The Carthaginians Say No To Cato:
Cato and the rest of the senators poured into the Senate House in the Forum early the next day to send their decree to the Carthaginians. They were anxious to send their final demands to the errant city state of Carthage in North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea. For the sake of the few senators who had not made it to his latifundia the day before for the grand banquet and for the sake of the plebeians outside gathered around the Senate House, Cato again rose and made his speech.
He explained to the assembled mobs why Rome had to take the step of asking Carthage to vacate its city state location on the Mediterranean, which was after all to each Roman “Our Sea” and not to be shared with enemies. He explained how the Roman soldiers would burn down what remained and tear apart the very walls and ramparts, leaving only the cemeteries for the pagan gods. And they would establish a permanent patrol tower on the coast to make sure that the Carthaginians did not sneak back and start rebuilding their troublesome city state once more.
The plebs in the Forum shouted out their agreement with Cato’s words. After all, they had been the foot soldiers in the ranks during the last war with Carthage and the Carthaginians. They also had cherished family memories.
“My grandfather lived to tell about Cannae!” one of the plebs called. “The last thing he did before he went to bed every night was to curse the Carthaginians. He used to have a new imprecation every time we listened to him. I have a whole list of them.” The pleb was standing right outside the main Senate House door. He shouted straight into it.
Cato left his seat from which he had been speaking to the assembled body of senators. He brushed past the others down the aisle out to the door. He took the unprecedented step of inviting the plebeian from the streets of Rome to enter the august chamber. He led him to his place from which he had been speaking.
“Speak to the Senate,” Cato urged him. “Tell them what you are telling your confederates about the damned Carthaginians.”
The commoner was astounded. He gaped around in amazement at the most important men in Rome. He looked as if he never imagined to find himself in such a place and had to find his own sense of gravity. He finally managed to find his tongue.
“My grandfather survived Cannae only to serve under Scipio Africanus. He came home to Rome to celebrate the triumph over the Carthaginians. It was the greatest day of his life. He would not want us Romans to lose what we achieved that day. That is all I wanted to say. And if it were up to me I would do as this senator asks you to do. He knows what he is talking about.”
The senators cheered the plebeian in their midst. Gaius thought it was probably just as well. If it came to war, these men would be the recruits and the foot soldiers who would serve in the army. They had to feel that it was their city state as well.
The plebs outside broke into such a cheer that it continued for the rest of the afternoon without any intermission at all. In the meantime the senators voted to send messengers to Carthage and the Carthaginians with the demands of the Roman Senate. No one really expected them to accept the terms, but there was always the chance. They had already sent hostages, though the hostages had escaped, and not every city state would have done that. They had even sent weapons, though they had probably been taken from somebody else. And they had finished paying their reparations which showed their wealth. Other states would have been bogged down forever with a burden like that. Perhaps they would seem to accept this demand too so that secretly they could go about building up weapons and ships to defy the Romans. No one would be surprised if the Carthaginians were not honest.
It did not take more than a couple weeks before the news arrived back from the African side of the Mediterranean. The messengers had been murdered. All the Roman merchants who had the bad luck to be trading with Carthage that day had been massacred. Captured Romans had been dragged out on top of the walls of the city. In full view of the messenger ship in the harbor as well as all the other ships from other lands Roman victims had been openly tortured, killed, and thrown over the walls into the sea. Carthage’s answer had been no they would not leave their city state behind and move ten miles inland. And to prove what they said, they were declaring war on Rome.
Cato once again assembled the senators in the Senate House. He invited inside what was left of the team of messengers that Rome had sent to Carthage several weeks ago. They told their tale in vivid words about what they had seen.
“Gentlemen,” Cato finally spoke out. “I think we have lived to see it. The Third Punic War has begun.”
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Gaius Takes The Drawing Back To Rome:
Right in front of Gaius Antonius’s eyes was an elaborate, detailed drawing of the latest Carthaginian warship which had obviously been constructed since the last war. Its giant wooden hull was massive and impressive and unlike anything else the Carthaginians had sailed into battle up to this point in either the First or Second Punic Wars. In fact, it looked better than anything that the Roman navy had access to at this moment.
It led to the question about how many more of these ships did the Carthaginians possess and where were they hiding them? Perhaps in harbors of cities friendly to them? Perhaps even here in New Carthage? New Carthage had a large, impressive harbor. He had not had a chance to examine every square corner of it.
