The Aeneid: Novel Summary: Book 11
Having paid due honor to the gods, Aeneas exhorts his men: they are winning, and the slaying of Mezentius was a great triumph. Soon they will conquer the Latins completely, but first the body of Pallas must be fittingly escorted to his father. Aeneas speaks appropriate words of sadness, as well as of praise for the courage Pallas showed. He joins the mourning escort for a time, then sighing deeply turns back, called, as he says, by the "horrible fate of war" (line 95).
Latin envoys come, asking for twelve days of truce, so that the dead can be properly buried. "Good Aeneas" (line 106) asks them how they could ever have been led to war against him, and tells them that the peace they ask for dead, that peace he wants to give to the living. He has no quarrel with the Latin people, but their king Latinus chose to favor Turnus. Turnus himself should have faced Aeneas, rather than have so many others die. The Latins are amazed at his words, and Drances, a bitter envier and hater of Turnus, speaks, praising Aeneas and his justice, and promising to carry his words to the city and make his peace with Evander; let Turnus find other allies.
The escort with body of Pallas reaches Evander's city, and Evander mourns at surviving his son. He now has one thing left to live for-the news that Aeneas has killed Turnus.
The sad funeral fires burn, and both sides mourn. In the city of King Latinus, many Latins speak against Turnus, and Drances adds that Aeneas only wants to fight Turnus, but many still favor him. As they quarrel, the ambassadors return who were sent to try to persuade the Greek Diomedes to join the fight against Aeneas. They found Diomedes building a city, and his calm answer was that they should never have gone to war. All those who warred on Troy have suffered horrible fates. He himself cannot return to his homeland and his beloved wife, and he is haunted by the shades of his dead companions. Let them give the gifts with which they hoped to win him to Aeneas, whom he knows by experience to be a mighty fighter, second only to Hector in battle, and first in pietas. Win him as an ally, don't dare to fight him.
Latinus urges peace and the giving of territory and Lavinia to Aeneas and the Trojans, and the bitter and envious Drances adds his words, ending by urging Turnus to admit defeat and leave, or to dare to fight Aeneas in single combat. Turnus, goaded to rage, argues that they are far from being defeated and should fight on. But if both the Trojans and the Latins want him to fight against Aeneas, he has good hope of winning both a bride and glory.
Just at that moment Aeneas leads his troops into battle again, and the Latins, urged on by Turnus, rush to arms. King Latinus can do nothing, and Queen Amata leads the women in praying for victory. Camilla, the woman who has led Volscian cavalry to the battle, offers to fight in the field while Turnus mans the walls, but he, praising her courage, says that he will ambush those Aeneas is leading over some wild mountainous country, while she fights the Tuscan horsemen in the plain. In heaven, Diana laments that this woman, dedicated to Diana from infancy, raised as a hunter and fighter in the mountains, and a rejecter of marriage, a virgin, must die. Camilla slaughters many, but in the end she is killed because she becomes obsessed by catching a Trojan who is wearing particularly rich and flashy armor, which she desires with a woman's love of booty. The man who has been stalking her sees his chance and gives her a death wound. Her cavalry flees without her leadership, and the Latins too flee to the city in defeat. Turnus hears the news and leads his men back to the city; Aeneas finds the path unguarded, and is soon also on the plain with all his men. Night falls.
The contrast between Turnus and Aeneas becomes ever stronger. One of the touches in Book 11 that has been pointed out often, which keeps that contrast from being simple, is the portrayal of Drances. Just when we might be thinking that Turnus is obviously and totally in the wrong, Virgil brings in someone to speak against him who is bitter, envious, a coward himself, even lowborn. And then there is the fact that Aeneas does not wait to hear how the Latins have responded to the chance of peace, which Drances has promised to tell them about.
Yet how could anyone who loves peace not prefer the sanity of Aeneas, who wars so reluctantly, to the insanity of Turnus, who is much more eager to risk the lives of everyone around him than he is to face Aeneas in single combat?
As for Camilla, Virgil clearly enjoys depicting the exploits of a woman warrior, and he uses her to point once again the moral that focus on booty is self-destructive, but one may well quarrel with his notion that women especially love booty, especially when he has shown us so clearly men falling into the same fault.