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