“There it is,” said Fabius, when first the cries of the frightened soldiers were heard, and [p. 299]
then the confusion in the distant battle-line became1
discernible; “misfortune has not overtaken rashness more quickly than I feared.
Though made equal to Fabius in authority, he finds Hannibal his superior, both in courage and in fortune. But another time will do for upbraiding and resentment; for the present, march out from your trenches, and let us wrest from the enemy his victory and from our fellow citizens a confession of their blunder.”
By this time large numbers of the Romans had either been slain or were casting about for a way to escape,
when suddenly Fabius and his army appeared, as though they had come down from heaven to help them; and before they got within a javelin's range or struck a blow, had checked both the headlong flight of the Romans and the reckless fury of the enemy's attack.
Those who had quitted their ranks and dispersed this way and that came running up on every side to the unbroken line; those who had retreated in a body faced about to meet the enemy and, forming a circle, at first slowly retreated, but presently, being more compactly drawn together, stood their ground.
And now the beaten army and the fresh one had pretty much united into a single line and were ready to advance against the enemy, when Hannibal sounded the recall, declaring openly that he had beaten Minucius, but that Fabius had beaten him.
When the troops had got back to their camps, towards the close of a day of such varied fortune, Minucius called his men together and thus addressed them: “Soldiers, I have often heard that the best man is he who can himself advise us what is [p. 301]
the next best he who listens to good advice;2
but that he who can neither counsel well nor obey: another has the meanest capacity of all.3
Since to us the first rank of intelligence and capacity has been denied, let us hold fast to the second or middle state, and while we are learning to command, make up our minds to obey a man of wisdom.
Let us join our camp to that of Fabius; and when we have brought our standards to his tent, and I have given him the name of 'Father' —as
befits his goodness to us and his great position —you, soldiers, will salute as 'patrons'4
those whose hands and swords just now protected you; and, if nothing else, this day shall at least have conferred on us the, glory of possessing thankful hearts.”