Juturna’s love for her brother Turnus no match for Juno’s hate

In the ending book of Virgil’s epic Aeneid, Turnus proposed to engage in single combat against Aeneas rather than many men dying in mass fighting between the Italian and Trojan men. Both Turnus and Aeneas foolishly strove to marry the Italian princess Lavinia. Her mother contemptuously regarded Aeneas as a lover of boys. Nonetheless, Aeneas was a fierce warrior drawing upon the help of his mother Venus. The Trojans were on the verge of defeating the Italians. The upcoming battle would be decisive.

Turnus understood that the impending violence against men fundamentally concerned gender relations. He scorned Aeneas’s gender-transgressive masculinity and prayed to humiliate him:

Grant that I strike down his body and,
with my strong hand, strip and lacerate the breast armor
of that Trojan half-man and defile in dust his hair
that’s curled with a heated iron and drenched in perfume.

{ da sternere corpus
loricamque manu ualida lacerare reuulsam
semiuiri Phrygis et foedare in puluere crinis
uibratos calido ferro murraque madentis. }

Powerful women shaped the destinies of men fighting and dying. Turnus thought that Aeneas would fight without the help of his goddess-mother:

Far from him will be his goddess-mother, who with woman’s mystification
covers the fleet dodger and conceals the enemy in empty shadows.

{ longe illi dea mater erit, quae nube fugacem
feminea tegat et uanis sese occulat umbris. }

Men are both romantically simple and pugnaciously simple. Women fight through skillful subterfuge and manipulation. Turnus hoped that he could fight only Aeneas, not Aeneas under the guidance of his goddess-mother.

Juno, wife of the nominal head god in charge of the cosmos Jove, conspired to destroy the single-combat agreement between the Trojan and Italian men. In her hate, she sought to provoke massive violence against men. Juno worked through Turnus’s sister Juturna. Juno implied that Turnus would die in the single combat. She urged Juturna:

“This is no time for tears,” said Saturnian Juno.
“Hurry and, if there’s some way, snatch your brother from death,
or stir up war, aborting the treaty they’ve conceived.
I teach you daring.” Thus having exhorted Juturna, Juno left her
doubtful and disturbed, with a sadly wounded heart.

{ “non lacrimis hoc tempus” ait Saturnia Iuno:
“accelera et fratrem, si quis modus, eripe morti;
aut tu bella cie conceptumque excute foedus.
auctor ego audendi.” sic exhortata reliquit
incertam et tristi turbatam uulnere mentis. }

Juno’s father Saturn (Chronos) initiated castration culture. War is another form of violence against men.

To instigate war according to Juno’s teaching, Juturna went disguised as a revered Italian soldier into the center of the Italian lines. She sowed rumors and misinformation. She spurred the Italians to break their agreement with the Trojans:

Are you not ashamed, O Rutulians, for so many men
to endanger a single man? In number and might are
we not equal? Here are all the Trojans and Arcadians
and Etrurians, led by fate’s hand and hostile to Turnus.
If every other of us would fight, scarcely an enemy each would have.

{ Non pudet, O Rutuli, pro cunctis talibus unam
obiectare animam? Numerone an viribus aequi
non sumus? En omnes et Troes et Arcades hi sunt
fatalesque manus, infensa Etruria Turno:
vix hostem, alterni si congrediamur, habemus. }

After spreading these incoherent claims, Juturna displayed in the sky a fake omen of Jove’s golden eagle. Then an Italian threw a spear at the Trojans, and a mass of Italians charged at the Trojans. Aeneas yelled for the Trojans to restrain their anger. Juturna then covertly hurled a spear at Aeneas and wounded him. Chaos ensued. From its origin in Juno’s hateful scheming, a men-slaughtering battle had begun.

Trojans battle Rutulians in Aeneid

With no concern for all the other men dying, Juturna struggled only to save the life of her brother Turnus. She knocked Turnus’s chariot-driver from his place and, assuming his form, carefully drove Turnus about the battlefield. She displayed him fighting, but kept him away from Aeneas. Unable to engage with Turnus, Aeneas turned to lead the Trojans to besiege the Italian capital. Juturna directed Turnus away from that disaster:

This way, Turnus, let’s chase
the trailing Trojans, where victory offers the first way to us.
There are others whose hands can defend the city’s homes.
Aeneas is attacking the Italians and stirring up fights.
Let our hands similarly give savage death to Trojans.
Neither in kills nor in honor of battle will you withdraw inferior.

