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Fabia Gens

A numerous and powerful patrician house of ancient Rome, which became subdivided into several families or branches, distinguished by their respective cognomina, such as Fabii Maximi, Fabii Ambusti, Fabii Vibulani, etc. Pliny (Pliny H. N. xviii. 3) says that the name of this house arose from the circumstance of its founders having excelled in the culture of the bean (faba), the early Romans having been remarkable for their attachment to agricultural pursuits. The Fabii are said, by the ordinary authorities, to have been of Sabine origin, and to have settled on the Quirinal from the time of the earliest Roman kings. After the expulsion of the Tarquinii, the Fabian, as one of the older houses, exercised considerable influence in the Senate. Caeso Fabius, being quaestor with L. Valerius, impeached Spurius Cassius in B.C. 486, and had him executed. It has been noted as a remarkable fact, that, for seven consecutive years from that time, one of the two annual consulships was filled by three brothers Fabii in rotation. One of the three brothers, Q. Fabius Vibulanus, fell in battle against the Veientes in the year B.C. 479. In the following year, under the consulship of Caeso Fabius and Titus Virginius, the whole house of the Fabii proposed to leave Rome, and settle on the borders of the territory of Veii, in order to take the war against the Veientes entirely into their own hands. After performing solemn sacrifices, they left Rome in a body, mustering three hundred and six patricians, besides their families, clients, and freedmen, and encamped on the banks of the Cremera in sight of Veii. There they fortified themselves, and maintained for nearly two years a harassing warfare against the Veientes and other people of Etruria. At last, in one of their predatory incursions (B.C. 477), they fell into an ambuscade, and, fighting desperately, were all exterminated (Livy, ii. 48 foll.). Dionysius of Halicarnassus (ix. 19) gives also another account of this disaster, which he considers less credible. According to this latter form of the legend, the three hundred and six Fabii set off for Rome, in order to offer up a sacrifice in the chapel of their house. As they went to perform a pious ceremony, they proceeded without arms or warlike array. The Etrurians, however, knowing their road, placed troops in ambush, and, falling on the Fabii, cut them to pieces. It is said that one only of the Fabii escaped this massacre, having been left quite young at Rome (Livy, ii. 50; Dion. Hal. ix. 22). His name was Q. Fabius Vibulanus, and he became the ancestor of all the subsequent Fabii. He was repeatedly consul, and was afterwards one of the Decemviri with Appius Claudius for two consecutive years, in which office he disgraced himself by his connivance at the oppressions of his colleague, which caused the fall of the decemvirate. See Decemviri; Fabii.

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