Our last Women’s Wednesday of May is dedicated to Camilla, a Volscian maiden who became a warrior under the protection of the goddess Diana.
Daughter of King Metabus and Casmilla, Camilla's story began in tragedy with her mother dying in childbirth. After being overthrown by the Volsci for tyranny, Metabus was forced to flee his kingdom and took with him his beloved daughter. When the river Amasenus blocked his path, he bound Camilla to a spear and, in exchange for his daughter’s survival, promised Diana that Camilla would become her servant for life. The maiden grew up in the wilderness, thus becoming a skilled warrior and hunter. She later joined Turnus in his battle against the Trojan hero Aeneas, but this decision would be fatal for Camilla, as she would die by the hand of Arruns, an Etruscan who fought alongside Aeneas.
Camilla is a unique figure in Virgil’s Aeneid, as well as a living paradox, being both female and a warrior. She refuses the hand of many men, choosing to remain a virgin and serve the goddess of wild animals and the hunt instead. She rejects traditional womanly duties and she occupies a role usually reserved for males, not conforming to a precise gender bias.
“Camilla”, illumination from the manuscript “De Mulieribus Claris”, decorated by Robinet Testard, ms. Français 599, f. 33r 1488-1496, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Paris.