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.
Leave a reply
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.
Leave a reply
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.
Leave a reply
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.
Leave a reply
Senate: The War Against The Samnites Must End:
Cato sent the first Senate decree to the Carthaginians to end the war against the Samnites. He wanted them to receive the messenger and see that the Senate was resolved to prevent them from carrying on their current war with the Samnites. They must end it and now. He also hoped that they would notice that a time limit for negotiations had been established. Rome was determined to supervise the peace negotiations. Every two months they would send out a delegation that would force a meeting between the two warring parties. They would meet first in Carthage and then in the Samnites territory, alternating back and forth until all talks were completed.
The delegates sent from Rome with such authority would report back to the Senate and give reports about the progress.
Everyone waited with great alacrity for the first report which came in about one month. Things were speeded for that one to jump start matters. Cato made sure of it. He held a Senate meeting and read out his demand and the Carthaginian response.
Scowling around at the Senate House Cato read his charge and accusation: “You, Carthaginians under King Hasdrubal, have deliberately started to rebuild your navy and your army to recover from the Second Punic War. I saw evidence of it when I was personally visiting Carthage to escort the hostages back to Rome. You had new ships of a new design right in the harbor. I surprised you and found them. So before you get carried away and you start to retake your old position in the Mediterranean, the Senate insists that you make peace with the Samnites and disarm. We will need evidence of your disarming forthwith.”
The Senators all nodded gravely.
Cato broke the seal for the Carthaginian response. He read it aloud. “King Hasdrubal of Carthage reasserts his firm loyalty to the Roman command. Ever since the last war the city of Carthage has taken a new path to develop its trade routes. It wants to make sure that it finished paying his indemnity to Rome, and that much as been accomplished. All we are trying to do now is to build up our trade routes, not our old military command.”
Cato again glared around at the Senate assembled in front of him. “This is obviously a big lie!” he insisted. “The Carthaginians were beginning to fashion new warships. We saw them in the harbor in Carthage the last time we were there.”
The Senate nodded.
Cato glared at Gaius Antonius as he sat there. “Hand over your drawings!” he commanded him.
Gaius should have seen Cato’s request coming. He had been commanded to carry around the maps with him wherever he went in case Cato should need them. Now he was calling upon him. Gaius could not prevent the disaster that was now upon him. There was no way that he could warn Cato now. He had not done so before because of the man’s reaction and to give himself time to figure out what to do. The demand for the maps had come sooner than he could have expected. And now he was being caught short.
Gaius rose and handed over the maps drawn by Tanit’s friend and compatriot from Carthage.
Cato took the maps unsuspectingly. Gaius’s eyes were full of anxiety. But Cato was intent on his purpose and did not read the anxiety there. Or he misinterpreted it and thought Gaius was merely intent on his speech and anxious about the Carthaginians.
“There was a new naval ship in the harbor at Carthage. Gaius’s sharp eye caught it. It is displayed in his drawing. I will post the drawing up here at the podium. You can come around and see it one by one.”
But that was never to be. Cato opened the map and searched. He could not find what he was looking for. He scowled and summoned Gaius to him.The Senate broke into murmurs.
“Cato,” he had to confess, “the maps were stolen while I slept! These are replacements drawn by one of Tanit’s Carthaginians.”
Cato’s eyes bulged from his head. He declared to the Senate House. “Gaius Antonius tells me that the maps drawn by him have been stolen. A fake replica has been substituted for them. Treachery!” Cato declared as he pointed his finger upward.
The senators looked around at each other. They nodded sternly. They rose to their feet and repeated his words, crying, “Treachery!”
Leave a reply
Cato Calls Upon Carthage To Make Peace With The Samnites:
The next day Cato packed up his household and transported it back to his city house in Rome. He left the hostages in place at his country estate under full military guard which he could command from a distance and took his niece, Lavinia, and Gaius Antonius with him.
Lavinia seemed to brighten up when she got away from Tanit. Gaius could tell. She looked forward to playing hostess to her uncle in Rome and forgetting all about the hostages. She brought him a hot cup of mulsum sweetened with honey. He immediately retired to his cozy study in Cato’s house and started to reconstruct his own maps from memory. He lay down Tanit’s maps, the one her friend drew as a replacement, face down on the desk beside him to use as a contrast/comparison guide.
