a shout arose from the whole concourse, bidding him be of good courage; no one, they cried, should do him violence, while the Roman legions were safe.
not long after came the dictator, and forthwith by sound of trumpet summoned an assembly.
then a herald, having obtained silence, cited Quintus Fabius the master of the horse, who was no sooner come up from below to the tribunal, than the dictator cried out:
“i ask you, Quintus Fabius, seeing that the dictator's authority is paramount, and the consuls obey him, though they possess the might of kings,1
and the praetors, too, who have been elected under [p. 123]
the same auspices with the consuls, whether or no2
you deem it to be reasonable that the master of the horse should hearken to his word;
and I put this further question to you —whether, when I knew that I had set out from home with uncertain auspices, it was my duty, in view of our troubled relations with the gods, to jeopardize the public safety, or to seek auspices again, that I might take no steps while the will of Heaven was in doubt;
and I likewise ask whether that which a religious scruple has prevented the dictator from doing can be freely and unrestrainedly undertaken by the master of the horse. but why do I put these questions, since, had I gone off without a word, nevertheless your thoughts should have been directed to the interpretation of my will?
come, answer me: Did I forbid you to take any measures in my absence? did I forbid you to engage the enemy?
but you spurned this order; and notwithstanding the uncertainty of the auspices and our uneasy scruples, you had the hardihood, against all military precedent, and the discipline of our fathers, and the divine will of the gods, to encounter with the enemy.
answer these questions I have put to you; but have a care that you utter no word besides' Stand ready, lictor.”
to answer the separate indictments was far from easy.
now complaining that the same man was his accuser and his judge in a matter of life and death, and again crying out that he could more easily be robbed of his life than of the glory of his deeds, he defended himself
and accused the general by turns, until Papirius in a fresh burst of anger bade them strip the master of the horse and make ready rods and axes.
then Fabius, imploring the protection of [p. 125]
the soldiers, escaped from the clutches of the lictors3
with his clothes in tatters, and sought refuge in the midst of the triarii,
who were stirring up riot in the rear of the assembly.4
thence the outcry spread to the entire host. in one place were heard entreaties, in another threats. those who chanced to be standing next to the tribunal, and being under the general's eyes were able to be marked by him, implored him to spare the master of the horse, and not condemn the army with him.
those in the outskirts of the meeting, and the crowd that surrounded Fabius, railed at the dictator's cruelty, and were near to mutiny.
not even the tribunal itself was quiet; the lieutenants, standing about the dictator's chair, besought him to put the matter off until the morrow and allow time for consideration and for his anger to cool;
he had sufficiently chastened the youth of Fabius, they said, and discredited his victory; it would not be well to carry out his punishment to the end, nor to fasten such humiliation upon a young man of extraordinary merit, nor on that most distinguished man, his father, and the Fabian family.
finding that neither prayers nor arguments did any good, they bade him look at the turmoil in the assembly; when the passions of the soldiers were so overwrought, it was not, they said, for one of his years and discretion to furnish fuel to the flames of mutiny;
no one would ascribe the fault to Quintus Fabius —who was but deprecating his own punishment —but all would blame the dictator, if, blinded with resentment, he should bring down the angry multitude upon himself by an ill —judged contention.
finally, that he might not suppose that they argued thus out of any [p. 127]
personal regard for Fabius, they were ready, they5
said, to take an oath that it appeared to be inconsistent with the interests of the state that Quintus Fabius should then be punished.