The Aeneid

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Turnus Character Analysis

The king of the Rutulians, an Italian nation located about 20 miles from the eventual Rome, and Aeneas's main mortal enemy. He hoped to marry Lavinia, daughter of Latinus, and become king of the Latins. Juno, via the fury Allecto, enchants Turnus so that he'll fight Aeneas instead of accepting fate. He becomes the leader in the battle of Latins against Trojans. Despite all this, he's not extremely villainous, his main fault being his anger. He's a brave, powerful warrior. Often, his seeming cowardice is due to the attempts of Juno or his sister Juturna to save his life.

Turnus Quotes in The Aeneid

The The Aeneid quotes below are all either spoken by Turnus or refer to Turnus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fate Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of The Aeneid published in 2006.
Book 10 Quotes
Fortune speeds the bold!
Related Characters: Turnus (speaker)
Page Number: 10.341
Explanation and Analysis:

Turnus is cheering and encouraging his men in advance of the battle they will wage against Aeneas and his followers. As they prepare to fight, Turnus assures them that fate will be in their favor if they are brave and bold. This is one of the most famous lines in the Aeneid, and it is often interpreted as if it was supposed to be Virgil's own opinion, as opposed to a line from a character's mouth. In fact, Turnus's opinions on fate are hardly standard. He seems to be saying, in fact, that fortune can change depending on individuals' actions and characters.

The Aeneid is, in general, much more skeptical about this possibility. Virgil often stresses, indeed, that fortune and fate exist on an entirely separate plane from the desires and actions of individuals. It is this belief in the close connection between the two that will ultimately lead to Turnus's downfall, and emphasize once again the superiority of fate over human desires.

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Book 12 Quotes
Go no further down the road of hatred.
Related Characters: Turnus (speaker)
Page Number: 12.1093
Explanation and Analysis:

After a long, drawn-out battle between Aeneas and Turnus - and between the gods who are directing the actions of both of them - Aeneas finally has his enemy on his knees, and must decide whether to kill or to spare him. Here, Turnus begs Aeneas to spare him. He seems to suggest by his words that Aeneas will act out of free will: it is up to his individual conscience to direct his next move. Of course, we as readers know that there are many more characters at play here than the two soldiers facing each other. However, we are certainly not meant to see Aeneas as passive or lacking any will of his own. Guided by fate, Aeneas must nonetheless choose how to respond to his own fate, knowing as he does that he is tantalizingly close to the goal that has defined his life. 

Turnus's limbs went limp in the chill of death. His life breath fled with a groan of outrage down to the shades below.
Related Characters: Virgil (speaker), Turnus
Page Number: 12.1111-1113
Explanation and Analysis:

As the epic comes to an end, we know that the triumph of Rome's founding is just within the grasp of Aeneas and the Trojans. It is striking, then, that Virgil's work ends not with a triumphant scene of martial victory, or even any kind of joyful celebration, but with the painful final breaths of the Trojans's final enemy. Jove has reminded Hercules that the lives of humans are brief, and by lingering on Turnus's death Virgil reminds us of that lesson. He also reminds us that however he and other Romans may think of their land as one of peace and joy, there was a much darker beginning to their people. And this history did not come into being by chance, according to the logic of the epic: instead, all that was happened was fated to do so, unfolding according to forces larger than any one individual.

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Turnus Character Timeline in The Aeneid

