Aeneid/XII. The Death of Turnus

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XI. Councils of War Aeneid
XII. The Death of Turnus
written by Virgil, translated by A. S. Kline

When Turnus saw the Latins exhausted, and weakened
by their military reverse, himself the subject of every gaze, his own
promise to them yet unfulfilled, he burned implacably,
and unprompted, and raised his courage. As a lion, in the African
bush, severely hurt by huntsmen with a wound to the chest,
only then rouses himself to battle, tosses his shaggy mane
over his neck, in joy, and, unafraid, snaps off the spear
some poacher has planted in him, roaring from blood-stained jaws:
so the violence grew in Turnus’s inflamed heart.
Then he spoke to the king, beginning turbulently like this:
‘There’s no reluctance here, in Turnus: there’s no reason
for Aeneas’s coward crew to take back their words
or renounce their pact: I go to meet him. Carry out
the holy rite, father, and draw up the marriage contract.
I’ll either send this Trojan, this Asian deserter,
to Tartarus, (let the Latins sit and watch) and
with my sword, alone, dispel the nation’s shame,
or let him possess the defeated, let Lavinia go then as his bride.’
Latinus replied to him with calm in his heart:
‘O youth of noble spirit, the more you excel
in fierce courage, the more it is right for me to take
careful thought, and weigh every event with caution.
You have your father Daunus’s kingdom, you have
the many fortresses you captured by force,
and Latinus is not short of gold and generosity:
there are other unmarried girls, not ignoble in birth,
in the fields of Latium and Laurentium. Allow me to say this,
un-gently, openly stripped of all guile, and take it to heart:
it was forbidden for me to ally my daughter to any
of her former suitors, and all gods and men decreed it.
Conquered by love for you, conquered by kinship, and the tears
of a sorrowful wife, I broke all bounds: I snatched the betrothed
girl from my son-in-law to be, and drew the impious sword.
You see, Turnus, what events, what war dogs me,
what a heavy burden you above all bear.
Defeated in two great battles we can hardly preserve
the hopes of Italy in our city: Tiber’s streams are yet warm
with our blood, the vast plains whitened by our bones.
Why did I waver so often? What madness changed my decision?
If I’d be ready to accept the Trojans as allies with Turnus
dead, why not rather end the conflict while he’s alive?
What would your Rutulian kin say, and the rest of Italy,
if I betrayed you to death (let chance deny those words!)
while seeking my daughter in marriage?
Consider the fortunes of war: pity your aged father,
whom his native Ardea keeps apart from us, sorrowing.’
Turnus’s fury was unaffected by these words:
it mounted higher, inflamed by the treatment.
As soon as he was able to speak, he began like this:
‘Most gracious one, that concern you feel for me, I beg you,
for me, set it aside, and allow me to barter death for glory.
I too can scatter spears and no lack of steel, from my hand,
father, and blood flows from the wounds I make as well.
His goddess mother will be far from him, she who covers
his flight with mist, like a woman, and hides in empty shadows.’
But the queen wept, terrified by the new terms of conflict,
and clung to her ardent son, as if she were dying:
‘Turnus, one thing I beg of you, by these tears, by any respect
for Amata that touches your heart: you are my only hope,
the peace of my sad old age, the honour and power of Latinus
is in your hands, our whole tottering house rests on you:
do not engage in combat with the Trojans.
Whatever danger awaits you in that battle awaits me too,
Turnus: I would leave this hateful light with you
and will never, as a prisoner, see Aeneas as my son-in-law.’
Lavinia listened to her mother’s words, her burning
cheeks wet with tears, while a deep blush kindled
their fire, and spread over her glowing face.
Her virgin looks showed such colour as when one
stains Indian ivory with crimson dye, or as
white lilies redden when mixed with many a rose.
Love stirred Turnus, and he fixed his gaze on the girl:
fired still more for battle, he spoke briefly to Amata:
‘O mother, I beg you not to send me off with tears,
or like ill omens, as I leave for the battles of a bitter war:
Turnus is not free to delay his hour of death.
Idmon, as a messenger, carry my unwelcome words
to the Trojan leader. When tomorrow’s Dawn, riding
her crimson chariot, reddens in the sky, do not lead
Trojans against Rutulians, let Trojan and Rutulian
weapons rest: let us resolve this war with our own blood,
on that field let Lavinia be sought as bride.’
When he had spoken, and returned quickly to the palace, he called
for his horses, and delighted in seeing them, neighing before him,
horses Orithyia herself gave Pilumnus, as a glory,
surpassing the snow in whiteness, and the wind for speed.
Their charioteers stood around eagerly patting their echoing chests,
with the flat of their hands, and combing their flowing manes.
Turnus drew a breastplate, stiff with gold and pale bronze,
over his shoulders, fitted his sword and shield in position,
and the horns with their crimson crest: the god with the power
of fire had wrought the sword for his father, Daunus,
and dipped it, glowing, in the waters of the Styx.
Then Turnus gripped his strong spear firmly, that stood
leaning on a great column in the middle of the hall,
a spoil won from the Auruncan, Actor, shook it till it quivered
and shouted: ‘Now, o spear that never failed my call,
now the time has come: Actor, the mightiest, carried you,
and now the right hand of Turnus: allow me to lay low
the body of that Phrygian eunuch, tear off and shatter
his breastplate with my powerful hand, and defile his hair
with dust, that’s curled with a heated iron, and drowned in myrrh.’
He was driven by frenzy, glowing sparks shot
from his whole aspect, fire flashed from his fierce eyes,
like a bull, before a fight, that starts its formidable
bellowing and, trying its anger with its horns,
charges a tree-trunk, lashes the air with its blows,
and scatters the sand, as it practises for the battle.
Meanwhile Aeneas, no less fierce, armed with the weapons,
his mother’s gift, sharpened himself for conflict, and roused
his anger, happy the war might be settled by the means on offer.
Then he comforted his friends, and Iulus’s anxious fears,
speaking of destiny, and ordered them to take a firm reply
to King Latinus, and declare his conditions for peace.
