Why Did Aeneas Kill Turnus?

Allie Hershey (’25) argues that Vergil subverts our expectations of heroism by not painting Aeneas as a perfectly good Roman. Rather, he portrays him as a realistic role model to Roman citizens. Turnus, on the other hand, while he has many good qualities, represents “force without wisdom.”

Victorious warrior looms over defeated warrior, surrounded by observers.
Giacomo del Po, “The Fight between Aeneas and King Turnus, from Virgil’s Aeneid” (ca. 1700) Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Vergil, Aeneid 10.491-10.497, 10.500-10.505, translated by Allie Hershey:

“Arcadians,” he says, “remember this and take back my words to Evander,
I return Pallas to him in the way that Evander deserves.
Whatever honor there is in a tomb, whatever comfort is in a burial,
I give freely. His hospitality to Aeneas will come at no small price.
And saying that, he pressed on the corpse with his left foot,
seizing the huge weight of Pallas’ belt.”

Oh, how the human mind is unaware of fate and future fortune and how to show restraint when exalted by success! There will be a time for Turnus, when he wishes to purchase Pallas untouched at a great price, and will hate those spoils and the day.


The Tragic and Powerful Myth of Queen Dido

Lindsay Werner (’25) explores the powerful and passionate language used by Dido as she confronts her faithless lover Aeneas in Book 4 of Vergil’s Aeneid.

Classical city under construction along the banks of a river.
“Dido building Carthage, or The Rise of the Carthaginian Empire,” Joseph Mallord William Turner (1815). National Gallery, London.

Vergil, Aeneid 4.365–370, 373-376, 382-387, translated by Lindsay Werner:

You do not have a goddess as your parent, nor is Dardanus the founder of your line, treacherous man; but the Caucasus teeming with hard crags produced you and the Hyrcanean tigresses moved their breasts towards you. For why do I pretend, or what greater things do I hold myself back for? He has not groaned with (respect for) my weeping, has he? He has not turned his eyes, has he? He hasn’t cried tears having been won over, or pitied his lover, has he?

Trust is safe nowhere. Having been expelled onto the shore, I received the needy man, and I placed him in a part of my kingdom insanely; I brought back (his) lost fleet, I brought back the comrades from death. Oh inflamed I am being carried by frenzy!

Indeed I hope that, if the pious gods have any power, he will drain the cup of punishments in the middle of the rocks, and that he will often call out Dido by name. Being away I will follow with black fires, and, when cold death has severed my limbs from my soul, my ghost will be present in all places. You will pay the price, wicked man. I will hear and this rumor will come to me under the deepest shades (the underworld).

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]