After this, an embassy came from the Romans to treat about the prisoners that had been taken. The embassy was headed by Caius Fabricius, who, as Cineas reported, was held in highest esteem at Rome as an honourable man and good soldier, but was inordinately poor. To this man, then, Pyrrhus privately showed kindness and tried to induce him to accept gold, not for any base purpose, indeed, but calling it a mark of friendship and hospitality.
But Fabricius rejected the gold, and for that day Pyrrhus let him alone; on the following day, however, wishing to frighten a man who had not yet seen an elephant, he ordered the largest of these animals to be stationed behind a hanging in front of which they stood conversing together. This was done; and at a given signal the hanging was drawn aside, and the animal suddenly raised his trunk, held it over the head of Fabricius, and emitted a harsh and frightful cry.
But Fabricius calmly turned and said with a smile to Pyrrhus:
‘Your gold made no impression on me yesterday, neither does your beast to-day.’ Again, at supper, where all sorts of topics were discussed, and particularly that of Greece and her philosophers, Cineas happened somehow to mention Epicurus, and set forth the doctrines of that school concerning the gods, civil government, and the highest good, explaining that they made pleasure the highest good, but would have nothing to do with civil government on the ground that it was injurious and the ruin of felicity, and that they removed the Deity as far as possible from feelings of kindness or anger or concern for us, into a life that knew no care and was filled with ease and comfort.
But before Cineas was done, Fabricius cried out and said:
‘0 Hercules, may Pyrrhus and the Samnites cherish these doctrines, as long as they are at war with us.’
Thus Pyrrhus was led to admire the high spirit and character of the man, and was all the more eager to have friendship with his city instead of waging war against it; he even privately invited him, in case he brought about the settlement, to follow his fortunes and share his life as the first and foremost of all his companions and generals. But Fabricius, as we are told, said quietly to him:
‘Nay, 0 King, this would not be to thy advantage; for the very men who now admire and honour thee, if they should become acquainted with me, would prefer to have me as their king rather than thee.’ Such a man was Fabricius.
And Pyrrhus did not receive the speech with anger or like a tyrant, but actually reported to his friends the magnanimity of Fabricius, and entrusted his prisoners of war to him alone, on condition that, in case the senate should not vote for the peace, they should be sent back again to him, though they might first greet their relatives and celebrate the festival of Saturn. And they were so sent back after the festival, the senate having voted a penalty of death for any that stayed behind.