The next dawn had scarcely begun to sprinkle the mountain
summits with its rays, at that time when the horses of the sun
first rise from the deep ocean, and breathe light from lifted nostrils:
the Rutulians and Trojans had measured out the field
of combat, under the massive walls of the city,
and were preparing hearths and turf altars for their mutual gods.
Others wearing priest’s aprons, their foreheads wreathed
with vervain, brought spring water and fiery embers.
The Ausonian army marched out, and their ranks, armed
with spears, poured through the crowded gates. All the host
of Trojans and Tuscans streamed out on the other side, arrayed
in their various armour, equipped with steel, as if the bitter conflict
of war called out to them. And the captains too, among their many
thousands, darted about, brilliant in gold and purple,
Mnestheus of Assaracus’s line, brave Asilas,
and Messapus, tamer of horses, son of Neptune.
As soon as each had retired to their own ground, at the given signal,
they planted their spears in the earth, and leant their shields on them.
Then women, and weak old men, and the unarmed crowd,
poured out eagerly, and gathered on towers
and rooftops, or stood on the summit of the gates.
But Juno, gazed at the plain, looking from the top of a hill
(called Alban now, then without name, honour or glory)
at the twin ranks of Laurentum and Troy, and Latinus’s city.
Immediately, goddess to goddess, she spoke to Turnus’s sister,
who ruled over lakes and echoing rivers (Jupiter, the king
of high heaven, gave her that honour for stealing her virginity):
‘Nymph, glory of rivers, dearest of all to my heart,
you know how I’ve preferred you alone of all the Latin girls
who’ve mounted unwelcome to the couch of great-hearted Jove,
and I have freely granted you a place in a part of the sky:
lest you blame me, Juturna, learn of impending grief.
Whenever Fortune allowed, and the Fates permitted
the Latin state to prosper, I protected Turnus and your city.
Now I see a warrior meeting with an unequal destiny,
and a day of Fate and inimical force draws near.
I cannot look at this combat, they agreed to, with my eyes.
If you dare do anything more for your brother in person,
go on: it’s fitting. Perhaps better things will follow for the wretched.’
She had scarcely spoken, when Juturna’s eyes flowed with tears,
and her hand struck her lovely breast three or four times.
‘This is not the moment for tears,’ said Saturnian Juno:
‘Run, and, if there’s a way, snatch your brother from death:
or stir conflict and shatter the treaty they’ve made.
I teach you daring.’ Having urged her thus, she left her
uncertain and troubled, sadly hurt at heart.
Meanwhile the kings drove out: Latinus in a four-horsed chariot
of massive size (twelve golden rays circling his shining brow,
emblems of his ancestor, the Sun), Turnus behind a snow-white
team, brandishing two spears with broad steel blades in his hand.
On the other side, Aeneas, the leader, ancestor of the Roman race,
came from the camp, ablaze with starry shield and heavenly
armour, Ascanius with him, Rome’s second great hope,
while a priest in pure robes brought the offspring
of a bristly boar, and also an unshorn two-year sheep,
and tethered the animals next to the blazing altars.
The heroes turned their gaze towards the rising sun, sprinkled
salt meal with their hands, marked the victims’ foreheads
with a knife, and poured libations from cups onto the altars.
Then pious Aeneas, with sword drawn, prayed like this:
‘Sun, be my witness, and this country that I call on,
for which I have been able to endure such labours,
and the all-powerful Father, and you Juno, his wife,
(now goddess, now, be kinder, I pray) and you, glorious Mars,
you, father, who control all warfare with your will:
I call on founts and rivers, on all the holiness
of high heaven, and the powers in the blue ocean:
if by chance Victory falls to Turnus of Italy,
it is agreed the defeated will withdraw to Evander’s city,
Iulus will leave the land, and the people of Aeneas will never
bring renewed war in battle, or attack this realm with the sword.
But if victory agrees that our contest is mine (as I think
more likely, and may the gods by their will prove it so),
I will not command the Italians to submit to Trojans nor do I
seek a kingdom for myself: let both nations, undefeated,
put in place an eternal treaty. I will permit your gods
and their rites: Latinus my father-in-law will keep his weapons,
my father-in-law will keep his accustomed power: the Trojans
will build walls for me, and Lavinia will give her name to a city.
So Aeneas was first to speak, then Latinus followed him, thus,
raising his eyes to heaven, and stretching his right hand to the sky:
‘I also swear, Aeneas, by the same earth, sea, and sky,
by Latona’s twin offspring, and by two-faced Janus,
by the power of the gods below, and the shrines of cruel Dis:
may the Father, who ratifies treaties with his lightning, hear me.
I touch the altar: I call as witness the gods, and the flames
between us, no day shall break this peace or truce on Italy’s side,
however things may fall out: nor will any power
deflect my will, not if it plunges the earth, drowned
in flood, into the waves, and dissolves heaven in hell,
just as this sceptre (since he chanced to hold the sceptre in his hand)
hewn, once and for all, from the lowest stem in the woods,
having lost its parent trunk, and shedding its leaves and twigs
to the knife, will never, now the craftsman’s hand has sheathed it
in fine bronze, and given it to the elders of Latium
to carry, extend shoots or shade from light foliage.’
They sealed the treaty between them with these words
in full view of the leaders. Then with due rite they slaughtered
the sacrificial beasts over the flames, tore out the entrails,
while they were alive, and piled the alters with heaped dishes.
But the duel had for a long time seemed unfair to the Rutulians,
and their hearts were torn by varied emotions, more so
when they saw the combatants’ unequal strength near to.
Turnus added to the unrest, in advancing with silent tread
and venerating the altar humbly, with downcast eyes,
and by his wasted cheeks and the pallor of his youthful body.
As soon as his sister, Juturna, was aware that talk was spreading
and the minds of the multitude were wavering in doubt,
she entered the heart of the army, in the guise of Camers,
whose birth was of noble ancestry, his father’s name
famous for virtue, and he himself of the bravest in arms,
she entered the heart of the army, not ignorant of her task,
sowing various rumours and speaking as follows:
‘O Rutulians, aren’t you ashamed to sacrifice one life
on behalf of so many of you ? Aren’t we their equals
in numbers and might? See, all the Trojans and Arcadians
are here, and the Etrurian band led by fate, and hostile to Turnus:
if every other man attacks, there’s barely an opponent for each of them.
