The dictator, having received the troops of the consul from Fulvius Flaccus, his lieutenant-general, marching through the Sabine territory, arrived at Tibur on the day which he had appointed the new-raised troops to assemble.
Thence he went to Praeneste, and cutting across the country, came out in the Latin way, whence he led his troops towards the enemy, reconnoitring the road with the utmost diligence; not intending to expose himself to hazard any where, except so far as necessity compelled him.
The day he first pitched his camp in sight of the enemy, not far from Arpi, the Carthaginian, without delay, led out his troops, and forming his line gave an opportunity of fighting:
but when he found all still with the enemy, and his camp free from tumult and disorder, he returned to his camp, saying indeed tauntingly, “That even the spirit of the Romans, inherited from Mars, was at length subdued; that they were warred down; and had manifestly given up all claim to valour and renown:”
but burning inwardly with stifled vexation, because [p. 779]
he would have to encounter a general by no means like Flaminius and Sempronius; and because the Romans, then at length schooled by their misfortunes, had sought a general a match for Hannibal; and that now he had no longer to fear the headlong violence, but the deliberate prudence of the dictator.
Having not yet experienced his constancy, he began to provoke and try his temper, by frequently shifting his camp and laying waste the territories of the allies before his eyes:
and one while he withdrew out of sight at quick march, another while he halted suddenly, and concealed himself in some winding of the road, if possible to entrap him on his descending into the plain.
Fabius kept marching his troops along the high grounds, at a moderate distance from the enemy, so as neither to let him go altogether nor yet to encounter him. The troops were kept within the camp, except so far as necessary wants compelled them to quit it; and fetched in food and wood not by small nor rambling parties.
An outpost of cavalry and light-armed troops, prepared and equipped for acting in cases of sudden alarm, rendered every thing safe to their own soldiers, and dangerous to the scattered plunderers of the enemy.
Nor was his whole cause committed to general hazard; while slight contests, of small importance in themselves, commenced on safe ground, with a retreat at hand, accustomed the soldiery, terrified by their former disasters, now at length to think less meanly either of their prowess or good fortune.
But he did not find Hannibal a greater enemy to such sound measures than his master of the horse, who was only prevented from plunging the state into ruin by his inferiority in command.
Presumptuous and precipitate in his measures, and unbridled in his tongue, first among a few, then openly and publicly, he taunted him with being sluggish instead of patient, spiritless instead of cautious; falsely imputing to him those vices which bordered on his virtues; and raised himself by means of depressing his superiors, which, though a most iniquitous practice, has become more general from the too great successes of many.