Hans Peter S t a h l: The sword-belt of Pallas: Holding a quill for the Critic? Vergil, Aeneid 10,495-500
WJA Band 35, 2011. Seite 7-32
In Homer's Iliad, Hektor slays Patroklos, the friend of Achilles. Achilles takes revenge by killing Hektor. Vergil in Aeneid 10 appropriates the sequence: King Turnus slays Pallas, the young ally of Aeneas, and Aeneas takes revenge by killing Turnus.
But Vergil has introduced a significant change: whereas Patroklos is older than Achilles, Pallas is young; he is even called a boy, puer (l l,42; 12,943). This tips the scales of the reader's sympathies: when superior fighter Turnus slays young Pallas, it is a fight of unequal powers (viribus imparibus, l0,459), and the reader's sense of compassion may weil lead to an endorsement of avenging Aeneas.
Nevertheless, an interpreter like Quinn assures us three times that Pallas was killed "in fair fight" (1968, 222. 227. 18). The result of his interpretation is of course that Aeneas the avenger loses the moral high ground as well as the emotional justification and, so, a shadow is cast on the ancestor of Emperor Augustus. Quinn's reading sets the tracks for an anti-Augustan Vergil.
Here it is necessary to consider a second change executed by Vergil. For the Roman poet has doubled the Homeric scene in which a superior older warrior kills a younger one. When Aeneas is attacked by young Lausus, he warns the young man, and when he kills him it is in self-defense, since Lausus has not listened to him but madly (demens, 10,813) continues to challenge (exsultat) him. And Aeneas honors the slain, leaving him his armor. Turnus, on the other hand, seeks out his younger victim and deprives the slain of his armor - an offense against the Aeneid's honor code, which demands that the spoils be dedicated to a divinity. Before one accepts a whitewash of Turnus, the text deserves a closer look - here also for another reason: without a precise reading of the narrative context in which the poet has embedded the ekphrasis oflines 497-499, it is not possible to arrive at a methodologically justifiable interpretation of the murder scene depicted on the sword-belt of Pallas.
When young Lausus and his contingent are pressed hard by Pallas and his troops, King Turnus is advised by his divine sister to come to Lausus' aid (10,439 f.). Turnus, however, once reaching Lausus and his troops, does not join the din but does something unexpected, shouting: ''lt is time to stop the battle!", tempus desistere pugnae! (441). ...