All who bore the name of Fabius became odious to the commons on account of the last consul: the patricians, however, succeeded in getting Cæso Fabius elected consul with Lucius Æmilius. The commons, still further aggravated at this, provoked war abroad by exciting disturbance at home; in consequence of the war civil dissensions were then discontinued.
He did so, confirming the choice of the people, and was himself elected proconsul for the following year. After a conference with Fabius Maximus, at which it was arranged that the latter should make an attempt on Tarentum, while Marcellus should constantly engage Hannibal and so prevent his affording the town any assistance, he set out, and came upon Hannibal near Canusium.
The contention then began anew, and the dictator ordered Fabius to be seized.
Such was the plan of warfare which Fabius proposed, but his own countrymen put many obstacles in the way of its success. Many times he was called a coward for declining a battle which would certainly have been a defeat; but he let such idle cries pass him by, and hung on Hannibal's rear, keeping his soldiers, many of whom were raw and untrained, under his own eye.
In the Consulship of Paulus Fabius and Lucius Vitellius, after a long vicissitude of ages, the phoenix arrived in Egypt, and furnished the most learned of the natives and Greeks with matter of large and various observations concerning that miraculous bird. The circumstances in which they agree, with many others, that, however disputed, deserve to be known, claim a recital here.
Sextius and Licinius with some of their colleagues, and Fabius one of the military tribunes, well-versed now by an experience of many years in managing the minds of the commons, having brought forward the leading men of the patricians, teased them by interrogating them on each of the subjects which were about to be brought before the people: "would they dare to demand, that when two acres of land a head were distributed among the plebeians, they themselves should be allowed to have more than five hundred acres? that a single man should possess the share of nearly three hundred citizens; whilst his portion of land scarcely extended for the plebeian to a stinted habitation and a place of burial?
He pursued the same policy that Fabius did after the battle of Cannae, to whose wisdom the Romans perhaps were more indebted for their ultimate success than to the brilliant exploits of Scipio.
When within a few miles of it, he was met by some soldiers, sent to cut wood, attended by a guard. Observing the lictors preceding him, and learning that he was Fabius the consul, they were filled with joy and alacrity; they expressed their thanks to the gods, and to the Roman people, for having sent them such a commander.
IX. When Fabius addressed the people, he did not deign to make any defence against the accusations of the tribune, but said that he should accomplish his sacrifices and sacred duties as quickly as possible, in order to return to the army and punish Minucius for having fought a battle against his orders.
"As you say," continued the physician, "the measure was passed; but when Minucius desired that he and the dictator should command on alternate days, Fabius would only consent to a division of the army." "Gods!" exclaimed Sergius. "Two legions apiece! That must have been rare sport for Hannibal."