Why Did The Romans Consider Quintus Fabius Maximus’ Strategy Cowardly?

Quintus Fabius Maximus thought outside the box. The normal Roman response was to directly confront the enemy on the battlefield, and most Romans could not understand or tolerate Fabius’ thinking.
Livy relates how Fabius attempted to dissuade the Consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus from confronting Hannibal at Cannae.
Fabius: “I think you know why I have come to see you. If neither Consul had any sense, I would not bother to say anything because I would be wasting my time. If both Consuls had sense, I wouldn’t have to say anything because I could depend upon them to do the right thing. In this case, one Consul has sense and the other does not, So I’ve come to talk to the Consul that does.”
Paullus: “What would you have me do, Quintus Fabius?”
Fabius: “Lucius, you know that we are headed for disaster if Varro gets his way. Flaminius only began to play the madman’s Consul when he got to his province, at the head of his army. Varro was raving even before he stood for the office of Consul! The man knows nothing about military matters, not even as much as Flaminius did, and Hannibal is a consummate genius. Varro probably doesn’t even know that you want to hold the high ground when you begin a battle, nor that you want the wind to be at your soldiers’ backs and not in their faces. He has no notion of how to choose a battlefield. Believe me, Lucius, Hannibal will cut our army to pieces. I don’t care if we have twice as many men as they do. One of Hannibal’s battle-hardened soldiers is worth ten of our raw recruits.
“But Hannibal does not have time on his side. He is in a foreign land, a hostile land, amidst all hostile and disadvantaged circumstances, far from his home, far from his country. He has peace neither by land nor by sea, no cities nor walls to receive him. He sees nothing anywhere which he can call his own. He lives daily by plunder. He has scarcely a third part of that army which he conveyed across the Iberus. Famine has destroyed more than the sword. The few remaining lack provisions. Do you doubt that by remaining quiet we shall not conquer him who is daily sinking into decrepitude? The only way to defeat Hannibal is to continue as I and Geminus and Regulus have been doing. We must not fight him on his own terms, Lucius, you must put a stop to this madness.”
Lucius Aemilius Paullus felt powerless to heed Fabius’ pleas. The Roman Senate had mandated a battlefield confrontation and had gathered together 80,000 legionaries and allies. He believed he would be prosecuted if he failed to comply.
If the Romans had followed the dictates of Fabius, it is likely that they would have starved Hannibal and his army out within a year or two, but after the Battle of Cannae, that became impossible because many of the polities and tribes of Italy went over to Hannibal’s side, thinking they were now on the winning side.
Roman policy after Cannae was largely dictated by Fabius who opposed confronting Hannibal on the battlefield and the war became one of attrition which Hannibal could not win. By 206 B.C. Hannibal and his army were confined to a small territory in Bruttium.

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