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Ch. 26: Camilla, Evander, Nisus, Euryalus, Mezentius, Turnus

AEneas, having parted from the Sibyl and rejoined his fleet,
coasted along the shores of Italy and cast anchor in the mouth of
the Tiber. The poet Virgil, having brought his hero to this
spot, the destined termination of his wanderings, invokes his
Muse to tell him the situation of things at that eventful moment.
Latinus, third in descent from Saturn, ruled the country. He was
now old and had no male descendant, but had one charming
daughter, Lavinia, who was sought in marriage by many neighboring
chiefs, one of whom, Turnus, king of the Rutulians, was favored
by the wishes of her parents. But Latinus had been warned in a
dream by his father Faunus, that the destined husband of Lavinia
should come from a foreign land. From that union should spring a
race destined to subdue the world.

Our readers will remember that in the conflict with the Harpies,
one of those half-human birds had threatened the Trojans with
dire sufferings. In particular she predicted that before their
wanderings ceased they should be pressed by hunger to devour
their tables. This portent now came true; for as they took their
scanty meal, seated on the grass, the men placed their hard
biscuit on their laps, and put thereon whatever their gleanings
in the woods supplied. Having dispatched the latter they
finished by eating the crusts. Seeing which, the boy Iulus said
playfully, "See, we are eating our tables." AEneas caught the
words and accepted the omen. "All hail, promised land!" he
exclaimed, "this is our home, this our country!" He then took
measures to find out who were the present inhabitants of the
land, and who their rulers. A hundred chosen men were sent to
the village of Latinus, bearing presents and a request for
friendship and alliance. They went and were favorably received.
Latinus immediately concluded that the Trojan hero was no other
than the promised son-in-law announced by the oracle. He
cheerfully granted his alliance and sent back the messengers
mounted on steeds from his stables, and loaded with gifts and
friendly messages.

Juno, seeing things go thus prosperously for the Trojans, felt
her old animosity revive, summoned the Fury Alecto from Erebus,
and sent her to stir up discord. The Fury first took possession
of the queen, Amata, and roused her to oppose in every way the
new alliance. Alecto then sped to the city of Turnus, and
assuming the form of an old priestess, informed him of the
arrival of the foreigners and of the attempts of their prince to
rob him of his bride. Next she turned her attention to the camp
of the Trojans. There she saw the boy Iulus and his companions
amusing themselves with hunting. She sharpened the scent of the
dogs, and led them to rouse up from the thicket a tame stag, the
favorite of Silvia, the daughter of Tyrrheus, the king's
herdsman. A javelin from the hand of Iulus wounded the animal,
and he had only strength left to run homewards, and died at his
mistress' feet. Her cries and tears roused her brothers and the
herdsmen, and they, seizing whatever weapons came to hand,
furiously assaulted the hunting party. These were protected by
their friends, and the herdsmen were finally driven back with the
loss of two of their number.

These things were enough to rouse the storm of war, and the
queen, Turnus, and the peasants, all urged the old king to drive
the strangers from the country. He resisted as long as he could,
but finding his opposition unavailing, finally gave way and
retreated to his retirement.


It was the custom of the country, when war was to be undertaken,
for the chief magistrate, clad in his robes of office, with
solemn pomp to open the gates of the temple of Janus, which were
kept shut as long as peace endured. His people now urged the old
king to perform that solemn office, but he refused to do so.
While they contested, Juno herself, descending from the skies,
smote the doors with irresistible force and burst them open.
Immediately the whole country was in a flame. The people rushed
from every side breathing nothing but war.

Turnus was recognized by all as leader; others joined as allies,
chief of whom was Mezentius, a brave and able soldier, but of
detestable cruelty. He had been the chief of one of the
neighboring cities, but his people drove him out. With him was
joined his son Lausus, a generous youth worthy of a better sire.


