Quintus Fabius Maximus Verucosus (275-203 B.C.)

Quintus Fabius Maximus Verucosus
Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator declares Second Punic War

19th-century illustration depicting Roman leader Quintus Fabius declaring war to the Carthaginian Senate, ca. 219 B.C. Fabius appeared before the Senate after Hannibal laid siege to a Roman ally. When the Senate refused to surrender Hannibal, Fabius made his declaration, opening the Second Punic War.

Quintus Fabius Maximus or, Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus. [vĕr--kō′səs]. He was a member of an renowned Roman patrician family who established a foothold by undertaking to defend its territory against the Veientes, with whom they had been at war, but in 477 B.C. all were killed except one member who remained in Rome. Through this survivor the family lineage was perpetuated.

Fabius became a Roman General whose cautious delaying tactics during the early stages of the Second Punic War (218-201 BC gave Rome time to recover its strength and take offensive against Hannibal's invading forces. Grandson of Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus. He served as consul in 233 and 228 B.C., and censor in 230. He may have been a Roman emissary to Carthage in 218 to demand reparations for Hannibal's seizure of Saguntum, in Spain. He was again consul in 215, 214, and 209 B.C. His death occured in 203 B.C.

As the result of Roman defeats by Hannibal culminating in the rout of the Romans at Lake Trasimene (Trasimenus), in 217 B.C. Fabius was elected dictator and assigned the task of defeating Hannibal. It was then he initiated his strategy of attrition against the invaders. The cautious policy which Fabius adopted was to avoid pitched battles with the Carthaginian forces. Fabius merely followed Hannibal at a distance and harassed his outposts. Maneuvering among the hills where Hannibal's Calvary was useless, he cut off enemy supply lines and incessantly harassed him. At the end of 217 B.C. Fabius unexpectedly came upon Hannibal at the Callicula Pass, but his cautious tactics enabled the Carthaginians to escape unharmed. Fabius tactics aroused controversy in Rome, but he held to his policy and allowed Hannibal to ravage Campania. His policy, though achieving its objective, gave rise to dissatisfaction and Minucius Rufus, commander of Calvary under Fabius was elevated to an equal share in the dictatorship.

Quintus Fabius Maximus Verucosus
Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator, portrait on a Roman coin, c. 233 BC
Housed in the British Museum
(Photo by Peter Clayton)

At the expiration of his own six month term, Fabius resigned the dictatorship. The Romans then abandoned his cautious tactics, suffering another crushing defeat at Cannae in 216 B.C. Rome itself was endangered, and again the Romans called upon Fabius, who served as consul in 215 and 214 B.C. Fabius commanded troops in Campania.

His tactical policy consisted of avoiding direct engagement, harrassing the enemy by surprises, annoying them by marches and flank movements and destroying their foragers and stragglers. While pursuing this policy, Rome assembled her forces and prepared itself for greater efficiency in common defenses against the enemy.

In his fifth consulship (209) he captured Tarentum (modern Taranto), which Hannibal had held for three years. From that year, the younger and bolder Scipio's successes against Carthage in Spain finally rendered cautious tactics obsolete. Fabius strenuously but unsuccessfully opposed Publius Cornelius Scipio's preparations for an invasion of Africa (205). Though greatly respected, Fabius was gently pushed into the background. Fabius died, just before Scipio's success at Zama in 203. By the time of his death he had been a pontifex for 12 years and an augur for 62.

Fabius, now remembered as the author of the so-called Fabian policy of watchful waiting, was revered by the Romans. A few scoffed which earned him the surname Cuncatator for which he is best known in history, "the delayer", or "the slow-goer," others spoke of him as the "Shield of Rome." Although he is generally known by his clan name, Fabius, Maximus was his cognomen or family name, not an agnomen or nickname. The term "Fabian," meaning "dilatory" or "cautious," is derived from his military policy.


  • Collier's Encyclopedia © 1960
  • Funk and Wagnall's Encyclopedia © 1950
  • The New World Family Encyclopedia, ©1955
  • Encyclopedia International, ©1966 (Grolier Inc.)
  • Encyclopedia Britannica Micropedia, ©1984
  • Quintus Fabius Maximus
  • No comments:

    Post a Comment