Fabius, Marcellus and Otacilius – the alliance that never was
By Paula Johnson
Paper given at the 31st conference of the Australasian Society for Classical Studies (2010)
Abstract: Since Poseidonius called them the Sword and Shield of Rome, Marcellus and Fabius, heroes of the Second Punic War, have always been paired together in the collective consciousness. It has been widely assumed by scholars of such eminence as Munzer, Scullard, Briscoe, Caven, and more recently, Flower, that Marcellus and Fabius were political allies, and that Marcellus and his half-brother Otacilius were members of a faction that acknowledged Fabius as its leader. Recent work by McDonnell has challenged this idea. This paper seeks to pick up where McDonnell left off by examining more closely the events surrounding the elections of 215 and 214 B.C.
Introduction: According to Plutarch, from the time of Fabius’ dictatorship in 217 Marcellus was openly critical of Fabian strategy and the damage that it did to Italy. Yet this very clear indication that Marcellus did not see eye to eye with Fabius has been passed over by many modern historians because it does not fit with what has been deduced by prosopography. McDonnell believes that the prevailing view, which see Fabius and Marcellus as allies, ultimately derives from Munzer. The vastness of Munzer’s achievement in piecing together the genealogy of the Roman aristocracy is undeniable, but in this instance I believe he has gone beyond the evidence and arrived at an incorrect conclusion, a conclusion that has had far-reaching consequences for the modern understanding of the relationship between Fabius and Marcellus. The purpose of this paper is to shed more light on the true nature of this relationship by examining more closely the events surrounding the elections of 215 and 214.