Roman Army More Destructive Than Atomic Bomb:
We read about Scipio Aemilianus, head of the Roman army, weeping at the end of the Third Punic War as he stood by the historian, Polybius, and supervised the systemic burning and destruction of Carthage. The last 50,000 citizens presented an olive branch to the Roman army and marched out of the doomed city to a life of slavery. Aemilianus quoted Homer about Troy. But Oppenheimer on July 16, 1945 when he watched the first nuclear explosion quoted Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds”. The atomic bomb is supposed to be the ultimate weapon destroying more than anything else. But really the Roman army at Carthage after the Third Punic War destroyed more —- and they didn’t even have guns or explosives at all!
Rome and the Roman army took apart a whole civilization and obliterated all traces of it. Nothing survived for very long, not even the art or culture after the last ruler of Carthage committed suicide and his wife threw her children into the flames and then leaped into the flames herself. But after World War 1 and World War 2 the defeated parties not only survived but prospered and in very short order, too. The United States and Britain didn’t burn all the German cities to the ground and enslave whole populations. Germany and Japan came right back after the war and became economic engines again. Rome and the Roman army would never have permitted this with Carthage.
We are commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War 1. Europe cannot get over the Battle of the Somme and other similar battles losing thousands of men. But Rome and the Roman army suffered more during the Second Punic War, especially during the Battle of Cannae, and got over it very quickly. Nor did it make Rome hate war and want to avoid it at all costs.
This attitude that somehow the past was more peaceful and the present more violent needs to be re-examined. It doesn’t fit the facts. The Punic Wars seem more horrible than either World War 1 or World War 2.
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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 Visits the Sea Wall In New Carthage:
Gaius approached Tanit in the shadow of the sea wall in New Carthage. But he had to remind himself that he could not make himself known to her. That would spoil everything. The maps would become useless. The Carthaginians would be alerted, and all his plans and perhaps Cato’s too would come to naught.
He forced himself to remain at least ten paces behind the girl. When she stopped, he stopped and kept to the shadows. When she turned around, he stepped quickly into the darkest part of the shadows. When she speeded up, he sped up. When she hesitated, he hesitated. When she ducked behind a building, he followed.
She kept on looking towards the sea wall as if she were expecting something. Tanit hesitated and seemed to be waiting. So Gaius waited too.
Suddenly a contingent of soldiers in formal costume marched out of the town of New Carthage towards the sea wall in formation. They marched one direction behind the sea wall parallel to it and then marched back again. A similarly dressed contingent of soldiers marched out of the sea wall itself and joined them. Then they both marched in formation behind the wall. The soldiers stopped and saluted each other in what looked like a changing of the guard ceremony.
Only then did the group of soldiers who had been inside the wall march back towards the town and leave the new group of soldiers to take possession of the wall. They did that in short order and shut the door to the inner wall which must be at least twenty feet wide if it was a foot.
Only then did Tanit start towards them. So Gaius followed at what he judged to be a safe, discreet distance. She approached the door that had just slammed shut with a giant bang and knocked.
One of the soldiers answered the door and flung it wide open. As soon as the soldier saw her, he bowed low and said, “Princess!” Apparently she was recognized by the soldiers there as the Princess of Carthage, daughter of Hasdrubal. Perhaps they even knew her mission or had heard about it. The guard seemed to be expecting her.
She withdrew a sheaf of papers from her robe and waved it in front of the soldier. “Take these maps and hide them in a chamber within the wall. On your life don’t tell anybody that they are hidden there. The very existence of Carthage and perhaps of your city too is dependent upon it.”
The soldier motioned with his arm for her to follow him inside. Gaius wished that he could follow, too. They were obviously his maps, the ones he had drawn in person in Carthage when he had visited with Cato. He even recognized them. They were just what he had come looking for. It would be worth a lot to see exactly where they would put them.
But the door slammed behind them. When Gaius reached it, he could not open it. He put his ear to the door. Because of the massive stone ramparts and walls he could hear nothing.
He had to wait on the other side of the street hidden behind a statue to the god Baal complete with horns on his head. Eventually they appeared at the door again and Tanit hidden within her capacious robes took her leave of the soldiers and the seawall.
Gaius remained behind watching and waiting for his opportunity. It did not make any sense to follow Tanit now. She no longer had the maps in her possession. So he bided his time until the soldiers within the sea wall to appear once more. In about three more hours they performed the same feat in the area behind the sea wall. They marched back and forth and once again changed the guard. He saw the guard go off duty who was the one Tanit had been speaking to.
Gaius wondered if that particular guard had passed on the knowledge about the maps to his successors. He realized he would have to return here tomorrow at first light. Then the guards would change for the first time that day. Then Gaius Antonius would have to join them.
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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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