4. Q. Fabius
Maximus, Q. F. Q. N., with the agnomens VERRUCOSUs, from a wart on his upper lip, OVICULA, or the Lamb, from the mildness or apathy of his temper (Plut. Fab. 1
; comp. Varr. R. R.
2.11). and CUNCTATOR, from his caution in war, grandson of Fabius Gurges, and, perhaps, son of the preceding, was consul for the first time in B. C. 233. Liguria was his province, and it afforded him a triumph (Fasti) and a pretext for de.licating a temple to Honour. (Cic. de Nat. Deor.
He was censor in B. C. 230; consul a second time in 228; opposed the agrarian law of C. Flaminius in 227 [FLAMINIUS, No. 1]; was dictator for holding the comitia in 221, and in 218 legatus from the senate to Carthage, to demand reparation for the attack on Saguntnm. In . 100.217, immediately after the defeat at Thrasymenus, Fabius was appointed dictator, or rather, since no consul was at hahd to nominate him, pro-dictator. From this period, so long as the war with Hanni bal was merely defensive, Fabius became the leading man at Rome. His military talents were not perhaps of the highest order, but he understood beyond all his contemporaries the nature of the struggle, the genius of Hannibal, and the disposition of his own countrymen. Cicero says truly of Fabius (Rep.
1.1), bellum Punicum secundum enervavit,
a more appropriate eulogy than that of Ennius, qui cunctando restituit rem,
since Marcellus and Scipio restored the republic to its military eminence, whereas Fabius made it capable of restoration. His first act as dictator was to calm and corroborate the minds of the Romans by solemn sacrifice and supplication to the gods; his next to render Latium and the neighbouring districts untenable by the enemy. On taking the field he laid down a simple and immutable plan of action.
He avoided all direct encounter with the enemy; moved his camp from highland to highland, where the Numidian horse and Spanish infantry could not follow him; watched Hannibal's movments with unrelaxing vigilance, cut off his stragglers and foragers, to and compelled him to weary his allies by necessary exactions, and to dishearten his soldiers by fruitless manoeuvres. His enclosure of Hannibal in one of the upland valleys between Cales and the Vulturnus, and the Carthaginian's adroit escape by driving oxen with blazing faggots fixed to their horns up the hill-sides, are well-known facts.
But at Rome and in his own camp the caution of Fabius was misinterpreted.
He was even suspected of wishing to prolong the war that he might retain the command; of cowardice, of incapability, and even of treachery, although he gave up the produce of his estates to ransom Roman prisoners. Hannibal alone appreciated the conduct of Fabius.
But his own master of the horse, M. Minucius Rufus, headed the clamour against him, and the senate, incensed by the ravage of their Campanian estates, joined with the impatient commonalty in condemning his dilatory policy. Minucius, during a brief absence of Fabius from the camp, obtained some slight advantage over Hannibal.
A tribune of the plebs, M. Metilius, brought forward a bill for dividing the command equally between the dictator and the master of the horse, and the senate and the tribes passed it. Minucius was speedily entrapped, and would have been destroyed by Hannibal, had not Fabius generously hastened to his rescue. Hannibal, on his retreat from Fabius, is reported to have said, " I thought yon cloud would one day break from the hills in a pelting storm." Minucius, who though rash was magnanimous, resigned his command, but Fabius scrupulously laid down his office at its legal expiration in six months, bequeathing his example to the consuls who sncceeded him. Aemilius copied, Varro disregarded his injunctions, and the rout at Cannae illustrated the wisdom of Fabius' warning to Aemilius,-- "Remember, you have to dread not only Hamibal but Varro." Fabius was, however, among the first on Varro's return from Cannae to thank him for not having despaired of his country; and the defensive measures which the senate adopted in that season of dismay were dictated by him.
After the winter of B. C. 216-215, the wargrad? tlly asscmed a new character, and, though still eminent, Fabius was no longer its presiding spirit.
