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The Aeneid for Boys and Girls by  Alfred J, Church


 

 

THE DEEDS AND THE DEATH OF CAMILLA

[261] TURNUS gave to all his people the work that they should do. Some should strengthen the walls and the gates of the city, and some should make the trench deeper, and some should follow him into battle. Such as were neither strong nor brave could at least gather a store of stones and stakes. While the men were busy with these things, the women, with the queen and her daughter leading them, went to the Temple of Juno and prayed for help. "Break," said the queen, "the spear of this Phrygian robber, and lay him low before the city."

When Turnus had given his orders, he armed himself, and ran down from the citadel. At the gate there met him Camilla with her maidens, riding on horses, and armed, all of them, for battle. She said to him: "Turnus, stay you here and defend [262] the city. I and my maidens will meet the Trojans and the Tuscans." Turnus answered: "That is well said, lady. I can never thank you enough for the help you give me. But as for the city, it is safe enough. I and my men will lie in ambush in the valley by which this Æneas will approach the city. Do you meet the enemy in front, and I, when the time shall come, will charge them from the side."

Now the story of Camilla is this. She was the daughter of a certain king, Metabus by name, who was driven out of his kingdom by his subjects on account of his cruelty. He fled for his life, taking with him his little daughter, whom he carried in his arms. He came in his flight to a certain river, and the river was swollen with rain, so that it ran high and strong. The man could not swim with the child in his arms, and his enemies were close behind, so he took the spear that he carried on his back, and bound the child to it with strips of bark, and made ready to throw it. As he balanced it in his hand, he prayed to Diana, saying: "O Goddess! I give thee [263] this child to be thy servant for ever, if thou wilt save her now." Then he cast the spear across the river with all his might, and, Diana giving strength to his arm, it fell on the other side. Then he himself leapt into the water, and, swimming across, so escaped from his enemies. After this he never lived in house or town, but with the shepherds on the hills, and the child he fed with mare's milk and the like things. As soon as she could walk he gave her a little javelin to carry, and when she was a little stronger, a bow and arrows. She wore no gold or jewels, nor had she long skirts like a girl. From a child she could sling a stone in a wonderful way, hitting the cranes and the wild swans as they flew high in the air. Tall and strong and beautiful was she when she grew up, and many Tuscan mothers desired to have her for a daughter-in-law, but she had no thought of marriage, only of hunting and fighting.

The goddess Diana, as she sat in heaven, said to Opis, who was chief of the nymphs who waited on her: "Opis, Camilla goes to fight in this war. Would that she had [264] not thought of it! There is not a girl in Italy that I love more, and have loved ever since she was a child. But her fate is on her, and she must die. Now I give you this charge. Go down to the Latin land, where they are beginning just now this evil war; take with you your bow and your arrows, and see that any man who harms her shall himself be slain. And when she is dead no man shall spoil her of her arms; but I will carry back her body to her native land."

And now Æneas and the Trojans came towards the city, the horsemen being in front. One of these, a Tuscan, was the first to kill his man. He charged against a Latin chief, and drove him from his horse, making him fly through the air, as a stone flies from an engine. When the Latins saw him, they turned and fled. And the Trojans and Tuscans followed them. But when they came near the city, then those that stood upon the walls, the old men and the boys and the women, threw sticks and stones at them, and the soldiers took courage and faced about. Then the Trojans, in their turn, fled, and [265] the Latins pursued them. So it happened twice. But when they met for the third time, then neither would the one side nor the other give way. Both of them stood firm, and there was a great slaughter. Many did valiantly, but none was equal to Camilla. Sometimes she would fight with a battle-axe and sometimes with her bow and arrows. Never did she strike a man with her battle-axe but she laid him low upon the earth; never did she aim an arrow at a man, but she killed him. One of these was the hunter Ornytus, who was the tallest of the Tuscans. He had a wolf's head with great white teeth for helmet, and in his hand he carried a hunting spear. But strong as he was, Camilla overcame him, and as he lay dying on the ground she mocked him: "Did you think, O Tuscan, that you were hunting wild beasts to-day? Lo! a woman's arms have brought all your boasts to nothing." So she raged through the field, slaying Trojans and Tuscans alike. One of the Ligurians, the son of Aunus, thought to escape in this way. He said to her: "Let us fight on foot; you have so swift a horse [266] that no one can fight with you on equal terms." Camilla answered: "Be it so; we will fight on foot." And she leapt from her horse, and gave it to one of her companions to hold. But the other turned his horse to flee, foolish man, not knowing that Camilla could run faster than any horse in the world. But so it was; she outran the horse, and stood in front of it, catching the reins in her hand, and so killed him.

