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

A dead boy (Pallas) and the death of a girl (Camilla) dominate the opening and the closing third of Aeneid 11 — one from each side of the conflict in prehistoric Italy between the Trojan migrants (and their allies) and the Rutulian Turnus (and his allies). In the middle segment, Turnus and his nemesis Drances mouth off in the council of King Latinus — but OCR’s selection of passages skips over their diplomatic tiff: the exam board goes in for those narrative stretches that have given Aeneid 11 the reputation of being the saddest of the epic.1 With some of the zany material from the Camilla part in mind, it is arguably also the weirdest. But before we can zoom in on the chosen bits — the funerals, the fighting, and the fun — it is worth getting the whole into view.

1. Virgil & Homer, or: The Overall Design of the Aeneid (and Book 11’s Place Within It)

At the beginning of the Aeneid (in many ways a rewrite of the Greek poetry of Homer in Latin) Virgil announces: ‘Arms and the man I sing…’ (Arma virumque cano…). He goes on to do so in twelve books of epic verse.2 Conventional wisdom divides this total into an ‘Odyssean’ and an ‘Iliadic’ half. Books 1–6, so the story goes, elaborate on the ‘man’ (virum) of the keynote and constitute an Odyssey of sorts (the first word of which is ἄνδρα/andra, the accusative of anêr = man = vir), covering Aeneas’ travels from Troy to Italy (via Carthage). And Books 7–12 pick up on ‘arms’ (arma) and narrate the ferocious fighting that breaks out upon his arrival in Italy as the indigenous people rise up in arms against the Trojan newcomers (a replay of Homer’s Iliad).

The facts of the matter, however, are more complex (of course — always, especially with Virgil). Thus Book 2 of the Aeneid, which comprises Aeneas’ account to Dido of the fall of Troy (including the story of the Trojan Horse), is in some ways as ‘Iliadic’ as the Aeneid gets, while the funeral games for Patroclus in Iliad 23 are remixed in Book 5 (the penultimate book of the first half of the Aeneid), which features the funeral games for Anchises. Importantly, too, the plot of the Odyssey continues to resonate powerfully through the second half of the Aeneid: Aeneas is an invader (resembling the Greeks of the Iliad) but also someone who is coming home (according to one genealogy, Dardanus, one of Aeneas’ ancestors, hails from Italy).3 In so doing, he turns ‘home’ into a killing field, very much like the Odysseus of the Odyssey: we shouldn’t forget that the Odyssey does not end with a romantic embrace between Odysseus and his wife Penelope, but on an ‘Iliadic’ note, with mass murder and civil war, back home.4

Still, even though both Iliad and Odyssey echo in the intertextual interstices throughout, the Aeneid is (also) a poem of two halves — as Virgil himself flags up via a ‘proem in the middle’, where he genuflects to the idea that the non-plus-ultra of heroic epic is battlefield slaughter — rather than travel adventures (7.37–45):5

Nunc age, qui reges, Erato, quae tempora, rerum


quis Latio antiquo fuerit status, advena classem


cum primum Ausoniis exercitus appulit oris,


expediam, et primae revocabo exordia pugnae.


tu vatem, tu, diva, mone. dicam horrida bella,


dicam acies actosque animis in funera reges,


Tyrrhenamque manum totamque sub arma coactam


Hesperiam. maior rerum mihi nascitur ordo,


maius opus moveo.


[Come now, Erato! Who were the kings, what were the times, what the state of affairs in ancient Latium, when first that foreign army landed its fleet on Ausonian shores – this will I unfold; and the prelude to the first battle will I recall. And you, goddess, prompt your bard! I will tell of grim wars, will tell of battle lines, and kings in their courage driven into death – of Tyrrhenian troops, and all Hesperia mustered in arms. Greater is the order of things that comes into being for me; greater is the work that I set into motion.]

Yet however ‘greater’ (maius) the work becomes in the second half, it remains an intricately interrelated whole. In the Aeneid, each book, while a meaningful unit in its own right, stands in ‘intratextual’ dialogue with all the others, across a range of different patterns.6 The ‘classical’ number of 12 — apart from gesturing to the ‘Homeric’ 24: both Iliad and Odyssey consist of 24 books, one for each letter in the Greek alphabet — divides not just into 2 x 6 but also various other multiples. It thus enables the following divisions and groupings among others (with those units including Book 11 highlighted in bold):

1 x 12

2 x 6: [1-6] + [7-12] ~ 1–7; 2–8; 3–9; 4–10; 5–11; 6–12

3 x 4: [1-4] + [5-8] + [9-12] ~ 1–5–9; 2–6–10; 3–7–11; 4–8–12

4 x 3: [1-3] + [4-6] + [7-9] + [10-12] ~ 1–4–7–10; 2–5–8–11; 3–6–9–12

6 x 2: [1-2] + [3-4] + [5-6] + [7-8] + [9-10] + [11-12] ~ 1–3–5–7–9–11; 2–4–6–8–10–12

12 x 1: correlation of 1–12, 2–11 [= second and next to last], 3–10, 4–9, 5–8, 6–7 and contiguity of 11 with 10 and 12

There are, for instance, striking thematic correspondences and structural links between the funeral games for Aeneas’ father Anchises in Book 5 and the funeral of his ‘adoptive’ son Pallas in Book 11; between the catalogue of Italic forces with Camilla as tailpiece that rises up against Aeneas in Book 7 and the rest of Camilla’s story which forms part of Book 11; between Book 2, which features the hair of Aeneas’ son Ascanius (a.k.a. Iulus) sprouting propitious flames that signal a prosperous future, and Book 11, in which the hair of Aeneas’ surrogate son Pallas is about to go up in flames on his funeral pyre; or across the three final books of the poem, which build to the epic’s shattering climax. And each book makes a distinctive contribution to the narrative arc of the Aeneid as a whole, which Virgil bookends by correlating the first and the last glimpse we get of the epic’s eponymous hero.

First Impressions Matter

After an extended proem (1.1–33), Virgil begins the actual narrative of the Aeneid with Juno spotting the Trojan fleet at sea just off the coast of Sicily. The hissy fit she throws about perceived slights to her dignity segues seamlessly into a visit to Aeolus, the minor divinity whom Jupiter put in charge of the winds: him she bribes into unleashing a primordial tempest to drown Aeneas. Chaos ensues: the storms sweep over the earth in a terrifying whirl (1.83: ruunt et terras turbine perflant), black night starts to brood over the sea (1.89: ponto nox incubat atra), the poles thunder and the sky flashes with frequent lightening (1.90: intonuere poli, et crebris micat ignibus aether).7 Frightful stuff, and when the narrative spotlight falls on Aeneas, this atmospheric commotion happens to scare the living daylights out of our hero (1.92–101):

Extemplo Aeneae solvuntur frigore membra:

ingemit, et duplicis tendens ad sidera palmas

talia voce refert: ‘O terque quaterque beati,

quis ante ora patrum Troiae sub moenibus altis


contigit oppetere! O Danaum fortissime gentis

Tydide! Mene Iliacis occumbere campis

non potuisse, tuaque animam hanc effundere dextra,

saevus ubi Aeacidae telo iacet Hector, ubi ingens

Sarpedon, ubi tot Simois correpta sub undis


scuta virum galeasque et fortia corpora volvit?’

[Straightway Aeneas’ limbs loosen with chilling dread; he groans and, stretching his two upturned hands to the stars, thus cries aloud: ‘O thrice and four times blest, whose lot it was to meet death before their fathers’ eyes beneath the lofty walls of Troy! O son of Tydeus [= Diomedes], bravest of the Danaan race, that I could not fall on the Ilian plains and gasp out this lifeblood at your hand — where, under the spear of Aeacides [= Achilles], fierce Hector lies prostrate, and mighty Sarpedon; where Simois seizes and sweeps beneath his waves so many shields and helmets and bodies of brave men!’]8

Aeneas is not the first epic character with a death wish early on in his narrative. Virgil has modelled his passage on Odysseus’ reaction when faced with similar circumstances (Odyssey 5.297–312):

Then were the knees of Odysseus loosened and his heart (καὶ τότ᾽ Ὀδυσσῆος λύτο γούνατα καὶ φίλον ἦτορ), and groaning he spoke to his own mighty spirit: ‘Ah me, wretched that I am! What is to befall me at the last? I fear that all the goddess said was true, when she declared that on the sea, before I came to my native land, I should fill up the measure of woes; all this now is being brought to pass. In such wise does Zeus overcast the broad heaven with clouds, and has stirred up the sea, and the blasts of all manner of winds sweep upon me; now is my utter destruction sure. Thrice blessed, four times blessed are those Danaans who of old perished in the wide land of Troy (τρὶς μάκαρες Δαναοὶ καὶ τετράκις, οἳ τότ᾽ ὄλοντο | Τροίῃ ἐν εὐρείῃ), doing the pleasure of the sons of Atreus. I wish I had died thus and met my fate on that day when the throngs of the Trojans hurled upon me bronze-tipped spears, fighting around the body of the dead son of Peleus. Then should I have received funeral rites, and the Achaeans would have spread my fame, but now by a miserable death was it appointed me to be cut off.

