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Lethaeum ad fluvium: Mercury in the Aeneid

Lethaeum ad fluvium: Le Dieu Mercure dans l’Énéide
Lee Fratantuono
p. 295-310

Résumés

L’importance du dieu Mercure au drame de l’Énéide virgilien n’a pas été pleinement appréciée. Un examen attentif des plusieurs apparitions du dieu dans l’épique révèle que Mercure est une figure très importante non seulement dans l’évocation de la rébellion des géants contre les dieux, mais aussi dans le développement de la présentation du poète du triomphe de l’Italie, et que sur le plan mortel le dieu a une signification spéciale à une position plus nuancée à l’appréciation de l’importance de l’héroïne Camilla dans les événements de la guerre en Italie.

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  • 1 See here especially D. Nardo, “Mercurio,” in EV iii, pp. 488-490; P. Knox, “Mercury,” in VE ii, pp. (...)

1The appearances of the messenger god Mercury in Virgil’s Aeneid are few and relatively understudied1. A close examination of those scenes in the poem in which the god figures will reveal that far from being a mere herald of divine tidings and injunctions, Mercury is a key divine character in the theology of the Aeneid, a god whose depiction in the epic serves to bring together several seemingly disparate elements of the poet’s philosophical and political concerns. Our investigation will show that the god Mercury figures in particular in the climactic revelation of the epic that the future Rome will be Latin and not Trojan in customs and mores. We shall see how the Virgilian presentation of Mercury as the god who urges Aeneas’ departure from Carthage, and as a key figure in the genealogical connection between the Trojans and the Arcadians, serves both to underscore and to highlight certain key developments in the ethnography of the epic.

  • 2 On how Mercury’s first appearance is also the occasion for the first mention of Dido, see Austin, 1 (...)

2The first epiphany of Mercury in Virgil’s epic comes immediately after Jupiter’s great consolatory address to his daughter Venus (1.297-304)2. Mercury is sent to Dido’s Phoenicians to soothe their potentially violent hearts and to prepare them for the arrival of Aeneas and his Trojans in the nascent Carthage:

  • 3 Mercury employs an “oarage of wings” as he descends to earth; on how the phrase is used elsewhere i (...)
  • 4 All quotes from Virgil are taken from Mynors, 1969.

Haec ait et Maia genitum demittit ab alto,
ut terrae utque novae pateant Karthaginis arces
hospitio Teucris, ne fati nescia Dido
finibus arceret. volat ille per aëra magnum                  300
remigio alarum3 ac Libyae citus astitit oris.
et iam iussa facit, ponuntque ferocia Poeni
corda volente deo; in primis regina quietum
accipit in Teucros animum mentemque benignam. (297-304)4

  • 5 On what exactly we are to imagine that the god accomplishes in the matter of Carthaginian calming, (...)
  • 6 Cf. Juno’s reaction to Jupiter’s address at 12.841-842 adnuit his Iuno, et mentem laetata retorsit. (...)
  • 7 Specifically, to deter Juturna from offering any further aid to her doomed brother Turnus; see here (...)

3The timing is significant; the supreme god has delivered his solemn oration to Venus, and now the messenger of the gods tends to an immediate problem: Dido’s Carthaginians must be ready to welcome Aeneas and his Trojan exiles in peace and friendship5. Virgil does not describe the action of Mercury in executing his father’s orders; the narrative moves at once to Venus’ own embassy to mortals: the goddess of love visits her son, albeit costumed in a disguise that could have been borrowed from the wardrobe of the huntress Diana (305 ff.). Virgil thus artfully arranges two divine apparitions in the wake of Jupiter’s speech; the father of gods and men sends his messenger, while Venus – no doubt not entirely soothed and at ease in the wake of Jupiter’s address – takes matters into her own hands and descends to earth6. Mercury’s mission comes in the wake of the speech that in an important sense serves as the opening of a great ring that will close only near the epic’s end, when Jupiter speaks not to Venus but to Juno; in the aftermath of that speech (12.843 ff.), Jupiter will send not Mercury but one of the twin Dirae to work his will7. The first speech of Jupiter, in the epic’s opening book, details the future greatness of Rome; the second speech, in the epic’s closing book, reveals that the Rome of the future will be Italian and not Trojan.

  • 8 In comparison, the address of Jupiter to his sister and wife in Book 12 is concerned with the Roman (...)

4But for the moment, we might note here that both Mercury and Venus deal with a matter that Jupiter does not address in his speech: the attitude of Dido’s Carthaginians toward their Trojan visitors. Jupiter’s speech is concerned with the larger issues of the Trojan destiny and the Roman future; on another level, both Jupiter and Venus are aware of the immediate problem that Dido and her Phoenicians pose to Aeneas and his Trojans8. Aeneas and his men cannot be attacked or threatened with martial violence in Carthage; any hospitality, however, is presumably not supposed to deter Aeneas from his Hesperian destiny.

  • 9 On Maia see D. Possanza in VE ii, p. 782; also V. La Bua in EV iii, pp. 323-324.
  • 10 Cf. Homeric Hymn to Hermes 2; 142; 318.
  • 11 The god is not mentioned obliquely or otherwise in the Eclogues; this one reference is the only pas (...)
  • 12 Cf. Hesiod, Theogony 938-939.
  • 13 Fr. 118 Most (169 Merkelbach-West; = a scholium on Pindar, Nem. 2.17), where the seven daughters ar (...)

5Mercury’s first appearance in Virgil’s epic at once defines him as the “son of Maia” (297 genitum Maia), that is, the son of one of the Pleiades of stellar fame9. Mercury/Hermes was associated with Mount Cyllene in Arcadia, the usually attested locus of his nativity10; at Georgic 1.337 quos ignis caelo Cyllenius erret in orbis, mortals are advised to watch the signs of the planets Mercury and Saturn as harbingers of Jovian storms11. Maia was the child of Atlas12; his seven daughters by Pleione are attested in a Hesiodic fragment13. In the immediate context, the associations of Mercury and Maia to Atlas are not of particular interest; Mercury is the Roman god of commerce, and, in an important sense, he will preside here over a sort of commercial enterprise: the opening of new lands and the citadels of Carthage to the Trojans (297-298). Mercury, too, is the son of a Titaness (and, as we shall soon enough be reminded, the grandson of a giant rebel against the Olympian order); he thus serves in part to bridge the violent history between Jupiter and his predecessors in power.

  • 14 For the likely awareness of Virgil’s audience that the Carthaginians would not, in fact, be pacifie (...)
  • 15 See Horsfall ad 6.749 deus evocat for the Virgilian use of the “studiedly anonymous deus.”

