Gaius Antonius Goes To Palma, Mallorca:
A couple of days later Gaius Antonius’s ship landed in the harbor of Palma, Mallorca in the Baleric Islands halfway across the Mediterranean Sea on the way back to Ostia and Rome. Gaius Antonius came ashore to find a messenger for his news. He did not want to have to wait until arriving back in Italy to inform his mentor about the big find —- the map itself.
Gaius did not care about the clear, blue water or the rocky cove in Mallorca. He did not pay much attention to the magnificent stone arch half covered with seaweed emerging from the salty brine near the coast of Mallorca either. Nor did he get bewitched by the surf that crashed against the sandy beach.
He got off the boat for the night and searched for a fisherman for hire. He spotted one. Then he waited for that fisherman to unload his catch of the day from his nets and to meet his eye.
Finally he gave Gaius the eye just as he expected. He must be used to ships putting ashore and having wealthy passengers who wanted chores done for them big and small. Gaius would wager, though, that none so far had a task to assign that was so ambitious and so important.
Gaius motioned to the man while he held out a hand full of coins. He provided many an aureus. The man looked at the money and counted it several times over. His eyes glistened. He obviously was satisfied. It was a sum for which he would be willing to risk his life.
“I am on my way back to Italy from Mallorca, but my ship won’t sail again for two days. I want you to go ahead of us and see if you can reach Italy first. I will hand you a letter. You are to take it to Cato, a senator who will be very interested in its contents. I can promise you that. He will certainly add to the sum of coins I just handed you,” he carefully instructed the man.
The man nodded in acknowledgement of what Gaius was saying.
The fisherman followed him back to his lodging for the night by the shore at the overseas estate of one of Cato’s friends from his school days back in Rome. He had moved to Roman Spain in Mallorca and set up his own latifundia. He was one of the first readers of Cato’s book on the subject and one of his greatest admirers. From his vantage point by the sea Gaius could see grape vines tracing their way up the hillside above him.
Trees grew between the rocks near the white sand. Gaius took a seat at a table and ordered refreshments from a slave. The slave also brought food and drink for the fisherman for hire. He brought a carafe of the finest vintage from the estate made right here on Mallorca.
Gaius composed the letter to his mentor, knowing full well that the fisherman would not be able to read it:
Cato: I have in my possession the drawing we were seeking. Tanit herself brought it to New Carthage. I saw her in a robe in which she was trying to disguise herself. I followed her, though she did not see me. I could swear it. I followed her all the way to the sea wall where we Romans once assaulted the town during the Second Punic War. I remember it from my childhood history lessons, though I never journeyed to the place before. She paid one of the watchmen to hide it in the wall in a crevice between the bricks.
The next day I disguised myself as one of the watchmen. I found the crevice all unobserved by my confederates. At the end of the watch I took it back to my lodgings. I locked the door and examined it. It was the very drawing I made that day in Carthage with you by my side.
I think it is all the evidence of the treachery of the Carthaginians that you will need. I am not going to give it to the fisherman. I think he is reliable and trustworthy, but I do not know him. And I do not want to take any chances with what we cannot afford to lose. But I am sending word ahead of me so you can be alerted and can start making plans.
The fisherman left right away. Gaius’s ship did not leave until the day after the next after taking on more provisions and wares that needed to be transported back to Rome. But it probably was better that he did not look as if he were in too much of a hurry to get back to Rome in case anyone was observing him.
Looking down to an aquamarine and blue water beach with pinkish sand and reddish cliffs on each side covered with vines, he imagined he saw somebody looking up at him from behind one of the projecting rocky cliffs. Whether it was his imagination he could not tell for sure. He just knew he had better be as careful as he could be. That night he directed Cato’s friend to station a guard outside his room.
He was impatient to be off. Once at sea he spent much time at the railing on deck looking out to the horizon and wondering if he could be the first one to spot their landfall.
He saw two dark specks on the shore early in the morning right after dawn. They grew bigger and bigger and took on form and shape. They filled him with hope when they became the all too familiar and beloved forms of Lavinia and Cato there at the dock to greet him.
