Alius Latio iam partus Achilles:
Turnus, Aeneas, and the “Other Achilles”

Stephen C. Smith

            Although he never appears in person in the Aeneid, Achilles’ presence can be felt throughout the poem, from Aeneas’ wish that he had died in Troy (1.94-101) to the final duel between Aeneas and Turnus.  Halfway through the poem, during Aeneas’ visit to Cumae, the Sibyl foretells the coming war in Italy, casting it in terms of a renewed Trojan War (6.83-97).  There will even be, she says, a second Achilles.  As Aeneas himself probably does, scholars have read alius Achilles as referring to a great warrior who will oppose the Trojans.  This paper will argue that the Sibyl’s words are ambiguous, applying equally to Turnus and Aeneas, and that each hero in fact lays claim to the role of Achilles.

            The new Achilles is mentioned by the Sibyl between references to a Dorian camp and the presence of Juno, which would suggest that he will oppose the Trojans, but he is also described as natus dea, which so far has been used of Aeneas alone.  The situation is complicated further because the relationship between Latium and the new Achilles is unclear:  is he the hero born in Latium, or the foreign invader whom Latium must face? 

            Turnus, who has traditionally been seen as the referent of the prophecy, does claim to be a new Achilles in Book 9, after he has forced his way into the Trojan stockade.  His words to the doomed Pandarus (hic etiam inuentum Priamo narrabis Achillem, 9.742) mark his assumption of the role of Achilles and are reflected by Vergil’s reversal of his Homeric model (Il. 20.419-44):  until this point Pandarus has “played” Achilles and Turnus Hector, but with Turnus’ words he becomes Achilles, and Pandarus Hector.  Turnus, then, would seem to be alius Achilles, one born in Latium.

            Aeneas, however, has already laid claim to the role of Achilles, consciously or not.  When Venus in Book 8 sends a sign to her son that she (like Thetis before her) is bringing him new armor, Aeneas says that the Latins are about to suffer for having broken the peace (8.537-40).  After he promises that Turnus will be punished, he says that the Tiber will be filled with armor and bodies, unwittingly (it seems) echoing his own words in Book 1, when he recalled the Simois filled with Achilles’ victims (1.101).  Thus Aeneas proclaims himself alius Achilles, who will be for Latium what Achilles was for Troy.

            Two new Achilles, then, are at war in Latium.  By exploring the role of Achilles in the actions of both Vergilian characters, we are in a better position to understand the wrath that overwhelms Aeneas in the poem’s final moment.

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