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Barron's Booknotes-The Aeneid by Virgil-Free Book Summary
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BOOK IX

You can imagine what Turnus does while Aeneas looks for allies. He attacks the Trojans, of course.

Turnus is the star of Book IX. He's handsome, brave, even funny at times. He's fighting to defend his country against foreign invaders. Wouldn't you do the same? But wasn't Turnus supposed to be a villain? How come Virgil makes him look so good? That's one of the reasons the Aeneid is such a great story. Virgil didn't just write a fairy tale with the heroes on one side and the villains on the other. He's showing us that there are good and bad qualities in everybody. When you see how many good qualities Turnus has, you begin to care about him and what happens to him.

You've probably met someone like Turnus at some point in your life. He's the type of person who thinks he can do anything-and he's usually right. He's captain of the football team, president of the student council, and a straight A student. Does he have any faults? Like many people who are this successful, Turnus isn't modest. He brags, he's overconfident and that makes him reckless. Because it never occurs to Turnus that he might fail at anything, he bites off more than he can chew.

We know something else about Turnus. Because of what Allecto did to him, he's out of control with passion for war. Like Juno, he's fighting against fate and he has no chance to win. His insistence on fighting this war only causes pointless bloodshed. He's a force of anger and destruction that we've seen before.

There's Turnus prancing back and forth on his white charger in front of the Trojan camp. Virgil compares him to a wolf pacing outside a sheep pen. Before Aeneas left, the Trojans built walls around the camp so it looks like a fort. Then he gave his soldiers strict instructions not to go outside the walls to attack but only to defend themselves, if Turnus attacked them. Turnus is taunting the Trojans for being cowards and refusing to come out and fight fairly. They follow Aeneas' orders, even though they'd love to show Turnus he's wrong. (For the Trojans this must have been a terrible reminder of being trapped inside the walls of Troy with the Greeks waiting outside!)


Turnus decides to force the Trojans out. He'll set fire to their ships. But when Turnus and his men throw torches at the ships, they magically break loose from their moorings and dive into the water, only to reappear as mermaids! The men are frightened. Even Turnus is a bit surprised, but he decides that this is a good omen. The Trojans' ships are gone. They can never escape.

NOTE:

The ships are saved because they were built from trees sacred to the goddess Cybele. She made a deal with Jupiter that the Trojans could have the wood if Jupiter promised that the ships would be turned into goddesses as soon as the Trojans no longer needed them. So Turnus has misinterpreted this omen. It really means that the Trojans are in Italy to stay.

The day ends with Turnus bragging that he is better than the Greeks were in the Trojan War. He won't need a trick like the Trojan Horse to get inside the fort. He'll simply burn and batter the walls until the Trojans surrender. As night falls he posts sentries all around the Trojan camp, while the rest of his men relax around their campfires, drinking and eating. Trapped inside their walls, the Trojans watch the campfires and worry. Where is Aeneas? When will he get back? How long can they hold out?

Nisus and Euryalus are standing watch at the walls. (You've met these two earlier. Remember the footrace in Book V where Nisus tripped the competition so Euryalus could win?) Nisus can't bear to stand around waiting for something to happen. He wants to be a hero. So he and Euryalus devise a bold scheme to sneak through the enemy lines in the dark of night and take a message to Aeneas.

Euryalus, what is it? Do the gods put this ardor in our hearts Or does each man's desire become his god?


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