Cato had no doubt studied the schedule of ships arriving at the port of Ostia. And he had probably been here hours ahead of time, probably early last night or late yesterday afternoon. Lavinia was leaping up and down at waving at him. He could already feel her kiss on his lips.
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Gaius Takes The Drawing Back To Rome:
Right in front of Gaius Antonius’s eyes was an elaborate, detailed drawing of the latest Carthaginian warship which had obviously been constructed since the last war. Its giant wooden hull was massive and impressive and unlike anything else the Carthaginians had sailed into battle up to this point in either the First or Second Punic Wars. In fact, it looked better than anything that the Roman navy had access to at this moment.
It led to the question about how many more of these ships did the Carthaginians possess and where were they hiding them? Perhaps in harbors of cities friendly to them? Perhaps even here in New Carthage? New Carthage had a large, impressive harbor. He had not had a chance to examine every square corner of it.
Gaius quickly got up to lock the door to the room. At least he had that much presence of mind. He did not want anyone barging in on him and attacking him when he was carefully examining the drawing and surprising him. If any of those watchmen had followed him back to the apartment building they might try something like that when they thought he was otherwise distracted.
He sat down again and spread the papers out on the table before him. The prow of the Carthaginian ship was painted bright blue with the drawing of an eye of their chief god, Baal, guiding them into battle. The rest of the hull was bright red and rather fiercesome looking. Together they constituted the chief colors of the Phoenician city state in northern Africa, blue and red. The golden oars shot out from the red hull so numerous that they could not be counted. They were like the legs of a spider. The big white sails had giant golden lions drawn on them.
Cato had been impressed with Gaius’s discovery, too, and they had planned to analyze the drawing in detail and discuss it with various members of the Roman Senate when the time came. Cato thought that now that the Carthaginians had finished paying their reparations to Rome for the last war they were using their money to improve their naval fleet.
He wanted Gaius to show off his drawing to the full, assembled Senate to make them angry, indignant, and fearful and eventually to call for war. As Cato had said many, many times, “Carthago delenda est”, or “Carthage must be destroyed.” He must complete what he had set out to accomplish.
Gaius Antonius was all too aware that Cato could not accomplish his aim without his assistance. He had to have the visual proof to shove right in front of the noses of the Roman senators. Gaius had to make it seem as if the senators were there with them in the harbor of Carthage on the Mediterranean shore of North Africa. They had to have nightmares about ships that looked like this two-toned monster with the sails flaunting golden lions sailing through their sleep to get them disturbed enough to act.
It was up to him to get this all important drawing back to Rome in short order. He folded it up and stuck the drawing into a fold in his robes. He looked tensely to both sides. Should he wait until tomorrow? Or should he try to take ship right now? It was already early afternoon, but ships left the harbor right up until sunset.
He had no business here in New Carthage otherwise. He had what he had come here to find. Lingering could only cause trouble big time.
He left money for the apartment owner in the center of the table, threw his cloak over his shoulders and head to disguise his identity, and made his way down the stairs to the ground level. Before emerging onto the street, he looked carefully in every possible direction. He did not see anyone lingering about looking towards him as he started on foot towards the harbor. He stopped at every street corner to study the scene about him. Only ordinary housewives and businessmen going about their daily business were in evidence anywhere he looked.
As luck would have it Gaius found a Roman merchantmen in the harbor. It had just unloaded a shipment of fine wines from Italian latafundia outside Rome. Cato ran such an operation on his estate and had just written a book about it called On Agriculture, which was noted to be the first such work using fine Latin prose. One of his wines could have been aboard.
Gaius Antonius boarded just before the ship cast off. It was sailing along the coast of Spain and planned to make landfall a few cities hence before darkness stopped the ship at port for the night before continuing on back to Rome across the Mediterranean Sea, or Our Sea as Romans liked to call it.