6Mercury travels through the vast air (300 per aëra magnum) and arrives in Africa; the Phoenicians lay aside their ferocious temperament in accord with the will of the god (302-303 … ponuntque ferocia Poeni / corda volente deo)14. The “willing god” is most likely Mercury, though he is carrying out, of course, the orders of his divine father, and the two gods here virtually shade into one15.

7This appearance of the god stands in striking contrast to the next epiphany of the god, which is more extended; this mercurial manifestation comes at 4.222-278, in an extended passage that rings together with the first entrance of the god. The Aeneid can be viewed as a triptych (Books 1-4; 5-8; 9-12); in this organizational view of the epic, Mercury makes two rather different appearances in the first and last books of the poem’s first act.

  • 16 For Iarbas see especially Adler, 2003, p. 114-123. On the ironies inherent in Jupiter’s place in th (...)

8For in Book 4, the messenger god is essentially sent on a mission that reverses his task in Book 1. Where once the god was supposed to soften the hearts of the Phoenicians so as to afford a more hospitable welcome to the Trojans, now he is called to urge Aeneas to leave Africa and to resume the pursuit of his Italian destiny. Much has happened, of course, between the two embassies of the god; Venus and Juno have accomplished much in the intervening movements of the epic. The African monarch Iarbas has prayed to Jupiter (4.198-218); he has complained about Aeneas as the new Paris16:

Et nunc ille Paris, cum semiviro comitatu,
Maeonia mentum mitra crinemque madentem
subnixus, rapto potitur … (215-217)

  • 17 For Jupiter’s reaction to Iarbas’ prayer and attitude towards Aeneas (who in a sense is like a rebe (...)
  • 18 Cf. 12.807-842, especially 835 ff., and see further Reed, 2007, p. 85-86. On the connection between (...)

9Iarbas’ prayer concludes with the observation that he has honored Jupiter rather in vain: … nos munera templis / quippe tuis ferimus, famamque fovemus inanem. (217-218)17. We might note here that what helps to engender a Jovian response is the attack on Aeneas as a second Paris, the attack on the stereotypically effeminate qualities of the Trojans that in the final resolution of the epic will be suppressed in favor of Italian mores in the foundation of the new Rome18.

  • 19 See here S. Harrison in VE I, 338.

10Jupiter summons Mercury, and he sends him to the “Dardanian leader” (224 Dardaniumque ducem), that is, to Aeneas. Dardanus is a complex figure in the epic19. As the son of Electra, he was a cousin of Mercury; Electra was, after all, another of the Pleiades. He was also an Italian, and thus a convenient genealogical figure for casting the Trojans not as invaders of Italy, but rather as returning heroes. The appellation here looks forward to a detail we shall consider below that is revealed only in Book 8 of the epic, namely the connection Aeneas will make to Evander in Italy between the shared lineage of Trojans and Arcadians.

11Jupiter notes that Venus did not promise the sort of Aeneas who is now lingering in Carthage:

non illum nobis genetrix pulcherrima talem
promisit, Graiumque ideo bis vindicat armis (227-228)

  • 20 See further here Austin ad 4.228 and Horsfall ad 2.620 and 664 ff.
  • 21 On the importance of Aeneas’ son to Book 4, see Eidinow, 2003, p. 260-267. For Mercury’s appeal to (...)
  • 22 Cf. 1.254 ff.

12The reference to the two rescues of Aeneas looks back both to Aeneid 2.620 and 664 ff., as well as Homer’s Iliad 5.311 ff.20; of course in none of those places is there a direct reference to Aeneas’ Italian destiny. Here, however, Jupiter’s words to Mercury are clear; the father of gods and men describes Venus as having promised that Aeneas would rule Italy (4.230 Italiam regeret); the whole passage is redolent with the spirit of old Rome and Alba Longa (234 Ascanione pater Romanas invidet arces?; 236 nec prolem Ausoniam et Lavinia respicit arva?)21. Interestingly, when Aeneas had been rescued by Venus on the night Troy fell, in a moment of at least near despair he asked whether his goddess mother had saved him so that he might see his family slain by the Greek invaders (2.665-667 … utque / Ascanium patremque meum iuxtaque Creusam / alterum in alterius mactatos sanguine cernam?). Again, there is no mention in the Aeneid of any promise of Venus to Jupiter about Aeneas as progenitor of what will one day be Rome; on the contrary, it is Jupiter himself who makes promises of this sort to Venus22. Jupiter may have wanted Dido’s Carthage to open its borders to Aeneas’ Trojans in peaceful welcome; he certainly did not want Aeneas and Dido to engage in a long term relationship that would see Aeneas focused more on Carthage than on Rome (4.225 … fatisque datas non respicit urbes).

  • 23 Cf., too, the admittedly perhaps unrevised state of the poem.

13Jupiter’s reference to Venus’ alleged promise (228 promisit) may be connected to Venus’ reference to Jupiter’s aforementioned own promise (1.234-237 certe hinc Romanos olim volventibus annis, / hinc forte ductores revocato a sanguine Teucri, / qui mare, qui terras omni ditione tenerent, / pollicitus). One might argue that the poet wishes his audience to imagine that there are divine discussions that are not divulged explicitly in the text of the epic23; the effect of the inconsistency, however, is to highlight how Aeneas is indeed, as Jupiter notes to Mercury, not the sort of figure who might be imagined to be the sire of the Roman future: he is eminently Trojan, as Iarbas justly notes.

  • 24 On this passage see the detailed study of Gransden, 1984, p. 49 ff.
  • 25 See here Raabe, 1974, p. 145. On parallels between the Mercury of Book 4 and certain aspects of the (...)

14Mercury prepares to obey the directives of his father (4.238 ff.)24. He takes up the virga or wand that is his principal accoutrement as psychopomp25:

tum virgam capit; hac animas ille evocat Orco
pallentes, alias sub Tartara tristia mittit;
dat somnos adimitque, et lumina morte resignat. (242-244)

  • 26 Rather full notes on this function of the god can be found in Pease’s commentary ad 242 virgam and (...)
  • 27 Which will in some sense be presided over at least in part by the “other” divine messenger of the e (...)
  • 28 For reflection on the subtle differences between Mercury’s wording of Jupiter’s admonitions and the (...)

15As Mercury proceeds on his mission to Aeneas at Carthage, his special association with the conveyance of souls to the afterlife and the realm of the underworld is highlighted26. The detail is baleful; in part the point is to anticipate how the departure of Aeneas from Africa will be the proximate cause of Dido’s suicide27. But there is also another death that is forecast here, a more distant and less violently dramatic end: the ultimate demise of Troy. Aeneas asked his mother on the last night of that city if she had preserved him so that he might see the death of his closest relatives. Now, in the wake of Jupiter’s rhetorical question as to whether or not Venus’ son is taking note of his own offspring’s destiny in Italy, we see the beginning of the inexorable demise of those Trojan mores that constitute the core of Iarbas’ complaint28.