Turnus will climb in glory to the gods, at whose altars
he has dedicated his life, and live borne on men’s lips:
but we will be forced to submit to proud masters,
our country lost, we who now sit inactive in the field.’
The will of the young men was roused by these words,
more and more so, and a murmur spread through the ranks:
even the Laurentines and the Latins changed their minds.
Those who had lately hoped for rest from battle, and a safe existence,
now longed for weapons, prayed for the treaty to be broken,
and pitied Turnus’s unjust fate. Juturna added another greater spur,
showing a sign in the depths of the sky, none more significant
to disturb Italian minds, and charm them by the wonder of it.
Jove’s tawny eagle, flying through reddened air,
stirred the shore-birds, with noisy confusion
in their winged ranks, when suddenly diving to the water
he seized the most outstanding swan cruelly in his curved talons.
The Italians paid attention, and (amazing to see)
all the birds wheeled, clamouring, in flight and, in a cloud,
drove their enemy through the air, darkening the sky
with their wings, until, defeated by force and the weight,
the bird gave way, and, dropping the prey
from his talons into the river, fled deep into the clouds.
Then the Rutulians truly hailed this omen with a shout
and spread wide their hands, and Tolumnius the augur was first
to cry out: ‘This, this was what my prayers have often sought.
I understand it, and recognise the gods: snatch up the sword
with me, with me at your head, o unhappy race, fragile birds,
whom a cruel foreigner terrifies with war, ravaging
your coast with violence. He will take flight and sail
far away over the deep. Close ranks, together, and defend
the king who has been snatched from you, in battle.
He spoke, and running forward hurled his spear
at the enemy: the hissing cornel shaft sang, and cut unerringly
through the air, At one with this, at one, was a mighty shout
the army all in uproar, and hearts hot with the turmoil.
The spear flew on, to where, by chance, nine handsome brothers
stood in its path, all of whom one faithful
Tuscan wife had borne to Arcadian Gylippus,
It struck one of them, a youth of great beauty, in shining armour,
at the waist, where a stitched belt rubbed against
his stomach, and the buckle bit into the overlapping ends,
pierced his ribs, and hurled him to the yellow sand.
But his spirited band of brothers, fired by grief,
drew their swords or snatched their iron spears,
and rushed forward blindly. The Laurentine ranks
charged them: Trojans and Agyllines and Arcadians
in decorated armour, poured in from the other side:
so all had one longing, to let the sword decide.
They stripped the altars, there was a fierce storm
of spears in the whole sky, and a steely rain fell:
wine-bowls and hearthstones were carried off:
Latinus himself fled, taking his defeated gods,
the treaty void. Others harnessed their chariots or leapt
on their horses, and waited with drawn swords.
Messapus, keen to destroy the truce, charging on his horse,
scared off Auletes, an Etruscan king with a king’s emblems:
the unfortunate man, as he backed away, entangled, fell,
head and shoulders, on to the altar behind him: and Messapus
flew at him furiously, spear in hand, and from his horse’s height
struck mightily at him with the massive weapon,
as Auletes begged piteously, and spoke like this, over him:
‘He’s done for: this nobler victim is given to the great gods.’
The Italians crowded round and stripped the warm body.
Against them, Corynaeus snatched a charred brand
from an altar, and aiming a blow at the charging Ebyso
dashed flames in his face: his great beard flared
and gave off a smell of burning. Corynaeus following through
his blow, clutched the hair of his stunned enemy in his left hand
and brought him to earth with a thrust of his bent knee:
then stabbed him in the side with his straight sword.
Podalirius, towered over the shepherd Alsus, pursuing him
with naked steel as he ran through the shower of spears
in the front rank: but Alsus swung his axe back,
and sliced through the front of his enemy’s brow and chin,
drenching his armour with widely spouting blood.
Harsh repose and iron slumber pressed on his eyes
and their light was sunk in everlasting night.
But virtuous Aeneas his head bared, unarmed, stretched out
his right hand, and called loudly to his troops:
‘Where are you running to? Why this sudden tide of discord?
O, control your anger! The agreement has already been struck,
and its terms fixed. I alone have the right to fight:
Let me do so: banish your fears. I’ll prove the treaty sound
with this right hand: these rites mean Turnus is already mine.’
Amidst these cries and words, see, a hissing arrow
winged its way towards him, launched by what hand,
sent whirling by whom, was unknown, as was the chance
or god that brought the Rutulians such honour:
the glorious pride in it was kept concealed,
and no one boasted of wounding Aeneas.
As soon as Turnus saw Aeneas leave the ranks, his captains
in confusion, he blazed with the fervour of sudden hope:
he called for weapons and horses as one, leapt proudly
into his chariot, and gripped the reins in his hands.
He gave many a brave man death in his swift passage.
Many he overturned half-alive, crushed the ranks under his chariot,
or seizing his spears showered them on those fleeing.
Just as when blood-drenched Mars is roused, and clashes
his shield, by the icy streams of Hebrus and, inciting war,
gives rein to his frenzied horses, so that they fly over the open plain
outrunning the south and west winds, and farthest Thrace groans
to the beat of their hooves, while around him the forms of black
Terror, Anger and Treachery, speed, the companions of the god:
with the same swiftness Turnus lashed his horses,
smoking with sweat, through the midst of the conflict,
trampling on enemies piteously slain, while the galloping hooves
splashed bloody dew, and trampled the gore mixed with sand.
Next he gave Sthenelus to death, Thamyrus, and Pholus, the latter
close to, the former at a distance, from a distance too
both sons of Imbrasas, Glaucus and Laudes, whom Imbrasus
himself had raised in Lycia, and equipped with matching armour,
to fight hand to hand, or outstrip the wind on horseback.
Elsewhere Eumedes rode through the midst of the battle,
famous in warfare, the son of aged Dolon,
recalling the grandfather in name, his father in courage
and skill, he who, in going as a spy that time to the Greek camp,
dared to ask for Achilles’s chariot as his reward:
but Diomedes paid him a different reward for his daring
and he no longer aspired to Achilles’s team.
