Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art
Page: 175Æneas made rapid preparations for war, and sailed farther up the Tiber to secure the aid of Evander, king of the Tuscans, the hereditary foe of the Latins. This monarch, too old to lead his troops in person, nevertheless promised his aid, and sent his beloved son Pallas in his stead to command the troops he supplied.
Juno, still implacable, had in the mean while sent Iris to apprise Turnus of Æneas’ departure, and to urge him to set fire to the remainder of the fleet,—a suggestion which Turnus joyfully obeyed. The Trojans, headed by young Iulus, Æneas’ son, defended themselves with their usual courage; but, seeing the enemy would soon overpower them, they dispatched Nisus and Euryalus, two of their number, to warn Æneas of their danger, and entreat him to hasten up with his reënforcements. These unfortunate youths passed through the camp unseen, but farther on fell into the hands of a troop of Volscian horsemen, who cruelly put them to death, and then hurried with the Rutules to lend assistance to Turnus. Next some of the Trojan vessels were fired by the enemy; but, instead of being consumed by the flames, they were changed into water nymphs by the intervention of the gods, and, sailing down the Tiber, met Æneas, and warned him to hasten to his son’s rescue.
In the mean while, Venus, who befriended the Trojans, had sought Vulcan’s detested abode, and had prevailed upon him to forge a beautiful armor for Æneas. On the shield, which is minutely described in one of the books of Virgil’s celebrated epic poem, the Æneid, were depicted many of the stirring scenes in the lives of the future descendants of [Pg 375] Æneas, the heroes of Roman history. As soon as this armor was completed, Venus brought it to her son, who donned it with visible pleasure, and, encouraged by his mother’s words, prepared to meet the Latins and hold his own.
Venus and Juno were not the only deities interested in the coming struggle; for all the gods, having watched Æneas’ career, were anxious about his fate. Seeing this, and fearful lest their interference should still further endanger the hero whom he favored, Jupiter assembled the gods on high Olympus, and sternly forbade their taking any active part in the coming strife, under penalty of his severe displeasure.
Æneas and his Tuscan allies arrived on the battle scene just in time to give the necessary support to the almost exhausted Trojans; and now the fight raged more fiercely than ever, and prodigies of valor were accomplished on both sides, until finally young Pallas fell, slain by Turnus. When aware of the death of this promising young prince, Æneas’ heart was filled with grief, for he could imagine the sorrow of the aged Evander when he saw his son’s corpse brought home for burial; and he then and there registered a solemn vow to avenge Pallas’ death by slaying Turnus, and immediately hastened forth to keep his word.
In the mean while, Juno, suspecting what his purpose would be, and afraid to allow Turnus to encounter such a formidable antagonist as Æneas, had determined to lure her favorite away from the field. To compass this, she assumed the form of Æneas, challenged Turnus, and, as soon as he began the fight, fled toward the river, and took refuge on one of the vessels, closely pursued by him. No sooner did she see the Rutule chief safe on board, than she loosed the vessel from its moorings, and allowed it to drift down the stream, bearing Turnus away from the scene of battle. Aware now of the delusion practiced, Turnus raved, and accused the gods, and then eagerly watched for an opportunity to land, and make his way, alone and on foot, back to the scene of conflict.
[Pg 376] During Turnus’ involuntary absence, Æneas had ranged all over the battlefield in search of him, and had encountered and slain many warriors, among others Lausus and his aged father Mezentius, two allies of Latinus, who had specially distinguished themselves by their great valor. The dead and dying covered the field, when Latinus, weary of bloodshed, summoned a council, and again vainly tried to make peace. But his efforts were of no avail. The war was renewed more fiercely than ever; and in the next encounter, Camilla, the brave Volscian maiden, fell at last, breathing a fervent entreaty that Turnus should hasten to the succor of his despairing people if he would not see them all slain and the town in the hands of the Trojans.
To haste with succor, and repel
The Trojans from the town—farewell.’”
Virgil (Conington’s tr.).
Shortly after her death, in the very midst of the fray, Æneas suddenly felt himself wounded by an arrow sent by some mysterious hand. He hastened to seek the aid of the leech Iapis; but, in spite of his ministrations, the barb could not be removed nor the wound dressed, until Venus brought a magic herb, which instantly healed the hero, and enabled him to return to the fight with unabated strength and energy.
The tide was now decidedly turning in favor of the Trojans; for Amata, the Latin queen, sorry for her ill-advised opposition to her daughter’s marriage with Æneas, brought Lavinia home and hung herself in a fit of remorse.
Æneas, appearing once more on the battlefield, finally encountered the long-sought Turnus, who had made his way back, and was now driving about in his chariot, jealously guarded by his sister Juturna, who, the better to watch over his safety, had taken the place of his chariot driver. The two heroes, having met, instantly closed in deadly fight; [Pg 377] but, in spite of Turnus’ bravery, he was finally obliged to succumb, and sank to the ground, frankly acknowledging himself beaten as he exhaled his last sigh.
Have seen me stretch imploring hands:
The bride Lavinia is your own:
Thus far let foeman’s hate be shown.’”
Virgil (Conington’s tr.).
With the death of Turnus the war came to an end. A lasting peace was made with Latinus; and the brave Trojan hero, whose woes were now over, was united in marriage with Lavinia. In concert with Latinus, he ruled the Latins, and founded a city, which he called Lavinia in honor of his bride, and which became for a time the capital of Latium.
Æneas, as the gods had predicted, became the father of a son named Æneas Silvia, who founded Alba Longa, where his descendants reigned for many a year, and where one of his race, the Vestal Virgin Ilia, after marrying Mars, gave birth to Remus and Romulus, the founders of Rome (p. 142).
ANALYSIS OF MYTHS.
“I shall indeed interpret all that I can, but I cannot interpret all that I should like.”—Grimm.
In attempting an analysis of the foregoing myths, and an explanation of their origin, it is impossible, in a work of this kind, to do more than give a very superficial idea of the scientific theories of various eminent mythologists, who, on this subject, like doctors, are sure to disagree.
These myths, comprising “the entire intellectual stock of the age to which they belonged,” existed as “floating talk among the people” long ere they passed into the literature of the nation; and while to us mythology is merely “an affair of historical or antiquarian study, we must remember that the interpretation of myths was once a thing full of vital interest to men whose moral and religious beliefs were deeply concerned.” Received at first with implicit faith, these myths became a stumbling block as civilization advanced. Cultured man recoiled from much of the grossness which had appeared quite natural to his ancestors in a savage state, and made an attempt to find out their primitive meaning, or an explanation which would satisfy his purer taste.