I. STATUS QUAESTIONIS
quis Latio antiquo fuerit status, aduena classem
cum primum Ausoniis exercitus appulit oris,
expediam, et primae reuocabo exordia pugnae.
tu uatem, tu, diua, mone. dicam horrida bella,
dicam acies actosque animis in funera reges,
Tyrrhenamque manum totamque sub arma coactam
Hesperiam. maior rerum mihi nascitur ordo,
maius opus moueo.
the times, and the state of things in ancient Latium,
when the foreign fleet first beached on Ausonian
shores, and recall the first beginnings of battle.
You, goddess, you—guide your bard. Of horrible wars,
of combats and kings driven to death by anger,
of the Tuscan host, of all Hesperia under
arms I shall tell. A higher order grows before me;
I set a greater work in motion.
Confronted with these lines, the poem’s critics have been led to an overwhelming question. Why, in the ‘Iliadic’ context of Aeneid 7-12, does Virgil invoke the Muse traditionally associated with erotic poetry?  Puzzlement over the poet’s source of inspiration began early. Servius auctus theorizes Virgil sane Erato uel pro Calliope uel pro qualicumque Musa posuit (surely put down Erato either for Calliope or for some other Muse), and succeeding generations of scholars have tended to frame their arguments in response to this hypothesis.  Those who follow Servius in denying an erotic aspect to Virgil’s Muse do so on the grounds that, as Nisbet and Hubbard comment on Horace, C. 1.24.3, the assignment of provinces to the Muses ‘was still vague’ among Roman poets until after the Augustan period.  Others argue that, on the contrary, the erotic Muse is a fitting patroness for the horrida bella of Aeneid 7-12 because, as Williams most succinctly puts it, ‘the whole conflict about to be described arises from Turnus’ refusal to give up his bride Lavinia to the Trojan stranger.’ 
ἔνθεν ὅπως ἐς Ἰωλκὸν ἀνήγαγε κῶας Ἰήσων
Μηδείης ὑπ’ ἔρωτι· σὺ γὰρ καὶ Κύπριδος αἶσαν
ἔμμορες, ἀδμῆτας δὲ τεοῖς μελεδήμασι θέλγεις
παρθενικάς· τῶ καί τοι ἐπήρατον οὔνομ’ ἀνῆπται.
next how Jason brought back the fleece to Iolcus
with Medea’s love. For you also share the lot
of Cypris, and with your love-cares you charm unwed
maidens; to you also the name of love is joined.
As all agree, the correspondence between Apollonius’ Εἰ δ’ ἄγε νῦν Ἐρατώ and Virgil’s Nunc age… Erato is too exact to be coincidental. The echo’s significance, however, has proven contentious. Scholars stressing the erotic aspect of Virgil’s Muse argue that the Apollonian inter-text encodes the etymological and thematic justifications for the poet’s choice. Etymological, because at Argonautica 3.5, the ἐπήρατον οὔνομα is explicitly joined to Erato.  Thematic, because the erotic Muse’s power over ἀδμῆτας παρθενικάς at Argonautica 3.3-5 foreshadows Lavinia’s description at Aeneid 7.53: iam matura uiro, iam plenis nubilis annis (now ripe for a husband, now fit with full years to wed).  Nor, according to this approach, does Erato’s amatory influence pertain only to the emerging ‘love triangle’ between Aeneas, Lavinia, and Turnus. Pavlock, for instance, asserts that the inter-textual link with Medea evokes the ‘problematic female sexuality and social chaos’ exemplified by Aeneas’ affair with Dido, Amata’s mirus amor for Turnus (Aeneid 7.57) and her ensuing Bacchic rampage with the matres Latinae (Aeneid 7.373-405).  In a related vein, Fernandelli argues that the invocation establishes continuity between the poem’s ‘Odyssean’ and ‘Iliadic’ halves by signaling the abiding role of passion, especially but not exclusively the wrath of Juno, in driving the epic narrative. 
