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Book 12 Notes from The Aeneid

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The Aeneid Book 12

When Turnus sees the lines of the Latins break, he calls to Latinus and tells him that he will either die or kill Aeneas. Latinus tells him that he should stay and defend the city because without him they have no defense. He tries to impress upon him that he has his own lands and will do well if there is no war. Turnus insists on violence:

"'For I, too, can cast a lance;
the steel my right hand uses is not feeble;
my father, blood flows from the wounds I deal.
The Trojan's goddess-mother will be too
far off to shelter her retreating son,
to hide him, as a woman would, within
the same deceiving cloud that covers her.'"
Book 12, lines 68-74

Amata weeps at the concept of the duel and tells him not to meet the Trojans but to stay behind and defend her. Turnus looks at Lavinia and is inflamed with love. He tells Amata that he must fight and sends his messenger to announce the challenge to Aeneas. He goes out and calls his horses and dons his cloak, taking up his lance. He looks to the skies and swears that he will defeat the effeminate Trojan.

Meanwhile, Aeneas is happy with the challenge and sends his answer back. The next day they mark out the field for the match and set altars in the middle. Juno watches this and she addresses Turnus' sister Juturna. Juturna is a nymph because Jupiter made her immortal as an apology for having raped her. Juno asks her to stop her brother from dying and Juturna leaves to do what she can. The kings advance and meet in the middle where a priest sacrifices. Aeneas pledges that if he wins he will not be a tyrant but will leave Latinus in charge over the Italians. Latinus swears that nothing will break the truce. "But the Rutulians had long since felt / this duel was unequal; they are puzzled;/ conflicting feelings move their hearts;" Book 12, lines 295-97. .

Turnus paces and prays until his sister appears in the shape of an ancestor and scatters rumors alleging that it is shameful to barter a war on one life. The men in the ranks seethe as she sends an omen of Jupiter: an eagle is turned upon and repulsed by the swans it pursues. They are rallied by this and they take up their swords. One of them kills and the Latins charge and tear down the altars. Latinus flees and Messapus charges a Tuscan leader. Aeneas reaches out and asks where his men are rushing. He pleads as the arrows fall and one pierces his thigh. Turnus sees this and runs after him hoping that the wound will afford him an opportunity for victory. Turnus makes his first kill and the battle rises. Achates, Mnestheus and Ascanius carry Aeneas into camp as he limps with the arrow still in his thigh. He calls for it to be cut out with a sword. Iapyx a man skilled in healing comes up to him and tries his craft to no avail. Venus hears her son's moans and brings a secret herb from Asia and rubs it on the wound. The arrow comes out and Aeneas feels stronger. Iapyx admits:

"'This is not the work
of mortal hands or skillful art; my craft
has not saved you, Aeneas: here there is
a greater one - a god- who sends you back
to greater labors.'"
Book 12, lines 575-79

Aeneas hugs his son and tells him to watch his father and learn valor. He marches out with Mnestheus and Antheus following. The Trojans pour back onto the battlefield. Juturna recognizes the Trojans coming like a sudden squall from the sea. They kill many. Juturna throws Turnus' charioteer from the chariot and drives him around the battle away from Aeneas. Aeneas sees this and follows but he is led in circles. Messapus hurls a javelin at him and grazes his helmet. Aeneas turns and charges back into battle. He kills many as Turnus picks off Trojans from the sides. The two warriors cause a great carnage together roaring or rushing like a wild fire or a flooding stream. One Rutulian brags and is crushed by a rock from Aeneas. Venus sets his mind on marching toward the city. He calls his captains to him and says, "'[t]his day- unless they yield, accept our rule,/ submit to us- I shall annihilate/ that city,'" Book 12, lines 762-64. He speaks and they form a wedge and push towards the walls. The Latins panic and the soldiers are routed. The city writhes with hysteria and Amata hangs herself. Lavinia weeps and Latinus throws dust in his hair.

Along the border of the battle, Turnus chases stragglers as his sister tells him that his glory will equal Aeneas' if he continues to do this. Turnus tells her that he knows it is her and asks which god sent her. He tells her that death is a blessing compared to doing nothing as the city falls before him. A Latin rides up to Turnus and tells him that the queen has died and he is looked for by Latinus. Turnus is confused but he orders his sister to lead him towards the city where he will face Aeneas. Turnus sweeps into the battle like a rock tumbling down a mountain and he calls out and tells them to stop fighting. He makes his men move and allow space for a combat.

Aeneas hears his call and is happy to leave the siege. He pounds on his shield and the Trojans stop fighting. Everyone looks in the center as the two heroes approach each other. Turnus strikes with a sword and it breaks. He flees around the edge but his men push him back. Even though he is slowed down by the arrow wound, Aeneas pursues him. They run around the circle in this fashion five times. Aeneas hurls his spear into a tree that was sacred to Turnus' family. Turnus prays to his ancestors and the tree will not release the weapon. Venus helps her son retrieve his shaft.

Juno calls to Jupiter and asks what he intends to happen. He tells her that he has harassed the Trojans enough and that this must stop. She admits that she did many wrong things but asks that the new people be called Latins not Trojans. Jupiter smiles and says that he will grant this and make the new people superior over everyone else in Italy. This is the compromise that finally makes Juno pleased with the future Romans. Jupiter then turns his mind to taking Juturna away from the battle. He sends one of the furies down and Turnus stiffens in its sight. Juturna recognizes the ploy and complains that Jupiter has not given her an even exchange for her virginity. She plunges back into her river. Aeneas charges Turnus who says that he is not afraid. Turnus hurls a stone and misses just as if in a dream. Aeneas casts a spear and it pierces his shield and corselet going into his thigh. He leaps forward to finish him off, taunting. Turnus replies:

"'I have indeed deserved this; I do not
appeal against it; use your chance. But if
there is a thought of a dear parent's grief
that now can touch you, then I beg you, pity
old Daunus - in Anchises you had such
a father- send me back...'"
Book 12, lines 1242-47

Aeneas considers the plea but he looks at Turnus and sees the belt of Pallas on him. He rages and asks how he could spare Pallas' murderer. He pierces Turnus' chest with his sword.

Topic Tracking: Historical Subtext 6
Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 11

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