The Carthaginians Say No To Cato:
Cato and the rest of the senators poured into the Senate House in the Forum early the next day to send their decree to the Carthaginians. They were anxious to send their final demands to the errant city state of Carthage in North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea. For the sake of the few senators who had not made it to his latifundia the day before for the grand banquet and for the sake of the plebeians outside gathered around the Senate House, Cato again rose and made his speech.
He explained to the assembled mobs why Rome had to take the step of asking Carthage to vacate its city state location on the Mediterranean, which was after all to each Roman “Our Sea” and not to be shared with enemies. He explained how the Roman soldiers would burn down what remained and tear apart the very walls and ramparts, leaving only the cemeteries for the pagan gods. And they would establish a permanent patrol tower on the coast to make sure that the Carthaginians did not sneak back and start rebuilding their troublesome city state once more.
The plebs in the Forum shouted out their agreement with Cato’s words. After all, they had been the foot soldiers in the ranks during the last war with Carthage and the Carthaginians. They also had cherished family memories.
“My grandfather lived to tell about Cannae!” one of the plebs called. “The last thing he did before he went to bed every night was to curse the Carthaginians. He used to have a new imprecation every time we listened to him. I have a whole list of them.” The pleb was standing right outside the main Senate House door. He shouted straight into it.
Cato left his seat from which he had been speaking to the assembled body of senators. He brushed past the others down the aisle out to the door. He took the unprecedented step of inviting the plebeian from the streets of Rome to enter the august chamber. He led him to his place from which he had been speaking.
“Speak to the Senate,” Cato urged him. “Tell them what you are telling your confederates about the damned Carthaginians.”
The commoner was astounded. He gaped around in amazement at the most important men in Rome. He looked as if he never imagined to find himself in such a place and had to find his own sense of gravity. He finally managed to find his tongue.
“My grandfather survived Cannae only to serve under Scipio Africanus. He came home to Rome to celebrate the triumph over the Carthaginians. It was the greatest day of his life. He would not want us Romans to lose what we achieved that day. That is all I wanted to say. And if it were up to me I would do as this senator asks you to do. He knows what he is talking about.”
The senators cheered the plebeian in their midst. Gaius thought it was probably just as well. If it came to war, these men would be the recruits and the foot soldiers who would serve in the army. They had to feel that it was their city state as well.
The plebs outside broke into such a cheer that it continued for the rest of the afternoon without any intermission at all. In the meantime the senators voted to send messengers to Carthage and the Carthaginians with the demands of the Roman Senate. No one really expected them to accept the terms, but there was always the chance. They had already sent hostages, though the hostages had escaped, and not every city state would have done that. They had even sent weapons, though they had probably been taken from somebody else. And they had finished paying their reparations which showed their wealth. Other states would have been bogged down forever with a burden like that. Perhaps they would seem to accept this demand too so that secretly they could go about building up weapons and ships to defy the Romans. No one would be surprised if the Carthaginians were not honest.
It did not take more than a couple weeks before the news arrived back from the African side of the Mediterranean. The messengers had been murdered. All the Roman merchants who had the bad luck to be trading with Carthage that day had been massacred. Captured Romans had been dragged out on top of the walls of the city. In full view of the messenger ship in the harbor as well as all the other ships from other lands Roman victims had been openly tortured, killed, and thrown over the walls into the sea. Carthage’s answer had been no they would not leave their city state behind and move ten miles inland. And to prove what they said, they were declaring war on Rome.
Cato once again assembled the senators in the Senate House. He invited inside what was left of the team of messengers that Rome had sent to Carthage several weeks ago. They told their tale in vivid words about what they had seen.
“Gentlemen,” Cato finally spoke out. “I think we have lived to see it. The Third Punic War has begun.”
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Cannae Rises Like A Specter At Midnight:
Cato had planned the banquet for the senators well. His own grape vintage flowed copiously. The servants poured into the banquet hall serving game fowl and pork roast along with a selection of shellfish for an appetizer.
Late into the night the wine flowed and course after course was served as Cato passed around the drawing that Gaius Antonius had made that memorable day in Carthage standing by Cato’s side. Each poured over it and nodded, and Gaius’s own father, one of the senators, held up his head proudly that his son had such an important part in today’s meeting. Even more important than making the drawing in the beginning, Gaius had just risked his life getting the stolen document back from the Carthaginians once more.
Lavinia, seated as the one of the only women at the large banquet by Gaius’s side (a few other senators’ wives had also tagged along to the big event) , she spent the whole time gazing at him with adoration in her eyes. Occasionally she squeezed his hand under the table when one of the senators complimented him on the details in his amazing drawing that had turned out to be so decisive in deciding the course of action for Rome.
