Mezentius in Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
（*Mese/ntios), a mythical king of the Tyrrhenians or
Etruscans, at Caere or Agylla, and father of Lausus. When he
was expelled by his subjects on account of his cruelty he
took refuge with Turnus, king of the Rutulians, and assisted
him in his war against Aeneas and the Trojans. Aeneas
wounded him, but Mezentius escaped under the protection of
his son. When, however, Lausus had fallen, Mezentius
returned to the battle on horseback, and was slain by Aeneas
(Verg. A. 8.480, &c., 10.689, &c., 785, 800, &c.). The story
about the alliance between Mezentius and the Rutulians is
also mentioned by Livy and Dionysius, but they say nothing
about his expulsion from Caere or Agylla. According to them
Aeneas disappeared during the battle against the Rutulians
and Etruscans at Lanuvium, and Ascanius was besieged by
Mezentius and Lausus. In a sally at night the besieged
defeated the enemy, slew Lausus, and then concluded a peace
with Mezentius, who henceforth remained their ally. (Liv.
1.2, 3; Dionys. A. R. 1.64, &c.) According to Servits (ad
Aen. 4.620, 6.760, 9.745) Mezentius was slain by Ascanius.
During the siege of Ascanius, Mezentius, when he was asked
to conclude a peace, demanded among other things, that the
Latins should give up to him every year the whole produce of
their vintage; and in commemoration of this, it was said,
the Romans in later times celebrated the festival of the
Vinalia, on the twenty-third of April, when the new wine was
tasted, and a libation made in front of the temple of Venus,
and a sacrifice offered to Jupiter. (Plut. Quaest. Rom. 45;
Ov. Fast. 4.881, &c.; Macr. 3.5; comp. Dict. of Ant. s. v.
Vinalia.) - A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and
mythology, William Smith, Ed.
Mezentius in Wikipedia
In Roman mythology, Mezentius was an Etruscan king, and
father of Lausus. Sent into exile because of his cruelty, he
moved to Latium. He reveled in bloodshed and was
overwhelmingly savage on the battlefield, but more
significantly to a Roman audience he was a contemptor divum,
a "despiser of the gods."
He appears in Virgil's Aeneid, primarily book ten, where he
aids Turnus in a war against Aeneas and the Trojans. While
in battle with Aeneas, he is critically injured by a spear
blow, but his son Lausus bravely blocks Aeneas's final blow.
Lausus is then killed by Aeneas, and Mezentius is able to
escape death for a short while. Once he hears of Lausus'
death, he feels ashamed that his son died in his place and
returns to battle on his horse Rhaebus in order to avenge
him. He is able to keep Aeneas on the defensive for some
time by riding around Aeneas and loosing javelins.
Eventually, Aeneas kills the horse with a spear and pins
Mezentius underneath. He is overcome by Aeneas, but remains
defiant and fearless unto his death, not begging for mercy
as Turnus later does, but simply asking that he be buried
with his son.
In the traditional myth that predates the Aeneid, Mezentius
actually outlived Aeneas, who 'disappeared' into the river
which Aeneas became associated with in a hero cult. However,
since his benefactor Maecenas was a native Etruscan, Virgil
portrayed Mezentius as a tyrant, attributing to him
personally the evils which the Greek authors had previously
accused the Etruscans of, such as torture and savagery, an
ethnic prejudice already present in the Homeric
Hymns. Thus he created something of a
scapegoat of Mezentius and portrayed the Etruscan people as
a good race who fight alongside Aeneas. - Wikipedia