  • 29 See especially O’Hara here.
  • 30 On how Virgil’s divine characters in this sequence reflect their Homeric counterparts in name and t (...)

16The principal Homeric inspirations for the present passage = Odyssey 5.43-48, where Hermes visits Calypso; in that scene, of course, the god visits the woman, not the man. As the commentators have noted29, in Homer there is also the visit of Hermes to Priam (Iliad 24.339-348) and Hermes’ escort of the souls of the suitors to Hades at Odyssey 24.1-10, both of which seem to have served as models for the psychopompic detail here. In Homer, the return of the hero is to family and hearth; in Virgil, the “return” is to a Roman destiny, a return and a destiny that will entail the death of that which preceded it30.

  • 31 For commentary on the Atlas vignette see Davidson, J., 1992, p. 367-371; also Morwood, 1985, 51-59.
  • 32 See especially S. Casali, “Atlas,” in VE I, 145-146 for the “anthropomorphized version” of the fate (...)
  • 33 Cf. Hesiod, Theogony 517-520, with West, 1966, ad loc. For consideration of some of the larger issu (...)
  • 34 So Casali.
  • 35 And if Iopas sings a Lucretian song, then there is perhaps something of a philosophical rebellion a (...)

17And, too, the “sleep” in Virgil is not necessarily either an exclusively metaphorical sleep of death or a real slumber; both possibilities may well be included in 244 dat somnos adimitque; we shall return to this point when we consider the dream vision of Mercury to Aeneas at 555 ff. For now, Virgil lingers over the descent of the god31; appropriately enough, Mercury pauses at Mount Atlas, the grim memorial, as it were, of his petrified grandfather (246-253)32. The brief vignette of Atlas – now a mountain, however much he still retains the visage of an old man – introduces yet another level of complication to the depiction of Mercury. He is, after all, the grandson of a key player in the gigantomachy; he is a descendant of cosmic rebellion33. Iopas, the bard at Dido’s court, had been instructed by Atlas (1.740-741); while there may well be “shades of a rationalizing interpretation of Atlas” here34; the point may also be to associate Iopas and his song with at least some hint of mutiny against the Jovian order, or, perhaps, its resolution in the wake of the new state of affairs under Jupiter: the bard, after all, is a pupil of the rebellious giant35.

  • 36 For the Virgilian play on avis/avus, see Dyson, 1997, p. 314-315.
  • 37 Cf. here the end of Ovid, Metamorphoses 11 and the story of Priam’s son Aesacus and his vain pursui (...)

18In the descent of Mercury, we see the triumph of Olympian Jupiter; the grandson of Atlas pauses at the de facto grave of his sire before proceeding to execute the orders of his father, the god who had suppressed the rebellion of his giant grandfather. Mercury is like a bird as he takes his winged way to Carthage (254 avi similis)36. The “bird,” as Pease notes ad loc., is perhaps best not described too precisely; the mergus or diver is the most likely candidate for those who desire ornithological precision37. Mercury is the Cyllenian offspring, coming from his maternal grandfather (258 materno veniens ab avo Cyllenia proles); he is associated with obedience to the Jovian order in the wake of rebellion, being himself the product of a blended family, as it were (Atlas and Jupiter) – and he has connection to the realm of the dead and the fate of the soul post mortem. His blended nature can perhaps be seen, too, in the seemingly conflicting nature of his missions; the god who had secured Phoenician peace and welcome for the Trojan guests in Africa will now help to set in motion the chain of events that will result in nothing less than the enmity between Carthage and Rome.

  • 38 On the possible etymological interpretation of Carthage as “new city” see O’Hara, 1996, p. 154. On (...)
  • 39 On the significance of Aeneas’ sword present from Dido, see Basto, J., 1984, p. 333-338. On the dre (...)
  • 40 For reflection on the adverb uxorius, especially in light of the Jupiter of 4.198, see Jenkyns, 199 (...)

19Mercury had helped to see to it that the citadels of Carthage would be open to Aeneas (1.298 Karthaginis arces); now he sees Aeneas founding citadels in the same locale (4.260 Aenean fundantem arces): the god has accomplished his first mission rather too well, as it were38. Iarbas had complained about Aeneas the effeminate Trojan; Mercury finds Aeneas the well-dressed Carthaginian (261-264 … atque illi stellatus iaspide fulva / ensis erat, Tyrioque ardebat murice laena, / demissa ex umeris, dives quae munera Dido / fecerat et tenui telas discrimine auro)39. The god, too, draws something of a connection between what Aeneas is doing and a signal quality of the goddess Venus; he is building a beautiful city because of his de facto (if not de iure!) spouse (266 pulchramque uxorius urbem) – and his mother Venus is, after all, herself most beautiful (228 genetrix pulcherrima)40.

20Lastly, we might note that the mercurial emphasis throughout the scene is on the god as denizen of Cyllene: cf. 252 Cyllenius; 258 Cyllenia proles; 276 Cyllenius. The significance of this threefold repetition of the god’s natal Arcadian mountain will become clear only once Aeneas has arrived at last in Italy.

  • 41 On Aeneas’ reaction to the god’s visit see especially Mackie, 1988, p. 79-80.

21Mercury departs from the presence of Aeneas; at once the Trojan is worried and anxious: how exactly is he to approach the raging queen (283 reginam ambire furentem)41. The adjective is both proleptic and revelatory of the very nature of the Phoenicians that needed to be soothed by Mercury in the first place, the ferocia corda (1.302-303) that the god was sent to assuage. As it happens, Aeneas’ departure from Dido’s Africa will not be so easy, and certainly not immediate.

  • 42 The point being in part that Aeneas is asleep for dramatic moments of the narrative, both here and (...)
  • 43 See here Steiner, 1952, p. 51-52; also Kühn, 1971, p. 74-75; Bouquet, 2001, p. 39-42. Useful here t (...)
  • 44 “Apparently not sent by Jupiter,” says Knox.
  • 45 There is no hint that Mercury is invisible to everyone else save Aeneas.