Gaius quickly got up to lock the door to the room. At least he had that much presence of mind. He did not want anyone barging in on him and attacking him when he was carefully examining the drawing and surprising him. If any of those watchmen had followed him back to the apartment building they might try something like that when they thought he was otherwise distracted.
He sat down again and spread the papers out on the table before him. The prow of the Carthaginian ship was painted bright blue with the drawing of an eye of their chief god, Baal, guiding them into battle. The rest of the hull was bright red and rather fiercesome looking. Together they constituted the chief colors of the Phoenician city state in northern Africa, blue and red. The golden oars shot out from the red hull so numerous that they could not be counted. They were like the legs of a spider. The big white sails had giant golden lions drawn on them.
Cato had been impressed with Gaius’s discovery, too, and they had planned to analyze the drawing in detail and discuss it with various members of the Roman Senate when the time came. Cato thought that now that the Carthaginians had finished paying their reparations to Rome for the last war they were using their money to improve their naval fleet.
He wanted Gaius to show off his drawing to the full, assembled Senate to make them angry, indignant, and fearful and eventually to call for war. As Cato had said many, many times, “Carthago delenda est”, or “Carthage must be destroyed.” He must complete what he had set out to accomplish.
Gaius Antonius was all too aware that Cato could not accomplish his aim without his assistance. He had to have the visual proof to shove right in front of the noses of the Roman senators. Gaius had to make it seem as if the senators were there with them in the harbor of Carthage on the Mediterranean shore of North Africa. They had to have nightmares about ships that looked like this two-toned monster with the sails flaunting golden lions sailing through their sleep to get them disturbed enough to act.
It was up to him to get this all important drawing back to Rome in short order. He folded it up and stuck the drawing into a fold in his robes. He looked tensely to both sides. Should he wait until tomorrow? Or should he try to take ship right now? It was already early afternoon, but ships left the harbor right up until sunset.
He had no business here in New Carthage otherwise. He had what he had come here to find. Lingering could only cause trouble big time.
He left money for the apartment owner in the center of the table, threw his cloak over his shoulders and head to disguise his identity, and made his way down the stairs to the ground level. Before emerging onto the street, he looked carefully in every possible direction. He did not see anyone lingering about looking towards him as he started on foot towards the harbor. He stopped at every street corner to study the scene about him. Only ordinary housewives and businessmen going about their daily business were in evidence anywhere he looked.
As luck would have it Gaius found a Roman merchantmen in the harbor. It had just unloaded a shipment of fine wines from Italian latafundia outside Rome. Cato ran such an operation on his estate and had just written a book about it called On Agriculture, which was noted to be the first such work using fine Latin prose. One of his wines could have been aboard.
Gaius Antonius boarded just before the ship cast off. It was sailing along the coast of Spain and planned to make landfall a few cities hence before darkness stopped the ship at port for the night before continuing on back to Rome across the Mediterranean Sea, or Our Sea as Romans liked to call it.
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Could There Be A Map Plot Nowadays?
When you think of the grand map plot that is the subject of the Edward Ware Thrillers at War Series, you realize that it could not exist nowadays in 2017. Edward and Dora are fighting the Germans from the early days of WW1 when the Kaiser was sending agents after the maps to the heyday of World War 2 when Adolf Hitler became the enemy. But the important thing is that they were always fighting against enemy countries with organized governments and armies, navies, and air forces. They were not fighting against terrorists.
Terrorists would not be interested in detailed military maps about how to take and defend certain prime locations in Europe. The reason? They don’t command armies. They would not have cared about the brilliance of T. E. Lawrence in figuring out about the shifting soft sands of North Africa just outside Cairo that became key in fighting the Battle of El Alamein. For the terrorists there are only hit and run covert attacks. There are no grand battles.
We are reminded of all this changes in the world scene with news of today’s terrorist attack on the Houses of Parliament in London right in the shadow of Big Ben and right on Westminister Bridge that connects the South Bank with the city. Edward might have known how to fight Hitler, but he would not have known how to combat an enemy that wants only destruction for destruction’s sake. The Lawrence maps would not have helped him at all. So they remain fixed in their own period of history which thankfully is not today, Wednesday, March 22, 2017.
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Image from the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/22/attack-houses-parliament-london-what-we-know-so-far)