Camilla, the favorite of Diana, a huntress and warrior, after the
fashion of the Amazons, came with her band of mounted followers,
including a select number of her own sex, and ranged herself on
the side of Turnus. This maiden had never accustomed her fingers
to the distaff or the loom, but had learned to endure the toils
of war, and in speed to outstrip the wind. It seemed as if she
might run over the standing corn without crushing it, or over the
surface of the water without dipping her feet. Camilla's history
had been singular from the beginning. Her father, Metabus,
driven from his city by civil discord, carried with him in his
flight his infant daughter. As he fled through the woods, his
enemies in hot pursuit, he reached the bank of the river
Amazenus, which, swelled by rains, seemed to debar a passage. He
paused for a moment, then decided what to do. He tied the infant
to his lance with wrappers of bark, and, poising the weapon in
his upraised hand, thus addressed Diana: "Goddess of the woods!
I consecrate this maid to you;" then hurled the weapon with its
burden to the opposite bank. The spear flew across the roaring
water. His pursuers were already upon him, but he plunged into
the river and swam across, and found the spear with the infant
safe on the other side. Thenceforth he lived among the
shepherds, and brought up his daughter in woodland arts. While a
child she was taught to use the bow and throw the javelin. With
her sling she could bring down the crane or the wild swan. Her
dress was a tiger's skin. Many mothers sought her for a
daughter-in-law, but she continued faithful to Diana, and
repelled the thought of marriage.

There is an allusion to Camilla in those well-known lines of
Pope, in which, illustrating the rule that "the sound should be
an echo to the sense," he says,

"When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
The line too labors and the words move slow.
Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
Flies o'er th'unbendng corn or skims along the main."
Essay on Criticism


Such were the formidable allies that ranged themselves against
AEneas. It was night, and he lay stretched in sleep on the bank
of the river, under the open heavens. The god of the stream,
Father Tiber, seemed to raise his head above the willows, and to
say, "O goddess-born, destined possessor of the Latin realms,
this is the promised land, here is to be your home, here shall
terminate the hostility of the heavenly powers, if only you
faithfully persevere. There are friends not far distant.
Prepare your boats and row up my stream; I will lead you to
Evander the Arcadian chief. He has long been at strife with
Turnus and the Rutulians, and is prepared to become an ally of
yours. Rise! Offer your vows to Juno, and deprecate her anger.
When you have achieved your victory then think of me." AEneas
woke and paid immediate obedience to the friendly vision. He
sacrificed to Juno, and invoked the god of the river and all its
tributary fountains to lend their aid. Then, for the first time,
a vessel filled with armed warriors floated on the stream of the
Tiber. The river smoothed its waves and bade its current flow
gently, while, impelled by the vigorous strokes of the rowers,
the vessel shot rapidly up the stream.

About the middle of the day they came in sight of the scattered
buildings of the infant town where in after times the proud city
of Rome grew, whose glory reached the skies. By chance the old
king, Evander, was that day celebrating annual solemnities in
honor of Hercules and all the gods. Pallas, his son, and all the
chiefs of the little commonwealth stood by. When they saw the
tall ship gliding onward through the wood, they were alarmed at
the sight, and rose from the tables. But Pallas forbade the
solemnities to be interrupted, and seizing a weapon, stepped
forward to the river's bank. He called aloud, demanding who they
were and what was their object. AEneas, holding forth an olive-
branch, replied, "We are Trojans, friends to you and enemies to
the Rutulians. We seek Evander, and offer to join our arms with
yours." Pallas, in amazement at the sound of so great a name,
invited them to land, and when AEneas touched the shore he seized
his hand and held it long in friendly grasp. Proceeding through
the wood they joined the king and his party, and were most
favorably received. Seats were provided for them at the tables,
and the repast proceeded.

When the solemnities were ended all moved towards the city. The
king, bending with age, walked between his son and AEneas, taking
the arm of one or the other of them, and with much variety of
pleasing talk shortening the way. AEneas looked and listened
with delight, observing all the beauties of the scene, and
learning much of heroes renowned in ancient times. Evander said,
"These extensive groves were once inhabited by fauns and nymphs,
and a rude race of men who sprang from the trees themselves, and
had neither laws nor social culture. They knew not how to yoke
the cattle nor raise a harvest, nor provide from present
abundance for future want; but browsed like beasts upon the leafy
boughs, or fed voraciously on their hunted prey. Such were they
when Saturn, expelled from Olympus by his sons, came among them
and drew together the fierce savages, formed them into society,
and gave them laws. Such peace and plenty ensued that men ever
since have called his reign the golden age; but by degrees far
other times succeeded, and the thirst of gold and the thirst of
blood prevailed. The land was a prey to successive tyrants, till
fortune and resistless destiny brought me hither, an exile from
my native land, Arcadia."

