Tanit Sails Away In The Middle Of The Night:
Gaius was so indignant about Tanit murdering his father in cold blood — the very man who had once paid host to her when she was visiting Rome and his latifundia — that he immediately scribbled a note and sent for Scipio Aemilianus though it was the middle of the night.
About an hour later Scipio arrived fully dressed in his military outfit. Gaius filled him in on what had just happened and how Tanit had outwitted them in the end and was now sailing away scott free at night.
“I think we should start sending the Roman navy to Carthage tomorrow,” Gaius insisted. “We cannot let her get away with murdering my father and not paying for the crime.”
Scipio nodded. “We will send the patrol boats to give them a scare. Of course the rest of the Roman army will be sailing within the week. We should all make it by Wednesday next.”
Gaius did not go back to bed that night. He worked straight way through packing his essentials for the campaign against Carthage. He wanted to leave with the advance boat to see if he could somehow catch Tanit before she arrived back in Carthage. He confided in Scipio that he wanted to go and why. And of course Scipio, the commander, honored his wish.
But as it turned out Gaius ended up sailing across the entire Mediterranean without once catching sight of the bitch of his creating. He had once flirted with her and encouraged her, making an absolute fool of himself. Fortunately nobody knew about it but himself and even that was too many people.
Days later they sailed into the port of Carthage, built as an amazing great circle in front of the city walls. It was now almost all emptied out. As they sailed up the last ships were disappearing out to sea. It would not do them much good. Soon they would not be able to bring in provisions no matter what.
Gaius gazed out to sea. He hoped one of those boats was not Tanit. He did not want her to escape.
Scipio was an experienced expert at siege warfare. They at once began constructing great siege engines. It was a slow way to get vengeance but a more certain one that trying to make attacks and enter the city prematurely. But still he worried about Tanit.
“Scipio, I would like to take a ship or two and follow that last Carthaginian ship out of the harbor,” Gaius explained. “I think it may be the princess of Carthage who stayed at Cato’s house as a hostage and a guest and then turned on him and murdered him in cold blood.”
Of course Scipio gave his permission as the leading general. Gaius set sail in the direction the ship had escaped.
But the ship proved very elusive and hard to follow just like Tanit. It would appear on the horizon far ahead of them only from time to time and then mysteriously disappear again. It only appeared often enough so that they could still follow it. And it was progressing quite a distance, too. It was obviously not headed for a neighboring port such as the Samnites.
He headed out onto the open sea wondering if Tanit would lead him to a secret stash of weapons or soldiers that he should know about. It took a couple days where he would catch sight of the ship and once again it would elude him. And another restless night would pass.
All too soon he found himself back in Spanish waters approaching the port of New Carthage. But low and behold, no sooner did the port come in view than he saw a Phoenician navy massed there to greet him. All the ships looked like the one he had drawn for Cato not that long ago. He had brought only two Roman ships with him. He had followed Tanit into a trap. Worse, he could catch sight of the Princess herself on the upper deck next to the captain. Her hand was clapped over her mouth. She was laughing at him. Her eyes were full of evil mirth — and fire.
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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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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.
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