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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXII Chapter 23: Problems of Fabius the dictator.[217 BC]
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Such were the transactions in Spain also during the second summer of the Punic war; while in Italy the prudent delay of Fabius had procured the Romans some intermission from disasters; which conduct, as it kept Hannibal disturbed with no ordinary degree of anxiety, for it proved to him that the Romans had at length selected a general who would carry on the war with prudence, and not in dependence on fortune; so was it treated with contempt by his countrymen, both in the camp and in the city; particularly after that a battle had been fought during his absence from the temerity of the master of the horse [Note 1], in its issue, as I may justly designate it, rather joyful than successful. Two causes were added to augment the unpopularity of the dictator: one arising out of a stratagem and artful procedure of Hannibal; for the farm of the dictator having been pointed out to him by deserters, he ordered that the fire and sword and every outrage of enemies should be restrained from it alone, while all around were levelled with the ground; in order that it might appear to have been the term of some secret compact: the other from an act of his own, at first perhaps suspicious, because in it he had not waited for the authority of the senate, but in the result turning unequivocally to his highest credit, with relation to the exchange of prisoners: for, as was the case in the first Punic war, an agreement had been made between the Roman and Carthaginian generals, that whichever received more prisoners than he restored, should give two pounds and a half of silver for every man. And when the Roman had received two hundred and forty-seven more than the Carthaginian, and the silver which was due for them, after the matter had been frequently agitated in the senate, was not promptly supplied, because he had not consulted the fathers, he sent his son Quintus to Rome and sold his farm, uninjured by the enemy, and thus redeemed the public credit at his own private expense. Hannibal lay in a fixed camp before the walls of Geronium, which city he had captured and burnt, leaving only a few buildings for the purpose of granaries: thence he was in the habit of sending out two-thirds of his forces to forage; with the third part kept in readiness, he himself remained on guard, both as a protection to his camp, and for the purpose of looking out, if from any quarter an attack should be made upon his foragers. |
Note 1: master of the horse = Minucius
Event: Actions in Italy in 217 BC; The battle of lake Trasimene.