22Mercury is said both to give and to take away sleep (4.244); as the matter of Aeneas and Dido reaches its climax, sleep or lack thereof becomes a major motif. On the night of Aeneas’ departure, everyone save Dido is enjoying rest (4.522-523 Nox erat, et placidum carpebant fessa soporem / corpora per terras). Aeneas, too, was asleep on his flagship (554-555 Aeneas celsa in puppi, iam certus eundi, / carpebat somnos)42. The scene is not dissimilar to that found at the end of Book 5 in the Palinurus sequence; Aeneas is at rest despite the trouble afoot for another character on center stage, as it were. At this moment, Mercury makes his third appearance in the poem, this time in a dream apparition43. The emphasis is on how this epiphany is similar to its predecessor; not surprisingly, the god of the dream looks as he did in his previous descent (556-557 huic se forma dei voltu redeuntis eodem / obtulit in somnis). Mercury’s descent from Atlas was previously compared to the flight of a bird (254 avi similis); now the dream vision is said to be similar to the god (557 omnia Mercurio similis). It is not made clear who, if anyone, sent this dream to Aeneas44; one might well wonder if the nocturnal vision were not of Aeneas’ own conjuring, a remembrance of the earlier vision. That vision, however, repays close study in comparison to the present dream. The two addresses of the god (or, at least, of the god and the dream that is similar to him in all respects) are of almost equal length; in the former instance, however, while the god asserts that he is bringing the commands of his father Jupiter (270 ipse haec ferre iubet celeres mandata per auras), there is no actual imperative in his address. And, further, the god departs in the very midst of his speech (277 mortales visus medio sermone reliquit). Certainly the import of the god’s words is clear enough, and Aeneas burns with the desire to depart from Africa (281 ardet abire fuga) – but of course several hundred verses later he is still in Carthage. Technically, he has not broken a mandate that was never given; it is just possible that the rather abrupt departure of Mercury (which has not received much critical attention) was in part due to the inconvenient timing of the god’s visit, with Aeneas engaged as he is in building projects45.

23Artfully, the dream apparition of Mercury provides the finish, as it were, to the god’s previous appearance. Jupiter had urged his messenger to call on the west wind to speed his flight to Aeneas (223 voca Zephyros); now the divine herald (or, at least, his dream-like avatar) asks if Aeneas does not hear how a favorable west wind beckons to him (562 demens, nec Zephyros audis spirare secundos?). This time, the dream vision utters a clear enough imperative; Aeneas is to brook no delay in departing from Carthage (569 heia, age, rumpe moras). In a nice touch, the dream departs into the black night (570 … noctiatrae), where the color adjective serves to foreshadow the imminent suicide of Dido.

  • 46 On Mercury and the other immortals with respect to the question of divine exculpation for Aeneas’ d (...)
  • 47 Consider here the reflections of Williams, 1968, p. 385-386.

24The Mercury-Traum predicts that if Aurora should find Aeneas still tarrying in Carthage, then the Trojan leader will see the shore alight with flames (566-567 … saevasque videbis / conlucere faces, iam fervere litora flammis). The threat is that Dido will seek to fire the Trojan fleet; indeed, this is actually what she wishes to do when she realizes the Trojans are leaving (cf. 593-594). But the prediction also looks to the opening of Book 5 and the flames whose cause is hidden from Aeneas and his men: 5.4 conlucent flammis (of the walls of Carthage)46. It serves no good purpose to speculate overmuch on whether or not the dream vision the Trojan hero experiences on this fateful night is a product of his conscience/imagination/guilt, or an actual visitation of the god (either on his own authority, or that of another deity)47. What matters is that Aeneas must leave Carthage, and that Mercury is the god who hastens the exit; in the complex psychological of the Aeneid, Mercury’s action leads to Dido’s suicide (cf. his psychopompic function) – and another herald, Juno’s messenger Iris, will preside over the closing movements of that climax to the fourth book of the poem.

  • 48 On certain aspects of Aeneas’ actions here, see Heuzé, 1985, p. 505-506.

25Aeneas wakes from his dream and addresses his men; he credits Mercury (we might imagine, at least) with the injunction to depart at once from Carthage48:

… deus aethere missus ab alto
festinare fugam tortosque incidere funes
ecce iterum instimulat. sequimur te, sancte deorum,
quisquis es, imperioque iterum paremus ovantes.
adsis o placidusque iuves, et sidera caelo
dextra feras. (4.575-579)

  • 49 See Austin ad loc. for the ritual caution. On the similar scene with Turnus and Iris at 9.21-24, se (...)
  • 50 See further Austin ad loc., with reference to 295 imperio laeti parent.
  • 51 Cf. Aeneas’ words to Evander at 8.141 idem Atlas generat, caeli qui sidera tollit.

26There is a certain careful ambiguity in Aeneas’ words as to the identity of the god49; in one sense this prepares us for the forthcoming anonymous reference to the god of 6.749. The dream apparition was mysterious; Aeneas is therefore cautious in the identification of the deity. He does, however, note that this is the second divine visit in the matter of a departure from Carthage (577 iterum). Aeneas notes that he and his men will follow the imperium of the god, whoever he is; the term can be associated with Jovian edicts50. In the detail about the stars and the wish for a smooth sailing, we might the rôle of Atlas as the holder of the heavens51.

  • 52 For the association of loquor/locus, with relevance to this sequence, see Paschalis, 1997, p. 158-1 (...)
  • 53 Detailed analysis of the various stylistic and other registers of this expression can be found at L (...)

27The focus of Mercury’s first appearance to Aeneas was on the future destiny of Rome52; for reasons not made clear, the speech was cut off in midcourse and left without an explicit command – though its import was clear. Now, Aeneas’ dream vision of Mercury is focused not on the Roman future but on Dido and the madness of the scorned Carthaginian; the apparition’s last words, in fact, are a misogynistic comment on the nature of women: 569-570 varium et mutabile semper / femina, with deliberate emphasis on femina53. Interestingly, while the god was focused on the question of Aeneas’ fate in Hesperia, the sleeping Trojan is mostly consumed with thoughts of the Carthaginian woman – though this time not thoughts of love and romance, but rather the terrifying vision of what she might try to do by morning light. The emotions revealed by Aeneas’ dream are not dissimilar to those that first prompted the mission of Mercury to calm the Phoenicians in the wake of the Trojan arrival in Africa.

  • 54 See further here especially Segal, C., 1971, p. 336-349.

28We move, then, from a clear manifestation of the god to a dream vision; the next “appearance” of Mercury is even more mysterious and, indeed, of controversy. Iopas had been taught by Atlas, and he sang a song at Dido’s banquet that might well be taken to have Lucretian elements54; in Virgil’s underworld, as the ghost of Anchises details the process of purgation and metempsychosis that provides the philosophical mechanism for the poet’s introduction of Roman history in the future tense, as it were, we find a brief mention of a god who may well be Mercury:

has omnes, ubi mille rotam volvere per annos,
Lethaeum ad fluvium deus evocat agmine magno (6.748-749)

  • 55 See here Horsfall ad loc., alongside Norden, and Austin.
  • 56 See Horsfall’s full note here.

