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.
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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.
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Senate: The War Against The Samnites Must End:
Cato sent the first Senate decree to the Carthaginians to end the war against the Samnites. He wanted them to receive the messenger and see that the Senate was resolved to prevent them from carrying on their current war with the Samnites. They must end it and now. He also hoped that they would notice that a time limit for negotiations had been established. Rome was determined to supervise the peace negotiations. Every two months they would send out a delegation that would force a meeting between the two warring parties. They would meet first in Carthage and then in the Samnites territory, alternating back and forth until all talks were completed.
The delegates sent from Rome with such authority would report back to the Senate and give reports about the progress.
Everyone waited with great alacrity for the first report which came in about one month. Things were speeded for that one to jump start matters. Cato made sure of it. He held a Senate meeting and read out his demand and the Carthaginian response.
Scowling around at the Senate House Cato read his charge and accusation: “You, Carthaginians under King Hasdrubal, have deliberately started to rebuild your navy and your army to recover from the Second Punic War. I saw evidence of it when I was personally visiting Carthage to escort the hostages back to Rome. You had new ships of a new design right in the harbor. I surprised you and found them. So before you get carried away and you start to retake your old position in the Mediterranean, the Senate insists that you make peace with the Samnites and disarm. We will need evidence of your disarming forthwith.”
The Senators all nodded gravely.
Cato broke the seal for the Carthaginian response. He read it aloud. “King Hasdrubal of Carthage reasserts his firm loyalty to the Roman command. Ever since the last war the city of Carthage has taken a new path to develop its trade routes. It wants to make sure that it finished paying his indemnity to Rome, and that much as been accomplished. All we are trying to do now is to build up our trade routes, not our old military command.”
Cato again glared around at the Senate assembled in front of him. “This is obviously a big lie!” he insisted. “The Carthaginians were beginning to fashion new warships. We saw them in the harbor in Carthage the last time we were there.”
The Senate nodded.
Cato glared at Gaius Antonius as he sat there. “Hand over your drawings!” he commanded him.
Gaius should have seen Cato’s request coming. He had been commanded to carry around the maps with him wherever he went in case Cato should need them. Now he was calling upon him. Gaius could not prevent the disaster that was now upon him. There was no way that he could warn Cato now. He had not done so before because of the man’s reaction and to give himself time to figure out what to do. The demand for the maps had come sooner than he could have expected. And now he was being caught short.
Gaius rose and handed over the maps drawn by Tanit’s friend and compatriot from Carthage.
Cato took the maps unsuspectingly. Gaius’s eyes were full of anxiety. But Cato was intent on his purpose and did not read the anxiety there. Or he misinterpreted it and thought Gaius was merely intent on his speech and anxious about the Carthaginians.
“There was a new naval ship in the harbor at Carthage. Gaius’s sharp eye caught it. It is displayed in his drawing. I will post the drawing up here at the podium. You can come around and see it one by one.”
But that was never to be. Cato opened the map and searched. He could not find what he was looking for. He scowled and summoned Gaius to him.The Senate broke into murmurs.
“Cato,” he had to confess, “the maps were stolen while I slept! These are replacements drawn by one of Tanit’s Carthaginians.”
Cato’s eyes bulged from his head. He declared to the Senate House. “Gaius Antonius tells me that the maps drawn by him have been stolen. A fake replica has been substituted for them. Treachery!” Cato declared as he pointed his finger upward.
The senators looked around at each other. They nodded sternly. They rose to their feet and repeated his words, crying, “Treachery!”
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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.
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Cato Demands Carthaginian Hostages At The Banquet:
Gaius Antonius landed in Carthage a week later and came ashore with Lavinia’s Uncle Cato. The colorful buildings were crowded together in the harbor touching side to side with hardly a space in between. Around them flourished small gardens. He could pick out brightly colored red hisbiscus and flaming pink bougainvillea.
They were taken to one of the most opulent houses. The head of the city received their all Roman delegation in high style. Servants raced around them to serve them an impromptu banquet.
As they were seated at a banquet he heard strange music and the sound of mourning people. Cato gave him the eye as they watched the citizens parade in a group towards a religious temple not far away. It rose over the harbor. He had been tutoring Gaius before they set out in the customs of the Carthaginian people and their history.
He had informed Gaius that they practiced a horrible, primitive religion that demanded sacrifices of baby infants to the God Cronus. Cato had showed Gaius ugly images of this repulsive God with his hands extended palms up and sloping towards the ground. The children were placed in those arms. They fell into a gaping, fiery pit. Then they were buried in a special cemetery devoted to that purpose.
If Gaius had any qualms about coming down hard on the Carthaginians he lost it after experiencing this horror. These people were not worthy to survive. Their customs, their religion, their culture seemed blackened because of this crime.
The leader of the Carthaginians pleaded as they progressed with the banquet, “I don’t understand what the problem is.” And he addressed Cato in good Latin, abandoning the Phoenician language out of deference, for the Carthaginians had always been a seafaring people. “Our neighbors attacked us. I assume we have the right to defend ourselves.”
