgil’s grammar re-enacts Camilla’s stalking of Chloreus: against normal word order, the subject virgo here ‘follows’ (cf. sequebatur) the accusative object hunc, just as the predicative attribute that modifies the subject, caeca, ‘follows’ the predicative attribute that modifies the accusative object, i.e. unum. hunc unum = ‘this one only’: English prefers the adverb to the adjective here.

sive ut templis praefigeret arma | Troia, captivo sive ut se ferret in auro | venatrix: Virgil gives us two different explanations for Camilla’s singular obsession with Chloreus, both having to do with the wealth of his attire. Her intention is either to dedicate the spoils in a temple (to Diana?) or to wear them herself. (The way Virgil has distributed arma Troia and captivo auro, two phrases that refer to the same materials, across the two options comprises a nice piece of psychology: Camilla thinks of the functional aspects of the weaponry primarily with reference to the gods and of their decorative dimension primarily with respect to herself — and how they would look on her.) Strutting around with or in spoils stripped of a fallen foe is a bad idea in the Aeneid: it dooms Euryalus and, ultimately, Turnus as well. (By contrast, Aeneas knows what to do with this stuff: see the opening of Book 11 and his dedication of the armour of Mezentius to Mars in the form of a victory monument.) Virgil himself disqualifies Camilla’s second motivation instantly by referring to her as huntress (venatrix; the enjambment heightens the ensuing paradox): she would cut a strange figure in the woods decked out in Trojan finery. Either the sight of Chloreus has addled Camilla’s brains (she’s caeca and incauta, 781: nb. neither good on a hunt) or she’s been set up the way a hunter lures a predator quarry, and Chloreus is the bait she goes for (as 780–81 may signal (venatrix … sequebatur; but see n. on 768: Chloreus). Virgil, then, makes us ponder which should be the right motivation for our Camilla, one way or the other — in an each-way bet.

arma | Troia: Troia (in the neuter accusative plural, modifying arma) here has three syllables, and scans – u u.

ex omni certamine pugnae: the combination of certamen and pugna generates a tautology (underscoring the heaving and moving chaos of the battle), best solved in translation by a similar combination of virtual synonyms, such as ‘from the entire fray of the battle’.

caeca: adjective where we use an adverb: ‘blindly’.

totum … per agmen |… ardebat: ardebat here signifies both a condition (Camilla is ablaze with desire for Chloreus’ equipment) and an activity (she burns or rages through the entire battle. (Virgil uses anastrophe, inverting the normal word order in the prepositional phrase: per totum agmen.)

incauta: like caeca, an adjective in lieu of an adverb: ‘recklessly’, ‘without regard for her safety’, ‘without due precaution’.

femineo praedae et spoliorum … amore: iconic word order: the attribute femineo and the noun it modifies, amore, ‘embrace’ the two objective genitives praedae and spoliorum (again two virtual synonyms). The attribute femineus has given rise to much scholarly debate, not least since its interpretation has serious implications for (the degree of) the Aeneid’s misogyny. Here is West (1985: 24–5), for whom considerations of gender feed into Virgil’s re-evaluation of traditional Homeric heroism, in particular the desire for conspicuous spoils:

In the immediate context Camilla’s desire for spoil can be called feminine because in this case the booty itself has an effeminate cast. But if we accept Vergil’s bald pronouncement that this is a feminine love of plunder and try to understand it as part of a wider argument about heroism, we come to see that it transforms our perception of what the desire for spoil means. By characterizing the love of booty as feminine, Vergil makes it so. That is, at the least, he requires us to confront an apparent paradox concerning the nature of virtus. The fact that Chloreus and Camilla are themselves revealed as travesties of heroic warriors further trivializes the very heroism they unwittingly parody.

By contrast, Anderson (1999: 208) argues that the emphasis should be on the passion rather than the spoils:

The adjective ‘female’ and its noun ‘love’ frame the entire clause, with the seemingly pejorative ‘female’ setting up everything that follows. We might assume Vergil’s point to be that it is just like a woman to lust for plunder and spoils in war, but this interpretation is not consistent with his general portrayal of Camilla, especially after Vergil’s telling us that Camilla’s desires were unsure and otherwise giving us no woman-warrior as a paradigm […]. We must, I think, separate the adjective ‘female’ and its prejudicial implications of ‘just like a woman’ from the words ‘booty’ and ‘spoils’ and restrict it to its noun ‘love.’ I suggest a translation along these lines: ‘she burned with desire for plunder and spoils; she blazed with a woman’s passion.’ Female passion is the point, not what she desired; this we already know from the case of Dido. The passion of the aptly named Amata, devoid of materialism, is also highly feminine and fatal. Blind, heedless pursuit of one’s goal, fits the Graeco-Roman stereotype of the passionate woman, and it belongs to the decorum of epic and tragedy, regularly disastrous, if not fatal.

ardebat amore: through this passage we have a conflation of erotic and epic imagery that also characterizes Camilla’s death scene (for which see below). As Kennedy (2012: 190) notes: ‘Camilla’s “love” of booty is characterized by “burning” (ardebat, 782), and a “blindness” (cf. caeca, 781) marks the “pursuit” (cf. sequebatur, 781) of the object of her desire. This equation of love and war is no less an insistent feature of the Aeneid than it is of elegy.’

telum … cum… | concitat et … Arruns … precatur: the syntax enacts the ambush (cf. ex insidiis): we don’t know until the middle of verse 783 that we are in a cum-clause and not until the beginning of verse 784 in what kind of cum-clause; and we have to read on even further, till Arruns, until we find out who the subject is: first the missile comes suddenly out of nowhere — isn’t it Camilla’s as she seizes her chance to get Chloreus? — but then it is claimed by Arruns, also (as it were) coming from nowhere.

tempore capto: an ablative absolute (literally, ‘the right time / opportunity having been seized’).

11.785–793: The Hunter’s Prayer

Before Arruns hurls his spear, he tries to elicit divine support by means of a prayer to Apollo. The block of verses again features a symmetrical design (4 + 1 + 4):

‘summe deum, sancti custos Soractis Apollo,


quem primi colimus, cui pineus ardor acervo

pascitur, et medium freti pietate per ignem

cultores multa premimus vestigia pruna,

da, pater, hoc nostris aboleri dedecus armis,

omnipotens. non exuvias pulsaeve tropaeum


virginis aut spolia ulla peto, mihi cetera laudem

facta ferent; haec dira meo dum vulnere pestis

pulsa cadat, patrias remeabo inglorius urbes.’

