Book 11 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1116

New Characters: Drances: an elderly Latin who is opposed to Turnus

Diana: goddess of the hunt, Camilla’s patron

Opis: a member of Diana’s troop of maiden huntresses

Arruns: an Etruscan fighter

Summary Before returning Pallas’ body to Evander, Aeneas builds a trophy for Mars, decorated with the arms of Mezentius....

(The entire section contains 1116 words.)

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New Characters:
Drances: an elderly Latin who is opposed to Turnus

Diana: goddess of the hunt, Camilla’s patron

Opis: a member of Diana’s troop of maiden huntresses

Arruns: an Etruscan fighter

Before returning Pallas’ body to Evander, Aeneas builds a trophy for Mars, decorated with the arms of Mezentius. Aeneas mourns over Pallas, then arranges to have an honor guard accompany his body. Even Pallas’ horse is crying.

The Latins ask Aeneas for permission to collect their dead. Aeneas willingly grants it, adding that these deaths would not have occurred if Turnus had challenged him to personal combat and let the gods pick the winner. Drances agrees to bring Aeneas’ offer back to King Latinus. A truce is declared.

Pallas’ body arrives in Arcadia. Evander is overwrought. He consoles himself, reminding himself that his son died in battle and killed many before he died. He tells the Trojans attending Pallas to return to Aeneas with the message that Aeneas owes him and Pallas Turnus’ life.

The funerals of the Latins run for days. The greatest mourning occurs in Laurentum, where many feel that this war is a personal matter of Turnus’ and should be settled between him and Aeneas.

Venulus returns from the kingdom of Diomedes. Not only has Diomedes declined to enter into an alliance against the Trojans, he has advised the Latins to join with Aeneas. This news upsets the gathered Latin council.

Latinus proposes to the assembly that the Trojans be offered peace and some land to settle on, or a new fleet if they desire to leave. Drances says that it is clear that this war has come about because of Turnus’ pride, and that Turnus should either accept defeat or challenge Aeneas directly. Turnus says that he has not been defeated, and that the Latins should continue fighting. However, he adds, if it is a duel that is needed, he will do it for the good of the Latin people.

Suddenly a messenger arrives, announcing that the combined Trojan and Tuscan forces are descending on the city. Turnus quickly organizes the defense of the city. He is met outside of the city by Camilla, who offers to attack the invaders first. Turnus assigns her to lead the Italian squadrons while he prepares a trap for Aeneas in a forested valley.

Diana is unhappy about her inability to protect Camilla. Long ago, Camilla’s father, who had been exiled from his kingdom, was being hunted down by his enemies. As he prepared to swim a flooding river, he suddenly feared for the safety of his infant daughter. With a prayer to dedicate her to Diana, he affixed Camilla to a lance and flung it safely across the waters. Raised in the woods, Camilla grew to be a great huntress, dearly beloved by her patroness. Diana therefore sends Opis to avenge Camilla’s death and retrieve her body for burial.

The Trojan forces meet the Latins in a mighty clash of javelins and cavalry. The battle goes back and forth, with both sides suffering heavy losses. Camilla kills one man after another. Jupiter inspires Tarchon to fight. He then drags Venulus off of his horse, greatly encouraging the Tuscans.

In the midst of the chaos, Arruns hunts down Camilla. Camilla, in her single-minded tracking of a brightly armored former priest, forgets to pay attention to her surroundings. With the aid of a prayer to Apollo, Arruns’ lance strikes Camilla down. As her dying wish, Camilla requests that Turnus be told to drive the Trojans from Laurentum.

Opis locates Arruns, who is full of pride at his deed. She shoots him with her bow. His comrades abandon him and run.

The Latins, exhausted, begin to retreat. The city gates are closed, shutting some Trojans in and some Latins out. Hearing of the panic, Turnus leaves his ambush in the forest. Aeneas enters the pass almost immediately upon Turnus’ departure. They catch sight of each other as night falls.

This book continues the battles that lead to the inevitable encounter of Turnus and Aeneas. Virgil’s battle scenes are considered inferior to his lyrical moments, such as his descriptions of the shield of Aeneas. Nonetheless, Book Eleven is enlightened by the presence of Camilla, who, with her “shepherd’s pike of myrtle tipped with steel” is the epitome of the native fighting spirit of the Italians (VII: 1072).

Camilla’s story is remarkable, but her death is inevitable. First, as a shepherd-huntress, she is another member of the individualistic society which is about to be supplanted. Second, as a beautiful, valorous youth, she is destined for the same tragic fate as Pallas and Lausus. Finally, Camilla’s flaw, her “female’s love of plunder and spoils,” condemns her just as it has Euryalus and just as it will Turnus (1038-1039). Aeneas dedicates all of his plunder to the gods.

But Camilla’s spirit lives on as an inspiration to the women of Laurentum, who defend their city with “sturdy oak clubs and charred stakes,” as well as in the valor of Cloelia, the Roman hostage who swam the Tiber to escape captivity (as depicted on Aeneas’ shield). There may be no room for Amazonian maidens in the new society, but it will be these brave, patriotic women who form its bloodstock.

In the speeches of Turnus and Drances, it is interesting to note that Turnus, who criticizes Drances for being long-winded, rambles for nearly twice as long as Drances. Furthermore, rather than listening to Drances’ wise advice, Turnus seizes upon the disorder caused by the impending arrival of the Trojan forces to lead yet another war party against them, a move which causes further, unnecessary bloodshed. His actions contrast strongly with that of Aeneas, who, as shown in his speech to the Latin ambassadors, has respect for the human cost of war and wants to limit its destructiveness. Turnus’ flawed leadership skills, which are marked by rashness and a focus on personal pride over the good of the group, have their final glorious failure in his abandonment of the ambush. Turnus is a noble warrior, but he is clearly not the man who will lead the Latin people to glory.

Virgil emphasizes these aspects of Turnus in the simile of the freed stallion. Borrowed from the Iliad, the simile was used by Homer to describe Paris and Hector in their irresponsible moments. As Anderson explains, Turnus is unhesitating, action-oriented, and handsome, which are all positive attributes. Yet, much as the stallion’s place is in the stable, Turnus’ place is at the council table. Rather than choosing to indulge himself in more fighting, Turnus should have responsibly accepted a duel with Aeneas.

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