Cato slapped down a copy of the treaty that had ended the last war against Carthage. It had almost ended with the destruction of Rome except for the generalship of Scipio Africanus.
“You agreed not to move your armies outside your city state without our express permission,” Cato pointed to the exact provision.
Everyone at the banquet cast him alarmed expressions.
“Very good, sir,” the leader of the Carthaginians tried to wax diplomatic as he wrung his hands. “But we thought that meant major wars of aggression. We did not think it had to do with raiding and more minor infractions of our neighbors. Rome is too far away to consult about matters of the moment like that.”
“The provision is literal,” Cato glowered at him worse than he glowered at senators in the Senate House. Gaius could see all the men in the room cringing. “We must consent to every act of aggression no matter how small or insignificant. How else can we protect ourselves? We don’t know what you might try next.”
The leader threw up his arms. “From now on we will try to obey your wishes in the matter. But you must excuse us this time. If we had not acted, we would not now have a fishing fleet. Then we would starve.”
Cato shook his head. “I must demand more. As a surety of your good behavior over the next year, we want as hostages one hundred of your noble youths to take with us back to Rome.”
Silence descended upon the banquet hall as the Carthaginian leaders exchanged haunted looks. They retired from the banquet into an adjoining chamber to discuss the matter of the hostages in detail and in privacy.
Cato nodded at Gaius. He took advantage of the opportunity to sketch the meeting place in detail just as he had already sketched the harbor works, the houses grouped together, and the flowering plants placed just so. It was a way to relieve the tension of waiting.
Cato did not look tense. He did not think the Carthaginians had any choice but to placate Rome with hostages. And he intended to exploit his position for everything that it was worth.
There was a commotion and a stir in the banquet room. Whisperings could be heard. Suddenly the leaders of the community burst through doors in the back of the room. Gaius gazed into their eyes the way Cato had taught him. The answer concerning the hostages was on their lips.
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Cato Sends Gaius to Carthage To Make Drawings:
Gaius Antonius sat there in amazement as the senators crowded around Cato at the conclusion of the Senate session. They were all gossipping about the last war and all their family memories that Gaius did not share because he was too young to remember. His father directed attention to him by telling another senator that he had brought Gaius along just in case there was a declaration of war today and he could volunteer his son as a recruit.
Gaius hung back until he was all alone in the Forum. He took a new way home and instead of returning to his house on the Palatine Hill in Rome he saddled up and took off for his country house outside town near the port of Ostia.
He sat there sketching the scenery to quiet his mind. He was joined by the daughter of the local mayor whom he had befriended recently. She questioned him what brought him here today. He spilled out his troubles to her.
She seemed disturbed. “Rome won’t quit until there is no other power in the Mediterranean,” she lamented. “They want to wipe out the Carthaginians just like they wiped us out too a while back.”
The girl who was descended from a local Etruscan family. The Etruscans had preceded the Romans in this area of Italy. Now hardly anyone spoke the original language which had practically died out during the past several generations.
“The Romans want the Carthaginians to speak Latin,” she said.
“But I guess there is a certain danger letting the Carthaginians make war against a neighboring city state,” Gaius lamented.
She shook her head sadly and disappeared. “You are just a Roman like the rest of them. And here I thought you were different!”
Gaius tried to follow her. But a messenger arrived from his father. He directed Gaius to follow the messenger back to Rome. Cato wanted to speak to him.
Marcus Porcius Cato? That was enough to wipe the memory of the Etruscan girl from his mind. Feeling very nervous he followed the messenger back to Rome to the imposing house of Cato not far from his own on Palatine Hill.
He entered the great man’s study in trepidation. He was amazed that the great man had even paid attention to his lowly presence in the Senate Chamber. But then Cato had seemed to pay attention to everyone great and small. That was part of his genius as he put down his pen and stopped working on his history of Roman customs and the life of a Roman country gentleman, the first prose work anyone had ever attempted to write in Latin before.
Cato smiled at Gaius, which surprised him even more. Given his stern face with all the lines, he was surprised if the older man could smile at all. He seemed to scowl at everyone all the time.
“Do you know why I didn’t call for a vote for war today?” Cato asked.
Gaius shook his head “no”.
“Because I wanted you to precede that vote. You must go to Carthage for us and make drawings of the buildings there in the harbor and around town so we know what we are confronting. We will find a pretext for you to leave Rome during our next session of the Senate.”
Gaius nodded nervously, not knowing how to say no to Cato.
“Perhaps we will ask them to send hostages as a show of good faith, that they are not making war against our interests,” Cato suggested to him.
He could not believe what was happening when Cato then invited him to lunch with him in his garden. Even more amazing, he introduced him to his granddaughter, who expressed a great interest in his drawings and examined them one by one very carefully.
“I like knowing you,” she smiled. “You seem like the man of the moment.” She gazed into his eyes.
Gaius was so overcome with her scintillating smile that at once he thought he would do anything to please her. He knew what his mission would be.
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