Lavinia was hanging over his shoulder quietly watching him draw. She even took a seat beside him. When he paused she said, “Those drawings really do look different, don’t they?” She sipped her own honeyed mulsum.
So even Lavinia noticed it!
He nodded. “That is what I thought too. Why do you think I am going to all the trouble of drawing these maps again from memory? Cato won’t have a guide to what is actually there otherwise. He might miss some important detail.”
She nodded, following his train of thought. “Do you think one of the Carthaginians stole the map and then drew a fake map to replace it?” She stated the doubt that had been tormenting him all along since he had discovered the differences in the drawings.
“It is hard to say. They seemed to be quite willing to help us. The differences could be innocent enough, just a matter of emphasis and memory. Maybe some of the sailors do still dress the way they did fifty years ago for all we know. I only know what I happened to see myself. Then again there could be a mass conspiracy to prevent us from seeing something. I just cannot tell.”
“It is better to be prudent,” she agreed.
It was his private secret with Lavinia. Cato did not know about it. Gaius had not wanted to inform him. Who knew what Cato might not do if he found out? And Cato was on the war path anyway.
The next day Gaius accompanied Cato to the Senate House. He sat beside his father who was proud that his son had a role in the current proceedings.
Cato looked around at his audience one by one taking them in and forcing them to look into his eyes as he began to speak. He made it seem as if he were addressing each one of them individually.
“Carthage must make peace with its neighbors, the Samnites,” he began. “It must take instant measures before war breaks out. He must not permit that. For what if war breaks out and Carthage wins starting with the Samnites?” he started pacing around the Senate Chamber as he was wont to do when he was orating.
The Senators began to nod gravely as if appreciating the gravity of the problem facing them today.
“Carthage will once again be a power in the Mediterranean, Our Sea, the Roman Sea, and competition to us. This is the situation that occurred before the last war when they were defeated by Scipio Africanus.”
He stopped before Scipio Aemilianus, the adopted heir of Scipio Africanus. “This is what led to the elephants and the nightmare of invasion, the nightmare that Rome was to be invaded by Hannibal.”
Cato awoke the nightmares and the fears of the whole city state. All eyes were riveted on him.
“Before this nightmare can again become reality, we must send an emissary to Carthage, or rather a team, perhaps an armed contingent, to insist on peace negotiations. Our contingent must guide and direct them and report back to us.”
Everyone nodded again.
“We should set up a time schedule. Every few months Carthage must meet a new deadline for progress, or we should take something away from them. For one thing, they have finally finished their reparations. Maybe we should threaten to start them again.”
The chamber started to cheer. They rose to their feet clapping. A group of the senators approached Cato and lifted him up on their shoulders. They paraded around the chamber with this man of the hour. The acclamations were so loud that when they burst out of the Senate House into the Forum, citizens were gathered in a crowd listening and cheering, too.
Gaius felt certain that Cato could handle the Carthaginians and the Samnites if any man could. But when he thought of his missing maps, he remembered that the devil was in the details.
Leave a reply
Tanit Substitutes A New Map of Carthage:
Gaius rushed around his bedchamber, thinking that when he was getting undressed he might have misplaced the all-important maps of Carthage. But nowhere did he see them.
He summoned the servants and told them that important, irreplaceable papers were missing from his waist pack. The lead servant lined up the others and chastised them. But that made little sense. The servants had not been inside his room overnight —- or had they? When he was finished making nasty remarks, the servants were set loose to find them. Some stayed in the room and searched there. Another team went about the whole house looking. Still a third team was sent to look outside in the immediate environs of the villa for the maps of Carthage.
In all the noise and confusion Lavinia descended upon him. “What has happened?” she asked big-eyed.
He explained that the maps that everybody had been admiring during dinner last night were missing. She instantly glanced back over her shoulder towards that banquet table in the triclinium where now various members of Cato’s household were assembling for the morning meal. He heard the sparkling laugh of the Carthaginian Princess, Tanit. She was talking to her compatriots.
“Do you think that one of them took the maps?” she asked.
