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translated by Theodore C. Williams
Book XI Chapter 31: The siege begins
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Camilla's light-armed troop, its virgin chief |
now fallen, were the first to fly; in flight
the panic-stricken Rutule host is seen
and Atinas bold; his captains in dismay
with shattered legions from the peril fly,
and goad their horses to the city wall.
Not one sustains the Trojan charge, or stands
in arms against the swift approach of death.
Their bows unstrung from drooping shoulder fall,
and clatter of hoof-beats shakes the crumbling ground.
On to the city in a blinding cloud
the dust uprolls. From watch-towers looking forth,
the women smite their breasts and raise to heaven
shrill shouts of fear. Those fliers who first passed
the open gates were followed by the foe,
routed and overwhelmed. They could not fly
a miserable death, but were struck down
in their own ancient city, or expired
before the peaceful shrines of hearth and home.
Then some one barred the gates. They dared not now
give their own people entrance, and were deaf
to all entreaty. Woeful deaths ensued,
both of the armed defenders of the gate,
and of the foe in arms. The desperate band,
barred from the city in the face and eyes
of their own weeping parents, either dropped
with headlong and inevitable plunge
into the moat below; or, frantic, blind,
battered with beams against the stubborn door
and columns strong. Above in conflict wild
even the (women (who for faithful love
of home and country schooled them to be brave
Camilla's way) rained weapons from the walls,
and used oak-staves and truncheons shaped in flame,
as if, well-armed in steel, each bosom bold
would fain in such defence be first to die.
Prima fugit domina amissa leuis ala Camillae,
turbati fugiunt Rutuli, fugit acer Atinas,
disiectique duces desolatique manipli
tuta petunt et equis auersi ad moenia tendunt.
nec quisquam instantis Teucros letumque ferentis
sustentare ualet telis aut sistere contra,
sed laxos referunt umeris languentibus arcus,
quadripedumque putrem cursu quatit ungula campum.
uoluitur ad muros caligine turbidus atra
puluis, et e speculis percussae pectora matres
femineum clamorem ad caeli sidera tollunt.
qui cursu portas primi inrupere patentis,
hos inimica super mixto premit agmine turba,
nec miseram effugiunt mortem, sed limine in ipso,
moenibus in patriis atque inter tuta domorum
confixi exspirant animas. pars claudere portas,
nec sociis aperire uiam nec moenibus audent
accipere orantis, oriturque miserrima caedes
defendentum armis aditus inque arma ruentum.
exclusi ante oculos lacrimantumque ora parentum
pars in praecipitis fossas urgente ruina
uoluitur, immissis pars caeca et concita frenis
arietat in portas et duros obice postis.
ipsae de muris summo certamine matres
(monstrat amor uerus patriae, ut uidere Camillam)
tela manu trepidae iaciunt ac robore duro
stipitibus ferrum sudibusque imitantur obustis
praecipites, primaeque mori pro moenibus ardent.