{ Hac, Turne, sequamur
Troiugenas, qua prima viam victoria pandit;
sunt alii, qui tecta manu defendere possint.
Ingruit Aeneas Italis et proelia miscet:
et nos saeva manu mittamus funera Teucris.
Nec numero inferior pugnae nec honore recedes. }

Turnus perceived his sister directing his chariot. He heavy-heartedly rejected this violence against men serving merely for claiming merit:

O sister, in fact long ago I recognized you, when first you guilefully
destroyed the agreement and dedicated yourself to this war,
and now for nothing you falsify your divinity. But who on Olympus
willed that you be sent down to do such work?
Was it so that you would see your miserable brother’s violent death?
For what thus do I go on? What fortune now can offer me deliverance?
I have seen before my very own eyes his voice calling out to me,
Murranus — no other more dear to me had remained.
He perished, a mighty one victim of a mighty wound.
Unlucky Ufens fell so that our dishonor
he would not see. The Trojans seized his corpse and his armor.
The destruction of our home (that is the one thing no yet done)
shall I endure? Not refute Drances’s taunts with my right arm?
Shall I turn my back and this country see Turnus flee?
Go so far that dying is misery? You O spirits of the dead, to me
be good, for the gods above have turned their faces against me!
My sacred soul, that one knowing no fault, to you
will descend, never unworthy of my great predecessors.

{ O soror, et dudum adgnovi, cum prima per artem
foedera turbasti teque haec in bella dedisti,
et nunc nequiquam fallis dea. Sed quis Olympo
demissam tantos voluit te ferre labores?
An fratris miseri letum ut crudele videres?
Nam quid ago? Aut quae iam spondet Fortuna salutem?
Vidi oculos ante ipse meos me voce vocantem
Murranum, quo non superat mihi carior alter,
oppetere ingentem atque ingenti volnere victum.
Occidit infelix nostrum ne dedecus Ufens
adspiceret; Teucri potiuntur corpore et armis.
Exscindine domos (id rebus defuit unum)
perpetiar, dextra nec Drancis dicta refellam?
Terga dabo et Turnum fugientem haec terra videbit?
Usque adeone mori miserum est? Vos O mihi Manes
este boni, quoniam superis aversa voluntas!
Sancta ad vos anima atque istius nescia culpae
descendam, magnorum haud umquam indignus avorum. }

A messenger then informed Turnus that the city was besieged and on fire. He leaped from his chariot, charged through the enemy lines, and demanded to face Aeneas in single combat.

Both sides cleared the field as Aeneas and Turnus charged at one another. Brutal fighting led to Turnus, his sword broken, fleeing Aenaes. When Aeneas sought to retrieve his spear stuck in a tree, Juturna rushed in and gave her brother Turnus another sword. Then Venus stepped in, pulled the spear from the tree, and give it to her son Aeneas. Those women-goddesses thus contributed to more brutal violence against men.

Meanwhile in the heavens, Jove finally stood up to Juno. He declared to her:

It has come to the limit. To harass across land and sea
the Trojans, ignite unspeakable war,
degrade a royal house, and mix a wedding hymn with grieving —
you have had power to do. I forbid you to attempt more.

{ ventum ad supremum est. Terris agitare vel undis
Troianos potuisti, infandum adcendere bellum,
deformare domum et luctu miscere hymenaeos:
ulterius temptare veto. }

Juno pretended to be contrite and subservient. After swearing by the waters of the Styx that she hadn’t told Juturna to wound Aeneas, Juno yielded to allow the Italians’ war against the Trojans to end. Juno then prompted Jove to have the Trojans assimilate with the Italians. Juno knew that her Carthaginians were already sworn to endless war against the Trojans. She thus both wiped out the Trojans as a distinct people and transferred the curse of endless war to the Italians. Aeneas and his descendants wouldn’t enjoy the love that Juno lacked in her marriage with Jove.

Fooled into thinking that Juno was enabling peace, Jove spurred despair and further rage on earth. He sent a Fury to cross Juturna’s path as a bad omen. Turned into a bird, the Fury beat its wings on Turnus’s shield. It terrorized him into perceiving Jove to be his mortal foe. Juturna recognized that Turnus would soon be killed:

What now, Turnus, can your sister do to help you?
What remains for me to suffer? With what art can I
prolong your life? How can I oppose such a portent?

