Roman Army More Destructive Than Atomic Bomb:
We read about Scipio Aemilianus, head of the Roman army, weeping at the end of the Third Punic War as he stood by the historian, Polybius, and supervised the systemic burning and destruction of Carthage. The last 50,000 citizens presented an olive branch to the Roman army and marched out of the doomed city to a life of slavery. Aemilianus quoted Homer about Troy. But Oppenheimer on July 16, 1945 when he watched the first nuclear explosion quoted Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds”. The atomic bomb is supposed to be the ultimate weapon destroying more than anything else. But really the Roman army at Carthage after the Third Punic War destroyed more —- and they didn’t even have guns or explosives at all!
Rome and the Roman army took apart a whole civilization and obliterated all traces of it. Nothing survived for very long, not even the art or culture after the last ruler of Carthage committed suicide and his wife threw her children into the flames and then leaped into the flames herself. But after World War 1 and World War 2 the defeated parties not only survived but prospered and in very short order, too. The United States and Britain didn’t burn all the German cities to the ground and enslave whole populations. Germany and Japan came right back after the war and became economic engines again. Rome and the Roman army would never have permitted this with Carthage.
We are commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War 1. Europe cannot get over the Battle of the Somme and other similar battles losing thousands of men. But Rome and the Roman army suffered more during the Second Punic War, especially during the Battle of Cannae, and got over it very quickly. Nor did it make Rome hate war and want to avoid it at all costs.
This attitude that somehow the past was more peaceful and the present more violent needs to be re-examined. It doesn’t fit the facts. The Punic Wars seem more horrible than either World War 1 or World War 2.
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Princess Tanit And Carthage Has Been Destroyed:
Gaius Antonius gave the order to retreat toward the Balearic Islands. There was no shame in it when they were so outnumbered. But considering the speed of the pursuing ships, he had better high tail it out of here quickly and in effect do the equivalent of a vanishing act. He caught the glare of Tanit and cursed her. He would not stop until she was dead. He had promised Cato.
He sailed back the way he had come with what looked like a whole navy coming after him. He sailed into a hidden cove on one of the more obscure Balearic Islands. His ship and the other one that had come with him were totally hidden by rocks. He sent a lookout up the cliff to conceal himself behind a tree and watch what the other navy did. He reported back not long after that they had sailed past the island all together.
Gaius Antonius had escaped to the Balearic Islands. A couple days later he sailed back into the port at Carthage. He told Scipio what had happened and how Tanit had almost led him into a trap. He swore he would capture her and make her pay or his name was not Cato.
As Scipio’s siege engines grew higher and higher until they were almost the height of the walls of Carthage itself, he saw Tanit appear on the walls again and again. Soldiers would appear and throw missiles down on the Romans to distract them when they were working on the siege engines, and the Princess Tanit would appear with them. She would raise above her head the souvenir she obviously took when she appeared in Rome at Cato’s latifundia. She must have been there in the room when his father was murdered. She was holding Cato’s other pen besides the one that had been clutched in his hand. It was an open insult.
At long last the siege engines were finished, and the city of Carthage was about ready to starve. Just as Scipio was giving the order to his legionaries to attack, an olive branch was seen on the walls. The ordinary folk of Carthage were surrendering. Scipio accepted their surrender, and the gates of the city opened wide as fifty thousand citizens marched out to surrender to the Roman legions and be made into slaves. Gaius knew that Tanit would not be among those numbers. She would never surrender.
When the final push came he entered the city behind his soldiers directing their activities as they pushed through the streets of Carthage taking building after building. They slaughtered the residents who had not surrendered floor by floor and then razed the buildings themselves as they progressed down the street. What was left in the rubble was burned after it had been thoroughly pillaged and sacked for valuables.
Gaius looked around and watched out of the corner of his eye to see if he could detect where Princess Tanit was hiding. They were approaching the royal palace. He gave the order to his soldiers to sack that structure next, which they were eager to do because of all the booty.