Arruns’ prayer consists of three components:

  • At the very centre (789: underlined) is the actual request, which is essentially twofold: Arruns wishes Apollo to grant that Camilla be killed and that he does the killing (in this order: he stresses his agency only obliquely in nostris…armis).
  • Ahead of the request (and interrupting it: see below on the odd pater…omnipotens) we get typical features of a prayer, even though the precise idiom used is often unconventional: invocations of Apollo and relative clauses (quem…; cui…) related to his cult (bold).
  • After the request, Arruns adds an extensive gloss on it, and in particular on his agency (and motivation for his prayer) (italics). He reassures the divinity that he is not seeking divine aid to acquire spoils (see exuvias, tropaeum, spolia) or glory (see laudem), which he is glad to forego if only he is able to eliminate the abomination (haec dira … pestis) that he deems the warrior-virgin to be. It constitutes a variant of the do-ut-des (‘I give so that you give’) logic that underwrites Roman interactions with their gods: the mortal ‘gives’ the divinity something (in this case, his claim to glory) in order that the immortal shall ‘give’ something in return (in this case, the death of Camilla). The problem is that Arruns offers up glory he hasn’t yet acquired (ferent is in the future) — ‘a bit of hubris that will manifest itself again, tellingly, soon enough’ (Fratantuono 2007a: 348).

The utterance may appear to be one of self-effacing modesty. And yet, Arruns does make potentially pretentious assumptions about the future (over which, as a human, he has no control): (a) that he will acquire fame through other deeds (791–92: mihi cetera laudem | facta ferent); (b) that he will return home alive if inglorious (793: patrias remeabo inglorius urbes). It is, furthermore, not entirely clear how the exchange of future glory for the death of Camilla is supposed to work in practice: even if he gets no credit for killing Camilla, if he were to acquire glory through other deeds, he would not return from the war ingloriously. So in essence, Arruns simply says: ‘If I manage to kill her with your help, I won’t take any credit for the deed.’ In light of these qualifications (and why does he need to put them into the prayer, the fool?), what Arruns offers Apollo is nothing at all. Moreover, he takes it for granted that he will come out of this affair alive: note that he does not even explicitly pray for this — though Virgil will proceed as if he did: see below.




Relative Clauses

summe deum,

sancti custos Soractis Apollo

quem primi colimus,

cui pineus ardor acervo pascitur, et medium freti pietate per ignem cultores multa premimus vestigia pruna,

da … hoc nostris aboleri dedecus armis,

pater … omnipotens

The core of this sentence is the actual prayer: da … hoc nostris aboleri dedecus armis (‘grant that this disgrace be eliminated by our arms’). Arruns pads out this request with elements typical of ancient prayers: he invokes the divinity in a variety of flattering ways and elaborates on these invocations in relative clauses.

The Homeric model is Iliad 16.233–53, where Achilles entreats Zeus of Dodona to grant Patroclus battlefield glory and a safe return; as here, only half of the wish is met with divine approval.


summe deum, sancti custos Soractis Apollo: summe is the vocative singular of summus, deum the syncopated genitive plural of deus (= deorum). custos, which governs the genitive sancti … Soractis, stands in apposition to Apollo: ‘Apollo, highest of the gods, guardian of holy Soracte’. Given that summe deum is a phrase that usually occurs in invocations of Jupiter and that ‘in extant pre-Augustan literature, with the exception of Hercules, the epithet [sanctus] seems only to be applied to Apollo’ (Brenk 1999: 128), we might be dealing with two partially transferred or conflated or misapplied epithets (Apollo is just as holy as Soracte and Soracte just as high as Apollo) in what will turn out to be an only partially felicitous prayer. At the same time, Apollo often carries out the will of Jupiter (purveyor of destiny) in the Aeneid: ‘While it is hardly remarkable, in the light of Greek and Roman religions and other literature, to depict Apollo acting in accordance with Jupiter’s will, Virgil’s Apollo not infrequently mirrors the words and actions of the chief Olympian’ (Miller 2009: 167).

Soracte is a mountain in Southern Etruria. Arguably, in Etruscan religion this manifestation of Apollo had connections with the realms of both the living and the dead: ‘In Etruria, however, [Apollo] was the god of Mount Soracte north of Rome, who is called in Latin sources Apollo Soranus and Dis Pater, god of the Underworld. In the Aeneid of Vergil (11.785) the Etruscan Arruns prays to him’ (Thomson de Grummond and Simon 2006: 48).


quem primi colimus: primi refers not to chronological precedence (which would be difficult to claim), but to the fact that they worship Apollo above all others (‘whose chief worshippers are we’: Goold), as shown by the invocation summe deum and the extreme ritual described in the subsequent relative clause. Pliny the Elder describes the rite in question as follows (Natural History 7.2.19):

Haut procul urbe Roma in Faliscorum agro familiae sunt paucae quae vocantur Hirpi; hae sacrificio annuo quod fit ad montem Soractem Apollini super ambustam ligni struem ambulantes non aduruntur, et ob id perpetuo senatus consulto militiae omniumque aliorum munerum vacationem habent.

[There are a few families in the Faliscan territory, not far from the city of Rome, named the Hirpi, which at the yearly sacrifice to Apollo performed on Mount Soracte walk over a charred pile of logs without being scorched, and who consequently enjoy exemption under a perpetual decree of the senate from military service and all other burdens.]


cui pineus ardor acervo | pascitur: lit. ‘for whom a blaze fuelled by pinewood from a heap is nourished’: pineus ardor refers to a fire made with pinewood and is an ‘admirable instance of abstract for concrete’ (Horsfall 2003: 421). See Miller (2009: 165) for the ritual-historical background: ‘In question is apparently a Faliscan cult of the dead in which Apollo was fused with the toponymic divinity pater Soranus. The (expiatory) fire-ritual on Soracte was practiced by priests called Hirpi — hirpus is a Sabine word for wolf (cf. Apollo’s epithet Lykeios). This gives added point to the comparison of the evident Hirpus Arruns to a lupus immediately after he wounds Camilla (809–13).’


et medium freti pietate per ignem: the anastrophe combined with hyperbaton generates an iconic word order in which the faithful believers (freti pietate) are placed in the middle of the fire (medium … per ignem = per medium ignem). fretus here governs the ablative pietate (‘trusting in our faith’, i.e. trusting that our faith will shield us from harm since it will entail divine protection).


cultores multa premimus vestigia pruna: cultores (the noun derives from the verb colo; cf. colimus) stands in apposition to the subject: ‘we, the worshippers, …’. To construe the line correctly, scanning helps: it will show up the final –a of multa as long, hence modifying pruna. (The final –a of vestigia scans short, as is right and proper for an accusative neuter plural.) Hence: ‘we, the worshippers, plant our feet on many an ember’. JH: Camilla, we recall, was introduced as special for ‘outstripping the winds cursu pedum and whizzing over terrestrial or marine surfaces without damage to crops cursu or wetting her celeris … plantas. |’ (7.807, 809, 810); she weaponized once she could tiptoe, pedum primis … vestigia plantis | institerat (11.573); we were just reminded what she could do on foot, outstripping a horse, pernicibus ignea plantis | transit equum cursu (718). Arruns tracks her vestigia pedemque (763–64): now we learn how his own fireproof soles mean Camilla’s met her match, per ignem | … premimus vestigia. His (solar) sect in fact specialises in using heat to nullify heat — including hers (per agmen | … ardebat, 782 ~ pineus ardor, 786).


