4. Q. Fabius
Pictor, the son of No. 2, and the grandson of No. 1, was the most ancient writer of Roman history in prose, and is therefore usually placed at the head of the Roman annalists. Thus he is called by Livy scriptorum antiquissimus
(1.44) and longe antiquissimus auctor
He served in the Gallic war, B. C. 225 (Eutrop. 3.5
; Oros. 4.13
; comp. Plin. Nat. 10.24. s. 34
), and also in the second Punic war; and that he enjoyed considerable reputation among his contemporaries is evident from the circumstance of his being sent to Delphi, after the disastrous battle of Cannae in B. C. 216, to consult the oracle by what means the Romans could propitiate the gods (Liv. 22.57
; Appian, Annib.
27). We learn from Polybius (3.9.4
) that he had a seat in the senate, and consequently he must have filled the office of quaestor; but we possess no other particulars respecting his life.
The year of his death is uncertain; for the C. Fabius Pictor whose death Livy speaks of (45.44) in B. C. 167, is a different person from the historian [see No. 5]. One might conjecture, from his not obtaining any of the higher dignities of the state, that he died soon after his return from Delphi; but, as Polybius (3.9
) speaks of him as one of the historians of the second Punic war, he can hardly have died so soon; and it is probable that his literary habits rendered him disinclined to engage in the active services required of the Roman magistrates at that time.
The history of Fabius Pictor probably began with the arrival of Aeneas in Italy, and came down to his own time.
The earlier events were related with brevity; but that portion of the history of which he was a contemporary, was given with much greater minuteness (Dionys. A. R. 1.6
). We do not know the number of books into which the work was divided, nor how far it came down.
It contined an account of the battle of the lake Trasimene (Liv. 22.7
); and Polybius, as we have already remarked, speaks of him as one of the historians of the second Punic War. We have the express testimony of Dionysius (I. c.
) that the work of Fabius was written in Greek; but it has been supposed from Cicero (Cic. de Orat. 2.12
, de Leg.
1.2), Gellius (5.4
), Quintilian (1.6.12), and Nonius (s.v. Picumnus
), that it must have been written in Latin also.
This, however, is very improbable ; and as we know there were two Latin
writers of the name of Fabius, namely, Ser. Fabius Pictor, and Q. Fabius Maximus Servilianus, it is more likely that the passages above quoted refer to one of these, and not to Quintus. [See below, No. 6.]
The work of Q. Fabius Pictor was one of great value, and is frequently referred to by Livy, Polybius, and Dionysius. Polybius (1.14
), indeed, charges Fabius with great partiality towards the Romans; and as he wrote for the Greeks, he was probably anxious to make his countrymen appear in the best light.
The work seems to have contained a very accurate account of the constitutional changes at Rome; Niebuhr attributes the excellence of Dio Cassius in this department of his history to his having closely followed the statements of Fabius (Hist. of Rome,
vol. ii. note 367).
In his account of the early Roman legends Fabius is said to have adopted the views of Diocles of Peparethus [DIOCLES, literary, No. 5].
Möller, De Q. Fabio Picture,
Altorf, 1690; Whiste, De Fabio Pictore ceterisque Fabiis Historicis.
Hafniae, 1832; Vossius, De Hist. Lat.
p. 12; Krause, Vitae et Fragm. Hist. Rom.
p. 38, &c.; Niebuhr, Lectures on Roman History,
vol. i. p. 27, ed. Schmitz.