Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Story of Camilla, Vergil, Aeneid 11.539-584

 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.

non illum tectis ullae, non moenibus urbes

accepere (neque ipse manus feritate dedisset),

pastorum et solis exegit montibus aevum.

hic natam in dumis interque horrentia lustra               

armentalis equae mammis et lacte ferino

nutribat teneris immulgens ubera labris.

utque pedum primis infans vestigia plantis

institerat, iaculo palmas armavit acuto

spiculaque ex umero parvae suspendit et arcum.               

pro crinali auro, pro longae tegmine pallae

tigridis exuviae per dorsum a vertice pendent.

tela manu iam tum tenera puerilia torsit

et fundam tereti circum caput egit habena

Strymoniamque gruem aut album deiecit olorem.               

multae illam frustra Tyrrhena per oppida matres

optavere nurum; sola contenta Diana

aeternum telorum et virginitatis amorem

intemerata colit. 

--Vergil, Aeneid 11.539-584

When Metabus was exiled from his kingdom on account of his own arrogant character, he left the ancient city of Priverna. As he was running for his life, he carried an infant as his companion in exile: it was his daughter Camilla, named after her mother Casmilla (with one letter changed).

Carrying her in a sling across his chest, Metabus sought the rolling hills and desolate groves. However, he was beset all around him by savage enemy weapons; the Volsci infested the region, and he was surrounded.

Look! He finds the Amasenus River rolling in front of him, separating him from freedom. And even worse! A thunderstorm broke out.

He prepared to swim across the stream, but he was checked by love for his daughter. He fretted over the precious cargo in his arms.

As he tried to figure out what to do, suddenly inspiration struck. The sturdy spear he happened to carry in his strong warrior’s hand was equally sturdy and aged wood. He tied his daughter to the middle of the spear, balancing it in his immense right hand, and prayed to the heavens,

“Precious Diana, daughter of Latona,

Protector of this sacred grove,

I, a parent, devote my child to you.

My daughter—your pledge—flees the enemy bearing your weapons.

Witness and accept her as an offering; I entrust her to you

Upon the breeze.”

He spoke and sent the spear aloft. Wretched Camilla sped over the swift current of the stream, bound to the whistling spear. Metabus, seeing a troop of pursuers approach, dove into the stream. Once he successfully made it across, he plucked the infant from his spear, and dedicated her to Diana.

No home or city would give him shelter due to his own former cruelty, so he spent the remainder of his life wandering the lonely foothills and shepherds’ paths. He raised his daughter on mare’s milk and other beasts’. When the girl first learned to walk, he gave her a little spear of her own, put a little javelin, bow, and arrow on her shoulders.

There was no refinement in her appearance; she dressed in a tiger’s pelt, and spent her childhood hunting. Already as a child, she could take down cranes and white swans with her weapons.

In vain, many Italian mothers wished she’d become their daughter-in-law, but she was content with Diana alone, unapologetically cherishing her eternal love of hunting and chastity.



Name:  Publius Vergilius Maro

Date:  70 BCE – 21 BCE

Works:  Aeneid*





Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



Vergil was born in Mantua (Cisalpine Gaul, located in northern Italy) and lived during the tumultuous transition of Roman government from republic to monarchy. His masterpiece, the Aeneid, tells the story of Aeneas’ migration from Troy to Italy; it was used for centuries as the pinnacle of Roman literature.


Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE

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