Aeneid for Boys and Girls - Alfred J. Church

The Battle on the Shore

While these things were going on at the camp, Æneas made an alliance with the Tuscans under their chief Tarchon. To him he told everything about himself—who he was and whence he came, and how the gods had bidden him settle in Italy. And Tarchon told it to the people, and they, believing that Æneas was indeed the man whom the gods had chosen to be their chief, followed him willingly. So, this matter being settled, he set out on his way back to the camp, for he was not a little anxious about his son and his people. He went first in his ship, and Pallas, the son of Evander, sat by him, and after him came the ships of the Tuscans, and with the Tuscans came others from the northern parts of Italy, some eight thousand men in thirty ships. All that night they rowed down the river, and Æneas sat at the helm of his ship, for his heart was too full of care to suffer him to sleep. About midnight he saw a strange sight. There came up to the side of his ship a nymph. She laid one hand upon the ship, and with the other hand she swam. And he could see that there were other nymphs behind her and by her side. She said: "Are you awake, son of Venus? It is well; there are many things for you to think about. I and my companions whom you see were once your ships, the ships which you built with the pines of Mount Ida. Turnus was going to burn us with fire, and Jupiter changed us into nymphs as you see. Know that your son and your people are besieged in the camp. Put on the armour that the Fire-god made for you, and hasten to help them." When she had said this, she put her hand under the keel of the ship, and pushed it on; and her companions did the same to the other ships. Quickly did they pass through the water, and when the day began to break they were at their journey's end.

Then Æneas passed the word along the fleet, that every one should make himself ready for battle. He himself stood up on the stern of his ship, and lifted his shield in his left hand. Brightly did it flash in the sunshine, and all the Trojans in the camp saw it and were glad, for now, they knew, their chief had come back to them. Turnus also and his men saw it, and were much astonished. For the sea was covered with ships, and Æneas was in the midst of them, and from his helmet and from his shield there shone a terrible light, like the light of a comet when it flares in the sky at midnight. Nevertheless, Turnus did not lose courage for a moment. He said to his men: "Now you have what you wished for. Your enemies do not hide themselves behind walls, but are come to meet you face to face. Think now of your wives and children, and fight for them, to keep them from these robbers. And remember the great deeds which your fathers did in the old time. And now let us make haste, and fight with these men before they can get firm footing on land." So, leaving some of his people to watch the camp, he made all the haste that he could to keep the enemy from landing.

But this he could not do. Some of them had already made their way to the shore, some on planks from the ship's side and some jumping into the sea, where the waves had broken and the water was flowing back, and some running along the oars. As for Tarchon, he spied a place where the sea was calm, and told his men to run the ships upon the beach. This they did. Only Tarchon's own ship was driven on a ridge of rock, and he and all his companions were thrown out into the sea. Still, at last, they all got safe on shore.

Æneas did many valiant deeds. Theron he slew, who was the tallest man in all the army of Turnus. The tallest he was, and he wore a heavier and stronger coat of mail than any other man, but Æneas drove his spear through it. Then he slew the two sons of Melampus, who was the companion of Hercules. They, too, were giants among men; one might have thought that each was a second Hercules, for they fought with clubs, but they could not stand against Æneas. Then seven warriors, sons of one man, came against him. They threw seven spears at him at once. Some of them he caught upon his shield, and some almost grazed his body, but he was not hurt by any. He cried to Achates: "Give me spears enough: that which was good enough for the killing of a Greek, is surely good enough for a man of Italy." And two of the seven he killed. Many others fell dead to the ground both on this side and on that: neither would give way; now a man of Italy was slain, and now a Trojan, for they stood man against man, and which was the bravest no one could say.

In another part of the field Pallas and his Arcadians were fighting. The Arcadians had been used to fight on horseback, but now they were on foot, for they could not bring their horses with them in the ships. When Pallas saw that they fled before the enemy, as men will do when they have to fight in a way which they do not know, he cried: "Now, by the name of your king, Evander, stand firm! Stand, I beseech, if you love me! How shall I show myself worthy of my father, if you are not with me and help me? These are but men whom you see: you fly before them as if they were gods. Follow me, and I will show you where you can win the most renown." So saying, he rushed into the thickest of the fight, and his people followed him. The first that he killed was one Lagus. As the man was lifting a great stone from the ground, he ran him through with his spear. Then while he tugged at the spear to draw it out, another of the Latins thought to slay him. But Pallas turned, so nimble was he and so ready, and struck him full in the breast with his sword, so that he fell dead upon the ground. Then there met him two twin brothers; so like they were that neither father nor mother knew one from the other. But Pallas made a cruel difference, cutting off the head of the one and the right hand of the other.

