Our journey at the discovery of the women of the Aeneid continues with Lavinia: daughter of Latinus and Amata, she was the last wife of Aeneas.
Lavinia spent most of her life being courted by many men who, by marrying her, aimed to become king of Latium. Of all suitors, Turnus, ruler of the Rutuli, was the only one favored by Amata; his foreign origins, however, soon became a problem. One night, in fact, Latinus had a dream in which his father, Faunus, warned him about the dangers of Lavinia marrying a man that was not Latin. Obeying to Faunus’ orders, Latinus prohibited Turnus to marry his daughter and decided to favor Aeneas instead. The goddess Juno heard the news and, given her hate for the Trojans, convinced Turnus to wage war against Aeneas. Many years went by before the war came to an end: Aeneas won with the help of the Etruscans, Turnus died, and the Trojan hero had eventually the possibility to marry Lavinia.
Book 7 of the Aeneid gives perhaps Lavinia’s only memorable moment: during a sacrifice at the altar of the gods, her hair catches fire, thus burning the temple the ceremony was being held at. This incident foretold the years of war the Latins were about to face.
“Lavinia”, illumination from the manuscript “Cas des nobles hommes et femmes”, ms. Français 12420, f. 60v, 15h century, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Paris.
Historically and mythologically speaking, being in a powerful position (and perhaps also a…