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Book X describes the ferocious battle between the Trojans and the Italians. (The Italians are all the people fighting the Trojans, including the Rutulians, the Latins, and their allies.) It's one of the best war stories you'll ever read, full of action and suspense. There are scenes of bravery and loyalty, cowardice and cruelty. Virgil shows you both the heroic side of war and its terrible brutality.
When the Book opens, Jupiter has summoned a council of the gods. He wants to know why the Trojans and the Italians are fighting. Of course, Venus blames Juno. Juno answers that it isn't her fault because she wasn't the one who drove the Trojans from Troy in the first place. All the gods start blaming each other and a big fight breaks out. Finally, Jupiter has had enough and tells them to calm down. From now on, he orders, no one is to favor either side. Men, by their own luck and ability, will have to resolve matters on their own. Fate will be revealed without the gods' intervention.
Why do the gods withdraw from the scene? For one thing, they've certainly made a mess of everything. But more importantly, Virgil wants you to focus on the individuals involved, on the rights and wrongs of what they do on their own. We've seen this idea before in Virgil. The gods may start the action, but men always have to resolve matters in the end.
Aeneas returns by ship with a fleet of Etruscan allies. He first appears high on the stern of his ship, holding his great shield before him. It glints in the sun. The Trojans holding the fort give a wild whoop of joy. Aeneas is first off the boat and Turnus' troops are already on the beach to meet them.
Although Virgil describes many battles and killings, you should pay the most attention to two of them. In the first, we see young Pallas scoring many victories. (Remember that Pallas is Evander's son and the old man entrusted him to Aeneas. Aeneas feels a special responsibility for the boy, almost as though he were his own son.) Finally, Pallas goes after Lausus, the son of Mezentius (the tyrant and one of Turnus' greatest allies). Lausus is losing the fight and Turnus charges over to help him, like a lion stalking its prey. Although the match is grossly uneven, Pallas bravely throws his spear at Turnus. It barely grazes Turnus. Then Turnus throws his spear, taunting the boy with "Which pierces deeper, Your spear or mine?" The spear goes right through the boy's shield and pierces his chest. Pallas doubles over, belching blood, and dies. Gloating over his victory, Turnus stands with his foot on the body and snatches a beautiful metal belt that Pallas had worn. (If you remember how Euryalus met his downfall by looting the bodies of his victims, you'll begin to suspect that Turnus may regret this move.)
When Aeneas finds out what has happened, he flies into a rage and we see a great change in how he fights. Before this he was fierce, but now he's furious and doesn't spare anyone in his path. However, he's out to get Turnus in particular. Aeneas seems a bit out of control himself in these scenes.
At this point Juno becomes truly depressed, for she realizes that the end is coming soon. (From this point on you'll see that Juno seems less angry and more depressed. You can understand why-all her schemes have failed. But it wouldn't be like Juno to give up completely.) She asks Jupiter's permission to delay the end a little longer. She tricks Turnus into chasing a ghost of Aeneas, and gets him away from the action and out of danger. For once it seems that Juno is preventing violence. However, the truth is that her delaying tactics only prolong the killing and chaos. Once again we see that Juno's irrational behavior is always destructive.
Now that Turnus is chasing a ghost of Aeneas, we get a good look at Aeneas in action, and we see the second important scene in this Book. Aeneas fights the tyrant Mezentius and wounds him badly. Lausus rushes in to help his father. Aeneas realizes that the boy has no chance and warns him away, but the son won't abandon his father. Finally, Aeneas loses his patience and drives his sword through the boy's body.
And now Aeneas changes. Looking on that face So pale in death, he groans in pity; he reaches As if to touch him with his hand, in comfort Knowing, himself, how one can love a father. 'Poor boy, what tribute can Aeneas offer, What praise for so much glory? Keep the armor You loved so much'