But in a sense, the Homeric precedent aggravates, rather than lessens the problems. When the storm bears down on Odysseus, he is alone. By (negative) contrast, Aeneas is oblivious of both his men and his mission — and is a proto-Roman hero not supposed to outperform his Greek counterparts anyway, soldiering on in the face of hardship, with a stiff upper lip and all that? It is of course worth stressing that soon after the storm Aeneas dux comes fully into his own: unlike Achilles, who wishes for his fellow Greeks to be punished for the slight he suffered from Agamemnon, and unlike Odysseus, who loses all of his men on his way home (through no fault of his own, or so Homer is keen to stress — but come on!), our Trojan hero ultimately manages to lead most of his motley crew of Trojan castaways to a new life in Italy. Virgil’s hero thus exhibits powerful pro-social qualities and care for his subordinates — unlike his Homeric predecessors, with their anti-social tendencies and desire for singularity and uniqueness. (Now go and look for pro-social elements in Homeric heroes and anti-social aspects in Aeneas: never let a binary like this stand unchallenged…) Yet again, these considerations simply make the question more urgent: why has Virgil chosen to have Aeneas enter the narrative at his weakest and most unimpressive — an unheroic wretch who fails to live up to the demands of the occasion? Only time will tell: we have to read on… till the end.

So Do Last

The Aeneid closes on the showdown between Aeneas and his Italian rival Turnus. If we encountered, at the opening of Book 1, Aeneas as a victim of Juno caught in a whirlwind, the closing moments of Book 12 feature him (or his weapon) as a whirlwind: the spear that Aeneas hurls at Turnus roars louder than the crashes bursting from a thunderbolt (12.922–23: nec fulmine tanti | dissultant crepitus; cf. 1.90, cited above) and flies ‘like a black whirlwind, bearing fell destruction’ (12.923–24: volat atri turbinis instar | exitium dirum hasta ferens). In other words, it storms towards its target with all the qualities of Juno’s initial tempest, an (impersonal) agent of doom and destruction. The missile lays Turnus low — but does not kill him. Wounded and defeated, he pleads for mercy. Will Aeneas oblige? Generic precedent suggests he won’t: Homer’s heroes routinely kill their suppliant foes. Yet Aeneas also received very precise instructions from his father Anchises earlier in the epic on what to do in a situation such as this: a Roman is to spare the vanquished and war down the proud (6.851–53: tu…, Romane, mementoparcere subiectis et debellare superbos). And lo and behold, Aeneas, good son that he is, is about to let Turnus, proud once, but now warred down and vanquished, off the hook (12.940–41: et iam iamque magis cunctantem flectere sermo | coeperat — ‘and now as he hesitated the words began to sway him more and more’). But the moment of mercy passes when Aeneas’ wandering eyes fall suddenly on the sword-belt of Pallas that his enemy is wearing; the sword-belt, in other words, of his surrogate son, whom Turnus had slaughtered and despoiled back in Book 10. This visual reminder of his failure to protect his protégé on behalf of another father-figure, Evander, causes Aeneas (good son that he is) to explode in a fit of wrath that overpowers whatever part of his self was about to opt for a more considerate response — and in hot blood he kills Turnus cold (12.945–52):9

ille, oculis postquam saevi monimenta doloris


exuviasque hausit, furiis accensus et ira

terribilis: ‘tune hinc spoliis indute meorum

eripiare mihi? Pallas te hoc vulnere, Pallas

immolat et poenam scelerato ex sanguine sumit.’

hoc dicens ferrum adverso sub pectore condit


fervidus; ast illi solvuntur frigore membra

vitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras.

[Aeneas, as soon as his eyes drank in the trophy, that memorial of savage grief, ablaze with fury10 and terrible in his wrath: ‘Clad in the spoils of one of mine, are you to be snatched from my hands? Pallas it is, Pallas who sacrifices you with this stroke, and exacts retribution from your guilty blood!’ So saying, in burning rage he buries his sword full in Turnus’ breast. His limbs grew slack and chill and with a moan his life fled resentfully to the Shades below.]

In his final moment, Aeneas thus turns into a figure of vengeance, cruelty, and rage — or, put differently, becomes the spitting image of the female characters from whom he has been fleeing throughout the poem (Juno, Dido), but who somehow manage to catch him up at the very end. Lexical and thematic parallels continue to invite us to relate the end to the beginning. If at the start of the epic Aeneas had his own limbs chilled and loosened (1.92: solvuntur frigore membra), he now loosens and chills the limbs of Turnus (12.951: solvuntur frigore membra) — whereas he himself is on fire (946: accensus) and metes out Junoesque death and destruction: the phrase saevi monimenta doloris at 12.945 (applied to Aeneas) recalls the irae and saevi dolores of Juno at 1.25, the wrath she feels at injustices suffered and her desire for vengeance, that got the narrative of the Aeneid going.11 In the words of Highet (1974: 229):

It would be more humane to view Aeneas here as a judge executing a righteous sentence, debellans superbos. But that is not how Vergil describes him: he is killing a suppliant in a fit of passionate rage. When we first see Aeneas, in Book One, he is deathly cold. When we last see him, he is burning.

In one sense, Aeneas’ transformation could not be more radical, as he measures out the extremes of humanity: the epic tracks his mutation from victim to victor, from miserable human to larger-than-life hero, from all-too-human wretchedness to inhuman (or also all-too-human?) wrath, from supine to sublime.12 It mirrors the plot announced in the prologue, which ‘is all one long flowing sentence and one thought: from Troy to Rome, from past to present, from defeat to victory.’13 And yet, plus ça change: in one respect, Aeneas has very much stayed the same. In both scenes he exhibits emotional incontinence that results in problematic, impulsive action grounded in instinct rather than reason. If, during the storm in Book 1, he fails in his role as leader of the Trojan migrants, in Book 12 he fails to live up to the injunction he received from his father Anchises. Put differently, the epic opens and closes on scenes that show us Aeneas in the thrall of emotions that determine his actions even if these emotions (despair and anger) differ radically.

The powerful bracketing and interrelation of the opening and the end of the Aeneid operate not only on the level of characterization, but also on the level of plot. Virgil connects Aeneas’ execution of Turnus in an act of sacrificial vengeance to the future founding of Rome through the highly resonant verb condere, which means both ‘to bury’ and ‘to found’: Aeneas ‘buries’ his sword into Turnus’ chest (12.950: …ferrum adverso sub pectore condit), inviting us to recall the last line of the extended proem (1.33: tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem!: ‘such was the burden of founding the Roman race’).14 Aeneas’ last action thus amounts to a foundational gesture that recalls the epic’s programmatic opening as well as its future beyond, pointing both backwards and forwards (as good endings tend to do): after the death of Turnus (and the end of the Aeneid), the rest is (Roman) history…

And What Happens in-between Matters too

The Aeneid, then, lacks definitive closure: as J. K. Rowling would put it, ‘it opens at the close’. But the trajectory undergone by Aeneas is complete insofar as it comprises diametrically opposed, yet thematically interrelated extremes. And each book of the epic marks a distinct stage on this trajectory. To trace this development in detail here is impossible, but some particularly fraught moments (not least for a reading of Book 11) are worth noting. Halfway through the poem, Aeneas finally finds his bearings: after (almost) losing the plot in Carthage (Books 1–4) and celebrating funeral games for his dad (Book 5), he begins to focus on the future as soon as he first steps on Italian soil at the beginning of Book 6. From then on, his obsessive focus on Troy, the city he was forced to flee while it was sacked, turns into anticipation of the city he is destined to help found, even though the netherworld journey he undergoes in Aeneid 6 yet comprises both, a confrontation with his (Trojan, Carthaginian) past and his (Roman) future. In Aeneid 7, he sends ambassadors to King Latinus to arrange for a peaceful settlement in Italy (which is not to be; the return embassy happens in Aeneid 11), and in Aeneid 8 he visits Pallanteum, a settlement on the future site of Rome, where he strikes up an alliance with the resident king Evander, a migrant from Arcadia, and his teenage son Pallas, before setting out to war. At this moment, he rephrases his opening prayer: instead of wishing death on himself, he wishes it on others.15 And he also shoulders all of Roman history, on ecphrastic display on Vulcan’s shield (8.626–728). The episode of Nisus and Euryalus in Aeneid 9 offers Virgil the occasion to pioneer the aesthetics of youthful death in battle, in a warm-up act for the battle in Aeneid 10 that sees Turnus kill Pallas. When news of Pallas’ death reaches Aeneas, he turns into a veritable berserker, interrupting his killing spree only to take some captives for future (human) sacrifice at Pallas’ funeral. His last victims are the teenaged Lausus and his father Mezentius (along with his horse Rhaebus).

By the start of Book 11, Aeneas has come back to his senses: he is only a marginal character in the book, but appears poised and kingly.16 And yet together with Book 10, Book 11 adds an important element in Aeneas’ gradual transformation from pathetic whiner to furious winner: the (seemingly) paradoxical combination of pietas and furor that animates his killing of Turnus originates in his failure to return his protégé Pallas to his father Evander alive. And Aeneid 11 dwells — and dwells — and dwells some more on the dead Pallas. It is this book that cements the incommensurable obligations — and prepares for the fit of wrath — that Aeneas experiences in the final scene: he will inevitably fail to live up to the expectations of either Evander or Anchises, and can act either on his impulse to be merciful or his sense of grief and guilt. (Note that the end dramatizes conflicts not just within the respective spheres of ethics and emotions but also between them, with destructive emotions arguably winning out, even over — or at the very least fuelling — an ethics of revenge: Aeneas resembles a wrathful fury in the way he administers terminal ‘justice’. But is that ‘ethical’? or, differently, should we allow for or resist the possibility that emotions overpower ethics?) His unenviable plight at the close, at any rate, slots ineluctably into place in Book 11, in the speech of Evander.

