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By Plutarch

(legendary, died 203 B.C.E.)

Translated by John Dryden

Having related the memorable actions of Pericles, our history now
proceeds to the life of Fabius. A son of Hercules and a nymph, of
some woman of that country, who brought him forth on the banks of
Tiber, was, it is said, the first Fabius, the founder of the numerous
and distinguished family of the name. Others will have it that they
were first called Fodii, because the first of the race delighted in
digging pitfalls for wild beasts, fodere being still the Latin for
to dig, and fossa for a ditch, and that in process of time, by the
change of the two letters, they grew to be called Fabii. But be these
things true or false, certain it is that this family for a long time
yielded a great number of eminent persons. Our Fabius, who was fourth
in descent from that Fabius Rullus who first brought the honourable
surname of Maximus into his family, was also, by way of personal nickname,
called Verrucosus, from a wart on his upper lip; and in his childhood
they in like manner named him Ovicula, or The Lamb, on account of
his extreme mildness of temper. His slowness in speaking, his long
labour and pains in learning, his deliberation in entering into the
sports of other children, his easy submission to everybody, as if
he had no will of his own, made those who judge superficially of him,
the greater number, esteem him insensible and stupid; and few only
saw that this tardiness proceeded from stability, and discerned the
greatness of his mind, and the lionlikeness of his temper. But as
soon as he came into employments, his virtues exerted and showed themselves;
his reputed want of energy then was recognized by people in general
as a freedom of passion; his slowness in words and actions, the effect
of a true prudence; his want of rapidity and his sluggishness, as
constancy and firmness. 

Living in a great commonwealth, surrounded by many enemies, he saw
the wisdom of inuring his body (nature's own weapon) to warlike exercises,
and disciplining his tongue for public oratory in a style conformable
to his life and character. His eloquence, indeed, had not much of
popular ornament, nor empty artifice, but there was in it great weight
of sense; it was strong and sententious, much after the way of Thucydides.
We have yet extant his funeral oration upon the death of his son,
who died consul, which he recited before the people. 

He was five times consul, and in his first consulship had the honour
of a triumph for the victory he gained over the Ligurians, whom he
defeated in a set battle, and drove them to take shelter in the Alps,
from whence they never after made any inroad or depredation upon their
neighbours. After this, Hannibal came into Italy, who, at his first
entrance, having gained a great battle near the river Trebia, traversed
all Tuscany with his victorious army, and, desolating the country
round about, filled Rome itself with astonishment and terror. Besides
the more common signs of thunder and lightning then happening, the
report of several unheard of and utterly strange portents much increased
the popular consternation. For it was said that some targets sweated
blood; that at Antium, when they reaped their corn, many of the ears
were filled with blood; that it had rained red-hot stones; that the
Falerians had seen the heavens open and several scrolls falling down,
in one of which was plainly written, "Mars himself stirs his arms."
But these prodigies had no effect upon the impetuous and fiery temper
of the consul Flaminius, whose natural promptness had been much heightened
by his late unexpected victory over the Gauls, when he fought them
contrary to the order of the senate and the advice of his colleague.
Fabius, on the other side, thought it not seasonable to engage with
the enemy; not that he much regarded the prodigies, which he thought
too strange to be easily understood, though many were alarmed by them;
but in regard that the Carthaginians were but few, and in want of
money and supplies, he deemed it best not to meet in the field a general
whose army had been tried in many encounters, and whose object was
a battle, but to send aid to their allies, control the movements of
the various subject cities, and let the force and vigour of Hannibal
waste away and expire, like a flame, for want of the aliment.

These weighty reasons did not prevail with Flaminius, who protested
he would never suffer the advance of the enemy to the city, nor be
reduced, like Camillus in former time, to fight for Rome within the
walls of Rome. Accordingly he ordered the tribunes to draw out the
army into the field; and though he himself, leaping on horseback to
go out, was no sooner mounted but the beast, without any apparent
cause, fell into so violent a fit of trembling and bounding that he
cast his rider headlong on the ground; he was no ways deterred, but
proceeded as he had begun, and marched forward up to Hannibal, who
was posted near the Lake Thrasymene in Tuscany. At the moment of this
engagement, there happened so great an earthquake, that it destroyed
several towns, altered the course of rivers, and carried off parts
of high cliffs, yet such was the eagerness of the combatants, that
they were entirely insensible of it. 

In this battle Flaminius fell, after many proofs of his strength and
courage, and round about him all the bravest of the army; in the whole,
fifteen thousand were killed, and as many made prisoners. Hannibal,
desirous to bestow funeral honours upon the body of Flaminius, made
diligent search after it, but could not find it among the dead, nor
was it ever known what became of it. Upon the former engagement near
Trebia, neither the general who wrote, nor the express who told the
news, used straightforward and direct terms, nor related it otherwise
than as a drawn battle, with equal loss on either side; but on this
occasion as soon as Pomponius the praetor had the intelligence, he
caused the people to assemble, and, without disguising or dissembling
the matter, told them plainly, "We are beaten, O Romans, in a great
battle; the consul Flaminius is killed; think, therefore, what is
to be done for your safety." Letting loose his news like a gate of
wind upon an open sea, he threw the city into utter confusion: in
such consternation, their thoughts found no support or stay. The danger
at hand at last awakened their judgments into a resolution to choose
a dictator, who by the sovereign authority of his office, and by his
personal wisdom and courage, might be able to manage the public affairs.
Their choice unanimously fell upon Fabius, whose character seemed
equal to the greatness of the office; whose age was so far advanced
as to give him experience, without taking from him the vigour of action;
his body could execute what his soul designed; and his temper was
a happy compound of confidence and cautiousness. 

Fabius, being thus installed in the office of dictator, in the first
place gave the command of the horse to Lucius Minucius; and next asked
leave of the senate for himself, that in time of battle he might serve
on horseback, which by an ancient law amongst the Romans was forbid
to their generals; whether it were, that, placing their greatest strength
in their foot, they would have their commanders-in-chief posted amongst
them, or else to let them know, that, how great and absolute soever
their authority were, the people and senate were still their masters,
of whom they must ask leave. Fabius, however, to make the authority
of his charge more observable, and to render the people more submissive
and obedient to him, caused himself to be accompanied with the full
body of four-and-twenty lictors; and, when the surviving consul came
to visit him, sent him word to dismiss his lictors with their fasces,
the ensigns of authority, and appear before him as a private person.

