Gaius Proceeds to the Latifundia With Cato:
Gaius Antonius could not wait to disembark from the ship at Ostia. Lavinia was in his arms in seconds. It felt so good to have her warmth and good wishes so close to him again when he thought that he might never see her again.
“We came to Ostia as soon as we got your message,” Lavinia said.
“I hope you rewarded the fisherman amply,” Gaius said. “He risked his life coming here from Mallorca.”
Cato approached. “I rewarded him with his weight in gold,” he said simply. “Once he gets back to Mallorca, he won’t gave to go fishing again if he doesn’t want to,” he assured Gaius. “He will be set for life for this one good turn he did me.”
That prompted Gaius to remember the map. He let go of Lavinia and took it out of his waist pack. He handed it to Cato without delay.
Cato stood there on the dock at Ostia in the early morning light with a sea breeze ruffling his graying hair. He was concentrating on all the details of the drawing of the Carthaginian warship.
“There is no doubt about it,” he pointed to the sails. “The dye here must be from Sidonia, one of the other big Carthaginian state of Phoenician origins. “They specialize in this purple dye, you know, made from the murex shellfish. Cloth dyed in it is so expensive that only royalty can afford it. And you see it gaudily displayed on the sails of this ship.” He humphed.
“They are obviously in collusion with the Carthaginians,” Gaius nodded.
“You can say that again!” Cato shook his head. “Even though our treaty with them specifically forbade it.”
“It seems as if they are flaunting the fact that they have paid off their reparations from the last war and now have extra money to spend,” Gaius added.
“No doubt,” Cato reflected, nodding. “The merchants of Tyre could have also been providing the dye. They are still more Carthaginian troublemakers of the Phoenician sort.”
“All three major Carthaginian city states conspiring together to build warships really sounds dangerous,” Gaius Antonius agreed.
Lavinia, still standing next to him, shivered in the wind that had picked up at Ostia. She moved even closer to him as if she felt the threat personally and was trying to ward it off.
“The city state you were just visiting, New Carthage, is implicated, too, if you want to call it a deliberate collusion or plot against us Romans,” Cato said. He pointed at the wood in the hull of the ship. “That is fine timber from the mountains of inland Spain. They must have sent a team to drag it down to the harbor to send it across the sea to Carthage.”
Gaius Antonius nodded, thinking that Cato was a genius in taking in all the fine details that the drawing provided to the onlooker.
Cato signaled to his carriage parked at the harbor at Ostia. The horse driven vehicle moved closer. He led the small party of three in boarding it. No sooner did he slam the door than they were off as if not a second were to be lost.
“The Roman Senate must see this drawing right away,” Cato said sternly. “Expecting something like this I have summoned them all to a special meeting at my latifundia. They should be there by the time we reach it. I thought of gathering them at the Senate House in Rome, but this latifundia is more private and guarded. I can better control snoops and spies there. I have positioned guards at all the entrances to the property. They are not to admit anyone who is not authorized.”
Cato had never spoken a more true word. Carriages crowded the entrance way to the latifundia as Cato and his party disembarked. He certainly had a sense of the dramatic. All the senators were waiting for him and saw him draw up in his coach. Cato held Gaius’s map up over his head as he emerged and set foot on the good Roman earth again. The senators cheered. They all formed a line behind him and followed him inside the main house at the latifundia, exclaiming loudly the whole way. Gaius and Lavinia waited in the coach until the last of the senators had entered the estate before them.
Only then did Lavinia and Gaius Antonius climb out of the carriage that had brought them all the way from Ostia today. They joined the party inside the house last of all —- but certainly not least of all.