The first in a brilliant new series set during the Second Punic War, from the bestselling author of The Forgotten Legion Chronicles.
In the First Punic War, the Roman legions defeated and humiliated Carthage, their only serious rival for power in the Mediterranean. Now a brilliant young Carthaginian general, called Hannibal, is out for revenge. Caught up in the maelstrom are two young boys, Hanno, the son of a distinguished soldier and confidant of Hannibal, and Quintus, son of a Roman equestrian and landowner. A disastrous adventure will see Hanno sold into slavery and bought by Quintus's father. Although an unexpected friendship springs up between the two boys -- and with Quintus's sister, Aurelia -- the fortunes of the two warring empires once again separates them. They find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict and an alliance forged through slavery will be played out to its stunning conclusion in battle.
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BEN KANE was born in Kenya and raised there and in Ireland. He studied veterinary medicine at University College Dublin but after that he travelled the world extensively, indulging his passion for ancient history. Now he lives in North
Somerset, where he researches, writes and practises as a small animal vet.
“Hanno!” His father’s voice echoed off the painted stucco walls. “It’s time to go.”
Stepping carefully over the gutter that carried liquid waste out to the soakaway in the street, Hanno looked back. He was torn between his duty and the urgent gestures of his friend, Suniaton. The political meetings his father had recently insisted he attend bored him to tears. Each one he’d been to followed exactly the same path. A group of self-important, bearded elders, clearly fond of the sound of their own voices, made interminable speeches about how Hannibal Barca’s actions in Iberia were exceeding the remit granted to him. Malchus—his father—and his closest allies, who supported Hannibal, said little or nothing until the graybeards had fallen silent, when they would stand forth one by one. Invariably, Malchus spoke last of all. His words seldom varied. Hannibal, who had been commander in Iberia for just three years, was doing an outstanding job in cementing Carthage’s hold over the wild native tribes, forming a disciplined army and, most importantly, filling the city’s coffers with the silver from his mines. Who else was pursuing such heroic and worthy endeavors while simultaneously enriching Carthage? In defending the tribes who had been attacked by Saguntum, a city allied to Rome, he was merely reinforcing their people’s sovereignty in Iberia. On these grounds, the young Barca should be left to his own devices.
Hanno knew that what motivated the politicians was fear, partly assuaged by the thought of Hannibal’s forces, and greed, partly satisfied by the shiploads of precious metal from Iberia. Malchus’ carefully chosen words therefore normally swayed the Senate in Hannibal’s favor, but only after endless hours of debate. The interminable politicking made Hanno want to scream, and to tell the old fools what he really thought of them. Of course he would never shame his father in that manner, but nor could he face yet another day stuck indoors. The idea of a fishing trip held too much appeal.
One of Hannibal’s messengers regularly came to bring his father news from Iberia, and had visited not a week since. The nighttime rendezvous were supposed to be a secret, but Hanno had soon come to recognize the cloaked, sallow-skinned officer. Sapho and Bostar, his older brothers, had been allowed to stand in on the meetings for some time. Swearing Hanno to secrecy, Bostar had filled him in afterward. Now, if he was able, Hanno simply eavesdropped. In a nutshell, Hannibal had charged Malchus and his allies with the task of ensuring that the politicians continued to back his actions. A showdown with the city of Saguntum was imminent, but conflict with Rome, Carthage’s old enemy, was some way off yet.
The deep, gravelly voice called out again, echoing down the corridor that led to the central courtyard. There was a hint of annoyance in it now. “Hanno? We’ll be late.”
Hanno froze. He wasn’t afraid of the dressing down his father would deliver later, more of the disappointed look in his eyes. A scion of one of Carthage’s oldest families, Malchus led by example, and expected his three sons to do the same. At seventeen, Hanno was the youngest. He was also the one who most often failed to meet these exacting standards. For some reason, Malchus expected more of him than he did of Sapho and Bostar. At least that’s how it seemed to Hanno. Yet farming, the traditional source of their wealth, interested him little. Warfare, his father’s preferred vocation, and Hanno’s great fascination, was barred to him still, thanks to his youth. His brothers would be sailing for Iberia any day. There, no doubt, they would cover themselves in glory in the taking of Saguntum. Frustration and resentment filled Hanno. All he could do was practice his riding and weapons skills. Life as ordained by his father was so boring, he thought, choosing to ignore Malchus’ oft-repeated statement: “Be patient. All good things come to those who wait.”
“Come on!” urged Suniaton, thumping Hanno on the arm. His gold earrings jingled as he jerked his head in the direction of the harbor. “The fishermen found huge shoals of tunny in the bay at dawn. With Melqart’s blessing, the fish won’t have moved far. We’ll catch dozens. Think of the money to be made!” His voice dropped to a whisper. “I’ve taken an amphora of wine from Father’s cellar. We can share it on the boat.”