All this goes to show: what is true of a modern novel applies also to ancient epic. For a proper appreciation of the work as a piece of creative writing, you would not just read select passages from the penultimate book. So do get yourself a translation — those by G. P. Goold in the Loeb Classical Library and by D. West in the Penguin Classics Series are excellent — and don’t miss the rest of Book 11, for a start (the Aeneid really does hang together as far, far more than the sum of its parts). This will provide the requisite background for the more detailed work on the Latin passages set by OCR — and enable you to situate them properly within the work as a whole.

2. Aeneid 11

Penultimate books occupy an odd position: they offer the build-up (or, as it were, the lull) before the grand finale. The narrative is nearing its end, so the denouement, the telos, the high drama of closure is near — but we are not quite there yet. Aeneid 11 does its penultimate status justice: it features powerful elements of (false) closure and (meaningful) continuation. After all, both the funeral of Pallas and the death of Camilla could constitute an epic end in their own right and/or provide effective anticipation of a withheld conclusion: intertextually, Pallas’ funeral reworks the funeral of Patroclus in Iliad 23 across into 24, the final books of the epic; and the line that sends off Camilla to the shades is identical to the last line of the Aeneid (11.831 = 12.952; Homer helps to imbricate Pallas and Camilla here: the reiteration of the death-sentence of Camilla for the death of Turnus alludes to Homer’s reiteration of the death-sentence for Patroclus, Pallas’ most conspicuous intertextual alter ego, at the death of Hector: Iliad 16.857 = 22.363). But in fact both only prefigure or, indeed, set up the final scene of the epic, Aeneas’ sacrificial slaughter of Turnus in retaliation for his killing of Pallas, though we are to witness neither the aftermath of his demise nor his funeral in their own right.

Apart from making a specific contribution to the epic overall, each book of the Aeneid also features its own internal design. A famous illustrated manuscript of Virgil dating to around 500 CE contains single-line and ten-line hexameter summaries of each of the twelve books of the Aeneid, written by an anonymous author (though impersonating none other than Ovid).17 For Book 11, the one-liner runs Vndecimo victa est non aequo Marte Camilla (‘In the eleventh Camilla is defeated in uneven warfare’) and the ten-liner goes as follows:

Constituit Marti spoliato ex hoste tropaeum

exanimumque patri feretro Pallanta remittit.

iura sepulturae tribuit tempusque Latinis

Evander patrios affectus edit in urbe.

corpora caesa virum passim disiecta cremantur.

legati referunt, Diomeden arma negasse.

Drances et Turnus leges aequante Latino

concurrunt dictis. Aeneas imminet urbi.

Pugnatur. vincunt Troes. cadit icta Camilla.

Dein reduces castris nocti cessere monenti.

[Aeneas sets up a trophy to Mars made of enemy spoils and sends the dead Pallas back to his father on a bier. He grants the Latins the right and the time to bury their dead. In his city, Evander pours out his paternal grief. The bodies of the slain men, scattered everywhere, are burnt. Ambassadors report that Diomedes refuses to join the fray. Drances and Turnus clash in debate while Latinus weighs the terms. Aeneas threatens the city. Fighting. The Trojans are on top. Camilla, struck, falls. At nightfall, they pause and return to camp.]

As with any digest, such summaries — while handy as an aide de mémoire — are a poor substitute for the real thing. But the ten-line version usefully hints at a tripartite structure of Aeneid 11. While scholars haggle over where precisely to draw the dividing lines, they tend to agree that the book falls roughly into three parts (plus, perhaps, an epilogue). As Horsfall (2003: xi) puts it: ‘11 is formally, and formidably, tripartite:18 (a) funerals (1–224), (b) debate (225–444), and (c) battle (445–915), with complex links to the books preceding and following, and exceptionally careful transitions between the three parts.’ One possible breakdown is as follows:


Part I: 1–224: Dealing with the fallout from Book 10


1–99: Aftermath of the battle, with a focus on Pallas


100–138: Embassy of Latins


139–224: Grief of Evander; burial of the dead


Part II: 225–444: Looking towards Book 12: Council of the Latins


225–295: Speech of Venulus


296–375: Latinus’ speech and Drances’ reply


376–467: Turnus’ speech.


Part III: 445–867/915: (Preparation for) battle, with a focus on Camilla


445–521: Strategic manoeuvres, including a meeting of Turnus and Camilla (498–521)


522–867: Fighting, with a focus on Camilla


522–531: First bout; Camilla excels


532–596: Diana recounts Camilla’s backstory (and looming doom)


597–867: Further martial feats and death of Camilla, followed by that of her killer Arruns


Epilogue (to be considered part of Part III?)


868–915: Rout of the Italic forces; transition to Book 12

The fact that the book does not end with Camilla’s death feeds into the theme of ‘penultimaticity’ — of closure approaching, but not yet having quite arrived — though it is easy to be misled: ‘To the hasty reader, it might seem that bks. 10, 11 and 12 all lead up to deaths [those of Mezentius, Camilla, and Turnus], but Camilla’s is placed very deliberately not at the book’s end (one thinks of the delayed prooemium in 7! [cited above]), but with 832–915 to follow, that apparent inconcinnity will lead us to a clearer view of 11’s importance in the economy of the “plot”’ (Horsfall 2003: xi). At the same time, the pair of Pallas, the young boy on the side of Aeneas, and Camilla, the young girl on the side of Turnus, who both aspire to be warriors and meet an untimely death, still form some sort of bracket. As Fratantuono (2009: 29) puts it, with reference to some unrealized narrative potential (some opportunities for fan fiction here!): ‘[Camilla’s] death at the end of the book somewhat balances Pallas’ requiem at the beginning, so that Book XI is framed by the deaths of young proxies (and frustrated lovers) of the two central figures in the epic. No romantic or sexual relationship between Aeneas and Pallas, to be sure, and none either between Turnus and Camilla: Virgil’s point is that both pairs of potential lovers are kept from the joys of interpersonal relationships by the present war in Italy.’ (A significant death functions as a device of (preliminary) closure also elsewhere in the epic: at the end of Book 2, we get the death or disappearance of Aeneas’ first wife Creusa, followed by the death of Anchises (end of 3), the death of Dido (end of 4), the death of Marcellus (end of 6), and the death of Mezentius (end of 10) — all building up to the death of Turnus (end of 12).)

Aeneas’ role in Aeneid 11 is important, yet marginal when compared to the way he dominates the narrative elsewhere in the epic. (The temporary marginalization of the protagonist has Homeric precedents: in the Iliad, Achilles sulks in his tent for long stretches and Odysseus does not enter the narrative of the Odyssey until Book 5.) There is no one single character who unifies the book: Aeneas, Evander, Drances, Turnus, Tarchon, Diomedes, and Diana all play more or less significant roles. But the two figures who provide the parts of the book chosen by OCR with a bipolar centre of gravity are Pallas and Camilla.

Part I: Pallas

The son of the Greek exile Evander and his Italian wife, Pallas is also a distant relative of Aeneas, with Atlas as common ancestor. His line produced both Dardanus, the founder of Troy and one of the ancestors of Aeneas, and (with Maia and Mercury in the lineage) Evander and hence Pallas.19 (At Aeneid 8.134–41, Aeneas invokes their common ancestry in his appeal to Evander to enter into a military alliance; in the Greek world in particular such appeals to kinship, however remote or mythical, constituted a pervasive element in international diplomacy.)

The etymology of the (loquaciously speaking) name combines, among other options, a nod to his youth (the Greek term πάλλαξ designates a person in their teens) with a reference to warfare, more specifically the brandishing of a spear (πάλλω: ‘to poise or sway a spear’), which is what Pallas does on his first encounter with Aeneas; and that’s how he dies.20 The name also evokes a Latin term for mantle (palla), a Greek term for girl (παλλακή), the name of the legendary settlement on the Tiber that will morph into Rome (Pallanteum) and the Palatine Hill, which, in the Aeneid, is central ‘to the power of Rome’ (Spence 1999: 154). Pallas also has a divine alter ego, Pallas Athene; together they are part of an important process of transformation that runs through the entire poem: ‘in the first half of the poem the name Pallas refers only to Minerva; in the last half, with one exception, it refers only to Evander’s son. The glissage is important as it suggests a shift in register from Trojan to Italian. On the literal, linguistic level “Pallas” never disappears: she is transformed from an Olympian force to an Italian one’ (155).21 Other key themes of the Aeneid associated with Pallas include his role in Virgil’s creative transformation of Homer (his most important intertextual alter ego is the figure of Patroclus in the Iliad) and his multiethnic background — as offspring of a migrant Greek father and an indigenous Italic mother he is part of the melting pot of prehistoric Italy, even before the Trojans are thrown into the mix.

Pallas enters the narrative at 8.102–25, at the moment Aeneas arrives at the future site of Rome:22

Forte die sollemnem illo rex Arcas honorem

Amphitryoniadae magno divisque ferebat

ante urbem in luco. Pallas huic filius una,

una omnes iuvenum primi pauperque senatus


tura dabant, tepidusque cruor fumabat ad aras.

ut celsas videre rates atque inter opacum

adlabi nemus et tacitos incumbere remis,

terrentur visu subito cunctique relictis

consurgunt mensis. audax quos rumpere Pallas


sacra vetat raptoque volat telo obvius ipse,

et procul e tumulo: ‘iuvenes, quae causa subegit

ignotas temptare vias? quo tenditis?’ inquit.

