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.

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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!


More Poems by Virgil

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