Now that they had invested Minucius with the same powers as the dictator, the people supposed that the latter would feel shorn of strength and altogether humble, but they did not estimate the man aright. For he did not regard their mistake as his own calamity, but was like Diogenes the wise man, who, when some one said to him,
‘These folk are ridiculing you,’ said,
‘But I am not ridiculed.’ He held that only those are ridiculed who are confounded by such treatment and yield their ground.
So Fabius endured the situation calmly and easily, so far as it affected himself, thereby confirming the axiom of philosophy that a sincerely good man can neither be insulted nor dishonoured. But because it affected the state, he was distressed by the folly of the multitude. They had given opportunities to a man with a diseased military ambition,
and fearful lest this man, utterly crazed by his empty glory and prestige, should bring about some great disaster before he could be checked, he set out in all secrecy from the city. When he reached the camp, he found that Minucius was no longer to be endured. He was harsh in his manner, puffed up with conceit, and demanded the sole command in his due turn. This Fabius would not grant, feeling that the sole command of a part of the army was better than the command of the whole in his turn.
The first and fourth legions he therefore took himself and gave the second and third to Minucius, the allied forces also being equally divided between them. When Minucius put on lofty airs and exulted because the majesty of the highest and greatest office in the state had been lowered and insulted on his account, Fabius reminded him that his contention was not with Fabius, but rather, were he wise, with Hannibal.
If, however, he was bent on rivalry with his colleague in office, he must see to it that the man who had been triumphantly honoured by his fellow-citizens should not be proved more careless of their salvation and safety than the man who had been ingloriously outraged by them.