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 Plans A Trip To Carthago Nova:
Gaius rode back to the Senate House in the Forum after his vain attempt to follow the escaping Carthaginian hostages who had revealed what they were up to in Carthago Nova. He had followed them to the edge of town where they seemed to disperse. Cato had been camped at the Senate House for hours. He had his slaves bring him dinner there along with dinner for all the other Senators.
Cato wore a perpetual frown. Gaius Antonius braced himself as he approached. He hated to deliver the bad news. Cato was already on the warpath. This news about the Carthaginians would push him over the edge. But Gaius could not hesitate. It was his duty. He could not allow the situation to delay his departure to Spain.
“Cato, I need to speak to you in private,” Gaius said in a low tone.
“What could possibly have gone wrong now?” Cato asked as they disappeared into a side chamber in the Senate House. He could feel the tense eyes of the other senators following them.
“Cato, it was all a subterfuge of the hostages. Tanit was behind it. She stole the map as I slept and substituted the version her fellow hostage had drawn in place of it.”
Cato listened carefully. “And what is the difference between the real drawings and the fake ones?”
“The ships. They were hiding the new fleet they have been building behind our backs,” he revealed.
Cato’s eyebrows shot up. “I knew it! The bastards want us to support them while they become battle-ready so they can defeat us in the end.”
““They obviously did not want us to find out. I captured something on my maps that no one was supposed to see. It was out in the open only through some carelessness on their part,” Gaius said.
“We will have to declare war right away!” Cato’s face darkened.
“Not so fast!” Gaius said the words he could not imagine saying to his mentor. No one mortal could restrain the tongue of the Roman Senate House.
Cato stared at him.
“Tanit has the maps that I drew. They are so valuable now that they are transporting them to New Carthage in Spain,” he explained.
“Where are they hiding the maps in New Carthage?” Cato asked the obvious question.
Gaius had to shrug. “I could not hear what they were saying. That is why I am now on my way to Spain to find out.”
Cato clapped him on the shoulder. “I always knew you were a lad of remarkable abilities.”
Cato told him how he would keep matters going here back in Rome, not letting anyone suspect what was going on. He would make more demands of the Carthaginians instead of declaring war right away. That should allow Gaius a couple months to make his trip and return to Rome with the news.
Gaius followed Cato out onto the Senate floor. He was in rare form. He demanded not only that the Carthaginians send all their weapons to Rome, but that they pay reparations again even though they had been doing so for fifty years and had just finished paying the previously imposed penalty.
Cato confided in Gaius Antonius that if the Carthaginians agreed, next he would push the Carthaginians to the wall. He would demand that they vacate their city state and go inland away from the sea. Rome would threaten to demolish the old city except for the grave yards. He smirked. What would the Carthaginians do then? Would they stoop so low to avoid the Roman ax? Or would they hurry to refurbish their fleet even faster?
“They won’t be suspicious about what you are doing,” Cato assured Gaius. “I will keep them so busy they won’t have time to even think to send spies to Carthago Nova.”
After that session of the Senate which extended to midnight with torches flaring and burning in the streets of the Forum as the Roman citizens gathered near, the next day Cato, Lavinia, and Gaius Antonius took off in secret for Ostia.
Cato briefed Gaius on the network of messengers he would create. He would send them to Cartegena, or New Carthage, to meet with Gaius every couple weeks. Gaius would stay in the main quarter by the harbor and see if he could pick up a trace of those maps from citizens in the street.
Cato supplied him with several bags of money even now to take with him for bribes. He would be willing to send a Roman military escort, but that might be too visible and would attract rumors and attention. That sort of thing would get back to the Carthaginians unfortunately.
“I will pray to the gods for your safety every day!” Lavinia said as she stood on the docks beside him.
Gaius embraced Lavinia. He did not know how that witch, Tanit, had ever attracted him with her wayward practices and ways. She had been trying to deceive him all along just to make off with his all too valuable maps. Now it was worth his life —- and perhaps Rome’s too —- to find those very maps again.
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Gaius Loses His Maps After The Banquet:
Lavinia waved at Gaius from the docks at Ostia as soon as their ship started to disembark. She raced up to meet him and threw her arms around his neck. He hugged her to him. They had not seen each other for several weeks.
“I knew you would return!” she enthused, jumping up and down. “I have been waiting for you every single day.” She kissed him on the cheek.
Gaius felt obliged to introduce Lavinia to Tanit who stood there calmly taking in the scene. “This is one of Cato’s hostages. There are one hundred of them all told. They are to spend the next year at Cato’s house while the Carthaginians make peace with their neighbors.”
“Hello, I am Tanit, only daughter of Hamilcar II,” Lavinia introduced herself.
Lavinia paused to take in the foreign princess in her midst. She examined her from head to toe. Gaius could tell she was not pleased.
“Indeed, how unusual!” Lavina exclaimed.
“I feel that I am an emissary for Carthage to tell Rome about our civilization,” Tanit continued.
“Well, you are welcome to our banquet,” Lavinia invited her and her other friends to Cato’s house in the country on his estate outside Rome.