29Is the deus Mercury, the psychopomp whose underworld functions were prominently described in Book 4, or a deliberately ambiguous “god” whose identity is not to be questioned too closely55? The matter cannot be settled definitively, but it would seem that in light of the god’s aforementioned and previously delineated afterlife functions, the identification of Mercury as the god who leads the souls to Lethe after a millennium is a reasonable one. This is, of course, the only deus mentioned in the discourse of Anchises’ shade; what is perhaps interesting is that the ghost’s speech opens with Luna and the Titania astra (725), where the “Titanian stars” may refer to the sun alone or to the stars56. The reference to the Titans may be deliberate; we might compare Mercury’s descent from Atlas and the possible solitary divine place for Mercury in the Elysian speech.

30Of greater importance may be Mercury's association here with forgetfulness and the power of memory; the very suppression of the god’s name and reliance on a periphrasis of description of action to identify him may speak to this point. The question of what exactly is being forgotten becomes clear only when we arrive at the last mention of the god in the epic – a mention that is not so obscure, but of great import to the forward movement of the epic. Mercury leads the souls to the river or stream of forgetfulness; Lethe is thrice mentioned in the whole sequence of Anchises’ ghostly address to his son: 705 Lethaeumque domos placidas qui praentat amnem; 714 corpora debentur, Lethaei ad fluminis undam; 749. Put another way, first we learn of the geographical feature of the underworld; then we learn what happens at the river in brief, as it were introductory comment; lastly Lethe comes as the climactic detail of the subsequent longer discourse on what exactly happens in the matter of the souls destined for rebirth

  • 57 Consider here some of the arguments of Seider, 2013, p. 120, with reference to Aeneas’ forgetfulnes (...)

31Souls are purified divested of memories of prior life; they are reborn into new bodies. The metempsychotic system that Anchises’ shade outlines serves as prolegomenon to the Virgilian Heldenschau, the parade of heroes that provides something of an eschatological revelation of Roman history. And if Mercury is the mysterious deus responsible for leading souls to Lethe, then in the immediate context he is, in an important sense, the god responsible for escorting souls into the Roman future. Iris may have assisted in the process by which Dido’s soul was released from the prison of her dying body, as it were; Mercury, we can imagine, is the god who presides over a later stage in the fate of at least certain animae – the quaffing of a draught of oblivion57.

32The next mention of Mercury in the Aeneid is not ambiguous or shrouded in underworld mysteries. The scene is Italy, indeed so close to the future site of Rome; the interlocutors are Aeneas and Evander. Aeneas details something of a Pleiadic genealogy that links the Trojan and the Arcadian:

Dardanus, Iliacae primus pater urbis et auctor,
Electra, ut Grai perhibent, Atlantide cretus,
advehitur Teucros; Electram maximus Atlas
edidit, aetherios humero qui sustinet orbes.
vobis Mercurius pater est, quem candida Maia
Cyllenae gelido conceptum vertice fudit;
at Maiam, auditis si quicquam credimus, Atlas,
idem Atlas genuerat, caeli qui sidera tollit. (8.134-141)

  • 58 “Bright and beautiful”: for candida in the epic see Edgeworth, 1992, p. 114-116. The chromatic adje (...)
  • 59 There may be a deliberate bit of humor here with the contrast between the chill of the high mountai (...)
  • 60 Note the first person anaphora and emphasis: 144-145 … me, me ipse meum. Another connection can be (...)

33Mercury is the son of the bright and beautiful Maia, the sister of Electra, both daughters of Atlas58. Aeneas is a descendant of Dardanus; the storied Trojan progenitor is one of the shades of magnanimi heroes in the Virgilian underworld (6.650). Dardanus was an Italian from Corythus; his mother was the sister of the Arcadian Evander’s father Mercury. Dardanus was the father of Erichthonius, who was the father of Tros, whose son, Ilus, was the father of Laomedon, the parent of Priam; Aeneas was a nephew of Laomedon and thus a cousin of Priam. We might note through the rendition of the long lineage that Evander’s connection to Atlas and the Pleiades is rather closer and more immediate than Aeneas’. And, once again, the emphasis is on the locus of the god’s birth and the detail of his mountain nativity; he was reared on Mount Cyllene, on its icy peak (Cyllenae gelido... vertice)59. In an interesting detail, Aeneas notes that he has come himself, in person, and not through emissaries (8.143 … non legatos); the language is noteworthy in a context that focuses on the divine messenger par excellence60.

  • 61 On how Aeneas deliberately omits any mention of Jupiter in his genealogical argument and discourse (...)
  • 62 For the question of what exactly Virgil means by 138 vobis Mercurius pater est, which has occasione (...)
  • 63 For Corythus see R. Thomas in VE I, 307; Harrison ad 10.719-731 (on the death of the Corythine Gree (...)

34Mercury, then, is the god cited by Aeneas as the connection between Troy and Arcadia (alongside his divine grandfather Atlas); he is the god who in some way – however tenuous, we might well think – allows Aeneas to emphasize the Italian origins of the Trojans, an Italian lineage that can be traced to the Atlantid Dardanus61. Evander, like Mercury, was born in Arcadia62; Dardanus was born in Italy – there is no place for Troy, as it were, in the Atlantid genealogy, and indeed the suppression of Trojan mores is the import of the climactic revelation of Virgil’s epic. Dardanus’ story is told, too, by Latinus so near the beginning of the Iliadic Aeneid; at 7.206-211, the Latin monarch details how Dardanus came to Troy via Samothrace (208 Threïciamque Samum, quae nunc Samothracia fertur) after having departed from the Etruscan settlement of Corythus63. It is here, in a seemingly insignificant geographical detail that might well be passed over without much consideration, that we find what could be considered the “final” appearance of Mercury in Virgil’s epic.

35We have noted how the appearances of the god move from the real to the dreamlike in Books 1 and 4; in Book 6, in the poet’s underworld visions, if we are to find Mercury at all, he is an anonymous (though undeniably important) deus. In Book 8, in Italy, he is named again, though his days of active service in the drama of the epic would seem to be over; Aeneas mentions him to Evander as part of an evocation of Dardanus lore. This mention of the god in Aeneas’ artful address to Evander constitutes the last explicit appearance or reference to Mercury in the epic – but the story of the messenger and minister of the immortals in Virgil’s poetic vision is not quite finished.

  • 64 Inter al. see here Egan, R., 1983, p. 19-26; Egan, R, 2012, p. 21-52.
  • 65 Cf. Virgil’s appellation of Camilla as dia at 11.657.
  • 66 The name is not associated with Callimachus in any other extant source; on the matter in general se (...)
  • 67 Relevant here too may be Virgil’s concern with the name of Camilla’s mother Casmilla and Metabus’ n (...)
  • 68 On this aspect of Camilla’s rôle in the Aeneid see Fratantuono, 2009, ad 11.498; the death is one i (...)
  • 69 See further here L. Fratantuono, “Posse putes: Virgil’s Camilla and Ovid’s Atalanta,” in Deroux, ed (...)