II. VIRGIL’S FATAL TERMINOLOGY
210 ἐν δὲ τίθει δύο κῆρε τανηλεγέος θανάτοιο,
τὴν μὲν Ἀχιλλῆος, τὴν δ’ Ἕκτορος ἱπποδάμοιο,
ἕλκε δὲ μὲσσα λαβών· ῥέπε δ’ Ἕκτορος αἴσιμον ἧμαρ,
ᾤχετο δ’ ἐις Ἀΐδαο, λίπεν δὲ ἑ Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων.
210 placed therein two lots of death, the bringer of woe;
one for Achilles, and one for Hector tamer
of horses, and he held the scales by the middle:
Hector’s fateful day fell and left for Hades, and
Phoebus Apollo left him.
When Aeneas and Turnus finally meet for their long-postponed duel in Aeneid 12, Jupiter likewise weighs their fata (Aeneid 12.723-7):
concurrunt clipeis, ingens fragor aethera complet.
725 Iuppiter ipse duas aequato examine lances
sustinet et fata imponit diuersa duorum,
quem damnet labor et quo uergat pondere letum.
clash shields, and a huge thunderclap fills the heavens.
725 Jove himself holds out two scales in equal balance,
and places on them the two men’s divergent fates,
to see whom the trial dooms, and which weight leads to death.
The implications of the Homeric inter-text for our understanding of the poet’s narrative are manifold, and have accordingly received much critical attention.  For the purposes of this study, however, it is sufficient to note that for Virgil, Homeric κῆρε in this instance are represented by Latin fata. Moreover, the poet’s compression of his Homeric source material appears to fuse Hector’s κήρ at Iliad 22.210 with the hero’s αἴσιμον ἧμαρ at Iliad 22.213—a formula previously linked with Turnus’ fata at Aeneid 12.149-50.  Like Apollonius with αἶσαν / ἔμμορες at Argonautica 3.3-4, therefore, Virgil collapses two Homeric terms for ‘lot’ into a single phrase, both of which are conveyed by Latin fata.
οὐδ’ ἀλέη· ἦ γάρ ῥα πάλαι τό γε φίλτερον ἦεν
Ζηνί τε καὶ Διὸς υἷι ἑκηβόλῳ, οἵ με πάρος γε
πρόφρονες εἰρύατο· νῦν αὖτέ με μοῖρα κιχάνει.
μὴ μὰν ἀσπουδί γε καὶ ἀκλειῶς ἀπολοίμην,
305 ἀλλὰ μέγα ῥέξας τι καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι.
there is no escape; for so it long ago pleased
Zeus and his far-darting son, who heretofore have
protected me; but now my fate is upon me.
Let me not die, then, without struggle or glory,
305 but by doing some great deed for posterity.
For Turnus, a smilar moment of recognition occurs before Jupiter’s weighing of the scales in Aeneid 12 (Aeneid 12.676-80):
quo deus et quo dura uocat Fortuna sequamur.
stat conferre manum Aeneae, stat, quidquid acerbi est,
morte pati, neque me indecorem, germana, uidebis
680 amplius. hunc, oro, sine me furere ante furorem.’
I shall follow where Jove and harsh Fortune call me.
I must engage Aeneas. I must suffer death,
however bitter. Nor shall you see me disgraced
680 further. Let me, I beg, first rage this last rage.
Again, Virgil’s adaptation substantially compresses the themes found in the Homeric inter-text. While Hector wishes to die not ‘without struggle or glory, / but by doing some great deed for posterity,’ Turnus tells Juturna that she will not see him ‘disgraced further.’ Whereas the Homeric hero attributes his impending death to the will of ‘Zeus and his far-darting son,’ the Rutulian substitutes Fortuna for Apollo. Still, the heroes’ remarks on death and fate exhibit striking similarities. Turnus’ quidquid acerbi est, morte at Aeneid 12.678-9 recalls Hector’s θάνατος κακός at Iliad 22.300. More importantly, the Virgilian hero’s iam iam fata, soror, superant at Aeneid 12.676 echoes the Homeric νῦν αὖτέ με μοῖρα κιχάνει at Iliad 22.303. In this case, then, Turnus’ fata evoke not Hector’s κήρ, but his μοῖρα. 