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Gaius Antonius Returns To The New Carthage Sea Wall:
Gaius Antonius had to find out where the New Carthage sea wall guards were housed. On the way back to his lodgings, he asked a few passersby. He had no choice if he was to get anywhere. But he was able to talk in Phoenician to deceive them. Tanit had inadvertently taught him a few words when she was a guest at Cato’s house.
“I have an important message for one of the guards,” he announced.
An unsuspecting citizen of New Carthage pointed out the location not far from the sea wall.
He found them in a kind of barracks. There were four different sets of guards of the watch who manned the New Carthage sea wall for six hours each. He located the barracks of the legion that was about to go on duty next and began to spy on them. One of the guards had a big bronze chalice of liquid on top of his dresser. He crept up on tiptoes and sniffed it. It was merely beer of a rather crude sort.
Gaius Antonius got the idea rather quickly that he should mix a sleeping potion in that beer. Quickly he ran off to obtain one from a shopkeeper. He was quickly back again. Fortunately the chalice was still where he first saw it. The watchman was still in the next room singing away and shaving himself.
Very quietly Gaius crept into his room while the watchman was otherwise occupied. He poured the sleeping draught into the chalice. He managed to scurry away just before the watchman returned to get dressed in his costume before joining his confederates.
From a safe distance Gaius watched as the watchman quaffed the drink. He drank it all the way down hardly leaving a drop. He observed carefully as the man started to get dressed and then yawned and yawned. He sat down on his bed and slumped against a pillow. Soon he was snoring.
Gaius took advantage of the opportunity. He crept back into the building, looking over his shoulder to make sure that no one was following him or observing him. He shut the door to the guard’s room and dressed himself in his guard costume.
He observed the nearest sundial in the courtyard of the building. It was time to join his confederates. He imitated their stance and movement and marched along with them toward the New Carthage sea wall. They relieved the previous guards with a salute and went on duty. For the first time ever Gaius was inside the sea wall which he had heard so much about ever since he was a little kid and had listened to tales of the Second Punic War and the Roman assault here.
He wondered what their duties were and hoped they were not too elaborate. He did not want to betray himself with his lack of experience. But it looked as if once inside the wall they did not do much except to spread out and lean against the back wall. A few sat down on the ground and got out their picnics. He tried to follow suit and just sat there vaguely glancing out a slit in the wall toward the ocean.
Not long after that a few of the men near him seemed to doze off. He once more took advantage of the situation to rise and explore certain areas of the inner wall. He was searching for some sort of cavity or crevice where someone might hide the maps. He reached into the darkness here, there, and everywhere. Finally his hand closed around something that felt like a wooden box.
He withdrew the box, looking from side to side to make sure that he was not being observed. But the box itself eluded him. He could not figure out how to open it. He heard footsteps and stuffed the box inside his robes. He pretended he was just gazing out to sea when a confederate ambled past.
He leaned against an interior wall and gazed out to sea for the rest of the duration of the watch. He did not dare take out the wooden box with everybody else around. He did not know what they knew and could not risk it. He waited until the end of the watch and marched back out of the New Carthage sea wall with his confederates of this particular watch.
He did not know if it was safe to return to the barracks.The man he was impersonating could have woken up. He would alert the others. Gaius instead disappeared down an alley and headed by a circuitous route back to his apartment. He stripped off his costume and threw it away so no one would associate him with it.
Only then did he sit on his bed and take out the wooden box. He grappled with it, attempting to find a clasp to open it. His finger finally hit it. The box gave way and sprang open. Out fell the maps he had drawn that day in Carthage with Cato by his side. He would never forget them.
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Gaius Visits the Sea Wall In New Carthage:
Gaius approached Tanit in the shadow of the sea wall in New Carthage. But he had to remind himself that he could not make himself known to her. That would spoil everything. The maps would become useless. The Carthaginians would be alerted, and all his plans and perhaps Cato’s too would come to naught.
He forced himself to remain at least ten paces behind the girl. When she stopped, he stopped and kept to the shadows. When she turned around, he stepped quickly into the darkest part of the shadows. When she speeded up, he sped up. When she hesitated, he hesitated. When she ducked behind a building, he followed.
