Aeneid for Boys and Girls - Alfred J. Church

The Gathering of the Chiefs

When the battle was over—for the Trojans, being more used to war, soon drove the Latins back—the shepherds carried the two dead men, Almo and Galæsus, to the city, and cried for vengeance to the gods and to the king. And none cried louder and more fiercely than Turnus: "Why," said he, "do you put the Trojans before me?" And all the people said the same thing, crying out: "Send away these Trojans. Let us have our own people to rule over us." As for the king, he stood firm, firm as a great rock in the sea. The waves break over it, and the sea-weed is dashed against it, but it is not heaved from its place. At last he said: "O foolish Latins, you will pay for this madness with your lives; and no one, O Turnus, will suffer worse things than you; and when you would cry to the gods for help, they will not hear you. As for me, I shall soon be at rest in the grave. And if I have but little honour at my funeral, what matters it?"

There was a custom of old time in Latium, and in Alba afterwards, and in Rome herself in later times, that when there is the beginning of war, they open the great gate of the Temple of Janus. When the Fathers have given their voice for war, then the consul himself, in robe and girdle, opens the gate with his own hand, and the people follow him, and there is a great blowing of horns. But King Latinus, though the people bade him declare war and open the gate, would have nothing to do with it; he hid himself. So Juno herself came down, and opened the gate with her own hand.

When this had been done, men made ready for battle throughout all the land of Italy. They polished their shields, and sharpened their spears and swords and battle-axes. In five cities forges were set up, wherein to make new arms and armour, helmets and shields, and breastplates and greaves. Even their ploughs and their reaping-hooks they took and turned them into weapons of war.

First came King Mezentius, the Tuscan, of whom more will soon be said. He was one who cared not for gods or men. With him came Lausus his son; there was no fairer or better youth in Italy. He deserved to have a better father. With these two came a thousand men.

Next came a son of Hercules, carrying a shield on which was his father's crest, the great monster with a hundred heads, which men called the Hydra. He had a lion's skin, with a mane and great white teeth round his head and shoulders. He was followed by the Sabines, who were armed with long spears and swords.

After him came the twin brothers who built the city of Tibur. They were Greeks, and with them came a son of Vulcan, and a great company of country folk, some of them carrying slings and some javelins. These had helmets of wolf-skin on their heads.

Next came Messāpus, skilled in taming horses, the son of Neptune. His father had given him charms which made him safe against fire and sword. Many other chiefs of great renown followed, all with companies of men. Some had wicker shields and some helmets made of cork, and others spears and shields of bronze, for in old time men used bronze and not iron for making of arms and armour. Their names need not be told in this place; only Umbro the priest. A wise man was he, and one who could charm serpents and heal those who were bitten by them. But he could not heal the wound of the Trojan spear, nor did all his charms keep him from death.

But of all that came there was none more brave, or strong, or fair to look upon than Turnus, for as he stood in the midst he overtopped all others by the head. He had a helmet on his head, and on the helmet three crests, with the Chimæra, a creature of which half was a lion and half a goat. A great multitude of men followed him.

Last of all came Camilla, a wonderful girl from the land of the Volscians. And with her came a great company of women warriors, with armour of bronze, and riding on horses. This Camilla cared not for the distaff, or to spin, or to do such things as women are used to do. She cared for nothing but war. A great fighter was she, and also a wonderful runner. She was swifter than the winds. She could run over the standing corn, and not break it down; she could run across the sea, and not wet her feet. All the young men were astonished to see her, and the women looked after her, as she went. She had a purple mantle round her shoulders, and a band of gold round her hair; on her back she carried a quiver of arrows and a bow, and in her hand she had a pike of myrtle-wood.