When Turnus saw Eumedes, far over the open plain, he first
sent a light javelin after him across the long space between,
then halted his paired horses, leapt from his chariot,
onto the half-dead, fallen man, and, planting his foot on his neck,
tore the sword from his hand, and bloodied the bright blade
deep in his throat, adding these words as well:
‘See the fields, that Western Land, you sought in war:
lie there and measure it: this is the prize for those
who dare to cross swords with me, thus they build their walls.’
Then with a cast of his spear he sent Asbytes to keep him company,
Chloreus and Sybaris, Dares and Thersilochus, and Thymoetes
who was flung from the neck of his rearing horse.
As when the blast of the Edonian northerly sounds
over the Aegean deep, and drives the breakers to shore,
while brooding gusts in the sky put the clouds to flight,
so, wherever Turnus cut a path, the lines gave way,
and the ranks turned and ran: his own speed carried him on,
and, as the chariot met it, the wind tossed his flowing plume.
Phegeus could not endure his attack or his spirited war-cry:
he threw himself at the chariot and with his right hand wrenched
the heads of the swift horses aside, as they foamed at the bit.
While he was dragged along, hanging from the yoke,
Turnus’s broad-headed lance reached for his exposed flank,
tore open the double-stranded mail where it entered,
and grazed the surface of the flesh in a wound.
Phegeus still turned towards his enemy, his shield raised,
and was trying to protect himself with his drawn sword,
when the wheel and the onrush of the spinning axle
sent him headlong, throwing him to the ground, and Turnus,
following through, struck off his head with a sweep of his blade
between the rim of the helmet and the chain-mail’s
upper edge, and left the body lying on the sand.
While Turnus was victoriously dealing death over the plain,
Mnestheus and loyal Achates, with Ascanius
by their side, set Aeneas down inside the camp,
bleeding, supporting alternate steps with his long spear.
he struggled furiously to pull out the head of the broken
shaft, and called for the quickest means of assistance:
to cut open the wound with a broadsword, lay open
the arrow-tip’s buried depths, and send him back to war.
Now Iapyx, Iasus’s son, approached, dearest of all to Apollo,
to whom the god himself, struck by deep love, long ago
offered with delight his own arts, his own gifts,
his powers of prophecy, his lyre, and swift arrows.
But Iapyx, in order to delay the fate of his dying father,
chose knowledge of the virtues of herbs, and the use
of medicine, and, without fame, to practise the silent arts.
Aeneas stood leaning on his great spear, complaining bitterly,
amongst a vast crowd of soldiers, with Iulus sorrowing,
himself unmoved by the tears. The aged Iapyx, his robe rolled back
in Paeonian fashion, tried hard in vain with healing fingers
and Apollo’s powerful herbs: he worked at the arrow uselessly
with his hand, and tugged at the metal with tightened pincers.
No luck guided his course, nor did Apollo his patron help,
while cruel terror grew greater and greater over the plain,
and evil drew near. Now they saw the sky standing on
columns of dust: the horsemen neared and arrows fell
thickly in the midst of the camp. A dismal cry rose to heaven
of men fighting and falling under Mars’s harsh hand.
At this Aeneas’s mother, Venus, shaken by her son’s
cruel pain, culled a dittany plant from Cretan Ida,
with downy leaves and purple flowers: a herb
not unknown to the wild goats when winged
arrows have fixed themselves in their sides.
This Venus brought, her face veiled in dark mist,
this, with its hidden curative powers, she steeped
in river water, poured into a glittering basin, and sprinkled
there healing ambrosial juice and fragrant panacea.
Aged Iapyx bathed the wound with this liquid,
not knowing its effect, and indeed all pain fled
from Aeneas’s body, all the flow of blood ceased deep
in the wound. Now, without force, the arrowhead
slipped from the wound, following the motion of his hand,
and fresh strength returned to Aeneas, such as before.
Iapyx cried: ‘Quickly, bring our hero weapons. Why are you
standing there?’ and was first to excite their courage against
the enemy. ‘Aeneas, this cure does not come by human aid,
nor guiding art, it is not my hand that saved you: a god,
a greater one, worked this, and sends you out again to glorious deeds.’
Aeneas, eager for battle, had sheathed his legs in gold,
left and right, and scornful of delay, brandished his spear.
As soon as his shield was fixed at his side, the chain mail
to his back, he clasped Ascanius in his armed embrace,
and, kissing his lips lightly through the helmet, said:
‘My son, learn courage from me and true labour:
good fortune from others. Now my hand will protect you
in war, and lead you to great rewards. Make sure later,
when your years have reached maturity, that you remember:
let your father Aeneas, and your uncle Hector
inspire your soul, by recalling their example.’
When he spoken these words, he rushed out through the gate,
in all his strength, brandishing a great spear in his hand:
Antheus and Mnestheus with him, and their massed ranks, and all
the army streamed from the camp. Then the plain was a chaos
of blinding dust, and the quaking earth shook under the tramp of feet.
Turnus saw them advance, from the rampart opposite:
the Ausonians saw, and a cold tremor ran to the marrow
of their bones: Juturna was the first of all the Latins
to hear and recognise the sound, and she fled in fear.
Aeneas flew ahead, racing his dark ranks over the open plain,
As when the weather breaks and a storm cloud moves towards
land, over the deep ocean (ah, the hearts of wretched farmers
know if from far off, and shudder: it brings ruin to trees,
and havoc to harvests, everything far and wide is destroyed),
the gales run before it and carry their roar to the shore:
so the Trojan leader drove his ranks against the foe,
thickly they all gathered to him in dense columns.
Thymbreus struck mighty Osiris with his sword,
Mnestheus killed Arcetius: Achates killed Epulo,
Gyas killed Ufens: even Tolumnius the augur fell,
first to hurl his spear straight at the enemy.
A shout rose to heaven, and in turn the routed Rutulians
turned their backs in a cloud of dust, fleeing over the field.
Aeneas himself did not deign to send the fugitives to their death,
nor did he attack the foot-soldiers, cavalry or those hurling
missiles: he tracked only Turnus, searching through
the dense gloom, Turnus alone he summoned to combat.
