Gateway to the Classics: The Aeneid for Boys and Girls by Alfred J. Church
The Aeneid for Boys and Girls by  Alfred J. Church

The Broken Treaty

T HAT night there was much talk in the city of King Latinus, for the king and Turnus and the queen could not agree among themselves. Nothing would satisfy Turnus but that he should fight with Æneas, man to man. Twice had he seen the Latins and their allies beaten in battle; many of his friends had been slain; and the people looked to him that he should keep his promise, for, indeed, he had sworn that he would meet Æneas in single combat. He said, therefore, to the king, pretending, as men will do, to be more sure of victory than he was in his heart: "My father, these Trojan cowards shall not go back from their word. I will meet this man face to face, and will kill him before your eyes. But if the gods will have it that he should prevail over me, let it be so; you shall be his servants, and Lavinia shall be his wife."

King Latinus was in a sore strait. Turnus he loved, and would willingly have had him for a son-in-law, if the gods had not forbidden. And he would not have him die. Why should he not be content and depart? So he said: "Think awhile, my son; you will have a kingdom in due time, even the kingdom of your father Daunus. And there are other maidens in Italy, noble of birth and fair to look upon, whom you may have to wife. Why will you not be content? I would have given you my daughter Lavinia; but, as you know, the gods forbade. I have been weak, I know; I have changed my purpose, for, indeed, I loved you much, and my wife also moved me with her tears. But see what troubles I and my people have suffered! Twice have we been beaten in battle, and now only the city is left to us, and even this is in danger. If I must yield to these men, why must I also lose you? What shall I profit if you die? Will not my people cry shame upon me, if I suffer it?"

The queen, also, was set against the thought of the single combat. "Oh! my son," she cried, "do not fight with this stranger. What shall I do if you are slain! One thing I know: I will not live to see Æneas my son-in-law."

And Lavinia wept to hear her mother speak in this way, and to think that all this was on account of her. She wept, and her face grew crimson with shame. Her face was as when ivory is stained with crimson, or as when roses are mixed with lilies. Never had she seemed so fair; and when Turnus saw her, his heart burned with love. He turned to the queen, and said: "My mother, do not trouble me with tears and prayers. To this battle I must go." Then he called the herald, and said: "Go to the Trojan king, and bear this message. Turnus says, 'We two will fight man to man to-morrow, and the people shall have peace. And he that prevails shall have Lavinia for his wife.' "

The next day the men of Italy and the men of Troy measured out a piece of ground where these two, Æneas and Turnus, should fight together. In the middle of the ground they built an altar of turf. And the Trojans sat on one side with their allies, and the Latins on the other, with their spears fixed in the earth, and their shields laid by their sides. And all the walls of the city were crowded with women and old men to see the fight.

When everything was now ready, the two kings came to make the agreement. First came Latinus, sitting in a chariot drawn by four horses. On his head he had a crown with twelve spikes which were like to rays of sunlight, for the king was of the race of the Sun. Turnus came in a chariot drawn by two white horses, holding a spear in either hand. And Æneas came, clad in the armour which the Fire-god had made for him, and his son Ascanius by his side.

First, they offered sacrifice on the altar. When this was done, Æneas laid his hand upon the altar, and swore: "If this day the victory shall fall to Turnus, the Trojans shall go to the city of Evander, and shall trouble this land no more. But if the gods shall give the victory to me, then things shall be thus ordered. The Latins shall not serve the Trojans. The two nations shall be equal. King Latinus shall still be king even as he is to-day. The Trojans shall build a new city for me, and Lavinia shall call it after her own name."

King Latinus also laid his hand upon the altar, and swore, calling on the gods that were in heaven and the gods that were below the earth: "Surely this treaty shall stand fast for ever and ever. See this sceptre which I carry in my hand! Once it was the branch of a tree, but a workman closed it in bronze, and made it a sceptre for the king of the Latins. As surely as it will never again bear twig or leaf, so surely shall this treaty stand fast for ever." But while he was speaking, Juno had it in her mind to break the treaty. She said to Juturna, who was sister to Turnus: "See you how these two are about to fight, man to man? Do you not know how this will end? Do you not see that your brother goes to his death? As for me, I will have nothing to do with this treaty or this fight. But if you can do anything for your brother, now is the time." And when the nymph wept and beat her breast, Juno said: "This is no time for tears: save your brother, if you can, from death. And first cause this treaty to be broken."

Now the Latins, as they sat and looked on what was being done, liked it little. It had seemed to them even before that the fight between these two would not be equal. And now, seeing the two men, that Æneas was bold and confident, and that Turnus walked with his eyes upon the ground, and looked pale and sad, they were more afraid that the fight would go against their own champion. So they began to murmur, and to talk among themselves. When the nymph perceived this, she took upon herself the shape of one Camers, who was a great prince and warrior, and went to and fro among the people, saying: "Are you not ashamed, men of Italy, to allow one man to do battle for you all? Look at these Trojans! See how few they are. There is scarcely one of them for two of you. And if your champion should be overcome how great the shame! He shall gain glory, though he die, but you will suffer disgrace, for whatever the king of these strangers may say, you will surely be servants to them."

And while the man went about among the army, saying these and other like things, there was shown—for so Juno contrived it—a sign in heaven. An eagle drove a great flock of birds before him, and, swooping down from the air to the water, caught a swan in his claws, and began to carry him away. And lo! the flock of birds that had fled from him, turned again and drove the eagle before them, so that he dropped the swan and flew away. Then King Tolumnius, who was skilful in seeing the meaning of such things, cried out: "See you this, my friends? This is such a sign as I have looked for. This eagle is the Trojan stranger; you are the birds: hitherto you have fled before him; now you turn, and he will flee before you."

And as he spoke he threw his spear, and hit one of the men of King Evander below the belt. He was one of nine brothers, sons of a Greek, but their mother was a Tuscan woman. And as his brothers saw him fall dead upon the ground, they caught their spears from where they stood fixed in the ground, and ran forward. So the battle began. First the altar was thrown down, and the wood that was burning on it was taken for firebrands. When King Latinus saw this, he mounted his chariot and fled from the place. Then Messāpus killed the king of Mantua close to the altar, so that he fell dead upon it. And Messāpus cried: "This is indeed a noble offering!" And not a few others were slain, both on this side and on that.

As for Æneas, he stood in his place by the altar, with his head bare, not having either spear or sword in his hand, and cried to the people: "What do you want? Have we not made a treaty? It is not for you to fight. Between you there is peace. The battle is for Turnus and for me."

When he was thus speaking, there came an arrow out of the crowd and struck him in the arm. Who shot the arrow no one ever knew, for no man dared to boast that he had wounded the great Æneas. Then the chiefs led him out of the battle to the camp.

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