First they broke down the double doors. They ran against them repeatedly with a ram. When they finally gave way there stood a lone figure staring daggers at Gaius from the top of the gilded stairway. It was Princess Tanit! Gaius barked the orders to his soldiers to sack the first floor and pull off the gold ornaments and valuables from the walls and doors and furniture before they ascended to the next floor and the next and finally prepared to demolish the building. Then he raced up the stairs after Tanit himself.
She was as swift as a lynx running from room to room, but finally he pulled a rug out from under her feet and toppled her to the ground. He leaped on top of her and struggled from side to side while he tried to pry that pen from her right hand. He forced open her fingers and finally took back Cato’s second pen that he always used to write speeches before delivering them in the Senate House. Gaius could only imagine how many times this pen had written the words: Carthage must be destroyed.
Tanit took advantage of the opportunity to leap up while he was taking back the pen. She fled out onto the balcony attached to the upper level room of the Carthaginian royal palace.
Gaius followed her only to suddenly come upon the wife of the lead general of the Carthaginians, Hasdrubal, pontificating and prancing frantically back and forth on the balcony crying down to the Romans below. She decried her cowardly husband who had just surrendered to the Romans and could be seen kneeling at the feet of Scipio Aemilianus right this minute. She lifted up one of her children after the other and threw them into the burning city below. Then she climbed up onto the balcony and threw herself into the flames with a giant scream.
Princess Tanit backed up away from Gaius Antonius. She shook her head and cried out, “You shall never put your dirty hands on me again, Roman. You act like a colony of red ants crawling all over our city and pulling it down to the ground. But still I will not be your slave or your prisoner. Nor will I ever again have to look at or meet or be the prisoner of that madman, your father, who inspired all this destruction. At least I killed him, and I am glad I lived long enough to do so. It was no soldier who did it for me. It was this hand that wielded the bow and arrow that killed him.” She shouted out her final defiant brag to Gaius.
With that Tanit leaped up onto the balcony wall. She glared at Gaius for one second longer. Then she, too, leaped into the flames.
Gaius Antonius looked out over the burning city of Carthage. Flames leaped high. He saw the visage of his father rising like the sun over all. He spoke to him. “Father, just as you said, Carthage must be destroyed. Well, I am finally and at last reporting to you, Carthage has been destroyed.”
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Tanit Sails Away In The Middle Of The Night:
Gaius was so indignant about Tanit murdering his father in cold blood — the very man who had once paid host to her when she was visiting Rome and his latifundia — that he immediately scribbled a note and sent for Scipio Aemilianus though it was the middle of the night.
About an hour later Scipio arrived fully dressed in his military outfit. Gaius filled him in on what had just happened and how Tanit had outwitted them in the end and was now sailing away scott free at night.
“I think we should start sending the Roman navy to Carthage tomorrow,” Gaius insisted. “We cannot let her get away with murdering my father and not paying for the crime.”
Scipio nodded. “We will send the patrol boats to give them a scare. Of course the rest of the Roman army will be sailing within the week. We should all make it by Wednesday next.”
Gaius did not go back to bed that night. He worked straight way through packing his essentials for the campaign against Carthage. He wanted to leave with the advance boat to see if he could somehow catch Tanit before she arrived back in Carthage. He confided in Scipio that he wanted to go and why. And of course Scipio, the commander, honored his wish.
But as it turned out Gaius ended up sailing across the entire Mediterranean without once catching sight of the bitch of his creating. He had once flirted with her and encouraged her, making an absolute fool of himself. Fortunately nobody knew about it but himself and even that was too many people.
Days later they sailed into the port of Carthage, built as an amazing great circle in front of the city walls. It was now almost all emptied out. As they sailed up the last ships were disappearing out to sea. It would not do them much good. Soon they would not be able to bring in provisions no matter what.
Gaius gazed out to sea. He hoped one of those boats was not Tanit. He did not want her to escape.