And now the nymph Juturna—she was sister to Turnus—hastened to her brother, and told him what havoc Pallas was making among the Latins. At once he left the place where he was fighting. As he drove his chariot through the ranks of his army, he cried: "Leave Pallas to me; he is mine: let no one presume to meddle with him." Pallas heard him speak, and looked at him, admiring him, so proudly did he bear himself, and so noble was his look. "This is one worth fighting with," he said. "I shall either win spoils that will make me famous for ever, or shall die with honour." Then he rushed forward to meet the enemy; but his Arcadians stood cold with fear. Then Turnus leapt down from his chariot: he would meet this bold youth on equal terms. Pallas, before he threw his spear, breathed a prayer to Hercules: "O mighty hero, if you remember the house where of old you were a guest, help me to-day. May be I am overbold, to meet so great a chief: yet, if it may be, help me to lay that proud warrior level with the ground and to spoil him of his arms." Hercules heard the prayer, where he sat on his throne in heaven; and it grieved him to the heart that he could not help. Then Jupiter said: "My son, the days of man are but short, and each has his appointed time. But the brave man lives after death by the praise which men give to noble deeds. This youth must die, but he shall not be forgotten. And for Turnus, too, the day of death is near."

Then the two champions met. First Pallas threw his spear. With all his might he threw it. It pierced the shield of Turnus; it pierced his coat of mail; it grazed the skin of his shoulder. And Turnus stood awhile, balancing his spear. Then saying, "This, I think, will do better work," he threw it, and with a better aim. It pierced the shield, the stout bull's hide and the iron, and the coat of mail, and struck Pallas full on the breast. From breast to back it passed, and in a moment he fell dead upon the plain. Then Turnus stood over the dead man, and said: "Men of Arcadia, take this message to your king. I send him back his Pallas. Let him bury his son with all honour—that I do not grudge him; but it has cost him dear that he had Æneas as his guest." So saying, he put his foot upon the body, and dragged from it the belt, a wonderful work heavy with figures wrought in gold. Before many days had passed, he would wish that he had never taken it. Then the Arcadians lifted up the body of their young chief, and laid it on the shield, and carried it out of the battle.

When Æneas knew that Pallas had been slain, and that his people were being beaten in the battle, he made all the haste he could to help them. Many of the enemy he killed, nor would he have any mercy if any of those whom he overcame begged for his life. "No," he cried; "now that Pallas is dead, I will spare no one." So it was when two brothers, who were riding in one chariot, met him. At first they were very bold, and boasted that they would kill him. The one who was driving the horses shouted out: "In the old time, when the Greeks fought against Troy, you escaped. You escaped from Diomed and from Achilles. But you shall not escape from us. The end of your battles and of your life is come." Not a word did Æneas speak, but, before the boaster was ready to fight, he threw his mighty spear. Through the Italian's shield it passed, and pierced his thigh, so that he fell dying from the chariot. "How is this?" cried Æneas, mocking him—"your horses are swift; they do not shy at shadows; they are better than the horses of Diomed or of Achilles: why do you leave them?" Then he caught the horses by the head, and the brother that was left, cried out: "Have pity on me; as you love father and mother, spare me." But Æneas, mocking still, answered: "Nay, nay, you would not, surely, leave your brother." And he drove his sword into his breast.

When Juno saw that Æneas was driving the Latins before him, and that no one could stand up against him, she said to herself: "This is the man's day of victory; if he meets my Turnus, when he is in this mood, he will surely conquer him." So she made an image of Æneas which seemed to challenge Turnus to battle. And when Turnus made himself ready then the false Æneas fled, and Turnus followed him. To the sea-shore he fled; here there was a ship in which a certain king had come to the war, and the false Æneas seemed to hide himself in it. Turnus, who was close behind, came after, but when he searched he could find no one. While he was looking, Juno cut the cable of the ship, and pushed it out to sea, so that when Turnus looked, the water was round him on every side. Never was man more troubled and ashamed: "O Jupiter!" he said, "what have I done that I should be so disgraced? What will the Latins think of me when they see that I have fled in this manner? How I wish that the waves would swallow me up, or that the winds would drive me to some place where no one would ever see me again!" Three times did he try to throw himself into the sea; three times would he have run himself through with his sword. But Juno would not suffer it, and so brought him safely to the city of his father, King Daunus.

