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Camilla and the Name and Fame of Ornytus the Beast-rouser at Aeneid 11.686-689

Alexandra Daly

During her aristeia in Aeneid 11, Camilla encounters the Etruscan venator (678) Ornytus.  Several have observed that his name contributes to his characterization as a hunter, since ὀρνύναι “is used of starting up wild animals from covert in the chase” (Saunders 1940: 553; cf. Horsfall 2003 ad 677).  The Etymologicum Gudianum lists Ornytus under the lemma for ὀρνύω / ὄρνυμι as a derivative from the same root (*ὄρω).  Vergil may have encountered this etymology in the Hellenistic scholarship on which the sources for the Byzantine etymologica were usually based (Dickey 2007: 91).  None of this is new information, but an etymological gloss on the name Ornytus in Camilla's opening question to the hunter has gone unnoticed; this gloss and several unexplored intertexts have important implications for the interpretation of the rest of her speech.  As she runs Ornytus through, Camilla sneers (Aen. 11.686-689):


silvis te, Tyrrhene, feras agitare putasti?

advenit qui vestra dies muliebribus armis

verba redargueret. nomen tamen haud leve patrum

manibus hoc referes, telo cecidisse Camillae.


feras agitare (686) is the Latin equivalent of ὀρνύναι, with its application to hunting specified.  This gloss is combined with suppression of the name, which is closely allied to etymological wordplay in the Alexandrian and Augustan poets (O’Hara 1996: 79-82), and the name is replaced by the ethnonym Tyrrhene.  If feras agitare is an etymological gloss, it stands for the name, and upon activation of the wordplay, her question means “Did you think that you were truly an Ornytus?”


This reading explains otherwise puzzling aspects of her taunt.  Based on the silence of Ornytus and his fellow Etruscans, commentators assume that the words vestra verba (687-688) refer to some kind of extratextual vaunt.  Vergilian wordplay does not seem to operate often at the characters' level, and there is no indication that Camilla knows Ornytus’ name so as to be able to play on it.  The referent that I propose for verba would exist only for Vergil, the narrator, and the attentive reader: it is the claim to be Ornytus, “beast-rouser.”  To refute (redargueret) this claim is to unname him.  Camilla finishes off her prey by renaming him.  nomen (688) is typically glossed as “glory” or “fame” and thought to introduce telo cecidisse Camillae (689) as indirect discourse.  This construction is unparalleled, however, and nomen is more naturally understood in apposition to the infinitive phrase.  It serves both to signal the wordplay, as naming terminology often does in Vergil and others (O'Hara 1996: 75-79; Cairns 1996), and to designate Killed-by-Camilla’s-spear as a name.  The taunt, then, proceeds as follows: Camilla suppresses Ornytus’ name and glosses it in Latin, unnames him by refuting his claim to that name, then finally renames him as a monument to her own achievement.


The taunt's connections with epinician and consolation clarify its tone, on which scholarly opinion is divided.  Aeneas' speech to the freshly slain Lausus is particularly close (Aen. 10.825-830):


quid tibi nunc, miserande puer, pro laudibus istis, 

quid pius Aeneas tanta dabit indole dignum? 

arma, quibus laetatus, habe tua; teque parentum

manibus et cineri, si qua est ea cura, remitto.

hoc tamen infelix miseram solabere mortem:

Aeneae magni dextra cadis.


Both passages begin with suppression and replacement (puer, Tyrrhene) of the addressee’s name, followed by an etymological wordplay.  That on Lausus and laudibus (O’Hara 1996: 229) suggests that the boy has lived up to his name, that he is the very incarnation of praiseworthy action.  Unlike Camilla, Aeneas does not rename his victim or use his corpse as a means of self-aggrandizement.  Lausus’ glory springs from own deeds, and Aeneas’ greatness (830) seems offered as a true source of solace.  Lausus also persists in the second-person forms (tibi, istis, tua, te) and the conjugated verb cadis.  Ornytus is merely implied in his new name, not even expressed as the accusative subject of cecidisse, let alone granted any degree of valor.

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Gender Trouble in Latin Narrative Poetry

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