Two great men, Gaius Fabricius and Pyrrhus

In this post we present an excerpt from Plutarch’s ‘Moralia’ (Apophthegmata Romana).

1. Gaius Fabricius, upon learning of the defeat of the Romans by Pyrrhus, said, “Pyrrhus has defeated Laevinus, but the Epirotes have not defeated the Romans.”

2. “When he came to see Pyrrhus about ransoming the prisoners of war, Pyrrhus offered him much money, but he would not accept it. On the following day Pyrrhus made ready his biggest elephant, all unknown to Fabricius, to appear and trumpet suddenly behind his back; and when this plan had been carried out, Fabricius turned and said with a smile, “Neither your money yesterday nor your beast to‑day has astounded me.”

3. Pyrrhus urged Fabricius to stay with him and be the second in command, but Fabricius said, “But there is no advantage in this for you; for, if the Epirotes come to know us both, they will prefer to be ruled by me rather than by you.”

4. When Fabricius was consul, Pyrrhus’s physician sent a letter to him, offering, if he should give the word, to kill Pyrrhus by poison. Fabricius sent the letter to Pyrrhus, bidding him note the reason why he was the worst possible judge both of friends and of foes.

5. Pyrrhus, having thus discovered the plot, caused his physician to be hanged, and gave back all the prisoners of war to Fabricius without ransom. Fabricius, however, would not accept them as a gift, but gave an equal number in return, lest he should give the impression that he was getting a reward. “For,” as he said, “it was not to win favour with Pyrrhus that he had disclosed the plot, but that the Romans might not have the repute of killing through treachery, as if they could not win an open victory.”

(Source: Plutarch, Moralia, Apophthegmata Romana, Vol. III, Loeb Classical Library)

Gaius Fabricius and Pyrrhus

NovoScriptorium: We can only admire how simple and honest the old Romans used to be in the face of Gaius Fabricius. Especially in the case of the physician’s treachery, his honesty and the grandeur of his actions leave us in awe. Also, we cannot resist the temptation a further comment on the treachery of Pyrrhus’ physician. Strange enough throughout History, treachery among the Greeks -in various forms- appears to be a rather ‘expected’ phenomenon.

Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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