The first solemn action of his dictatorship was very fitly a religious
one: an admonition to the people, that their late overthrow had not
befallen them through want of courage in their soldiers, but through
the neglect of divine ceremonies in the general. He therefore exhorted
them not to fear the enemy, but by extraordinary honour to propitiate
the gods. This he did, not to fill their minds with superstition,
but by religious feeling to raise their courage, and lessen their
fear of the enemy by inspiring the belief that Heaven was on their
side. With this view, the secret prophecies called the Sibylline Books
were consulted; sundry predictions found in them were said to refer
to the fortunes and events of the time; but none except the consulter
was informed. Presenting himself to the people, the dictator made
a vow before them to offer in sacrifice the whole product of the next
season, all Italy over, of the cows, goats, swine, sheep, both in
the mountains and the plains; and to celebrate musical festivities
with an expenditure of the precise sum of 333 sestertia and 333 denarii,
with one-third of a denarius over. The sum total of which is, in our
money, 83,583 drachmas and 2 obols. What the mystery might be in that
exact number is not easy to determine, unless it were in honour of
the perfection of the number three, as being the first of odd numbers,
the first that contains in itself multiplication, with all other properties
whatsoever belonging to numbers in general. 

In this manner Fabius, having given the people better heart for the
future, by making them believe that the gods took their side, for
his own part placed his whole confidence in himself, believing that
the gods bestowed victory and good fortune by the instrumentality
of valour and of prudence; and thus prepared he set forth to oppose
Hannibal, not with intention to fight him, but with the purpose of
wearing out and wasting the vigour of his arms by lapse of time, of
meeting his want of resources by superior means, by large numbers
the smallness of his forces. With this design, he always encamped
on the highest grounds, where the enemy's horse could have no access
to him. Still he kept pace with them; when they marched he followed
them; when they encamped he did the same, but at such a distance as
not to be compelled to an engagement and always keeping upon the hills,
free from the insults of their horse; by which means he gave them
no rest, but kept them in a continual alarm. 

But this his dilatory way gave occasion in his own camp for suspicion
of want of courage; and this opinion prevailed yet more in Hannibal's
army. Hannibal was himself the only man who was not deceived, who
discerned his skill and detected his tactics, and saw, unless he could
by art or force bring him to battle, that the Carthaginians, unable
to use the arms in which they were superior, and suffering the continual
drain of lives and treasure in which they were inferior, would in
the end come to nothing. He resolved, therefore, with all the arts
and subtleties of war to break his measures and to bring Fabius to
an engagement, like a cunning wrestler, watching every opportunity
to get good hold and close with his adversary. He at one time attacked,
and sought to distract his attention, tried to draw him off in various
directions, and endeavoured in all ways to tempt him from his safe
policy. All this artifice, though it had no effect upon the firm judgment
and conviction of the dictator, yet upon the common soldier, and even
upon the general of the horse himself, it had too great an operation:
Minucius, unseasonably eager for action, bold and confident, humoured
the soldiery, and himself contributed to fill them with wild eagerness
and empty hopes, which they vented in reproaches upon Fabius, calling
him Hannibal's pedagogue, since he did nothing else but follow him
up and down and wait upon him. At the same time, they cried up Minucius
for the only captain worthy to command the Romans; whose vanity and
presumption rose so high in consequence, that he insolently jested
at Fabius's encampment upon the mountains, saying that he seated them
there as on a theatre, to behold the flames and desolation of their
country. And he would sometimes ask the friends of the general, whether
it were not his meaning, by thus leading them from mountain to mountain,
to carry them at last (having no hopes on earth) up into heaven, or
to hide them in the clouds from Hannibal's army? When his friends
reported these things to the dictator, persuading him that, to avoid
the general obloquy, he should engage the enemy, his answer was, "I
should be more faint-hearted than they make me, if, through fear of
idle reproaches, I should abandon my own convictions. It is no inglorious
thing to have fear for the safety of our country, but to be turned
from one's course by men's opinions, by blame, and by misrepresentation,
shows a man unfit to hold an office such as this, which, by such conduct,
he makes the slaves of those whose errors it is his business to control."

An oversight of Hannibal occurred soon after. Desirous to refresh
his horse in some good pasture-grounds, and to draw off his army,
he ordered his guides to conduct him to the district of Casinum. They,
mistaking his bad pronunciation, led him and his army to the town
of Casilinum, on the frontier of Campania which the river Lothronus,
called by the Romans Vulturnus, divides in two parts. The country
around is enclosed by mountains, with a valley opening towards the
sea, in which the river overflowing forms a quantity of marsh land
with deep banks of sand, and discharges itself into the sea on a very
unsafe and rough shore. While Hannibal was proceeding hither, Fabius,
by his knowledge of the roads, succeeded in making his way around
before him, and despatched four thousand choice men to seize the exit
from it and stop him up, and lodged the rest of his army upon the
neighbouring hills, in the most advantageous places; at the same time
detaching a party of his lightest armed men to fall upon Hannibal's
rear; which they did with such success, that they cut off eight hundred
of them, and put the whole army in disorder. Hannibal, finding the
error and the danger he was fallen into, immediately crucified the
guides; but considered the enemy to be so advantageously posted, that
there was no hope of breaking through them; while his soldiers began
to be despondent and terrified, and to think themselves surrounded
with embarrassments too difficult to be surmounted. 