‘qui genus? unde domo? pacemne huc fertis an arma?’

tum pater Aeneas puppi sic fatur ab alta


paciferaeque manu ramum praetendit olivae:

‘Troiugenas ac tela vides inimica Latinis,

quos illi bello profugos egere superbo.

Evandrum petimus. ferte haec et dicite lectos

Dardaniae venisse duces socia arma rogantis.’


obstipuit tanto percussus nomine Pallas:

‘egredere o quicumque es’ ait ‘coramque parentem

adloquere ac nostris succede penatibus hospes.’

excepitque manu dextramque amplexus inhaesit;

progressi subeunt luco fluviumque relinquunt.


[It happened that on that day the Arcadian king [= Evander] was performing customary rites in honour of Amphitryon’s mighty son [= Hercules] and the gods in a grove outside the city. With him his son Pallas, with him all the foremost of the young men and his humble senate were offering incense, and warm blood smoked at the altars. When they saw the tall ships [of Aeneas], saw them gliding up through the shady woods and plying their oars in silence, they are alarmed by the sudden sight, and rise up as one, abandoning the tables. But Pallas, boldly, forbids them to break off the rites and, seizing his spear, rushes to meet the strangers himself, and from a mound at a distance calls: ‘Men, what is it that has driven you to try unknown paths? Where are you going? What race are you? From what home? Are you bringing us peace or war?’ Then father Aeneas replied from the high stern, holding out in his hand a branch of peaceful olive:23 ‘You see men of Trojan stock and arms hostile to Latins — exiles whom they have driven here by insolent warfare. We seek Evander; bear this message, and say that chosen captains of Dardania have come, seeking alliance in arms.” Pallas was astounded, struck by that mighty name. ‘Come forth’, he cries, ‘whoever you are; speak to my father face to face, and come as a guest into our house!’ And with a grasp of welcome he caught and clung to his hand. Advancing, they enter the grove and leave the river.]

At the moment of departure for war, he shines as bright as the Morning Star (8.585–91; at 11.1–4, the actual Morning Star continues to shine brightly, whereas Pallas’ star has flamed out):

Iamque adeo exierat portis equitatus apertis


Aeneas inter primos et fidus Achates,

inde alii Troiae proceres; ipse agmine Pallas

it medio chlamyde et pictis conspectus in armis,

qualis ubi Oceani perfusus Lucifer unda,

quem Venus ante alios astrorum diligit ignis,


extulit os sacrum caelo tenebrasque resolvit.

[And now the horsemen had departed through the open gates, Aeneas among the first with loyal Achates, then other leaders of Troy; Pallas himself rides in the middle of the column, conspicuous in mantle and brightly coloured armour — just like the Morning Star, whom Venus loves above all the starry fires, when, bathed in Ocean’s wave, he lifts up his sacred head in heaven and dispels the darkness.]

The reference to Venus has an ominous ring: Pallas is not someone the goddess of love particularly cares about: she is invested above all in Aeneas’ ‘real’ son Ascanius, who, as Iulus, vouchsafes her centrality in the story of Rome. By contrast, the death of Aeneas’ surrogate son Pallas does not seem to affect her personally — however much it will traumatise and brutalise Aeneas. On the battlefield, an ‘almost encounter’ of Pallas with Lausus, the son of Mezentius, offers Virgil the opportunity to linger on the beauty and the tragedy of these two teenage warriors (10.433–38):24

hinc Pallas instat et urget,

hinc contra Lausus, nec multum discrepat aetas,

egregii forma, sed quis Fortuna negarat


in patriam reditus. ipsos concurrere passus

haud tamen inter se magni regnator Olympi;

mox illos sua fata manent maiore sub hoste.

[On one side Pallas presses and strains, on the other Lausus; they were almost of the same age, and outstanding in beauty, but to them fortune had denied return to their homeland. But the king of great Olympus did not permit them to meet face to face; soon his own fate awaits each at the hands of a greater enemy.]

For Lausus, the ‘greater enemy’ is Aeneas; for Pallas, it is Turnus, who kills him in an unequal duel (10.439–509). Virgil adds narratorial comments on the future trajectory of both the killer and the killed. As Turnus glories over the belt he stripped from Pallas, an authorial aside prefigures his downfall in a reversal of fortune (10.501–2):

nescia mens hominum fati sortisque futurae

et servare modum rebus sublata secundis!

[The mind of humans is ignorant of fate and what the future holds in store and observes no measure when it is raised up by good fortune.]

Pallas receives the following tragic ovation (10.507–9):

o dolor atque decus magnum rediture parenti,

haec te prima dies bello dedit, haec eadem aufert,

cum tamen ingentis Rutulorum linquis acervos!

[Great grief and great glory about to return to your father! This day first gave you to war, this same day takes you away, and yet you still leave behind enormous heaps of Rutulians killed.]

As a teenage warrior killed in battle, Pallas joins other youthful figures who suffer a ‘premature death’ (mors immatura), such as Icarus, Marcellus, the son of King Latinus, Euryalus, Lausus, Camilla, and Turnus:25 ‘The puer, innocent and inexperienced, is drawn to the attractions of heroism; the rewards and values of the heroic world emerge as illusions, which threaten and finally destroy childhood and the values it represents’ (Petrini 1997: 48). Pallas thus personifies the inextricable imbrication of dolor (‘grief’) and decus (‘glory’) that is a tragic hallmark of the Aeneid. The themes of grievous death and its (potential) sublimation in glory pervade Book 11 as well.

As Aeneas’ surrogate son he is a complementary figure to Aeneas’ biological son Ascanius/Iulus: they are (inverted) doubles of each other. Ascanius embodies the prospects of a prosperous future realized, whereas Pallas entombs the hope of a future foiled.26 As representatives of triumph and tragedy, they ensure that Aeneas is a particularly complex father figure as he shares equally in both plots. As father of Ascanius/Iulus, the one young warrior who defies the odds (though is still associated with death and destruction, but of the collateral kind), he partakes in purposeful history and the story of teleological success; as father of Pallas, he experiences piercing personal loss. Together, Ascanius/Iulus and Pallas highlight both the continuity of lineage and the fragility of generational succession — a live topic not least in the late 20s BCE after the untimely death of Augustus’ heir apparent, Marcellus!

A Glance at Part II

The opening portion of the book is unremittingly bleak as the two warring parties attend to their dead. At the very centre of the funeral proceedings are the two father figures of Pallas: his biological father Evander and his surrogate father Aeneas — bound to each other previously in friendship and alliance and now also through Pallas’ corpse, the agony of guilt, and hatred for his killer. Tragic and destructive emotions prevail, from inconsolable grief to savage wrath to an all-consuming desire for vengeance. The middle part of the book (finessed from the OCR selection) lays the groundwork for the renewal of hostilities. Even though the Latin ambassadors are unable to secure the services of Diomedes (a Greek hero who fought at Troy and has now settled in Italy — and proves unwilling to fight Aeneas a second time), the Latin war council, which pitches the pro-Trojan appeaser Drances against Turnus, gets nowhere near settling what to do about the conflict before it is interrupted by the enemy at the gate and then it’s action stations.

Part III: Camilla

After some preliminary war-talk and strategic manoeuvres, battle resumes in Part III.27 While Turnus lies in ambush, the Volscian princess Camilla takes centre stage. Before turning into an ancient prototype of such contemporary action heroines as Wonder Woman, Jennifer Lawrence’ Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), or Lucy Lawless’ Xena Warrior Princess, she lived her life as a devotee of the goddess Diana — and soon after her entry on the battlefield, Diana herself appears in Virgil’s narrative to give us this backstory (as well as what the future has in store): Camilla is doomed to die, and Diana instructs her divine attendant Opis to avenge her death instantly, killing the killer.

As far as we can tell, Camilla is (very much like Nisus and Euryalus and various other characters in the Aeneid) a Virgilian invention, even though she too has an entire host of intertextual alter egos: ‘the general category of “warrior princess” rests massively upon (i) heroic figures of early Roman legend such as Cloelia, (ii) Artemisia, princess of Caria in Xerxes’ time (perhaps), and (iii) Greek mythological figures, Amazons in general (e.g. Penthesilea and Hippolyte) and other devotees of Artemis such as Hippolytus and (Call. H. 3.204) Opis.’28 Camilla’s first entry into the narrative occurs in Book 7, where she occupies an exposed position at the end of — indeed beyond — the catalogue of Italic forces that gather to fight the Trojan arrivals (7.803–17, the concluding lines of the book):

Hos super advenit Volsca de gente Camilla

agmen agens equitum et florentis aere catervas,

bellatrix, non illa colo calathisve Minervae


femineas adsueta manus, sed proelia virgo

dura pati cursuque pedum praevertere ventos.

illa vel intactae segetis per summa volaret

gramina nec teneras cursu laesisset aristas,

vel mare per medium fluctu suspensa tumenti


ferret iter celeris nec tingeret aequore plantas.

illam omnis tectis agrisque effusa iuventus

turbaque miratur matrum et prospectat euntem,

attonitis inhians animis ut regius ostro

velet honos levis umeros, ut fibula crinem


auro internectat, Lyciam ut gerat ipsa pharetram

et pastoralem praefixa cuspide myrtum.