Juturna, the warrior maiden, her mind stricken with fear,
knocked Turnus’s charioteer, Metiscus, from the reins, at this,
so that he slipped from the beam, and left him far behind:
she herself took his place, and guided the flowing reins
with her hands, assuming Meniscus’s voice, form, weapons, all.
As when a dark swallow flies through the great house
of some rich lord, winging her way through lofty halls
gathering tiny crumbs and scraps of food for her noisy young,
now twittering in the empty courtyards, now by the damp ponds:
so Juturna was drawn by the horses through the enemy centre
and, flying in her swift chariot, criss-crossed the whole plain,
now here, now there, she gives evidence of her triumphant brother,
not allowing him close combat, flying far away.
Nevertheless Aeneas traversed her winding course to meet him,
tracking him, calling him loudly among the ranks.
As often as he set eyes on his enemy, and tried to match
the flight of the swift horses in his course, as often
Juturna turned and wheeled the chariot.
Ah, what to do? Vainly he fluctuated on the shifting tide,
and diverse concerns called his thoughts away.
Messapus, who happened to be carrying two strong spears
tipped with steel, advanced lightly towards him,
levelled one, and hurled it with unerring aim.
Aeneas stopped, and gathered himself behind his shield
sinking on one knee: the swift spear still took off the tip
of his helmet, and knocked the plumes from the crest.
Then his anger truly surged, and incited by all this treachery,
seeing his enemy’s chariot and horses driven far off,
calling loudly on Jove, and the altars of the broken treaty,
as witness, he plunged at last into the fray,
and, aided by Mars, he awoke dreadful, savage,
indiscriminate slaughter, and gave full rein to his wrath.
What god can now relate for me such bitter things as these,
who can tell of such varied slaughter, the deaths of generals,
whom Turnus now, and now the Trojan hero, drove in turn
over the field? Jupiter was it your will that races who would live
together in everlasting peace should meet in so great a conflict?
Aeneas meeting Rutulian Sucro (in the first battle
that brought the Trojan attack to a halt) quickly struck him
in the side, and drove the cruel steel through the ribs
that protect the heart, where death come fastest.
Turnus threw Amycus from his horse, and Diores his brother,
attacking them on foot, striking one with the long lance
as he advanced, the other with his sword, then hanging both
their severed heads from his chariot carried them away
dripping with blood. Aeneas sent Talos and Tanais
and brave Cethegus to death, three in one attack,
and sad Onites of Theban name, whose mother was Peridia:
Turnus killed the brothers sent from Lycia, Apollo’s fields,
and Menoetes of Arcadia, who had hated war, but in vain:
his humble home and his living were round Lerna’s
fish-filled streams, never knowing the patronage
of the great, and his father farmed rented land.
Like fires set burning from opposite sides of a dry forest
into the thickets of crackling laurel, or foaming rivers
falling swiftly from the mountain heights, roaring
and racing seawards, each leaving its path of destruction,
so Aeneas and Turnus with no less fury swept through the battle:
now anger surged within: now their hearts which knew no defeat
were bursting: now with all their strength they set out to do harm.
As he boasted of his fathers, and the antiquity of his ancestors’
names, and all his race traced back through Latin kings,
Aeneas sent Murranus headlong with a stone, a great whirling rock,
and hurled him to the ground: beneath the reins and yoke,
the wheels churned him round, and the horses’ hooves,
forgetful of their master, trampled him under with many a blow.
Turnus met Hyllus as he charged, roaring with boundless pride,
and hurled a spear at his gilded forehead: piercing
the helmet the weapon lodged in his brain. Cretheus,
bravest of Greeks, your right hand did not save you
from Turnus, nor did the gods hide Cupencus when Aeneas
came: he set his chest against the weapon’s track,
and the bronze shield’s resistance profited the wretch nothing.
The Laurentine field saw you fall also, Aeolus,
on your back, sprawled wide on the ground.
You fell, whom the Greek battalions could not lay low, nor Achilles
who overturned Priam’s kingdom: here was the boundary
of death for you: your noble house was below Mount Ida,
that noble house at Lyrnesus, your grave in Laurentine soil.
All the lines turned towards battle, the whole of the Latins,
the whole of the Trojans, Mnestheus and fierce Serestus,
Messapus, tamer of horses, and brave Asilas,
the Tuscan phalanx, Evander’s Arcadian squadron,
each for himself, men straining with all their strength:
no respite and no rest: exerting themselves in one vast conflict.
Now his loveliest of mothers set in his mind the idea
of moving against the walls, and turning his army on the city,
swiftly, to confound the Latins with sudden ruin.
While he tracked Turnus here and there through the ranks
and swept his glance this way and that, he could see
the city, free of fierce warfare and peacefully unharmed.
Suddenly an image of a more ambitious act of war inflamed him:
he called the generals Mnestheus, Sergestus and brave Serestus,
and positioned himself on a hillock, where the rest of the Trojan army
gathered round in a mass, without dropping their shields or spears.
Standing amongst them on the high mound he cried:
‘Let nothing impede my orders, Jupiter is with us, and let
no one be slower to advance because this attempt is so sudden.
Today I will overthrow that city, a cause of war, Latinus’s
capital itself, and lay its smoking roofs level with the ground,
unless they agree to accept our rule, and submit, in defeat.
Do you think I can wait until Turnus can face battle with me,
and chooses to meet with me again, though defeated before?
O citizens, this man is the fountainhead and source of this wicked war.
Quickly, bring burning brands, and re-establish the treaty, with fire.’
He spoke, and all his troops adopted wedge-formation, hearts
equal in emulation, and advanced in a dense mass towards the walls:
in a flash, scaling ladders and sudden flames appeared.
Some ran to the gates and cut down the leading defenders,
others hurled steel, and darkened the sky with missiles.
Aeneas himself, among the leaders, raised his hand, at the foot
of the wall, accused Latinus in a loud voice, and called the gods
to witness that he was being forced into battle again,
that the Italians were doubly enemies, another treaty was broken.
Dissension rose among the fearful citizens: some commanded
the city be opened, and the gates be thrown wide
to the Trojans, and they dragged the king himself to the ramparts:
others brought weapons and hurried to defend the walls,
as when a shepherd, who’s tracked a swarm to its lair
concealed in the rock, fills it with acrid smoke:
the bees inside, anxious for safety, rush round
their wax fortress, and sharpen their anger in loud buzzing:
the reeking darkness rolls through their hive, the rocks
echo within to a blind humming, and fumes reach the clear air.