da … hoc nostris aboleri dedecus armis: the imperative da (from do, dare, ‘to give’, ‘to grant’) introduces an indirect statement with hoc … dedecus as subject accusative and aboleri as (passive) infinitive. The words making up the indirect statement are arranged in a so-called ‘golden’ pattern: adjectivea (hoc) – adjectiveb (nostris) – verb (aboleri) – nouna (dedecus) – nounb (armis). The noun de-decus picks up and inverts Turnus’ acclamation of Camilla as decus Italiae at 11.508 (see above).

nostris … armis: an instrumental ablative.

pater… | omnipotens: like summe deum, usually a periphrasis used of Jupiter.


non exuvias pulsaeve tropaeum | virginis aut spolia ulla peto, mihi cetera laudem | facta ferent: exuvias, tropaeum, and spolia (linked by the –ve after pulsae and aut) are all accusative objects of non … peto: Arruns renounces any (lasting) visual manifestation of his potential triumph over Camilla. His desire to see the virgin-warrior struck down has nothing to do with personal glory. He seems genuinely outraged by Camilla’s battlefield prowess, which upsets deep-seated hierarchies of gender — and is willing to efface his own claim to fame as long as this enables him to restore the natural order. His motivations seem primarily to originate from his gender ideology rather than a desire for heroic stature. JH: Thematically, though, the motif further bolts Book 11 into a robust unit, brokering these tokens of epic success through a range of variations and — here — mutations, from lines 6–7 onwards.

ferent: third person plural future indicative active. Arruns is confident that he shall acquire glory through other deeds — which is a pretty foolish thing to put into his address to Apollo since it implicitly minimizes the sacrifice he is willing to make in return for divine help. He seems to assume that Apollo shares his outrage and will therefore accept his prayer on those terms.


haec dira meo dum vulnere pestis | pulsa cadat, patrias remeabo inglorius urbes: dum here introduces a conditional wish (hence the subjunctive cadat): ‘if only’, ‘provided that’. The subject is haec dira … pestis, which is further modified by the past participle pulsa, which governs meo … vulnere: ‘if only this abominable scourge falls, stricken down by a wound I inflict…’

patrias … urbes: accusative of direction (‘to my native cities’), with remeabo (first person singular future active).

inglorius: ‘without glory / epic fame’. JH: This prayer loudly riffs on Camilla’s exchange with her sneaky Appennine victim, who dared her down from her horse ‘to find out which of them is getting tricked by vain gloria’, only to have his balloon popped when she tells him ‘trickery won’t fetch him home to his father in one piece’ (708, 717).

11.794–804: A Prayer Half-Answered Hitting Home

Virgil takes five verses to detail Apollo’s response to Arruns’ prayer. The immediate focus is on the part of the prayer that Apollo grants: the killing of Camilla. But we are also told right away that the killer will get his comeuppance, as far as he is concerned (Opis, sent by Diana, is anyway already lurking):

Audiit et voti Phoebus succedere partem

mente dedit, partem volucris dispersit in auras:


sterneret ut subita turbatam morte Camillam

adnuit oranti; reducem ut patria alta videret

non dedit, inque Notos vocem vertere procellae.


  • Bold = general reaction
  • Italics = response to Arruns’ request to slay Camilla
  • Underlined = response to Arruns’ intent to make it home safely

We start with a sequence of main clauses (audiit – dedit – dispersit). Then we get, twice, the combination of an ut-clause followed by a main clause (sterneret ut … – adnuit; reducem ut … videret – non dedit). The passage concludes with another main clause, with procellae as subject and vertere as verb (linked to non dedit by the –que after in). Each part of Arruns’ utterance (the killing of Camilla; his safe return home) receives about the same amount of attention from Apollo; and both parts feature the same syntax: a main verb of granting (adnuit / non dedit) that governs an ut-clause. But there are features that foreground the killing of Camilla. Four of the five verses feature main verbs at the beginning: audiit, mente dedit, adnuit, non dedit; they are joined in the middle verse (796) by the verb of the first ut-clause, sterneret. (The verb of the second ut-clause, videret, is by contrast placed at the end.) And the final component of the unfulfilled wish is a distinct anti-climax: Arruns is displaced as subject in the ut-clause; non dedit reiterates, negatively, dedit of 795; and in the final part, inque Notos vocem vertere procellae, which simply reiterates partem volucris dispersit in auras, Apollo has already disappeared again from the narrative.


Audiit et voti Phoebus succedere partem | mente dedit, partem volucris dispersit in auras: Phoebus is the subject of all three verbs: audiit, dedit, and dispersit. The first signals that Phoebus took note of the entirety of Arruns’ speech, the second and third specify his differentiated reception (appropriately in ‘clashing’ asyndeton). The genitive voti modifies both instances of partem. Miller (2009: 167) compares Jupiter’s response to a prayer by Iulus at Aeneid 9.630–31: audiit et caeli genitor de parte serena | intonuit laevum, noting: ‘these are the only two times in all of Virgil that the collocation audiit et is used as a transitional formula, and accompanied by a form of the word pars, albeit in different senses.’

volucris … in auras: volucris is the alternative accusative plural form of the third declension adjective volucris (= volucres). The anastrophe, by which volucris ends up in front position (further enhanced by the intervening dispersit), helps to underscore the meaning of the adjective.


sterneret ut subita turbatam morte Camillam | adnuit oranti: oranti is a present participle in the dative modifying an implied ei (referring back to Arruns): ‘he nodded his assent to him praying / his prayer that…’ Line 796 is a self-contained syntactical unit, with interlaced word order (subitaa1 turbatama2 morten1 Camillamn2) and all the components of a golden line (two adjectives, two nouns, a verb).


reducem ut patria alta videret | non dedit, inque Notos vocem vertere procellae: reducem belongs in the ut-clause as accusative object (modifying an implied eum in predicative position) of videret. The subject is patria alta: ‘he did not grant that his lofty homeland see him as returnee’. alta is, again, an attribute of cities from the proem onwards (1.7: altae moenia Romae), but here also brings to mind Mt Soracte mentioned in Arruns’ prayer.

vertere: the alternative third person plural perfect indicative active form (= verterunt), neatly alliterative with the accusative object vocem. The subject is procellae.


ergo ut missa manu sonitum dedit hasta per auras,

convertere animos acris oculosque tulere


cuncti ad reginam Volsci. nihil ipsa nec aurae

nec sonitus memor aut venientis ab aethere teli,

hasta sub exsertam donec perlata papillam

haesit virgineumque alte bibit acta cruorem.


