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At the beginning of book VII of Virgil’s Aeneid, auspicious winds send the ships of the Trojan hero and his warriors to the mouth of the Tiber, where they put ashore. An oracle has foretold their coming. Aeneas is welcomed by the king of the Latins, and an alliance is forged. The king’s daughter is promised to Aeneas in marriage. Peace and a bright future seem secure.

But the goddess Juno hates Aeneas. His cousin Paris didn’t pick her as “fairest,” and Aeneas jilted the queen of Carthage, Juno’s beloved city, so she has stymied his destiny throughout the poem. Anguished by the favorable turn of events and wishing to disrupt the alliance, she decides to “rouse the world below.” Going to the underworld, Juno calls forth one of the furies, Alecto, the engine of rage and bloodlust.

Over the course of two hundred lines, Alecto runs through the ranks of the Latins like a fast-spreading contagion. Faced with a cool response from Turnus, the greatest warrior on the Latin side, Alecto hurls a burning brand into his guts. Turnus’s anger rises like a boiling cauldron overflowing with scalding fluids and hissing vapors. He buckles on his sword and inspires the Latins with reckless fury.

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