[Last of all Camilla of the Volscan race arrived, leading a squadron of cavalry shining in bronze, a warrior maiden, who never trained her female hands to Minerva’s distaff or basket of wool, but was a tough maiden able to endure battle and in speed of foot outpace the winds. She could have flown across the top of an unmowed cornfield and not have damaged the tender ears in her course or sped across the middle of the sea poised above the swelling wave and not touched the water with her feet. All the youth, pouring forth from homes and fields, and a crowd of mothers gaze at her in amazement as she comes, stricken and dumbfounded at how royal splendour veils her smooth shoulders in purple, how a clasp entwines her hair with gold, how she carries a Lycian quiver and the pastoral myrtle with the tip of a spear.]

Camilla thus rides into the narrative fully dressed in royal purple and gold, leading a cavalry squadron of her people, the Volscians — though despite appearing on horseback, the poet is keen to stress the supernatural swiftness of her foot-speed, which brings to mind Achilles.29 Curiously, given what we are told in Book 11, the only (very oblique) hint of her affiliation with Diana in the catalogue entry is the Lycian quiver she is wearing, which might be an allusion to Grattius, Cynegetica 124–6, where this particular piece of equipment is specifically associated with the goddess:30

ipsa arcu Lyciaque suos Diana pharetra

armavit comites: ne tela relinquite divae:

magnum opus et volucres quondam fecere sagittae.

Diana herself has armed her companions with bow and Lycian quiver: do not set aside the weapons of the goddess: at times also swift arrows accomplished a great deed.

As Kayachev (2018: 99) points out, ‘this short passage sums up, as it were, the career of Camilla in the Aeneid’ — though since the date of Grattius’ composition is uncertain it is impossible to establish with certainty who is alluding to whom here.31 Still, also on the intratextual level, the Lycian quiver puts Diana (however indirectly) into the picture: her twin brother Apollo is said at Aeneid 4.145 to leave ‘wintry Lycia’ (hibernam Lyciam) in a simile that compares him to Aeneas.32

Already in Aeneid 7 Camilla is a figure of (false) closure. As Rogerson (2017: 143) puts it: ‘Camilla can be viewed as an appendix to the mini-epic provided by the Italian catalogue in Book Seven, which mirrors the opening and close of the Aeneid by beginning with primus… ab oris (647) and ending with an act of foundation (conditur, 802). She is thus also “outside” the epic in a meta-literary sense, being relegated to a position beyond the end of the mirror within the text that the catalogue provides.’ Her extraneousness extends to the realm of ideology (Xinyue 2017: 170):

set against the background of a conventional and typically Roman public occasion, filled with a nameless but familiar crowd of married women and youths, the entry of Camilla — a strikingly dressed bellatrix — destabilises the roles of men and women in military-political rituals. For the contemporary readers of the Aeneid, the entry of the cross-dressed Camilla can be seen as a transgression of Roman norms, an intrusion of the ‘other’ into the male domain of warfare and military rituals that challenges the power, prominence, and authority of men.

Camilla’s appearance in an appendix to a catalogue has important inter- and intratextual parallels, recalling the catalogue of ships in Iliad 2, the position of Artemisia in Herodotus’ catalogue of the forces of Xerxes (Histories 7.99), and the placement of Penthesilea in the ecphrasis of the decorative reliefs that adorn Juno’s temple in Aeneid 1.33 This passage is worth a closer look since Virgil (as part of the set text) calls Camilla an ‘Amazon’ and compares her explicitly to Penthesilea who gets her own moment of monumental glory at 1.488–97:

Se quoque principibus permixtum adgnovit Achivis,

Eoasque acies et nigri Memnonis arma.

Ducit Amazonidum lunatis agmina peltis


Penthesilea furens, mediisque in milibus ardet,

aurea subnectens exsertae cingula mammae,

bellatrix, audetque viris concurrere virgo.

[He also recognized himself intermingled with the Greek leaders and the Eastern ranks and the armour of swarthy Memnon. Penthesilea in fury leads the ranks of the Amazons with their crescent shields and blazes amid her thousands, wearing a golden belt beneath her exposed breast and, as warrior princess, dares to clash with men as a maiden.]

Both figures operate as virgo in a world of men (viri), which turns each into a virago and bellatrix. And just as Camilla forms an appendix to the catalogue, Penthesilea is the last image of the ecphrasis: ‘Like Penthesilea, Camilla will be one of the last to come to the defense of the beleaguered city, late in the war. Like Penthesilea, Camilla will have a retinue of female Amazonian warriors. Like Penthesilea, Camilla is doomed to die.’34 Her appearance on Juno’s temple in Dido’s Carthage associates Penthesilea with Dido (and hence also with her historical counterpart Cleopatra), and all four characters — Penthesilea, Dido, Camilla, Cleopatra — are ‘significant others’ of each other as doomed female leaders in a male world. No wonder the Italian mothers, who will reappear in Camilla’s story at regular intervals, are dumbfounded!

After this promising introduction, however, Camilla completely disappears again from the narrative until we are way into Book 11. Turnus reintroduces her during his speech at the war council (11.432–33) in essentially the same terms as the narrator did in Book 7:

est et Volscorum egregia de gente Camilla

agmen agens equitum et florentis aere catervas.

[There is also Camilla of the outstanding nation of the Volscians, leading her troop of horsemen and squadrons gleaming with bronze.]

These lines — and 463, where Turnus orders his underling Volusus to tell the Volscian squadrons to arm themselves (tu, Voluse, armari Volscorum edice maniplis) cue her re-entry a couple of lines later, when the set text starts up again.

Turnus hails her as decus Italiae (11.508). Devoted to the cause of Italy against the proto-Roman invaders from Troy as Camilla is, this is an appropriate label. For some scholars Camilla actually is (primitive) Italy (Pyy 2010: 188):

Her untameable savagery, her close connection with nature and rustic practice of religion, her violent nature and her battle-endurance could all be considered characteristics that, in the Roman mindset, were more or less attributed to the primitive past of Italy. Camilla’s romantic yet controversial role as a female warrior makes her an excellent character through which to articulate the idealised, prejudiced, and patronising views Romans held towards Italy. In a way, she seems to embody Virgil’s literary version of the Roman practice of visually presenting defeated peoples and nations through female personifications.

Her death thus prefigures early Roman expansion in Italy: ‘Her destruction figuratively breaks the spine of the headstrong warrior peoples and makes their assimilation to the Roman nation and subsequent oppression under Roman rule possible’ (Pyy 2010: 189). As such she also brings to mind Furius Camillus — however much scholars protest.35 While Bruun (2000: 54) is of course right to say that Camilla’s name has no significance for the question of the historicity of M. Furius’ cognomen, given that ‘the name is an invention of Virgil and does not derive from any ancient legends’, the inverse is not the case. In some form or another, Virgil’s epic pretends to offer a comprehensive aetiology and prefiguration of all of Roman history, from beginning to end, and part of what he creates in the figure of Camilla is a suggestive anticipation of the legendary time when Furius Camillus will establish Roman dominance over the Italian peninsula in the late fourth and early third century BCE, including a successful campaign against the Volscians, i.e. Camilla’s people. (On one level, the entire second half of the Aeneid is an aetiological prequel of Rome’s conquest of Latium and Italy: see below.) In light of Virgil’s Camilla episode, his name thereby emerges as a proleptic triumphal epithet: ‘In a way, she seems to embody Virgil’s literary version of the Roman practice of visually presenting defeated peoples and nations through female personifications’ (Pyy 2010: 188).

Just when Camilla is about to prove her prowess on the battlefield, the goddess Diana makes a sudden appearance in the narrative to recount her backstory — her parents, the origin of her name, her early years (11.532–596). What the goddess relates oozes appeal quite different in flavour from standard epic fare, starting with her father Metabus’ last-ditch decision to hitch his baby to a massive spear and hurl her across a swollen river on it, but also including her subsequent bucolic nursing on unpasteurized mare’s milk, which Metabus squirts straight from the teats into her mouth (short of lactating himself, he is both father and mother to his baby girl at once). While Diana fills in much, her story also contains — indeed creates — significant gaps. In particular, she never explains how Camilla managed to morph from a Diana-devotee dressed in hides and hunting wild game in the woods into the bejewelled warrior princess who explodes onto the scene in Aeneid 7, decked out in purple (7.814–15) and gold (7.815–16).36 As Pyy (2010: 182) puts it: ‘Although Virgil explicitly mentions in 11, 568–572 that Camilla was raised in the wilderness, as no city welcomed Metabus and his daughter, at the end of Book 7 she is depicted as sovereign leader of the Volscian troops, and as a warrior-queen highly identified with her people. Without further explanation, a savage hermit and daughter of a hated tyrant is transformed into a plenipotentiary member of society and the self-evident leader of her people.’ On the principle that clothes make the (wo)man, her decision to spruce up her sylvan attire carries a doubly negative charge grounded in prejudices to do with ethnicity and gender: her opulent dress associates her with the East, which carried connotations of effeminacy in Roman thought, and suggests that under the tough exterior of the virago lurks a ‘feminine’ sensibility, according to the gender stereotype that women are particularly liable to fall for the lure of luxury.37

When Camilla goes to war, gender continues to bend: she is one epic oddball, who adds to the book’s battle scenes a spectacularly wrong-footing feminine touch. In her presence, the easy binary of ‘male’ and ‘female’ partially disintegrates, as she proves herself superior to her male counterparts, embarking on a seemingly unstoppable killing spree. It takes an intervention by Jupiter to rally the Trojans and their allies by instilling a sense of shame in the Etruscan commander Tarchon — but even the invective abuse Tarchon hurls at his men feeds into the fun: he employs vituperative stereotypes that other characters in the poem use to question the masculinity of Aeneas (and the Trojans more generally) to challenge the male pride of his troops. To prove his own mettle, he launches himself into a curious circus act (call it ‘Death Drag’) right after his speech, lifting Venulus (‘the little son of Venus’) off his horse in full gallop and, while still on horseback, (s)mothering him in a tight embrace before snuffing him with a spear-tip.

