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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES
BOOK ELEVENTH - The Council of the Latins and the life and death of Camilla
Aeneas erects an altar to Mars to whom he dedicates the armor and other spoils of Mezentius. Then he encourages his men that the worst impediments are gone and only a little effort will secure them their new homeland. The burial of the dead comrades is attended to with a fitting tribute to the corpse of Pallas after which he sends a thousand men with the funeral procession to Arcadia with many gifts and the spoils won by Pallas including the sacrificial captives.
The Latins send envoys to solicit a truce in order to bury their dead lying on the battlefield. Aeneas agrees and sorrowfully reminds them that he had sought to settle on their land in peace, but Latinus had joined Turnus to battle against him. He therefore suggests that instead of war a single combat between him and Turnus should decide the issue. At this, Drances an old counselor, who disliked Turnus, praises Aeneas’ valor and justice and says he would like to reconcile Aeneas and Turnus.
For twelve days, the Trojans and Latins work together in woods to cut trees for the funerals. Evander who receives Pallas’ body calls on Aeneas to avenge his son’s death. In the city of Latinus the bereaved clamor for a single contest to decide the issue although the Queen Amata still supports Turnus’ cause. Meanwhile Venelus returns from Diomedes court with all the gifts sent to win him over to the Latin cause. Diomedes in the midst of building his new city Argyripa in Aetolia warns the Ausonians about the aftermath of war, which harms the victors and the defeated alike. He advises them to make peace with Aeneas. Latinus recommends peace with the Trojans. Drances who was a fine speaker but poor in action and jealous of Turnus’ fame speaks about the waste of war to appease Turnus’ ego. Turnus in anger taunts Drances’ cowardice and assures the Latins of great allies like Messapus, Tolumnius and Camilla to defeat Aeneas.
Suddenly a message arrives that the truce expired, Aeneas and his troops were in the field. Turnus gives battle orders and Amata and Lavinia go to Pallas, Athene’s shrine. Camilla meets Turnus and undertakes to carry out the cavalry attack on the Tuscans. Turnus assigns Messapus and Tiburtus as joint commanders while he goes to blockade the mountain pass.
Diana, the Virgin goddess is perturbed that her devotee, Camilla is going to cruel war and tells Opis, her companion to avenge Camilla’s death. She then relates how Camilla happened to become a Virgin warrior dedicated to Diana by her father who had fled to the mountains. Diana herself will deliver Camilla’s body and armor to her city for burial.
An exciting chase and attack sequence now takes place between the Tuscans and their foes. After great feats and carnage on both sides Camilla’s men are encouraged to the attack. Camilla herself slays Orsilochus and Butes and the Ligurians. Nothing holds her back and Tarchon himself has to go around encouraging the frightened Tuscan soldiers reminding them of the pleasures of wine festivals once they return. And Tarchon kills Venelus to set an example of success to revive his troops. Then Aruns tries to attack Camilla by circling around her but she retires awhile. When she enters she is hot in pursuit of a Priest of the mother goddess whose colorful attire she perhaps hopes to dedicate to Diana. Aruns follows her calling on Apollo’s aid and throws his spear, which goes deep into her breast. Panic-stricken at the consequences he flees but is shot by Opis’ avenging arrow and lies unburied.
The death of Camilla caused her troops to flee followed by the other Rutulians all rush to their city pursued by the Trojans and their allies. From the city walls, women inspired by Camilla throw missiles on those at the city gates. Turnus hearing of the defeat rushes towards the town, Aeneas following close behind from the woods. But sunset prevents further battle and both sides camp outside the town.
This book is full of excitement after the initial somber mood of Pallas’s funeral cortege being received by Evander. At this point the way to the final climax is laid out. Aeneas offers to settle the score by single combat and Evander demands through the envoys that Aeneas avenges his son’s death by killing Turnus. The pagan war rites, which include human sacrifice and raising totems with armor, are all graphically described in the first part.
The action then moves to the verbal contest, a debate between Drances who proposes settlement by single combat and Turnus who wants a complete rout of the Trojans through war. This is in the typical tradition of the debates held in the Roman Forum as historians describe them. Virgil’s readers would have probably identified Drances from Virgil’s description of his lineage renowned from the mother’s side but obscure from the fathers as well his peculiar sarcastic style of attacking Turnus. Turnus is the typical rash young man of action, overconfident and hungry for greater honors than those already achieved besides being bloodthirsty which was the earliest quality associated with him in the simile of the wolf in action in Book IX ll59ff.