  • Bold = first temporal subordinate clause
  • Underlined = first main clause
  • Underlined italics = second main clause
  • Bold italics = second temporal subordinate clause

The architecture of this passage re-enacts the trajectory of the fatal spear as if in slow motion. The overall design is symmetrical and chiastic: temporal subordinate clause (introduced by ut) + main clause :: main clause + temporal subordinate clause (introduced by donec). The two main clauses are dedicated, respectively, to the reactions of the Volscians and of Camilla to the spear that whirs through the air: in the case of the former, the sound and sight of the missile gradually focus all eyes on the queen; by contrast, the latter, thus set up as the target, remains entirely oblivious to her surroundings — until the missile hits home. If the two main clauses at the centre are more or less equal in length (1.5 lines each), Virgil gives quantitative prominence to the fatal and fateful moment of the spear’s impact by devoting two full lines to it (as opposed to one for the launch).


ergo ut missa manu sonitum dedit hasta per auras, | convertere animos acris oculosque tulere | cuncti ad reginam Volsci: the ut-clause is temporal (‘when…’), with hasta as subject, modified by the present participle missa (in the nominative: the final –a in missa scans short), which governs the ablative manu and the prepositional phrase per auras. The hyperbaton missa … per auras generates an apposite frame around the core of the clause, i.e. sonitum dedit hasta (object – verb – subject: the order corresponds to the fact that the spear first registers by way of sound rather than sight), by generating an iconic image of the spear’s trajectory, from the hand — through the air. In the first — bipartite — main clause (the verbs are convertere and tulere, linked by the –que after oculos), the subject (cuncti … Volsci) is much delayed.

convertere … tulere: alternative third person plural perfect indicative active forms (= converterunt – tulerunt).

animos acris: acris is the alternative accusative plural ending of the third declension (= acres).

cuncti ad reginam Volsci: portentously spondaic. JH: The match between Tarchon and Camilla further solidifies with the pick-up between this ‘book-ended’ scene and his: convertere animos acris oculosque tulere | cuncti ad reginam Volsci. (800–1) + tum vero immensus surgens ferit aurea clamor | sidera (832–33) ~ tollitur in caelum clamor cunctique Latini | convertere oculos (745–46).


nihil ipsa nec aurae | nec sonitus memor aut venientis ab aethere teli, | hasta sub exsertam donec perlata papillam | haesit virgineumque alte bibit acta cruorem: Virgil elides the verb of the main clause (erat). The subject is ipsa (sc. Camilla) with memor as predicative complement, which governs the three objective genitives aurae, sonitus, and venientis ab aethere teli: they faithfully recapitulate sonitum, hasta, and per auras from the ut-clause. The subsequent temporal clause is introduced by donec, a much delayed conjunction: the clause begins with hasta (803) and is bipartite: the –que after virgineum links haesit and bibit. The subject is hasta throughout, modified by the past participles perlata and acta. The recall of lexemes, which is such a striking feature of the main clause, continues in the donec-clause: its subject (hasta) is the same as that of the ut-clause and it is modified by the past participle perlata, which corresponds syntactically to missa manu … per auras: the spear put in flight in 799–801a and in focus throughout has now completed its trajectory and hit its unwary target; and having been thrown powerfully (manu) high into the air from which it descended with force (ab aethere) the spear is driven in (acta) deep and hence also drinks deeply (the idea contained in alte goes with both acta and bibit).

nihil: used here with adverbial force (see OLD s.v. 11a): ‘in no respect’, ‘not at all’.

hasta… | haesit: Virgil places the (alliterating) subject and (first) verb prominently at the beginning of successive lines. The arrangement underscores the point that the spear has struck Camilla under (sub) her breast.

sub exsertam … papillam |… virgineum … cruorem: the prepositional phrase and the accusative object are parallel in design. In the case of exsertam the hyperbaton enacts the meaning of the attribute (‘revealed’, ‘exposed’). The imagery here continues Virgil’s practice of bleeding together the spheres of war and sex, in a (perverse) erotics of the battlefield. Fowler (1987: 195) offers some supporting thoughts: ‘The mention of the nipple rather than the breast in general is a Vergilian innovation in the Penthesilea tradition which lies behind Camilla, and there seem to be two images combined. The arrow “drinks deep”; from this point of view, Heuzé [1985: 176] rightly sees that we think of a suckling child […]. But virgineus cruor also points us towards defloration…’ As to what the connection in the Aeneid between the killing of a virgin warrior and defloration ultimately means — here is Fowler (1987: 196–97) arguing for the invocation of pathos and horror:

In the case of Camilla it could be said that the perversity of her becoming a wife (defloration) and mother (suckling) only at the moment of death constitutes a reproach to her way of life. She should have stayed at home to become a wife and mother in the normal way: her death shows the abnormality of her life. Such a moral does not seem consistent, however, with the view of sexuality that we find elsewhere in Vergil’s works, and it fails to explain the use of the imagery with the male virgins Euryalus, Pallas, Lausus, Turnus. The emphasis is on pathos rather than moralizing criticism. Certainly the deaths of these virgins are perverted deflorations; they should have lived on to marry and deflower their brides on their wedding nights. It is sad that they do not, but it is a reproach to the universe, or at least to mankind in general, rather than a sign of individual error. The pathos is intensified by our sense of horror. There is no need to see these reactions as opposed, as is often claimed, but it is undoubtedly true that part of the horror is not just at the perversion of defloration in the killing but is built into the idea of defloration itself.

Other critics have offered darker readings. See e.g. Oliensis (1997: 308): ‘Martial and marital wounds are consanguineous throughout the epic. This convergence is most fully realised in the ghastly “penetration” of the only female fighter of the epic; the spear that pierces Camilla’s nipple and drinks her blood […] figures a grotesquely accelerated sexual maturation, from virgin to bride to nursing mother.’ Or Fratantuono (2009: 272): ‘Virgil lingers briefly but effectively on what we can only call the ghoulish aestheticism of the violent, sexualized death of a beautiful young woman: there is something here of the perverse fascination that can be traced from Achilles’ necrophilia to even the modern “giallo” films, with their emphasis on artistically creative death “tableaux” for nubile victims.’

JH: We really must note that the saga of mother-less Camilla’s amazing breast does not end here; with poetic justice and in divinely ordered revenge, the rat whose spear scored a bullseye ‘under the nipple’ will in next to no time have Diana’s hitwoman Opis fire the fatal flying shaft at him Amazon-wise, the bow arched to the max, ‘left hand touching the arrowhead, right hand and bowstring touching the nipple’ (861–62). Virgil has so many ways to lock his motifs into place. Here he inflicts maximum damage, inviting us to back revenge killing.