And now King Mezentius came to help the Latins. Wicked as he was, there was no braver man or better fighter in the land. Neither the Trojans nor the Tuscans could stand up against him. He slew Mimas, a Trojan, who was of the same age as Prince Paris, and Actor, who, though he was a Greek, had come to fight for Æneas. From his own land he had come, leaving behind him his promised wife, whose favour he wore in his helmet. Orōdes also he killed, the tallest man in the army of Æneas. Orōdes cried, as he lay dying, "Whoever you are, your end is near; you shall die as I am dying; your grave is ready for you in this land." But the king laughed, for he was one who neither feared god nor regarded man.

But now Æneas saw the king, and made haste to meet him, and the king, on the other hand, did not draw back. "Let others pray to the gods," he said: "my gods are my right hand and my spear." And he threw his spear: it struck the shield of Æneas, but it could not pierce it, so strong was it—was it not made by the Fire-god himself? Yet it was not thrown in vain. Glancing from the shield, it struck one of the Arcadians in the side. The man had been a comrade of Hercules, and now followed King Evander. Then Æneas threw his spear. It broke the shield of Mezentius, and wounded him in the groin, but not to death. And yet without doubt the king would have died that hour, for Æneas drew his sword, and pressed him hard, and he could scarcely move for the spear in his side. But when Lausus, his son, saw in what a strait his father was, he leapt forward, and took the blow of the sword upon his shield. And his companions followed him, with a great shout, and threw their spears at Æneas, and kept him back by force. He would not fly, but neither could he advance. Under the shower of spears he stood, as a traveller stands when a storm falls upon him in the road. Nevertheless his heart was moved when he saw how Lausus came to the help of his father—he also had helped his father in old time. Gladly would he have spared the young man; and he cried to Lausus: "Madman, what do you want? To conquer me? Nay: that is too much for your strength." But Lausus gave him no heed, but still pressed on. Then Æneas grew angry, and the time was come for Lausus when he must die. One blow with his sword did Æneas give him. It cut the shield in two, and broke through the coat of mail, and laid him dead upon the plain. Æneas was sorry to see him lie dead: "What can I do for you, noble boy?" he said. "You had a great pleasure in your arms: keep them: I will not take them; your father, also, shall have your body to bury as he will. It is something, too, that you were killed by Æneas." So he lifted the boy from the ground, and told his comrades to carry him away.

Meanwhile his father sat by a tree on the bank of the river, while his people looked to the wound. He had hung his helmet on a branch, and his arms lay upon the ground. Once and again he asked about Lausus; and he sent a message to him that he should come back. And now his comrades came, carrying the body on a shield. The king saw it while it was yet a long way off, and he knew what it was, and took the dust from the earth, and threw it upon his white hair. "Oh! my son," he cried, "why did I wish so much to live that I let you meet the sword of the enemy in my place? Is it indeed true that you are dead and I am still alive? Ah! my son, now I know that my evil deeds were a shame to you! Oh, that I had died for you, and not you for me! Now I must die, but not yet: there is something that I would first do, if indeed the gods permit—I would avenge my son."

Then he said: "Fetch me my horse." This horse was his pride and joy. From many a battle it had brought him back a conqueror. Very sad was the beast as it came, and the great tears rolled down its cheeks. And the king said: "O Rhœbus, you and I have lived long enough, if anything be for long in this world. To-day you shall bring back the head and arms of Æneas, and we will have vengeance together for our Lausus; or you shall die with me. For a Trojan master you would never, I know, endure."

So he mounted upon his horse, and took a spear in either hand, and rode to meet Æneas. Three times he called out: "I am coming, Æneas!" And Æneas was glad, and cried out: "Are you coming, indeed? The gods be thanked therefor. And now begin." Mezentius answered: "Do not try to frighten me; I can suffer nothing more, now that my son is dead. No: I am come to die; but first here is my gift; take it." And he threw his spear. Spear after spear he threw, but they could not break the mighty shield. And Æneas stood still, watching his time. At the last, he stepped from out the shelter of the shield, and threw his spear. It struck the king's horse full on the head, between the temples. And the horse reared, and lashed the air with his front feet, and fell with his rider beneath him. Loud did the Trojans and the Latins shout when they saw it, those for joy and these for fear. Then Æneas ran, and stood over him, with his sword drawn in his hand: "Where is the great Mezentius now?" he said. And the king answered: "Have done with your threats; slay me; I do not blame you. I never bargained with you for my life, nor did Lausus, my son, when he died for me. Only grant me this. You know that my people hate me. Keep my body from them, and let my son be buried with me in one grave." So he yielded his throat to the sword, and feared not.