“I don’t think they would have dared to misbehave like that and break the terms of the time here,” he said. “And so soon too! After all, they just arrived here yesterday.”
Cato overheard the discussion and stopped by Gaius’s room. Gaius knew how much the maps of Carthage had meant to him. That had been the sole reason he had asked Gaius to accompany him on his voyage to Carthage.
“I had come to ask you for the maps so I could hide them in a safe place,” Cato said. “And they are gone already?” he could hardly believe it.
Gaius had to nod sadly. “They disappeared while I slept,” he showed Cato his empty waist pack. He even shook it out to demonstrate just how empty it was.
Cato looked back towards the table full of “guests” himself and vowed, “We will find those maps or none of our guests will be free to move around the estate.”
Cato had a loud voice. Tanit must have picked up on his frowns. She appeared at his side in a twinkling. “What is the matter here?” she asked.
“The maps are missing that were shown here at dinner time last night,” Cato eyed her.
“The fine maps of Carthage?” she looked horrified. “One of our number here has been trained in drawing,” she confessed. “I will have him replace your maps from memory. He lives right near the harbor back at home. We would not want anyone not to have pictures of our homeland. It makes me homesick just to think of it.”
She hurried back to the table where her confederates sat and explained the situation in rapid Phoenician. The young man set to work right away. Everyone was fascinated and stood over his shoulder glancing at the progress of the work. The morning meal was served and gone while he worked through half of the morning. Gaius was amazed at his skill. The drawings looked much better and much more detailed than anything he had produced with his hasty stylus while at Carthage. He found even Cato poring over them carefully.
Later that day Gaius was assembling the new drawings so Cato could put them in a safe place when he noticed something odd. The Roman naval vessel which had taken them there was in the harbor next to a Carthaginian war ship. But the ship did not look the same as the one he remembered. It lacked as many oars. It was not quite as big. He looked at it from all sorts of angles to make sure. And this was not what he remembered at all.
That clued him into studying the other details in the drawing. He noticed the outfits of the sailors on the ships. They seemed to be garbed in attire current a few decades before during the Second Punic War. They were not the outfits he remembered seeing on the spot a couple weeks ago.
He did not know the extent of the differences right now. Cato was expecting him back with the maps and drawings. He would have to look at them later.
Had this been done or purpose? Or what? He would have to keep the reservation to himself and see.
Leave a reply
Gaius Loses His Maps After The Banquet:
Lavinia waved at Gaius from the docks at Ostia as soon as their ship started to disembark. She raced up to meet him and threw her arms around his neck. He hugged her to him. They had not seen each other for several weeks.
“I knew you would return!” she enthused, jumping up and down. “I have been waiting for you every single day.” She kissed him on the cheek.
Gaius felt obliged to introduce Lavinia to Tanit who stood there calmly taking in the scene. “This is one of Cato’s hostages. There are one hundred of them all told. They are to spend the next year at Cato’s house while the Carthaginians make peace with their neighbors.”
“Hello, I am Tanit, only daughter of Hamilcar II,” Lavinia introduced herself.
Lavinia paused to take in the foreign princess in her midst. She examined her from head to toe. Gaius could tell she was not pleased.
“Indeed, how unusual!” Lavina exclaimed.
“I feel that I am an emissary for Carthage to tell Rome about our civilization,” Tanit continued.
“Well, you are welcome to our banquet,” Lavinia invited her and her other friends to Cato’s house in the country on his estate outside Rome.
Gaius could tell that Lavinia was only being polite. She did not like Tanit. Tanit was about her age but looked far more elegant in her attire. Gaius wished that he could assure Lavinia that proper Roman women did not have to ape foreign princesses and royalty. Rome had done away with that sort of thing ages ago. They did not have kings. They had consuls and senators instead.
They embarked in horse drawn carriages headed for Cato’s country villa in the Etruscan hills. Gaius figured it must be his imagination to see the Etruscan girl eyeing him from behind a tree as they turned up the road into the woods. He seemed to see her and many of her other Etruscan friends and confederates.
Cato’s servants had the welcoming banquet ready. Several senators had been invited for today’s welcoming reception. The hostages came forward one by one and introduced themselves, giving their name and family and said a little bit about themselves. Tanit went last. She held her audience spellbound for many minutes. The Senators started to clap.