Having thus said, he showed him the Tarpeian rock, and the rude
spot then overgrown with bushes where in after times the Capitol
rose in all its magnificence. He next pointed to some dismantled
walls, and said, "Here stood Janiculum, built by Janus, and there
Saturnia, the town of Saturn." Such discourse brought them to
the cottage of poor Evander, whence they saw the lowing herds
roaming over the plain where now the proud and stately Forum
stands. They entered, and a couch was spread for AEneas, well
stuffed with leaves and covered with the skin of the Libyan bear.

Next morning, awakened by the dawn and the shrill song of birds
beneath the eaves of his low mansion, old Evander rose. Clad in
a tunic, and a panther's skin thrown over his shoulders, with
sandals on his feet, and his good sword girded to his side, he
went forth to seek his guest. Two mastiffs followed him, his
whole retinue and body-guard. He round the hero attended by his
faithful Achates, and, Pallas soon joining them, the old king
spoke thus:

"Illustrious Trojan, it is but little we can do in so great a
cause. Our state is feeble, hemmed in on one side by the river,
on the other by the Rutulians. But I propose to ally you with a
people numerous and rich, to whom fate has brought you at the
propitious moment. The Etruscans hold the country beyond the
river. Mezentius was their king, a monster of cruelty, who
invented unheard-of torments to gratify his vengeance. He would
fasten the dead to the living, hand to hand and face to face, and
leave the wretched victims to die in that dreadful embrace. At
length the people cast him out, him and his house. They burned
his palace and slew his friends. He escaped and took refuge with
Turnus, who protects him with arms. The Etruscans' demand that
he shall be given up to deserved punishment, and would ere now
have attempted to enforce their demand; but their priests
restrain then, telling them that it is the will of heaven that no
native of the land shall guide them to victory, and that their
destined leader must come from across the sea. They have offered
the crown to me, but I am too old to undertake such great
affairs, and my son is native-born, which precludes him from the
choice. You, equally by birth and time of life, and fame in
arms, pointed out by the gods, have but to appear to be hailed as
their leader. With you I will join Pallas, my son, my only hope
and comfort. Under you he shall learn the art of war, and strive
to emulate your great exploits."

Then the king ordered horses to be furnished for the Trojan
chiefs, and AEneas, with a chosen band of followers and Pallas
accompanying, mounted and took the way to the Etruscan city,
having sent back the rest of his party in the ships. AEneas and
his band safely arrived at the Etruscan camp and were received
with open arms by Tarchon, the Etruscan leader, and his


In the meanwhile Turnus had collected his bands and made all
necessary preparations for the war. Juno sent Iris to him with a
message inciting him to take advantage of the absence of AEneas
and surprise the Trojan camp. Accordingly the attempt was made,
but the Trojans were found on their guard, and having received
strict orders from AEneas not to fight in his absence, they lay
still in their intrenchments, and resisted all the efforts of the
Rutulians to draw them in to the field. Night coming on, the
army of Turnus in high spirits at their fancied superiority,
feasted and enjoyed themselves, and finally stretched themselves
on the field and slept secure.

In the camp of the Trojans things were far otherwise. There all
was watchfulness and anxiety, and impatience for AEneas's return.
Nisus stood guard at the entrance of the camp, and Euryalus, a
youth distinguished above all in the army for graces of person
and fine qualities, was with him. These two were friends and
brothers in arms. Nisus said to his friend, "Do you perceive
what confidence and carelessness the enemy display? Their lights
are few and dim, and the men seem all oppressed with wine or
sleep. You know how anxiously our chiefs wish to send to AEneas,
and to get intelligence from him. Now I am strongly moved to
make my way through the enemy's camp and to go in search of our
chief. If I succeed, the glory of the deed will be enough reward
for me, and if they judge the service deserves anything more, let
them pay it to you."