Thus reduced, Hannibal had recourse to stratagem; he caused two thousand
head of oxen which he had in his camp to have torches or dry fagots
well fastened to their horns, and lighting them in the beginning of
the night, ordered the beasts to be driven on towards the heights
commanding the passages out of the valley and the enemy's posts; when
this was done, he made his army in the dark leisurely march after
them. The oxen at first kept a slow orderly pace, and with their lighted
heads resembled an army marching by night, astonishing the shepherds
and herdsmen of the hills about. But when the fire burnt down the
horns of the beasts to the quick, they no longer observed their sober
pace, but unruly and wild with their pain, ran dispersed about, tossing
their heads and scattering the fire round about them upon each other
and setting light as they passed to the trees. This was a surprising
spectacle to the Romans on guard upon the heights. Seeing flames which
appeared to come from men advancing with torches, they were possessed
with the alarm that the enemy was approaching in various quarters,
and that they were being surrounded; and, quitting their post, abandoned
the pass, and precipitately retired to their camp on the hills. They
were no sooner gone, but the light-armed of Hannibal's men, according
to his order, immediately seized the heights, and soon after the whole
army, with all the baggage, came up and safely marched through the

Fabius, before the night was over, quickly found out the trick; for
some of the beasts fell into his hands; but for fear of an ambush
in the dark, he kept his men all night to their arms in the camp.
As soon as it was day, he attacked the enemy in the rear, where, after
a good deal of skirmishing in the uneven ground, the disorder might
have become general, but that Hannibal detached from his van a body
of Spaniards, who, of themselves active and nimble, were accustomed
to the climbing of mountains. These briskly attacked the Roman troops,
who were in heavy armour, killed a good many, and left Fabius no longer
in condition to follow the enemy. This action brought the extreme
of obloquy and contempt upon the dictator; they said it was now manifest
that he was not only inferior to his adversary, as they had always
thought, in courage, but even in that conduct, foresight, and generalship,
by which he had proposed to bring the war to an end. 

And Hannibal, to enhance their anger against him, marched with his
army close to the lands and possessions of Fabius, and, giving orders
to his soldiers to burn and destroy all the country about, forbade
them to do the least damage in the estates of the Roman general, and
placed guards for their security. This, when reported at Rome, had
the effect with the people which Hannibal desired. Their tribunes
raised a thousand stories against him, chiefly at the instigation
of Metilius, who, not so much out of hatred to him as out of friendship
to Minucius, whose kinsman he was, thought by depressing Fabius to
raise his friend. The senate on their part were also offended with
him for the bargain he had made with Hannibal about the exchange of
prisoners, the conditions of which were that, after exchange made
of man for man, if any on either side remained, they should be redeemed
at the price of two hundred and fifty drachmas a head. Upon the whole
account, there remained two hundred and forty Romans unexchanged,
and the senate now not only refused to allow money for the ransoms,
but also reproached Fabius for making a contract, contrary to the
honour and interest of the commonwealth, for redeeming men whose cowardice
had put them in the hands of the enemy. Fabius heard and endured all
this with invincible patience; and, having no money by him, and on
the other side being resolved to keep his word with Hannibal and not
to abandon the captives, he despatched his son to Rome to sell land,
and to bring with him the price, sufficient to discharge the ransoms;
which was punctually performed by his son and delivery accordingly
made to him of the prisoners, amongst whom many, when they were released,
made proposals to repay the money; which Fabius in all cases declined.

About this time, he was called to Rome by the priests, to assist,
according to the duty of his office, at certain sacrifices, and was
thus forced to leave the command of the army with Minucius; but before
he parted, not only charged him as his commander-in-chief, but besought
and entreated him not to come, in his absence, to a battle with Hannibal.
His commands, entreaties, and advice were lost upon Minucius, for
his back was no sooner turned but the new general immediately sought
occasions to attack the enemy. And notice being brought him that Hannibal
had sent out a great part of his army to forage, he fell upon a detachment
of the remainder, doing great execution, and driving them to their
very camp, with no little terror to the rest, who apprehended their
breaking in upon them; and when Hannibal had recalled his scattered
forces to the camp, he, nevertheless, without any loss, made his retreat,
a success which aggravated his boldness and presumption, and filled
the soldiers with rash confidence. The news spread to Rome, where
Fabius, on being told it, said that what he most feared was Minucius's
success; but the people, highly elated, hurried to the forum to listen
to an address from Metilius the tribune, in which he infinitely extolled
the valour of Minucius, and fell bitterly upon Fabius, accusing him
for want not merely of courage, but even of loyalty; and not only
him, but also many other eminent and considerable persons; saying
that it was they that had brought the Carthaginians into Italy, with
the design to destroy the liberty of the people; for which end they
had at once put the supreme authority into the hands of a single person,
who by his slowness and delays might give Hannibal leisure to establish
himself in Italy, and the people of Carthage time and opportunity
to supply him with fresh succours to complete his conquest.

Fabius came forward with no intention to answer the tribune, but only
said, that they should expedite the sacrifices, that so he might speedily
return to the army to punish Minucius, who had presumed to fight contrary
to his orders; words which immediately possessed the people with the
belief that Minucius stood in danger of his life. For it was in the
power of the dictator to imprison and to put to death, and they feared
that Fabius, of a mild temper in general, would be as hard to be appeased
when once irritated, as he was slow to be provoked. Nobody dared to
raise his voice in opposition; Metilius alone, whose office of tribune
gave him security to say what he pleased (for in the time of a dictatorship
that magistrateal one preserves his authority), boldly applied himself
to the people in the behalf of Minucius; that they should not suffer
him to be made a sacrifice to the enmity of Fabius, nor permit him
to be destroyed, like the son of Manlius Torquatus, who was beheaded
by his father for a victory fought and triumphantly won against order;
he exhorted them to take away from Fabius that absolute power of a
dictator, and to put it into more worthy hands, better able and more
inclined to use it for the public good. These impressions very much
prevailed upon the people, though not so far as wholly to dispossess
Fabius of the dictatorship. But they decreed that Minucius should
have an equal authority with the dictator in the conduct of the war;
which was a thing then without precedent, though a little later it
was again practised after the disaster at Cannae; when the dictator,
Marcus Junius, being with the army, they chose at Rome Fabius Buteo
dictator, that he might create new senators, to supply the numerous
places of those who were killed. But as soon as, once acting in public,
he had filled those vacant places with a sufficient number, he immediately
dismissed his lictors, and withdrew from all his attendance, and mingling
like a common person with the rest of the people, quietly went about
his own affairs in the forum. 

The enemies of Fabius thought they had sufficiently humiliated and
subdued him by raising Minucius to be his equal in authority; but
they mistook the temper of the man, who looked upon their folly as
not his loss, but like Diogenes, who, being told that some persons
derided him, made answer, "But I am not derided," meaning that only
those were really insulted on whom such insults made an impression,
so Fabius, with great tranquillity and unconcern, submitted to what
happened, and contributed a proof to the argument of the philosophers
that a just and good man is not capable of being dishonoured. His
only vexation arose from his fear lest this ill counsel, by supplying
opportunities to the diseased military ambition of his subordinate,
should damage the public cause. Lest the rashness of Minucius should
now at once run headlong into some disaster, he returned back with
all privacy and speed to the army; where he found Minucius so elevated
with his new dignity, that, a joint-authority not contenting him,
he required by turns to have the command of the army every other day.
This Fabius rejected, but was contented that the army should be divided;
thinking each general singly would better command his part, than partially
command the whole. The first and fourth legion he took for his own
division, the second and third he delivered to Minucius; so also of
the auxiliary forces each had an equal share. 

