Study Guide

The Aeneid Book 9

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Book 9

  • Juno sends Iris down to Turnus to tell him that it's wartime.
  • Turnus gets his men in order and marches out.
  • Soon enough, from their fort, the Trojans (minus Aeneas, who is still chilling out with Evander) see the Italian forces coming.
  • 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. How, you ask? By burning their ships!
  • Virgil asks the gods which one of them saved the ships. The answer to this comes in a flashback.
  • It turns out that, around the time when Aeneas and company first left Troy, the earth goddess Cybele – here portrayed as the mother of Jupiter – asked her son to keep Aeneas's ships safe forever.
  • You see, he had built the ships from a forest that Cybele especially cherished, so she wanted to ensure them some sort of lasting survival even if they had already, you know, been chopped down and turned into masts and stuff.
  • Jupiter said, "No can do, mom. But here's what: once they've finished their journey, I'll let them turn into goddesses."
  • Yup, you heard it right, goddesses. And the moment is now. Just when Turnus and company start putting torches to them, the Trojan fleet turns into beautiful women and runs away into the sea. Pretty awesome, huh?
  • We sure think so – and so does Turnus, who seems to realize that this sort of happening could seriously discourage his men from attacking the Trojans.
  • Luckily, like many a leader to follow him, Turnus is the master of spin. He tells his men that this is a sign that the gods want to prevent the Trojans from escaping.
  • After taunting the Trojans, Turnus declares an end to fighting for the day, and lets his troops have supper.
  • Meanwhile, the warriors Nisus and his boyfriend Euryalus are on guard in the Trojan camp.
  • Nisus says he is thinking of going out on a mission to find Aeneas and bring him back. Euryalus says, "Take me too." Nisus says, "No way. I need someone to bury in case I die." But then Euryalus says, "Tough luck. I'm coming."
  • Nisus and Euryalus report their plan to the Trojan council. These guys are all pleased with the plan, and Ascanius promises them a lot of cool stuff in case they succeed.
  • Euryalus says, "Just take care of my mom in case I don't come back."
  • Then they head out.
  • They reach the Italian camp and kill a bunch of men in their sleep.
  • Then they keep going on their way – though Euryalus makes sure to steal a dead guy's helmet as booty first.
  • This seals his fate – and that of his lover. In no time, a troop of Latin cavalry rides past and Euryalus's flashing helmet grabs their attention. The cavalrymen shout at the Trojans, who flee into the woods.
  • The Latins surround the wood, but Nisus gets out. When he realizes that Euryalus was left behind, he heads back to save him.
  • He finds Euryalus getting attacked by a whole bunch of Latins.
  • After debating what to do, Nisus says a quick prayer and throws his spear. He kills one man. Then he throws another spear and kills another one.
  • Then Volcens, a Latin, decides enough is enough and makes a move to kill Euryalus. Nisus, in desperation, shouts out from his hiding place, trying to distract his enemy. But it's too late. Volcens stabs Euryalus, killing him.
  • Enraged, Nisus runs into the thick of his opponents. He succeeds in killing Volcens, but dies at the hands of the other Latins.
  • The Latins carry Volcens back to the Italian camp – plus the bodies of the dead Nisus and Euryalus. Once they arrive there, the Italians lament the deaths of their own men whom the Trojan pair slaughtered in their sleep.
  • 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.
  • When the Trojans catch sight of their dead comrades, they begin weeping. Soon, rumor of what has happened makes its way to Euryalus's mom, who comes out to the battlement and is overcome with grief.
  • Turnus's men attack the Trojan ramparts in a mass, interlocking their shields in a tortoise formation. They are driven back.
  • After some more fighting, Turnus throws a torch and sets one of the Trojans' towers on fire. Eventually it collapses. There are only two survivors: Helenor, who launches himself at the Italians and is immediately killed, and Lycus, who tries to climb back into the Trojan camp over its wall.
  • Turnus catches him and pulls him down; he rips off some of the wall in the process. The fight keeps going on.
  • Then a guy called Numanus steps forward and taunts the Trojans, calling them women. Ascanius prays to Jupiter, who thunders on the left side of the sky. Then he shoots Numanus through the head. This is the first man he has ever killed in combat.
  • For this deed, the god Apollo (who is himself an archer) praises him. Then he comes down and stands beside him in the shape of Butes, an old Trojan. In this disguise, he tells him that Apollo is cool with what he did, but that he should stay out of the fight from now on.
  • Then Apollo shoots back up to heaven, and everyone recognizes that it was a god that addressed Ascanius. The Trojan keep Ascanius out of the battle that still rages on.
  • Now, two Trojans, Pandarus and Bitias, open a gate and dare their enemies to come in. The Italians storm the entrance, but are pushed back.
  • Then Turnus comes along and kills various guys, including Bitias.
  • Seeing his brother killed, Pandarus shuts the gate – and shuts in Turnus! The Rutulian warrior is all alone.
  • Undaunted, he dares anyone to come and fight him, boasting that he is a new Achilles come to plague the Trojans.
  • Someone throws a spear at Turnus, but Juno deflects it.
  • Then Turnus kills a lot of men until Mnestheus shouts at the Trojans, saying, "What, are you going to let this one guy kick your heinies like this?"
  • Then they 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.) To drive the point home, Jupiter tells Iris to tell Juno that things won't be pretty for Turnus if he keeps fighting the Trojans.
  • Unable to hold out any longer, Turnus casts himself into the Tiber, which carries him safely to the other side.

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