logo for the-romans.eu
Mars the Roman god of war
Abguß museum München

Ancient texts

Livius 22.(3-18,23-30)
Polybius 3.(87-94,
                100-103)

2nd Punic war
Q. Fabius Maximus Paedagogus



retreat to previous page to next page
    Turning point

217-216 bc

Intro
After the defeat of the Roman army under command of G. Flaminius, Rome was in a state of panic and the senate appointed Q. Fabius Maximus as Dictator. He choose M. Minucius Rufus as his master of the horse. They were to restore the order and to defeat Hannibal. But Fabius had no intention of attacking Hannibal. It is not certain this Fabius is the same as the Fabius who went with the ambassadors commission to Carthago to declare the war.

The Paedagogus
Fabius who had been consul as well as dictator before, was a competent commander of the army. He had learned from the defeats the Romans had suffered so far and made sure there would be no battle between Hannibal and the Romans as long as he was dictator. He followed Hannibal's army whereever it went and made it difficult for Hannibal to forage. The citizens gave him the nick name Paedagogus (a slave who carries the boy's schoolbooks and follows him on his way to school).

A trap for Hannibal
Hannibal moved his army south and did not attack Rome directly. After he had tried several times to tempt Fabius to a battle, he move near Beneventum and started to plunder the territory. Here Polybius and Livius tell a slight different story. Livius has him being blocked by smart moves of Fabius; Polybius has him being led into the trap by a mistaken guide. The end of the combat season was already nearing and Hannibal needed a good place for is winter quarters. As usual in that time part of the food supply was a life stock for fresh meat. In the night he has torches and branches tied to the horns of the poor beasts. They were chased along a difficult path up hill. The guarding Romans only could see a lot of burning torches move uphill and the detachment quickly moved to block the escaping "Carthaginians". Now Hannibal quickly moved his army out of the valley along the now deserted guarding post.

Ares the Roman war god

2 Dictators
Hannibal moved his army to Gereonium (= Gerunium). He conquered this town and started to collect food for the winter. He stored this in the town. While doing so Minucius attacked, against the dictator's orders his foragers and killed a lot of them. At than time dictator Fabius is in Rome to fullfil religious obligations. The Roman people and the senate show their discontent with Fabius. G. Terentius Varro a peoples tribune demanded Fabius should resign. The senate decided to give Minucius the same powers as Fabius. If Fabius didn't attack Hannibal, Minucius would.

Minucius Rufus attacks
When two commanding officers commanded the same army the could do one of two things. They could split the army or take turns in commanding the undivided army. Soon, both methods would turn out disastrous. When Fabius had to choose he refused to take turns as he feared to see his whole army being slaughtered by Hannibal. So Minucius marched out of the camp with his half. Immediately he sought the confrontation with Hannibal. Hannibal was ready for him, he had monitored what had happened and created another trap. He hid a thousand warriors and posted a small detachment on the top of a strategic hill. When Minucius saw the he immediately sent of a detachment to attack the Punians. Hannibal reinforced his men on the hill and Minucius had to do the same. The was repeated until Minucius had hid complete army on the hill. At that moment Hannibal; signaled his hidden men to attack Minucius in the back. Minucius' army would have been slaughtered but Fabius had keep an eye on the operation and now decided to act. He moved his part the my in the direction of Hannibal's rear side. Hannibal recognized the danger and broke the engagement and moved his army into safety. Minucius moved his army back into Fabius' camp, greeted Fabius as his father and laid down his powers.

The aggression wins
The people of Rome now seemed to understand what Fabius had been doing. He had Rome given time to restore en recuperate, so they should be ready for the next confrontation with Hannibal. The changed Fabius' cognomen into cunctator (=delayer). But when the new election came G. Terentius Varro made himself candidate for consul and promised the people he would, if elected' drive Hannibal into the sea and yelled there had to be acted against this man with force. He was elected together with L. Aemilius Paullus. On orders of the senate they levied an army of twice the usual size. 80,000 foot and 6000 horse this should be enough to cope with Hannibal's army of 40,000 foot and 10,000 horse. With a competent leader that would surely be the case. And off marched the army to a little town in the south of Italy called Cannae. Here they would fight in one the world's most famous battles: The battle of Cannae


footer for Romans  page