Another Excerpt from My Work In Progress The Last Carthaginian. Part 1, In the Wake of Hannibal

To avoid having his infant son sacrificed as a burnt offering to the Goddess Tanit and the God Ba-al Hammon, Gisco has fled New Carthage with his wife, three small children and two freed slaves. He faces down a delegation from New Carthage intending to persuade him to return, and travels safely to Roman territory. As the party approaches Tarraco they encounter Roman Soldiers.

We were accosted by a group of eight Roman soldiers. “Who are you and where are you going?” their Decurion asked in Latin.
“My Latin is not good,” I said, “Do you speak Greek?”
The soldier smiled. “My Greek is not good. Are these your children?”
“Yes,” I said. “These are my wife, my children, and two friends.”
The men murmured among themselves. “You will come with us,” the Decurion said “We have someone at our camp who speaks Greek.”
He led us to his army camp. It was strange to me to see a functioning Roman military camp. The only ones I had ever been in were those that we had overrun and pillaged. The place was set up with precision, there were straight roads and evenly spaced tents, and it hummed with activity. We were taken to a tent.
“Lucius!” called the Decurion, “We found these strangers on the road heading toward Tarraco. The man doesn’t speak much Latin but says he speaks Greek. Can you talk to him in Greek?”
Lucius came out and looked us over. He was a young man, tall and thin with a trim beard. He didn’t seem very threatening.
“Greek? That will be a nice change from speaking Celtiberian,” said Lucius in Greek. “Come into my tent. I have a desk and parchment for writing things down.” The tent was larger than most and was lit with several oil lamps. In one corner sat a young woman sewing. She did not look up from her work. Lucius pointed to a stool. “Please sit.” He sat down behind the desk and took out parchment and stylus.
“Now, who are you, and why are you traveling to Tarraco? Who are the woman and children and these other men?”
“My name is Gisco,” I said. “I’m a deserter from the Carthaginian army, and I was coming to Tarraco because it is firmly in Roman control. I bring my wife and three children and two freedmen.”
“The name Gisco sounds Carthaginian,” said Lucius, looking amazed. “You’re Carthaginian?”
“Yes,” I said.
“A Carthaginian deserter!” he exclaimed. “That never happens! The Spanish tribesmen are fickle, and we see deserters from time to time, but an actual Carthaginian? Never. How do we know you’re not a spy? You must realize that we Romans believe that there is no such thing as an honest Carthaginian.”
“Yes, I know,” I said. “I once heard a Roman say, ‘Lying is for Carthaginians.’ But the Carthaginian army would never send a Carthaginian as a spy. That would be too obvious. We have so many other nationalities in our employ that can blend in much more easily. I was highly placed in the Carthaginian army. I was lieutenant to Mago Barca, the brother of Hannibal, and my brother is Hasdrubal son of Gisco, the general who leads an army down in Gades. I can offer your Scipio a lot of information.”
Young Lucius looked shocked. “I’ve never heard anything so unbelievable!” he said. “And even if it were all true, you say these things so matter-of-factly. Are you not the least bit ashamed of being a traitor? What is your price for selling information to your enemies?”
“The safety of my wife and children. That is my only price,” I said. “Yes, I’m ashamed of being a traitor to my country. Do you think I would do this if I had a choice?”
“What do you mean, if you had a choice?” said Lucius. “Why do you have no choice?”
“Do you see the baby in my wife’s arms?” I said. “He was to be sacrificed as a burnt offering to our gods Tanit and Ba-al Hammon. This was my only way to prevent it. I trade my honor for his safety.”
Lucius stared at me open-mouthed for a long moment. “You mean it’s true what they say about Carthage? True about the sacrifice of infants?”
I nodded. I was on the verge of tears. No, I admit it. I began to weep. We sat for a long time in silence. Finally, Lucius poured a cup of wine and offered it to me. “Thank you,” I said. I took the cup and began to sip from it. Not Falernian, but not bad.
“Let me see the child,” said Lucius. He left the tent and bade Sansara to show him the baby. He returned to his desk.
“A beautiful child,” he said. “I have a son of my own back in Rome.” He shook his head. “I can’t understand you Carthaginians. How could you possibly. . . .”
“I couldn’t,” I said. “That’s why I’m here. A traitor with no country.”
“Your wife doesn’t look Carthaginian,” said Lucius.
“Sansara is the grand-daughter of the chieftain of the Volciani,” I replied. “It was a political match but she’s a good wife and we are happy together.”
“What about the two men with you? Who are they?” asked Lucius.
“My freedmen. I set them free but they wouldn’t leave,” I said. “One is an Iberian Greek, and the other is a Carpetani.”
“We will have to investigate this matter further,” said Lucius. “We will need to know if you really are who you say you are. I will have to consult with Cneius Scipio when he returns. In the meantime you and your family and freedmen will be held in comfortable confinement in Tarraco. My intuition tells me you are telling the truth, even if you are a Carthaginian.” He smiled. He summoned the Decurion and gave him instructions in Latin.

Comments

  1. I like millions of others am a fan of Roman history, but seldom have I read stories that bring the characters to life like this novel. I look forward to the books release.

  2. Thank you Fred.

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