Bella! Horrida Bella!
In Book 11 of Virgil’s Aeneid, a political assembly convenes prior to the final approach of Aeneas’ troops on Latium. King Latinus gathers his principal men to hear the news brought back from the emissaries sent to implore Diomedes to return to battle on their behalf. Diomedes, a lead in Homeric poetry, is well known as a fierce warrior. His ambitions are well represented in his battlefield speech to Aeneas, Talk not of flight, for I shall not listen to you: I am of a race that knows neither flight nor fear, and my limbs are as yet unwearied...Pallas Athena bids me be afraid of no man”(Iliad, V). Homer’s depiction of Diomedes is that of a man fearless and hungry for war. Yet, Vergil’s version of Diomedes is in complete contradiction to Homer’s, in the Aeneid he has matured and is no longer wanting for war. Diomedes metamorphosis is made clear when he says to the emissaries, What happened to disturb your quiet life and make you rouse the unknown that is war…Invite me to no warfare such as this. Troy fallen, I have no quarrel with Trojans. No delight in calling up evil days” (XI, 345,46, 379-81). The dichotomy would have been well understood by Vergil’s contemporaries reading the Aeneid at that time, and was meant to be an obvious message for Turnus and the assembly to seek peace over war. In the message brought back to the assembly, Diomedes also instructs the emissaries to take the gifts they have offered to him and instead bring them to Aeneas as a peace offering. Vergil does this for several reasons, to put Aeneas on the same level as Achilles, make him superior to Diomedes, and to again push for peace over war. Diomedes tells them, I have stood my ground against his whetted spear…Had Ida’s Land borne two more men like him, Troy would have marched upon the towers of Argos…Aeneas first in reverence for the gods. Your right hand and forces should be joined (XI, 385-88, 394-95). Although we see the same dichotomy unfold in The...
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