“Amazing that one so young would have such an eagle’s eye!” one senator shook his head.
“Thank the gods that Cato chose him to accompany the expedition. If he had not come, we would not have all the details we need about the Carthaginian army and navy on the move,” remarked another.
“And all their diabolical plans!” shouted still another.
Five others nodded grimly.
The map never ceased to circulate as afternoon waxed into evening. Cato hardly had to direct or encourage them. They all had grandfathers who had fought in the Second Punic War against the worst enemy Rome had ever faced, Hannibal, son of the ruler of Carthage. He had invaded Italy with a fabulous, legendary host of wild African elephants that he had made part of his infamous cavalry.
“My grandfather always told me that a man who fights with elephants, jungle animals, is not civilized and cannot be trusted,” one senator lamented.
“Not only the general cannot be trusted,” quipped Cato, “the whole city state, the whole Phoenician people, the whole civilization cannot be trusted. They are foul from beginning to end, the troops of some Goddess of the Moon and Goddess of the Underworld that they follow who demands obscene child sacrifice practices. It is said that outside their city is one of the largest graveyards you have ever seen or could ever imagined filled with the bones of the children of Carthage.”
He passed around an artifact he had brought back from Carthage. It was an embodiment of Tanit, the savage Moon Goddess, the wife of the chief god, Baal Hammon, whom the Princess Tanit they had both met had been named after. The Romans shuddered at the visage of such an un-Olympian deity without any grace, beauty, or noble purpose.
These gods and goddesses were crude indeed. Cato passed around the statue of another and another that he had obtained at Carthage. One looked like a sphinx. Others were mere beasts without the noble human form. He was trying to enrage the senators about the Carthaginians, and he was succeeding.
“My grandfather died at the Battle of Cannae in southern Italy,” one senator asserted. “My family commemorates the day and the hour to this day. We always present food to the dead as well as gifts. We sit there near his urn and talk to his bones about the battle. It is a noble act, an important sacrifice, so that we can sit here today and eat this banquet and that our homes are not destroyed and burned by the barbarian army.”
“Here! Here!” the senators cheered.
Each broke into a story about his own relative who had taken part in the worst defeat Rome had ever known in its history since it was founded in 753 B.C. by Romulus and Remus, six hundred years before the present date of 149 B.C. That was the Battle of Cannae.
“My grandfather was part of the front line of the infantry. They kept on advancing and advancing into the field as they always did. Suddenly there were Carthaginians on every side wearing those savage masks and looking like a legion of the dead attacking them. They were cut down on every side without a chance of escape. My grandfather was wounded, and he thought he was dead. He only survived because he somehow managed to escape from the field of the dead at Cannae while the Carthaginian soldiers were cutting down the last of the surviving Romans some distance away.”
Others talked of how the soldiers surrounding their grandfathers huddled together and waited for the end. When the end proved too much of a strain for their nerves, they decided not to wait to be hacked apart. They dug their own graves in the middle of the field and buried themselves first.
Late at night Cato finally held up his hands. “We Romans here today in the year 149 B.C. all are the successors of those who fought in that horrible war and that terrible Battle of Cannae which we finally managed to win. The last thing our ancestors would have wanted us to do would be to succumb to the savage horde once again. Now that we have them down we ought to keep them down forever and not let them rise again.” Cato spoke as he rose from his seat. “As I have said time and time again, for our own good, for the good of our city state, for the good of our future generations, for the good of Italy herself, Carthago delenda est, Carthage must be destroyed.”
The senators all rose to their feet cheering. The next day they all returned to Rome. They marched into the Senate House. Cato rose and made a speech just as everybody expected. “The Carthaginians are the Phoenicians, and as such they are wedded to the sea. The Phoenician seafaring traditions are what have caused us all this trouble over the years since Hannibal took ship and came to Italy through Spain and over the Alps from Gaul to fight at Cannae.”
They all nodded in assent as Cato continued.
“So we will give the Carthaginians their last chance to redeem themselves. They have sent hostages who then escaped stealing our maps. They sent weapons here which they probably pillaged from somebody else. Now let them agree to leave their city state forever, Carthage by the sea, and move inland at least ten miles or so and build another city there. We will sail to Africa and demolish Carthage. The Carthaginians will never be a seafaring folk again.”
Cato’s proposal was met with great applause that lasted many minutes before he could raise his hands for silence and speak again. “It will be Carthage’s fault if there is another war. They will have asked for it by building naval ships that they were not allowed to build according to our treaty and then refusing to move inland to avoid future conflicts.”
Cato’s assertion met with such acclamation and applause that it in effect ended the Senate session. It lasted over an hour and did not stop once. Rome had finally made up its mind for good.
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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.
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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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