Senate: The War Against The Samnites Must End:
Cato sent the first Senate decree to the Carthaginians to end the war against the Samnites. He wanted them to receive the messenger and see that the Senate was resolved to prevent them from carrying on their current war with the Samnites. They must end it and now. He also hoped that they would notice that a time limit for negotiations had been established. Rome was determined to supervise the peace negotiations. Every two months they would send out a delegation that would force a meeting between the two warring parties. They would meet first in Carthage and then in the Samnites territory, alternating back and forth until all talks were completed.
The delegates sent from Rome with such authority would report back to the Senate and give reports about the progress.
Everyone waited with great alacrity for the first report which came in about one month. Things were speeded for that one to jump start matters. Cato made sure of it. He held a Senate meeting and read out his demand and the Carthaginian response.
Scowling around at the Senate House Cato read his charge and accusation: “You, Carthaginians under King Hasdrubal, have deliberately started to rebuild your navy and your army to recover from the Second Punic War. I saw evidence of it when I was personally visiting Carthage to escort the hostages back to Rome. You had new ships of a new design right in the harbor. I surprised you and found them. So before you get carried away and you start to retake your old position in the Mediterranean, the Senate insists that you make peace with the Samnites and disarm. We will need evidence of your disarming forthwith.”
The Senators all nodded gravely.
Cato broke the seal for the Carthaginian response. He read it aloud. “King Hasdrubal of Carthage reasserts his firm loyalty to the Roman command. Ever since the last war the city of Carthage has taken a new path to develop its trade routes. It wants to make sure that it finished paying his indemnity to Rome, and that much as been accomplished. All we are trying to do now is to build up our trade routes, not our old military command.”
Cato again glared around at the Senate assembled in front of him. “This is obviously a big lie!” he insisted. “The Carthaginians were beginning to fashion new warships. We saw them in the harbor in Carthage the last time we were there.”
The Senate nodded.
Cato glared at Gaius Antonius as he sat there. “Hand over your drawings!” he commanded him.
Gaius should have seen Cato’s request coming. He had been commanded to carry around the maps with him wherever he went in case Cato should need them. Now he was calling upon him. Gaius could not prevent the disaster that was now upon him. There was no way that he could warn Cato now. He had not done so before because of the man’s reaction and to give himself time to figure out what to do. The demand for the maps had come sooner than he could have expected. And now he was being caught short.
Gaius rose and handed over the maps drawn by Tanit’s friend and compatriot from Carthage.
Cato took the maps unsuspectingly. Gaius’s eyes were full of anxiety. But Cato was intent on his purpose and did not read the anxiety there. Or he misinterpreted it and thought Gaius was merely intent on his speech and anxious about the Carthaginians.
“There was a new naval ship in the harbor at Carthage. Gaius’s sharp eye caught it. It is displayed in his drawing. I will post the drawing up here at the podium. You can come around and see it one by one.”
But that was never to be. Cato opened the map and searched. He could not find what he was looking for. He scowled and summoned Gaius to him.The Senate broke into murmurs.
“Cato,” he had to confess, “the maps were stolen while I slept! These are replacements drawn by one of Tanit’s Carthaginians.”
Cato’s eyes bulged from his head. He declared to the Senate House. “Gaius Antonius tells me that the maps drawn by him have been stolen. A fake replica has been substituted for them. Treachery!” Cato declared as he pointed his finger upward.
The senators looked around at each other. They nodded sternly. They rose to their feet and repeated his words, crying, “Treachery!”