She kept on looking towards the sea wall as if she were expecting something. Tanit hesitated and seemed to be waiting. So Gaius waited too.
Suddenly a contingent of soldiers in formal costume marched out of the town of New Carthage towards the sea wall in formation. They marched one direction behind the sea wall parallel to it and then marched back again. A similarly dressed contingent of soldiers marched out of the sea wall itself and joined them. Then they both marched in formation behind the wall. The soldiers stopped and saluted each other in what looked like a changing of the guard ceremony.
Only then did the group of soldiers who had been inside the wall march back towards the town and leave the new group of soldiers to take possession of the wall. They did that in short order and shut the door to the inner wall which must be at least twenty feet wide if it was a foot.
Only then did Tanit start towards them. So Gaius followed at what he judged to be a safe, discreet distance. She approached the door that had just slammed shut with a giant bang and knocked.
One of the soldiers answered the door and flung it wide open. As soon as the soldier saw her, he bowed low and said, “Princess!” Apparently she was recognized by the soldiers there as the Princess of Carthage, daughter of Hasdrubal. Perhaps they even knew her mission or had heard about it. The guard seemed to be expecting her.
She withdrew a sheaf of papers from her robe and waved it in front of the soldier. “Take these maps and hide them in a chamber within the wall. On your life don’t tell anybody that they are hidden there. The very existence of Carthage and perhaps of your city too is dependent upon it.”
The soldier motioned with his arm for her to follow him inside. Gaius wished that he could follow, too. They were obviously his maps, the ones he had drawn in person in Carthage when he had visited with Cato. He even recognized them. They were just what he had come looking for. It would be worth a lot to see exactly where they would put them.
But the door slammed behind them. When Gaius reached it, he could not open it. He put his ear to the door. Because of the massive stone ramparts and walls he could hear nothing.
He had to wait on the other side of the street hidden behind a statue to the god Baal complete with horns on his head. Eventually they appeared at the door again and Tanit hidden within her capacious robes took her leave of the soldiers and the seawall.
Gaius remained behind watching and waiting for his opportunity. It did not make any sense to follow Tanit now. She no longer had the maps in her possession. So he bided his time until the soldiers within the sea wall to appear once more. In about three more hours they performed the same feat in the area behind the sea wall. They marched back and forth and once again changed the guard. He saw the guard go off duty who was the one Tanit had been speaking to.
Gaius wondered if that particular guard had passed on the knowledge about the maps to his successors. He realized he would have to return here tomorrow at first light. Then the guards would change for the first time that day. Then Gaius Antonius would have to join them.
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Gaius Antonius’s Ship Heads to New Carthage:
After all the good-byes and farewells at the dock, Gaius stood on the deck next to the crew as the ship headed out into the Mediterranean. He waved good-bye and wondered if he would return successfully after locating those maps. Or would he be killed in the line of duty and never return again.
About three days later his ship came ashore in a well-protected harbor with waves crashing on shore from the aquamarine sea. The city wall rose in front of him put there by the Carthaginians to protect their settlement. Behind it in the distance rose black hills made mostly of rock with very few green plants growing on them. They looked imposing and rather threatening.
He entered the city through an arched gateway. He took an apartment just as Cato had suggested and watched people come and go all day in the square outside the window.
He spent several days doing this, trying to detect any unusual movement. He also wanted to pick up the visages of any peculiar people coming and going from the city. if someone looked suspicious or in a hurry he might decide to follow them. Otherwise he did not know how to begin his search for those maps which by now must be somewhere inside those looming walls.
He could hardly get caught asking people about them. They might grow suspicious. Word might get to the Carthaginians. They might have somebody in the city looking for a sign of a Roman spy.
He watched the men who manned the walls arrive to go to work and leave every day. A stairway led up into the thick walls made of brick that had defended the city fifty years ago during an assault in the Second Punic War. The watchman closed the door behind him. Gaius could imagine the thing slamming behind him and echoing with a boom.
