Study Guide

Turnus in The Aeneid

By Virgil

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The Rutulian warrior Turnus represents is different from Aeneas in a lot of ways. He's brash, hotheaded, and seems to care only for himself. That said, he is also an extremely courageous warrior, doing stuff Aeneas seems to have outgrown since the fall of Troy made him take a good hard look at himself and decide to become a responsible leader for his people. For example, you've got to give Turnus major props for running into the Trojan fort alone and taking on the entire garrison. (OK, this was kind of an accident, because they shut the doors behind him, but a lesser man definitely would have surrendered.) Then, apparently in full armor, he throws himself into the Tiber river, just to avoid being killed or captured.

Another thing Turnus seems to have that Aeneas doesn't show much of is a capacity for passionate romance. Sure, Aeneas showed his sensitive side for Dido…while trying to get her to stop crying about him abandoning her and claiming they weren't married. But Turnus really feels his blood boiling when he sees Lavinia blushing in front of him. In fact, he gets so mightily aroused that he decides to…go off and kill some guys. OK, maybe this is less like romance and more like good old fashioned lust. And maybe lust for the power that would come with a marriage to Latinus's daughter has something to do with it. Turnus certainly shows his greedy side when he takes the ornamental belt from the corpse of Pallas.

Turnus also gets himself into hot water in the classic (make that classical) scenario of the guy who can dish it out but can't take it. This is because, after refusing any possibility of accommodation with the Trojans, or of accepting a less prestigious woman as his wife, Turnus pretty much guarantees that he's going to have to fight Aeneas one-on-one. When it actually comes down to it, though, Turnus doesn't stand a chance. Maybe we're being a bit hard on him here, because there was a bit of bad luck involved, what with him having the wrong sword and the gods backing up Aeneas. Still, he doesn't come off very well when, just before Aeneas is about to kill him, Turnus suddenly remembers that he has a dad – after not seeming like the slightest bit of a family man up until now – and tries to use him as an excuse for Aeneas to spare his life. We're not saying that Aeneas was justified in killing Turnus, but the Rutulian warrior still doesn't put in a very good showing.

Turnus in The Aeneid Study Group

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