Now further misfortune befell the weary Latins,
and shook the whole city to its foundations with grief.
When Queen Amata, from the palace, saw the enemy
approaching, the walls assaulted, flames mounting to the roofs,
but no opposing Rutulian lines, nor Turnus’s army,
the unhappy queen thought Turnus had been killed
in combat, and, her mind distraught, in sudden anguish,
she cried out that she was the cause, the guilty one, the source
of evil, and uttering many wild words in the frenzy
of grief, wanting to die, she tore her purple robes,
and fastened a hideous noose of death to a high beam.
As soon as the wretched Latin women knew of the disaster,
first her daughter Lavinia fell into a frenzy, tearing at her golden
tresses and rosy cheeks with her hands, then all the crowd
around her: the wide halls echoed to their lamentations.
From there the unhappy rumour spread throughout the city:
Spirits sank: Latinus went about with rent clothing,
stunned by his wife’s fate and his city’s ruin,
fouling his white hair with clouds of vile dust,
reproaching himself again and again for not having freely
received Trojan Aeneas, and adopted him as his son-in-law.
Meanwhile Turnus, fighting at the edge of the plain,
was pursuing the stragglers now, more slowly,
and rejoicing less and less in his horses’ advance.
The breeze bore a clamour to him mingled
with an unknown dread, and the cheerless sounds
of a city in chaos met his straining ears.
‘Ah, what is this great grief that shakes the walls?
What is this clamour that rises from the distant city?’
So he spoke, anxiously grasping the reins and halting.
At this his sister, controlling chariot, horses and reins
disguised in the shape of his charioteer, Metiscus,
countered with these words: ‘Turnus, this way, let us chase
the sons of Troy, where victory forges the way ahead:
there are others with hands to defend our homes.
Aeneas is attacking the Italians, and stirring conflict:
let our hands too deal cruel death to the Trojans.
You will not leave the field inferior in battle honours
or the number you have killed’ Turnus replied to this:
‘O sister, I recognised you long ago, when you first
wrecked the truce with your guile, and dedicated yourself to warfare,
and now too you hide your divinity in vain. But who desired
you to be sent down from Olympus to suffer such labours?
Was it so you might see your unlucky brother’s death?
What can I do? What chance can offer me life?
I saw Murranus fall, before my very eyes, calling out
to me, loudly, no one more dear to me than him remains,
a mighty man, and overwhelmed by a mighty wound.
Unfortunate Ufens fell, so he might not witness our shame:
the Trojans captured his body and his armour.
Shall I endure the razing of our homes (the one thing left)
and not deny Drances’s words with my sword?
Shall I turn my back, and this country see Turnus run?
Is it indeed so terrible to die? Oh be good to me, you Shades
below, since the gods above have turned their faces from me.
I will descend to you, a virtuous soul, innocent
of blame, never unworthy of my great ancestors.’
He had barely spoken when Saces sped by, carried on a foaming
horse through the thick of the enemy, wounded full in the face
by an arrow, and calling to Turnus by name as he rushed on:
‘Turnus, in you our last hope lies, pity your people.
Aeneas is explosive in arms, and threatens to throw down
Italy’s highest citadel and deliver it to destruction, even now
burning brands fly towards the roofs. The Latins turn their faces
to you, their eyes are on you: King Latinus mutters to himself,
wavering as to whom to call his sons, towards what alliance to lean.
Moreover the queen, most loyal to you, has fallen
by her own hand, and fled, in horror of the light.
Messapus and brave Atinas, alone in front of the gates
sustain our lines. Around them dense squadrons stand
on every side, a harvest of steel that bristles with naked swords,
while you drive your chariot over the empty turf.’
Stunned and amazed by this vision of multiple disaster,
Turnus stood silently gazing: fierce shame surged
in that solitary heart, and madness mingled with grief,
love stung to frenzy, consciousness of virtue.
As soon as the shadows dispersed, and light returned to his mind,
he turned his gaze, with blazing eyes, towards the walls,
and looked back on the mighty city from his chariot.
See, now, a spiralling crest of flame fastened
on a tower, and rolled skyward through the stories,
a tower he had built himself with jointed beams,
set on wheels, and equipped with high walkways.
He spoke: ‘Now, sister, now fate triumphs: no more delays:
where god and cruel fortune calls, let me follow.
I’m determined on meeting Aeneas, determined to suffer
death, however bitter: you’ll no longer see me ashamed, sister.
I beg you let me rage before I am maddened.’
And, leaping swiftly from his chariot to the ground,
he ran through enemy spears, deserting his grieving sister,
and burst, in his quick passage, through the ranks.
As when a rock torn from the mountaintop by a storm
hurtles downward, washed free by a tempest of rain
or loosened in time by the passage of the years,
and the wilful mass plunges down the slope in a mighty rush
and leaps over the ground, rolling trees, herds and men
with it: so Turnus ran to the city walls through the broken ranks,
where the soil was most drenched with blood, and the air
shrill with spears, signalled with his hand and began shouting aloud:
‘Rutulians stop now, and you Latins hold back your spears.
Whatever fate is here, is mine: it is better that I alone
make reparation for the truce and decide it with the sword.’
All drew back, and left a space in their midst.
Now Aeneas the leader hearing the name of Turnus
left the walls, and left the high fortress,
cast aside all delay, broke off from every task,
and exultant with delight clashed his weapons fiercely:
vast as Mount Athos, or Mount Eryx, or vast as old Apennine
himself when he roars through the glittering holm-oaks
and joys in lifting his snowy summit to heaven.
Now all truly turned their eyes, stripping the armour
from their shoulders, Rutulians, Trojans and Italians,
those who held the high ramparts and those whose ram
battered at the walls beneath. Latinus himself was amazed
at these mighty men, born at opposite ends of the world,
meeting and deciding the outcome with their swords.
As soon as the field was clear on the open plain,
they both dashed quickly forward, hurling their spears first
from a distance, rushing, with shield and ringing bronze,
to battle. The earth groaned: they redoubled their intense
sword-strokes, chance and skill mingled together.