He ate watching the walls. Sometimes he slept doing the same thing. Certainly they were not going to open their mouths and speak. Besides he did not know the language of walls.
Suddenly one afternoon only a few days after he arrived, he caught sight of a figure about one hundred feet away down in the square approaching the walls from inside the city. It was not at the time when the watchmen arrived or the watchmen departed for the day. Besides, the figure did not look like the right height. The person seemed rather slight for the task. And even more suspiciously, whoever it was wore a dark robe that covered him from head to foot and left absolutely nothing exposed to the daylight. The unknown person was clutching the dark robe right beneath the chin to exaggerate the same effect and probably to ensure that the robe did not slip off his head and reveal his identity to the world.
He stood up and went to the window. He peered out without revealing himself in case anyone was watching.
The figure he was watching darted toward the walls and stopped. The figure looked both ways and darted every closing, stopping every few steps. At one point the figure stopped, turned around, and glanced behind him to see if anybody was following or as if he heard footsteps. Once he satisfied himself that nobody was in pursuit, he continued on his way once more.
A wind was blowing inland from the harbor. The figure was so absorbed worrying if somebody was following him that he forgot temporarily to clutch his hood. The wind caught him by surprise and blew it back ever so quickly revealing his head to the elements before he quickly clutched it and drew it quickly over his head once again.
Why, he knew that face anywhere! The silver dark hair blew in the breeze if for ever so brief an instant. Those pearl like eyes had shown with fright. Those molded cheeks had been revealed along with the narrow, sylph-like lips. Why, that had been Tanit! She could be here for only one reason. He had to follow her.
Quickly he threw on his own robe to conceal his visage and hurled himself down the stairs from his apartment and out onto the street. He fixed his eyes on the figure who had been out of his sight for only a few seconds and headed towards her inch by slow inch very carefully. It would ruin everything if she recognized him.
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Gaius Plans A Trip To Carthago Nova:
Gaius rode back to the Senate House in the Forum after his vain attempt to follow the escaping Carthaginian hostages who had revealed what they were up to in Carthago Nova. He had followed them to the edge of town where they seemed to disperse. Cato had been camped at the Senate House for hours. He had his slaves bring him dinner there along with dinner for all the other Senators.
Cato wore a perpetual frown. Gaius Antonius braced himself as he approached. He hated to deliver the bad news. Cato was already on the warpath. This news about the Carthaginians would push him over the edge. But Gaius could not hesitate. It was his duty. He could not allow the situation to delay his departure to Spain.
“Cato, I need to speak to you in private,” Gaius said in a low tone.
“What could possibly have gone wrong now?” Cato asked as they disappeared into a side chamber in the Senate House. He could feel the tense eyes of the other senators following them.
“Cato, it was all a subterfuge of the hostages. Tanit was behind it. She stole the map as I slept and substituted the version her fellow hostage had drawn in place of it.”
Cato listened carefully. “And what is the difference between the real drawings and the fake ones?”
“The ships. They were hiding the new fleet they have been building behind our backs,” he revealed.
Cato’s eyebrows shot up. “I knew it! The bastards want us to support them while they become battle-ready so they can defeat us in the end.”
““They obviously did not want us to find out. I captured something on my maps that no one was supposed to see. It was out in the open only through some carelessness on their part,” Gaius said.
“We will have to declare war right away!” Cato’s face darkened.
“Not so fast!” Gaius said the words he could not imagine saying to his mentor. No one mortal could restrain the tongue of the Roman Senate House.
Cato stared at him.
“Tanit has the maps that I drew. They are so valuable now that they are transporting them to New Carthage in Spain,” he explained.
“Where are they hiding the maps in New Carthage?” Cato asked the obvious question.
Gaius had to shrug. “I could not hear what they were saying. That is why I am now on my way to Spain to find out.”
Cato clapped him on the shoulder. “I always knew you were a lad of remarkable abilities.”
Cato told him how he would keep matters going here back in Rome, not letting anyone suspect what was going on. He would make more demands of the Carthaginians instead of declaring war right away. That should allow Gaius a couple months to make his trip and return to Rome with the news.