510 τῇ περ δὴ καὶ ἔπειτα τελευτήσεσθαι ἔμελλεν·
αἶσα γὰρ ἦν ἀπολέσθαι, ἐπὴν πόλις ἀμφικαλύψῃ
δουράτεον μέγαν ἵππον, ὅθ’ εἵατο πάντες ἄριστοι
Ἀργεῖοι Τρώεσσι φόνον καὶ κῆρα φέροντες.
510 the gods, and on this course they settled in the end;
for its lot was to fall, when the city received
the great wooden horse, where all the best Achaeans
waited to deal out death and fate to the Trojans.
As he narrates his own version of the Iliupersis in Aeneid 2, Aeneas glosses the Homeric passage in the wake of Laocoon’s warnings, which the priest punctuates by hurling his spear into the horse (Aeneid 2.54-6):
55 impulerat ferro Argolicas foedare latebras,
Troiaque nunc staret, Priamique arx alta maneres.
55 against us, he had struck through to wound the hidden
Argives with iron, and Troy would now stand, and you,
Priam’s high citadel, would remain.
In the Homeric passage, Troy’s αἶσα is fixed on the city’s destruction, which derives explicitly from its reception of the horse. In Aeneas’ contrafactual recapitulation, the fata deum preside over the Argives’ success in evading detection, which along with Sinon’s duplicity results in the horse’s transferal within the city walls, and hence Troy’s downfall. Like κήρ and μοῖρα, then, Homeric αἶσα also finds equivalent expression in Virgil’s fata.
III. VENUS’ FATAL OBSESSION
Italiam fato profugus Lauiniaque uenit
litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto
ui superum, saeuae memorem Iunonis ob iram,
5 multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem
inferretque deos Latio; genus unde Latinum
Albanique patres atque altae moenia Romae.
of Troy came, fate’s fugitive, to Italy and
Lavinian shores, tossed on land and sea by the gods’
might through fierce Juno’s recollected wrath, suffering
much in war as well, ’til he founded a city
and brought his gods to Latium; whence the Latin race
and the Alban fathers and the walls of high Rome.
As has long been recognized, Virgil’s first proem iconically encapsulates his epic’s quid by charting its action between the genitives Troiae at Aeneid 1.1 and Romae at Aeneid 1.7.  Between them are presented the conflicting divine forces that drive the epic narrative, namely the fatum that compels Aeneas from Troy toward Latium, and Juno’s ira, which constantly works against Rome’s preordained foundation. Moreover, in a particularly elegant instance of epic compression, the poem’s ‘Odyssean’ and ‘Iliadic’ halves are summarized by the iactatus and passus clauses at Aeneid 1.3-4 and Aeneid 1.5-6, respectively.  This latter clause is expanded by Virgil in the proem to Aeneid 7, whose position near the outset of the epic’s ‘Iliadic’ half closely mirrors the first proem’s placement at the commencement of its ‘Odyssean’ narrative.  Thus, the horrida bella announced at Aeneid 7.41 recapitulate the bellum foreshadowed at Aeneid 1.5, just as Latio antiquo at Aeneid 7.38 evokes the Latio of Aeneid 1.6.
230 aeternis regis imperiis et fulmine terres,
quid meus Aeneas in te committere tantum,
quid Troes potuere, quibus tot funera passis
cunctus ob Italiam terrarum clauditur orbis?
certe hinc Romanos olim uoluentibus annis,
235 hinc fore ductores, reuocato a sanguine Teucri,
qui mare, qui terras omnis dicione tenerent,
pollicitus—quae te, genitor, sententia uertit?
hoc equidem occasum Troiae tristisque ruinas
solabar fatis contraria fata rependens;
240 nunc eadem fortuna uiros tot casibus actos
insequitur. quem das finem, rex magne, laborum?
