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Publius Vergilius Maro, Aeneis 7.803-817

Amazons vs. Greeks
Relief of the Amazons fighting the Greeks in the Trojan War: Achilles holds the body of Penthesilea
Sarcophagus, 3rd century CE

Vergil's epic masterpiece, the Aeneid (Latin, study guide, Dryden's translation), which celebrates the events leading to the founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus, offers compelling portraits of goddesses and legendary women. Among the most tragic of them is Camilla, leader of the Volscian army of women, a mortal maiden dedicated by her father to the huntress-goddess Artemis. Vergil's invention of Camilla suggests Penthesilea (see Aeneid I.490-3), queen of the Amazons and daughter of Ares, who fought beside the Trojans in the Trojan War. She was killed by the Greek hero Achilles, who fell in love with her at the moment of her death (see Propertius Elegiae 3.11.13-16). This passage introduces Camilla in the catalogue of troops opposed to Aeneas. The meter is dactylic hexameter. For an analysis of Camilla's character, see T.H. Becker's article.


  Hos super advenit Volsca de gente Camilla
  agmen agens equitum et florentis aere catervas,  
805  bellatrix, non illa colo calathisve Minervae
  femineas adsueta manus, sed proelia virgo
  dura pati cursuque pedum praevertere ventos.  
  illa vel intactae segetis per summa volaret  
  gramina nec teneras cursu laesisset aristas,  
810  vel mare per medium fluctu suspensa tumenti  
  ferret iter celeris nec tingeret aequore plantas.  
  illam omnis tectis agrisque effusa iuventus  
  turbaque miratur matrum et prospectat euntem,  
  attonitis inhians animis ut regius ostro  
815  velet honos levis umeros, ut fibula crinem
  auro internectat, Lyciam ut gerat ipsa pharetram
  et pastoralem praefixa cuspide myrtum.

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Ann R. Raia and Judith Lynn Sebesta
Return to The World of State
October 2007