Scipio Aemilianus Chosen To Lead Expedition:
The next weeks were spent in such a hustle and bustle that Gaius hardly remembered either his old name or his new. He and Lavinia were married almost right away with the full Senate in attendance. But instead of bringing her home to his real father’s and mother’s house, they stayed in the house where she had grown up as Cato’s ward, Cato’s house. Scipio Aemilianus was picked to lead the expedition to Carthage. He was the adopted heir of Scipio Africanus, the hero of the Second Punic War. Gaius was given the rank of a tribune under Scipio.
Soldiers were taking on supplies. The Roman navy was repairing its vessels and buffing them up to make the journey across the Mediterranean Sea. Gaius Antonius and his fellow officers were taking the new and raw recruits out of town into the surrounding countryside to practice basic military maneuvers and exercises every day.
That morning before he left Cato’s house in town (they had not gone out to the latifundia lately because of all the military activity and meetings of the Senate) Cato summoned him into his office. He said, “The Roman army should plan to set sail for Carthage in about a week’s time. We don’t want to allow them too much time to take on supplies and build up their navy.”
“I am sure that sounds like the wisest course of action,” Gaius said to his new father.
They had held a big dinner for all the senators and their families only a few days ago right before the wedding. At the dinner Cato had declared that Gaius Antonius would be his new son and would carry his name and inherit his fortune and his lands. He would also take his place in the Senate when the time came, though everyone knew that no one could really do that. Certain papers and documents had been signed and witnessed. They had been handed over to the Vestal Virgins to keep in the House of the Vestal Virgins.
He promised Cato that he would do his best to stick on schedule. He was never more surprised than when in the middle of his military exercises his new wife, Lavinia, appeared on horseback. He excused himself and rushed over to her.
She hurried up to him with an expression of consternation on her face. “Gaius, Cato has been murdered!” she shouted.
He could hardly credit what she was saying. “What on earth are you talking about?” he asked his wife. “I just got done talking to him about leaving for Carthage within a week’s time!”
She gripped his military vest. “I went into his office to talk to him after luncheon. He was lying slumped on his writing desk. At first I thought he was asleep. But then I saw the arrow in his shoulder.”
Gaius could not take it all in. But he knew he had to act right away. He returned to his unit briefly to make his excuses that family matters had to be attended to. He was not going to repeat what his wife had said until he saw what was going on with his own two eyes. He saddled his own horse and followed her back into town to Cato’s house.
He hurried into his new father’s study. Things were just as she had told him. Only a frightened slave had hurriedly been appointed to watch things and make sure nothing was disturbed until they got back. He hurried up to Lavinia and practically hung on her for reassurance while Gaius dashed right up to Cato.
He took Cato by the shoulders and shook him, calling upon his name, “Cato, Cato, speak to me!” In life that was the most important thing he always did —- speak. His eyes were staring as lifeless as Lavinia had told him. But unlike Lavinia his eyes caught sight of a notepad next to Cato’s hand which was still holding his pen, very fitting to the last. On a piece of papyrus he had managed to scrawl, “The Carthaginians have killed me —- shot me through the window. Carthago delenda est.”
Indeed when Gaius turned the window in question was still open. He went to look and horrifyingly enough he could still detect the presence of human feet in the dust. They had left their incriminating shoe prints behind. Not that he would ever doubt what his father said, but this was all too accurate to be borne.
Gaius could not ask Cato what to do now. Cato was no more. He was now Cato. People would look to him to act as his father would have.
Keeping his wits about him he summoned Scipio Aemilianus to his house right away. Scipio rushed away from the military field and came right away. When he saw what tragedy had occurred he immediately decided, “We must sail even sooner than one week against Carthage.”
Gaius nodded. “I would whole heartedly agree. That is what Cato would have said.”
The next day they arranged for Cato’s funeral in the Forum in front of all Rome because this was a decisive event in the history of the Roman Republic. Many would always remember this day and tell their children and children’s children about it.
Gaius made a speech as the funeral pyre was lighted and Cato joined his noble ancestors. “On this day Rome resolves to do whatever it takes to defeat our mortal enemy, Carthage.”
“We should not have allowed them to pay reparations for the past fifty years. Then this horrible tragedy would not have occurred,” he said.
Again the mob cheered.
“Now we must complete what we started in the time of our grandfathers. And in the words of my father, the great man that all Rome depended upon to see the right course for it to follow, the very last words that the dying man wrote on this piece of papyrus for us all to see after he had been struck by an arrow —- Carthago delenda est. Carthage must be destroyed.”
