Aeneid Book 12, lines 161 - 194

Aeneas’s oath

by Virgil

The Goddess Juno, Turnus’s patron and Aeneas’s enemy, has gone to great lengths to avoid a duel between the two to decide the outcome of the conflict between the Trojans and the Latins. Now, however, as the fortunes of war have turned against the Latins, it looks as though it is finally going to happen. At the duelling ground, Aeneas and King Latinus swear to abide by the outcome. Aeneas goes further, and swears that, if he wins, he will not treat the Italians as a conquered people, but will live harmoniously with them in a spirit of justice and equity. As we will see, the actions of others could be seen as freeing him from his oath, but Virgil’s Roman audience would know – or believe – that this was the course that history had indeed taken. In describing how the human conflicts and aspirations that give the Aeneid its theme will be resolved, this is an important part of the poem’s ending.

See the illustrated blog post here.

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Interea reges ingenti mole Latinus
quadriiugo vehitur curru (cui tempora circum
aurati bis sex radii fulgentia cingunt,
Solis avi specimen), bigis it Turnus in albis,
bina manu lato crispans hastilia ferro.
hinc pater Aeneas, Romanae stirpis origo,
sidereo flagrans clipeo et caelestibus armis
et iuxta Ascanius, magnae spes altera Romae,
procedunt castris, puraque in veste sacerdos
saetigeri fetum suis intonsamque bidentem
attulit admovitque pecus flagrantibus aris.
illi ad surgentem conversi lumina solem
dant fruges manibus salsas et tempora ferro
summa notant pecudum, paterisque altaria libant.
Tum pius Aeneas stricto sic ense precatur:
‘esto nunc Sol testis et haec mihi terra vocanti,
quam propter tantos potui perferre labores,
et pater omnipotens et tu Saturnia coniunx
(iam melior, iam, diva, precor), tuque inclute Mavors,
cuncta tuo qui bella, pater, sub numine torques;
fontisque fluviosque voco, quaeque aetheris alti
religio et quae caeruleo sunt numina ponto:
cesserit Ausonio si fors victoria Turno,
convenit Evandri victos discedere ad urbem,
cedet Iulus agris, nec post arma ulla rebelles
Aeneadae referent ferrove haec regna lacessent.
sin nostrum adnuerit nobis victoria Martem
(ut potius reor et potius di numine firment),
non ego nec Teucris Italos parere iubebo
nec mihi regna peto: paribus se legibus ambae
invictae gentes aeterna in foedera mittant.
sacra deosque dabo; socer arma Latinus habeto,
imperium sollemne socer; mihi moenia Teucri
constituent urbique dabit Lavinia nomen.’

The Kings come, Latinus borne in great state
in his four-horse car, shining temples girt with
twelve golden rays, token of his ancestor,
the Sun, Turnus with his white team, hand
gripping twin, broad-bladed spears. Father
Aeneas, fount of the Roman race, shining
with starry shield and heavenly arms,
by him Ascanius, other great hope of Rome,
come from the camp, the priest in spotless robes
brings the offspring of bristly pigs and an unshorn
sheep and takes the beasts to the blazing altars.
Gaze turned to the rising sun, they pour from their
hands the salted grain and mark the top of the beasts’
brows with the knife, pour libations on the altars from
the cups. Then, sword drawn, pious Aeneas prays:
“Let the Sun, and this land for which I was able
to bear such great troubles stand witness as I call,
and the almighty Father, and you, divine consort,
hence a kinder deity, I pray, and you, glorious Mars,
Father who hold all wars fast under your sway,
and I call on springs, rivers and whatever powers are
in the lofty sky and gods in the blue ocean:
should victory chance to fall to Ausonian Turnus,
it is agreed that the vanquished shall withdraw to
Evander’s city, Iulus leave these lands, nor will my
people take up rebellious arms or harm this realm
with steel. If victory grants our arms the cause,
as rather I believe, and may the authority of the Gods
confirm, I will not command Italians to obey the Trojans,
nor seek dominion myself: both peoples, undefeated,
shall combine under equal laws in an eternal compact.
I’ll give my gods and holy relics: as my father-in-law,
Let Latinus keep solemn authority and sway our arms:
the Trojans shall build my town, Lavinia give her name.