11.805–815: Arruns Turns Tail

Arruns flees in utter shock at what he has done, being compared to a wolf, who has killed a shepherd or young bull. Wolves feature frequently in epic similes, though the closest Homeric parallel features an unspecified wild beast. See Iliad 15.585–89 (describing Antilochus withdrawing from Hector after killing Melanippus):

Ἀντίλοχος δ᾽ οὐ μεῖνε θοός περ ἐὼν πολεμιστής,

ἀλλ᾽ ὅ γ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἔτρεσε θηρὶ κακὸν ῥέξαντι ἐοικώς,

ὅς τε κύνα κτείνας ἢ βουκόλον ἀμφὶ βόεσσι

φεύγει πρίν περ ὅμιλον ἀολλισθήμεναι ἀνδρῶν:

ὣς τρέσε Νεστορίδης…

[But Antilochos did not linger, swift warrior though he was, but fled like a wild beast that did harm, that killed a dog or a herdsman next to his cattle and fled before the crowd of men gathered together: even so the son of Nestor fled…]


concurrunt trepidae comites dominamque ruentem | suscipiunt: the –que after dominam links concurrunt and suscipiunt, the two verbs that frame the sentence. The subject trepidae comites (attribute : noun) relates chiastically to the accusative object dominam ruentem (noun : attribute). The placement of suscipiunt in enjambment in the line below enacts the meaning of the verb: the Womxn’s Brigade comrades catch Camilla ‘from below’.


fugit ante omnis exterritus Arruns | laetitia mixtoque metu, nec iam amplius hastae | credere nec telis occurrere virginis audet: in the corresponding description of Arruns, Virgil also uses the two main verbs (fugit and audet) as frame. audet governs the two infinitives credere and occurrere, coordinated by nec nec… Both take a dative (hastae; telis). Arruns’ reaction is curious: he instantly realizes that there is hell to pay for his battlefield success and suffers an utter loss of confidence. The successful strike has clearly affected his ability to think straight. There is really no need for him to trust in his lance any longer or to confront the weapons of the virgin: Camilla is dying.

ante omnis: omnis is the alternative accusative plural ending of the third declension = omnes. It is unclear whether to take the phrase with fugit (‘he flees above all others’) or exterritus (‘he is frightened above all others’) — or with both. Commentators prefer the former, which is more natural Latin — but the sense is dubious: who else is fleeing? With exterritus, ante omnis makes perfect sense and heightens the paradox: everyone is emotionally affected by Camilla’s mortal wound, especially her followers — but the one terrified most is the very person responsible for the fatal blow.

laetitia mixtoque metu: an ablative absolute, with the participle mixto going with both nouns, which are linked by et (= laetitia et metu mixto ~ metu cum laetitia mixto). Arruns experiences at least some joy (laetitia) at his successful throw (as one would), but the alliteration mixto metu suggests that, surprisingly, the overpowering emotion in the light of what he has done is fear.

809–15: The Wolf-Simile

ac velut ille, prius quam tela inimica sequantur,

continuo in montis sese avius abdidit altos


occiso pastore lupus magnove iuvenco,

conscius audacis facti, caudamque remulcens

subiecit pavitantem utero silvasque petivit:

haud secus ex oculis se turbidus abstulit Arruns

contentusque fuga mediis se immiscuit armis.


Virgil illustrates the reaction of Arruns to a wolf that realizes it has overreached itself by killing a shepherd or prize calf. The simile takes up five lines and is quite intricate: the velut-clause (bold) contains a tricolon of main verbs (810: abdidit, 813: subiecit, petivit) linked by the –que after caudam and silvas, an appositional phrase conscius audacis facti and the present participle remulcens. caudam, modified by the present participle pavitantem, stands apo koinou as accusative object of both remulcens and subiecit. The simile is padded out by a temporal subordinate clause (italics) and a ‘split’ ablative absolute (shaded). The participle – occiso – goes with both pastore and iuvenco: against the protocols of prose word order, but to good poetic effect, the wolf (lupus), long anticipated by the demonstrative pronoun ille (809), is situated in-between his victims. The subsequent main clause (underlined) is comparatively simple, with two main verbs (abstulit, immiscuit) linked by the –que after contentus and no subordination.

prius quam tela inimica sequantur: prius quam = priusquam, introducing a temporal subordinate clause with tela inimica as subject. The verb sequantur is in the subjunctive expressing future potential action.

in montis … altos: montis is the alternative accusative plural ending of the third declension (= montes). The epithet ironically recalls the patria alta (797) that is not to see Arruns again as well as the Mt. Soracte of Arruns’ prayer.

avius: a transferred epithet. Grammatically, avius modifies the subject of the sentence, i.e. lupus, but it is not the wolf that is trackless, but the mountain range that serves as his refuge. Here the correspondence between narrative and simile breaks down: Arruns hides in the crowd, the wolf in solitude.

occiso pastore … magnove iuvenco: an ablative absolute. The –ve after magno links the two nouns pastore and iuvenco (the participle occiso goes with both).

conscius audacis facti: anthropomorphism: the mental awareness of the wolf resembles that of a human, insofar as it recognizes the transgression of boundaries: his deed (factum) was ‘rash’ (audax). As we saw, above 412, audacia is an ambiguous quality, covering the spectrum from ‘boldness’ to ‘rashness’, but in the late republic it became associated in particular with hot-headed political revolutionaries. Moreover, ‘the adjective audacis draws facti into the sense of facinus which is an un-epic word, so that “crime” is nearer to the meaning than “deed”’ so Williams (1983: 176), who goes on to note that ‘the word conscius completes the idea that Arruns has good reason to have a guilty conscience.’ Put differently, in the anthropomorphic touches of the simile we capture Arruns’ state of mind in the wake of his dastardly deed.

se turbidus abstulit Arruns: the a-alliteration here recalls line 810 from the simile: … in montis sese avius abdidit altos. The adjective turbidus recalls 796 where Camilla is described as turbatam by sudden death. On its semantic range see Tarrant (2012: 88): ‘“raging” or “storming”, literally applied to wind, rain, or rushing water and figuratively to human beings. Only Turnus is called turbidus more than once.’

11.816–822: Appointment With Death

As Camilla struggles with Arruns’ lethal spear, she prepares to address her confidante Acca with what will be her dying breath.


illa manu moriens telum trahit, ossa sed inter | ferreus ad costas alto stat vulnere mucro: the first part of 816 features an orderly pattern: illa … moriens … trahit, with the instrumental ablative manu and the accusative object telum that go with trahit inserted so as to yield two alliterations (manu moriens; telum trahit) and framing the present participle moriens at the centre of the design, which, in its absolute and unconditional finality, cancels out Camilla’s desperate attempt to pull the arrow from the wound. Order disintegrates after the bucolic diaeresis following trahit: ossa sed inter sports a startling inversion of normal word order, with the preposition following rather than preceding the noun it governs, here with the additional perturbing nuance that another lexeme (sed) has entered in-between (inter) ossa and inter (a seemingly insignificant word but here carrying a powerful punch especially in its exposed position at the end of the line) — not unlike the iron tip that has penetrated Camilla’s ribcage. Line 817 features a similar combination of order and disorder: much of it consists of a symmetrical arrangement that resembles a golden line: adjectivea (ferreus) : adjectiveb (alto) : verb (stat) : nounb (vulnere) : nouna (mucro). The words that do not fit into the pattern are ad costas, a prepositional phrase that provides an unnerving anatomical detail just like its counterpart ossa sed inter in the previous line. Put differently, the iron tip (ferreus … mucro) that stands (stat) deep in the wound (alto … vulnere) tears apart body and life, order and beauty. (The monosyllabic stat evokes associations of fixity and finality — contrasting sharply with the impact it has: everything around the spear-tip collapses; see 818: labitur … labuntur.) Translate in the sequence: sed ferreus mucro stat alto vulnere inter ossa ad costas.


