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Fabius Defers Battle

When Hannibal learnt that Fabius had arrived, he
determined to terrify the enemy by promptly attacking. He therefore led out his army, approached the Roman camp, and there drew up his men in order of battle; but when he had waited some time, and nobody came out to attack him, he drew off and retired to his own camp. For Fabius, having made up his mind to incur no danger and not to risk a battle, but to make the safety of his men his first and greatest object, kept resolutely to this purpose. At first he was despised for it, and gave rise to scandalous insinuations that he was an utter coward and dared not face an engagement: but in course of time he compelled everybody to confess and allow that it was impossible for any one to have acted, in the existing circumstances, with greater discretion and prudence. And it was not long before facts testified to the wisdom of his policy. Nor was it wonderful that it was so. For the forces of his opponents had been trained from their earliest youth without intermission in war; had a general who had grown up with them and from childhood had been instructed in the arts of the camp; had won many battles in Iberia, and twice running had beaten the Romans and their allies: and, what was more than all, had thoroughly made up their minds that their one hope of safety was in victory. In every respect the circumstances of the Roman army were the exact opposite of these; and therefore, their manifest inferiority making it impossible for Fabius to offer the enemy battle, he fell back upon those resources in which the Romans had the advantage of the enemy; clung to them; and conducted the war by their means: and they were—an inexhaustible supply of provisions and of men.

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