The Aeneid


Book X

Summary Book X

Yet Jupiter’s suspension of divine influence does not release the combatants from their fates. Jupiter’s prohibition of interference only lends weight to the tragedy of the events that follow. By their own actions, which are determined by their own wills and abilities, the warriors bring their fates to pass as the conflict plays out.

Ironically, Turnus’s killing of Pallas is the battle’s turning point, as events then start to shift in the Trojans’ favor. First, Virgil foreshadows the demise of the Latins when he says that by taking the belt of Pallas—an act of arrogance or hubris—Turnus spells his own doom. Pallas’s death awakens in Aeneas a passion not witnessed since the fall of Troy—a mixture of ruthlessness, unrelenting anger, and hell-bent vengeance. The reappearance of Aeneas as a great warrior breaks the battle’s stalemate.

Turnus’s humiliation when Juno lures him away from the battle and onto the ship plays out to the further advantage of the Trojans. Turnus feels alienated from Juno, as though his advocate has suddenly become his adversary. She protects his person but not his honor, and impedes him in his single-minded commitment to behave as a heroic warrior whatever the cost. If the Trojans were to kill Turnus, their victory would be complete, but the fact that Turnus is involuntarily plucked from the battlefield by his immortal benefactor represents a moral victory for the Trojans. It boosts their spirits while deflating the Latins’ pride.

Again in Book X, the Latins draw parallels between themselves and the Greeks who defeated the Trojans at Troy. This time, though, they invoke the Greeks as a contrast. The Greeks did not succeed in eliminating the Trojans altogether, as the Latins intend to do in Italy. The high irony is that the Latins are correct in saying that they are not like the Greeks—but primarily because they are not, in fact, capable of defeating the Trojans. Worse, the Greeks were able to defeat the Trojans on the Trojans’ own ground; the Latins, on the other hand, prove incapable of defending their homeland. It is thus the Trojans, who can be viewed as invaders despite their invitation from King Latinus, who play the role of the Greeks, winning a war on enemy turf.

The difference between the Greeks in Troy and the Trojans in Italy lies in the Trojans’ intention to settle in Italy and found what will become an empire. When the Greeks sacked Troy, they did so to reclaim a woman, and, with Helen retrieved, they set sail for home. Aeneas, on the other hand, must claim rather than reclaim a land, and he and the Trojans must justify their invasion of Italy by proclaiming the superiority of the race and culture that will result from the conquest.