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if Italy could not be defended” 74 — reveals the consternation and the chill as wellnigh universal.
The Dictator elected to such a charge by the people75 was Quintus Fabius, the great-grandson of the old hero Rullianus, and had twice before been Consul, once Censor, and once Dictator. The moment of his appointment was the first lull in the tempest which had broken upon Rome; and though the winds might rise and roar again, the calm was prepared in the distance. After ordering the religious supplications which he thought as necessary to his own success as to the spirits of his countrymen, the Dictator set out to delay the progress of Hannibal, who was pressing on from Thrasymene, across the Apennines and through Picenum, into Apulia. The calm steadfastness with which Fabius, worthy then of being called Maximus, the Great, pursued the only course he knew was practicable, is one of the magnificent results of Roman liberty. Refusing to risk another army in the open field, in entire disregard both of the provocation he had to bear from the impetuous Hannibal and of the discontentment he could not but inflame amongst his own soldiers, he hung upon the march of the Carthaginians, cutting off their supplies, whenever he could, and escaping their retaliations, whenever they were so goaded as to turn upon him, like hungered and tormented beasts upon a pursuer. The name of Cunc
74 Liv., XXII. 8.
usual manner of his election. Liv., 75 Or, as he was actually styled, XXII. 8. Polyb., III. 87. Pro-Dictator, on account of the un
tator, which meant the Sluggard, when given him by an impatient army,76 was interpreted as the Restorer by a grateful posterity.
There were many inducements, however, to persuade the Romans to break through the defensive system of Fabius, apart from their natural desire to efface the stains of defeat and invasion. No danger which could be brought upon them directly by the transitory successes of the Carthaginian army could possibly be compared with that of which they were reasonably afraid in consequence of Hannibal's policy towards their Italian allies. At the great defeat of Thrasymene, in which, as previously mentioned, he was aided by the northern tribes, he had dismissed all his captives but the Romans, bidding them acquaint their countrymen that Hannibal was not come to fight with the Italians, but with the Romans, and with them alone. In the southern countries, whither he afterwards proceeded, Hannibal found many, not yet instructed in obedience to their mistress, to flock around his standard and increase his hopes of conquering, not Rome only, but Italy and the wide world. Humanly regarded, the question, whether the old civilization should submit to Rome or to Carthage, depended upon the fidelity of the Italians in this hour of wavering between a kindred city which they did not love and a stranger race whom they might, perhaps, be brought to regard as their deliverers. The Romans and their nearer allies,
76 See Liv., XXII. 14. Fab., 17.
77 Polyb., III. 85.
knowing that the scale was quivering, believed that it could be inclined only by the weight of the sword, heavy with gore, which should be first thrown in on either side.
Accordingly, the dilatory operations of Fabius were censured as being unwise, — next, as covering some vile designs, — and finally, as equally perilous to be continued, whether he were false or true in their suggestion. His Master of the Knights, by name Minucius Rufus, who had been foremost to complain of Fabius and to boast of himself, was then solemnly invested,78 by almost universal consent, with equal authority to that of the Dictator in the defence of the Commonwealth. A battle with the Carthaginians soon ensued, under Rufus's command, and would soon have been followed by another defeat, had not Fabius hastened to his colleague's rescue and driven back the foes. Hannibal, foiled of his prey, exclaimed, in allusion to Fabius, that he had often foretold the breaking of the cloud so long hanging on the mountains ; 79 while Rufus gave back his commission into the hands of the Dictator, and confessed that he, too, was conquered as well as saved.
But the same temptations to more aggressive measures than Fabius and his supporters were willing to adopt soon caused the election of Terentius Varro, an honest but ignorant man, to the consulship, as if his vaunts had been accepted for realities. Of mean
79 Plut., Fab., 12.
80 The scene, as related by Plutarch, is well worth witnessing. Fab., 13.
origin in the eyes of his countrymen, and a warm adherent to the lower order of the Plebeians, Varro had made himself a popular and in many respects a useful man, when he was suddenly lifted to a height where dizziness was unavoidable. It was but a year after the calamity of Thrasymene, yet Varro went forth, as if unwarned, and, though not unadvised by his colleague, Æmilius Paullus, his rashness was the occasion of death to Æmilius and to five-andforty thousand Romans upon the fatal fields of Cannæ.82 The hopes of Hannibal and the fears of Rome seemed to be fulfilled. Maharbal, the commander of the Carthaginian cavalry, urged his leader to march upon the city, and sup, as he might, within five days, in the Capitol ; 83 but Hannibal knew that his triumphs, as well as Maharbal's promises, were still insufficient to lay his enemies prostrate; though two years were nearly gone since he descended from the mountains and smote the Roman outposts in the North.84
It was formerly the custom to include the victory at Cannæ among the battles which, glorious as they could have been made by feats of bravery or streams of blood, yet passed away without any other results than the agonies of their dying or their living victims. But though it has more recently appeared that the defection of the southern Italians and the surrender of Capua to Hannibal were quite abundant fruits for any conqueror to gather, it is equally evident, on the other hand, that the consequences which might reasonably have been expected to follow from such a day as that of Cannæ were totally, though not perhaps immediately, frustrated by the resolution and the activity of the Romans. Bitter and entire as had been their overthrow, it was, nevertheless, like the last actual crash of the storm, whose muttering, however, was still to be continued.
81 “ Loco non humili solum, sed XXII. 49, and Epit. XXII; Polyb., etiam sordido, ortus : patrem lanium III. 116; and read Plutarch's acfuisse ferunt, ipsum institorem mer- count in the Life of Fabius, 15 et cis, filioque hoc ipso in servilia ejus seq. artis ministeria usum.” Liv., XXII. 83 Liv., XXII. 51. Polyb., III. 25. See further in 26.
118. 82 Without counting the allies. 84 Ticino, A. C. 218 ; ThrasySee the mournful lists in Liv., mene, 217; Cannæ, 216.
A small remnant, consisting of about five thousand men, escaping the slaughter of the great Roman army, took refuge in the neighbouring town of Canusium. Some of the younger Patricians, under the lead of Cæcilius Metellus,55 were urging the expediency of quitting Italy and abandoning Rome to its miserable end; when one, younger than all the rest, and accustomed only to unfortunate service, as by the Ticino, where his father commanded, and now at Cannæ, where he had held some subordinate office, broke in, with all he could persuade to arm themselves and follow him, upon the conspirators. It was Publius Cornelius Scipio. “I swear,” he cried, waving his drawn sword before the eyes of Metellus and the rest, “ that I will neither forsake my country myself, nor suffer any other citizen of hers to do
85 Son of the conqueror at Panormus, p. 110.