Immortal, am I? Yet can anything of mine be sweet to me
without you, my brother? O what land can gape sufficiently deep
to send me a goddess down to the deepest dead souls!

{ Quid nunc te tua, Turne, potest germana iuvare?
Aut quid iam durae superat mihi? Qua tibi lucem
arte morer? Talin possum me opponere monstro?

Immortalis ego? Aut quicquam mihi dulce meorum
te sine, frater, erit? O quae satis ima dehiscet
terra mihi Manisque deam demittet ad imos? }

In grief Juturna dove into a stream dedicated to her. Confused and demoralized, Turnus fell to Aeneas’s spear-throw. Aeneas, enraged at seeing Turnus wearing Pallas’s belt featuring the husband-killing Danaids, slaughtered the helpless, supplicating Turnus.

Violence against men cannot be understood apart from women. Men fight other men for women. Women incite men to violence against men and manipulate men’s passions. In the Aeneid, Juturna loved her brother Turnus. But she didn’t perceive the ruling goddess Juno’s vengeful hate. Juturna didn’t value the lives of all men and seek to lessen violence against men. She didn’t understand systemic sexism. In their love for their husbands and brothers and sons and fathers, women today must act with more understanding of gender and systemic sexism.

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Turnus in the Aeneid is a highly passionate character. His foolish insistence on marrying Lavinia produced massive violence against Italian and Trojan men. Turnus’s gyno-idolatry with respect to Lavinia parallels that of Menelaus with respect to Helen and the disastrous Trojan War.

The Aeneid has been described as “the ‘epic of love,’ for its deepest tragedy is that its people ‘loved too much.'” Pöschel (1950 / 1962) p. 15. Both women and men can be highly passionate, but their passions tend to be expressed differently. Without any analysis of men’s gender position and violence against men, West (1979) analyzes the “passionate and tragic loves” of Anna, sister of Dido, and Juturna, sister of Turnus. She interprets the loves of Anna and Juturna as similar to “the disastrous loves of the more prominent characters.” West (1979) p. 17. The most prominent characters are not necessarily the most important characters. Love in the Aeneid is inextricably intertwined with gender. Turnus’s passion doesn’t align him “firmly with femininity.” Cf. Teasza (2011). Turnus’s gyno-idolatry and his experience of a woman manipulating him are common experiences of men.

The quotes above are from the Aeneid, Book 12, Latin text of Greenough (1900), with my English translations, benefiting from those Fagles (2006), Fairclough (1999), and Kline (2002), and the commentary of Francese & Reedy (2016). The quotes are Aeneid, Book 12, vv. 97-100 (Grant that I strike…), 53-4 (Far from him will be his goddess-mother…), 156-60 (“This is no time for tears,”…), 229-33 (Are you not ashamed…), 625-30 (This way, Turnus, let’s chase…), 632-49 (O sister, in fact long ago I recognized you…), 803-6 (It has come to the limit…), 872-4, 882-4 (What now, Turnus, can your sister do…).

[image] Trojans Pandarus and Bitias in battle with Turnus’s Rutulians in Aeneid, Book IX. From image of painted enamel on copper. Made by Master of the Aeneid, c. 1530-5. Preserved as accession # 45.60.4 in the Metropolitan Museum (New York City, USA). Credit: Fletcher Fund, 1945.


Fagles, Robert, trans. 2006. Virgil. The Aeneid. New York: Viking.

Fairclough, H. Rushton, revised by G. P. Goold. 1999. Virgil. Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid: Books 1-6. Loeb Classical Library 63. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Francese, Christopher and Meghan Reedy. 2016. Vergil: Aeneid Selections. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries.

Greenough, J. B., ed. and trans. 1900. The Bucolics, Aeneid, and Georgics of Virgil. Boston: Ginn.

Kline, A. S, trans. 2002. Virgil. The Aeneid. Poetry in Translation, freely available online.

Pöschel, Viktor, trans. Gerda M. Seligson. 1950 / 1962. The Art of Vergil: Image and symbol in the Aeneid {Die Dichtkunst Virgils: Bild und Symbol in der Âneis}. University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor.

West, Grace Starry. 1979. “Vergil’s Helpful Sisters: Anna and Juturna in the Aeneid.” Vergilius. 25: 10-19.

Teasza. 2011. Chaotic Passion: Turnus & Femininity in the Aeneid. Undergraduate dissertation. Online.

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