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The Aeneid

The Aeneid


by Virgil

Turnus Timeline and Summary

  • We first learn about Turnus when the narrator tells us that Latinus's wife, Amata, wants him to marry their daughter, Lavinia.
  • We finally meet Turnus when the Fury Allecto comes and incites him to war against the Trojans.
  • Turnus immediately commands his troops to prepare themselves for war.
  • Then Turnus goes to the city of the Latins, where he fires up the crowd, telling them of Latinus's plans to marry Lavinia off to a Trojan. He says that they should prefer him, someone from their own region.
  • In no time, Turnus is leading an army against the Trojan fort.
  • When Turnus arrives, he immediately rides around the fort, looking for a way in. He can't find one, so he decides to lure the Trojans out by burning their ships.
  • After the ships are transformed into nymphs, Turnus interprets this in the Italians' favor by saying the gods are denying the Trojans an escape route.
  • Then, after taunting the Trojans, Turnus declares an end to fighting for the day, and lets his troops have supper.
  • When the morning comes, Turnus gets his men into fighting order. Then they march on the Trojan fort, carrying Nisus and Euryalus's heads on top of spears.
  • Turnus's men attack the Trojan ramparts in a mass, interlocking their shields in a tortoise formation.
  • After some more fighting, Turnus throws a torch and sets one of the Trojans' towers on fire. Two survivors escape from the wreckage, but Turnus kills them.
  • Eventually, Turnus ends up alone inside the fort, where he has to face down all the defenders.
  • The Trojans gang up on Turnus and drive him against the River Tiber, which makes one border of their camp.
  • Juno doesn't dare to give Turnus sufficient strength to take on that many men. (That would be too big an interference from the gods.)
  • Unable to hold out any longer, Turnus casts himself into the Tiber, which carries him safely to the other side.
  • The next morning, when the Trojans see Aeneas arriving, their spirits revive. Turnus is excited too, because he sees an opportunity to bring the fight to the Trojans on the landing-ground.
  • Turnus kills Pallas in single combat and takes his belt.
  • Then Turnus gets lured by a false replica of Aeneas created by Juno. He chases it onto a moored ship, which then floats away.
  • At this point, the ghostly form Turnus had been pursuing shoots up to the heavens, and the Rutulian warrior realizes he has been tricked. In his shame, he prays for his ship to come to ground on an empty coast, and debates committing suicide.
  • We next see Turnus in the Latin assembly. (We are not told how he made his way back to safety.)
  • Drances addresses Turnus, telling him to renounce his claim to Lavinia's hand. If he still has his heart set on her, then he should man up and face Aeneas in single combat.
  • Turnus tells Drances to shut up. Just then, messengers arrive saying that the whole Trojan army is on its way. Turnus takes this as sign that all-out war is still called for.
  • Turnus arms for battle. When he emerges, he runs into Camilla, the Volscian warrior queen, riding up with her battalions.
  • Turnus is glad to see her. He tells her to engage Aeneas head-on, while he and his men will set an ambush for him in a wooded mountain pass. He tells her that she will have the forces of another guy called Messapus to back her up in the plain.
  • Turnus is still waiting to ambush Aeneas when word reaches him that Camilla has been killed and the Latins have been driven back inside their city. He leads his soldiers away from their ambush and heads toward the town.
  • That night finds Turnus and his men in the city.
  • In the city of the Latins, Turnus announces that the time has come for him to fight Aeneas one-on-one.
  • Latinus tries to convince him to give it up – to take some other woman as wife and leave Lavinia to Aeneas.
  • Turnus refuses.
  • Then Amata pleads with Turnus, telling him that, if she dies, she'd sooner kill herself than have Aeneas as a son-in-law.
  • Lavinia, who has been watching all this, blushes. Turnus, seeing her, is overcome with love for her.
  • Turnus tells Amata not to jinx him. He says he's got to go fight Aeneas –no ifs, ands, or buts.
  • Then Turnus makes ready his chariot-team and arms himself for battle.
  • The next morning, the Italians emerge from their city. Both armies make room on the plain for the coming battle between the two champions.
  • Before the two champions can fight, though, Juturna incites one of the Italians against the Trojans and another pitched battle erupts.
  • Aeneas tries to stop his men from fighting, but then somebody hits him with an arrow – though not fatally.
  • When Turnus sees Aeneas falling back, he gets a boost of excitement. He whips his chariot team into action and starts racing through the battle, killing guys left, right, and center.
  • When Aeneas gets healed by the help of Iapyx the doctor and Venus, he leads his men on a counterattack and kills lots of men.
  • Not liking this one bit, Juturna knocks Turnus's charioteer, Metiscus, onto the ground. Then she takes his form and starts driving Turnus erratically over the battlefield, keeping him out of Aeneas's reach. Aeneas keeps up as best he can.
  • Then Aeneas attacks the city.
  • Turnus hears the commotion from the city. Juturna, still disguised as his charioteer Metiscus, tries to convince him to keep killing Trojans on the periphery, but Turnus recognizes her and refuses.
  • After having lost so many friends in battle, he can't bear the destruction of the city to top it off.
  • Death does not frighten him; he must go to face Aeneas!
  • At just that moment, word comes to Turnus of the dire straits of the city – and of the death of Amata.
  • Now he is firmly decided. He goes to face Aeneas, knowing he will die.
  • When Aeneas hears that Turnus is coming, he stops attacking the city and goes to meet him.
  • A space is cleared for them to fight, and in no time they are throwing spears at each other. Then they fight with swords.
  • Turnus gives Aeneas a mighty blow with his sword – but the blade shatters on impact.
  • It turns out that Turnus was using Metiscus's sword, instead of his own. It was no match for Aeneas's divine armor.
  • Turnus runs away. The problem is, he's hemmed in – by the Trojans, by the city walls, and by an inconveniently located marsh.
  • As he runs, he calls out to his men to get him his sword, but Aeneas tells them not to, threatening to destroy their city if they help Turnus.
  • Eventually, Aeneas approaches the olive tree stump where his spear earlier stuck fast.
  • Seeing him, Turnus prays to the local divinities to prevent Aeneas from being able to pull it out.
  • The gods hear him, and Aeneas is unable to remove it. Meanwhile, Juturna, disguised as Metiscus again, runs up to Turnus and gives him back his sword.
  • Venus doesn't like this, so she comes and pulls the spear out of the tree. She gives it to Aeneas.
  • Then Jupiter sends down one of the Furies to stop Juturna's meddling. It changes itself into a bird and starts flapping around Turnus, annoying him. Juturna realizes what it is, and withdraws from the fight.
  • Now Aeneas stands face to face with Turnus. They exchange hostile words.
  • Then Turnus picks up a huge rock to throw at Aeneas, but he isn't strong enough, and it falls short.
  • Now Aeneas throws his spear; it punctures Turnus's shield and stabs him in the thigh.
  • Turnus falls to the ground. He asks Aeneas to spare his life so he can see his father again; he relinquishes his claim to Lavinia.
  • Aeneas is debating with himself what to do when he sees on Turnus shoulder the belt he stole from the dead body of Pallas.
  • Becoming enraged, Aeneas shouts out that Pallas is now taking his revenge. With that, he stabs Turnus, killing him.
  • With a groan, Turnus's outraged soul flutters down to the underworld.