230 the affairs of gods and men, and with thunder shock,
how has my Aeneas offended you, what have
his Trojans done, that after suffering so many deaths
the whole world is closed to them before Italy?
Surely you swore that, one day as the years roll by,
235 from these men would spring the Romans, the generals
who from Teucer’s reborn blood would hold the ocean
and whole earth in their sway—what thought, father, has changed
your mind? With this I consoled myself for Troy’s fall
and sad ruins, weighing adverse fates against fates;
240 now the same ill fortune follows men dragged down by
so many falls. What end, great king, do you grant to
Here, Venus reminds Jupiter of his promise that from Aeneas and his Trojan refugees ‘would spring the Romans, the generals who from Teucer’s reborn blood would hold the ocean and whole earth in their sway.’ This pledge, as she asserts at Aeneid 1.238-9, has been her sole consolation for Troy’s downfall; as she understands Jupiter’s promise, the contraria fata responsible for the city’s destruction are counterbalanced by the fata that will ultimately give rise to Rome. For this to come about, however, her Aeneas (Aeneid 1.231: meus Aeneas) must reach Italy, an outcome that the goddess now doubts in the wake of her son’s shipwreck. Thus, Venus’ very first words in the Aeneid demonstrate her overriding concern with the allotted destiny that, as Virgil announces in his first proem, will bring her son ‘to Italy and Lavinian shores.’
fata tibi; cernes urbem et promissa Lauini
moenia, sublimemque feres ad sidera caeli
260 magnanimum Aenean; neque me sententia uertit.
hic tibi (fabor enim, quando haec te cura remordet,
longius, et uoluens fatorum arcana mouebo)
bellum ingens geret Italia populosque ferocis
contundet moresque uiris et moenia ponet,
265 tertia dum Latio regnantem uiderit aestas
ternaque transierint Rutulis hiberna subactis.
remain unmoved; you shall behold the city and
Lavinium’s promised walls, and raise to heaven’s
260 stars great-hearted Aeneas; my mind hasn’t changed.
He shall (so I shall tell at length, since this worry
gnaws at you, and roll forth the secret scrolls of fate)
wage a great war in Italy and crush savage
peoples, and lay down customs and walls for its men,
265 until the third summer sees him rule in Latium,
and three winters pass from the Rutuli’s defeat.
The inextricable link between Venus’ lot and the fata of her descendants is elegantly encapsulated by Jupiter’s pronouncement at Aeneid 1.257-8, manent immota tuorum / fata tibi. As Commager notes, ‘tibi, usually dismissed as a mere ethical dative—‘I’ll tell you,’ ‘you’ll see’—is not without its force.’  On the contrary, the dative explicitly involves Venus in her descendants’ fata, which her father proceeds to relate.  But rather than unrolling the fatorum arcana to Aeneas’ wanderings as they are presented in Books 1-6, Jupiter instead commences his prophesy with the bellum ingens in Italy that occupies the poem’s second half. Thus, the immota… fata of Venus’ descendants as ordained by Jupiter at Aeneid 1.261-6 consist of precisely those events over which Erato presides at Aeneid 7.37-45. Indeed, Virgil’s maius opus moueo at Aeneid 7.45 echoes Jupiter’s own uoluens fatorum arcana mouebo at Aeneid 1.262; like the king of the gods before him, the poet sets Aeneas’ fata in motion, with Erato’s help.
classe ueho mecum, fama super aethera notus;
380 Italiam quaero patriam, et genus ab Ioue summo.
bis denis Phrygium conscendi nauibus aequor,
matre dea monstrante uiam data fata secutus;
uix septem conuulsae undis Euroque supersunt.
with me my household gods, snatched from the enemy.
My fame reaches beyond the heavens; my homeland
(380) in Italy, and the race of high Jove I seek.
I embarked the Phrygian sea with a score of ships,
and followed my granted fates; my goddess mother
showed the way; scarcely seven ships remain, shattered
by the waves and the east wind.
