|Do not fly Iberia
Fabius, Chapter 20: Acts of Fabius
Return to index
|In preserving the towns and allies from revolt by fair and gentle treatment, and in not using rigor, or showing a suspicion upon every light suggestion, his conduct was remarkable. It is told of him, that, being informed of a certain Marsian, eminent for courage and good birth, who had been speaking underhand with some of the soldiers about deserting, Fabius was so far from using severity against him, that he called for him, and told him he was sensible of the neglect that had been shown to his merit and good service, which, he said, was a great fault in the commanders who reward more by favor than by desert; "but henceforward, whenever you are aggrieved," said Fabius, "I shall consider it your fault, if you apply yourself to any but to me;" and when he had so spoken, he bestowed an excellent horse and other presents upon him; and, from that time forwards, there was not a more faithful and more trusty man in the whole army. With good reason he judged, that, if those who have the government of horses and dogs endeavor by gentle usage to cure their angry and untractable tempers, rather than by cruelty and beating, much more should those who have the command of men try to bring them to order and discipline by the mildest and fairest means, and not treat them worse than gardeners do those wild plants, which, with care and attention, lose gradually the savageness of their nature, and bear excellent fruit. At another time, some of his officers informed him that one of their men was very often absent from his place, and out at nights; he asked them what kind of man he was; they all answered, that the whole army had not a better man, that he was a native of Lucania, and proceeded to speak of several actions which they had seen him perform. Fabius made strict inquiry, and discovered at last that these frequent excursions which he ventured upon were to visit a young girl, with whom he was in love. Upon which he gave private order to some of his men to find out the woman and secretly convey her into his own tent; and then sent for the Lucanian, and, calling him aside, told him, that he very well knew how often he had been out away from the camp at night, which was a capital transgression against military discipline and the Roman laws, but he knew also how brave he was, and the good services he had done; therefore, in consideration of them, he was willing to forgive him his fault; but to keep him in good order, he was resolved to place one over him to be his keeper, who should be accountable for his good behavior. Having said this, he produced the woman, and told the soldier, terrified and amazed at the adventure, "This is the person who must answer for you; and by your future behavior we shall see whether your night rambles were on account of love, or for any other worse design."