And as when two bulls charge head to head in mortal battle,
on mighty Sila or on Taburnus’s heights, and in terror
their keepers retreat, the whole herd stand silent with fear,
and the heifers wait, mute, to see who will be
lord of the forest, whom all the herds will follow,
as they deal wounds to each other with immense force,
gore with butting horns, and bathe neck and shoulders
in streaming blood, while all the wood echoes to their bellowing:
so Trojan Aeneas and the Daunian hero, Turnus,
clashed their shields, and the mighty crash filled the sky.
Jupiter himself held up two evenly balanced scales
before him, and placed in them the diverse fates of the two,
to see whom the effort doomed, with whose weight death sank down.
Turnus leapt forward thinking himself safe, rose to the full height
of his body with uplifted sword, and struck: the Trojans
and the anxious Latins cried out, both armies were roused.
But the treacherous blade snapped, and would have left the eager
warrior defenceless in mid-stroke, if immediate flight
had not saved him. He ran swifter than the east wind,
when he saw that strange hilt in his exposed right hand.
The tale is that in headlong haste, when he first mounted
behind his yoked team for battle, he left his father’s sword
behind, and snatched up the blade of his charioteer, Metiscus:
and that served him for a long while as the straggling Trojans
turned their backs, but the mortal blade flew apart
like brittle ice at the stroke, on meeting Vulcan’s
divine armour: and the fragments gleamed on the yellow sand.
So Turnus ran madly this way and that over the plain, winding
aimless circles here and there: on all sides the Trojans
imprisoned him in their crowded ring, and a vast marsh
penned him on one side, on the other the steep ramparts.
Aenaeas, no less, though his knees, slowed at times
by the arrow wound, failed him and denied him speed,
pursued and pressed his anxious enemy hotly, foot to foot:
as when a hound in the hunt presses on a stag, chasing
and barking, one found trapped by the river or hedged in
by fear of the crimson feathers: the stag, terrified
by the snares and the high banks, flies backwards and forwards
a thousand ways, but the eager Umbrian clings close
with gaping mouth, almost has him, and snaps his jaws
as though he holds him, baffled and biting empty air:
Then a clamour breaks out indeed, the pools and banks
around echo, and the whole sky rings with the tumult.
As he fled Turnus chided the Rutulians, calling on each
by name and calling out for his own familiar sword.
Aeneas in turn threatened death and immediate destruction
if any one approached, and terrified his trembling enemies
threatening to raze the city, and pressing on though wounded.
They completed five circuits, and unwound as many,
this way and that: since they sought for no paltry prize
at the games, but vied for Turnus’s life blood.
By chance this was the place where a bitter-leaved
wild olive, sacred to Faunus, had stood, a tree revered
by sailors of old, where, when saved from the sea, they used
to hang their gifts to the Laurentine god, and the votive garments:
but the Trojans had removed the sacred trunk, allowing
of no exceptions, in order to fight on open ground.
Here stood Aeneas’s spear, its impetus had carried it there,
fixed and held fast by the tough roots. The Trojan halted,
intending to pluck out the steel with his hand,
and pursue the man he couldn’t catch by running,
with his javelin. Then Turnus mad with anxiety indeed cried:
‘Faunus, pity me, I pray, and you, most gracious Earth
if I have every honoured your rites that the sons of Aeneas
have instead defiled by war, retain the steel.’
He spoke, and did not invoke the power of heaven in vain,
since Aeneas could not prise open the wood’s grip,
by any show of strength, though he wrestled long and lingered
over the strong stump. While he tugged and strained fiercely, Juturna,
the Daunian goddess, changing again to the shape of Metiscus,
the charioteer, ran forward and restored his sword to her brother.
But Venus, enraged that this was allowed the audacious nymph,
approached, and plucked the javelin from the deep root.
Refreshed with weapons and courage, one relying on his sword,
the other towering fiercely with his spear, both breathing hard,
they stood, tall, face to face, in martial conflict.
The king of almighty Olympus meanwhile was speaking
to Juno, as she gazed at the fighting from a golden cloud:
‘Wife, what will the end be now? What will be left in the end?
You know yourself, and confess you know, that Aeneas,
is destined for heaven as the nation’s god: the Fates raise him to the stars.
What are you planning? What hope do you cling to in the cold clouds?
Was it right that this god be defiled by a mortal’s wound?
Or that the lost sword (for what could Juturna achieve without you?)
be restored to Turnus, the defeated gaining new strength?
Now cease, at last, and give way to my entreaties,
lest such sadness consume you in silence, and your bitter
woes stream back to me often from your sweet lips.
It has reached its end. You have had the power to drive
the Trojans over land and sea, to stir up evil war,
to mar a house, and mix marriage with grief:
I forbid you to attempt more.’ So Jupiter spoke:
so, with humble look, the Saturnian goddess replied:
‘Great Jupiter, truly, it was because I knew it was your wish
that I parted reluctantly from Turnus and the Earth:
or you would not see me alone now, on my celestial perch,
enduring the just and the unjust, but I’d be standing, wreathed in flame,
in the battle line itself, and drawing the Trojans into deadly combat.
I counselled Juturna (I confess) to help her unfortunate brother
and approved greater acts of daring for the sake of his life,
yet not for her to contend with the arrow or the bow:
I swear it by the implacable fountainhead of Styx,
that alone is held in awe by the gods above.
And now I yield, yes, and leave the fighting I loathe.
Yet I beg this of you, for Latium’s sake, for the majesty
of your own kin: since it is not prohibited by any law of fate:
when they soon make peace with happy nuptials (so be it)
when they join together soon in laws and treaties,
don’t order the native Latins to change their ancient name,
to become Trojans or be called Teucrians,
or change their language, or alter their clothing.
Let Latium still exist, let there be Alban kings through the ages,
let there be Roman offspring strong in Italian virtue:
Troy has fallen, let her stay fallen, along with her name.’
Smiling at her, the creator of men and things replied:
‘You are a true sister of Jove, another child of Saturn,
such waves of anger surge within your heart.
Come, truly, calm this passion that was needlessly roused:
I grant what you wish, and I relent, willingly defeated.