After this remarkable stunt, matters get even more bizarre with the appearance of the Trojan Chloreus — a one-time devotee of the goddess Cybele (as such presumably a eunuch) and now all decked out in gold with a plume helmet and riding a horse covered in equally precious metal formed into the shape of feathers. The attire makes rider and horse look like some monstrous fowl — but this strange bird attracts the murderous attention of Camilla who fancies the outfit herself. The attempt to trap her prey, however, cooks her goose: distracted, she falls victim to the spear of Arruns, no less of an epic misfit, even though he proclaims allegiance to the protocols of generic propriety: he trades his life to bring an end to the embarrassment caused by Camilla. There is, then, a sparkling parade of irreverent mischief going on in the narrative, blending in with — indeed leavening — the tragedy. If the opening section of the book is all funeral and no fun, with high diplomacy at half time, and then battlefield slaughter, not laughter, at the end, the quizzical moments of facetious license Virgil is taking with the limits of gender and genre surely throws into relief the sombre tone of the book — light relief.

Fig. 1 THIS STRANGE BIRD... Cataphract on camel in light scale armour. Image by Sebacalka,

After she meets her death in battle, Opis quickly dispatches her killer Arruns (11.836–67) and Camilla’s body is carried away to safety. Mothers admire Camilla in Aeneid 7, mothers wish Camilla to be their daughter-in-law in Diana’s inset narrative, mothers reappear on the scene when Camilla’s corpse is brought back to the city (11.892). While Camilla’s mother may have disappeared from the life of her daughter early on, she seems to acquire a collectivity of surrogate mothers — the mothers of Italy.38

Camilla is a challenging figure to come to terms with — interstitial, liminal, riddling. As Pyy (2010), Xinyue (2017) and others have highlighted, the ambiguities of gender inscribed in her character manifest themselves both at the level of the individual and society: Camilla alternately endorses and distances herself from her femininity, which manifests itself not least in her adoption of different dress codes — from solitary huntress and mistress of the woods dressed in hides to fashion-conscious glamour girl and warrior queen glittering with gold; and despite the fact that she is an untamed tomboy and ferocious fighter, many Etruscan mothers deem her a desirable match for their sons even though Camilla has no truck with wool-making. As the arch-typical warrior princess and virgin-virago endowed with seemingly supernatural qualities, she is an androgynous monstrosity, who combines virtuous conduct with lethal danger and defies pigeonholes and boundaries: she is unclassifiable, threatening, potent, both decus (Turnus’ view) and de-decus (Arruns’ conviction), a horrenda virgo (11.507), aspera virgo (11.664), furens virgo (11.762; cf. 709), or dira pestis (11.792). Her masculine side enables her to triumph temporarily; her feminine side will be responsible for her ultimate tragedy. She is an enigma and paradox full of internal contradictions, oscillating between (gender) roles and different stages of civilization, uniting rustic simplicity and royal splendour; she stars in a travesty and a tragedy, is ‘enarmoured’ by her mother and mothered by her father, is passionately ruthless in fighting and ruined by her passion for finery.39

In the end we might ask: is Camilla just another woman on whom Virgil lets loose his lurid patriarchal imagination? Does she manage to break the mould or does this experimentation with subversion result in reaffirmation of ideological conventions (so Xinyue 2017: 174) — while adding a sense of frisson (perhaps even a bit of frivolous fun) to the narrative?

3. Further Themes: Battle, Death, Ethnicity

To conclude this introduction it is worth drawing attention to some themes that register powerfully in Book 11 and are also important for an appreciation of the Aeneid overall.


In his proem in the middle, Virgil announces that he will sing of ‘grim wars, battle lines, and kings in their valour rushing upon death’ (7.41–2: dicam horrida bella, | dicam acies actosque animis in funera reges — the passage is cited in full above, page 4). And he makes good on this promise, with just a few moments of respite such as the visit to Rome in Book 8 or the extended coverage of funerals and diplomacy at the outset of Book 11 (before we rev up again in the final third). Battle descriptions tend not to be the part of the epic that endears the poem to modern readers.

For many, the first impulse in coming to terms with this material is to establish some historical distance between ‘us’ and ‘them’. As we all know, Roman culture was profoundly militaristic, operated according to a code of values that placed a premium on battlefield prowess as the supreme articulation of manliness (virtus), indulged in blood sports and gladiatorial spectacles as popular entertainment, and continued a longstanding tradition of battle description as the ne-plus-ultra of the literary sublime (since Homer). But such historicizing efforts will only get us so far in coming to terms with Virgil’s text.

There may well have been, among Virgil’s Roman readers, ‘connoisseurs of carnage’, who licked their chops in nostalgic euphoria when he serves up squirting blood, spilling guts, and severed limbs.40 But reader responses to literary violence will have been as varied in antiquity as they are today. We know from Ovid (who is of course hardly an unbiased witness) that the favourite bit of the Aeneid for many Roman readers was the love affair and cave romp of Dido and Aeneas in Book 4 (Tristia 2.533–6). Conversely, the graphic depiction of battle or blood-curdling violence at mind-numbing length has remained part and parcel of cultural production, across such media and genres as DVD nasties, video games, shockumentaries, but also Hollywood blockbusters. The spectacular cinematography of the landing at Omaha Beach on 6 June 1944 in the ‘epic war film’ Saving Private Ryan (1998, directed by Steven Spielberg) is as gut-wrenching and horrifying as anything in Virgil, with its hyperrealistic portrayal of the realities of modern-day combat.

So instead of opting for an all-too-easy dichotomy of ‘them’ and ‘us’, literary depictions of battle invite exercises in comparing and contrasting that explore similarities and differences across time and cultures. Battle is an extreme situation, in which one and the same deed can be both admirable (in terms of skills or courage) and abhorrent (the casualties and the carnage, humans killing humans); and Virgil may work to ‘moralize’ his choreography of killing, but he also brings on so many of the dark sides of ‘dirty war’ and concocts so many unhinged, mutant versions of combat, you have to wonder if he means this to stick.


Death is a key aspect of the human condition: ultimately, every one of us is destined to die;41 yet ideas about what death ‘means’ and how best to cope with it vary significantly (Edwards 2007: 9):

Death is of course a universal phenomenon. It is a truism that the consciousness of death is what renders us specifically human. Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, for instance, articulates a distinction between verenden ‘perishing’ — what animals do — and sterben ‘dying’ — what humans do, which underlies his characterisation of human existence. Schopenhauer termed death ‘the must of philosophy’. For some critics much of what might be termed culture is precisely a response to the fact of death. Different cultures have developed radically different ways of making sense of death.

This coincidence of ineluctable universality and cultural specificity again invites contrastive comparison of the diverse and complex protocols that cultures have evolved to cope with the prospect, the experience and, for the survivors, the aftermath of death.42 As a biological and social event that constitutes a radical and irrevocable rupture, death also helps to bring a host of other concerns sharply into focus. The Roman discourse on death, for instance, ‘is rooted in other aspects of Roman culture — anxieties about gender difference, social differentiation, personal identity, national identity, political change. The language Romans use to talk about death is of fundamental importance here […] for instance, the idea of death as a particularly testing form of combat for the soldier-subject; death as an aesthetic artefact wrought by a self-conscious artist; death as a brutal act of rape.’43

Epic poetry is a privileged site for exploring death — from Homer onwards, and not just because of the serial killings that happen on the battlefield.44 The Iliad stars a hero who faces the choice between a long life in obscurity and death at a young age in return for immortal epic fame (kleos); and the Odyssey, which celebrates the ultimate survivor, includes an interview with Achilles in the Underworld that renegotiates his previous preferences: praised by Odysseus for the royal status and respect he enjoys in the nether regions, Achilles cuts through the empty verbiage by stating that he would exchange his kingship among the dead for servant status among the living (11.465–503). Death and its significance also forms a privileged site of Virgil’s creative engagement with Homeric precedents. To pick out just one striking example: for the overall ideology of both the Iliad and the Odyssey it is absolutely vital that the fathers of Achilles and Odysseus are still alive when their epics end: in Iliad 24, it is Achilles’ recognition that his father Peleus back home will soon grieve for his slain son in exactly the same way that Priam is now grieving for Hector that enables his feeling of sympathy with his bitter foe; and the final scene of Odyssey 24 features three generations — Laertius, Odysseus, Telemachus — shoulder to shoulder in a celebration of agnatic lineage. It is therefore striking that Virgil begins the narrative portion of the Aeneid right after Aeneas ‘lost’ his father Anchises: after the extended proem, we see the Trojan fleet off the coast of Sicily (1.34); the last thing to happen before they set sail (as we find out at the end of Book 3, in the final chapter of Aeneas’ long retrospect) is the death of Anchises. Why did Virgil start his epic here — and not (say) with the sack of Troy and Aeneas carrying his ageing father from the burning city, with his own son in hand (probably the most famous image of our hero)? Part of the reason for this narrative arrangement (and the poignant departure from Homer it entails) might have to do with the strikingly patriarchal outlook of Roman culture, where a son, however old himself, remained technically speaking under paternal jurisdiction (patria potestas) as long as his father was alive. Put differently, the Aeneid begins at precisely the moment when, in Roman terms, Aeneas’ legal status changed from alieni iuris (being under the legal control of someone else) to sui iuris (being a legally independent person) on account of his father’s death. (The fact that he starts up a love affair with a foreign queen and forgets about his mission right after Anchises and his patria potestas died flags up the importance of paternal discipline and guidance…)