The timeline below shows where the character Turnus appears in The Aeneid. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 7
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The Gods and Divine Intervention Theme Icon
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...Rome). King Latinus is seeking a suitable husband (and future heir) for his daughter Lavinia. Turnus, king of the Rutulians, seems most likely, but fate has delayed the marriage. Latinus sees... (full context)
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...snakes at Amata, poisoning her against Aeneas and making her angry that Lavinia won't marry Turnus. Amata tries to convince Latinus to cancel the marriage to Aeneas, to no avail. She... (full context)
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Allecto next flies to Turnus's bedroom and disguises herself as an elderly priestess. She encourages Turnus to attack the Trojan... (full context)
Book 8
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Turnus gathers his own men and sends a messenger to the city of King Diomedes, a... (full context)
Book 9
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Iris, sent by Juno, instructs Turnus to attack the Trojans' camp, since Aeneas has left it to find Evander. Turnus thanks... (full context)
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After attempting and failing to break into the fortress, Turnus's troops begin to burn the Trojan ships. The action pauses for some backstory about the... (full context)
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Though Turnus's men are upset by the divine intervention, Turnus declares that the lack of ships will... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Volscens, a Rutulian captain, marches back to Turnus's camp with three hundred men. He sees Euryalus's helmet through the dark, and calls out,... (full context)
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In the morning, Turnus's side displays the heads of Nisus and Euryalus, stuck on pikes, to the Trojans. Rumors... (full context)
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Turnus's troops attempt to scale the fortress walls. The Trojans hold them off, but Turnus throws... (full context)
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...the Latins to enter. They manage to kill some of the onrushing Latins, but then Turnus enters and kills many Trojans, including Bitias. Mars strengthens the Latins. Pandarus closes the gate,... (full context)
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...encourages his friends, telling them to remember Aeneas and Troy. The Trojans manage to stop Turnus's progress. Jove sends Iris down to tell Turnus to leave, because Juno can't disobey Jove... (full context)
Book 10
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...orders and what has caused the war. Venus responds first, describing the Trojans' great suffering, Turnus's pride, Allecto's troublemaking, and more. She begs Jove at least to save Ascanius, saying he... (full context)
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Juno angrily responds that Aeneas chose to make Turnus his enemy, and that he brought war to a peaceful land. She says that Jove... (full context)
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...Tuscan troops arrive at the battle in the morning, and Aeneas's Vulcan-made shield shines impressively. Turnus rallies his men to fight on the beach with the famous line: "Fortune speeds the... (full context)
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...and his men follow. Pallas fights with Lausus, a boy his age, the son of Turnus's important ally Mezentius. Fate has determined that neither will return to their homes. (full context)
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Turnus's sister Juturna tells him to go help Lausus. Turnus tells the soldiers crowded around to... (full context)
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...are unchangeable, but human bravery brings lasting glory. Pallas throws his spear but barely nicks Turnus. Turnus tauntingly says that he might be able to do better than that, then throws... (full context)
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...Olympus, Jove tells Juno that Venus has been helping the Trojans. Juno asks to remove Turnus from the battle, where the Latins are badly losing, so he can at least see... (full context)
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Aeneas searches unsuccessfully for Turnus. Meanwhile, Turnus realizes he's floated away, and makes a desperate speech to the gods, unsure... (full context)
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In Turnus's absence, Mezentius takes over leadership of the Rutulians. Mezentius is described as resembling a cliff... (full context)
Book 11
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Turnus responds that Drances is a good talker but doesn't back up his words with fighting.... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Turnus eagerly arms himself, resembling a freed horse enjoying himself in the countryside. Camilla arrives, saying... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Book 12
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In a rage at the turn of events against the Latins, Turnus announces to Latinus his intention to fight Aeneas and win Lavinia's hand. Latinus begs Turnus... (full context)
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On the Trojan side, Aeneas accepts Turnus's challenge, and comforts his friends and Ascanius by talking about fate. Morning comes and both... (full context)
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Latinus, Turnus, and Aeneas enter in separate chariots. Aeneas prays and asks Juno to be more kind.... (full context)
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The Rutulians are nervous to see how uneven the duel will be, with Turnus looking scared and weak compared to Aeneas. Juturna sees her chance, and, disguising herself as... (full context)
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...is unknown, since no one ever wanted to boast of having hit Aeneas. Seeing this, Turnus regains hope and kills many men. Achates and Ascanius, along with Mnestheus, another Trojan, bring... (full context)
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...the battle demoralizes the Latins and the Trojans kill many enemies. Juturna sees Aeneas stalking Turnus. She pushes Metiscus, Turnus's chariot-driver, out of his seat, taking the reigns and using her... (full context)
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Amata, the queen, sees the attacking Trojans and thinks that this means that Turnus has died. Believing this terrible outcome is all her fault, she makes a noose from... (full context)
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Turnus, out on the battlefield, hears the cries from the city and wants to go investigate.... (full context)
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Aeneas halts the assault on the city when he hears that Turnus is coming. The armies gather around to watch the duel. The two men start with... (full context)
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Aeneas chases Turnus, like a hunting dog chasing a deer. Aeneas pauses to try to pull his spear... (full context)
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...has. They both know that Aeneas is fated to win. So why bother to get Turnus back his sword? He tells her that she's given the Trojans enough grief. Finally, Juno... (full context)
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Jove sends down a Fury, a goddess of vengeance, to make Juturna cease helping Turnus. The Fury comes down to Turnus disguised as a bird, and Juturna understands what it... (full context)
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Aeneas asks Turnus why he's dawdling. Turnus says he fears Jove, not Aeneas. Turnus picks up a boulder... (full context)
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Aeneas then strikes Turnus with his spear. On his knees, Turnus reaches up to Aeneas. He asks Aeneas to... (full context)
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Aeneas considers Turnus's pleas, but then he sees Pallas's belt that Turnus had removed and wears as a... (full context)