Cato then called on Gaius to show the senators the maps he had drawn of the city and all its many buildings and harbor works.
Lavinia frowned as she sat beside Gaius at the banquet. It was as if she could somehow sense the impression the Carthaginian princess had made on her betrothed as well as the other men in the room other than say Cato himself who was indifferent to such feminine wiles. Lavinia and Gaius were engaged to be married at the first opportunity. Lavinia felt responsible for him as well as possessive.
Wine and foods of various sorts flowed freely until a very late hour. Gaius finally said good-night to everyone including his fiancee and retired to the room that had become his bedchamber at Cato’s estate. He feel asleep quickly, having been thoroughly exhausted by the trip and then the big banquet. He woke only partially in the middle of the night thinking he heard a sound. He dismissed it as a dream. But when he woke up the next morning he found his leather waist pack open on top of his dresser. He reached inside and found that the maps he had drawn in Carthage were gone —- mysteriously vanished into morning’s first light.
Leave a reply
Tanit Haunts Gaius All The Way Back To Rome:
Tanit haunted Gaius on the return trip to Rome. She was never more than a few feet away. She was always at his elbow. She was frequently playing an instrument that resembled a lyre, holding it to her cheek and singing in the Carthaginian language which seemed mysterious to him and which he could not understand. But her lilting melodies haunted him throughout the day and even the night.
Cato was deaf and dumb to such things and went about his business on the deck commanding the ship’s officers and the captain all the way back to Italy.
In the meantime Gaius was afraid that they had taken aboard some pagan goddess, the one named Tanit herself, the Moon Goddess. He was wondering what the Carthaginians had sent to Rome. Could it be more powerful than Hannibal and all his elephants?
When Tanit put away her lyre she was even more remarkable and enchanting. She conversed in both Greek and Latin fluently at the captain’s dinner table aboard the ship. Though a girl, apparently great care had been lavished on her education. She was well-grounded in all the classics and could carry on a Platonic dialogue with great skill.
“In Rome,” Cato growled, “we would never educate a young lady like that.” He stuffed his face with a stew made from octapus and squid. “Who are you anyway?”
Gaius Antonius had been dying to find that out. But he had not had the courage to ask himself.
She smiled radiantly. “I am the only daughter of Hamilcar II, the ruler of Carthage. In fact, I am his only child. He lavished on me all the attention he would have loved to lavish on his heir.” She spoke with astonishing frankness.
“Why were you of all people sent as a hostage to Rome?” Cato shot another question at her. “You would think that someone else would have gone in your place.”
She laughed. Her laugh was like pearls bubbling out of her mouth and popping. “I volunteered,” she explained.
Cato traded looks with Gaius. “And why would you volunteer for such a mission?”
Tanit shrugged in a casual fashion. “Simply because I always wanted to travel to Rome. I didn’t see it happening in any other way. Soon I would be married off. Then I certainly would not get to go.”
“Why would you want to visit Rome so much?” Gaius finally got over being flustered and managed to get the words out of his mouth. He was playing with his food and had a hard time concentrating on eating it.
“Better art, better books,” she said. “For instance, I have heard that you are writing a book on Roman agriculture,” she addressed Cato. “No one has ever done that before. Certainly not in Carthage.”
“The Greek poet Hesoid wrote Works and Days,” Cato informed her.
“Yes, but he was a poet, not a prose writer,” she objected. “You are supposed to be developing Latin prose as you go along.” She acted very well informed about what was happening beyond the borders of her homeland.
But Gaius assumed that Cato’s fame was spread far and wide in the region.
Gaius had never heard a woman discourse like her before, certainly not Lavinia who was quiet and minded her own business.
He was beginning to think that the ship returning to Rome was like a floating enchanted isle controlled by a Circe-like creature. But he wished it would never end.
“Do you think the Carthaginians sent her because she is a kind of ambassador for their city?” Gaius asked Cato on the day before they were to land in Ostia.
“Let’s hope so,” he said cynically. “Let’s hope it is not some trick we cannot yet guess at.”
Gaius was later to remember those all too fateful words. But for now the only alarm he felt was when they started to disembark. Tanit had taken his arm. Lavinia was standing there on the shore waiting for him, smiling at him, and not suspecting anything.
