Camilla – the Warrior Princess

In the Aeneid, one could hardly find a stronger female character than Camilla. Her only misfortune was, that she fought on the losing side.

After the deaths of Pallas, Mezentius, and Laurus, with Turnus nowhere to be found, the battle was over, but the war was not. Both sides agreed on a ceasefire to bury their dead. Aeneas made sure that the body of Pallas will be returned to his father Evander and buried with all honours he deserved. Aeneas is very clear in his intentions. He only wishes to meet Turnus himself in a duel and end their conflict and this whole war.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the Latins try to agree on a solution that would swing the victory to their side. They still had one ace with a potential to drastically improve their chances. The had sent envoys to Diomedes, a Greek hero of the Trojan war, who settled down in Italy.  Diomedes was a great foe of Aeneas in front of the Trojan walls. He defeated Aeneas to the point when his divine mother Venus had to save him and Diomedes even injured the goddess herself on that occasion. He would be a mighty ally indeed.

But alas, Diomedes no longer felt any need to kill Trojans. That war was finished a long time ago, he bore no hatred for Aeneas now and wished to live on peacefully.

After hearing that news, the old king Latinus proposed to offer the Trojans peace and let them settle in a land that will be given to them. One man in favour of peace offer was Drances, a wealthy man who blamed Turnus for the whole war. This guy just went on and on about how all is Turnus’ fault and how Turnus was a coward for running out from the battle. Drances was hardly a war hero, what Turnus didn’t forget to point out. But to direct demand to meet Aeneas in a duel and end the war Turnus responded as his honour told him to, “I will fight him”.

The council ended abruptly when news spread about Aeneas and his army attacking the Latin city. It was too late for peace negotiations, the Trojans had to be stopped. As the messenger got more specific about the enemy movements, Turnus came up with a plan on how to stop them. It seemed that Aeneas divided his army into two parts, the cavalry rushed to the Latin city while the heavy infantry, led by Aeneas himself, took a different road across the nearby hill. Turnus decided to divide his troops too. He would lead the core of the army to the hills to set an ambush. Meanwhile, some troops would stay and defend the city. Who was brave enough to lead that that army? A woman – Camilla, leader of the Volsci. This warrior maiden had the skill and respect equal to any man in the Latin army, if not higher.

She was indeed a warrior princess. The royal blood came from her father Metabus, a king driven out of his city. Metabus left with his baby daughter and for long they tried to find a new home. There was even a moment when they had to cross a wild river. Metabus knew he couldn’t swim to the other side with a baby in his hands. He prayed to Diana, the goddess of hunting (called Artemis by the Greeks) and promised her his daughter in case she would live through the next moments. Then he tied her to a spear and threw that spear to the other bank with a mighty blow. The plan worked. He swam and found his spear with the little Camilla on the other side. After much travelling, they finally found a place to live. Metabus lived no longer as a king, but just as a simple shepherd, and Camilla was being trained to use a spear and a bow from a very early age. She grew up to be a master in fighting techniques and a great beauty on top of that. She didn’t lack suitors, but all got rejected as she was only devoted to Diana and only interested in the art of archery.

This Camilla now led the Volsci and many Latin troops into battle. She acted not only as their leader but also as their fiercest warrior. Peerless in her fighting skill, she slew one Trojan after another either by her arrows or by her axe. One of the enemies almost outsmarted her. He stood mounted in front of her and her horse. He challenged her to dismount and fight a propper duel with him, but when she did, he, still on the horseback, he turned the other way and galloped away from her. This little trick almost worked, but did I mention that Camilla was also a fast runner? She started running and soon outran the escaping horse. Then she caught this trickster and made sure he wouldn’t try any more tricks in his life.

Camilla, despite her obvious bravery, fought on the losing side. Her heroics accounted for nothing compared to the powerful destiny of Aeneas. She didn’t survive the battle. It was neither Aeneas nor other mighty Trojan heroes who were responsible for her death. A rather unremarkable man called Arruns had the luck to throw a killing spear in a moment when Camilla didn’t pay enough attention. Camilla didn’t forget about the war even in her last words. She asked to send a messenger to Turnus asking him to return soon and defend the city.  She died on that battlefield, but Arruns didn’t outlive her by much. The goddess Diana, Camilla’s protector, saw to it that a well-placed arrow would end his life on the very same day.


Virgil – Aeneid

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