Aeneid for Boys and Girls - Alfred J. Church

The Battle at the Camp

As soon as it was light the battle began. The Latins had fixed the heads of Nisus and Euryălus on poles; these were carried round the camp so that all could see them, and not a little grieved and troubled were the Trojans at the sight. First the Latins tried to take the camp by what was called a "tortoise," because this creature has a very thick and strong shell. Such a shell the soldiers made over their heads, by putting their shields together, and this so closely that no one could thrust a spear through it. Underneath this shield the men worked, some at filling up the ditch and others at digging away the wall. But the Trojans with great labour rolled up a great rock from the inside on to the wall, and this they pushed over so that it fell down upon the "tortoise" and broke it down. Many were crushed to death, and, after this, the Latins were not willing to fight any more in this way. But they did not cease for a moment from attacking the camp. Some put scaling-ladders against the wall, and climbed up by them to the top of the wall. But the Trojans thrust at them with poles and spears as they climbed, killing some and wounding some, and pushing others off the steps of the ladders, so that they fell to the ground. And if one or other did climb to the top and step on the wall, then he was one against many, and could not hold his ground, but was either killed or cast down to the earth. But it was by fire that the great harm was done to the Trojans. There was a great tower upon the walls, which the Latins tried to take, and the Trojans to defend. On to this Turnus threw a lighted torch, and the fire caught the wood of which it was made and climbed from story to story, for the wind was blowing and made the flame the fiercer. In a short time, the lower part being burnt away, the whole tower fell forward, and all the men that were in it perished, except two only. One of them was now growing old, and was but a slow runner, and he, seeing himself surrounded by the enemy, threw himself on to them where the spears were thickest, and so died fighting. But the other was a young man, very nimble and a great runner, and he made his way through the enemy even as far as the wall. And this he climbed, and had now his hand upon the top, when Turnus caught him from behind. As an eagle catches a swan, or a wolf a lamb, so he caught him and pulled him down, and a great bit of the wall with him, for the man clung to the wall with all his might. So the battle grew fiercer and fiercer. Many Trojans were slain and many Latins.

And now came the time when the young Ascanius was to put away childish things and become a man. There was among the Latins a certain Numanus, who was married to the sister of Turnus. This man was not a little proud of himself and of his family, for, indeed, it was no small thing to be brother-in-law to Turnus. So he stood in the front rank and shouted out: "Men of Troy, are you not ashamed to be besieged again? Were not the ten years enough for you? Why were you mad enough to come to Italy? We are a hardy race. We dip our new-born babes in the stream, and our boys exercise themselves with hunting, and our grown men have their hands always either on the sword or on the plough. And when we are old, we do not rest; though our hair has grown white, we still cover it with a helmet. But you, with your mantles of purple, and your long sleeves and your scents, you—Phrygian women, I call you, not Phrygian men—what are you doing here? This is no place for you!"

The young Ascanius could not put up with such boasting. Never before had he used his bow in battle, but only in hunting wild beasts. But now he took an arrow from his quiver, and put the notch upon the string, and drew the bow with all his strength, saying a prayer and making a vow at the same time to Jupiter. Jupiter heard, and thundered on the left hand; and even as the thunder was heard, the arrow hissed through the air, and struck Numanus on the head, piercing it through from temple to temple. "This is the answer, boaster, which the Trojans, twice conquered though they are, send to you." So he cried, and the people shouted for joy. Apollo, where he sat in heaven, looking at the battle, saw the deed. "Go on as you have begun, son of Troy," he cried. But he said to himself: "The lad must not grow over bold." So he came down from heaven, taking the shape of an old man who in time long past had carried the armour of Anchises, and now followed Ascanius. "It is enough," said the old man, "that you have slain this boaster; but now stand out of the battle."

Those who were standing by heard the voice and looked, and as they looked he vanished out of their sight; but they heard the rattle of his quiver, and they knew that it was the Archer-god himself. So they told the boy that he must not draw his bow again. And the battle grew fiercer and fiercer.

Now there were two young men, twin brothers, both tall as pine trees. The name of one was Bitias, and the name of the other was Pandărus. These had been set to keep the gate. And now they opened the gate, and let the enemy come in; but as they came in, the two standing in their places, one on one side of the gate, and the other on the other, struck them down. The Trojans were glad to see it, and grew so bold that they went out beyond the walls, though Æneas had forbidden this, saying: "Whatever may happen, still keep behind the walls." And it would have been well for them if they had obeyed him. For now Turnus himself saw what had been done, and he rushed to the gate. First he killed one of the twin brothers, namely Bitias. It was not by casting a javelin at him that he did it; that had not been enough. He came close to him, and struck him with a great spear that he carried—a great spear with a great point of Spanish iron, a foot and a half long. Through the shield of bull's hide and through a double coat of mail he drove it, and Bitias fell, as a tree might fall, with his shield over him.

When the Trojans saw that their champion was dead, they were troubled, for Bitias was one of the bravest and strongest of them. And Pandărus, in his fear, thrust his broad shoulders against the gate, and shut it again. Some of his own people he left on the outside, but Turnus himself he shut in, not knowing that he had done it. Turnus raged for blood, as a tiger rages when he has leapt into a herd of cattle. And the Trojans fled before him. But Pandărus did not flee. He was not one who was afraid of any man, and, besides, he hoped to have vengeance for his brother. He cried to Turnus: "What are you doing here? This is not your own city; this is the camp of Troy, from which you shall not go out alive." But Turnus laughed to hear him boast, and said: "Begin, if you are so bold; maybe, you have found another Achilles here in Italy." Then Pandărus threw his spear, a great shaft of pinewood with the bark still on it. With great strength he threw it, but aimed it wrong—some said that Juno turned it aside that it struck the gate. Then Turnus raised his sword high above his head, and struck with all his might, rising to the blow. He brought the sword down upon the head of Pandărus, and cleft it in two. Then, indeed, if Turnus had but thought to open the gate and let in his friends, there had been that day an end of the war, and, indeed, of Troy. But he was so greedy to kill that he forgot. Many Trojans he killed, but the gate was still shut, and the Latins could not come in.

But now the Trojan chiefs were ashamed to see that one man could do such harm. They stirred the people with bitter words. "Whither will you flee? What other walls have you? Are you not ashamed to betray your chief? Will you suffer yourselves to be conquered by one man?" Then the Trojans took courage, and joined themselves in a close array, so that Turnus could not choose but give way before them. Just so a lion gives way before a crowd of men. He is frightened, and yet he is fierce. His courage will not suffer him to fly, but when there are so many against him, he dares not stand. So it was with Turnus. Twice he turned, and drove back the Trojans; and twice they pressed him so hard that he could not but give way. His shield was broken, and his helmet bent in, and he himself wearied almost to death. At last, when he came to where the river touched the camp, he leapt into the stream, and swam to the other side.