labitur exsanguis, labuntur frigida leto | lumina, purpureus quondam color ora reliquit: an exquisite tricolon crescens of main clauses (labiturlabunturreliquit) in asyndetic sequence that features three different subjects: Camilla (implied in labitur); her eyes (lumina); and the colour (color) of her face. Colons 1 and 2, which are stylistically interrelated through the anaphoric fronting of the verbs in the present tense, the polyptoton labitur – labuntur, the persistent l-alliteration (labitur, labuntur, leto, lumina), and the well-nigh synonymous sense of exsanguis and frigida, are very much ‘in the moment’, capturing Camilla’s collapse — and thereby contrast sharply with the terminal colon 3, which features a verb in the perfect tense, placed at the end, and recalling a time now past (cf. the temporal adverb quondam) when Camilla’s face was full of life: purpureus … color, signifying life, blood, and warmth, stands in antithesis to both ex-sanguis and frigida. What is left with us is the memory-image of life leaving her (see n. on 1).

labitur exsanguis: exsanguis modifies the implied subject Camilla in predicative positions: she collapses bloodless. The attribute picks up the disturbing image of the spear sucking the blood out of Camilla (804).

frigida leto | lumina: frigida modifies lumina (note the enjambment) in predicative position. leto could be understood either as a circumstantial or causal ablative with frigida: cold in / because of death.

ora: as so often, Virgil uses the plural of os in lieu of the singular; ora (neuter accusative plural) is the direct object of reliquit.


tum sic exspirans Accam ex aequalibus unam | adloquitur, fida ante alias quae sola Camillae | quicum partiri curas, atque haec ita fatur: the two main verbs, linked by atque, are adloquitur and fatur. The intervening part (fida … curas) is difficult, and scholars are divided on how to construe it. One possibility is to assume two relative clauses as follows: Accam … , quae, fida Camillae (with Camillae as dative dependent on fida) ante alias, [erat] sola, quicum partiri (understood as a historic infinitive with Camilla as subject) curas, i.e. ‘…who, faithful to Camilla above all others, was the only one, with whom Camilla shared her cares’. By contrast, we might follow Horsfall (2003: 43) in translating: ‘…Acca, who, trustworthy beyond the rest, alone was used to share Camilla’s problems with her’. This implies: there is only one relative clause introduced by quae with Accam as antecedent; fida ante alias stands in apposition to quae; the verb is partiri (as a historical infinitive with Acca as subject); Camillae is a genitive dependent on curas; and quicum is to be understood in the sense of cum ea (with ea = Camilla). Fratantuono turns the complex syntax into a feature, arguing that Virgil ‘hereby syntactically enacts the close relationship between C. and A.; the fact that Acca has not been introduced heretofore also obliges Virgil to underscore their intimacy now as effectively as possible’ (2009: 278–79), which may account for ‘the rather heavy build-up of words describing Acca (unam, fida, sola, quicum)’ (278).

sic exspirans: as in 816 (moriens), Virgil uses a present participle to underscore that Camilla is dying — that she is, literally, on her last breath (sic exspirans) when she launches into her speech.

Accam: Acca stands in the same relation to Camilla as Camilla to Diana: see 11.537–38. The relationship between Acca and Camilla re-enacts that of Anna and Dido in Book 4 (‘sisters’). See Fratantuono (2007a: 352): ‘Acca, Camilla’s closest friend, was not mentioned among the Italides who joined Camilla in battle. Virgil meant to evoke Anna with this new character, Acca; like Anna, she will be present for the last moments of her sister’s life (823 soror). Not blood, but an eternal loyalty to Diana, links the two women.’ See also Williams (2012: 73): ‘Acca is a passing but memorable figure. As far as we can tell, she is (like Camilla herself) an invention of Virgil’s, and she exists in this text only in her connection with Camilla, her only other appearance being when she complies with Camilla’s final request by bringing the news of the Volscians’ defeat and Camilla’s death to Turnus at the end of Book 11’ (11.896–900). He argues that Virgil’s text activates ‘the discourse of amicitia [even though the concept itself is not mentioned] by means of the term aequales, the invocation of fides, and the motif of a leader sharing burdens with a comrade (quicum partiri curas).’ Acca further binds Camilla to Turnus, whose own sister Juturna gets to do her level best to keep him in one piece, away from facing up to Aeneas through Book 12.

ex aequalibus unam: the partitive use of the preposition ex. aequales refers to Camilla’s sisterhood — a likeminded group of warrior-virgins all devoted to the lifestyle of Diana, among whom Acca apparently stood out nevertheless as her most intimate and trustworthy companion.

quicum: qui is the archaic ablative of all three genders.

11.823–831: Passing on the Torch

Virgil has so far used a variety of perspectives to bring the death of Camilla into focus; the concluding one — Camilla’s personal voice — is the most intimate (Adema 2017: 298):

The narrator takes up a bird’s-eye view to narrate how Camilla’s fellow warriors try to help her and how, elsewhere, Arruns attempts to flee (Verg. Aen. 11.805–15). Then, he returns to Camilla and, finally, gives some insight into her inner world. He does so by presenting a direct speech in which she addresses Acca. Acca is Camilla’s only confidante, as the narrator explicitly states (Verg. Aen. 11.821–22) and thus the only way to hear more about Camilla’s emotions. Even now, Camilla spends only two lines on what the outcome of this is like for her, focusing on the physical aspects alone. Most of her speech concerns the problems of the Italians and, more importantly, Camilla’s solution for them. Her very best friend has to make do with a farewell of merely two words, iamque vale.

In her final moments, Camilla’s thoughts turn to Turnus. Her death anticipates his: it is his turn, now that the divertissements of the penultimate book begin to draw to a close.


‘hactenus, Acca soror, potui: nunc vulnus acerbum | conficit, et tenebris nigrescunt omnia circum: the direct speech invigorates the pathos of the passage: the preceding verses described Camilla dying; now we hear from her how she has struggled against death — but is losing the fight. The polysyllabic adverb hactenus (conveying a sense of Camilla’s prolonged struggle to keep death at bay) is placed up front to prepare the watershed moment or tipping point expressed by the monosyllabic adverb nunc. Virgil does not supply a supplementary infinitive with potui (such as ‘endure’) or a direct object for conficit (sc. me). The condensed mode of expression, leaving anything inessential or obvious unsaid, fits the situation: we are approaching Camilla’s last breath; every word counts. The same mood animates the asyndetic parataxis hactenus … potui : nunc … conficit and the undifferentiated totalizing omnia (the subject of nigrescunt), the change in tense from perfect (potui, conficit) to present (nigrescunt), and the exposed adverbial circum at the end of the line: the darkness of death is closing in on Camilla all around.

