Fabius instantly called an assembly, and entreated the soldiers to “show the same courage in protecting him, under whose conduct and auspices they had conquered, from the outrageous cruelty of the dictator, which they had so lately displayed in defending the commonwealth from its most inveterate enemies.
He was now coming,” he told them, “frantic with envy; enraged at another's bravery and success, he was mad, because, in his absence, the business of the public had been executed with remarkable success; and if he could change the fortune of the engagement, would wish the Samnites in possession of victory rather than the Romans.
He talked much of contempt of orders; as if his prohibition of fighting were not dictated by the same motive, which caused his vexation at the fight having taken place.
He wished to shackle the valour of others through envy, and meant to take away the soldiers' arms when they were most eager for action, and that no use might be made of them in his absence: he was further enraged too, because without Lucius Papirius the soldiers were not without hands or arms, and because Quintus Fabius considered himself as master of the horse, not [p. 545]
as a beadle to the dictator.
How would he have behaved, had the issue of the fight been unfortunate; which, through the chances of war and the uncertainty of military operations, might have been the case; since now, when the enemy has been vanquished, (as completely, indeed, as if that leader's own singular talents had been employed in the matter,) he yet threatens the master of the horse with punishment?
Nor is he more incensed against the master of the horse, than against the military tribunes, the centurions, and the soldiers. On all, he would vent his rage if he could; and because that is not in his power, he vents it on one.
Envy, like flame, soars upwards; aims at the summit; that he makes his attack on the head of the business, on the leader. If he could put him out of the way, together with the glory of the service performed, he would then lord it, like a conqueror over vanquished troops; and, without scruple, practise against the soldiers what he had been allowed to act against their commander.
That they should, therefore, in his cause; support the general liberty of all. If the dictator perceived among the troops the same unanimity in justifying their victory that they had displayed in the battle, and that all interested themselves in the safety of one, it would bend his temper to milder counsels.
In fine,” he told them, “that he committed his life, and all his interests, to their honour and to their cou age.”