The Last Carthaginian is Now Available on Amazon and Kindle

I have just published the third in my series of historical novels about the Second and Third Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage. The Death of Carthage told the story of the Second and Third Punic Wars from the point of view of the Romans. In the Wake of Hannibal told the story of the Second Punic War from the point of view of the Carthaginians. My new novel, The Last Carthaginian, tells the story of Rome’s destruction of Carthage from the point of view of two Carthaginian children, Gillimas and his cousin, Simabal, who live through it. This is the story of a holocaust that took place over 2000 years ago.

Gillimas and Simabal come from a noble and privileged Carthaginian family. Both of them are precocious and well-educated. They see their world unravel, bit by bit, as the Romans determine to obey Cato the Elder’s injunction: “Ceterum censeo Cartaginem esse delendam”-”And furthermore Carthage must be destroyed.”

Rome’s immediate quarrel with Carthage was that they went to war with their Numidian neighbor, Masinissa, over land disputes, without Rome’s permission. The war went badly for Carthage and they lost 50,000 men, including the fathers of both Gillimas and Simabal. Rome declared war on the weakened city and the Carthaginians tried everything they could to placate them, surrendering unconditionally, disarming, and sending three hundred noble youths to Rome as hostages. One of the youths was Gillimas’ brother Mazeus.

It is not until the Romans demanded that the Carthaginians abandon their city and move at least ten miles from the coast that the Carthaginians determined to resist. A three year struggle then ensued. Lack of brilliant military leadership slowed the Roman war efforts during the first two years, but then they found a competent general in the adoptive grandson of Scipio Africanus, Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus, also known as Scipio Minor. Scipio laid siege to Carthage and cut off the supply of food. The population began to decline precipitously from disease and hunger. Gillimas and Simabal survived near fatal illnesses but witnessed most of their relatives perish.

As the war progressed the Carthaginians became desperate and angry and turned upon each other. In this scene, Gillimas comes upon the dead body of his Aunt, Matessa, killed by a mob at the urging of the Suffete Hasdrubal:

I headed back to Megara. As I approached our mansion I heard loud keening. The voice was female and the cries were of intense grief, not pain. Having heard both sounds many times I knew how to distinguish between the two. I found Simabal in the common room, wailing.

“They’ve killed Uma! They’ve killed my Uma!

 The place was in shambles. Matessa’s body lay crumpled on the floor. She had been beaten and run through with a sword. Blood pooled around the body.

“They said that she was the sister of the traitor Phameas and that she must die!” Simabal said between sobs. “They murdered her. They murdered my Uma! I thought that they would kill me too, and I begged Ishtar for guidance. Then it was as though she spoke through me, the words came unbidden. I began to prophesy: ‘You are accursed of Ishtar! All of you! You have killed a mother and now none of you will beget a child! None of you! You have offended Ishtar and now all of you will die without her blessing upon you!’ They were shocked and silent, and they looked as me as though I were the goddess herself. Then they fled like bats exposed to the light. Then grief overtook me and I began to keen. Gillimas, do I really have so much power?”

“I don’t know, Simabal, but I’ve heard you sing many times, and your voice penetrates the soul.” I said. “There is a power in your voice that few people have. I don’t know how to describe it.”

Simabal looked at her mother’s body and once again began to keen.

I didn’t know what to do. Simabal needed me, but at the same time I had to go and tell Grandfather. I decided to deal with Simabal first, as it wasn’t likely that the guards at the Senate building would let me in to see Grandfather. I took her by the hand and led her to a couch. “Sit down, Simabal. Stop screaming. It will only bring unwanted attention to us. It won’t bring Auntie Matessa back.” She sat and wept and I put my arms around her. “This is more than I can bear, Gillimas,” she said. “Everyone is dead. Everyone I loved. What’s the point in living anymore? Ah, Gillimas, who can bear so much grief?”

But Gillimas and Simabal are destined to survive, and to find succor where they least expect it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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