Leave a reply
Reconstruction of Carthage by L. Aucler.
Gaius and Cato Lead Hostages Out Of Africa:
The Carthaginians had come back into the room. They agreed to send the youths back to Rome with Cato, Gaius Antonius, and the Romans who had traveled to Carthage. They only asked for a day to choose the youths and assemble them. Cato and Gaius would return to the leader’s house tomorrow at the same time to receive the youths who would travel from Africa back to Rome with them.
Cato returned the next day at the exact same hour. Gaius had taken advantage of the twenty-four hours to sketch as many buildings and landscapes as he could find outside the doors of the grand mansion where they were staying by the sea. He had sat outside on the verandah and made sure to get all the harbor works including as many of the Carthaginian ships and naval vessels as possible. Cato had examined what he had done and had nodded approvingly.
Gaius had returned to the house of the leading man of Carthage packed and ready to depart. The Roman ship was in the harbor fully armed and waiting for them to join the sailors for the trip back to Rome. Cato was even more ready than he was. He had brought some of the sailors with him and was dictating orders to the captain even as he waited. He always liked to take a no-nonsense approach to matters at hand.
The youths —- both girls and young men —- paraded in front of them and stood in a row in the banquet hall on the other side of the fireplace facing the Romans. They were dressed in such a fashion as if to impress them. They wore Greek clothes and outfits such as robes and chitons and outfits fashionable in both Alexandria and Tyre at the time as well as Carthage.
It did not take much time for Gaius to notice that one of the young ladies was staring straight at him. At first Gaius thought that it was only his imagination. But he kept on feeling her gaze burning through him and kept on repeatedly but reluctantly looking back at her.
Her long hair was black and midnight. So were her eyes with the long, spider-like lashes. Her skin was of a shade more olive-skinned than what Gaius was used to back in Italy. Lavinia for instance had milk white fair skin. The Roman nobility prided themselves on their fair skin. They thought only slaves and Greeks had olive skin —- Greeks and their Semitic cousins such as the population of places like Tyre and Carthage.
She seemed to be aware of Gaius’s discomfiture. She raised her hand to her lips and grinned. He could even imagine that he heard the girl laughing at him and his simpleton-like behavior.
“Where will these youths be housed?” the Carthaginian leader asked Cato. “Since they are our sons and daughters, the pride of Carthage, we have a right to ask.” He faced Cato down.
“I will take full responsibility to house your young people in a fashion to which they are accustomed. They will be safe with us as long as you keep your agreement and make peace with your neighbors in Africa,” Cato directed. “In one year’s time we will send a delegation to Carthage to check on the results of what has been established. If the situation here checks out, I will sail to Carthage and escort your youths and maidens back to you.”
“However,” he looked at the leader of Carthage with thunder in his eyes which was all too typical of Cato’s brusque manner of dealing with everyone, Carthingians and Romans alike, “if you do not make peace and you do not assure us that there will be no more of this nonsense in Africa, then your children —- the milk of your youth —- will be sold into slavery and will never be returned to you again.” Cato threatened them.
Gaius tried to maintain a stern demeanor as suited the circumstances, but inwardly he could not help but cringe. In effect they had sailed here on a Roman war ship and it was in the harbor, but that was about half a mile away. If the leaders got angry at the provocations Cato threw out at them, they could be dead men before the Roman soldiers from the ship could rescue them.
The leaders again retreated into a side room to discuss the matter among themselves. They returned to nod at Cato. But the looks they cast them showed what they were really thinking.
Cato rose and motioned for Gaius as well as his attendants and the youths to follow him. They began their procession out of the room and out of the building towards the docks, soon to be out of Africa all together. But they had not gotten very far before Gaius felt a hand as light as a feather on his arm. He turned to see that same girl with the moon-like eyes next to him.
“My name is Tanit,” she said in perfect Latin.
Gaius was startled. Cato had given him a lecture on the ship here about the customs of the Carthaginians. Tanit was their Moon Goddess. In Roman no girl would name herself after a Goddess. No one was called Juno or Minerva. But here despite the presumption so it was.
Leave a reply