He was elected pontifex in 216, was already a member of the augural college, which office he held sixty-two years (Liv. 30.26
); dedicated by public commission the temple of Venus Erycina, and opposed filling up with Latins the vacancies which the war had made in the senate. In B. C. 215 he was consul for the third time, when he ravaged Campania and began the siege of Capua. On laying down the fasces he admonished the people and the senate to drop all party feelings, and to choose such men only for consuls as were competent to the times. His advice led to his own re-election, B. C. 214.
In this year he made an inroad into Samnium and took Casilinum. In 213 Fabius served as legatus to his own son, Q. Fabius [No. 5], consul in that year, and an anecdote is preserved (Liv. 24.44
; Plut. Fab. 24
) which exemplifies the strictness of the Roman discipline. On entering the camp at Suessula Fabius advanced on horseback to greet his son.
He was passing the lictors when the consul sternly bade him dismount. "My son," exclaimed the elder Fabius alighting, " I wished to see whether you would remember that you were consul." On Hannibal's march upon Rome, in B. C. 211, Fabius was again the principal stay of the senate, and earnestly dissuaded abandoning the siege of Capua, which would have been yielding to the Carthaginian's feint on the capital. Fabius was consul for the fifth time in B. C. 209, was invested with the almost hereditary title of the Fabii Maximi-Princeps senatus,-and inflicted a deadly wound on Hannibal's tenure of Southern Italy by the recapture of Tarentum.
The citadel of Tarentum had never fallen into the hands of the Carthaginians, and M. Livius Macatus, its governor, some years afterwards, claimed the merit of recovering the town. " Certainly," rejoined Fabius, " had you not lost, I had never retaken it." (Plut. Fab. 23
; Cic. de Orat. 2.67
The plunder of the town was given up to the soldiers, but. a question arising whether certain colossal statues and pictures of the tutelary deities of Tarentum should be sent to Rome, " Nay," said Fabius, "let us leave to the Tarentines their angry gods." (Liv. 27.16
; Plnt. Fab.
He removed thither, however, a statue of Hercules, the mythic ancestor of the Fabii, and placed it in the Capitol. M. Livius Salinator and C. Claudius Nero, consuls elect for B. C. 208, were at open enmity (Liv. 27.35
; V. Max. 4.2
); and their reconciliation, of the highest moment to the commonwealth, was principally the work of Fabius.
In the closing years of the second Punic war Fabius appears to less advantage.
The war had become aggressive under a new race of generals. Fabius, already in mature manhood at the close of the first, was advanced in years in the later period of the second Punic war.
He disapproved the new tactics; he dreaded, perhaps he envied, the political supremacy of Scipio, and was his uncompromising opponent in his scheme of invading Africa. Fabius did not live to witness the issue of the war and the triumph of his rival.
He died in B. C. 2043, alout the time of Hannibal's departure from Italy. His wealth was great; yet the people defrayed by contribution the funeral charges of their " father," the "great dictator," " who singly, by his caution, saved the state."
Fabius had two sons; the younger survived him (Liv. 33.42
); he pronounced the funeral omtion of the elder (Laudatio) (Cic. de Sen. 4),
and though, strictly speaking, not eloquent, he was neither an unready nor all illiterate speaker. (Cic. Brut. 14
He adopted, probably on account of the tender age of his younger, and after the decease of his elder son, a son of L. Paullus Aemilius, the conqueror of Perseus. (Plut. Paull. Aem.
Besides the life, by Plutarch, which is probably a compilation from the archives of the Fabian family, the history of Fabius occupies a large space in all narratives of the second Punic war. (Plb. 3.87
, xviii. Fr. Hist. 18;
Liv. xx. xxi. xxii. xxiii. xxiv. xxvi. xxvii. xxviii. xxix. xxx.; Florus, Eutropius, and the epitomists generally ; Cic. Brut. 18
, Leg. Agrar.
3.28, Nat. Deor.
3.32, In Verr. Ace.
5.10, De Sen.
4, 17, De Off.
1.30; Sal. Jug. 4
; Varr. Fr.
p. 241, ed. Bipont.; Dio Cass. Fr.
48, 55 ; Appian, Annib.
11-16, 31; Quint. Inst.
6.3. §§ 52, 61, 8.2.11; Plin. Nat. 22.5
; Sell. de Ben.
2.7; Sil. Ital. Punic.