Battle and Death
In many ways this book sets things up for the final denouement of Book 12
THE COUNCIL OF THE GODS
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:
- he rebukes the gods for disobedience to his will that Italians should not fight Trojans. (general rebuke but intended for Juno and Venus, who have caused the troubles
- he questions their rebellion and fears - rhetorical questions, and audience knows the answers too
- he reminds them that the coming of the Carthaginians over the Alps will set Italians against Trojans' descendants; their rivalry must wait until then
- he demands that their fighting should stop; the peace he has willed must be
2. Venus replies at some length in a carefully worked out piece of Latin rhetoric, combining logic and emotion:
- Opening invocation - direct address to Jupiter, plus a compliment to him
- Sets out the facts -
- Trojans under siege (in Roman style camp - 'walled earthworks')
- Aeneas not there, unaware of what's happening
- and still threats from a Greek source
- Adds reminder of personal danger to herself, Jupiter's daughter
- Sets out argument as to what is the will of Jupiter - this is the crux of her speech:
- if it is to destroy the Trojans, then so be it, let them suffer
- if it is to see them in a new homeland, then so be it - let no-one prevent them
- Indignantly recapitulates their sufferings in Sicily and in Italy (she does not mention Africa); brings in the work of Juno and Allecto (all this is a useful recap. for the audience, too
- She makes her appeal - moderate and subtle - appealing not for Aeneas, but for Ascanius' future (thus hoping to wrong-foot Juno?)
- Emotional climax, introduced by rhetorical questions - what has been gained by all this suffering? the Trojans might as well have stayed in Troy to suffer.
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:
- Don't blame me for Aeneas' sufferings. (She dwells on his actions in Italy - the place that matters)
- Why shouldn't Turnus defend his country and his rights? (Another chance for some re-capping with incidents of plunder (the shooting of the fawn) and seduction (Lavinia's transfer from Turnus to Aeneas being dramatically exaggerated).
- You help the Trojans; why shouldn't I help Turnus?
- Stop interfering: you have caused enough trouble (goes back to the origins of the Trojan war i.e. the first cause of all the trouble but one rather remote from the immediate situation! She does not of course mention her own role in all the trouble making from start to finish).
The speeches of the two goddesses clearly represent the opposition between Reason and Emotion. Neither of them get the better of it, as Jupiter's concluding speech will show.
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:
- there is no agreement either between the men involved or between the gods
- 'To each man shall his own free actions bring both his suffering and his good fortune. Jupiter is impatially king over all alike. The Fates will find the way.'
The council then ends with this striking statement of the position of Jupiter and the Fates.
THE SIEGE CONTINUES
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?
BACK TO AENEAS - AND HIS NEW ALLIES
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.