Gaius followed Cato out onto the Senate floor. He was in rare form. He demanded not only that the Carthaginians send all their weapons to Rome, but that they pay reparations again even though they had been doing so for fifty years and had just finished paying the previously imposed penalty.
Cato confided in Gaius Antonius that if the Carthaginians agreed, next he would push the Carthaginians to the wall. He would demand that they vacate their city state and go inland away from the sea. Rome would threaten to demolish the old city except for the grave yards. He smirked. What would the Carthaginians do then? Would they stoop so low to avoid the Roman ax? Or would they hurry to refurbish their fleet even faster?
“They won’t be suspicious about what you are doing,” Cato assured Gaius. “I will keep them so busy they won’t have time to even think to send spies to Carthago Nova.”
After that session of the Senate which extended to midnight with torches flaring and burning in the streets of the Forum as the Roman citizens gathered near, the next day Cato, Lavinia, and Gaius Antonius took off in secret for Ostia.
Cato briefed Gaius on the network of messengers he would create. He would send them to Cartegena, or New Carthage, to meet with Gaius every couple weeks. Gaius would stay in the main quarter by the harbor and see if he could pick up a trace of those maps from citizens in the street.
Cato supplied him with several bags of money even now to take with him for bribes. He would be willing to send a Roman military escort, but that might be too visible and would attract rumors and attention. That sort of thing would get back to the Carthaginians unfortunately.
“I will pray to the gods for your safety every day!” Lavinia said as she stood on the docks beside him.
Gaius embraced Lavinia. He did not know how that witch, Tanit, had ever attracted him with her wayward practices and ways. She had been trying to deceive him all along just to make off with his all too valuable maps. Now it was worth his life —- and perhaps Rome’s too —- to find those very maps again.
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Senator After Senator Yells “Treachery!”
Senator after senator was rising to his feet and shouting out the decisive word, “Treachery!” Gaius could hardly believe what was happening before his very eyes. It was practically a declaration of war against Carthage. Given the mood of the assembly, Gaius knew they would not retreat from it.
He tried to keep his mind clear and think and not be swept away by the general hysteria. He had to reach Cato’s country house quickly before the general news spread. He wanted to determine what Tanit knew about this. Was she aware that the details had been omitted in the new map? Did she know anything at all or had she found anything out since about his missing maps. He wanted to see if he could catch her before she was overwhelmed by the general mass hysteria.
Cato was still speaking when he left by the back door to the Senate House. He was declaring that either the Carthaginians return those maps or they would have to turn over not just one hundred hostages but also all their weapons and armaments. No sooner did he reach Cato’s town house than he ran into Lavinia.
She raced towards him, “Gaius, what has happened? I have heard that the Senate is up in arms about the Carthaginians.”
“Cato finally learned about the missing maps the hard way. He was giving a speech and asked for the maps. He discovered the mistake right in front of the assembled Senate,” Gaius tried to explain.
She shut her eyes and groaned as if she could picture it happening right in front of her eyes right now. “Oh, how unfortunate!”
“Now I am headed off to look for the hostages!” he announced.
“I hope there isn’t any danger?” she gripped hold of his tunic.
He shook his head. “The hostages are not armed in any way.”
He saddled his horse and rode off into the country. On his way out of town he saw people talking to each other by the side of the street, rumoring about what was going on in the Senate House. But as soon as he left the gates of Rome and was out where there were nothing but trees and rows of crops surrounding him, it all seemed to go away.
Still Gaius did not want to have himself announced when he reached Cato’s country house. He leaped down from the horse and tied it up himself. He sneaked into the main house. He could at once hear Tanit speaking to one of her confederates in the wing of the house where they were housed. He tiptoed up to the room and listened through the closed door to the conversation.
“Here take the map,” Tanit handed a young Carthaginian male who had come with her the secret documents that she had taken from Gaius while he slept. Now it was being revealed in the clearest way possible that she was responsible. “This is the one that Cato wants. I have just heard by secret messenger that they are in an uproar about it right now.”