Almost immediately after stating his name, origin, and destination, Aeneas asserts that he has been able to follow his data fata because his ‘goddess mother showed the way.’ In a particularly witty reversal, Venus then proceeds to interpret the omen of the twelve swans for her son, concluding her augury with the enjoinder at Aeneid 1.401, perge modo et, qua te ducit uia, derige gressum (just press on, and go where the way leads you). Thus, Virgil doubly emphasizes Venus’ role in guiding her son along the uia prescribed by his ‘granted fates.’
quo regnum Italiae Libycas auerteret oras)
sic contra est ingressa Venus: ‘quis talia demens
abnuat aut tecum malit contendere bello?
si modo quod memoras factum fortuna sequatur.
110 sed fatis incerta feror, si Iuppiter unam
esse uelit Tyriis urbem Troiaque profectis,
misceriue probet populos aut foedera iungi.
tu coniunx, tibi fas animum temptare precando.
to shift Italy’s kingdom to Libyan shores)
Venus answered: ‘who would be mad enough to snub
you, or prefer to contend with you in war? If
only fortune would favor the deed you describe.
110 But I am at fate’s mercy, uncertain if Jove
wants one city for the Tyrians and Trojan
refugees, or approves that their peoples be mixed
or oaths be joined. You are his wife; it’s right that you
try his mind with prayers. Lead on, I’ll follow.
Venus of course knows from her prior conversation with Jupiter that Aeneas is destined to reach Italy, where he will wage his bellum ingens and lay the foundations for the reigns of Iulus, Romulus, and Augustus. Here, however, she claims to be ‘at fate’s mercy, uncertain if Jove wants one city for the Tyrians and Trojan refugees.’ Again, the goddess’ obsession with her descendants’ fata preoccupies her to the point that she cites it as a plausible motivation for joining forces with Juno. As Austin observes, ‘it is the existence of Fate and its possibilities that makes Venus feign such doubts.’ 
cogunt me, Neptune, preces descendere in omnis;
quam nec longa dies pietas nec mitigat ulla,
nec Iouis imperio fatisque infracta quiescit.
drive me, Neptune, to stoop to every kind of prayer;
No length of time, no honor can appease her; she
won’t rest, unbroken by the fates and Jove’s command.
After enumerating her many grievances against Juno, Venus again returns to the subject of the Trojans’ fates as she finally states her plea (Aeneid 5.796-8):
uela tibi, liceat Laurentem attingere Thybrim,
si concessa peto, si dant ea moenia Parcae.’
let them reach the Laurentine Tiber if I seek
what is granted, if the Fates accord them those walls.
Here, Venus refers not to the fata that Juno defies at Aeneid 5.784, but rather to the Parcae who, in Virgil’s cosmology, are ‘harmonious in the unchanging power of the fates’ (Eclogues 4.47: concordes stabili fatorum numine Parcae).  While Venus does not explicitly invoke the Trojans’ fata as she does at the outset of her speech, therefore, she nevertheless concludes her request much as she begins it, by emphasizing her personal investment in the Trojans’ destiny as allotted by the Parcae.
730 miratur rerumque ignarus imagine gaudet
attollens umero famamque et fata nepotum.
730 his mother’s gifts, and delights in the image, though
he knows not what it means, shouldering the glory
and fates of his descendants.
Here, in one of the poem’s most memorable passages, Virgil takes pains to reiterate that the objects of Aeneas’ wonder are the dona parentis, ‘his mother’s gifts.’ That they depict the fata of their mutual descendants is no coincidence, since as we have seen, these have been Venus’ obsession from her very first appearance in the poem. Moreover, the shield and other armaments provided by Venus are the instruments of Aeneas’ conquest of Latium; as such, they play a crucial role in the horrida bella over which Erato presides. Thus, as skillfully as Vulcan himself, the poet forges yet another link between Venus, her descendants’ fata, and the Apollonian Muse.
si qua Phryges prae se iactant, responsa deorum;
135 sat fatis Venerique datum, tetigere quod arua
fertilis Ausoniae Troes. sunt et mea contra
fata mihi, ferro sceleratam excindere gentem
coniuge praerepta; nec solos tangit Atridas
iste dolor, solisque licet capere arma Mycenis.
which the Phrygians boast; enough has been granted
(135) to Venus and the fates, that the Trojans have touched
fertile Ausonia’s fields. And I have my own
fates against theirs, to devastate with my sword
the race guilty of stealing my bride; the sons of
Atreus are not alone in this sorrow, and
to take up arms is not for Mycene alone.
