Carthago Delenda Est: Carthage Must Be Destroyed
Gaius Antonius fancies that he has a future career as an architect. He spend his days drawing and sketching buildings in Republican Rome of the second century B.C. Rome is growing, dominating Italy as well as some of its neighbors. He likes to picture Rome of the future when it goes on a building binge. He would like to be there to construct the buildings.
His father, also Gaius Antonius the Elder, severely criticizes his son. He was born into a patrician family. It is his duty to go into politics and the military, not sketch and draw buildings. Alas he has no interest in being his father all over again and constantly tries to shirk such responsibilities.
His father, the senator, drags his son to the Senate House in the Forum to listen along with his other male relations. The great elder senator, Cato, rose to make a speech about his latest visit to Carthage to collect their yearly indemnity imposed after the Second Punic War decades ago. He was complaining how Carthage was again getting out of hand, making war against its Numidian neighbors and could not be trusted. He reminded Romans of the woes of the last war with Italy invaded by elephants. They should act now before it was again too late. He concluded his speech with a call to arms, “Carthago delenda est.” Or ‘“Carthage must be destroyed”.
Gaius’s father rose and proposed in effect a “draft” of the noble youth to respond to Carthago delenda est. He volunteered his own son, Gaius, as the first recruit, making his son’s hair stand up on end on his head.
Scipio Aemilianus, descendant of the famous Scipio Africanus, victor of the last Punic War, rose and suggested that they give Carthage a last chance and send a delegation to bring back three hundred noble youths as hostages about Carthage’s behavior towards its neighbors.
When the Senate session concluded, Scipio summoned Gaius to his house. He told him that he wanted him to help guide the hostages to Rome ostensibly which was why he invented the requirement. Really he wanted him to use his drawing talent to make notes about the appearance of the city. He was to draw everything so the Romans knew what was what before declaring war. And on the way to Carthage he was stop in New Carthage along the coast of Spain to study the famous sea wall and make drawings of everything he could find there. Scipio would wait for his findings before declaring war.
Gaius was amazed that such a responsibility was being thrust onto his shoulders. He could not refuse. In just one day his whole life was being changed and transformed. He looked down at his pen and wondered about the drawings he was about to make and their vast significance.
Carthago delenda est.
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