The Aeneid

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The Aeneid Book 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning dawns. Aeneas sets up a display of Mezentius's armor as an offering to Mars. Despite his sadness about Pallas's death, he speaks positively to his men, telling them they have fought well, and now they can bury their dead. Afterward, Aeneas cries over Pallas's body, devastated to have broken his promise to Evander to bring his son back safely. He sends a thousand men to bear Pallas's body back to Evander.
Returned to his sensitive, pious self, Aeneas thinks of his men before allowing himself to mourn Pallas. Of the many tragedies of the war, this is the one that hits Aeneas most deeply. His behavior now offers important clues for understanding the Aeneid's surprising ending.
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Returning to the camp, Aeneas finds a delegation of Latins carrying olive branches, asking for a temporary truce during which they can bury their dead. Aeneas criticizes them for fighting, explaining that he was fated to come here to make his home, and that they should have been friends. Aeneas says that Turnus should have stayed to fight him, because one of their deaths would have ended the war. Finally, Aeneas agrees to the truce. Drances, a Latin, praises Aeneas's war skills and declares that he (and King Latinus too) would rather be Aeneas's ally than Turnus's. They agree on twelve days of truce.
Like a practiced politician, Aeneas won't agree with the other side's sensible decision without airing some grievances. Sadly, Aeneas's explanations come late in the game, but it seems that both sides might be able to use reason and piety to fate to come to a real peace. The Latins realize they're fighting on the wrong side of destiny.
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Pallas's funeral procession reaches Evander. Evander flings himself onto the corpse, sobbing, and gives a tragic speech. He wishes he had died instead of Pallas, but doesn't blame the Trojans, and declares that Pallas will receive a Trojan-style burial. A description of the various funerals follows, showing that both the Latins and the Trojans equally mourn their fallen.
Evander's willingness to forgive the Trojans indirectly shows how great Aeneas must be. Evander didn't even have to be involved in the war at all, but his devotion to Aeneas indicates Aeneas's powers of persuasion and charisma. In showing how both the Latins and the Trojans grieve for their dead, Virgil once again shows how there is no "bad" side in this war, there are simply those who are following fate and those who are opposing it.
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The Latins, urged on by Drances, want to separate themselves from Turnus, who caused all the suffering. In Book 8, a Latin delegation traveled to ask King Diomedes, a Greek now living in Italy, to ally with them against Aeneas. Now that delegation of Latins returns with news that Diomedes doesn't want to ally, because he's fought the Trojans enough and doesn't want more of the misery of war. Hearing this in a council meeting, Latinus declares that the war was against fate anyway. He chooses a piece of land near the Tiber to give the Trojans, so they can be friends. If the Trojans don't want that, the Latins will build the Trojans twenty ships to continue on their way. Latinus calls for a hundred men to bring peace gifts to the Trojans.
Peace nears. By only enchanting Amata and Turnus, Juno left most of the Latins with their powers of reason intact. Latinus's desire to stop fighting Aeneas bodes well, given that Aeneas is fated to be his son-in-law. That the Greek Diomedes don't want to keep fighting the Trojans shows that even the deepest hatreds can fade. And for all the poem seems to talk about the glory of war, in actuality the characters find it tiring and depressing.
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Drances, the elderly Latin, isn't satisfied. He still hates Turnus, and with an angry, convincing speech, he tells Latinus to promise Lavinia to Aeneas. Then he speaks directly to Turnus, telling him either to surrender or to go meet Aeneas in single combat.
Drances brings a happy ending even closer—so it'll be that much more painful when it fails again.
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Turnus responds that Drances is a good talker but doesn't back up his words with fighting. Turnus is particularly offended by the suggestion that he's been beaten. He mentions his many kills, then tells Latinus that he'll renew the battle with allies like Camilla, a ferocious warrior and queen of the Volscians. He declares that he'll fight Aeneas, even though Aeneas wears Vulcan-made armor just as Achilles did in the Trojan war.
Turnus is clearly in a different mindset from the rest of the Latins. Not only does he want to fight Aeneas, he wants to continue the whole battle, despite the exhaustion of his troops. And he wants to continue even though he realizes he's got the disadvantage.