Minucius, thus exalted, could not contain himself from boasting of
his success in humiliating the high and powerful office of the dictatorship.
Fabius quietly reminded him that it was, in all wisdom, Hannibal,
and not Fabius, whom he had to combat; but if he must needs contend
with his colleague, it had best be in diligence and care for the preservation
of Rome; that it might not be said, a man so favoured by the people
served them worse than he who had been ill-treated and disgraced by

The young general, despising these admonitions as the false humility
of age, immediately removed with the body of his army, and encamped
by himself. Hannibal, who was not ignorant of all these passages,
lay watching his advantage from them. It happened that between his
army and that of Minucius there was a certain eminence, which seemed
a very advantageous and not difficult post to encamp upon; the level
field around it appeared, from a distance, to be all smooth and even,
though it had many inconsiderable ditches and dips in it, not discernible
to the eye. Hannibal, had he pleased, could easily have possessed
himself of this ground; but he had reserved it for a bait, or train,
in proper season, to draw the Romans to an engagement. Now that Minucius
and Fabius were divided, he thought the opportunity fair for his purpose;
and, therefore, having in the night-time lodged a convenient number
of his men in these ditches and hollow places, early in the morning
he sent forth a small detachment, who, in the sight of Minucius, proceeded
to possess themselves of the rising ground. According to his expectation,
Minucius swallowed the bait, and first sends out his light troops,
and after them some horse, to dislodge the enemy; and, at last, when
he saw Hannibal in person advancing to the assistance of his men,
marched down with his whole army drawn up. He engaged with the troops
on the eminence, and sustained their missiles; the combat for some
time was equal; but as soon as Hannibal perceived that the whole army
was now sufficiently advanced within the toils he had set for them,
so that their backs were open to his men whom he had posted in the
hollows, he gave the signal; upon which they rushed forth from various
quarters, and with loud cries furiously attacked Minucius in the rear.
The surprise and the slaughter was great, and struck universal alarm
and disorder through the whole army. Minucius himself lost all his
confidence; he looked from officer to officer, and found all alike
unprepared to face the danger, and yielding to a flight, which, however,
could not end in safety. The Numidian horsemen were already in full
victory riding about the plain, cutting down the fugitives.

Fabius was not ignorant of this danger of his countrymen; he foresaw
what would happen from the rashness of Minucius, and the cunning of
Hannibal; and, therefore, kept his men to their arms, in readiness
to wait the event; nor would he trust to the reports of others, but
he himself, in front of his camp, viewed all that passed. When, therefore,
he saw the army of Minucius encompassed by the enemy, and that by
their countenance and shifting their ground they appeared more disposed
to flight than to resistance, with a great sigh, striking his hand
upon his thigh, he said to those about him, "O Hercules! how much
sooner than I expected, though later than he seemed to desire, hath
Minucius destroyed himself!" He then commanded the ensigns to be led
forward, and the army to follow, telling them, "We must make haste
to rescue Minucius, who is a valiant man, and a lover of his country;
and if he hath been too forward to engage the enemy, at another time
we will tell him of it." Thus, at the head of his men, Fabius marched
up to the enemy, and first cleared the plain of the Numidians; and
next fell upon those who were charging the Romans in the rear, cutting
down all that made opposition, and obliging the rest to save themselves
by a hasty retreat, lest they should be environed as the Romans had
been. Hannibal, seeing so sudden a change of affairs, and Fabius,
beyond the force of his age, opening his way through the ranks up
the hillside, that he might join Minucius, warily forbore, sounded
a retreat, and drew off his men into their camp; while the Romans
on their part were no less contented to retire in safety. It is reported
that upon this occasion Hannibal said jestingly to his friends: "Did
not I tell you, that this cloud which always hovered upon the mountains
would, at some time or other, come down with a storm upon us?"

Fabius, after his men had picked up the spoils of the field, retired
to his own camp, without saying any harsh or reproachful thing to
his colleague; who, also, in his part, gathering his army together,
spoke and said to them: "To conduct great matters and never commit
a fault is above the force of human nature; but to learn and improve
by the faults we have committed, is that which becomes a good and
sensible man. Some reasons I may have to accuse fortune, but I have
many more to thank her; for in a few hours she hath cured a long mistake,
and taught me that I am not the man who should command others, but
have need of another to command me; and that we are not to contend
for victory over those to whom it is our advantage to yield. Therefore
in everything else henceforth the dictator must be your commander;
only in showing gratitude towards him I will still be your leader,
and always be the first to obey his orders." Having said this, he
commanded the Roman eagles to move forward, and all his men to follow
him to the camp of Fabius. The soldiers, then, as he entered, stood
amazed at the novelty of the sight, and were anxious and doubtful
what the meaning might be. When he came near the dictator's tent,
Fabius went forth to meet him, on which he at once laid his standards
at his feet, calling him with a loud voice his father; while the soldiers
with him saluted the soldiers here as their patrons, the term employed
by freedmen to those who gave them their liberty. After silence was
obtained, Minucius said, "You have this day, O dictator, obtained
two victories; one by your valour and conduct over Hannibal, and another
by your wisdom and goodness over your colleague; by one victory you
preserved, and by the other instructed us; and when we were already
suffering one shameful defeat from Hannibal, by another welcome one
from you we were restored to honour and safety. I can address you
by no nobler name than that of a kind father, though a father's beneficence
falls short of that I have received from you. Front a father I individually
received the gift of life; to you I owe its preservation not for myself
only, but for all these who are under me." After this, he threw himself
into the arms of the dictator; and in the same manner the soldiers
of each army embraced one another with gladness and tears of joy.

