Aeneid Book 7, Lines 607 - 622

Juno throws open the gates of war

by Virgil

Blood has been spilt over Iulus’s misguided wounding of a pet stag, Turnus is spoiling for a fight against the Trojan newcomers, Queen Amata has taken Princess Lavinia and is raging with her in the wilderness, and the people are streaming into Latinus’s city demanding revenge for those who have already died. Latinus cannot undo the damage, but cannot bring himself to agree to declare war: he withdraws from the turmoil. Juno herself, who has caused all this mayhem with the help of the Fury Allecto, who has kindled a blazing anger in Turnus with her firebrand, steps personally into the breach. Now that war has been declared, Book 7 will end with a catalogue of the impressive forces that Turnus assembles from his own and his allies’ resources in preparation for battle.

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Mos erat Hesperio in Latio, quem protinus urbes
Albanae coluere sacrum nunc maxima rerum
Roma colit, cum prima movent in proelia Martem,
sive Getis inferre manu lacrimabile bellum
Hyrcanisve Arabisve parant seu tendere ad Indos
Auroramque sequi Parthosque reposcere signa.
sunt geminae belli portae (sic nomine dicunt)
religione sacrae et saevi formidine Martis;
centum aerei claudunt vectes aeternaque ferri
robora, nec custos absistit limine Ianus:
has, ubi certa sedet patribus sententia pugnae,
ipse Quirinali trabea cinctuque Gabino
insignis reserat stridentia limina consul,
ipse vocat pugnas; sequitur tum cetera pubes,
aereaque adsensu conspirant cornua rauco.
hoc et tum Aeneadis indicere bella Latinus
more iubebatur tristisque recludere portas.
abstinuit tactu pater aversusque refugit
foeda ministeria et caecis se condidit umbris.
tum regina deum caelo delapsa morantis
impulit ipsa manu portas, et cardine verso
belli ferratos rumpit Saturnia postes.
ardet inexcita Ausonia atque immobilis ante;
pars pedes ire parat campis, pars arduus altis
pulverulentus equis furit; omnes arma requirunt.

There was a custom in Hesperian Latium, which
the Alban towns religiously maintained, and which
Rome itself, greatest in might and wealth, now observes
when invoking Mars to open the fighting, whether to
bring mournful war against Getae, Hyrcanians and Arabs,
or head on towards the Indies and the dawn, demand
from the Parthians the return of the standards. There are
twin gates of war, so called, sanctified by reverence
and fear of fierce Mars. A hundred bronze and iron
locks hold shut the timeless oak, Janus the watchman
never leaves the threshold. These gates the consul,
resplendent in ceremonial dress, when the Senate’s vote
is final, in person opens on their screeching doorway,
and declares war; then Rome’s soldiers take up
the cry, and the brazen horns chorus in strident assent.
Just so then did the people bid Latinus to declare war
and open the dread gates. The old king would not
touch them, turned away from the grim
duty and vanished into the dark shadows. Then
the Queen of the Gods herself, Saturn’s child, swooped
from the heavens, thrust at the grinding portals
and burst open the ironclad doors, hinges swinging.
Ausonia, till now unmoving and unmoved, takes fire;
some arm to take the field on foot; some prance in dust
aloft as high horses kick; all take up their weapons.