FABIUS WINS TWO VICTORIES
 ROME was not long in hearing how Hannibal had tricked the
Dictator, and the people were roused to fury because
Fabius had allowed their great enemy to escape.
Now it was necessary at this time for Fabius to leave
the army and return to Rome to celebrate a religious
Minucius was left in command of the legions during the
absence of the Dictator. Before he left, Fabius bade
the young officer on no pretext to risk a battle while
he was away.
But no sooner had the Dictator gone, than Minucius,
hearing that a large body of the enemy had left their
camp in search of forage, fell upon a company of those
that were left behind. He killed many of them, and
retreated without losing any of his own men.
When tidings of this success, slight though it was,
reached Rome, the people were both excited and elated.
And as was perhaps natural, they began to compare
Minucius and his triumph with the Dictator and his
policy of delay.
If Minucius had been commander, Hannibal would have
been beaten long ago, so grumbled the people. Surely
it was ignoble to camp on the hills in safety, while
the country was being destroyed by the enemy.
So great was the discontent of the people that at
length the Senate decreed that Minucius should be given
power equal to that of the Dictator. This had never
been done before, as the Dictator always held the
supreme power alone.
 When Fabius returned to camp he showed no chagrin at
the new arrangement, but gave to his former master of
the horse complete control of two legions, while he
himself kept command of the other two. This was, he
believed, wiser than that two generals should rule the
Hannibal was well pleased when he heard how the Roman
command had been divided. For he foresaw that it would
be easy to draw the young impetuous general down from
So, as his way was, he carefully laid an ambush, and
then sent out a small party to take possession of a
hill that lay not far from the enemy's camp.
Minucius rose, as a fish rises, to the bait. He sent
out his light troops and cavalry to scatter the enemy.
Then when he saw the great Carthaginian general himself
march to the help of his men, he ordered his whole army
to hasten forward to the attack.
No sooner did Hannibal see that his ruse had been
successful than he gave a signal to the men lying in
ambush, and they, springing from their hiding place,
with loud cries attacked the Romans in the rear.
In vain did Minucius try to rally his terrified
followers. They were soon in utter confusion. Nor,
now that battle had actually been given, did the new
general show himself a capable or wise soldier.
Just as the Romans were on the point of flying from the
field, Fabius, who, foreseeing what would happen, had
ordered his army to be ready, cried, "We must haste to
rescue Minucius, who is a valiant man and a lover of
Then speeding to the battlefield with his men, he led
them so bravely, and at the same time so warily, that
Hannibal was soon forced to sound a retreat.
To his friends the Punic general remarked, "Did I not
tell you that this cloud which always hovered upon the
mountains, would at some time or other, come down with
a storm upon us?"
 After Hannibal had withdrawn his troops, Fabius went
back to his camp without saying a harsh or reproachful
word to Minucius.
He, the more ashamed, that Fabius treated him so
generously, called together his discomfited army, and
told them that he was sorry that he had ever spoken
against the Dictator.
"Some reason," he said, "I may have to accuse
fortune, but I have many more to thank her; for in a
few hours she hath cured a long mistake, and taught me
that I am not the man who should command others, but
have need of another to command me. . . . Therefore in
everything else henceforth the Dictator must be your
commander; only in showing gratitude towards him, I
will still be your leader and always be the first to
obey his orders."
Then he bade his men follow him to the camp of Fabius,
carrying with them their standards.
As Minucius drew near to the tent of the Dictator,
Fabius came out to meet him.
Ordering the standards to be laid at the feet of the
man he had disdained, Minucius said, "You have this
day, O Dictator, obtained two victories, one by your
valour and conduct over Hannibal, and another by your
wisdom and goodness to your colleague."
Then thanking Fabius for saving his life and the lives
of those under him, he flung himself into the arms of
the Dictator, calling him father.
The soldiers of each army, touched by the example of
their leader, forgot their jealousy and also embraced
one another with tears of joy.