Not long after, Fabius laid down the dictatorship, and consuls were
again created. Those who immediately succeeded observed the same method
in managing the war, and avoided all occasions of fighting Hannibal
in a pitched battle; they only succoured their allies, and preserved
the towns from falling off to the enemy. But afterwards, when Terentius
Varro, a man of obscure birth, but very popular and bold, had obtained
the consulship, he soon made it appear that by his rashness and ignorance
he would stake the whole commonwealth on the hazard. For it was his
custom to declaim in all assemblies, that, as long as Rome employed
generals like Fabius, there never would be an end of the war; vaunting
that whenever he should get sight of the enemy, he would that same
day free Italy from the strangers. With these promises he so prevailed,
that he raised a greater army than had ever yet been sent out of Rome.
There were enlisted eighty-eight thousand fighting men; but what gave
confidence to the populace, only terrified the wise and experienced,
and none more than Fabius; since if so great a body, and the flower
of the Roman youth, should be cut off, they could not see any new
resource for the safety of Rome. They addressed themselves, therefore,
to the other consul, Aemilius Paulus, a man of great experience in
war, but unpopular, and fearful also of the people, who once before
upon some impeachment had condemned him; so that he needed encouragement
to withstand his colleague's temerity. Fabius told him, if he would
profitably serve his country, he must no less oppose Varro's ignorant
eagerness than Hannibal's conscious readiness, since both alike conspired
to decide the fate of Rome by a battle. "It is more reasonable," he
said to him, "that you should believe me than Varro, in matters relating
to Hannibal, when I tell you that if for this year you abstain from
fighting with him, either his army will perish of itself, or else
he will be glad to depart of his own will. This evidently appears,
inasmuch as, notwithstanding his victories, none of the countries
or towns of Italy come in to him, and his army is not now the third
part of what it was at first." To this Paulus is said to have replied,
"Did I only consider myself, I should rather choose to be exposed
to the weapons of Hannibal than once more to the suffrages of my fellow-citizens,
who are urgent for what you disapprove; yet since the cause of Rome
is at stake, I will rather seek in my conduct to please and obey Fabius
than all the world besides." 

These good measures were defeated by the importunity of Varro; whom,
when they were both come to the army, nothing would content but a
separate command, that each consul should have his day; and when his
turn came, he posted his army close to Hannibal, at a village called
Cannae, by the river Aufidus. It was no sooner day, but he set up
the scarlet coat flying over his tent, which was the signal of battle.
This boldness of the consul, and the numerousness of his army, double
theirs, startled the Carthaginians; but Hannibal commanded them to
their arms, and with a small train rode out to take a full prospect
of the enemy as they were now forming in their ranks, from a rising
ground not far distant. One of his followers, called Gisco, a Carthaginian
of equal rank with himself, told him that the numbers of the enemy
were astonishing; to which Hannibal replied with a serious countenance,
"There is one thing, Gisco, yet more astonishing, which you take no
notice of;" and when Gisco inquired what, answered, that "in all those
great numbers before us, there is not one man called Gisco." This
unexpected jest of their general made all the company laugh, and as
they came down from the hill they told it to those whom they met,
which caused a general laughter amongst them all, from which they
were hardly able to recover themselves. The army, seeing Hannibal's
attendants come back from viewing the enemy in such a laughing condition,
concluded that it must be profound contempt of the enemy, that made
their general at this moment indulge in such hilarity. 

According to his usual manner, Hannibal employed stratagems to advantage
himself. In the first place, he so drew up his men that the wind was
at their backs, which at that time blew with a perfect storm of violence,
and, sweeping over the great plains of sand, carried before it a cloud
of dust over the Carthaginian army into the faces of the Romans, which
much disturbed them in the fight. In the next place, all his best
men he put into his wings; and in the body which was somewhat more
advanced than the wings, placed the worst and the weakest of his army.
He commanded those in the wings, that, when the enemy had made a thorough
charge upon that middle advance body, which he knew would recoil,
as not being able to withstand their shock, and when the Romans in
their pursuit should be far enough engaged within the two wings, they
should, both on the right and the left, charge them in the flank,
and endeavour to encompass them. This appears to have been the chief
cause of the Roman loss. Pressing upon Hannibal's front, which gave
ground, they reduced the form of his army into a perfect half-moon,
and gave ample opportunity to the captains of the chosen troops to
charge them right and left on their flanks, and to cut off and destroy
all who did not fall back before the Carthaginian wings united in
their rear. To this general calamity, it is also said, that a strange
mistake among the cavalry much contributed. For the horse of Aemilius
receiving a hurt and throwing his master, those about him immediately
alighted to aid the consul; and the Roman troops, seeing their commanders
thus quitting their horses, took it for a sign that they should all
dismount and charge the enemy on foot. At the sight of this, Hannibal
was heard to say, "This pleases me better than if they had been delivered
to me bound hand and foot." For the particulars of this engagement,
we refer our reader to those authors who have written at large upon
the subject. 

The consul Varro, with a thin company, fled to Venusia; Aemilius Paulus,
unable any longer to oppose the flight of his men, or the flight of
his men, or the pursuit of the enemy, his body all covered with wounds,
and his soul no less wounded with grief, sat himself down upon a stone,
expecting the kindness of a despatching blow. His face was so disfigured,
and all his person so stained with blood, that his very friends and
domestics passing by knew him not. At last Cornelius Lentulus, a young
man of patrician race, perceiving who he was, alighted from his horse,
and, tendering it to him, desired him to get up and save a life so
necessary to the safety of the commonwealth, which, at this time,
would dearly want so great a captain. But nothing could prevail upon
him to accept of the offer; he obliged young Lentulus, with tears
in his eyes, to remount his horse; then standing up, he gave him his
hand, and commanded him to tell Fabius Maximus that Aemilius Paulus
had followed his directions to his very last, and had not in the least
deviated from those measures which were agreed between them; but that
it was his hard fate to be overpowered by Varro in the first place,
and secondly by Hannibal. Having despatched Lentulus with this commission,
he marked where the slaughter was greatest, and there threw himself
upon the swords of the enemy. In this battle it is reported that fifty
thousand Romans were slain, four thousand prisoners taken in the field,
and ten thousand in the camp of both consuls. 

