Fabius at once convened an assembly of the soldiers, and reminding them how their bravery had saved the state from the most determined of enemies, conjured them to be no less brave in defending him —under whose command and auspices they had gained the victory —from the ungovernable wrath of the dictator.
he was coming, said Fabius, crazed with jealousy, and exasperated that another should have been both brave and fortunate; it enraged him that the state should have won a glorious victory in his absence; he would prefer —could he effect a change of fortune —that
the Samnites and not the Romans had been the victors; he repeatedly declared that his authority had been despised, as though his orders against fighting had not been inspired by the same motive as was his grief over the battle!
on the former occasion envy had made him wish to thwart the bravery of others; he would have stripped the most willing of soldiers of their arms, that they might be unable to use them in his absence. at present his rage and resentment were due to this, that his troops, though lacking the help of Lucius Papirius, had lacked neither swords nor hands to wield them, and that Quintus Fabius had regarded himself as master of the horse, and not as the dictator's orderly.
what would he have done, had the chances of war and the common lot of armies resulted in defeat? despite the conquest of the enemy and a campaign so well directed that not even his own peerless leadership could have bettered it, he was now threatening the master of the horse with punishment, victorious though he was.
for that [p. 121]
matter, he was no angrier with the master of the1
horse than with the tribunes of the soldiers, the centurions, and the men. had he been able, he would have vented his rage upon them all: this being imposible, he was pouring it out on one.
The truth is that envy, like lightning, seeks out the highest places; he was hurling himself upon the head of their counsels, upon their general; should he succeed in destroying Fabius, and with him the glory of their achievement, he would then follow up his victory —as though lording it over a captured army —and would visit upon the soldiers all the cruelty he had been permitted to inflict upon the master of the horse.
let them defend, he cried, the liberty of all by defending him. if that same singleness of purpose which the army had displayed in battle should appear in the way they stood up for their victory and made one man's safety the safety of them all, the dictator would incline his heart to a more merciful determination.
he ended by committing himself, his life, and his fortunes to their loyalty and valour.