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THE BIRTH OF ROME
Synopsis of Chapter 21: Payback
The young men of Roma were unclear where their loyalties lie. Marcus Junius led the Senate to restore control in the city and elect a new king, but members of the Celers Club storm the Curia Hostilia and murder the Senators in opposition to Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (Superbus meaning arrogant, prideful, haughty). Meanwhile Luc and his friends wait in Caere to be discharged. They witness the wrath of the Etruscans against the Greek prisoners. Luc learns much about good government from his Punic friend.
Excerpt from Chapter 21: Payback
"These are called coins," Gisco explained. "They were taken from the prisoners. They represent a value that has little to do with the worth of the metal itself. See how they stamped an image of a penteconter on one side? I think that's a bird on the other side. Ingenious, yes?"
"Very." Cutu replied. "So this disk may be worth a whole pound of copper?"
"Or a pound of gold. As long as it is honored, this coin could purchase a boatload of trade goods. The next few years will see everyone issuing coins such as these. Very clever, these seafaring Greeks." Gisco bobbed his head with profound respect for these active, innovative people.
They joined the people watching from the cliffs above the harbor, and Gisco translated the discussion being held below in Punic.
"The Zilach of Caere wants custody of the prisoners. The big man in the center is Gillimas, Admiral of the Punic fleet. He says the prisoners will make valuable slaves and should be shared equally. The Zilach said he confirmed Carthage's claim to Sardinia and Corsica. The Admiral says the Corsican harbor at Alalia will be shared with Caere. Ah, here you see the Zilach conferring with his advisors. Quiet now. The Zilach says they will repair the Punic ships at no cost, in exchange for the prisoners. Admiral Gillimas has agreed."
They watched as the prisoners were taken off the ships and added to the prisoners who had been previously delivered to the port. They were all herded together against an alcove in the cliff face that lined the road down into the harbor from the cliffs above. In a short while a huge crowd of townspeople came down from the city above and crowded the road leading to the harbor. This time Cutu translated for his friends.
"Many are shouting 'pirates!' They are very angry. 'You killed my boy.' 'Why did you have to come here?' They're working themselves up into a frenzy."
They watched in silence from above while the large crowd threatened the huddled group of prisoners, perhaps two hundred men in all. Waving fists and shouting curses, the angry mob from Caere surrounded the Phocaeans and dared them to resist. Then a stone struck one of the prisoners and he stumbled, another stone hit a second man, and suddenly the air was full of missiles. Heavy stones rained upon the Phocaeans and struck them down, bloody blotches appearing on their faces and arms held up in futile attempts to protect themselves from the onslaught. One by one the prisoners fell, but the stones kept coming, thrown with a fury that even death could not compensate. Even when the bodies stopped moving the townspeople still pelted them with pieces of rubble.
Luc, Cutu and Gisco looked on with open mouths at the wrath of a people aroused. This was more than an economic war; it was far more personal. Why, Luc could not begin to say. The people began to return to their city, some stopping to spit upon the corpses as they passed. Luc later learned that Caere forbid anyone to remove the bodies of the Phocaean pirates; they remained to be eaten by the carrion crows and vermin who lived along the harbor. Their bones were eventually ground into meal and used to fertilize their fields. To placate the gods, both Greek and Etruscan, Caere lodged a large donation with the Oracle of Delphi. Let the world know that trading ships from Caere were not to be attacked, nor their right to sail mocked by foreign intruders. For these insults, Caere extracted a terrible revenge.