36At the close of Aeneid 7, the poet introduces the heroine Camilla as the final figure in his procession of allies of the Rutulian Turnus (803-817). Camilla does not reappear in the epic until Book 11, where her dramatic cavalry escapades provide a climax to the military operations before Latinus’ capital. The heroine’s name has occasioned some critical commentary64. According to Varro (De Lingua Latina 7.34), the name camilla = an attendant of the gods, especially in matters of a more arcane nature (occultiora); “Casmilus” is cited as the name of the divine figure (dius)65 who serves as a minister (amminister) to the great gods (diis magnis). Varro speculates that the name is Greek, since he found it in Callimachus66. Further, Servius’ commentary ad Aeneid 11.558 says that the Etruscans called Hermes/Mercury Casmillus, precisely because he was the praeminister deorum67. Camilla, then, has clear affinities and associations with Mercury; she is, indeed, a psychopomp of sorts, in that she leads Turnus, for one, to his death.68 Her appearance at the end of Book 7 serves in part as a preface to the mention of the god in the remarks of Aeneas to Evander, where Mercury plays a significant rôle69. Aeneas cites Mercury as he seeks to secure an alliance between his Trojans and Evander’s Arcadians; he is, as yet, unaware that another Mercury, as it were, has already entered the drama – and that this new, mortal Mercury will serve a key function in the resolution of affairs in Italy. In the oblivion to which the Trojan past is to be consigned, there is no knowledge of the arrival of the new Mercury, the Volscian Camilla who may, after all, have her own Arcadian origins.

  • 70 These two tasks are in some ways opposed, of course; the machinations of Venus and Juno occasion th (...)
  • 71 Evander is likewise not possessed of full knowledge; it may be significant that Book 11 returns the (...)

37Mercury’s principal task in Books 1 and 4 of the Aeneid is to negotiate the relations between Aeneas’ Trojans and Dido. His first mission is to calm and soothe the violent hearts of the Carthaginians; his second (and more difficult) is to secure Aeneas’ departure from Dido’s orbit70. The “appearances” of the god in Books 6 and 8 are quite different; first we might argue that Mercury is associated with the oblivion that is enjoyed by souls about to be reborn (he is, after all, likely the god who leads said souls to Lethe), while next the son of Maia is cited by Aeneas in Italy as a part of the nexus between Trojans and Arcadians. A discernible movement can be charted here, as we move from Troy to Italy (by way of Dido’s Carthage). Aeneas’ speech to Evander, as we have seen, occasions important questions (the lack of mention of Jupiter/the relative connections and degrees of affinity of guest and host to the Atlantids); in the larger framework of the epic, the Trojan hero is not fully aware of all the variables in the Italian equation, as it were71.

  • 72 Indeed, the affinities between the two characters serve principally to highlight the crucial differ (...)
  • 73 See further Nappa, 2007; also Zieske, 2008, both of which provide material for consideration on a v (...)
  • 74 See Henry, 1989, p. 121-123 for the important observation that of the twelve traditional Olympians, (...)
  • 75 Ultimately Camilla may be imagined as being a psychopomp for Turnus in his mortal nature, and for A (...)

38Virgil’s Camilla, for her part, stands in sharp relief and striking contrast to his Dido72, the Carthaginian queen from the presence of whom Mercury sought to drive Aeneas for his own salvation and the future settlement of Rome73. In an important sense, in the person of Camilla Virgil’s Mercury has reappeared in the epic; the messenger god had served in the early movements of the poem to secure Aeneas’ departure from Dido, and now, in Italy, we find a human avatar of the praeminister deorum, a mortal psychopomp whom Aeneas will never even meet74, a heroine who fights for the Italy of Turnus that will, in the ultimate disposition of ethnic affairs in the poem, triumph over the dead Troy of Aeneas75.

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Notes

1 See here especially D. Nardo, “Mercurio,” in EV iii, pp. 488-490; P. Knox, “Mercury,” in VE ii, pp. 814-815; Bailey, 1935, p. 117-118; Paschalis, M., “Atlas and the Mission of Mercury (Aeneid 4, 238-258),” in Cairns, ed., 1986, p. 109-129; Harrison, E., “Vergil’s Mercury,” in McKay, ed. 1982, 1982, pp. 1-47; Feeney, “Leaving Dido: The Appearance(s) of Mercury and Motivations of Aeneas,” in Burden, ed., 1998, p.105-127; Smith, 2005, p. 40-44.

2 On how Mercury’s first appearance is also the occasion for the first mention of Dido, see Austin, 1971, ad 1.299.

3 Mercury employs an “oarage of wings” as he descends to earth; on how the phrase is used elsewhere in the epic only of Daedalus see Putnam, 1998, p. 224 n4.

4 All quotes from Virgil are taken from Mynors, 1969.

5 On what exactly we are to imagine that the god accomplishes in the matter of Carthaginian calming, see Syed, 2005, p. 151-154; also Syson, 2013, p. 168-169; Hardie, 1986, p. 276 ff.

6 Cf. Juno’s reaction to Jupiter’s address at 12.841-842 adnuit his Iuno, et mentem laetata retorsit. / Interea excidit caelo, nubemque relinquit, where Virgil describes the goddess’ reaction to Jupiter’s speech. In Book 1, the poet does not reveal any details about Venus’ emotions in the wake of her father’s words about Rome’s future.

7 Specifically, to deter Juturna from offering any further aid to her doomed brother Turnus; see here Tarrant, 2012, ad loc.

8 In comparison, the address of Jupiter to his sister and wife in Book 12 is concerned with the Roman future, too – but in that case, there is no immediate “other” issue to consider (the fate of Turnus notwithstanding).

9 On Maia see D. Possanza in VE ii, p. 782; also V. La Bua in EV iii, pp. 323-324.

10 Cf. Homeric Hymn to Hermes 2; 142; 318.

11 The god is not mentioned obliquely or otherwise in the Eclogues; this one reference is the only passage in the Georgics.

12 Cf. Hesiod, Theogony 938-939.

13 Fr. 118 Most (169 Merkelbach-West; = a scholium on Pindar, Nem. 2.17), where the seven daughters are named, though there they are not called “Pleiades” per se; cf. the more explicit reference at Simonides, fr. 555 Page.

14 For the likely awareness of Virgil’s audience that the Carthaginians would not, in fact, be pacified until certain historical realities were experienced, see Dekel, E., 2012, p. 80-81.

15 See Horsfall ad 6.749 deus evocat for the Virgilian use of the “studiedly anonymous deus.”

16 For Iarbas see especially Adler, 2003, p. 114-123. On the ironies inherent in Jupiter’s place in the moral judgment of Aeneas, see especially Lyne, 1987, p. 84 ff.