If the first half of the Aeneid focuses on Aeneas in his role as son, the second half shifts the emphasis to his role as father. Here, too, as we already had occasion to note, death remains a potent theme. But whereas the first half of the poem predominantly features the ‘natural’ sequence of children burying their parents (Aeneas celebrates elaborate funeral games for his father in Aeneid 5), the second half focuses on the inverse, as parents bury their children, who have died a premature death (mors immatura) in violation of the natural order.45 By conflating two arch-Roman institutions, the aristocratic funeral procession for former magistrates (pompa funebris) and the victory parade (pompa triumphalis), in his account of Pallas’ return to Pallanteum on a bier, Virgil entwines triumph and tragedy, grief and glory, in a meditation on the (public) benefits and (personal) costs of martial exploits and imperial ambition. The premature deaths of both Pallas and Camilla also enable Virgil to construe an interface between (erotic) beauty and (lethal) violence and explore the ethics and emotions of revenge killings.


In the second half of the Aeneid, the Trojan troopers around Aeneas have a paradoxical status: they are, simultaneously, both wretched refugees of war and entitled imperialists — aggressive arrivals who have fled from their war-torn native land but in turn impose themselves on the indigenous population of their new home country, in a step towards the foundation of a city destined to conquer the globe. Historically speaking, the first step in the gradual assimilation of Rome and the world, urbs and orbis, was the conquest and enfranchisement of Italy — a process not concluded until the first century BCE, involving a long, brutal, and complex history of interaction, spanning more than half a millennium.46

The second half of the Aeneid (p)reconceives this chapter in Roman history, by celebrating the multi-ethnic composition of primitive Italy, dramatizing the clashes with (proto-)Rome, and anticipating the gradual emergence of Italy unified under Roman rule. In his catalogue of the Italian forces in Aeneid 7, for instance, which concludes with the figure of Camilla, Virgil brings out ‘the diversity of Italy’s peoples, who range from romantic figures with the aura of Grecian mythology about them to rough bandits from the hills.’47 Faced with an Italic alliance, Aeneas responds by forming an alliance of immigrants: the Etruscans, the Arcadians, the Trojans — while the Greeks who fought in Troy and have settled in Italy now hold their peace (and, through this abstention, tacitly support Aeneas). But lines between indigenous people and new arrivals are anyway persistently blurred: Aeneas’ ancestor Dardanus hails from Italy and even before his arrival (or ‘return’), Italy had been the destination of settlers from the East who intermarry with the native population.48 The Arcadian Evander took a Sabine wife, the mother of his son Pallas, and the Etruscans, who originally also came to Italy from the Greek East, experience an internal division, in which their exiled tyrant Mezentius ends up on the side of Turnus, whereas the king-priest Tarchon, in many ways an alter ego of Aeneas (Nielson 1984), abides by the divine order to look to foreign leaders in the quest for justice (8.502–3).

While acknowledging diversity and differences in ethnic background, Virgil nevertheless configures Italia, however proleptically, as a unified geopolitical entity — in anticipation of late-republican figures such as Cicero and, in particular, Augustus, who used the notion of tota Italia to authorize his campaigns against Antony at Actium (Res Gestae 25).49 Virgil writes with this historical telos firmly in mind. See Patterson (2006b: 622), who also identifies Virgil’s own place in this story:

According to the Res Gestae, ‘all Italy of its own accord’ swore an oath of allegiance to Octavian (RG 25.2). The Italy of Augustus was, however, strikingly different from the Italy of three centuries, or even one century, previously. Local languages, forms of funerary commemoration, and other traces of local identity were rapidly disappearing, swept away by decades of civil war, enforced military service, and the settlement of veterans. The peninsula now formed a unified political unit […]. The Italian elites now looked to Rome, and more specifically to the Princeps, rather than to the Greek world, for models to follow in a new phase of urban embellishment. No longer could it be said that the Italians lacked a voice, however: the Augustan era was in many ways the golden age of the Italian elites, as the new Princeps was surrounded by ambitious and upwardly mobile Italians and the new regime was commemorated, honored, and satirized by poets and historians from all over the peninsula: Virgil from Mantua, Ovid from Sulmo, Horace from Venusia, Propertius from Asisium, and Livy from Patavium.

The second half of the Aeneid explores the multi-ethnic diversity of pre-Roman Italy; and prefigures the (partial) erasure of specific local identities and ethnic groupings, as all of Italy (tota Italia) will ultimately be subsumed under Roman hegemony.50 The Trojans around Aeneas make an important contribution to this story: they import many a prototypical variant of cultural scripts that will mingle with indigenous customs to evolve into Roman culture (although remember: many of the Trojan elements that the epic presents as proto-Roman are only identifiable as such via the aetiological confections of Virgil’s Aeneid…). In this process, the Trojans will lose significant aspects of their original cultural identity, such as language and dress.

Extra Information: The Ultimate Deal

The ethnic discourse of Book 11 helps prepare the final bargain between Jupiter and Juno towards the end of Aeneid 12. Just before the terminal showdown between Aeneas and Turnus, Jupiter requests that Juno cease her opposition to fate, which includes the successful settlement of the Trojans in Italy and Aeneas’ marriage to Latinus’ daughter Lavinia, as a stepping stone towards the eventual founding of Rome. Here is the tailend of their ensuing exchange (Aeneid 12.819–40, Juno speaking):


illud te, nulla fati quod lege tenetur,

pro Latio obtestor, pro maiestate tuorum:


cum iam conubiis pacem felicibus (esto)

component, cum iam leges et foedera iungent,

ne vetus indigenas nomen mutare Latinos

neu Troas fieri iubeas Teucrosque vocari

aut vocem mutare viros aut vertere vestem.


sit Latium, sint Albani per saecula reges,

sit Romana potens Itala virtute propago:

occidit, occideritque sinas cum nomine Troia.’

olli subridens hominum rerumque repertor:

‘es germana Iovis Saturnique altera proles,


irarum tantos volvis sub pectore fluctus.

verum age et inceptum frustra summitte furorem:

do quod vis, et me victusque volensque remitto.

sermonem Ausonii patrium moresque tenebunt,

utque est nomen erit; commixti corpore tantum


subsident Teucri. morem ritusque sacrorum

adiciam faciamque omnis uno ore Latinos.

hinc genus Ausonio mixtum quod sanguine surget,

supra homines, supra ire deos pietate videbis,

nec gens ulla tuos aeque celebrabit honores.’


[‘… This boon, banned by no law of fate, I beg of you for Latium’s sake, for your own kin’s greatness: when at last with happy bridal rites—so be it!—they fashion peace, when at last they join in laws and treaties, do not command the native Latins to change their ancient name, nor to become Trojans and be called Teucrians, nor to change their language and alter their attire: let Latium be, let Alban kings endure through ages, let it be a Roman stock, strong in Italian manliness: Troy is fallen, and fallen let her be, together with her name!’ Smiling on her, the creator of men and things replied: ‘You are Jupiter’s true sister, and Saturn’s other child: such waves of wrath surge deep within your breast! But come, allay the anger that was stirred in vain. I grant your wish and relent, willingly won over. Ausonia’s sons shall keep their fathers’ speech and ways, and as it is now, so shall their name be: the Teucrians shall sink down, merged in the mass. I will give them their sacred laws and rites and make them all Latins of one tongue. From them shall arise a race, blended with Ausonian blood, which you will see surpass men, surpass gods in loyalty, and no nation will celebrate your worship with equal zeal.’]