Here, the Rutulian argues that ‘the gods’ fatal oracles’ may have prescribed Aeneas’ arrival in Latium, but not his victory—hence his claim that ‘enough has been granted to Venus and the fates.’ As mistaken as this interpretation is, Turnus nevertheless displays a correct understanding of the forces arrayed against him. Again, it is Venus who presides over the fata that compel Aeneas toward his victory in Latium, and her descendants’ future preeminence.
Italiam petiere, luant peccata neque illos
iuueris auxilio; sin tot responsa secuti
quae superi manesque dabant, cur nunc tua quisquam
35 uertere iussa potest aut cur noua condere fata?
your leave and against your will, let them pay the price
and aid them not; but if they have followed so many
signs given by gods and shades, why can anyone now
35 overturn your commands or create new fates?
Here, in a diatribe whose careful deployment of rhetoric has often been noted by commentators, Venus ironically dares Jupiter to go back on the pledge whose details he unfolded at Aeneid 1.257-96.  Again, the goddess argues that the Trojans were destined to seek out Italy, and that no one, not even Jupiter himself, can create new fata for them.  Indeed, Venus’ obsession with her descendants’ fata is amply demonstrated by her (again ironic) request that she be permitted to ‘remove Ascanius from the fray safe and sound’ and that Jupiter at least ‘let [her] grandson survive’ (Aeneid 10.46-7: liceat dimittere ab armis / incolumem Ascanium, liceat superesse nepotem). Thus, Aeneas’ mother concludes her speaking role in the Aeneid much as she begins it, by fiercely advocating the fata responsible for her son’s arrival in Italy, where the horrida bella overseen by Erato unfold.
namque fore inlustrem fama fatisque canebant
80 ipsam, sed populo magnum portendere bellum.
to see: for they sang she would shine in fame and fate
80 herself, but portend a great war for her people.
Here we find no mention of Lavinia’s impending marriage, although as Latinus’ subsequent consultation of Faunus’ oracle makes clear, this is of course at the root of the problem. Instead, the portent’s interpreters stress Lavinia’s glorious connection with Aeneas’ fate, which likewise ordains the magnum bellum for which Virgil invokes Erato’s aid just a few lines earlier.
atque immota manet fatis Lauinia coniunx.
315 at trahere atque moras tantis licet addere rebus,
at licet amborum populos exscindere regum.
hac gener atque socer coeant mercede suorum:
sanguine Troiano et Rutulo dotabere, uirgo,
et Bellona manet te pronuba. nec face tantum
320 Cisseis praegnas ignis enixa iugalis;
quin idem Veneri partus suus et Paris alter,
funestaeque iterum recidiua in Pergama taedae.
and Lavinia remains his wife, unmoved by fate.
315 But I can drag out and add delays to such things,
I can devastate both kings’ peoples. At this price
to their nations let father and son-in-law be joined:
your dowry, maiden, shall be Trojan and Latin
blood, and your bridesmaid Bellona awaits. A torch
320 wasn’t conceived by Hecuba alone to birth
bridal flames; no, Venus’ son shall be another
Paris, and funeral torches for reborn Troy.
Echoing Jupiter’s promise to Venus in Book 1 that her ‘descendants’ fates remain unmoved’ (Aeneid 1.257-8: manent immota tuorum / fata tibi), Juno here admits that ‘Lavinia remains [Aeneas’] wife, unmoved by fate’ (Aeneid 7.314: atque immota manet fatis Lauinia coniunx). Thus, she concedes the crucial role that Lavinia plays in the fata of Aeneas, even while she unleashes the war that will delay their destined marriage—the war over which Erato presides.