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Fabius, Chapter 1: Introduction
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Having related the memorable actions of Pericles, our history now proceeds to the life of Fabius. A son of Hercules and a nymph, or some woman of that country, who brought him forth on the banks of Tiber, was, it is said, the first Fabius, the founder of the numerous and distinguished family of the name. Others will have it that they were first called Fodii, because the first of the race delighted in digging pitfalls for wild beasts, fodere being still the Latin for to dig, and fossa for a ditch, and that in process of time, by the change of the two letters they grew to be called Fabii. But be these things true or false, certain it is that this family for a long time yielded a great number of eminent persons. Our Fabius, who was fourth in descent from that Fabius Rullus who first brought the honorable surname of Maximus into his family, was also, by way of personal nickname, called Verrucosus, from a wart on his upper lip; and in his childhood they in like manner named him Ovicula, or The Lamb, on account of his extreme mildness of temper. His slowness in speaking, his long labor and pains in learning, his deliberation in entering into the sports of other children, his easy submission to everybody, as if he had no will of his own, made those who judged superficially of him, the greater number, esteem him insensible and stupid; and few only saw that this tardiness proceeded from stability, and discerned the greatness of his mind, and the lionlikeness of his temper. But as soon as he came into employments, his virtues exerted and showed themselves; his reputed want of energy then was recognized by people in general, as a freedom of passion; his slowness in words and actions, the effect of a true prudence; his want of rapidity, and his sluggishness, as constancy and firmness. Living in a great common-wealth, surrounded by many enemies, he saw the wisdom of inuring his body own weapon to warlike exercises, and disciplining his tongue for public oratory in a style comformable to his life and character. His eloquence, indeed, had not much of popular ornament, nor empty artifice, but there was in it great weight of sense; it was strong and sententious, much after the way of Thucydides. We have yet extant his funeral oration upon the death of his son [Note 1], who died consul, which he recited before the people.
Note 1: son = Fabius