Comment on this section of text (Aeneid XII lines 742-765). How is Turnus portrayed, particularly in light of his imminent final battle?

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The change of scene indicated by ‘ergo’ marks not only a shift in action as Turnus flees from Aeneas upon the shattering of his sword, but a significant shift from boldness to panic (‘amens’). The particular word ‘amens’ links Turnus to other characters who succumb to overwhelming emotion, notably Dido, and consequently foreshadows ill consequence and death. The contrast and repetition of ‘nunc huc, inde huc’ is the first example of Virgil emphasising the repeated fruitless attempts at escape to other plains. These prepositions clash with the encompassing meaning of ‘undique’, and are reinforced by the repeated ‘hinc’ in line 745. The image of Turnus surrounded in a ring (‘corona’) evokes the image of spectator sport, in particular gladiatorial contest, a motif that is picked up again later. One might interpret this as Turnus’ eventual death being a sacrifice to the memory of Pallas, in the same way as Book VI honoured Anchises, or how Augustus’ games honoured Julius Caesar. Furthermore, the minor change to the common epithet ‘altae moenia’, used several times to describe Troy, Carthage, and Rome, to ‘ardua moenia’ carries a more negative, toilsome connotation that is ominous for Turnus.

The immediate litotes of ‘nec minus’ draws attention to the change in character. The ‘quamquam’ clause serves to show Aeneas’ strength of character in his continued pursuit, emphasised by the repetition of ‘pedem pede’, the plosive sound of which replicates rapid footsteps in its dactylic meter. The word ‘veluti’ introduces the simile of Turnus being compared to a stag trapped by a hunting dog, represented in Aeneas. The prominent position of ‘inclusum’ before the simile is introduced by ‘veluti’ reinforces this image of restriction described prior. The technical reference to the hunting implements (‘puniceae saeptum formidine pennae’ – glossed by Ahl as ‘scarecrows’) firmly establishes this within a group of hunting similes within the poem. Turnus’ counterpart as a ‘cervum’ closely links Turnus to Dido, who is described as a wounded deer in Book IV. Once again, this foreshadows the fatal wound he will suffer. It also aligns him once more to a character fallen in passion, and doomed by the gods. This adds to the sympathy we might feel for the trapped hero. Importantly, the simile is based on a Homeric model in the Iliad Book XXII 188-191 where Achilles pursues Hector around the city of Troy. Clearly, this is a bad omen for Turnus who is the parallel to Hector.  The simile also offers further characterisation of Achilles. Rather than being the unaware shepherd of Book IV (70-1), he is now the intent ‘venator… canis’ imbued with savage purpose. This can be read in two ways; either with ‘fervidus’ producing a dangerously wrathful Aeneas that undermines his idealised image as the Augustan bringer of peace and pietas, or that his utter devotion to the task marks the change from hesitant delayer in Book IV to intent conqueror in later books. Likewise, its modelling on the Homeric simile might suggest Aeneas’ intense motivation arises more from the personal loss at the death of Pallas, in the same way Achilles’ did from Patroklos’ death. ‘instat’ can be read to suit either of these readings; either with menacing wrath or simply describing the doggedness of his pursuit. Overall, the simile here elicits pathos for the cornered and doomed Turnus, whilst presenting Aeneas as unflinchingly devoted to his purpose of slaughter, whether out of pious necessity or uncontrolled bloodlust.

Turnus’ state of mind is made explicit as he is described as ‘territus’, and once more the idea of his frequent attempts to escape is made manifest in the chiasmic framing of the repeated ‘fugit refugit’ by the exaggerated ‘mille vias’. Aeneas is contrasted as ‘vividus’; a particularly important reference when Turnus’ physical weakness in dropping the boulder is made obvious. The double alliteration of ‘haeret hians, iam iamque’ increases pace and tension before the narrow escape of the stag from the threatening jaws of the hound from Umbria, a seemingly ironic reference that nonetheless places Aeneas firmly as of Italian heritage and thus deserving of his place in Italy. The imagery of the din being echoed by the landscape, and in particular the thundering (caelum tonat omne tumultu) is reminiscent of Dido and Aeneas’ ‘marriage’ in Book IV, which was described just after as the first day of her death (170). Once again, Turnus’ link to Dido bodes terribly for his future.

Once more described as ‘fugiens’, we see no end to Turnus’ flight, reminding the reader of the flight of Hector in Book XXII of the Iliad. In accordance with this, we expect a brutal end for the Hector figure at the hands of the furious Achilles. However, it also conflicts with the previous image of Aeneas as the Umbrian and thus natural heir to Italy; both Hector and Turnus are defending their homeland against an invading enemy, and thus merit sympathy and praise. Again, this comparison can be seen in Aeneas’ threats (minatur) of death and destruction (mortem… exitium), which have a very an aggressive, wrathful force similar to Achilles. The repetition of ‘minitans’ two lines later reinforces this, as does the increasingly violent threat of razing the city, which alludes to the eventual destruction of Troy following the death of Hector. The similarity of ‘exitium’ and ‘excisurum’ at the start of consecutive liens is almost a vocal anaphora and highlights the risk of utter destruction. The motif of running around the city is once more from Homer when Achilles pursues Hector around the city. The final two lines blend together Iliadic precedents. Firstly, the competition for the life of Turnus (sed Turni de uita et sanguine certant) is an echo of XXII.161 ‘No, they ran for the life of Hector’. Thereupon follows a simile where Achilles and Hector are compared to chariots making their way around the turning post, which seems to be referenced to in the words ‘levia..ludicra’ and the ‘praemia’, placed in the emphatic position at the start of the line. One might perceive these words as a comment by Virgil on the brutality of war; there is no possible connection to the frivolity and entertainment of games in the terrible war the Trojans have found themselves in. The great importance of these lines is made clear in the caesura following ‘huc illuc’, and the double alliteration of ‘leuia aut ludicra petuntur praemia’ creating a very rhythmic, ritualistic effect that prepares us for the epigrammatic final line describing the stakes of this battle.  

Callum M. A Level Latin tutor, GCSE Classical Greek tutor, GCSE Engli...

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