Significance of the Aeneas – Turnus Conflict

The conflict between the Trojan hero and leader Aeneas, and the Rutulian Prince and the leader Turnus, of all Italian forces against the invaders, carries an epic conclusion. It is, therefore, very much significant in the whole scheme of the epic. 

The Aeneid is not a personal epic about Aeneas, but a national epic, a glorification and exaltation of Rome, and the destiny of the Roman people. The poem is concerned with the part Aeneas played in founding the Roman state. 

The purpose of Virgil in writing the epic has been achieved in its conclusion. The conflict between the two-nation has been over, and peace has been established.

Aeneas’ Proposal of A Duel to End The War

Moved with pity at the death of hundreds of the innocent Trojans and the Latins, Aeneas proposes to the Latin embassy led by Drances to end the war by single combat between him and Turnus. He points out that he and his people have no real quarrel with the Latins, so a duel between Aeneas and Turnus might settle the difference. 

The ambassadors are deeply impressed by the wisdom of these remarks and return to their city. Thus Aeneas has scored a significant phase for victory in the war over his rival Turnus. Aeneas has been able to project his benign personality into the minds of the Latin people who were tired of war.

Turnus’ Criticism of The Latin Council

In the Latin Council, Aeneas’ proposal earned the desired result. A sharp division of opinion over the continuation of the war was immediately found. The old King Latinus emerges from his retirement and calls an assembly of the people. He proposes that peace be made with Aeneas and granting a tract of land to the Trojans. 

Under the leadership of Drances, the supporters of the peace movement argue in the assembly. Turnus, being cornered in the assembly, violently criticizes Drances and his other opponents for cowardice. Besides, he offers to engage Aeneas in personal combat like a true hero to settle their dispute.

The Trojans again defeated the Latins in the battle. Recognizing the dangerous situation in which the Latins now are, Turnus declares that the husband of Lavinia will be selected in combat between himself and Aeneas. Both sides agreed upon the proposal, and the two armies met in the field. 

Juno Conspires Against The Duel Treaty

Latinus and Aeneas met in the field to arrange the terms of the duel. Oaths and sacrifices solemnize their treaty to the Gods. However, it was not the wish of Juno that Aeneas should kill Turnus in the duel. So, she appointed Juturna, his sister, to protect her brother in the battle. 

Juturna plays upon the sympathies of the Rutulian people and finally incites one of them to break the truce by casting a spear into the Trojan’s Ronk. Immediately violent fighting breaks out despite the commanders’ efforts, and the battle continues in great fury.

Aeneas was shocked at the violation of the peace plan. However, he joined with his soldiers to defend his men from the Latin attackers most unwillingly. Again, both sides attempt to halt the war and to decide the issue by a single duel. 

This time, Jupiter forbids Juno to interfere any further. The will of destiny is supreme and cannot be interfered. Juno grudgingly agrees but demands that the combined peoples of Latinas and Aeneas abandon the hated name of “Trojan.” Furthermore, the ancient customs and rituals of Troy are not be permitted to flourish in Italy. In these wars of Juno, the future of Rome and her people was reflected.

The Duel Reinstated And Aeneas Defeats Turnus

As decided, the duel starts and the Trojan hero Aeneas is decidedly the better of the two. Turnus hurls a massive stone at Aeneas and misses the target. Then Aeneas cast his spear and wounds the Latin hero. As he falls to the ground, all his soldiers and even the surrounding countryside groan in pity. 

Turnus, like a true hero, accepts his defeat and imminent death proudly and without complaint. Nonetheless, he requests Aeneas to give him a decent burial. The noble hero Aeneas is sympathetic to the last request of the fallen hero and is tempted to spare his enemy. However, noticing the sword belt of Pallas, his dear friend, he remembers his promise to Evander; Aeneas becomes enraged and kills him with his sword.

Virgil’s Portrayal of Aeneas-Turnus Conflict

The conflict between Aeneas and Turnus is very significant as it supplies the human reason for the ultimate victory. Virgil has sought to justify them from the human standpoint because the Trojans have divine sanction and approval. 

The poet does this by portraying the behavior of the two heroes, Aeneas and Turnus, during the crisis when a Latin’s hurling spear has broken the truce. 

Aeneas tries to prevent the battle from breaking out again, feeling that more fighting and bloodshed would be useless. On the other hand, Turnus takes advantage of the confusion, leaps into the hottest part of the battle, and begins killing with all his energy. 

After this scene, there can be no more doubt about the morality of either side. Heaven and earth joined in approving of Aeneas. 

Final Words

There is no conflict for elegance between a leader desiring peace and justice and a leader lacking human values by a pathological hatred of his enemy.

At the end of the epic, Virgil glorifies Rome’s destiny and martial progress by defeating Turnus in the duel. The victory of Aeneas symbolizes the victory of Rome over all his enemies.   

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