Aeneid Book 11, lines 539 - 566

The infant Camilla

by Virgil

This extract from Book 11 of the Aeneid follows some important developments which have swung the fortunes of war in the favour of Aeneas and the Trojans. After the battle for the Trojan camp, in which Prince Pallas has been killed, Aeneas has made an offer to his adversaries to settle the conflict by single combat with Turnus. On the Latin side, efforts to make new alliances have failed, and King Latinus is regretting going to war. In council, Turnus’s rivals raise Aeneas’s offer of single combat, and encourage the King’s inclination to offer Aeneas peace, suggesting that he also give him his daughter, Lavinia’s, hand in marriage. Turnus reacts with his characteristic anger and barely controlled violence, but no sooner has he said he is prepared to accept Aeneas’s challenge than news arrives that Aeneas is advancing, and the Latin council breaks up in confusion. Hurrying off to arm, Turnus has met Camilla, a warrior-queen and protegée of Diana, Goddess of the hunt, who has arrived offering her and her followers’ help. As the two lay plans for the battle against Aeneas’s advancing force, Virgil tells the story of Camilla and her origins.

The English is by the poet 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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Pulsus ob invidiam regno virisque superbas
Priverno antiqua Metabus cum excederet urbe,
infantem fugiens media inter proelia belli
sustulit exsilio comitem, matrisque vocavit
nomine Casmillae mutata parte Camillam.
ipse sinu prae se portans iuga longa petebat
solorum nemorum: tela undique saeva premebant
et circumfuso volitabant milite Volsci.
ecce fugae medio summis Amasenus abundans
spumabat ripis, tantus se nubibus imber
ruperat. ille innare parans infantis amore
tardatur caroque oneri timet. omnia secum
versanti subito vix haec sententia sedit:
telum immane manu valida quod forte gerebat
bellator, solidum nodis et robore cocto,
huic natam libro et silvestri subere clausam
implicat atque habilem mediae circumligat hastae;
quam dextra ingenti librans ita ad aethera fatur:
“alma, tibi hanc, nemorum cultrix, Latonia virgo,
ipse pater famulam voveo; tua prima per auras
tela tenens supplex hostem fugit. accipe, testor,
diva tuam, quae nunc dubiis committitur auris.”
dixit, et adducto contortum hastile lacerto
immittit: sonuere undae, rapidum super amnem
infelix fugit in iaculo stridente Camilla.
at Metabus magna propius iam urgente caterva
dat sese fluvio, atque hastam cum virgine victor
gramineo, donum Triviae, de caespite vellit.

Her father Metabus, when forc’d away
From old Privernum, for tyrannic sway,
Snatch’d up, and sav’d from his prevailing foes,
This tender babe, companion of his woes.
Casmilla was her mother; but he drown’d
One hissing letter in a softer sound,
And call’d Camilla. thro’ the woods he flies;
Wrapp’d in his robe the royal infant lies.
His foes in sight, he mends his weary pace;
With shout and clamors they pursue the chase.
The banks of Amasene at length he gains:
The raging flood his farther flight restrains,
Rais’d o’er the borders with unusual rains.
Prepar’d to plunge into the stream, he fears,
Not for himself, but for the charge he bears.
Anxious, he stops a while, and thinks in haste;
Then, desp’rate in distress, resolves at last.
A knotty lance of well-boil’d oak he bore;
The middle part with cork he cover’d o’er:
He clos’d the child within the hollow space;
With twigs of bending osier bound the case;
Then pois’d the spear, heavy with human weight,
And thus invok’d my favor for the freight:
‘Accept, great goddess of the woods,’ he said,
‘Sent by her sire, this dedicated maid!
Thro’ air she flies a suppliant to thy shrine;
And the first weapons that she knows, are thine.’
He said; and with full force the spear he threw:
Above the sounding waves Camilla flew.
Then, press’d by foes, he stemm’d the stormy tide,
And gain’d, by stress of arms, the farther side.
His fasten’d spear he pull’d from out the ground,
And, victor of his vows, his infant nymph unbound;

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More Poems by Virgil

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