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Barron's Booknotes-The Aeneid by Virgil-Free Book Summary
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(VII. 310-17)

You've seen Juno behave exactly like this before-at the beginning of Book I when she saw the Trojans leaving Sicily. Then she whipped up a storm, using the forces of nature against them. This time she tries something new. She asks an evil creature from the underworld, a Fury named Allecto, to plant the seeds of war in the hearts of men. Note that in Book I Neptune calmed Juno's storm and the Trojans landed peacefully in Carthage. But no god will stop this war. Do you think that Virgil may be suggesting that once fear and anger enter men's hearts only men can stop it?

Allecto is a horrible, savage creature who loves nothing better than war. She represents uncontrolled rage-like Juno, only more so. Allecto uses three victims to start war. First she infects Amata, Latinus' wife, with poisonous snakes. At first Amata is reasonable. She goes to her husband, crying and asking why their daughter must be married to a foreigner. But when she sees that Latinus won't change his mind, she goes into a wild frenzy, tearing around the streets of the city with her hair and clothes undone. She tries to hide Lavinia in the woods. When the other women see Amata's frenzy, they too get carried away and begin to rush through the city, crying for war against the Trojans.

Next Allecto goes to Turnus, the warrior, while he's sleeping and tells him that his kingdom and bride are about to be given away to the Trojans. At first Turnus replies calmly and tells Allecto to mind her own business. At this she flies into a rage and lights his body with a torch. He starts from sleep, his body on fire for war, infected with Allecto's wrath. (Once again we see fire as a symbol of uncontrollable passion and destruction.)

NOTE:

Do you see the similarity between what Allecto does to Turnus and what Cupid did to Dido? Neither person was unreasonable to begin with, but each is infected with blazing passions for love (Dido) or war (Turnus) that rage out of control. We have also seen how the gods can represent forces that are part of people's personalities, even if they didn't let them show. For example, is it possible that the lust for war, which is part of Turnus' personality as a warrior, got out of control when he realized that he was going to take second place to Aeneas? Turnus is one of the most important characters in the second half of the Aeneid. You should think about what makes him tick as you read. Is he a victim or is he to blame for much of the violence that follows?


Finally Allecto has to whip the Trojans up. Ascanius is out hunting, and she puts his dogs on the scent of a deer that turns out to be the pet of one of the Latin families. When Ascanius wounds the deer and it comes creeping back to the family, they fly into a rage and go after Ascanius with clubs and axes. (Once again we see the image of a wounded deer. Even though the hunter didn't mean to hurt this particular deer, its wound brings trouble.) Naturally, the Trojans rush to the rescue of their leader's son, and a huge brawl begins. In the uproar a young boy and an old man, who were trying to calm the people, are both killed.

Allecto reports to Juno on what she has done and asks whether Juno wants her to do anything more, but Juno tells her to go home. Things have gotten so out of control that the human beings won't be able to stop the bloodshed now, and Juno can manage quite nicely alone. When Latinus sees what's become of his plan, he gives up and locks himself in his castle. Because he won't declare war, Juno pushes the iron gates open herself. (The Romans of Virgil's time would have understood this symbol. When they formally declared war, they opened a pair of huge iron gates that stood in the middle of Rome and were dedicated to Mars, the god of war.)

Juno recognizes an important truth here, one which will be an important theme in the second half of the Aeneid. Once anger starts, once men begin to be violent, it's very hard for anyone to restore order and peace. Later on, we will even see Aeneas fall victim to uncontrollable rage.

Book VII ends with Turnus gathering an impressive force of his fiercest warriors. There is even a warrior maiden, Camilla, renowned for her strength and skill. But the greatest, strongest, and tallest of them all is Turnus, leading his men in shining armor. (Turnus' troops are called Rutulians.)


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