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“Fabian strategy”

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Quintus Fabius "the Delayer"
Quintus Fabius Maksimus

After the destruction of Roman army in the battle of Lake Trasimeno in 217 BCE, Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator (“the delayer”) was entrusted with the dictator’s dignity to save the Republic’s in a crisis situation. Fabius decided to avoid an open confrontation with the army of Hannibal, leading the war against the Carthaginians. His plan was to follow the legions behind Hannibal’s army at such a distance that there was no short circuit, and at the same time not lose sight of the rival.

In addition, Fabius Maximus wanted to deter the Romans’ allies from joining Hannibal. Thanks to this strategy, Fabius managed to prevent any city from besieging, notoriously harassing Hannibal, and then pushed his forces into the mountainous regions of the Apennine Peninsula, where the Carthaginians could not use their cavalry. He also managed to break the Carthage supply lines.

The so-called “Fabian strategy” was very effective, but also frustrating for the Roman nobles who considered avoiding the battle as dishonorable. In the Senate, Fabius was called “the Hannibal educator”, meaning a slave carrying books for school. In addition, Hannibal explicitly robbed and destroyed Roman property in the province, what was expensive for Rome. After six months of office, Cunctator was deprived of power, and consuls Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Emilius Paullus decided to issue a general battle with Hannibal. It took place on 2 August 216 BCE. under the city Cannae.

  • Charles-Picard Gilbert, Hannibal, Warszawa 1971

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