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 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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Cato Sends Gaius to Carthage To Make Drawings:
Gaius Antonius sat there in amazement as the senators crowded around Cato at the conclusion of the Senate session. They were all gossipping about the last war and all their family memories that Gaius did not share because he was too young to remember. His father directed attention to him by telling another senator that he had brought Gaius along just in case there was a declaration of war today and he could volunteer his son as a recruit.
Gaius hung back until he was all alone in the Forum. He took a new way home and instead of returning to his house on the Palatine Hill in Rome he saddled up and took off for his country house outside town near the port of Ostia.
He sat there sketching the scenery to quiet his mind. He was joined by the daughter of the local mayor whom he had befriended recently. She questioned him what brought him here today. He spilled out his troubles to her.
She seemed disturbed. “Rome won’t quit until there is no other power in the Mediterranean,” she lamented. “They want to wipe out the Carthaginians just like they wiped us out too a while back.”
The girl who was descended from a local Etruscan family. The Etruscans had preceded the Romans in this area of Italy. Now hardly anyone spoke the original language which had practically died out during the past several generations.
“The Romans want the Carthaginians to speak Latin,” she said.
“But I guess there is a certain danger letting the Carthaginians make war against a neighboring city state,” Gaius lamented.
She shook her head sadly and disappeared. “You are just a Roman like the rest of them. And here I thought you were different!”
Gaius tried to follow her. But a messenger arrived from his father. He directed Gaius to follow the messenger back to Rome. Cato wanted to speak to him.
Marcus Porcius Cato? That was enough to wipe the memory of the Etruscan girl from his mind. Feeling very nervous he followed the messenger back to Rome to the imposing house of Cato not far from his own on Palatine Hill.
He entered the great man’s study in trepidation. He was amazed that the great man had even paid attention to his lowly presence in the Senate Chamber. But then Cato had seemed to pay attention to everyone great and small. That was part of his genius as he put down his pen and stopped working on his history of Roman customs and the life of a Roman country gentleman, the first prose work anyone had ever attempted to write in Latin before.
Cato smiled at Gaius, which surprised him even more. Given his stern face with all the lines, he was surprised if the older man could smile at all. He seemed to scowl at everyone all the time.
“Do you know why I didn’t call for a vote for war today?” Cato asked.
Gaius shook his head “no”.
“Because I wanted you to precede that vote. You must go to Carthage for us and make drawings of the buildings there in the harbor and around town so we know what we are confronting. We will find a pretext for you to leave Rome during our next session of the Senate.”
Gaius nodded nervously, not knowing how to say no to Cato.
“Perhaps we will ask them to send hostages as a show of good faith, that they are not making war against our interests,” Cato suggested to him.
He could not believe what was happening when Cato then invited him to lunch with him in his garden. Even more amazing, he introduced him to his granddaughter, who expressed a great interest in his drawings and examined them one by one very carefully.
“I like knowing you,” she smiled. “You seem like the man of the moment.” She gazed into his eyes.
Gaius was so overcome with her scintillating smile that at once he thought he would do anything to please her. He knew what his mission would be.
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