Acca soror: our passage is the earliest instance of the kinship term soror (‘sister’) as a form of address between unrelated female friends cited by Dickey (2002: 125). The concept naturalizes and strengthens the degree of personal affection and loyalty between the two characters and hints at Camilla’s entourage forming a community sustained by a special sense of ‘sisterhood’.

vulnus acerbum | conficit: an effective enjambment: the perfect conficit exudes finality: the implied accusative object disappears in the verse break: what remains is the subject (the personified wound), its attribute (focalized through Camilla: in acerbum her emotions burst out), and the verb.

nigrescunt: a so-called inceptive verb, marked by the suffix –sc–, which indicates that the action is in the process of beginning or becoming. It has a correlative in 833: crudescit. If the inceptive nigrescunt signals the beginning of the end of Camilla, the inceptive crudescit signals that the end of Camilla is resulting in a new beginning: we have not yet reached the end of the epic, though the death of Camilla foreshadows it.


effuge et haec Turno mandata novissima perfer: the two imperatives effuge and perfer, linked by et, frame the line; the words in between form a syllabic climax that articulates Camilla’s desperation and urgency: haec (1) Turno (2) mandata (3) novissima (4). Her last thoughts (note the superlative novissima) are devoted to Acca and, above all, Turnus — her closest associates — and the cause of Italy.


‘succedat pugnae Troianosque arceat urbe. | iamque vale.’: succedat and arceat are iussive subjunctives (following up on mandata: ‘orders’): ‘he is to take my place in battle and keep the Trojans away from the city.’ urbe is an ablative of separation with arceat.

iamque vale: ‘and now fare well’: a second moment of terminal departure in the book, aligning Camilla this time with Pallas (see n. on 98). These tit-for-tat premature casualties mount up and/or cancel each other out.


simul his dictis linquebat habenas | ad terram non sponte fluens: the imperfect linquebat and the present participle fluens (here used without ablative and with reference to the person as such rather than parts of the body) poignantly underscore the gradual transition of Camilla from life to death as she loses control of her body and slides to the ground. Habenas serves as a corrective, for Camilla, who dismounted at 718 since when there has been no mention of a mount, proves to have been back on her horse, where she belongs, the way she came in. The ‘equi-vocation’ began at 702, where cursu meant ‘on horse’, but is trumped at 719 (cursu, feet overtake horse. This encounter was riddled with trickery and deceit!). The motif sets up ad terram … fluens. Cf. Lucretius 4.919: dissolvuntur enim tum demum membra fluuntque. The language recalls a passage from Virgil’s Georgics 3, where an ox afflicted by the plague dies in a similar idiom (3.522–24):

… at ima

solvuntur latera, atque oculos stupor urget inertis

ad terramque fluit devexo pondere cervix.

[But his flanks are unstrung throughout, numbness weighs upon his languid eyes, and his neck sinks with drooping weight to earth.]

For the thematic point of the parallel passage see Jones (2005: 32–33): ‘Both Camilla and the ox represent an idyllic Italy before the advent of war (or plague) and, as such, they cannot survive the destruction of that landscape. In death, they become part of the natural world physically, transformed metaphorically via water. The sick ox has no interest in his surroundings […], but as he dies he becomes closer to the land not only through downward motion, but also through the language that describes it (ad terramque fluit). The same happens to Camilla (ad terram non sponte fluens).’

non sponte: the noun spons, spontis (the nominative is not in use) means ‘will’, ‘volition’, and usually occurs in the ablative. sua sponte designates an act or a decision taken ‘of one’s own accord’, ‘voluntarily’. By using the negated variant, Virgil keeps emphasizing that Camilla struggles with all her might against her fatal wound. She does not want to go. The phrasing occurs elsewhere in the Aeneid, notably at 4.361 where Aeneas assures Dido: Italiam non sponte sequor (‘I don’t seek Italy of my own volition’). The theme continues in 831 with indignata. The Aeneid depicts a world in which individuals are forced to yield to (supernatural) forces beyond their control, however mightily they struggle against them.


tum frigida toto | paulatim exsolvit se corpore, lentaque colla | et captum leto posuit caput, arma relinquens, | vitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras: a tricolon of main clauses (exsolvitposuitfugit) linked by the two –que after lenta and vita. The subject throughout is Camilla, but the way she comes into focus undergoes subtle variation: in the first colon, Camilla separates herself from her body (cf. the self-reflexive se); in the second, she lays key body parts aside (colla and caput are the accusative objects of posuit): it is a bit unclear as to whether this moment glosses the action of se exsolvere or already presupposes its completion; in the third, Camilla’s now fully immaterial self comes into focus as her ‘life-force’ (vita): it departs — with great reluctance but compelled by the laws of nature — for the shades below. The description thus presupposes an anthropology (a conception of human nature) and a thanatology (a theory of what happens at the moment of death), which is inspired by Homer and informed by Lucretius: Virgil operates with a soul / body dualism (though without using the standard Latin term for soul, anima; but vita here ‘translates’ the Homeric ψυχή / psuchê), with the soul constituting our ‘self’ and inhabiting our (entire) body while we are alive and withdrawing itself for a predetermined trip to hell the moment we die. The notion that our soul animates our body has a Lucretian ring to it, but in Epicurean philosophy the ‘life atoms’ do not form a coherent self that can exist outside the body; they simply disperse upon death.

tum frigida toto | paulatim exsolvit se corpore: Camilla is already in the chill of death, though frigida, which is in the nominative feminine singular and modifies the self that extricates itself from the body, is technically speaking a quality of the body that is being left behind. The hyperbaton toto |… corpore, reinforced by enjambment, underscores the sense of paulatim — the extrication of the ‘soul-self’ from the body is a gradual and protracted process. toto … corpore is an ablative of separation.

lentaque colla | et captum leto posuit caput: the et links the two accusative objects of posuit, i.e. lenta colla and captum leto caput. The l– and c– alliteration highlights thematic affinities between lenta and leto (the colla are ‘yielding’ in death) and colla and caput. The participle captum and the noun it modifies, caput, form an (again alliterative) paronomasia: it is as if Camilla has lost her fight with death over the ownership of her head: captured as it now is by death (leto is an ablative of agency without a / ab), she lays it aside.

colla: colla is the accusative neuter plural of collum, meaning ‘neck’: poets often use the plural instead of the singular.

arma relinquens: the tricolon of main clauses ensures that the participle phrase arma relinquens stands out: it is not part of the ‘background’ design. Tellingly, the very last thing Camilla lets go of, even after her neck and her head, are her arma (we might say — her vir-ago self, metonymic of the whole poem).

vitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras: Camilla gets the same death sentence as Turnus (which doubles as the last line of the poem). It has a (double) Homeric pedigree (Iliad 16.856–57 = 22.362–63):

ψυχὴ δ᾽ ἐκ ῥεθέων πταμένη Ἄϊδος δὲ βεβήκει

ὃν πότμον γοόωσα λιποῦσ᾽ ἀνδροτῆτα καὶ ἥβην.

