Accordingly, this course was adopted, and Fabius was appointed dictator.1
He himself appointed Marcus Minucius to be his Master of Horse, and then at once asked permission of the senate to use a horse himself when in the field. For this was not his right, but was forbidden by an ancient law, either because the Romans placed their greatest strength in their infantry, and for this reason thought that their commander ought to be with the phalanx and not leave it; or because they wished, since the power of the office in all other respects is as great as that of a tyrant, that in this point at least the dictator should be plainly dependent on the people.
However, Fabius himself was minded to show forth at once the magnitude and grandeur of his office, that the citizens might be more submissive and obedient to his commands. He therefore appeared in public attended by a united band of twenty-four lictors with their fasces,2
and when the remaining consul was coming to meet him, sent his adjutant to him with orders to dismiss his lictors, lay aside the insignia of his office, and meet him as a private person.
After this, he began with the gods, which is the fairest of all beginnings, and showed the people that the recent disaster was due to the neglect and scorn with which their general had treated religious rites, and not to the cowardice of those who fought under him. He thus induced them, instead of fearing their enemies, to propitiate and honour the gods. It was not that he filled them with superstition, but rather that he emboldened their valour with piety, allaying and removing the fear which their enemies inspired, with hopes of aid from the gods.
At this time, moreover, many of the so-called Sibylline books, containing secrets of service to the state, were consulted, and it is said that some of the oracular sayings therein preserved corresponded with the fortunes and events of the time. What was thus ascertained, however, could not be made public, but the dictator, in the presence of all the people, vowed to sacrifice to the gods an entire year's increase in goats, swine, sheep, and cattle, that is, all that Italy's mountains, plains, rivers, and meadows should breed in the coming spring.3
He likewise vowed to celebrate a musical and dramatic festival in honour of the gods, which should cost three hundred and thirty-three sestertia, plus three hundred and thirty-three denarii, plus one third of a denarius.
This sum, in Greek money, amounts to eighty-three thousand five hundred and eighty-three drachmas, plus two obols. Now the reason for the exact prescription to this particular number is hard to give, unless it was thereby desired to laud the power of the number three, as being a perfect number by nature, the first of odd numbers, the beginning of quantity, and as containing in itself the first differences and the elements of every number mingled and blended together.