“Where shall I take it?” the young man asked in suspense.
“Not back to Carthage,” she said decisively. “I am sure they will ransack the city searching for this. They must not find it there. Take it to New Carthage in Spain, Cartegena,” she said. She whispered low to him, and Gaius could not make out the rest of her words.
“I am off now. You may never see me again,” he declared.
She sounded as if she were kissing him on the cheek. “I will go with you. There will be nothing left for me remaining here. I will be suspect. I was trying to seduce that young man, Gaius Antonius, to see if I could pull the wool over his eyes. But it is too late now.”
Gaius clutched his fist. He wanted to put it through that seductive face of hers. But he didn’t dare now. He had to pay attention to details. If he confronted them now, they would obviously destroy the now irreplaceable documents.
“And those ships, the ones that Gaius Antonius saw and wasn’t supposed to see,” Tanit’s companion asked. “Where are they now?”
“They have been hidden from Roman view in case of another war. But let’s get out of here now before we are caught.”
He heard the door slam behind them.
He had to follow them to Spain. There was no doubt about it. He probably could order the guards to kill them now but that would destroy the one thing he must find —- the maps.
When he tried to follow them they seemed to leave no trail. He never saw them again. The magical Tanit vanished with her companion as if she were the Phoenician Goddess of the Moon who also bore her name, Tanit.
He would have to inform Cato and leave tonight for Hispania.
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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!”
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Cato Calls Upon Carthage To Make Peace With The Samnites:
The next day Cato packed up his household and transported it back to his city house in Rome. He left the hostages in place at his country estate under full military guard which he could command from a distance and took his niece, Lavinia, and Gaius Antonius with him.
Lavinia seemed to brighten up when she got away from Tanit. Gaius could tell. She looked forward to playing hostess to her uncle in Rome and forgetting all about the hostages. She brought him a hot cup of mulsum sweetened with honey. He immediately retired to his cozy study in Cato’s house and started to reconstruct his own maps from memory. He lay down Tanit’s maps, the one her friend drew as a replacement, face down on the desk beside him to use as a contrast/comparison guide.
Lavinia was hanging over his shoulder quietly watching him draw. She even took a seat beside him. When he paused she said, “Those drawings really do look different, don’t they?” She sipped her own honeyed mulsum.
So even Lavinia noticed it!
He nodded. “That is what I thought too. Why do you think I am going to all the trouble of drawing these maps again from memory? Cato won’t have a guide to what is actually there otherwise. He might miss some important detail.”
She nodded, following his train of thought. “Do you think one of the Carthaginians stole the map and then drew a fake map to replace it?” She stated the doubt that had been tormenting him all along since he had discovered the differences in the drawings.
“It is hard to say. They seemed to be quite willing to help us. The differences could be innocent enough, just a matter of emphasis and memory. Maybe some of the sailors do still dress the way they did fifty years ago for all we know. I only know what I happened to see myself. Then again there could be a mass conspiracy to prevent us from seeing something. I just cannot tell.”
“It is better to be prudent,” she agreed.
It was his private secret with Lavinia. Cato did not know about it. Gaius had not wanted to inform him. Who knew what Cato might not do if he found out? And Cato was on the war path anyway.
The next day Gaius accompanied Cato to the Senate House. He sat beside his father who was proud that his son had a role in the current proceedings.
Cato looked around at his audience one by one taking them in and forcing them to look into his eyes as he began to speak. He made it seem as if he were addressing each one of them individually.
“Carthage must make peace with its neighbors, the Samnites,” he began. “It must take instant measures before war breaks out. He must not permit that. For what if war breaks out and Carthage wins starting with the Samnites?” he started pacing around the Senate Chamber as he was wont to do when he was orating.
The Senators began to nod gravely as if appreciating the gravity of the problem facing them today.
“Carthage will once again be a power in the Mediterranean, Our Sea, the Roman Sea, and competition to us. This is the situation that occurred before the last war when they were defeated by Scipio Africanus.”