Unable to resist his friend’s offer, Hanno blocked his ears to Malchus’ voice, which was coming closer. Tunny was one of the most prized fish in the Mediterranean. If the shoals were close to shore, this was an opportunity too good to miss. Stepping into the rutted street, he glanced once more at the symbol etched into the stone slab before the flat-roofed house’s entrance. An inverted triangle topped by a flat line and then a circle, it represented his people’s preeminent deity. Few dwellings were without it. Hanno asked Tanit’s forgiveness for disobeying his father’s wishes, but his excitement was such that he forgot to ask for the mother goddess’s protection.
“Hanno!” His father’s voice was very near now.
Without further ado, the two young men darted off into the crowd. Both their families dwelled near the top of Byrsa Hill. At the summit, reached by a monumental staircase of sixty steps, was an immense temple dedicated to Eshmoun, the god of fertility, health and well-being. Suniaton lived with his family in the sprawling complex behind the shrine, where his father served as a priest. Named in honor of the deity, Eshmuniaton—abbreviated to Suniaton or simply Suni—was Hanno’s oldest and closest friend. The pair had scarcely spent a day out of each other’s company since they were old enough to walk.
The rest of the neighborhood was primarily residential. Byrsa was one of the richer quarters, as its wide, straight thoroughfares and right-angled intersections proved. The majority of the city’s winding streets were no more than ten paces across, but here they averaged more than twice this width. In addition to wealthy merchants and senior army officers, the suffetes—judges—and many elders also called the area home. For this reason, Hanno ran with his gaze directed at the packed earth and the regular soakaway holes beneath his feet. Plenty of people knew who he was. The last thing he wanted was to be stopped and challenged by one of Malchus’ numerous political opponents. To be dragged back home by the ear would be embarrassing and bring dishonor to his family.
As long as they didn’t catch anyone’s eye, he and his friend would pass unnoticed. Bareheaded and wearing tight-fitting red woolen singlets, with a central white stripe and a distinctive wide neckband, and breeches that reached to the knee, the pair looked no different from other well-to-do youths. Their garb was far more practical than the long straight wool tunics and conical felt hats favored by most adult men, and more comfortable than the ornate jacket and pleated apron worn by those of Cypriot extraction. Sheathed daggers hung from simple leather straps thrown over their shoulders. Suniaton carried a bulging pack on his back.
Although people said that they could pass for brothers, Hanno couldn’t see it most of the time. While he was tall and athletic, Suniaton was short and squat. Naturally, they both had tightly curled black hair and a dark complexion, but there the resemblance ended. Hanno’s face was thin, with a straight nose and high cheekbones, while his friend’s round visage and snub nose were complemented by a jutting chin. They did both have green eyes, Hanno conceded. That feature, unusual among the brown-eyed Carthaginians, was probably why they were thought to be siblings.
A step ahead of him, Suniaton nearly collided with a carpenter carrying several long cypress planks. Rather than apologize, he thumbed his nose and sprinted toward the citadel walls, now only a hundred paces away. Stifling his desire to finish the job by tipping over the angry tradesman, Hanno dodged past too, a grin splitting his face. Another similarity he and Suniaton shared was an impudent nature, quite at odds with the serious manner of most of their countrymen. It frequently got both of them in trouble, and was a constant source of irritation to their fathers.
A moment later, they passed under the immense ramparts, which were thirty paces deep and nearly the same in height. Like the outer defenses, the wall was constructed from great quadrilateral blocks of sandstone. Frequent coats of whitewash ensured that the sunlight bounced off the stone, magnifying its size. Topped by a wide walkway and with regular towers, the fortifications were truly awe-inspiring. Yet the citadel was only a small part of the whole. Hanno never tired of looking down on the expanse of the sea wall that came into view as he emerged from under the gateway’s shadow. Running down from the north along the city’s perimeter, it swept southeast to the twin harbors, curling protectively around them before heading west. On the steep northern and eastern sides, and to the south, where the sea gave its added protection, one wall was deemed sufficient, but on the western, landward side of the peninsula, three defenses had been constructed: a wide trench backed by an earthen bank, and then a huge rampart. The walls, which were in total over 180 stades in length, also contained sections with two-tiered living quarters. These could hold many thousands of troops, cavalry and their mounts, and hundreds of war elephants.
Home to nearly a quarter of a million people, the city also demanded attention. Directly below lay the Agora, the large open space bordered by government buildings and countless shops. It was the area where residents gathered to do business, demonstrate, take the evening air, and vote. Beyond it lay the unique ports: the huge outer, rectangular merchant harbor, and the inner, circular naval docks with its small, central island. The first contained hundreds of berths for trading ships, while the second could hold more than ten-score triremes and quinqueremes in specially constructed covered sheds. To the west of the ports was the old shrine of Baal Hammon, no longer as important as it had previously been, but still venerated by many. To the east lay the Choma, the huge man-made landing stage where fishing smacks and small vessels tied up. It was also their destination.