Scipio was an experienced expert at siege warfare. They at once began constructing great siege engines. It was a slow way to get vengeance but a more certain one that trying to make attacks and enter the city prematurely. But still he worried about Tanit.
“Scipio, I would like to take a ship or two and follow that last Carthaginian ship out of the harbor,” Gaius explained. “I think it may be the princess of Carthage who stayed at Cato’s house as a hostage and a guest and then turned on him and murdered him in cold blood.”
Of course Scipio gave his permission as the leading general. Gaius set sail in the direction the ship had escaped.
But the ship proved very elusive and hard to follow just like Tanit. It would appear on the horizon far ahead of them only from time to time and then mysteriously disappear again. It only appeared often enough so that they could still follow it. And it was progressing quite a distance, too. It was obviously not headed for a neighboring port such as the Samnites.
He headed out onto the open sea wondering if Tanit would lead him to a secret stash of weapons or soldiers that he should know about. It took a couple days where he would catch sight of the ship and once again it would elude him. And another restless night would pass.
All too soon he found himself back in Spanish waters approaching the port of New Carthage. But low and behold, no sooner did the port come in view than he saw a Phoenician navy massed there to greet him. All the ships looked like the one he had drawn for Cato not that long ago. He had brought only two Roman ships with him. He had followed Tanit into a trap. Worse, he could catch sight of the Princess herself on the upper deck next to the captain. Her hand was clapped over her mouth. She was laughing at him. Her eyes were full of evil mirth — and fire.
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Scipio Aemilianus Chosen To Lead Expedition:
The next weeks were spent in such a hustle and bustle that Gaius hardly remembered either his old name or his new. He and Lavinia were married almost right away with the full Senate in attendance. But instead of bringing her home to his real father’s and mother’s house, they stayed in the house where she had grown up as Cato’s ward, Cato’s house. Scipio Aemilianus was picked to lead the expedition to Carthage. He was the adopted heir of Scipio Africanus, the hero of the Second Punic War. Gaius was given the rank of a tribune under Scipio.
Soldiers were taking on supplies. The Roman navy was repairing its vessels and buffing them up to make the journey across the Mediterranean Sea. Gaius Antonius and his fellow officers were taking the new and raw recruits out of town into the surrounding countryside to practice basic military maneuvers and exercises every day.
That morning before he left Cato’s house in town (they had not gone out to the latifundia lately because of all the military activity and meetings of the Senate) Cato summoned him into his office. He said, “The Roman army should plan to set sail for Carthage in about a week’s time. We don’t want to allow them too much time to take on supplies and build up their navy.”
“I am sure that sounds like the wisest course of action,” Gaius said to his new father.
They had held a big dinner for all the senators and their families only a few days ago right before the wedding. At the dinner Cato had declared that Gaius Antonius would be his new son and would carry his name and inherit his fortune and his lands. He would also take his place in the Senate when the time came, though everyone knew that no one could really do that. Certain papers and documents had been signed and witnessed. They had been handed over to the Vestal Virgins to keep in the House of the Vestal Virgins.
He promised Cato that he would do his best to stick on schedule. He was never more surprised than when in the middle of his military exercises his new wife, Lavinia, appeared on horseback. He excused himself and rushed over to her.
She hurried up to him with an expression of consternation on her face. “Gaius, Cato has been murdered!” she shouted.
He could hardly credit what she was saying. “What on earth are you talking about?” he asked his wife. “I just got done talking to him about leaving for Carthage within a week’s time!”
She gripped his military vest. “I went into his office to talk to him after luncheon. He was lying slumped on his writing desk. At first I thought he was asleep. But then I saw the arrow in his shoulder.”
Gaius could not take it all in. But he knew he had to act right away. He returned to his unit briefly to make his excuses that family matters had to be attended to. He was not going to repeat what his wife had said until he saw what was going on with his own two eyes. He saddled his own horse and followed her back into town to Cato’s house.