He stopped before Scipio Aemilianus, the adopted heir of Scipio Africanus. “This is what led to the elephants and the nightmare of invasion, the nightmare that Rome was to be invaded by Hannibal.”
Cato awoke the nightmares and the fears of the whole city state. All eyes were riveted on him.
“Before this nightmare can again become reality, we must send an emissary to Carthage, or rather a team, perhaps an armed contingent, to insist on peace negotiations. Our contingent must guide and direct them and report back to us.”
Everyone nodded again.
“We should set up a time schedule. Every few months Carthage must meet a new deadline for progress, or we should take something away from them. For one thing, they have finally finished their reparations. Maybe we should threaten to start them again.”
The chamber started to cheer. They rose to their feet clapping. A group of the senators approached Cato and lifted him up on their shoulders. They paraded around the chamber with this man of the hour. The acclamations were so loud that when they burst out of the Senate House into the Forum, citizens were gathered in a crowd listening and cheering, too.
Gaius felt certain that Cato could handle the Carthaginians and the Samnites if any man could. But when he thought of his missing maps, he remembered that the devil was in the details.
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Gaius Loses His Maps After The Banquet:
Lavinia waved at Gaius from the docks at Ostia as soon as their ship started to disembark. She raced up to meet him and threw her arms around his neck. He hugged her to him. They had not seen each other for several weeks.
“I knew you would return!” she enthused, jumping up and down. “I have been waiting for you every single day.” She kissed him on the cheek.
Gaius felt obliged to introduce Lavinia to Tanit who stood there calmly taking in the scene. “This is one of Cato’s hostages. There are one hundred of them all told. They are to spend the next year at Cato’s house while the Carthaginians make peace with their neighbors.”
“Hello, I am Tanit, only daughter of Hamilcar II,” Lavinia introduced herself.
Lavinia paused to take in the foreign princess in her midst. She examined her from head to toe. Gaius could tell she was not pleased.
“Indeed, how unusual!” Lavina exclaimed.
“I feel that I am an emissary for Carthage to tell Rome about our civilization,” Tanit continued.
“Well, you are welcome to our banquet,” Lavinia invited her and her other friends to Cato’s house in the country on his estate outside Rome.
Gaius could tell that Lavinia was only being polite. She did not like Tanit. Tanit was about her age but looked far more elegant in her attire. Gaius wished that he could assure Lavinia that proper Roman women did not have to ape foreign princesses and royalty. Rome had done away with that sort of thing ages ago. They did not have kings. They had consuls and senators instead.
They embarked in horse drawn carriages headed for Cato’s country villa in the Etruscan hills. Gaius figured it must be his imagination to see the Etruscan girl eyeing him from behind a tree as they turned up the road into the woods. He seemed to see her and many of her other Etruscan friends and confederates.
Cato’s servants had the welcoming banquet ready. Several senators had been invited for today’s welcoming reception. The hostages came forward one by one and introduced themselves, giving their name and family and said a little bit about themselves. Tanit went last. She held her audience spellbound for many minutes. The Senators started to clap.
Cato then called on Gaius to show the senators the maps he had drawn of the city and all its many buildings and harbor works.
Lavinia frowned as she sat beside Gaius at the banquet. It was as if she could somehow sense the impression the Carthaginian princess had made on her betrothed as well as the other men in the room other than say Cato himself who was indifferent to such feminine wiles. Lavinia and Gaius were engaged to be married at the first opportunity. Lavinia felt responsible for him as well as possessive.
Wine and foods of various sorts flowed freely until a very late hour. Gaius finally said good-night to everyone including his fiancee and retired to the room that had become his bedchamber at Cato’s estate. He feel asleep quickly, having been thoroughly exhausted by the trip and then the big banquet. He woke only partially in the middle of the night thinking he heard a sound. He dismissed it as a dream. But when he woke up the next morning he found his leather waist pack open on top of his dresser. He reached inside and found that the maps he had drawn in Carthage were gone —- mysteriously vanished into morning’s first light.
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