Gaius waved Cato’s last paper in the air over his head. The mob errupted into vengeful cheers that seemed to raise the roofs of the surrounding buildings. They did not stop shouting until Cato’s funeral was over and he was buried in a family mausoleum along the Appian Way.
The entire city state was mobilized as never before. They were all resolved to avenge Cato’s death by destroying Carthage. They had determined to leave Rome in five days’ time.
But the very next night his wife, Lavinia, awoke him. They had retired for one night to the latifundia to enlist the slaves who would go with them to war and not be left behind along with the small tenant farmers surrounding Cato’s estate. She complained that she was having a strange dream that made her restless and would not let her sleep. She kept on thinking that something or somebody was outside the window.
That was only natural considering what had just happened to her Uncle Cato. She urged her husband to look. Then she pointed leaning out the window herself. “Look down there at the sea! Look at that ship!”
Gaius followed Lavinia’s pointed finger. She indeed had a keen eye. He recognized the ship immediately under a bright moon. It was the very ship that he had drawn on the map for Cato, the one with the big sails. And he did not think he was imagining it when he thought he recognized the woman’s figure on the prow of the ship as it passed underneath the headland at the edge of the latifundia. Why, that was Tanit! She had returned to Rome to murder Cato.
Leave a reply
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.
Leave a reply
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.
Leave a reply
Gaius Proceeds to the Latifundia With Cato:
Gaius Antonius could not wait to disembark from the ship at Ostia. Lavinia was in his arms in seconds. It felt so good to have her warmth and good wishes so close to him again when he thought that he might never see her again.
“We came to Ostia as soon as we got your message,” Lavinia said.
“I hope you rewarded the fisherman amply,” Gaius said. “He risked his life coming here from Mallorca.”
Cato approached. “I rewarded him with his weight in gold,” he said simply. “Once he gets back to Mallorca, he won’t gave to go fishing again if he doesn’t want to,” he assured Gaius. “He will be set for life for this one good turn he did me.”
That prompted Gaius to remember the map. He let go of Lavinia and took it out of his waist pack. He handed it to Cato without delay.
Cato stood there on the dock at Ostia in the early morning light with a sea breeze ruffling his graying hair. He was concentrating on all the details of the drawing of the Carthaginian warship.
“There is no doubt about it,” he pointed to the sails. “The dye here must be from Sidonia, one of the other big Carthaginian state of Phoenician origins. “They specialize in this purple dye, you know, made from the murex shellfish. Cloth dyed in it is so expensive that only royalty can afford it. And you see it gaudily displayed on the sails of this ship.” He humphed.
“They are obviously in collusion with the Carthaginians,” Gaius nodded.
“You can say that again!” Cato shook his head. “Even though our treaty with them specifically forbade it.”
“It seems as if they are flaunting the fact that they have paid off their reparations from the last war and now have extra money to spend,” Gaius added.
“No doubt,” Cato reflected, nodding. “The merchants of Tyre could have also been providing the dye. They are still more Carthaginian troublemakers of the Phoenician sort.”
“All three major Carthaginian city states conspiring together to build warships really sounds dangerous,” Gaius Antonius agreed.
Lavinia, still standing next to him, shivered in the wind that had picked up at Ostia. She moved even closer to him as if she felt the threat personally and was trying to ward it off.
“The city state you were just visiting, New Carthage, is implicated, too, if you want to call it a deliberate collusion or plot against us Romans,” Cato said. He pointed at the wood in the hull of the ship. “That is fine timber from the mountains of inland Spain. They must have sent a team to drag it down to the harbor to send it across the sea to Carthage.”
Gaius Antonius nodded, thinking that Cato was a genius in taking in all the fine details that the drawing provided to the onlooker.
Cato signaled to his carriage parked at the harbor at Ostia. The horse driven vehicle moved closer. He led the small party of three in boarding it. No sooner did he slam the door than they were off as if not a second were to be lost.
“The Roman Senate must see this drawing right away,” Cato said sternly. “Expecting something like this I have summoned them all to a special meeting at my latifundia. They should be there by the time we reach it. I thought of gathering them at the Senate House in Rome, but this latifundia is more private and guarded. I can better control snoops and spies there. I have positioned guards at all the entrances to the property. They are not to admit anyone who is not authorized.”
Cato had never spoken a more true word. Carriages crowded the entrance way to the latifundia as Cato and his party disembarked. He certainly had a sense of the dramatic. All the senators were waiting for him and saw him draw up in his coach. Cato held Gaius’s map up over his head as he emerged and set foot on the good Roman earth again. The senators cheered. They all formed a line behind him and followed him inside the main house at the latifundia, exclaiming loudly the whole way. Gaius and Lavinia waited in the coach until the last of the senators had entered the estate before them.