17 For Jupiter’s reaction to Iarbas’ prayer and attitude towards Aeneas (who in a sense is like a rebel giant, albeit a far less violent one, in his failure to move on to Italy) see Estevez, 1982, p. 22-34, with particular reference to the occurrences of torquere in the Mercury sequences (cf., e.g., 583 adnixi torquent spumas et caerula verrunt, of Aeneas’ fleet after the actual departure from Carthage).

18 Cf. 12.807-842, especially 835 ff., and see further Reed, 2007, p. 85-86. On the connection between the Iarbas speech and that of Numanus Remulus at almost the same point in Book 9, see Thomas, 1982, p. 99-100. For analysis of the present scene in light of the question of Aeneas’ effeminacy, see Starks, Jr., 1999, p. 255-283, especially p. 273 ff.

19 See here S. Harrison in VE I, 338.

20 See further here Austin ad 4.228 and Horsfall ad 2.620 and 664 ff.

21 On the importance of Aeneas’ son to Book 4, see Eidinow, 2003, p. 260-267. For Mercury’s appeal to Aeneas’ signal quality of pietas, see Powell, 2008, p. 37. For the concept of invidia in the arguments Jupiter makes with respect to Aeneas, see Kaster, 2005, p. 88-89.

22 Cf. 1.254 ff.

23 Cf., too, the admittedly perhaps unrevised state of the poem.

24 On this passage see the detailed study of Gransden, 1984, p. 49 ff.

25 See here Raabe, 1974, p. 145. On parallels between the Mercury of Book 4 and certain aspects of the Virgilian underworld narrative, see Pearson, 1961, p. 33-38. The virga connects Mercury with both Circe and the Golden Bough; see further Dyson, 2001, p. 173 ff.

26 Rather full notes on this function of the god can be found in Pease’s commentary ad 242 virgam and evocat.

27 Which will in some sense be presided over at least in part by the “other” divine messenger of the epic, Iris (4.693-705).

28 For reflection on the subtle differences between Mercury’s wording of Jupiter’s admonitions and the Jovian original, see Highet, 1972, p. 123-124.

29 See especially O’Hara here.

30 On how Virgil’s divine characters in this sequence reflect their Homeric counterparts in name and their Apollonian in deed, see Nelis, 2001, p. 73-75.

31 For commentary on the Atlas vignette see Davidson, J., 1992, p. 367-371; also Morwood, 1985, 51-59.

32 See especially S. Casali, “Atlas,” in VE I, 145-146 for the “anthropomorphized version” of the fate of the onetime rebel giant. Henry notes ad loc. that “the choice of Atlas for Mercury to descend upon was peculiarly proper for two other reasons also, first on account of the blood relationship...and secondly, on account of the inaccessibility, loneliness, and not too well-known situation of the mountain, and the consequent mystery attaching to it.”

33 Cf. Hesiod, Theogony 517-520, with West, 1966, ad loc. For consideration of some of the larger issues with respect to challenges to Jovian supremacy in the epic, see Thomas, 2004-2005, p. 121-147.

34 So Casali.

35 And if Iopas sings a Lucretian song, then there is perhaps something of a philosophical rebellion against Jupiter and the influence of any and all immortals on human affairs. On certain aspects of Atlas as teacher, see Putnam, 1974, p. 215-217. If Iopas is a Lucretian bard, then arguably Dido does not listen to the import of, e.g., the fourth book of the De Rerum Natura.

36 For the Virgilian play on avis/avus, see Dyson, 1997, p. 314-315.

37 Cf. here the end of Ovid, Metamorphoses 11 and the story of Priam’s son Aesacus and his vain pursuit of Hesperia, where the Trojan scion is transformed into a mergus. Birds also figure prominently in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes; see further Pollard, 1977, p. 122-123.

38 On the possible etymological interpretation of Carthage as “new city” see O’Hara, 1996, p. 154. On the problem of what exactly constitutes “home” for Aeneas, see Wiltshire, S., p. 66 ff. On how Mercury rather glosses over the more difficult aspects of the settlement and working out of the Roman future, see Mack, 1978, p. 63.

39 On the significance of Aeneas’ sword present from Dido, see Basto, J., 1984, p. 333-338. On the dress of Aeneas here and Mercury’s reaction thereto, see Lyne, op. cit., pp. 185-192; note also Putnam, 1995, p. 39. For how little Virgil makes clear of just how Aeneas falls so quickly under the spell of Dido and into a new state of life, see Williams, 1983, p. 43-46.

40 For reflection on the adverb uxorius, especially in light of the Jupiter of 4.198, see Jenkyns, 1998, p. 635-636; note also Monti, 1981, p. 47 ff.; Clausen, 2002, p. 120. For Aeneas as superior even here to the Carthaginians, see Cairns, 1989, p. 60-61.

41 On Aeneas’ reaction to the god’s visit see especially Mackie, 1988, p. 79-80.

42 The point being in part that Aeneas is asleep for dramatic moments of the narrative, both here and during his slumber when Somnus assaults the helmsman Palinurus.

43 See here Steiner, 1952, p. 51-52; also Kühn, 1971, p. 74-75; Bouquet, 2001, p. 39-42. Useful here too = S. Casali, “Autoriflessività onirica nell’Eneide e nei successori epici di Virgilio,” in Scioli and Walde, eds. 2010, p. 119-142.

44 “Apparently not sent by Jupiter,” says Knox.

45 There is no hint that Mercury is invisible to everyone else save Aeneas.

46 On Mercury and the other immortals with respect to the question of divine exculpation for Aeneas’ departure from Dido, see Farron, 1993, p. 75 ff.; cf. Thomas, 2001, p. 167-168. On parallels between the doom of Carthage and that of Troy, see Estevez, V., 1978-1979, p. 97-109.

47 Consider here the reflections of Williams, 1968, p. 385-386.

48 On certain aspects of Aeneas’ actions here, see Heuzé, 1985, p. 505-506.

49 See Austin ad loc. for the ritual caution. On the similar scene with Turnus and Iris at 9.21-24, see O’Hara, 1990, p. 71-72.

50 See further Austin ad loc., with reference to 295 imperio laeti parent.

51 Cf. Aeneas’ words to Evander at 8.141 idem Atlas generat, caeli qui sidera tollit.

52 For the association of loquor/locus, with relevance to this sequence, see Paschalis, 1997, p. 158-159. “The association of ‘loquor’ with ‘locus’ is crucial in the light of Jupiter’s ‘command’ that Aeneas should leave Carthage and seek his destined ‘place of settlement’, as well as with respect to the ‘loci leges’ set by Jarbas.”

53 Detailed analysis of the various stylistic and other registers of this expression can be found at Lyne, 1989, p. 48-56. Henry comments here on how it is actually Aeneas and not the femina Dido who is inconstant in the fourth Aeneid.

