Note: The Treaty of Tarentum is a subplot in the story of The Battle of Naulochus.
Preview from First Pages
Agrippa said, “Let’s go to my cabin. I’ll go over the plan with you,” As soon as Octavian, Maecenas and Balbus were standing around the table where the maps were spread out, Agrippa began. “We’re going to attack Sicily from every direction. Sextus has his men and ships concentrated here in Messana, in the northeast coast of Sicily. He’s well-fortified there. “Lepidus will sail up from Africa, land his legions in western Sicily, and march east to Messana.” He pointed to Tarentum on the south shore of Italy. “I put Statilius Taurus in command of the one hundred twenty ships that Antony gave us. When the time comes, he’ll sail west toward Messana. A large land army will follow along the shoreline with him.
“I’ll attack the ports on the north shore.”
Balbus asked, “Don’t you still have the problem of being able to defeat Sextus in a sea battle? What if he comes up and defeats you, Agrippa?”
“If he sails up to attack me, he’ll leave Messana unprotected, and we’ll be able to safely transport Statilius’ land armies over to Sicily from Italy.
“As far as his being able to defeat me, you have to remember that Sextus has never been attacked like this before. I’m having the hulls of our large ships double-planked so that it’ll be hard for Sextus’ smaller ships to penetrate them with their battering rams We’re going to overpower him with the sheer number of our ships and men from every direction. Our land armies will easily overcome his armies once we get on shore.
“Let me show you something else.” Agrippa went to the cabin door and made a motion to one of centurions. A few minutes later, two soldiers came walking in carrying a seven-foot-long, metal-clad wooden pole with a grappling hook attached at one end and a ring attached to the other end.
Balbus said, “I can’t wait for you to tell me what this is!”
“It’s a long-distance grappling hook,” said Agrippa. “We’re training our men to fire it accurately at distances up to three hundred feet so that we can hook onto Sextus’ ships and reel them in. We used wood to keep the pole light in weight, and I had this metal cladding put around it to make it hard to cut through. We don’t want Sextus’ men to be able to cut their ships free once we hook onto them. Let’s walk over to the catapult; I’ve got one set up. I’ll show you how it works.”
“We’re ready, Commander,” said the centurion. Agrippa signaled for them to fire.
There was a loud bang. The seven-foot-pole shot out from the catapult. Balbus watched it fly high in the air with the rope trailing behind it. He watched it soar toward the target ship three hundred feet away. When it landed on the deck, everyone cheered and clapped. The men then manned the winch and started reeling the ship in.
Balbus smiled. “That was impressive. What do you call it?”
“I’ve named it the Arpax.”
“Agrippa will win,” said Octavian. Balbus and Maecenas were smiling. The four of them shook hands.