The friends of Hannibal earnestly persuaded him to follow up his victory,
and pursue the flying Romans into the very gates of Rome, assuring
him that in five days' time he might sup in the Capitol; nor is it
easy to imagine what consideration hindered him from it. It would
seem rather than some supernatural or divine intervention caused the
hesitation and timidity which he now displayed, and which made Barcas,
a Carthaginian, tell him with indignation, "You know, Hannibal, how
to gain a victory, but not how to use it." Yet it produced a marvellous
revolution in his affairs; he, who hitherto had not one town, market,
or seaport in his possession, who had nothing for the subsistence
of his men but what he pillaged from day to day, who had no place
of retreat or basis of operation, but was roving, as it were, with
a huge troop of banditti, now became master of the best provinces
and towns of Italy, and of Capua itself, next to Rome the most flourishing
and opulent city, all which came over to him, and submitted to his

It is the saying of Euripides, that "a man is in ill-case when he
must try a friend," and so neither, it would seem, is a state in a
good one, when it needs an able general. And so it was with the Romans;
the counsels and actions of Fabius, which, before the battle, they
had branded as cowardice and fear, now, in the other extreme, they
accounted to have been more than human wisdom; as though nothing but
a divine power of intellect could have seen so far, and foretold contrary
to the judgment of all others, a result which, even now it had arrived,
was hardly credible. In him, therefore, they placed their whole remaining
hopes; his wisdom was the sacred altar and temple to which they fled
for refuge, and his counsels, more than anything, preserved them from
dispersing and deserting their city, as in the time when the Gauls
took possession of Rome. He, whom they esteemed fearful and pusillanimous
when they were, as they thought, in a prosperous condition was now
the only man, in this general and unbounded dejection and confusion,
who showed no fear, but walked the streets with an assured and serene
countenance, addressed his fellow-citizens, checked the women's lamentations,
and the public gatherings of those who wanted thus to vent their sorrows.
He caused the senate to meet, he heartened up the magistrates, and
was himself as the soul and life of every office. 

He placed guards at the gates of the city to stop the frightened multitude
from flying; he regulated and confined their mournings for their slain
friends, both as to time and place; ordering that each family should
perform such observances within private walls, and that they should
continue only the space of one month, and then the whole city should
be purified. The feast of Ceres happening to fall within this time,
it was decreed that the solemnity should be intermitted, lest the
fewness, and the sorrowful countenance of those who should celebrate
it, might too much expose to the people the greatness of their loss;
besides that, the worship most acceptable to the gods is that which
comes from cheerful hearts. But those rites which were proper for
appeasing their anger, and procuring auspicious signs and presages,
were by the direction of the augurs carefully performed. Fabius Pictor,
a near kinsman to Maximus, was sent to consult the oracle of Delphi;
and about the same time, two vestals having been detected to have
been violated, the one killed herself, and the other, according to
custom, was buried alive. 

Above all, let us admire the high spirit and equanimity of this Roman
commonwealth; that when the consul Varro came beaten and flying home,
full of shame and humiliation, after he had so disgracefully and calamitously
managed their affairs, yet the whole senate and people went forth
to meet him at the gates of the city, and received him with honour
and respect. And, silence being commanded, the magistrates and chief
of the senate, Fabius amongst them, commended him before the people,
because he did not despair of the safety of the commonwealth, after
so great a loss, but was come to take the government into his hands,
to execute the laws, and aid his fellow-citizens in their prospect
of future deliverance. 

When word was brought to Rome that Hannibal, after the fight, had
marched with his army into other parts of Italy, the hearts of the
Romans began to revive, and they proceeded to send out generals and
armies. The most distinguished commands were held by Fabius Maximus
and Claudius Marcellus, both generals of great fame, though upon opposite
grounds. For Marcellus, as we have set forth in his life, was a man
of action and high spirit, ready and bold with his own hand, and,
as Homer describes his warriors, fierce, and delighting in fights.
Boldness, enterprise, and dating to match those of Hannibal, constituted
his tactics, and marked his engagements. But Fabius adhered to his
former principles, still persuaded that, by following close and not
fighting him, Hannibal and his army would at last be tried out and
consumed, like a wrestler in too high condition, whose very excess
of strength makes him the more likely suddenly to give way and lose
it. Posidonius tells us that the Romans called Marcellus their sword,
and Fabius their buckler; and that the vigour of the one, mixed with
the steadiness of the other, made a happy compound that proved the
salvation of Rome. So that Hannibal found by experience that encountering
the one, he met with a rapid, impetuous river, which drove him back,
and still made some breach upon him; and by the other, though silently
and quietly passing by him, he was insensibly washed away and consumed;
and, at last, was brought to this, that he dreaded Marcellus when
he was in motion, and Fabius when he sat still. During the whole course
of this war, he had still to do with one or both of these generals;
for each of them was five times consul, and, as praetors or proconsuls
or consuls, they had always a part in the government of the army,
till, at last, Marcellus fell into the trap which Hannibal had laid
for him, and was killed in his fifth consulship. But all his craft
and subtlety were unsuccessful upon Fabius, who only once was in some
danger of being caught, when counterfeit letters came to him from
the principal inhabitants of Metapontum, with promises to deliver
up their town if he would come before it with his army, and intimations
that they should expect him. This train had almost drawn him in; he
resolved to march to them with part of his army, and was diverted
only by consulting the omens of the birds, which he found to be inauspicious;
and not long after it was discovered that the letters had been forged
by Hannibal, who, for his reception, had laid an ambush to entertain
him. This, perhaps, we must rather attribute to the favour of the
gods than to the prudence of Fabius. 

In preserving the towns and allies from revolt by fair and gentle
treatment, and in not using rigour, or showing a suspicion upon every
light suggestion, his conduct was remarkable. It is told of him, that
being informed of a certain Marsian, eminent for courage and good
birth, who had been speaking underhand with some of the soldiers about
deserting, Fabius was so far from using severity against him, that
he called for him, and told him he was sensible of the neglect that
had been shown to his merit and good service, which, he said, was
a great fault in the commanders who reward more by favour than by
desert; "but henceforth, whenever you are aggrieved," said Fabius,
"I shall consider it your fault, if you apply yourself to any one
but to me;" and when he had so spoken, he bestowed an excellent horse,
and other presents upon him; and, from that time forwards, there was
not a faithfuller and more trusty man in the whole army. With good
reason he judged, that, if those who have the government of horses
and dogs endeavour by gentle usage to cure their angry and untractable
tempers, rather than by cruelty and beating, much more should those
who haze the command of men try to bring them to order and discipline
by the mildest and fairest means, and not treat them worse than gardeners
do those wild plants, which, with care and attention, lose gradually
the savageness of their nature, and bear excellent fruit.

