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24. After this he moved at once against Hannibal. And although almost all the other consuls and commanders, after the disaster at Cannae, made the avoidance of all fighting their sole plan of campaign against this antagonist, and no one had the courage to engage in a pitched battle with him, Marcellus himself took the opposite course, [2] thinking that before the time thought necessary for destroying Hannibal had elapsed, Italy would insensibly be worn out by him. He thought, too, that Fabius, by making safety his constant aim, was not taking the right course to heal the malady of the country, since the extinction of the war for which he waited would be coincident with the exhaustion of Rome, just as physicians who are timid and afraid to apply remedies, consider the consumption of the patient's powers to be the abatement of the disease. [3] First, then, he took the large cities of the Samnites which had revolted, and got possession of great quantities of grain which had been stored in them, besides money, and the three thousand soldiers of Hannibal who were guarding them. Next, after Hannibal had slain the proconsul Gnaeus Fulvius himself in Apulia, together with eleven military tribunes, and had cut to pieces the greater part of his army, Marcellus sent letters to Rome bidding the citizens be of good courage, for that he himself was already on the march to rob Hannibal of his joy. [4] Livy says1 that when these letters were read, they did not take away the grief of the Romans, but added to their fear; for they thought their present danger as much greater than the past as Marcellus was superior to Fulvius. But Marcellus, as he had written, at once pursued Hannibal into Lucania, and came up with him, and as he found him occupying a secure position on heights about the city of Numistro, he himself encamped in the plain. [5] On the following day he was first to array his forces when Hannibal came down into the plain, and fought a battle with him which, though indecisive, was desperate and long; for their engagement began at the third hour, and was with difficulty ended when it was already dark. But at daybreak Marcellus led his army forth again, put them in array among the dead bodies of the slain, and challenged Hannibal to fight it out with him for the victory. [6] And when Hannibal withdrew his forces, Marcellus stripped the dead bodies of the enemy, buried those of his own men, and pursued him again. And though his adversary laid many ambushes for him, he escaped them all, and by getting the advantage of him in all the skirmishes, won admiration for himself. For this reason, too, when the consular elections drew near, the senate decided that it was better to recall the other consul from Sicily than to disturb Marcellus in his grappling with Hannibal, and when he was come, it bade him declare Quintus Fulvius dictator.

[7] For a dictator cannot be chosen either by the people or by the senate, but one of the consuls or praetors comes before the assembled people and names as dictator the one whom he himself decides upon. And for this reason the one so named is called ‘dictator,’ from the Latin ‘dicere,’ to name or declare. Some, however, say that the dictator is so named because he puts no question to vote or show of hands, but ordains and declares of his own authority that which seems good to him; for the orders of magistrates, which the Greeks call ‘diatagmata,’ the Romans call ‘edicta.’

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