Fabius Cunctator

(Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator)

250–203 BC

Fabius Maximus
Fabius Maximus, also known as the Cunctator (Latin for delayer), was one of the senators sent on an embassy to Carthage after Hannibal attacked Saguntum. He resolved that Rome should declare war on Carthage. Fabius had already been consul twice when he was elected dictator in 217, after the disastrous battles of Trebia, and Lake Trasimene. Instead of gathering an army and attacking Hannibal immediately, however, his policy was to follow and harass Hannibal, but to avoid a direct battle. Many in Rome disagreed with his tactics, however, and insisted on giving battle. Eventually Fabian's dictatorship expired, and in 216 Varro and Paullus were elected consuls, and led the Romans to their worst defeat ever, at Cannae. After the debacle at Cannae, Fabian was reelected consul, and continued his cautious policies. He was the primary leader of the Romans during the early part of the Second Punic War, until Scipio Africanus emerged as the predominant general with his conquest of Spain.

Key events during the life of Fabius Maximus Cunctator:

233 BC
First consulship.
219 BC
Goes on an embassy to Carthage after Hannibal attacked Saguntum—offers Carthage "War or Peace."
217 BC
Elected dictator.
215 BC
Third consulship.
214 BC
Fourth consulship.
209 BC
Fifth consulship. Drove Hannibal out of Tarentum.
203 BC

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Dictator Fabius  in  Hannibal  by  Jacob Abbott
Overthrow of Cannae  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Alfred J. Church
Of Fabius Maximus  in  Stories from Roman History  by  Lena Dalkeith
Man Who Waited  in  Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Romans Defeated  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Fabius  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
Hannibal  in  Red Book of Heroes  by  Mrs. Andrew Lang
Boy Hannibal  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Hannibal Outwits Fabius  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor

Image Links

Fabius calms the fears of the Romans
 in Stories from Roman History

Hannibal's Strategem
 in Famous Men of Rome

Hannibal's Stratagem in Campania
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

I carry here peace and war. Choose, men of Carthage, which ye will.'
 in The Story of Rome

Short Biography
Varro Led Rome to disastrous defeat at Cannae. Survived and tried to rally the troops.
Aemilius Paulus Consul at the Battle of Cannae; opposed the confrontation, but died on battlefield.
Hannibal Carthaginian general, invaded and laid waste to Italy for sixteen years.
Cornelius Scipio Tried to intercept Hannibal in Gaul, but was defeated at Ticino River and Trebbia.
Minucius General who urged battle with Hannibal—later rescued by Fabius.