FABIUS, the name of a number of Roman soldiers and statesmen. The Fabian gens was one of the oldest and most distinguished patrician families of Rome. Its members claimed descent from Hercules and a daughter of the Arcadian Evander. From the earliest times it played a prominent part in Roman history, and was one of the two gentes exclusively charged with the management of the most ancient festival in Rome - the Lupercalia (Ovid, Fasti, ii. 375). The chief family names of the Fabian gens or clan, in republican times, were Vibulanus, Ambustus, Maximus, Buteo, Pictor, Dorso, Labeo; with surnames Verrucosus, Rullianus, Gurges, Aemilianus, Allobrogicus (all of the Maximus branch). The most important members of the family are the following: -
1. Marcus Fabius Ambustus, pontifex maximus in the year of the capture of Rome by the Gauls (390). His three sons, Quintus, Numerius and Caeso, although they had been sent as ambassadors to the Gauls when they were besieging Clusium, subsequently took part in hostilities (Livy v. 35). The Gauls thereupon demanded their surrender, on the ground that they had violated the law of nations; the Romans, by way of reply, elected them consular tribunes in the following year. The result was the march of the Gauls upon Rome, the battle of the Allia, and the capture of the city (Livy vi. 1).
2. Q. Fabius Maximus, surnamed Rullianus or Rullus, master of the horse in the second Samnite War to L. Papirius Cursor, by whom he was degraded for having fought the Samnites contrary to orders (Livy viii. 30), in spite of the fact that he gained a victory. In 315, when dictator, he was defeated by the Samnites at Lautulae (Livy ix. 23). In 310 he defeated the Etruscans at the Vadimonian Lake. In 295, consul for the fifth time, he defeated, at the great battle of Sentinum, the combined forces of the Etrurians, Umbrians, Samnites and Gauls (see Rome: History, II. "The Republic"). As censor (304) he altered the arrangement of Appius Claudius Caecus, whereby the freedmen were taken into all the tribes, and limited them to the four city tribes. For this he is said to have received the title of Maximus, as the deliverer of the comitia from the rule of the mob (Livy ix. 46), but there is reason to think that this title was first conferred on his grandson. It is probable that his achievements are greatly exaggerated by historians favourable to the Fabian house.
3. Quintus Fabius Maximus, surnamed Verrucosus (from a wart on his lip), Ovicula ("the lamb," from his mild disposition), and Cunctator ("the delayer," from his cautious tactics in the war against Hannibal), grandson of the preceding. He served his first consulship in Liguria (233 B.C.), was censor (230) and consul for the second time (228). In 218 he was sent to Carthage to demand satisfaction for the attack on Saguntum (Livy xxi. 18). According to the well-known story, he held up a fold of his toga and offered the Carthaginians the choice between peace and war. When they declared themselves indifferent, he let fall his toga with the words, "Then take war." After the disastrous campaign on the Trebia, and the defeat on the banks of the Trasimene Lake, Fabius was named dictator (Livy calls him pro-dictator, since he was nominated, not by the consul, but by the people) in 217, and began his tactics of "masterly inactivity." Manœuvring among the hills, where Hannibal's cavalry were useless, he cut off his supplies, harassed him incessantly, and did everything except fight. His steady adherence to his plan caused dissatisfaction at Rome and in his own camp, and aroused the suspicion that he was merely endeavouring to prolong his command. Minucius Rufus, his master of the horse, seized the opportunity, during the absence of Fabius at Rome, to make an attack upon the enemy which proved successful. The people, more than ever convinced that a forward movement was necessary, divided the command between Minucius and Fabius (Livy xxii. 15. 24; Polybius iii. 88). Minucius was led into an ambuscade by Hannibal, and his army was only saved by the opportune arrival of Fabius. Minucius confessed his mistake and henceforth submitted to the orders of Fabius (Livy xxiii. 32). At the end of the legal time of six months Fabius resigned the dictatorship and the war was carried on by the consuls. The result of the abandonment of Fabian tactics was the disaster of Cannae (216). In 215 and 214 (as consul for the third and fourth times) he was in charge of the operations against Hannibal together with Claudius Marcellus (Livy xxiii. 39). He laid siege to Capua, which had gone over to Hannibal after Cannae, and captured the important position of Casilinum; in his fifth consulship (209) he retook Tarentum, which had been occupied by Hannibal for three years (Livy xxvii. 15; Polybius xiii. 4; Plutarch, Fabius). He died in 203. Fabius was a strenuous opponent of the new aggressive policy, and did all he could to prevent the invasion of Africa by Scipio. He was distinguished for calmness and prudence, while by no means lacking in courage when it was required. In his later years, however, he became morose, and showed jealousy of rising young men, especially Scipio (Life by Plutarch; Livy xx.-xxx.; Polybius iii. 87-106).
4. Q. Fabius Maximus Aemilianus, eldest son of L. Aemilius Paullus, adopted by Fabius Cunctator. He served in the last Macedonian War (168), and, as consul, defeated Viriathus in Spain (Livy, Epit. 52). He was the pupil and patron of Polybius (Polybius xviii., xxix. 6, xxxii. 8-10; Livy xliv. 35).
5. Q. Fabius Maximus Allobrogicus, son of the above, consul 121 in Gaul. He obtained his surname from his victory over the Allobroges and Arverni in that year (Vell. Pat. ii. 10; Eutropius iv. 22). As censor (108) he erected the first triumphal arch.
6. Q. Fabius Vibulanus, with his brothers Caeso and Marcus, filled the consulship for seven years in succession (485-479 B.C.). In the last year there was a reaction against the family, in consequence of Caeso espousing the cause of the plebeians. Thereupon the Fabii - to the number, it is said, of 306 patricians, with some 5000 dependents - emigrated from Rome under the leadership of Caeso, and settled on the banks of the Cremera, a few miles above Rome. For two years the exiles continued to be the city's chief defence against the Veientes, until at last they were surprised and cut off. The only survivor of the gens was Quintus, the sen of Marcus, who apparently took no part in the battle. The story that he had been left behind at Rome on account of his youth cannot be true, as he was consul ten years afterwards. This Quintus was consul in 467, 465 and 459, and a member of the second decemvirate in 450, on the fall of which he went into voluntary exile (Livy ii. 42, 48-50, iii. 1, 9, 41, 58, vi. 1; Dion. Halic. viii. 82-86, ix. 14-22: Ovid, Fasti, ii. 195).
The Fabian name is met with as late as the 2nd century A.D. A complete list of the Fabii will be found in de Vit's Onomasticon; see also W.N. du Rieu, Disputatio de Gente Fabia (1856), containing an account of 57 members of the family.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)