Gaius could tell that Lavinia was only being polite. She did not like Tanit. Tanit was about her age but looked far more elegant in her attire. Gaius wished that he could assure Lavinia that proper Roman women did not have to ape foreign princesses and royalty. Rome had done away with that sort of thing ages ago. They did not have kings. They had consuls and senators instead.
They embarked in horse drawn carriages headed for Cato’s country villa in the Etruscan hills. Gaius figured it must be his imagination to see the Etruscan girl eyeing him from behind a tree as they turned up the road into the woods. He seemed to see her and many of her other Etruscan friends and confederates.
Cato’s servants had the welcoming banquet ready. Several senators had been invited for today’s welcoming reception. The hostages came forward one by one and introduced themselves, giving their name and family and said a little bit about themselves. Tanit went last. She held her audience spellbound for many minutes. The Senators started to clap.
Cato then called on Gaius to show the senators the maps he had drawn of the city and all its many buildings and harbor works.
Lavinia frowned as she sat beside Gaius at the banquet. It was as if she could somehow sense the impression the Carthaginian princess had made on her betrothed as well as the other men in the room other than say Cato himself who was indifferent to such feminine wiles. Lavinia and Gaius were engaged to be married at the first opportunity. Lavinia felt responsible for him as well as possessive.
Wine and foods of various sorts flowed freely until a very late hour. Gaius finally said good-night to everyone including his fiancee and retired to the room that had become his bedchamber at Cato’s estate. He feel asleep quickly, having been thoroughly exhausted by the trip and then the big banquet. He woke only partially in the middle of the night thinking he heard a sound. He dismissed it as a dream. But when he woke up the next morning he found his leather waist pack open on top of his dresser. He reached inside and found that the maps he had drawn in Carthage were gone —- mysteriously vanished into morning’s first light.
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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.
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Cato Demands Carthaginian Hostages At The Banquet:
Gaius Antonius landed in Carthage a week later and came ashore with Lavinia’s Uncle Cato. The colorful buildings were crowded together in the harbor touching side to side with hardly a space in between. Around them flourished small gardens. He could pick out brightly colored red hisbiscus and flaming pink bougainvillea.
They were taken to one of the most opulent houses. The head of the city received their all Roman delegation in high style. Servants raced around them to serve them an impromptu banquet.
As they were seated at a banquet he heard strange music and the sound of mourning people. Cato gave him the eye as they watched the citizens parade in a group towards a religious temple not far away. It rose over the harbor. He had been tutoring Gaius before they set out in the customs of the Carthaginian people and their history.
He had informed Gaius that they practiced a horrible, primitive religion that demanded sacrifices of baby infants to the God Cronus. Cato had showed Gaius ugly images of this repulsive God with his hands extended palms up and sloping towards the ground. The children were placed in those arms. They fell into a gaping, fiery pit. Then they were buried in a special cemetery devoted to that purpose.
If Gaius had any qualms about coming down hard on the Carthaginians he lost it after experiencing this horror. These people were not worthy to survive. Their customs, their religion, their culture seemed blackened because of this crime.
The leader of the Carthaginians pleaded as they progressed with the banquet, “I don’t understand what the problem is.” And he addressed Cato in good Latin, abandoning the Phoenician language out of deference, for the Carthaginians had always been a seafaring people. “Our neighbors attacked us. I assume we have the right to defend ourselves.”
Cato slapped down a copy of the treaty that had ended the last war against Carthage. It had almost ended with the destruction of Rome except for the generalship of Scipio Africanus.
“You agreed not to move your armies outside your city state without our express permission,” Cato pointed to the exact provision.
Everyone at the banquet cast him alarmed expressions.
“Very good, sir,” the leader of the Carthaginians tried to wax diplomatic as he wrung his hands. “But we thought that meant major wars of aggression. We did not think it had to do with raiding and more minor infractions of our neighbors. Rome is too far away to consult about matters of the moment like that.”
“The provision is literal,” Cato glowered at him worse than he glowered at senators in the Senate House. Gaius could see all the men in the room cringing. “We must consent to every act of aggression no matter how small or insignificant. How else can we protect ourselves? We don’t know what you might try next.”
The leader threw up his arms. “From now on we will try to obey your wishes in the matter. But you must excuse us this time. If we had not acted, we would not now have a fishing fleet. Then we would starve.”
Cato shook his head. “I must demand more. As a surety of your good behavior over the next year, we want as hostages one hundred of your noble youths to take with us back to Rome.”
Silence descended upon the banquet hall as the Carthaginian leaders exchanged haunted looks. They retired from the banquet into an adjoining chamber to discuss the matter of the hostages in detail and in privacy.
Cato nodded at Gaius. He took advantage of the opportunity to sketch the meeting place in detail just as he had already sketched the harbor works, the houses grouped together, and the flowering plants placed just so. It was a way to relieve the tension of waiting.
Cato did not look tense. He did not think the Carthaginians had any choice but to placate Rome with hostages. And he intended to exploit his position for everything that it was worth.
There was a commotion and a stir in the banquet room. Whisperings could be heard. Suddenly the leaders of the community burst through doors in the back of the room. Gaius gazed into their eyes the way Cato had taught him. The answer concerning the hostages was on their lips.