54 See further here especially Segal, C., 1971, p. 336-349.

55 See here Horsfall ad loc., alongside Norden, and Austin.

56 See Horsfall’s full note here.

57 Consider here some of the arguments of Seider, 2013, p. 120, with reference to Aeneas’ forgetfulness of his Roman destiny.

58 “Bright and beautiful”: for candida in the epic see Edgeworth, 1992, p. 114-116. The chromatic adjective is applied elsewhere in the Aeneid to Dido (5.571); lilies (6.708, in the description of how the souls waiting to quaff from Lethe are like bees around the white flowers); the moon (7.8), which shines on Aeneas’ vessels as they approach the Tiber’s mouth; the portentous sow (8.82); Venus (8.608), as she brings the divine arms to her son; Euryalus (9.432), as he is fatally wounded. The color is thus deeply invested in the Roman future, as it were, with signal associations with key elements of the rebirth of Troy into Rome; the first and last uses, however, relate to the ill fated Dido and Euryalus.

59 There may be a deliberate bit of humor here with the contrast between the chill of the high mountain and the heat of the planet closest to the sun. Mountains figure in the gigantomachic evocations of such scenes as 12.701-703, where Aeneas is compared to Mount Eryx before he faces Turnus in single combat.

60 Note the first person anaphora and emphasis: 144-145 … me, me ipse meum. Another connection can be noted between Aeneas’ use of fretus (143) and the same adjective of Mercury at 4.245 illa fretus (of Mercury’s wand).

61 On how Aeneas deliberately omits any mention of Jupiter in his genealogical argument and discourse to Evander, and consideration of how the Jovian suppression may relate to how the war in Italy is in some sense a reenactment of the conflict between Saturn and Jupiter (a conflict Aeneas would not want to mention to Evander/Pallas), see Thomas, 1999, p. 226-227.

62 For the question of what exactly Virgil means by 138 vobis Mercurius pater est, which has occasioned perhaps surprising question, see S. Casali, “The Development of the Aeneas Legend,” in Farrell and Putnam, eds., 2010, p. 37-51, especially p. 39. There is no good reason to suspect that Virgil does not mean that Mercury is Evander’s father (as opposed to ancestor); so Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Pausanias, as Casali notes; cf. Gransden’s family tree ad loc.

63 For Corythus see R. Thomas in VE I, 307; Harrison ad 10.719-731 (on the death of the Corythine Greek Acron); cf. R. Wilhelm, “Dardanus, Aeneas, Augustus, and the Etruscans,” in Wilhelm and Jones, eds., 1992, p. 129-145.

64 Inter al. see here Egan, R., 1983, p. 19-26; Egan, R, 2012, p. 21-52.

65 Cf. Virgil’s appellation of Camilla as dia at 11.657.

66 The name is not associated with Callimachus in any other extant source; on the matter in general see O’Hara, J., 2001, p. 369-400.

67 Relevant here too may be Virgil’s concern with the name of Camilla’s mother Casmilla and Metabus’ naming of his daughter therefrom (11.542-543), which serves only to highlight the name that may well be connected to Mercury. See further Ratti, S., 2006, p. 407-418. The Servian comment about the connection between Mercury/Hermes and Camilla invites speculation and conclusions that cannot be definitive in the absence of further evidence.

68 On this aspect of Camilla’s rôle in the Aeneid see Fratantuono, 2009, ad 11.498; the death is one in which she shares, of course (cf. the identical death lines of the two characters). Camilla also has avian associations; cf. the simile of the accipiter and the dove at 11.721-724 (with Fratantuono, and Horsfall); we might note this with respect to Virgil’s avi similis at 4.254 of Mercury – and Camilla has affinities with the Harpies and the winds (vid. here Fratantuono, 2009, p. 184n160), as does the other divine messenger, Iris (see here West, 1966, ad Hesiod, Theogony 266 and 784).

69 See further here L. Fratantuono, “Posse putes: Virgil’s Camilla and Ovid’s Atalanta,” in Deroux, ed., 2005, p. 185-193. It may also be significant that “Iasius” is the brother (or at least half-brother) of Dardanus, and that Atalanta is attested as having a homonymous father; see further Fratantuono, L., 2008, p. 342-352. If the origins of the Camilla (and Atalanta) lore can be traced to Arcadia, then the connection to Mercury is made all the stronger, and the association of the name Casmilus with Samothrace/Dardanus’ stopover en route to Troy serves to make clear the link between god and huntress. Arcas is named at the very start of Aeneas’ address to Evander (8.129 … Danaum quod ductor et Arcas).

70 These two tasks are in some ways opposed, of course; the machinations of Venus and Juno occasion the need for the god to hasten Aeneas’ departure from Africa; see further Otis, 1964 p. 93-94.

71 Evander is likewise not possessed of full knowledge; it may be significant that Book 11 returns the focus on Evander (in the aftermath of the loss of his son Pallas) before reintroducing Camilla to the narrative.

72 Indeed, the affinities between the two characters serve principally to highlight the crucial differences. In the end, it is most appropriate that Camilla should have affinities to Mercury, given the god’s key rôle in urging Aeneas away from Dido.

73 See further Nappa, 2007; also Zieske, 2008, both of which provide material for consideration on a vast topic by close study of key passages.

74 See Henry, 1989, p. 121-123 for the important observation that of the twelve traditional Olympians, only Mercury, Diana, and Ceres are not noted as explicit patrons of the future Rome. It is possible that any lack of attention to Ceres may be linked to the traditions surrounding Dardanus’ brother Iasius and his associations with the attempted rape of Demeter; see further here Cruttwell, 1947, p. 43-47.

75 Ultimately Camilla may be imagined as being a psychopomp for Turnus in his mortal nature, and for Aeneas in light of the suppression of Trojan mores. Something of the harsh tone that Mercury takes with Aeneas in Book 4 can also be read in light of the Mercury-Camilla associations of Book 11. By the end of the epic, the function of the god in drawing to the waters of infernal oblivion those souls that are destined to be reborn to the Roman future has acquired a clearer and clearer nature. It is significant, too, that the last action Camilla takes before she succumbs to Arruns’ wound is to entrust a message for Turnus to Acca (11.820 ff.) – Camilla as Mercury even at the moment of death.

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Lee Fratantuono, « Lethaeum ad fluvium: Mercury in the Aeneid », Pallas, 99 | 2015, 295-310.

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Lee Fratantuono, « Lethaeum ad fluvium: Mercury in the Aeneid », Pallas [En ligne], 99 | 2015, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2016, consulté le 18 octobre 2017. URL : http://pallas.revues.org/3153 ; DOI : 10.4000/pallas.3153

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Lee Fratantuono

Ohio Wesleyan University
Delaware, Ohio, U.S.A.
lmfratan@owu.edu

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Pallas – Revue d'études antiques est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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