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.


More Poems by Virgil

  1. King Mezentius meets his match
  2. Charon, the ferryman
  3. The infant Camilla
  4. King Latinus grants the Trojans’ request
  5. Aeneas prepares to tell Dido his story
  6. The natural history of bees
  7. The Trojans prepare to set sail from Carthage
  8. In King Latinus’s hall
  9. Virgil begins the Georgics
  10. The death of Euryalus and Nisus
  11. How Aeneas will know the site of his city
  12. The Harpy’s prophecy
  13. Turnus is lured away from battle
  14. Aeneas learns the way to the underworld
  15. Aeneas tours the site of Rome
  16. Aristaeus’s bees
  17. Aeneas reaches the Elysian Fields
  18. Aeneas sees Marcellus, Augustus’s tragic heir
  19. Juno throws open the gates of war
  20. The farmer’s starry calendar
  21. Aeneas arrives in Italy
  22. More from Virgil’s farming Utopia
  23. Laocoon warns against the Trojan horse
  24. Jupiter’s prophecy
  25. Dido and Aeneas: royal hunt and royal affair
  26. New allies for Aeneas
  27. Turnus the wolf
  28. Rumour
  29. Turnus at bay
  30. Catastrophe for Rome?
  31. The death of Dido.
  32. The portals of sleep
  33. Help for Father Aeneas from Father Tiber
  34. Aeneas finds Dido among the shades
  35. The death of Pallas
  36. Juno is reconciled
  37. The farmer’s happy lot
  38. Souls awaiting punishment in Tartarus, and the crimes that brought them there.
  39. Aeneas is wounded
  40. The Trojan Horse enters the city
  41. Anchises’s ghost invites Aeneas to visit the underworld
  42. Laocoon and the snakes
  43. Mourning for Pallas
  44. Dido and Aeneas: Hell hath no fury …
  45. Virgil’s poetic temple to Caesar
  46. The Aeneid begins
  47. Aeneas comes to the Hell of Tartarus
  48. The Syrian hostess
  49. Hector visits Aeneas in a dream
  50. Palinurus the helmsman is lost
  51. Sea-nymphs
  52. Omens for Princess Lavinia
  53. Dido’s release
  54. A Fury rouses Turnus to war
  55. The Trojans reach Carthage
  56. Aeneas saves his son and father, but at a cost
  57. Fire strikes Aeneas’s fleet
  58. Dido falls in love
  59. Storm at sea!
  60. Aeneas joins the fray
  61. Vulcan’s forge
  62. Love is the same for all
  63. Signs of bad weather
  64. Aeneas’s vision of Augustus
  65. Aeneas’s ships are transformed
  66. Aeneas rescues his Father Anchises
  67. The Fury Allecto blows the alarm
  68. Virgil’s perils on the sea
  69. The death of Priam
  70. The journey to Hades begins
  71. Virgil predicts a forthcoming birth and a new golden age
  72. Rites for the allies’ dead
  73. Mercury’s journey to Carthage