Euryalus, all on fire with the love of adventure, replied, "Would
you then, Nisus, refuse to share your enterprise with me? And
shall I let you go into such danger alone? Not so my brave
father brought me up, nor so have I planned for myself when I
joined the standard of AEneas, and resolved to hold my life cheap
in comparison with honor." Nisus replied, "I doubt it not, my
friend; but you know the uncertain event of such an undertaking,
and whatever may happen to me, I wish you to be safe. You are
younger than I and have more of life in prospect. Nor can I be
the cause of such grief to your mother, who has chosen to be here
in the camp with you rather than stay and live in peace with the
other matrons in Acestes' city." Euryalus replied, "Say no more.
In vain you seek arguments to dissuade me. I am fixed in the
resolution to go with you. Let us lose no time." They called
the guard, and committing the watch to them, sought the general's
tent. They found the chief officers in consultation,
deliberating how they should send notice to AEneas of their
situation. The offer of the two friends was gladly accepted,
they themselves were loaded with praises and promised the most
liberal rewards in case of success. Iulus especially addressed
Euryalus, assuring him of his lasting friendship. Euryalus
replied, "I have but one boon to ask. My aged mother is with me
in the camp. For me she left the Trojan soil, and would not
stay behind with the other matrons at the city of Acestes. I go
now without taking leave of her. I could not bear her tears nor
set at nought he entreaties. But do thou, I beseech thee,
comfort her in her distress. Promise me that, and I shall go
more boldly into whatever dangers may present themselves." Iulus
and the other chiefs were moved to tears, and promised to do all
his request. "Your mother shall be mine," said Iulus, "and all
that I have promised to you shall be made good to her, if you do
not return to receive it."

The two friends left the camp and plunged at once into the midst
of the enemy. They found no watch, no sentinels posted, but all
about, the sleeping soldiers strewn on the grass and among the
wagons. The laws of war at that early day did not forbid a brave
man to slay a sleeping foe, and the two Trojans slew, as they
passed, such of the enemy as they could without exciting alarm.
In one tent Euryalus made prize of a helmet brilliant with gold
and plumes. They had passed through the enemy's ranks without
being discovered, but now suddenly appeared a troop directly in
front of them, which, under Volscens, their leader, were
approaching the camp. The glittering helmet of Euryalus caught
their attention, and Volscens hailed the two, and demanded who
and whence they were. They made no answer, but plunged into the
wood. The horsemen scattered in all directions to intercept
their flight. Nisus had eluded pursuit and was out of danger,
but Euryalus being missing he turned back to seek him. He again
entered the wood and soon came within sound of voices. Looking
through the thicket he saw the whole band surrounding Euryalus
with noisy questions. What should he do? How extricate the
youth? Or would it be better to die with him?

Raising his eyes to the moon which now shone clear, he said,
"Goddess! Favor my effort!" And aiming his javelin at one of
the leaders of the troop, struck him in the back and stretched
him on the plain with a death-blow. In the midst of their
amazement another weapon flew, and another of the party fell
dead. Volscens, the leader, ignorant whence the darts came,
rushed sword in hand upon Euryalus. "You shall pay the penalty
of both," he said, and would have plunged the sword into his
bosom, when Nisus, who from his concealment saw the peril of his
friend, rushed forward, exclaiming, "'Twas I, 'twas I; turn your
swords against me, Rutulians; I did it; he only followed me as a
friend." While he spoke the sword fell, and pierced the comely
bosom of Euryalus. His head fell over on his shoulder, like a
flower cut down by the plough. Nisus rushed upon Volscens and
plunged his sword into his body, and was himself slain on the
instant by numberless blows.


AEneas, with his Etrurian allies, arrived on the scene of action
in time to rescue his beleaguered camp; and now the two armies
being nearly equal in strength, the war began in good earnest.
We cannot find space for all the details, but must simply record
the fate of the principal characters whom we have introduced to
our readers. The tyrant Mezentius, finding himself engaged
against his revolted subjects, raged like a wild beast. He slew
all who dared to withstand him, and put the multitude to flight
wherever he appeared. At last he encountered AEneas, and the
armies stood still to see the issue. Mezentius threw his spear,
which striking AEneas's shield glanced off and hit Anthor. He
was a Grecian by birth, who had left Argos, his native city, and
followed Evander into Italy. The poet says of him, with simple
pathos which has made the words proverbial, "He fell, unhappy, by
a wound intended for another, looked up to the skies, and dying
remembered sweet Argos." AEneas now in turn hurled his lance.
It pierced the shield of Mezentius, and wounded him in the thigh.
Lausus, his son, could not bear the sight, but rushed forward and
interposed himself, while the followers pressed round Mezentius
and bore him away. AEneas held his sword suspended over Lausus
and delayed to strike, but the furious youth pressed on and he
was compelled to deal the fatal blow. Lausus fell, and AEneas
bent over him in pity. "Hapless youth," he said, "what can I do
for you worthy of your praise? Keep those arms in which you
glory, and fear not but that your body shall be restored to your
friends, and have due funeral honors." So saying, he called the
timid followers, and delivered the body into their hands.