At another time, some of his officers informed him that one of their
men was very often absent from his place, and out at nights; he asked
them what kind of man he was; they all answered, that the whole army
had not a better man, that he was a native of Lucania, and proceeded
to speak of several actions which they had seen him perform. Fabius
made strict inquiry, and discovered at last that these frequent excursions
which he ventured upon were to visit a young girl, with whom he was
in love. Upon which he gave private order to some of his men to find
out the woman and secretly convey her into his own tent; and then
sent for the Lucanian, and, calling him aside, told him, that he very
well knew how often he had been out away from the camp at night, which
was a capital transgression against military discipline and the Roman
laws, but he knew also how brave he was, and the good services he
had done; therefore, in consideration of them, he was willing to forgive
him his fault; but to keep him in good order, he was resolved to place
one over him to be his keeper, who should be accountable for his good
behaviour. Having said this, he produced the woman, and told the soldier,
terrified and amazed at the adventure, "This is the person who must
answer for you; and by your future behaviour we shall see whether
your night rambles were on account of love, or for any other worse

Another passage there was, something of the same kind, which gained
him possession of Tarentum. There was a young Tarentine in the army
that had a sister in Tarentum, then in possession of the enemy, who
entirely loved her brother, and wholly depended upon him. He, being
informed that a certain Bruttian, whom Hannibal had made a commander
of the garrison, was deeply in love with his sister, conceived hopes
that he might possibly turn it to the advantage of the Romans. And
having first communicated his design to Fabius, he left the army as
a deserter in show, and went over to Tarentum. The first days passed,
and the Bruttian abstained from visiting the sister; for neither of
them knew that the brother had notice of the amour between them. The
young Tarentine, however, took an occasion to tell his sister how
he had heard that a man of station and authority had made his addresses
to her, and desired her, therefore, to tell him who it was; "for,"
said he, "if he be a man that has bravery and reputation, it matters
not what countryman he is, since at this time the sword mingles all
nations, and makes them equal; compulsion makes all things honourable;
and in a time when right is weak, we may be thankful if might assumes
a form of gentleness." Upon this the woman sends for her friend, and
makes the brother and him acquainted; and whereas she henceforth showed
more countenance to her lover than formerly, in the same degrees that
her kindness increased, his friendship, also, with the brother advanced.
So that at last our Tarentine thought this Bruttian officer well enough
prepared to receive the offers he had to make him, and that it would
be easy for a mercenary man, who was in love, to accept, upon the
terms proposed, the large rewards promised by Fabius. In conclusion,
the bargain was struck, and the promise made of delivering the town.
This is the common tradition, though some relate the story otherwise,
and say, that this woman, by whom the Bruttian was inveigled to betray
the town, was not a native of Tarentum, but a Bruttian born, and was
kept by Fabius as his concubine; and being a countrywoman and an acquaintance
of the Bruttian governor, he privately sent her to him to corrupt

Whilst these matters were thus in process, to draw off Hannibal from
scenting the design, Fabius sends orders to the garrison in Rhegium,
that they should waste and spoil the Bruttian country, and should
also lay siege to Caulonia, and storm the place with all their might.
These were a body of eight thousand men, the worst of the Roman army,
who had most of them been runaways, and had been brought home by Marcellus
from Sicily, in dishonour, so that the loss of them would not be any
great grief to the Romans. Fabius, therefore, threw out these men
as a bait for Hannibal, to divert him from Tarentum; who instantly
caught at it, and led his forces to Caulonia; in the meantime, Fabius
sat down before Tarentum. On the sixth day of the siege, the young
Tarentine slips by night out of the town, and, having carefully observed
the place where the Bruttian commander, according to agreement, was
to admit the Romans, gave an account of the whole matter to Fabius;
who thought it not safe to rely wholly upon the plot, but, while proceeding
with secrecy to the post, gave order for a general assault to be made
on the other side of the town, both by land and sea. This being accordingly
executed, while the Tarentines hurried to defend the town on the side
attacked, Fabius received the signal from the Bruttian, scaled the
walls, and entered the town unopposed. 

Here, we must confess, ambition seems to have overcome him. To make
it appear to the world that he had taken Tarentum by force and his
own prowess, and not by treachery, he commanded his men to kill the
Bruttians before all others; yet he did not succeed in establishing
the impression he desired, but merely gained the character of perfidy
and cruelty. Many of the Tarentines were also killed, and thirty thousand
of them were sold for slaves; the army had the plunder of the town,
and there was brought into the treasury three thousand talents. Whilst
they were carrying off everything else as plunder, the officer who
took the inventory asked what should be done with their gods, meaning
the pictures and statues; Fabius answered, "Let us leave their angry
gods to the Tarentines." Nevertheless, he removed the colossal statue
of Hercules, and had it set up in the Capitol, with one of himself
on horseback, in brass, near it; proceedings very different from those
of Marcellus on a like occasion, and which, indeed, very much set
off in the eyes of the world his clemency and humanity, as appears
in the account of his life. 

Hannibal, it is said, was within five miles of Tarentum, when he was
informed that the town was taken. He said openly, "Rome then has also
got a Hannibal; as we won Tarentum, so have we lost it." And, in private
with some of his confidants, he told them, for the first time, that
he always thought it difficult, but now he held it impossible, with
the forces he then had, to master Italy. 

Upon this success, Fabius had a triumph decreed him at Rome, much
more splendid than his first; they looked upon him now as a champion
who had learned to cope with his antagonist, and could now easily
foil his arts and prove his best skill ineffectual. And, indeed, the
army of Hannibal was at this time partly worn away with continual
action, and partly weakened and become dissolute with overabundance
and luxury. Marcus Livius, who was governor of Tarentum when it was
betrayed to Hannibal, and then retired into the citadel, which he
kept till the town was retaken, was annoyed at these honours and distinctions,
and, on one occasion, openly declared in the senate, that by his resistance,
more than by any action of Fabius, Tarentum had been recovered; on
which Fabius laughingly replied: "You say very true, for if Marcus
Livius had not lost Tarentum, Fabius Maximus had never recovered it."
The people, amongst other marks of gratitude, gave his son the consulship
of the next year; shortly after whose entrance upon his office, there
being some business on foot about provision for the war, his father,
either by reason of age and infirmity, or perhaps out of design to
try his son, came up to him on horseback. While he was still at a
distance, the young consul observed it, and bade one of his lictors
command his father to alight, and tell him if he had any business
with the consul, he should come on foot. The standers-by seemed offended
at the imperiousness of the son towards a father so venerable for
his age and his authority, and turned their eyes in silence towards
Fabius. He, however, instantly alighted from his horse, and with open
arms came up, almost running, and embraced his son, saying, "Yes,
my son, you do well, and understand well what authority you have received,
and over whom you are to use it. This was the way by which we and
our forefathers advanced the dignity of Rome, preferring ever her
honour and service to our own fathers and children." 