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A messenger arrives with news that Aeneas's army is on the move. The townspeople are in chaos, and Turnus uses the moment to underscore the need to keep fighting. Turnus orders his captains to gather the allied troops, and Latinus ends the council, sorry that the war must continue. The Latins fortify the city, and Amata, Lavinia and other women pray at the shrine of Minerva for victory.
Turnus manages to get the fighting started again without intervention from Juno. As when he didn't want to open the gates of war in Book 7, Latinus comes off as weak-willed and indecisive—the perfect target for Turnus's manipulation.
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Turnus eagerly arms himself, resembling a freed horse enjoying himself in the countryside. Camilla arrives, saying that she'll go meet the Trojans at the front while Turnus guards the city. Turnus explains his plan to ambush the Trojans as they walk through a constricted pathway in a gorge.
Unlike most Latins, Turnus and Camilla are excited about fighting—and Camilla doesn't even have Juno's spells urging her on. Like Dido, Camilla is a strong female leader. But also like Dido, she allows passion rather than piety to rule her, though in this case it is a passion for war.
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In the heavens, Diana, the goddess of the hunt, talks to another goddess named Opis. Diana describes her love for Camilla, and recounts Camilla's life story. Camilla's father Metabus, a tyrannical king, had to flee when his people revolted. He took baby Camilla with him, but when he had to cross a dangerous river, he didn't know how he would carry her. So he tied her to a spear and, with a prayer to Diana, threw her across. Camilla landed safely on the other side, where Metabus joined her. He lovingly raised her in the wilderness and she became an incredible hunter.
Metabus, like Mezentius, was a dictatorial king who loved his child. It seems he was also something of an ancient feminist. Camilla is one of the Aeneid's most fascinating characters. A true wild woman, she is not only better than the men at fighting, but somehow even more terrifying to them because of her uniqueness as a woman warrior.
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Since the omens suggest a bad fate for Camilla in this battle, Diana sends Opis down with a bow, to kill the man who will kill Camilla. The battle begins and various men die. In the middle of the scene of carnage, Camilla appears, with one breast bare, a brilliant and untiring fighter, and accompanied by other virgin warriors. Camilla kills multiple men with single arrows, and even slays Butes, the biggest Trojan. She mocks the Tuscans for being afraid of a woman. Tarchon, the Tuscan king, tries and fails to kill her.
Camilla is also a virgin, suggesting a single-minded, almost priestly devotion to her bow and arrow. At the same time, she has fun on the battlefield, joking about her femininity as she slaughters men. Virgil didn't completely invent her—she's preceded by the Greek legends of the Amazons, female warriors who also fought at Troy.
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Arruns, another soldier, begins his attack on Camilla. He is dressed in particularly gorgeous, highly colored armor. Camilla pursues him, wanting his armor for herself, "afire with a woman's lust for loot and plunder," and lets her guard down. Arruns, preparing to kill her, prays to Apollo that if he can kill her he'll stop fighting and return home. Apollo grants half the prayer, and Arruns spears Camilla.
Camilla's personal passion makes her impious and ends up being her downfall. This was Dido's fatal flaw too—her passion for Aeneas made her try to go against his fate. Aeneas also forgot his piety when he focused too much on his personal desire for Dido.
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As Camilla dies, she tells her friend Acca that Turnus must come to take her place. Opis follows through on Diana's wishes, locates the fleeing Arruns, and kills him with one shot from her bow.
Camilla sets up the fated showdown between Turnus and Aeneas. Opis's powerful archery fittingly avenges Camilla's death, as the bow was Camilla's preferred weapon.
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The Latin army falls apart after Camilla's death. The Trojan side enters the city of Lavinium and kills people right in the gateway. Turnus, who was still in the gorge waiting for the ambush, hears about the unfortunate turn from Acca and returns to the city. Just after Turnus leaves, Aeneas and his men march through the gorge. He sees Turnus from afar, but night is falling, so their reckoning will have to wait until tomorrow.
After Camilla's death, the Latin side suffers from the lack of leadership and fresh soldiers that Latinus feared. Turnus makes the right choice to go help his faltering men, a sign of piety in the face of the opportunity to stay just a little longer and have his one-on-one showdown with Aeneas.
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