Such was the course of events in Spain in the second summer of the Punic war. In Italy meanwhile the defeated Romans had been afforded a little breathing space by Fabius's wise policy of holding back.
This policy, though it occasioned [p. 279]
Hannibal no small anxiety —for he saw that the1
Romans had finally chosen a military leader who waged war as reason and not as blind chance dictated —yet
incurred the scorn of Fabius's fellow citizens, both soldiers and civilians, especially when his absence had been followed, thanks to the rashness of the master of the horse, by a battle which may truthfully be characterized as having ended with more rejoicing than success.
Two things, moreover, increased the dictator's unpopularity. One was a crafty ruse of Hannibal's. Some deserters having pointed out to him the dictator's farm, he razed to the ground all the buildings in its neighbourhood, but ordered that this one place should be preserved from fire and sword and every kind of hostile violence, in order that it might appear that Fabius was in this way being rewarded for some secret compact.2
The other was something that he did himself, which, though perhaps open to criticism in the first place —because he had not waited for the authorization of the senate —redounded in the upshot, and in no uncertain manner, greatly to his fame.
In exchanging prisoners the Roman and Phoenician generals had followed the example set in the first Punic war and had agreed that the side which recovered more men than it restored should pay for each two pounds and a half of silver.
The Romans recovered two hundred and forty-seven more than the Phoenicians, but the senate, though the matter was often discussed, was slow in voting the money owing for them, on the ground that the dictator had not consulted them;
till finally Fabius sent his son Quintus to Rome to sell the farm which the enemy had spared, [p. 281]
and discharged the nation's obligation at his own3
Hannibal lay encamped under the walls of Gereonium, where he had left a few buildings standing, to serve as granaries, when he captured and burned the city.
From there he would send two-thirds of his army to gather corn; the other third, ready to march, he kept at the post under his own command, with the twofold object of protecting the camp and of guarding lest any attack be made upon his foragers.