He hurried into his new father’s study. Things were just as she had told him. Only a frightened slave had hurriedly been appointed to watch things and make sure nothing was disturbed until they got back. He hurried up to Lavinia and practically hung on her for reassurance while Gaius dashed right up to Cato.
He took Cato by the shoulders and shook him, calling upon his name, “Cato, Cato, speak to me!” In life that was the most important thing he always did —- speak. His eyes were staring as lifeless as Lavinia had told him. But unlike Lavinia his eyes caught sight of a notepad next to Cato’s hand which was still holding his pen, very fitting to the last. On a piece of papyrus he had managed to scrawl, “The Carthaginians have killed me —- shot me through the window. Carthago delenda est.”
Indeed when Gaius turned the window in question was still open. He went to look and horrifyingly enough he could still detect the presence of human feet in the dust. They had left their incriminating shoe prints behind. Not that he would ever doubt what his father said, but this was all too accurate to be borne.
Gaius could not ask Cato what to do now. Cato was no more. He was now Cato. People would look to him to act as his father would have.
Keeping his wits about him he summoned Scipio Aemilianus to his house right away. Scipio rushed away from the military field and came right away. When he saw what tragedy had occurred he immediately decided, “We must sail even sooner than one week against Carthage.”
Gaius nodded. “I would whole heartedly agree. That is what Cato would have said.”
The next day they arranged for Cato’s funeral in the Forum in front of all Rome because this was a decisive event in the history of the Roman Republic. Many would always remember this day and tell their children and children’s children about it.
Gaius made a speech as the funeral pyre was lighted and Cato joined his noble ancestors. “On this day Rome resolves to do whatever it takes to defeat our mortal enemy, Carthage.”
“We should not have allowed them to pay reparations for the past fifty years. Then this horrible tragedy would not have occurred,” he said.
Again the mob cheered.
“Now we must complete what we started in the time of our grandfathers. And in the words of my father, the great man that all Rome depended upon to see the right course for it to follow, the very last words that the dying man wrote on this piece of papyrus for us all to see after he had been struck by an arrow —- Carthago delenda est. Carthage must be destroyed.”
Gaius waved Cato’s last paper in the air over his head. The mob errupted into vengeful cheers that seemed to raise the roofs of the surrounding buildings. They did not stop shouting until Cato’s funeral was over and he was buried in a family mausoleum along the Appian Way.
The entire city state was mobilized as never before. They were all resolved to avenge Cato’s death by destroying Carthage. They had determined to leave Rome in five days’ time.
But the very next night his wife, Lavinia, awoke him. They had retired for one night to the latifundia to enlist the slaves who would go with them to war and not be left behind along with the small tenant farmers surrounding Cato’s estate. She complained that she was having a strange dream that made her restless and would not let her sleep. She kept on thinking that something or somebody was outside the window.
That was only natural considering what had just happened to her Uncle Cato. She urged her husband to look. Then she pointed leaning out the window herself. “Look down there at the sea! Look at that ship!”
Gaius followed Lavinia’s pointed finger. She indeed had a keen eye. He recognized the ship immediately under a bright moon. It was the very ship that he had drawn on the map for Cato, the one with the big sails. And he did not think he was imagining it when he thought he recognized the woman’s figure on the prow of the ship as it passed underneath the headland at the edge of the latifundia. Why, that was Tanit! She had returned to Rome to murder Cato.
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Cato Wants To Adopt Gaius Antonius As His Son And Heir:
After the Senate declared war on Carthage, Cato summoned Gaius Antonius back to his house on Palatine Hill. As his niece and social hostess, Lavinia met Gaius at the door and threw her arms around him in welcome. She hugged him to her and kissed both his cheeks. She whispered into his ear, “We are to be married very soon.”