Hanno was immensely proud of his home. He had no idea what Rome, Carthage’s old enemy, looked like, but he doubted it matched his city’s grandeur. He had no desire to compare Carthage with the Republic’s capital, though. The only view he ever wanted of Rome was when it fell—to a victorious Carthaginian army—before seeing it burned to the ground. As Hamilcar Barca, Hannibal’s father, had inculcated a hatred of all things Roman in his sons, so had Malchus in Hanno and his brothers. Like Hamilcar, Malchus had served in the first war against the Republic, fighting in Sicily for ten long, thankless years.
Unsurprisingly, Hanno and his siblings knew the details of every land skirmish and naval battle in the conflict, which had actually lasted for more than a generation. The cost to Carthage in loss of life, territory and wealth had been huge, but the city’s wounds ran far deeper. Her pride had been trampled in the mud by the defeat, and this ignominy was repeated just three years after the war’s conclusion. Carthage had been unilaterally forced by Rome to give up Sardinia, as well as paying more indemnities. The shabby act proved beyond doubt, Malchus would regularly rant, that all Romans were treacherous dogs, without honor. Hanno agreed, and looked forward to the day hostilities were reopened once more. Given the depth of anger still present in Carthage toward Rome, conflict was inevitable, and it would originate in Iberia. Soon.
Suniaton turned. “Have you eaten?”
Hanno shrugged. “Some bread and honey when I got up.”
“Me too. That was hours ago, though.” Suniaton grinned and patted his belly. “Best get a few supplies.”
“Good idea,” Hanno replied. They kept clay gourds of water in their little boat with their fishing gear, but no food. Sunset, when they would return, was a long way off.
The streets descending Byrsa Hill did not follow the regular layout of the summit, instead radiating out like so many tributaries of a meandering river. There were far more shops and businesses visible now: bakers, butchers and stalls selling freshly caught fish, fruit and vegetables stood beside silver- and coppersmiths, perfume merchants and glass blowers. Women sat outside their doors, working at their looms, or gossiping over their purchases. Slaves carried rich men past in litters or swept the ground in front of shops. Dye-makers’ premises were everywhere, their abundance due to the Carthaginian skill in harvesting the local Murex shellfish and pounding its flesh to yield a purple dye that commanded premium prices all over the Mediterranean. Children ran hither and thither, playing catch and chasing each other up and down the regular sets of stairs that broke the street’s steep descent. Deep in conversation, a trio of well-dressed men strolled past. Recognizing them as elders, who were probably on their way to the very meeting he was supposed to be attending, Hanno took a sudden interest in the array of terra-cotta outside a potter’s workshop.
Dozens of figures—large and small—were ranked on low tables. Hanno recognized every deity in the Carthaginian pantheon. There sat a regal, crowned Baal Hammon, the protector of Carthage, on his throne; beside him Tanit was depicted in the Egyptian manner: a shapely woman’s body in a well-cut dress, but with the head of a lioness. A smiling Astarte clutched a tambourine. Her consort, Melqart, known as the “King of the City,” was, among other things, the god of the sea. Various brightly colored figures depicted him emerging from crashing waves riding a fearful-looking monster and clutching a trident in one fist. Baal Saphon, the god of storm and war, sat astride a fine charger, wearing a helmet with a long, flowing crest. Also on display was a selection of hideous, grinning painted masks—tattooed, bejeweled demons and spirits of the underworld—tomb offerings designed to ward off evil.
Hanno shivered, remembering his mother’s funeral three years before. Since her death of a fever his father, never the most warm of men, had become a grim and forbidding presence who lived only to gain his revenge on Rome. For all his youth, Hanno knew that Malchus was portraying a controlled mask to the world. He must still be grieving, as surely as he and his brothers were. Arishat, Hanno’s mother, had been the light to Malchus’ dark, the laughter to his gravitas, the softness to his strength. The center of the family, she had been taken from them in two horrific days and nights. Harangued by an inconsolable Malchus, the best surgeons in Carthage had toiled over her to no avail. Every last detail of her final hours was engraved in Hanno’s memory. The cups of blood drained from her in a vain attempt to cool her raging temperature. Her gaunt, fevered face. The sweat-soaked sheets. His brothers trying not to cry, and failing. And lastly, her still form on the bed, tinier than she had ever been in life. Malchus kneeling alongside, great sobs racking his muscular frame. That was the only time Hanno had ever seen his father weep. The incident had never been mentioned since, nor had his mother. He swallowed hard and, checking that the elders had passed by, moved on. It hurt too much to think about such things.
Suniaton, who had not noticed Hanno’s distress, paused to buy some bread, almonds and figs. Keen to lift his somber mood, Hanno eyed the blacksmith’s forge off to one side. Wisps of smoke rose...
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Descripción Preface Publishing, 2011. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Never used!. Nº de ref. de la librería P111848092288
Descripción Preface Publishing, 2011. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. book. Nº de ref. de la librería M1848092288