Aeneid Book 10, lines 474 - 502

The death of Pallas

by Virgil

As the battle between the Trojans and Rutulians continues, Turnus and young Pallas come face to face. Pallas is the prince of the Arcadians, Aeneas’s new allies, and his father, King Evandrus, has asked Aeneas to be his friend and mentor. The fight does not last long and the outcome is never in doubt. Turnus’s grant of Pallas’s body to be taken back to his father for burial is magnanimous, but taking Pallas’s armour as spoils of war will have consequences when the epic finally moves to its close.

The scene on the gold-decorated swordbelt that Turnus takes from Pallas as a trophy shows the Danaids, fifty sisters of whom all but one obeyed their father’s instruction to murder their new husbands on the night after what must have been a very big wedding.

The English translation is by John Dryden. See the illustrated blog post here.

To follow the story of Aeneas in sequence, use this link to the full Pantheon Poets selection of extracts from the Aeneid; see the next episode here.

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At Pallas magnis emittit viribus hastam
vaginaque cava fulgentem deripit ensem.
illa volans umeri surgunt qua tegmina summa
incidit, atque viam clipei molita per oras
tandem etiam magno strinxit de corpore Turni.
hic Turnus ferro praefixum robur acuto
in Pallanta diu librans iacit atque ita fatur:
‘aspice num mage sit nostrum penetrabile telum.’
dixerat; at clipeum, tot ferri terga, tot aeris,
quem pellis totiens obeat circumdata tauri,
vibranti cuspis medium transverberat ictu
loricaeque moras et pectus perforat ingens:
ille rapit calidum frustra de vulnere telum:
una eademque via sanguis animusque sequuntur.
corruit in vulnus (sonitum super arma dedere)
et terram hostilem moriens petit ore cruento.
quem Turnus super adsistens:
‘Arcades, haec’ inquit ‘memores mea dicta referte
Evandro: qualem meruit, Pallanta remitto.
quisquis honos tumuli, quidquid solamen humandi est,
largior. haud illi stabunt Aeneia parvo
hospitia.’ et laevo pressit pede talia fatus
exanimem rapiens immania pondera baltei
impressumque nefas: una sub nocte iugali
caesa manus iuvenum foede thalamique cruenti,
quae Clonus Eurytides multo caelaverat auro;
quo nunc Turnus ovat spolio gaudetque potitus.
nescia mens hominum fati sortisque futurae
et servare modum rebus sublata secundis!

Now with full force his spear young Pallas threw,
And, having thrown, his shining fauchion drew
The steel just graz’d along the shoulder joint,
And mark’d it slightly with the glancing point.
Fierce Turnus first to nearer distance drew,
And pois’d his pointed spear, before he threw:
Then, as the winged weapon whizz’d along,
“See now,” said he, “whose arm is better strung.”
The spear kept on the fatal course, unstay’d
By plates of ir’n, which o’er the shield were laid:
Thro’ folded brass and tough bull hides it pass’d,
His corslet pierc’d, and reach’d his heart at last.
In vain the youth tugs at the broken wood;
The soul comes issuing with the vital blood:
He falls; his arms upon his body sound;
And with his bloody teeth he bites the ground.
Turnus bestrode the corpse: “Arcadians, hear,”
Said he; “my message to your master bear:
Such as the sire deserv’d, the son I send;
It costs him dear to be the Phrygians’ friend.
The lifeless body, tell him, I bestow,
Unask’d, to rest his wand’ring ghost below.”
He said, and trampled down with all the force
Of his left foot, and spurn’d the wretched corse;
Then snatch’d the shining belt, with gold inlaid;
The belt Eurytion’s artful hands had made,
Where fifty fatal brides, express’d to sight,
All in the compass of one mournful night,
Depriv’d their bridegrooms of returning light.
In an ill hour insulting Turnus tore
Those golden spoils, and in a worse he wore.
O mortals, blind in fate, who never know
To bear high fortune, or endure the low!