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Fabius Returns to Rome

The Romans who were guarding the gorge, no sooner saw these fiery fagots advancing to the heights, than, quitting the narrow part of the pass, they made for the ridge to meet the enemy. But when they got near the oxen, they were puzzled by the lights, imagining them to be something more dangerous than they really were; and when the Carthaginian light-armed troops came on to the ground, after some slight skirmishing between the two parties, upon the oxen rushing in among them, they separated and took up their positions on different heights and waited for daybreak, not being able to comprehend what was taking place.

Partly because he was at a loss to understand what

Hannibal gets through the pass. Autumn, B. C. 217.
was happening, and, in the words of the poet, "some deep design suspecting;"1 and partly that, in accordance with his original plan, he was determined not to risk a general engagement, Fabius remained quietly within his camp: while Hannibal, finding everything going as he designed, led his army and booty in safety through the gorge, the men who had been set to guard the narrow road having abandoned their post. At daybreak, seeing the two troops fronting each other on the heights, he sent some Iberian companies to the light-armed troops, who engaged the Romans, and, killing a thousand of them, easily relieved his own light-armed troops and brought them down to the main body.

Having thus effected his departure from the Falernian plain, Hannibal thenceforth busied himself in looking out for a place in which to winter, and in making the necessary preparations, after having inspired the utmost alarm and uncertainty in the cities and inhabitants of Italy.

Fabius goes to Rome, leaving the command to M. Minucius.
Though Fabius meanwhile was in great disrepute among the common people, for having let his enemy escape from such a trap, he nevertheless refused to abandon his policy; and being shortly afterwards obliged to go to Rome to perform certain sacrifices, he handed over the command of his legions to his master of the horse, with many parting injunctions, not to be so anxious to inflict a blow upon the enemy, as to avoid receiving one himself. Marcus, however, paid no heed to the advice, and, even while Fabius was speaking, had wholly resolved to risk a general engagement.

1 Homer, Odyss. 10, 230.

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