1. M. Minucius
Rufus, was consul B. C. 221, with P. Cornelius Scipio Asina, and carried on war, in conjunction with his colleague, against the Istrians, whom he subdued (Eutrop. 3.7
; Oros. 4.13
; Zonar. 8.20
). In B. C. 217 Rufus was appointed magister equitum to the dictator Q. Fabius Maximus, who had been called to this office after the disastrous defeat of the Romans at the battle of the lake Trasimenus.
The cautious policy of Fabius displeased the impetuous temper of Rufus, who excited the discontent of the soldiers and the people against the slow and defensive system of the dictator. Certain religious rites called Fabius to Rome, but before his departure he charged Rufus on no account to risk a battle.
But his orders were disregarded.
The master of the horse straightway commenced an offensive system, and was fortunate enough to obtain a victory over a considerable division of Hannibal's troops.
This success gained Rufus such popularity at Rome, that a bill was passed, on the proposition of the tribune Metilius, giving the master of the horse equal military power with the dictator.
In consequence of this the Roman army was divided, and each portion encamped separately under its own general. Anxious for distinction, Rufus eagerly accepted a battle which was offered him by Hannibal, but was defeated, and his troops were only saved from total destruction by the timely arrival of Fabius, with all his forces. Thereupon Rufus generously acknowledged his error, gave up his separate command, and placed himself again under the authority of the dictator.
He fell at the battle of Cannae in the following year. (Plb. 3.87
; Liv. 22.8
; Piut. Fab. Max.
4-13; Appian, Bell. Hannib.
12, &c.; V. Max. 5.2.4