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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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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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.

Reconstruction of Carthage by L. Aucler.

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Dora and Edward Come To Arizona:

Yes, I assume you wear boots and a raincoat and layers of clothing underneath when you go outside for a hike in the winter time. For instance, when I lived in Charlottesville I always kept a pair of boots in the hall closet. I used them to get to the mailbox when it snowed. What I meant was the weather sounds so very unpleasant, who would want to venture outside in it? It cannot be that much fun to grope around in the rain using poles with spikes at the end. Wouldn’t you want to wait until the weather cleared up before you ventured outside for a hike?

You would like it here in Tucson right now. We are having mostly spring weather in the winter time. You would be able to scale mountains every day in the Saguaro National Park. You could even venture up on Mt. Lemmon which peaks at 9 thousand feet right in the middle of town here. With your binoculars you could see all sorts of birds. There are far more here for some reason than there are on the East Coast or in England. This is a huge birder area. When we put a finch sock outside on our patio it is gone almost instantly. Doves and quail populate the yard. We also have humming birds which are unique to North America. You don’t have them in England. Apaches had myths about the humming birds whispering in your ears. I will send you photos of the birds.

I have been corresponding with an Italian from Rome named Giovanni lately. He recently spent several months in Tucson scaling mountains. There are mountains in Italy, but he thought the ones here were better and more fun. See what I mean?

Dora and Edward take their search to hide the Lawrence maps all the way to Arizona in Armistice Plot to be published later this year. With mountains like this, they did not need to find Mt. Everest. Hitler’s spies would never find them again.

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Julia: A Romance: Opening Lines

The historical thriller Julia: A Romance by Dora Benley will soon be published by Cheops Books LLC. One of the most humorous characters, the most delightful, is Julia’s father, Senator Gaius Julius Rufus, Julia’s father who is always out to save himself given the difficult political situation in Rome. Julia merely becomes a tool to get what he wants in the end.
The novel begins with these lines:

Prologue:

Senator Gaius Julius Rufus was born fifty years too late or one hundred years too soon. If he were born fifty years sooner, he could have taken his ease on one of his estates sprinkled, as flecks of pepper on a map, over the Apennines and the Campanian sea-coast without concerning himself in Roman politics. If he were born one hundred years later he would be a child at the dawn of the Augustan Age, the beginning of the pax Romana, and would have contented himself with the life of a country gentleman.

He was unlucky to be born during the first period of the Civil Wars that tore apart into two factions, populares and optimates, not only Rome but Italy. He was sixty years old in May of 81 B.C., having spent most of his adulthood in Rome away from his grape and olive vineyards attempting to remain neutral and friendly with both factions while not doing much for either.

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Julia: A Novel by Dora Benley:

Julia: A Novel, another ancient thriller by Dora Benley, will be offered free on Amazon for the next five days starting on Wednesday, July 12 and continuing through the weekend. But hurry! This offer won’t be repeated this year.

Senator Gaius Julius Rufus was unlucky to be born during the first period of the Civil Wars that tore apart not only Rome but Italy into two factions, populares and optimates. He was sixty years old in May of 81 B.C., having spent most of his adulthood in Rome away from his grape and olive vineyards attempting to remain neutral and friendly with both factions while not doing much for either.

His rank and family made his efforts fruitless. He was a senator, an aristocrat. Worse yet, he was a member of the ancient and illustrious clan claiming descent from Aeneas and his mother Venus — the Julii. During the civil war between Marius and Sulla his daughter, Julia’s, life is at stake as well as her heart pining over the man she really loves and cannot have. What can he do to save her? Find out in this historical novel about the days of ancient Rome.

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