The vigorous speeches at Latinus’Council are followed by scenes of vigorous fighting. The cavalry action is a model of vivid description with Camilla’s vitality and pursuit leading up to her death. Camilla’s background has been carefully presented at this stage to concentrate the whole action on the result of her Amazonian upbringing. It is a true cameo of a warrior woman in action. The woman, whom the matrons of Latinus had wondered at on her arrival with her troops, now becomes an inspiration for them. As the troops flee into the city through the gates the matrons from the walls make their own contribution to the war effort by attacking the pursuing Trojans. Unfortunately there is a note of qualified admiration throughout the episode. Virgil’s tone is not the same glorifying one, which he reserves for Turnus or even Pallas. That she is from the enemy camp does not explain a touch of reserve in Virgil’s praise for this most selfless fighter whom in the end he renders a little ridiculous in her pursuit of the priest: “reckless and fired by a woman’s passion for spoil and plunder” (1783). Why has Virgil said “woman’s passion”, haven’t the male warriors given enough evidence of lust for plunder? The Roman attitude to women as chattel was reflected even in the marriages of convenience arranged by Augustus for his daughter Julia in order to get himself an heir to the empire.
A similar ambivalence is remarked throughout Virgil’s treatment of Drances. The Romans were undoubtedly great orators Cicero, Horace, Lucretuis were masters of rhetoric. However, history has conclusively proved in the rise of Julius Caesar and Pompey, that the men of action inspired greater awe and had a larger following because they could offer tangible rewards like booty and land to their followers. In the juxtaposition between Turnus and Drances are implied the rival claims of action and polity which the Romans called the “vita contemplative” and the “vita activa.” The Renaissance European wished to find a middle path between the two and the Emperor Augustus was the symbol of this middle path. Virgil and Horace have indeed extolled his virtue of the Golden mean. And Aeneas the pious leader is indeed the Golden Mean since he knows when it is time to attack and when to wait.
This book being replete with action has many fine similes. A simple pastoral simile to image Pallas in his bier is appropriate for an Arcadian living by the rhythms of nature ll73ff. He is compared to a hyacinth or a violet both purple flowers symbolizing royalty for the Romans. There is an implied compliment for Turnus in “plucked by Virgin finger” to show Turnus’ lack of malice in killing him. He has not been mauled but only lost his life support system and his roots. Another pastoral simile is used to convey the unpolished “tumult and buzz of tongues” (l330) of the Latin’s in council which conveys nothing of substance. In effect, all dammed up emotions do tend towards inarticulate sound and that is aptly conveyed. Another simile used for the same crowd in dissenting clamor this time is of shrieking birds in a grove or swans catching fish in a pool. This is a reductive simile making the poet’s contempt for the Latin’s quite obvious. But for the leader of the Latin’s, Turnus a more regal comparison is reserved as he comes to battle in full armour, heart exulting. He is likened to a steed that has broken from its stall to rejoin the mares in the fields or to plunge into a stream and prance. Here the fact that Amata and the women have just been praying for his success is included along with his sense of having got his way to quench his bloodthirst. But over all the image portrays his restive nature, like an unbroken pony who cannot be contained. It is illustrative and a reductive projection of Turnus’ character.
The battle scene l656ff which is a masterpiece of Virgils descriptive art is embellished with an epic simile in every hundred lines or so. The first ll683 describing the Tuscans pursuing the Latins upto the city gates then fleeing and again returning has the obvious image of the ebb and flow of the tide coming on a shingled shore. The rhythm and movement of the actual action as well as the perfect simile vividly portrayed the dynamism of the chase and counter chase in which some shingles get sucked in. There is a lightness about this scene which is reflected in the acquatic simile.
However the similes become more complex when the subject is Camilla. The first (l720ff) is replete with mythological allusions to the Amazon warriors Hippolyte and Penthesilea. The basic allusion is to the female comrades of the two Amazons referred to here. Hippolyte is made famous in English Literature in The Midsummer Night’s Dream as the bride of Theseus the Athenian. Penthesilea is the queen of the Amazons who was killed by Achilles in the Trojan war after many brave victories like Camilla herself. But Camilla is struck down by a nonentity, which at this point is not even hinted at. The moon shaped shields of the Amazon was a tribute to their goddess Diana, the huntress. The next simile comparing Camilla to a sacred falcon (l788) is more vivid and vicious. She has seized an unequal prey a dove (sacred to Venus) and in midair the falcon tears out its entrails, the most important part for seeing omens and fortune telling, while the rest, feathers and blood fall from the sky. The poet seems to hint that Camilla is seeking her fortune in this battle against the Trojans and wreaks her revenge on the Ligurian because he is cowardly enough to gallop away while she is on foot. Perhaps it is because Camilla turns men into cowards, symbolically unmans them that the poet is not all admiration for her.
Tarchon’s fight with Venelus, which follows Camilla’s with the Ligurian, is treated with more propriety. Tarchon is the eagle who snatches up a serpent who struggles and tries to sting the eagle and writhe and escape from the eagle’s grasp. Tarchon being the Tuscan leader is viewed more favorably and given a worthy foe: a serpent. It is an equal contest in the way Camilla’s is not. Venelus it may be recalled had returned from his unsuccessful mission to enroll Diomedes in the war.
The final war simile in this book describes the shirking Aruns after he kills Camilla as he goes like a frightened wolf to hide in the mountain. The lupine simile recalls Turnus and links Aruns action with Turnus’ habitual impetuosity. It perhaps serves to portend Turnus’ own death for espousing the wrong cause.