Ausonia’s sons will keep their father’s speech and manners,
as their name is, so it will be: the Trojans shall sink, merged
into the mass, only. I will add sacred laws and rites,
and make them all Latins of one tongue.
From them a race will rise, merged with Ausonian blood,
that you will see surpass men and gods in virtue,
no nation will celebrate your rites with as much devotion.’
Juno agreed it, and joyfully altered her purpose:
then left her cloud, and departed from the sky.
This done the Father turns something else over in his mind
and prepares to take Juturna from her brother’s side.
Men speak of twin plagues, named the Dread Ones,
whom Night bore untimely, in one birth with Tartarean Megaera,
wreathing them equally in snaky coils, and adding wings swift
as the wind. They wait by Jove’s throne on the fierce king’s
threshold, and sharpen the fears of weak mortals
whenever the king of the gods sends plagues
and death’s horrors, or terrifies guilty cities with war.
Jupiter sent one of them quickly down from heaven’s heights
and ordered her to meet with Juturna as a sign:
she flew, and darted to earth in a swift whirlwind.
Like an arrow loosed from the string, through the clouds,
that a Parthian, a Parthian or a Cydonian, fired,
hissing, and leaping unseen through the swift shadows,
a shaft beyond all cure, armed with cruel poison’s venom:
so sped the daughter of Night, seeking the earth.
As soon as she saw the Trojan ranks and Turnus’s troops,
she changed her shape, suddenly shrinking to the form of that
small bird that perching at night on tombs or deserted rooftops,
often sings her troubling song so late among the shadows –
and the fiend flew screeching to and fro in front
of Turnus’s face, and beat at his shield with her wings.
A strange numbness loosed his limbs in dread,
his hair stood up in terror, and his voice clung to his throat.
But when his wretched sister Juturna recognised the Dread One’s
whirring wings in the distance, she tore at her loosened hair, marring
her face with her nails, and her breasts with her clenched hands:
‘What help can your sister give you now, Turnus?
What is left for me who have suffered so? With what art
can I prolong your life? Can I stand against such a portent?
Now at last I leave the ranks. Bird of ill-omen, do not you
terrify me who already am afraid: I know your wing-beats
and their fatal sound, and I do not mistake the proud command
of great-hearted Jupiter. Is this his reward for my virginity?
Why did he grant me eternal life? Why is the mortal condition
taken from me? Then, at least, I could end such pain
and go through the shadows at my poor brother’s side!
An immortal, I? Can anything be sweet to me without you
my brother? Oh what earth can gape deep enough for me,
to send a goddess down to the deepest Shades?’
So saying she veiled her head in a grey mantle, and the goddess,
with many a cry of grief, plunged into the river’s depths.
Aeneas pressed on, brandishing his great spear like a tree,
and, angered at heart, he cried out in this way:
‘Why now yet more delay? Why do you still retreat, Turnus?
We must compete hand to hand with fierce weapons, not by running.
Change into every form: summon up all your powers
of mind and art, wing your way if you wish
to the high stars, or hide in earth’s hollow prison.’
Turnus shook his head: ‘Fierce man, your fiery words
don’t frighten me: the gods terrify me and Jupiter’s enmity.’
Saying no more he looked round seeing a great rock,
a vast ancient stone, that happened to lie there in the plain,
set up as a boundary marker, to distinguish fields in dispute.
Twelve picked men, men of such form as Earth
now produces, could scarcely have lifted it on their shoulders,
but the hero, grasping it quickly, rising to his full height
and as swiftly as he could, hurled it at his enemy.
But he did not know himself, running or moving
raising the great rock in his hands, or throwing:
his knees gave way, his blood was frozen cold.
The stone itself, whirled by the warrior through the empty air,
failed to travel the whole distance, or drive home with force.
As in dreams when languid sleep weighs down our eyes at night,
we seem to try in vain to follow our eager path,
and collapse helpless in the midst of our efforts,
the tongue won’t work, the usual strength is lacking
from our limbs, and neither word nor voice will come:
so the dread goddess denied Turnus success,
however courageously he sought to find a way.
Then shifting visions whirled through his brain:
he gazed at the Rutulians, and at the city, faltered
in fear, and shuddered at the death that neared,
he saw no way to escape, no power to attack his enemy,
nor sign of his chariot, nor his sister, his charioteer.
As he wavered, Aeneas shook his fateful spear,
seeing a favourable chance, and hurled it from the distance
with all his might. Stone shot from a siege engine
never roared so loud, such mighty thunder never burst
from a lightning bolt. Like a black hurricane the spear flew on
bearing dire destruction, and pierced the outer circle
of the seven-fold shield, the breastplate’s lower rim,
and, hissing, passed through the centre of the thigh.
Great Turnus sank, his knee bent beneath him, under the blow.
The Rutulians rose up, and groaned, and all the hills around
re-echoed, and, far and wide, the woods returned the sound.
He lowered his eyes in submission and stretched out his right hand:
‘I have earned this, I ask no mercy’ he said,
‘seize your chance. If any concern for a parent’s grief
can touch you (you too had such a father, in Anchises)
I beg you to pity Daunus’s old age and return me,
or if you prefer it my body robbed of life, to my people.
You are the victor, and the Ausonians have seen me
stretch out my hands in defeat: Lavinia is your wife,
don’t extend your hatred further.’ Aeneas stood, fierce
in his armour, his eyes flickered, and he held back his hand:
and even now, as he paused, the words began to move him
more deeply, when high on Turnus’s shoulder young Pallas’s
luckless sword-belt met his gaze, the strap glinting with its familiar
decorations, he whom Turnus, now wearing his enemy’s emblems
on his shoulder, had wounded and thrown, defeated, to the earth.
As soon as his eyes took in the trophy, a memory of cruel grief,
Aeneas, blazing with fury, and terrible in his anger, cried:
‘Shall you be snatched from my grasp, wearing the spoils
of one who was my own? Pallas it is, Pallas, who sacrifices you
with this stroke, and exacts retribution from your guilty blood.’
So saying, burning with rage, he buried his sword deep
in Turnus’s breast: and then Turnus’s limbs grew slack
with death, and his life fled, with a moan, angrily, to the Shades.