Only then did Lavinia and Gaius Antonius climb out of the carriage that had brought them all the way from Ostia today. They joined the party inside the house last of all —- but certainly not least of all.
Leave a reply
Gaius Antonius Goes To Palma, Mallorca:
A couple of days later Gaius Antonius’s ship landed in the harbor of Palma, Mallorca in the Baleric Islands halfway across the Mediterranean Sea on the way back to Ostia and Rome. Gaius Antonius came ashore to find a messenger for his news. He did not want to have to wait until arriving back in Italy to inform his mentor about the big find —- the map itself.
Gaius did not care about the clear, blue water or the rocky cove in Mallorca. He did not pay much attention to the magnificent stone arch half covered with seaweed emerging from the salty brine near the coast of Mallorca either. Nor did he get bewitched by the surf that crashed against the sandy beach.
He got off the boat for the night and searched for a fisherman for hire. He spotted one. Then he waited for that fisherman to unload his catch of the day from his nets and to meet his eye.
Finally he gave Gaius the eye just as he expected. He must be used to ships putting ashore and having wealthy passengers who wanted chores done for them big and small. Gaius would wager, though, that none so far had a task to assign that was so ambitious and so important.
Gaius motioned to the man while he held out a hand full of coins. He provided many an aureus. The man looked at the money and counted it several times over. His eyes glistened. He obviously was satisfied. It was a sum for which he would be willing to risk his life.
“I am on my way back to Italy from Mallorca, but my ship won’t sail again for two days. I want you to go ahead of us and see if you can reach Italy first. I will hand you a letter. You are to take it to Cato, a senator who will be very interested in its contents. I can promise you that. He will certainly add to the sum of coins I just handed you,” he carefully instructed the man.
The man nodded in acknowledgement of what Gaius was saying.
The fisherman followed him back to his lodging for the night by the shore at the overseas estate of one of Cato’s friends from his school days back in Rome. He had moved to Roman Spain in Mallorca and set up his own latifundia. He was one of the first readers of Cato’s book on the subject and one of his greatest admirers. From his vantage point by the sea Gaius could see grape vines tracing their way up the hillside above him.
Trees grew between the rocks near the white sand. Gaius took a seat at a table and ordered refreshments from a slave. The slave also brought food and drink for the fisherman for hire. He brought a carafe of the finest vintage from the estate made right here on Mallorca.
Gaius composed the letter to his mentor, knowing full well that the fisherman would not be able to read it:
Cato: I have in my possession the drawing we were seeking. Tanit herself brought it to New Carthage. I saw her in a robe in which she was trying to disguise herself. I followed her, though she did not see me. I could swear it. I followed her all the way to the sea wall where we Romans once assaulted the town during the Second Punic War. I remember it from my childhood history lessons, though I never journeyed to the place before. She paid one of the watchmen to hide it in the wall in a crevice between the bricks.
The next day I disguised myself as one of the watchmen. I found the crevice all unobserved by my confederates. At the end of the watch I took it back to my lodgings. I locked the door and examined it. It was the very drawing I made that day in Carthage with you by my side.
I think it is all the evidence of the treachery of the Carthaginians that you will need. I am not going to give it to the fisherman. I think he is reliable and trustworthy, but I do not know him. And I do not want to take any chances with what we cannot afford to lose. But I am sending word ahead of me so you can be alerted and can start making plans.
The fisherman left right away. Gaius’s ship did not leave until the day after the next after taking on more provisions and wares that needed to be transported back to Rome. But it probably was better that he did not look as if he were in too much of a hurry to get back to Rome in case anyone was observing him.
Looking down to an aquamarine and blue water beach with pinkish sand and reddish cliffs on each side covered with vines, he imagined he saw somebody looking up at him from behind one of the projecting rocky cliffs. Whether it was his imagination he could not tell for sure. He just knew he had better be as careful as he could be. That night he directed Cato’s friend to station a guard outside his room.
He was impatient to be off. Once at sea he spent much time at the railing on deck looking out to the horizon and wondering if he could be the first one to spot their landfall.
He saw two dark specks on the shore early in the morning right after dawn. They grew bigger and bigger and took on form and shape. They filled him with hope when they became the all too familiar and beloved forms of Lavinia and Cato there at the dock to greet him.
Cato had no doubt studied the schedule of ships arriving at the port of Ostia. And he had probably been here hours ahead of time, probably early last night or late yesterday afternoon. Lavinia was leaping up and down at waving at him. He could already feel her kiss on his lips.
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
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
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.