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Gaius Visits Lavinia Before He Goes To Carthage:
During the next few weeks in Rome Gaius spent nearly all his waking hours at Cato’s house on the Palatine keeping company with Lavinia. He did everything except sleep there. Lavinia, Cato’s niece, was always present. Gaius learned that she was his ward. He was responsible for her education and her upbringing.
Cato would lecture to Gaius and give him assignments to do sketching this building and that on the property and around Rome itself. He would study each sketch and comment on it critically, making suggestions for details to include in the future. Above all he wanted buildings arranged in such a way in the sketch that they could later easily be mapped by the army.
Lavinia was his constant companion. He found himself sketching to please her even more than Cato. She would admire the drawings and ooh and aah over them. She kissed him on the cheek when she was especially pleased. The kissing behind closed doors soon led to other things. He found himself making love to her shamelessly in one of the bedrooms in the big house.
She came to the Senate House and stood outside it where she might be able to hear the proceedings when her uncle was to speak. Everybody in Rome was there who was anybody at all. But they had to remember the prohibition about women in the Senate House.
All eyes turned to Cato as he again began to speak. Again Gaius sat beside his father. He took careful note as Cato turned to this senator and that, calling upon him by name to say if he thought there was any other way to proceed than by making Carthage the number one enemy of Rome. No one dared to contradict the statement, though in each case Cato carefully waited for a response.
Cato launched into a detailed history of the relationship between Rome and Carthage over the past century. Carthage used to be the great power in the Mediterranean. Now Rome had gained the advantage. Was it about to lose it once more? This time the gods might not be as sympathetic of the homeland of Romulus and Remus after they proved themselves to be so stupid.
Now was the time to crack down on Carthage before the worst happened again. Cato proposed sending a mission to Carthage. They would escort back one hundred select youths as hostages for Carthage’s good behavior with its neighbors in Africa.
All the senators voted aye and yeah for the measure. They called out for Cato to be the mission’s leader. Who else would be sterner and more suited?
“I propose taking Gaius Antonius with me as my aide and assistant,” Cato announced.
Gaius’s father beamed with pride.
All the senators indicated their approval. The date was set for sailing.
Gaius escaped into the hills surrounding Rome for the last time before his sailing. This was where he used to meet the Etruscan girl. She did not come to join him, though he imagined that he felt eyes on him in all directions watching him.
Instead Lavinia joined him.
“I will miss you in Africa!” she embraced him.
He kissed her back. “I am doing this for you and for our future together. What would it be if Carthage takes over the Mediterranean again? Our sons might not live to see adulthood.”
She nodded sadly, having been raised by her famous uncle.
Soon the date was set to depart with Cato for Africa. Lavinia came to Ostia. He waved. She blew kisses. He wondered what the future held as that fateful expedition set off from the Italian shore and what he would be thinking the next time he saw it again —- if the gods granted him such a boon.
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Carthago Delenda Est: Carthage Must Be Destroyed
Gaius Antonius fancies that he has a future career as an architect. He spend his days drawing and sketching buildings in Republican Rome of the second century B.C. Rome is growing, dominating Italy as well as some of its neighbors. He likes to picture Rome of the future when it goes on a building binge. He would like to be there to construct the buildings.
His father, also Gaius Antonius the Elder, severely criticizes his son. He was born into a patrician family. It is his duty to go into politics and the military, not sketch and draw buildings. Alas he has no interest in being his father all over again and constantly tries to shirk such responsibilities.
His father, the senator, drags his son to the Senate House in the Forum to listen along with his other male relations. The great elder senator, Cato, rose to make a speech about his latest visit to Carthage to collect their yearly indemnity imposed after the Second Punic War decades ago. He was complaining how Carthage was again getting out of hand, making war against its Numidian neighbors and could not be trusted. He reminded Romans of the woes of the last war with Italy invaded by elephants. They should act now before it was again too late. He concluded his speech with a call to arms, “Carthago delenda est.” Or ‘“Carthage must be destroyed”.
Gaius’s father rose and proposed in effect a “draft” of the noble youth to respond to Carthago delenda est. He volunteered his own son, Gaius, as the first recruit, making his son’s hair stand up on end on his head.
Scipio Aemilianus, descendant of the famous Scipio Africanus, victor of the last Punic War, rose and suggested that they give Carthage a last chance and send a delegation to bring back three hundred noble youths as hostages about Carthage’s behavior towards its neighbors.
When the Senate session concluded, Scipio summoned Gaius to his house. He told him that he wanted him to help guide the hostages to Rome ostensibly which was why he invented the requirement. Really he wanted him to use his drawing talent to make notes about the appearance of the city. He was to draw everything so the Romans knew what was what before declaring war. And on the way to Carthage he was stop in New Carthage along the coast of Spain to study the famous sea wall and make drawings of everything he could find there. Scipio would wait for his findings before declaring war.
Gaius was amazed that such a responsibility was being thrust onto his shoulders. He could not refuse. In just one day his whole life was being changed and transformed. He looked down at his pen and wondered about the drawings he was about to make and their vast significance.
Carthago delenda est.
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