Then Tarchon the Tuscan shouted out to his horsemen: "What is this, you cowards? Shall a woman drive you before her? You are ready for the dance and feast, and you lag behind in battle. Follow me." And he rode at Venŭlus, prince of Tibur, and caught him in his arms, dragging him from his horse. So an eagle catches up a snake in his claws and carries him off, and the snake winds himself round the bird, and hisses. Thus did Tarchon carry off his enemy, looking for a place where to strike him, for he was covered with armour, and the man tried to keep the sword from his throat. When the Trojans and the Tuscans saw this, they took courage again.

[267] All this time a certain Arruns, a great archer, was watching Camilla, looking for a chance to kill her. There was a certain priest who was riding in the midst of the battle very splendidly adorned. There were clasps of gold on his armour and the armour of his horse. He wore a purple robe which had come from Tyre; he had a Lycian bow, adorned with gold; his helmet also shone with gold; and his scarf had a ring of gold, and his tunic was rich with the finest needlework. Never was there such a sight to see. And Camilla, having a woman's love of beautiful things, followed him, caring for nothing, and thinking of nothing, but how she might take these splendid spoils. Now Arruns lay in ambush, and when he saw Camilla, how she followed the priest, and thought of nothing else, he said to himself, "Now is the time." And he prayed to Apollo: "Lord of the bow, help me now, if ever I and my people have done honour to you. I ask no glory for myself. Only let me slay this fury, though I go back to my country without honour." Part of this prayer the god heard and answered, but [268] part was scattered by the winds. For he drew his bow to the full, and let fly the arrow. And when the people heard the twang of the bow, for they could not see the man, they all turned. But Camilla took no heed; she had no thought of the arrow till it struck her under the left breast. She reeled upon her horse, and her companions closed round her and caught her as she fell. Once she laid her hand on the arrow and would have drawn it out, but it had gone too deep. Then her eyes swam in death, and the colour that was as the colour of a rose faded from her cheek. Only as she died, she said, for her thoughts were still with the battle, so keen a fighter was she: "Acca, my sister, tell Turnus to come forth from his ambush, and join in the battle, if he would keep the Trojans from the walls of the city." So she died.

Now Arruns, at the first, lay in hiding, for he was afraid, so great a deed had he done. After a while, he came out from his place, and began to boast. Then Opis drew her bow with all her strength, till the ends came almost together. With her right hand [269] she held the bow-string, and with her left the arrow-head. So she let the shaft fly. Arruns heard the twang, and even while he heard it, he fell dead upon the plain. And now the companions of Camilla flew, as did also the Latins and the allies. The dust of the battle came nearer and nearer to the walls, and a great cry went up to the heaven. Great was the fear and the confusion. Some were trodden down by their own people, so that they died even in sight of their own homes. And the keepers of the gates shut them close, so that their own friends were left outside.

And now Acca had carried to Turnus, as he lay in ambush, the news of how her sister was dead, and how the battle went against his people. Immediately he rose up from his place, and made all haste to the city. And it chanced that at the very same time Æneas had come through the valley and passed over the ridge. The two saw each other; but the night was now falling, so that they could not meet in battle.


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