Mezentius meanwhile had been borne to the river-side, and washed
his wound. Soon the news reached him of Lausus's death, and rage
and despair supplied the place of strength. He mounted his horse
and dashed into the thickest of the fight, seeking AEneas.
Having found him, he rode round him in a circle, throwing one
javelin after another, while Aeneas stood fenced with his shield,
turning every way to meet them. At last, after Mezentius had
three times made the circuit, AEneas threw his lance directly at
the horse's head. It pierced his temples and he fell, while a
shout from both armies rent the skies. Mezentius asked no mercy,
but only that his body might be spared the insults of his
revolted subjects, and be buried in the same grave with his son.
He received the fatal stroke not unprepared, and poured out his
life and his blood together.

While these things were doing in one part of the field, in
another Turnus encountered the youthful Pallas. The contest
between champions so unequally matched could not be doubtful.
Pallas bore himself bravely, but fell by the lance of Turnus.
The victor almost relented when he saw the brave youth lying dead
at his feet, and spared to use the privilege of a conqueror in
despoiling him of his arms. The belt only, adorned with studs
and carvings of gold, he took and clasped round his own body.
The rest he remitted to the friends of the slain.

After the battle there was a cessation of arms for some days to
allow both armies to bury their dead. In this interval AEneas
challenged Turnus to decide the contest by single combat, but
Turnus evaded the challenge. Another battle ensued, in which
Camilla, the virgin warrior, was chiefly conspicuous. Her deeds
of valor surpassed those of the bravest warriors, and many
Trojans and Etruscans fell pierced with her darts or struck down
by her battle-axe. At last an Etruscan named Aruns, who had
watched her long, seeking for some advantage, observed her
pursuing a flying enemy whose splendid armor offered a tempting
prize. Intent on the chase she observed not her danger, and the
javelin of Aruns struck her and inflicted a fatal wound. She
fell and breathed her last in the arms of her attendant maidens.
But Diana, who beheld her fate, suffered not her slaughter to be
unavenged. Aruns, as he stole away, glad but frightened, was
struck by a secret arrow, launched by one of the nymphs of
Diana's train, and died ignobly and unknown.

At length the final conflict took place between AEneas and
Turnus. Turnus had avoided the contest as long as he could, but
at last impelled by the ill success of his arms, and by the
murmurs of his followers, he braced himself to the conflict. It
could not be doubtful. On the side of AEneas were the expressed
decree of destiny, the aid of his goddess-mother at every
emergency, and impenetrable armor fabricated by Vulcan, at Venus'
request, for her son. Turnus, on the other hand, was deserted by
his celestial allies, Juno having been expressly forbidden by
Jupiter to assist him any longer. Turnus threw his lance, but it
recoiled harmless from the shield of AEneas. The Trojan hero
then threw his, which penetrated the shield of Turnus, and
pierced his thigh. Then Turnus' fortitude forsook him and he
begged for mercy; and AEneas would have given him his life, but
at the instant his eye fell on the belt of Pallas, which Turnus
had taken from the slaughtered youth. Instantly his rage
revived, and exclaiming, "Pallas immolates thee with this blow,"
he thrust him through with his sword.

Here the AEneid closes, but the story goes that AEneas, having
triumphed over his foes, obtained Lavinia as his bride. His son
Iulus founded the city of Alba Longa. He, and his descendants
after him, reigned over the town for many years. At length
Numitor and Amulius, two brothers, quarrelled about the kingdom.
Amulius seized the crown by force, cast out Numitor, and made his
daughter, Rhea Silvia, a Vestal Virgin. The Vestal Virgins, the
priestesses of the goddess Vesta, were sworn to celibacy. But
Rhea Silvia broke her vow, and gave birth, by the god Mars, to
the twins, Romulus and Remus. For this offence she was buried
alive, the usual punishment accorded to unfaithful Vestals, while
the children were exposed on the river Tiber. Romulus and Remus,
however, were rescued by a herdsman, and were educated among the
shepherds in ignorance of their parentage. But chance revealed
it to them. They collected a band of friends, and took revenge
on their granduncle for the murder of their mother. Afterwards
they founded, by the side of the river Tiber, where they had been
exposed in infancy, the city of Rome.

Thomas Bulfinch

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