Juno assents and the bargain is struck. But who gets the upper hand here? Jupiter or Juno? Isobel Arnaud offers the following evaluation of the divine diplomacy that unfolds in this passage:51

It is not immediately obvious where the real power lies in this exchange. The concession Juno wins seems to be substantial; the Trojans may technically conquer the Latins, but they will be subsumed within the indigenous population as though they themselves were the conquered party, contributing neither name, nor language, nor dress. As Juno herself puts it in 829, Troy and her name stay fallen. If Jupiter is really so omnipotent, how can Juno demand such a great concession? There are several indications that Jupiter manages the situation to give Juno the impression that she is winning concessions, whereas in fact he does not compromise on anything important to him. Juno’s conspicuous rhetorical efforts, and her hasty insistence that her request is not contrary to fate before she has even asked (819), suggest that she is not confident of her demands being met. In contrast, Jupiter shows not the slightest hesitation in granting her request. His immediate reaction is one of humour: olli subridens. The choice of the striking epithet hominum rerumque repertor highlights Jupiter’s supremacy and makes his laughter seem condescending and indulgent. His straightforward, unadorned use of language also contrasts with Juno’s oratorical display. This is particularly obvious at the very moment of granting the concession in 833, which is unique in the Aeneid for its succession of five monosyllables: do quod vis, et me victusque volensque remitto. Jupiter’s plain use of language suggests he is at ease, completely comfortable with this outcome, and feels no need to dress it up with rhetoric. The second half of the line ostensibly admits defeat, but it is worded so matter-of-factly that it seems more like a generous verbal gesture than a genuine concession. This impression is confirmed by volens, underlined by its alliterative juxtaposition with the antithetical victus, casually and understatedly revealing Jupiter’s real attitude towards Jupiter’s demands. Significantly, Jupiter rephrases Juno’s request in more extreme terms: commixti corpore tantum/subsident Teucri: the Trojans will sink, mingling in body only (835–6). It is not psychologically plausible that Jupiter would exaggerate a request which he had been unwilling to grant in the first place. Moreover, in 794 Jupiter had referred to Aeneas as indigetem. This is a term for quintessentially Roman gods and suggests that Jupiter had already planned the absorption of Aeneas into the indigenous culture. It seems as though Juno has demanded something inevitable, or at most immaterial, which Jupiter can easily grant at no cost to his plan, but so comfortable is he in his superior power that he magnanimously chooses to present the concession as a real victory for Juno. Furthermore, there is a suggestion in 836–7 that Jupiter’s concession is not as straightforward as it seems. He vaguely states that he will add ‘custom and sacred rites’ (morem ritusque sacrorum), despite just having promised sweepingly that the Ausonians will keep their customs (Ausonii patrium moresque tenebunt). He has agreed to Juno’s request in broad outline, but he does not allow it to get in the way of his own plans. The use of the first person in adiciam (837) is diplomatically vague, as the custom and sacred rites presumably refer to Trojan religious ritual, namely the Penates which Aeneas has been carrying from Troy and on which great emphasis has been placed throughout the poem. In accordance with Jupiter’s will, an element of Trojan custom is to be introduced to Latin culture. Far from being forced into compromise, Jupiter makes a show of conceding what is unimportant to him while his original plan remains unchanged.

1 Anderson (1999: 195).

2 For Homer and Virgil see e.g. Knauer (1964/1979) and (1964/1990) and Barchiesi (1984/2015).

3 See Aeneid 8.126–51.

4 See further Cairns (1989), ch. 8: ‘The Aeneid as Odyssey’ and Pogorzelski (2009).

5 For the notion of ‘proem in the middle’ see Conte (2007: 219–31).

6 For the notion of ‘intratextuality’ see the introduction to Sharrock and Morales (2000).

7 Keep the cited Latin (and in particular the underlined words) in mind for future reference.

8 Note that line 100 glosses the opening keynote arma virumque: arma = scuta galeasque; virum = fortia corpora + virum (which here is the syncopated genitive plural form of vir [= vir / or / um] modifying all three accusative objects). Put differently, the storms mess up, and are about to drown, Virgil’s epic…

9 For more on the end (a never-ending story) see e.g. West (1974), Gillis (1983: 85–115) (for resonances of Dido and Pallas in the final scene), Springer (1987), Spence (1999), who argues that Pallas Athena is present as a second reference in Aeneas’ invocation of Pallas, Lowrie (2005–2006) (brilliant out-of-the-box think-piece!), Freund (2008), Esposito (2016), and the commentary by Tarrant (2012), with further bibliography.

10 Recently, Fontaine (2016: 146–48) has proposed that the phrase F / furiis accensus (946) contains a double ambiguity and should be understood both in the sense of ‘ablaze with madness / the fire of the Furies’ (with accensus the perfect passive participle of accendere, and F / furiis in the ablative) and ‘harbinger of the Furies’ (with accensus as noun meaning ‘official attendant to’, construed with the dative).

11 See Aen. 1.25–6: necdum etiam causae irarum saevique dolores | exciderant animo with de Grummond (1981) and, more recently and generally, Fratantuono (2007a).

12 For Aeneas’ assimilation to the divine sphere in the second half of the Aeneid see Bacon (1986).

14 For condere in the Aeneid see James (1995); on 1.33 (and the potentially offensive singular Romanam … gentem) Gildenhard (2007).

15 Aen. 8.538–40: quas poenas mihi, Turne, dabis! quam multa sub undas | scuta virum galeasque et fortia corpora volves, | Thybri pater! (‘What penalties, Turnus, will you pay me, how many shields and helmets and bodies of brave men will Father Thybris roll beneath the waves!’).

16 For the elements that comprise the stereotype of the good king see Cairns (1989: 19–21). They include such qualities as preeminence in virtue, care for — and overseeing the affairs of — his people, devotion to peace and harmony, using good advisers, being well informed, and divine endorsement.

17 The so-called Codex Romanus (Vat. lat. 3867), printed in Shackleton Bailey’s edition of the Anthologia Latina (1982). For discussion see McGill (2018).

18 Cf. Duckworth (1961: 7).

19 Clausen (2002: 217–18).

20 Paschalis (1997: 278–80).

21 Spence (1999: 155).

22 For this initial meeting, see e.g. Smith (2005: 91–6) and the commentary by Fratantuono and Smith (2018), with a much more extensive bibliography.

23 At 7.154, Virgil refers to this contraption with the phrase ramis… Palladis, since the olive tree was sacred to Pallas Athene. The use of any such phrase here would have been too excruciatingly obvious, but we are meant to understand that Aeneas is extending ‘Pallas’ to Pallas.

24 Virgil hails Lausus as the most beautiful among the young warriors of Italy save Turnus (also a iuvenis) at 7.649–50: quo pulchrior alter | non fuit excepto Laurentis corpore Turni. For Turnus’ youthful good looks (and other qualities) see also 7.473–74: hunc decus egregium formae movet atque iuventae, | hunc atavi reges, hunc claris dextera factis.

25 Latinus’ son died young: 7.50–1.

26 For Ascanius see e.g. Merriam (2002), Rogerson (2017) and, for the contrast, Petrini (1997: 48–86 on Pallas and 87–110 on Ascanius / Iulus) and Paschalis (2018: 181).

27 Discussions include Schönberger (1966), Köves-Zulauf (1978), Horsfall (1988) (2003) (2016: 56–60), La Penna (1988), Boyd (1992), and Alessio (1993: 121–50). For early chapters in Camilla’s history of reception see Fratantuono (2005) and (2006).

28 Horsfall (2016: 56). See also Köves-Zulauf (1978: 409).

29 Both via his Homeric epithet ‘quick-footed’ and its Catullan gloss at 64.340–1: qui persaepe vago victor certamina cursus | flammea praevertet celeris vestigia cervae (‘[Achilles], who often as winner in the wide-ranging foot-race will outrun the flaming footsteps of the quick hind’). Supersonic speed (plus a weakness for gold) also associates Camilla with the Atalanta of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (who is herself modelled on Achilles).

30 The Cynegetica is a didactic epic on hunting most likely written sometime between 29 BCE and 8 CE. See Henderson (2001b) and the papers in Green (2018).

31 Kayachev goes on to consider influence either way.

32 For the Apollo simile see Gildenhard (2012: 150–57, https://www.openbook Note that her killer Arruns also carries a Lycian quiver.

33 See Boyd (1992).

34 Fratantuono (2007b: 272). In one important respect, the Penthesilea / Camilla analogy turns out to be misleading: the Amazon queen came to the aid of Troy only to be slain by Achilles, which might lead one to expect (wrongly!) that Camilla, who comes to the aid of Turnus, will be slain by Aeneas…

35 See e.g. Horsfall (2000: 521): ‘nothing to do with the Furii Camilli’.

36 Giovanni Boccaccio, Famous Women 39 fills in some details missing from Diana’s narrative, such as the fate of her mother.

37 See Xinyue (2017: 171).

38 See Rossi (2004: 117).

39 See further Basson (1986).

40 Cf. Harrison (1991: xxi–xxii).

41 General studies include: Whaley (1981), Agamben (1991), Metcalf and Huntington (1991), Baumann (1992), Morris (1992), Tarlow (1999), Holst-Warhaft (2000), Harrison (2003), Robben (2009).

42 Fascination with the cultural diversity of funerary customs is as old as Herodotus. Studies focused on death in ancient Greece (and its legacy) include Loraux (1986), Sourvinou-Inwood (1996), Derderian (2001), Garland (2001), Alexiou (1971/2002), and Tatum (2003).

43 Edwards (2007: 6). Studies focused on Rome (and its legacy) include: Toynbee (1971), Hopkins (1983), Shaw (1991), Flower (1996), Bodel (1999), Edwards (2007), Hope (2007) (2009), Erasmo (2008) (2012), the papers in Rüpke and Scheid (2009), Favro and Johanson (2010). On (the influence of) Etruria: see e.g. Prayon (2004), Taylor (2011), and the papers in Amann (2012).

44 For a recognition of Homer’s GIs, who experience a moment of epic glory only to be killed in the same instant, see Alice Oswald, Memorial: A Version of Homer’s Iliad (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012).

45 A widespread motif in sepulchral epigrams: see Griessmair (1966: 44–7) and Conte (1986: 189–90). For death ante ora parentum in the Aeneid see Sullivan (2009).

46 Italy and Rome: Crawford (1981), Millar (1995), David (1997), Ando (2002), Bradley (2007).

47 Jenkyns (1989: 36).

48 As Jenkyns (1989: 36, n. 42) stresses, with reference to 8.331–2.

49 See Fletcher (2014: 243–7 and passim).

50 For the continuing cultivation of distinct regional identities and local history also in the imperial period see Bradley (2007: 310–19).

51 In an essay written during her first year as an undergraduate at King’s College, Cambridge.