And, in fact, it is told that the great-grandfather of our Fabius,
who was undoubtedly the greatest man of Rome in his time, both in
reputation and authority, who had been five times consul, and had
been honoured with several triumphs for victories obtained by him,
took pleasure in serving as lieutenant under his own son, when he
went as consul to his command. And when afterwards his son had a triumph
bestowed upon him for his good service, the old man followed, on horseback,
his triumphant chariot, as one of his attendants; and made it his
glory, that while he really was, and was acknowledged to be, the greatest
man in Rome, and held a father's full power over his son, he yet submitted
himself to the laws and the magistrate. 

But the praises of our Fabius are not bounded here. He afterwards
lost his son, and was remarkable for bearing the loss with the moderation
becoming a pious father and a wise man, and as it was the custom amongst
the Romans, upon the death of any illustrious person, to have a funeral
oration recited by some of the nearest relations, he took upon himself
that office, and delivered a speech in the forum, which he committed
afterwards to writing. 

After Cornelius Scipio, who was sent into Spain, had driven the Carthaginians,
defeated by him in many battles, out of the country, and had gained
over to Rome many towns and nations with large resources, he was received
at his coming home with unexampled joy and acclamation of the people;
who, to show their gratitude, elected him consul for the year ensuing.
Knowing what high expectation they had of him, he thought the occupation
of contesting Italy with Hannibal a mere old man's employment, and
proposed no less a task to himself than to make Carthage the seat
of the war, fill Africa with arms and devastation, and so oblige Hannibal,
instead of invading the countries of others, to draw back and defend
his own. And to this end he proceeded to exert all the influence he
had with the people. Fabius, on the other side, opposed the undertaking
with all his might, alarming the city, and telling them that nothing
but the temerity of a hot young man could inspire them with such dangerous
counsels, and sparing no means, by word or deed, to prevent it. He
prevailed with the senate to espouse his sentiments; but the common
people thought that he envied the fame of Scipio, and that he was
afraid lest this young conqueror should achieve some great and noble
exploit, and have the glory, perhaps, of driving Hannibal out of Italy,
or even of ending the war, which had for so many years continued and
been protracted under his management. 

To say the truth, when Fabius first opposed this project of Scipio,
he probably did it out of caution and prudence, in consideration only
of the public safety, and of the danger which the commonwealth might
incur; but when he found Scipio every day increasing in the esteem
of the people, rivalry and ambition led him further, and made him
violent and personal in his opposition. For he even applied to Crassus,
the colleague of Scipio, and urged him not to yield the command to
Scipio, but that, if his inclinations were for it, he should himself
in person lead the army to Carthage. He also hindered the giving money
to Scipio for the war; so that he was forced to raise it upon his
own credit and interest from the cities of Etruria, which were extremely
attached to him. On the other side, Crassus would not stir against
him, nor remove out of Italy, being, in his own nature, averse to
all contention, and also having, by his office of high priest, religious
duties to retain him. Fabius, therefore, tried other ways to oppose
the design; he impeded the levies, and he declaimed, both in the senate
and to the people, that Scipio was not only himself flying from Hannibal,
but was also endeavouring to drain Italy of all its forces, and to
spirit away the youth of the country to a foreign war, leaving behind
them their parents, wives, and children, and the city itself, a defenceless
prey to the conquering and undefeated enemy at their doors. With this
he so far alarmed the people, that at last they would only allow Scipio
for the war the legions which were in Sicily, and three hundred, whom
he particularly trusted, of those men who had served with him in Spain.
In these transactions, Fabius seems to have followed the dictates
of his own wary temper. 

But, after that Scipio was gone over into Africa, when news almost
immediately came to Rome of wonderful exploits and victories, of which
the fame was confirmed by the spoils he sent home; of a Numidian king
taken prisoner; of a vast slaughter of their men; of two camps of
the enemy burnt and destroyed, and in them a great quantity of arms
and horses; and when, hereupon, the Carthaginians were compelled to
send envoys to Hannibal to call him home, and leave his idle hopes
in Italy, to defend Carthage; when, for such eminent and transcending
services, the whole people of Rome cried up and extolled the actions
of Scipio; even then, Fabius contended that a successor should be
sent in his place, alleging for it only the old reason of the mutability
of fortune, as if she would be weary of long favouring the same person.
With this language many did begin to feel offended; it seemed to be
morosity and ill-will, the pusillanimity of old age, or a fear, that
had now become exaggerated, of the skill of Hannibal. Nay, when Hannibal
had put his army on shipboard, and taken his leave of Italy, Fabius
still could not forbear to oppose and disturb the universal joy of
Rome, expressing his fears and apprehensions, telling them that the
commonwealth was never in more danger than now, and that Hannibal
was a more formidable enemy under the walls of Carthage than ever
he had been in Italy; that it would be fatal to Rome whenever Scipio
should encounter his victorious army, still warm with the blood of
so many Roman generals, dictators, and consuls slain. And the people
were, in some degree, startled with these declamations, and were brought
to believe that the further off Hannibal was, the nearer was their
danger. Scipio, however, shortly afterwards fought Hannibal, and utterly
defeated him, humbled the pride of Carthage beneath his feet, gave
his countrymen joy and exultation beyond all their hopes, and-

"Long shaken on the seas restored the state." 

Fabius Maximus, however, did not live to see the prosperous end of
this war, and the final overthrow of Hannibal, nor to rejoice in the
re-established happiness and security of the commonwealth; for about
the time that Hannibal left Italy, he fell sick and died. At Thebes,
Epaminondas died so poor that he was buried at the public charge;
one small iron coin was all, it is said, that was found in his house.
Fabius did not need this, but the people, as a mark of their affection,
defrayed the expenses of his funeral by a private contribution from
each citizen of the smallest piece of coin; thus owning him their
common father, and making his end no less honourable than his life.



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