The Carthaginian General Hannibal was a formidable foe that put fear into the heart of the Roman Republic. He was one of the few people in all of history who realistically could have prematurely stopped Rome from becoming a powerful empire. After Hannibal had defeated a Roman Consul named Gaius Flaminius in the first Punic War the Roman Senate decided to elect Fabius Maximus to the role of dictator. This happened in 221 BC that is where it appears in the Bible and World History Timeline.
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Call to Dictatorship
A Roman dictator was given all power in time of crises, and no one could challenge their power or authority. Once Fabius Maximus had taken this position, he immediately began to set out to stop Hannibal from destroying Rome. The first important thing that he did was to appease the ancient Roman gods. Religion was an important part of Fabius’ life, and once he became a dictator, he decided to honor them with a huge sacrifice that was given by all the people of Rome. He also had the people throw festivals in their honor and to pay a certain sum of money to the Roman treasury. He supposedly had won the gods over with his efforts. After performing all of these rituals, he turned his attention back to Hannibal.
Fabius Maximus was an experienced politician and warrior when he was given the position of dictator. He knew better than to take Hannibal on in a pitched battle and decided to fight a war of attrition against him. He used guerrilla warfare and delay tactics to slow down Hannibal’s advancement toward Rome. Many of the generals and commanders did not like his plans and wanted to rush immediately in to destroy Hannibal.
Conflict with Minucius
This lack of unity between Maximus and his troops motivated one of them named Minucius to attack the Romans. Fortunately for the Romans, Minucius was victorious but Maximus was outraged at his disobedience and wanted him executed. Minucius was protected by another group of Roman politicians who made him a dictator as well since he was popular with the people, and his methods seemed to work.
Minucius then publically attacked Maximus claiming that he was a coward who was afraid to confront directly Hannibal’s forces. The younger Minucius had managed to gain enough support to split the army in half. He then became more aggressive and outright assaulted the Carthaginians at the battle of Gerione. Minucius was defeated at this battle, and Fabius had to come to his rescue. Once he saved the younger general and his defeated Roman forces, he won his respect. Minucius no longer challenged his power. After this event, Fabius Maximus had stepped down from being a dictator.
Maximus Last Days as a Dictator
Shortly after his term as dictator had ended a politician named Gaius Varro became the next Consul. Varro managed to get the politicians and the people to abandon Maximus’ attrition strategy so that they could fight Hannibal in open battle. Maximus warned many Roman leaders that this would prove to be a disaster if Varro would lose against Hannibal. Apparently, Varro had raised an army that was nearly 100,000 men strong and it would have drained most of the Republic’s force that was needed to defend the city of Rome.
Varro’s army was defeated, and Maximus was proven right. The people and the Roman leaders turned to Maximus once again for leadership. He stopped people from fleeing the city and began to start mourning rituals that once again were performed to honor the gods. He also reinstated his policy for delaying Hannibal and it remained in effect up until the time that the Romans defeated Hannibal at the battle of Zama. Fabius had passed away in 203 B.C. and never saw the outcome of this battle.