Such were the memorable things in the career of Pericles, as we have received them, and now let us change the course of our narrative and tell of Fabius. It was a nymph, they say, or a woman native to the country, according to others, who consorted with Hercules by the river Tiber, and became by him the mother of Fabius, the founder of the family of the Fabii, which was a large one, and of high repute in Rome.
But some writers state that the first members of the family were called Fodii in ancient times, from their practice of taking wild beasts in pitfalls. For down to the present time
’ is the Latin for ditches
’ for to dig
. In course of time, by a change of two letters, they were called Fabii. This family produced many great men, and from Rullus, the greatest of them, and on this account called Maximus by the Romans, the Fabius Maximus of whom we now write was fourth in descent.
He had the surname of Verrucosus from a physical peculiarity, namely, a small wart growing above his lip and that of Ovicula, which signifies Lambkin
, was given him because of the gentleness and gravity of his nature when he was yet a child. Indeed, the calmness and silence of his demeanour, the great caution with which he indulged in childish pleasures, the slowness and difficulty with which he learned his lessons, and his contented submissivness in dealing with his comrades, led those who knew him superficially to suspect him of something like foolishness and stupidity. Only a few discerned the inexorable firmness in the depth of his soul, and the magnanimous and leonine qualities of his nature.
But soon, as time went on and he was roused by the demands of active life, he made it clear even to the multitude that his seeming lack of energy was only lack of passion, that his caution was prudence, and that his never being quick nor even easy to move made him always steadfast and sure. He saw that the conduct of the state was a great task, and that wars must be many; he therefore trained his body for the wars (nature's own armour, as it were), and his speech as an instrument of persuasion with the people, giving it a form right well befitting his manner of life.
For it had no affectation, nor any empty, forensic grace, but an import of peculiar dignity, rendered weighty by an abundance of maxims. These, they say, most resembled those which Thucydides employs. And a speech of his is actually preserved, which was pronounced by him before the people in eulogy of his son,1
who died consul.