Book 10

Battle and Death

In many ways this book sets things up for the final denouement of Book 12


1. Jupiter summons a council of the gods (is similar to the opening of Iliad 8); Virgil presents the council meeting in debate form.

The debate is opened by Jupiter - he is brief and direct:

2. Venus replies at some length in a carefully worked out piece of Latin rhetoric, combining logic and emotion:

3. Juno's reply is all invective and passion, spoken without due order in 'frantic hate'. She makes an angry retort to Venus, forced into revealing her bitterness in words at last. This is not a structured speech; Juno merely picks up some of Venus' speech to make four main points:

4. At the end of the two speeches, the council of the gods is undecided - the simile suggests a storm is imminent.

5. Jupiter replies in a great hush - his words will indeed be momentous. He refuses to take sides: ' I shall make no discrimination' whatever the background circumstances to the combatants because:

6. The siege is going badly for the Trojans; 'pent within their stockade without hope of escape', they resist as best they can.
Various heroes are listed in Homeric style - but to us, and to most Romans? about as gripping as the telephone directory.

7. However after the tedium of this list of names, Ascanius is brought to our attention, in the thick of battle but looking rather like a fashion plate. the sheer quasntity of verse describing his beauty makes him stand out from other warriors who surround him ( and provide occasional links with contemporary Italy).
Why this appearance? He is not fighting (Apollo forbade it in Book 9). Is it just another reminder of Aeneas' heir apparent?

8. Night falls and Aeneas is on his way back to camp after his visit to Tarchon (link here with Book 8) The background to this visit is rapidly summarised; Tarchon's agreement is briskly mentioned. So, the destined 'Foreign leader' gains his allies and they sail for the Trojan camp.
Note: the appearance of the other young man Pallas, all eager curiosity about the stars and Aeneas' adventures - a striking contrast with trouble-hardened Aeneas.

9. A traditional invocation to the Muses as Virgil embarks on a list of the Etruscan heroes (as we have seen before, links between Etruscans and Romans had existed from earliest times).

10. The first section of the list - Massicus and his followers; the list is given a little more than geographical interest to weapons and numbers and the details of a seer's work and 'tools'.

11. The second section of the list - enlivened by the story of Cycnus' transformation into a swan.

12. The final section of the list - based on the city of Mantua - Virgil's home city.
Yet again the name of Mezentius occurs; and the whole list ends with a couple of vivid word-pictures - the 'tree-trunk oars....lashing the waves' and the 'merman' Triton.

13. Virgil brings the list formally to an end in somewhat strained Alexandrian epic language - artificial and forced and too clever by half.