Is that what Cato was going to tell him? Gaius was very surprised. But he would reserve his judgement to see what the elder senator brought up. He proceeded directly through the atrium into the garden where Cato was awaiting him at a table set up with refreshments. He could see Lavinia still behind him hanging around a Doric pillar watching everything he did with intense interest.
“I suspect we must choose a general and be off,” Cato waved his arms about. “But before you set off as all the young men must do all with new military ranks, I want to adopt you, Gaius Antonius, as my son and heir.”
Gaius Antonius’s mouth fell open in surprise. He had certainly not expected anything like this to happen! To be adopted by the leading man of his time, the most famous of all living Romans, the author of the first prose work in Latin to boot! It was a Roman custom and was not all that rare to adopt as a son and heir a young man who had just grown up and was the right age even when his own father was still living. But Gaius had certainly never thought it would be happening to him of all people.
Cato held up his hand. “We can deal with all the surprise reactions later, but for me this is serious. I am now old enough to be practically the only man serving in the Senate who actually fought in the Second Punic War. I am no general and I am too old to fight again. After all, I am now in my late seventies and almost eighty! I have no wife and no son of my own, and considering the part I have played in the early stages of this war already . . . “
Gaius Antonius broke out in exclamation, “Of course you have practically guided and directed it more than even a general could. If it had not been for you, the Carthaginians would be building ships behind our noses and who knows what would happen!” he said. “By the time anybody else besides you detected what the problem was it might be too late. The Carthaginians might be at Ostia with their fleet. They might find another Hannibal to bring more elephants across the Alps Mountains into Italy and start attacking all our allies and all our fellow city states. And this time we might actually get defeated because of our own stupidity.”
Cato again held up his hand. “Many besides me have whispered to themselves about this festering problem with the Carthaginians. But only I have had the oratorical skills and the position in the state to bring about where we are now.”
“That is what I have said, no more no less!” Gaius broke out.
“I think it is fitting you go into battle representing me because of the way you have assisted me so far in preparing for this war and because of the way you just risked your life going to New Carthage and rescuing that map that you drew yourself,” Cato spoke. “So you can represent not only your own real father but me as well. That is why I want to adopt you.”
Lavinia sneaked into the room uninvited and waited only a few steps away for Gaius Antonius’s response. She had her hands tightly clutched together in suspense.
Cato and Lavinia traded looks. After all, Lavinia was his niece.
Gaius became aware that they were both waiting for his response. “Of course I accept!” he managed to stammer out. “I would be crazy to refuse such an offer.” He knew that his own real father who was only a minor senator would be very pleased if Gaius took on Cato’s name.
Cato nodded as if he had expected as much. “Of course we will have to hold the ceremony amidst all the bustle of war preparation.” He looked towards his niece. “And I think we will hold a wedding as well.”
Lavinia flew at Gaius Antonius and threw herself into his arms as he stood up to embrace her.
“We will invite all the senators and their relatives and use the banquet as another means of war preparation,” Gaius could see the great man’s brain turning and making plans with every happening and every turn of fate.
Gaius went home that evening and announced the amazing piece of good luck to his real mother and father. They were so overjoyed to hear that Cato wanted to adopt their son that they could hardly contain themselves. Now his father would be recognized as one of Cato’s chief friends and allies and would take precedence at all banquets and be seated next to the great man. Best of all, he could move his seat in the Senate House next to Cato’s. Everyone would envy his piece of good luck to have bred and raised a son like Gaius Antonius to make the Antonii clan famous. It would now be mentioned prominently in all the historical records of Rome and by historians long after his time.
Gaius took Lavinia with him for the first time to meet her new in laws. They were wowed by her education and graces and hosted her as a guest overnight, the woman who was soon to become their daughter-in-law.
That night as Gaius retired to be he thought of his habit of sketching everything and drawing and what had come of it. He thought of the map he had made of Carthage and of the Carthaginian ship. It was obviously the most important thing he had ever done in his life. And if he had two lifetimes, it was the most important thing in both. He would have to think of what to do next to honor his new name, Cato.
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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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