|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
HANNIBAL OUTWITS FABIUS
 THE Senate had restored some sense of confidence to the
stricken people by its gravity and calmness. It had
also reassured them by destroying the bridges by which
the city could be approached and by strengthening her
Soldiers who had been deemed too old to follow the army
were now called together, and armed with weapons which
had hung for years in the temples—trophies these from
many a hard-fought field.
But most important of all, a Dictator was chosen to
guide Rome in the crisis that had befallen her.
Fabius, the noble patrician who was elected, was a wise
man, and one who was not easily swayed by others. He
was, however, neither a brilliant nor an enterprising
Minucius, one of the people's favourites, was appointed
to be the Dictator's master of horse.
Now many of the people believed that disaster had
overtaken the army because Flaminius had marched to the
war without first offering sacrifices to the gods. And
also because he had treated their warnings with
For as he rode off to join his troops he was thrown
from his horse, while a standard that had been thrust
into the ground was found to be so firmly embedded that
the standard-bearer, with all his efforts, could not
dislodge it. These omens Flaminius had treated with
scorn, merely remounting his steed and ordering the
standard to be dug out of the ground.
Fabius the Dictator, therefore, determined before he
 did aught else, to pacify the anger of the gods and at
the same time to please the people.
So he ordered white oxen to be offered in the temples,
as an atonement for the neglect shown to the gods by
Flaminius. The people flocked gladly to these
sacrifices, bringing with them their own offerings to
lay on the altars, while they prayed for the goodwill
of the god of battle.
A vow, too, was made by the whole of the people, to
keep "A holy spring."
This vow said that "every animal fit for sacrifice,
born in the spring of the year 216 B.C., and reared on
any mountain or plain or river bank or upland pasture
throughout Italy, should be offered to Jupiter."
There was no need to offer children to the gods in
sacrifice, for they, when they grew old enough, offered
their lives, and that right willingly, on the
battlefield to the god of war.
When the religious rites were ended, Fabius prepared to
meet the enemy.
Two new legions were soon raised, and Servilius was
ordered to bring his two legions to Rome, so that
Fabius had four legions to lead to battle.
The Dictator had his own idea of how best to beat
Hannibal, and to this idea he remained faithful,
although his own followers as well as the enemy derided
Fabius had determined not to meet the Carthaginians in
a pitched battle. They had already been victorious too
often in such a struggle. He intended to harass the
rear guard of the enemy and to cut off the parties
Hannibal sent out in search of food or forage. This
discreet policy proved pleasing neither to Hannibal nor
to his own troops, but of this Fabius recked little.
After deciding on these tactics, the Dictator led his
legions into Northern Apulia and encamped near to the
enemy. In vain Hannibal tried to tempt Fabius to
 He wantonly burned the homesteads and destroyed the
vineyards of the Italians, that the Dictator might grow
indignant and hasten to their help. But seemingly
untouched by the desolation of his country, Fabius
continued to follow his own method of warfare.
This method of delay has since his time become a
byword, and is known as "The Fabian Policy." He
himself was named, or perhaps I should say he was
nicknamed, Cunctator, The Delayer.
Minucius, the master of the horse, eager for battle,
encouraged the soldiers in their discontent with the
Dictator, until they even dared to say that Minucius
was more fit to command Romans than Fabius.
Then Minucius, seeing the men were in his favour, grew
more daring, and ventured to jest at the Dictator
because he encamped always on the hills, while the
enemy was in the plains. "It is," said the officer, "as
if Fabius has taken us to the hills as to a theatre,
to look at the flames and desolation of our country."
Or he would mockingly declare that the Dictator was
leading them up to heaven, having no hopes on earth, or
even that he was trying to hide them in the clouds from
These words were told to Fabius, and his friends urged
him, as they had often done before, to fight.
But the Dictator answered, "I should be more
faint-hearted than they make me, if through fear of idle
reproaches I should abandon my own convictions."
Such words showed the true bravery of the Delayer's
Soon after this, Hannibal, who had been despoiling the
beautiful country of Campania, determined to march back
to Apulia, with the booty he had secured. He had with
him great herds of cattle which formed a large part of
To reach Apulia, the Carthaginians would have to march
 through a narrow defile, and Fabius believed that now
his patience was going to be rewarded. He would catch
Hannibal in a trap.
But Fabius had scarcely realised the man with whom he
had to deal. Hannibal in a trap like that which he had
himself often set for the Romans! That surely was not
easy to believe.
Knowing the country well, the Dictator did not on this
occasion delay, but sent a company of four thousand
soldiers to guard the exit by which the enemy must
leave the pass, on its way to Apulia. He, with the
main body of his army, stationed himself on the summit
of a hill, close at hand.
Hannibal guessed what the Romans had done, and he made
up his mind to frustrate their plans; moreover, he
determined to do so by a trick. He seemed to treat the
Dictator and his arrangements with scarcely the
First he ordered two thousand of the oxen he had
captured to have torches or dry faggots fastened to
Then when it grew dark these faggots were lighted, and
the beasts were driven toward the mountains where the
Roman soldiers were encamped. Hannibal and his army
followed slowly behind the oxen.
The beasts moved heavily along, the lights on their
heads making them appear like a mighty army, marching
through the night. By and by the fire burned the horns
down to the quick, and the poor animals, in horrible
pain, ran hither and thither, tossing their heads and
thus setting fire to the trees which they happened to
On the crest of the hill, the Roman army saw the moving
lights, but as Fabius issued no orders, the soldiers
stayed in the camp.
The company guarding the pass also saw the lights and
thought that they were moving toward the mountains.
 Thinking their comrades would be in danger, they
deserted their post and ran to give them help.
Hannibal's soldiers at once seized the forsaken exit,
and the Carthaginian army passed out of the defile
Before morning dawned Fabius discovered how he had been
outwitted by Hannibal. Yet fearing lest his men should
fall into an ambush if he sent them in pursuit of the
enemy before it was light, he still kept his army idle
When it was daylight it was too late to do the
Carthaginians much harm, although the Dictator ordered
his army to attack them in the rear.
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