[And his soul fleeting from his limbs was gone to Hades, bewailing her fate, leaving manliness and youth.]

The repetition of verses is a device used by both Homer and Virgil to flag up thematic parallels between scenes and characters — and in this case Homer’s doubling informs Virgil’s. See Knauer (1964/1979: 113):

this line […] is a translation of the two lines describing Patroclus’ death, which are repeated in the description of Hector’s death (Il. 16.856f. = 22.362f.). This reason for this well-considered Vergilian repetition will be found again in Turnus’ blind obsession that is comparable to Camilla’s. Overwhelmed by his violentia (cf. 12.9 and 45) he is not able to see that victory is destined to Aeneas. So only in his last forlorn monologue do his ἀτασθαλίαι (Il. 22.104) dawn upon Hector, i.e. that he was blinded like Patroclus. The poetical motivation of Patroclus’ death is the same as that of Hector’s. Therefore Vergil connected Camilla’s and Turnus’ deaths in the way in which Homer indicates parallel events, namely by repeating verses.

Significantly, this line does not conclude Book 11 — as some readers who like neat and tidy patterns would perhaps like to suppose, to fit the book in with those whose finale is a major death: see Introduction above 15–16. It is of course true that Camilla’s death occurs towards the end of Aeneid 11. But the emphasis on ‘towards’ is important: penultimate books are not supposed to steal the thunder of the grand finale, and the fact that the sense of closure generated by the death of Camilla is not reinforced by a prominent place right at the end of the book accords with her role as an interlude — and warm-up act before the final turn. As we have seen, fugio is her speciality, and when she seems to be done for, she’s at her most dangerous…

indignata: Camilla protests against her fate: ‘She feels, and the poem encourages us to feel, that she has been cheated and has died a death not worthy of her. Unlike Lausus […], she cannot content herself with the thought that she has died at the hands of great Aeneas, for Arruns is contemptible’ (Fulkerson 2008: 26).

11.832–835: ‘The Fight Goes On’ — No End in Sight

After the death tableau of Camilla, which offered a moment of reflective calm within the raging battle, the fighting continues even more ferociously than before. The set text (but not the book, let alone the poem: do read on…!) concludes on the image of the triple alliance of Arcadians, Etruscans, and Trojans rushing back into the fray.


tum vero immensus surgens ferit aurea clamor | sidera: Virgil seems to ring a variation on the ‘golden line’ here. The pattern adjectivea (immensus) : verb (ferit) : adjectiveb (aurea) : nouna (clamor) : nounb (sidera) gives special prominence to surgens: the action of the present participle bridges the distance between the immensus … clamor in the human sphere and the aurea … sidera in the sky. In the case of immensus … clamor, the hyperbaton underscores the immeasurability of the din that arises; in the case of aurea … sidera, it conveys a sense of even the (unmovable and immobile) golden stars being struck and shaken. The line commences with heavy spondees, reinforced by the assonance of the central lexeme immensus with the words that precede (tum ~ imm–) and follow (–sus ~ sur–; –ens– ~ –ens). In the second half of the line the boundless shout-out to the departed warrior queen by the fighting armies explodes into a series of dactyls, reinforced by the unsettled word order (verb – subject, positioned effectively at the end of line – accusative object), and enjambment.

aurea… | sidera: the phrase stands in antithesis to tenebris nigrescunt omnia circum in 824 and sub umbras in 831. Virgil here covers the Underworld, (hell on) Earth, and the Sky, with the dynamics in the sphere of mortals affecting all other layers of the cosmos as well.

deiecta crudescit pugna Camilla: the picture of cosmic turmoil provides an apposite backdrop for the ongoing battle, which further heightens in intensity and brutality. deiecta … Camilla is an ablative absolute, with deiecta (‘having been struck down’) picking up on and inverting surgens ferit of the previous line and recalling her lapse to the ground. The subject is pugna. The alliteration crudescit … Camilla and the poetic word order (with the main clause inserted in the ablative absolute) reinforce a thematic link between the death of the maiden and the increasing savagery of the battle — Virgil is suggesting that her fall unleashes even more murderous energies among the combatants (post hoc, ergo propter hoc). This rhythm twins our ‘Camilla’ and ‘Pallas’ episodes as individualised close-ups followed up by repeats in the epic idiom of mass broadside versions (see n. on 197–99).


incurrunt densi simul omnis copia Teucrum | Tyrrhenique duces Evandrique Arcades alae: the line begins dramatically with the verb in the present tense (incurrunt) followed by the spatial adjective densi, which, together with its temporal equivalent simul, modifies and collectively anticipates the three subjects that rush together into battle. They are linked by the two –que after Tyrrheni and Evandri: (i) omnis copia Teucrum = the Trojan forces; (ii) Tyrrheni duces = the Etruscan leaders; (iii) Evandri Arcades alae = the Arcadian cavalry squadrons of Evander. We would of course be mistaken to assume that copia applies only to the Trojan forces, duces to the commanders from Etruria, and alae to the Arcadian horsemen. Rather, all parties in the conflict comprise duces, copia, and alae — it’s just that Virgil, in supreme economy of expression, mentions each component only once, distributed across the three contingents involved. Note the balance: the two elements of quantity (copia, alae), which refer to the allied forces of Aeneas and Evander, frame the one element of quality (duces). The framing effect is enhanced by the combination of parallelism (all three phrases feature an attribute: omnis, Tyrrheni, Arcades, followed by the noun: copia, duces, alae) and chiasmus: the genitive Teucrum comes after, the genitive Evandri before the noun phrase — and the item in the middle does without one. The design thus enacts the ideas expressed in simul and densi, which is in the masculine plural, though agreeing in sense with a feminine singular (copia), masculine plural (duces), and feminine plural (alae).

incurrunt: the outcome solders Camilla to Tarchon with one last parting shot: cf. Maeonidae incurrunt… (759).

Tyrrheni … duces: the Tyrrhenians were a ‘Pelasgian people’ (i.e. people who inhabited the Aegean sea region in prehistoric times), who migrated to Italy and evolved into the Etruscans. Their king Tarchon was Aeneas’ lieutenant as Camilla was Turnus’, and as Pallas never lived to be. Over and out.

1 Cf.


3 Text and translation are those of Walsh (2010). Cf. Courtney (1993: 66), who punctuates progenitor genetrixque, deum deus, unus et omnes.

4 See Horsfall (1971).