Among the other marks of high favour which the Romans conferred upon Fabius, they made his son Fabius consul.1
When this son had entered upon his office and was arranging some matter pertaining to the war, his father, either by reason of his age and weakness, or because he was putting his son to the test, mounted his horse and rode towards him through the throng of bystanders. The young man caught sight of his father at a distance and would not suffer what he did, but sent a lictor with orders for him to dismount and come to the consul on foot if he had any need of his offices.
All the rest were offended at this command, and implied by their silent gaze at Fabius that this treatment of him was unworthy of his high position. But Fabius himself sprang quickly from his horse, almost ran to his son, and embraced him affectionately.
‘My son,’ he said,
‘you are right in thought and act. You understand what a people has made you its officer, and what a high office you have received from them. It was in this spirit that our fathers and we ourselves have exalted Rome, a spirit which makes parents and children ever secondary to our country's good.’
And of a truth it is reported of the great-grandfather of our Fabius, that though he had the greatest reputation and influence in Rome, and though he had himself been consul five times and had celebrated the most splendid triumphs for time greatest wars, he nevertheless, when his son was consul, went forth to war within him as his lieutenant,3
and in the triumph that followed, while the son entered the city on a four-horse chariot, the father followed on horseback with the rest of the train, exulting in the fact that, though he was master of his son, and was the greatest of the citizens both in name and in fact, he yet put himself beneath the law and its official. However, this was not the only admirable thing about him.
But the son of our Fabius, as it happened, died, and this affliction he bore with equanimity, like a wise man and a good father. The funeral oration, which is pronounced at the obsequies of illustrious men by some kinsman, he delivered himself from his place in the forum, and then wrote out the speech and published it.4