Unraveling Turnus—The Tragic Hero of Vergil’s Aeneid (7.435-463)

Sarah Tessler (’25) examines the scene in the seventh Book of the Aeneid in which the fury Allecto infects Turnus with war frenzy. Through Turnus’ character arc, she argues, Vergil emphasizes the devastating consequences of conflict, including a loss of individual identity, and the inevitable cycle of violence and suffering.

Warrior in Roman armor brandishing sword and shouting
Image generated using AI by Sarah Tessler

Hic iuvenis vatem inridens sic orsa vicissim                    435
ore refert: ‘classis invectas Thybridis undam
non, ut rere, meas effugit nuntius auris;
ne tantos mihi finge metus. nec regia Iuno
immemor est nostri.
sed te victa situ verique effeta senectus,                           440
o mater, curis nequiquam exercet, et arma
regum inter falsa vatem formidine ludit.
cura tibi divum effigies et templa tueri;
bella viri pacemque gerent quis bella gerenda.’

olli somnum ingens rumpit pavor, ossaque et artus
perfundit toto proruptus corpore sudor.
arma amens fremit, arma toro tectisque requirit;           460
saevit amor ferri et scelerata insania belli,
ira super:

At this, the young man, mocking the priestess,
replied in turn: “The news of the fleet having arrived into the Tiber’s waters
has not escaped my ears, as you suppose.
Do not imagine so many fears for me; nor
is Queen Juno forgetful of us.
But old age worries you, worn out by decrepitude and truth
O Mother, it pointlessly occupies [you] with cares
It deceives the priestess with false fears amidst the arms of kings
Men wage wars and peace, by whom wars must be waged.

A huge fright broke his sleep, and sweat
perfused from every limb.
Frenzied, he howled for arms; and looked for the hidden arms in couches;
the love of arms and the wicked madness of war raged,
anger above all. [trans. Sarah Tessler]


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