Having written some long posts about the character Camilla from Virgil’s Aeneid, I realized that a simple introductory post might be useful for those studying her/interested in the character. So here we go, my Camilla primer!
Who is Camilla?
Camilla is a character from Virgil’s Aeneid. As far as we know, she is an original creation of the author, though she follows the literary tradition of other huntress maidens. She is the main character of Book 11, and is mentioned at the end of Book 7 in a battle list.
What are her alliances?
Camilla is the Queen of the Volscians when we meet her. As a native Italian, she is opposing Aeneas’ conquest of the land. She is an ally of Turnus and Mezentius, and seems to have the trust and confidence of Turnus in particular. She has loyal followers that go with her into battle, and four maidens in particular fight alongside her: Acca, Larina, Tulla, and Tarpeia.
Who were her parents?
Her father was Metabus, the former king of Privernum. He was deposed as a tyrant and fled from the city with infant Camilla. They lived in the forest and shunned society after escaping from their pursuers. We are not told whether her father is still alive or not, but he is definitely not present in the battle. Her mother was named Casmilla, and Camilla was named after her. There is no other mention of her mother, and she is not said to leave Privernum with Metabus, so it may be presumed that she is dead.
What are her religious affiliations?
When Camilla was an infant, her father promised her to be a loyal devotee to Diana in exchange for the goddess’ protection. This was granted and Camilla was raised as a huntress to Diana. The goddess tells her attendant, as they watch the scene unfold, that Camilla was very dear to her and if she had not gone to war, she would still be part of her company. From this information we can guess that by going to war, Camilla has forsaken the ways of Diana’s worshippers. She is no longer under the protection of the goddess. As she was never entered into the religious service voluntarily, we have to wonder what her motivations were in going to war.
How does she fight?
Camilla is described as fighting like an Amazon, and resembling one in appearance. She uses the weapons of the hunt — a staff, bow and arrow, spears — in war, which is portrayed as a negative and strange thing. During her battle scene she is shown to defeat a large number of men in various ways. She possesses supernatural speed, able to run faster than horses and cross wheat fields without disturbing the grain. Overall she is portrayed as very strong and capable, but with certain downfalls — her hunting aspects, the fact that she is a woman in battle, and her coveting of treasure.
What is her fate?
When fighting in the battle, Camilla sees a priest standing off to the side. He is dressed elaborately in rich materials and Camilla thinks these things will make good spoils of war. She begins to pursue the man, but is caught off guard by an Etruscan soldier, Arruns. With the help of Apollo, Arruns throws a spear that pierces Camilla in the chest. She falls to the ground and her companions run to her. She tells them to make sure Turnus sticks to the plan, and dies. When Turnus hears that she is dead, he does not stick to the plan.
I thought the Etruscans were allies with Turnus?
The Etruscans were not allies of Turnus, but allies of Aeneas. Their king, Mezentius, is an ally of Turnus, but his people do not support him. There is some debate about the exact situation in this regard, but this seems to be the general state of things.
So how could Arruns, who seems feeble, kill Camilla?
Arruns asked for help from Apollo to kill Camilla. Apollo, as are all the gods, is subject to the power of Fate, and if Jupiter says that Fate wants Aeneas to take over Italy, then they all must allow that to happen. Arruns asks for two things: let me kill Camilla, and let me return home safely. Apollo only grants one of these things; just because the gods are subject to the power of Fate doesn’t mean they have to like it! Camilla is one of many people standing in the way of Aeneas’ conquest, and she must be eliminated so that he can fulfill his destiny.
If you have any more questions about her, leave me a comment or send me an email! I’m always happy to talk Camilla!