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Quintus Fabius Pictor (born c. 270BC, fl. about200BC)[1] was the earliest Roman historiographer and is considered the first of the annalists. He was a member of the Senate, and a member of the gens Fabia.


Fabius was the son of Gaius Fabius Pictor, consul in 269 BC. His cognomen Pictor (Latin for "painter") had been acquired by his grandfather, Gaius Fabius Pictor, who is the earliest Roman painter known to us.

Quintus Fabius Pictor led Roman forces against the Gauls in 225 BC. In 216 BC, during the Second Punic War, he was appointed to travel to the oracle at Delphi in Greece to seek guidance after the disastrous Roman defeat to Hannibal at Cannae.


Fabius wrote a history of Rome in Greek; it has not survived but is partially known through quotations and allusions in later authors. It is not certain whether the work was annalistic, recounting events year by year, although citation of his work by other historians implies that it was.[2]

He used the records of his own and other important Roman families as sources and drew on the writings of the Greek historians Diocles of Peparethus, who allegedly wrote an early history of Rome, and Timaeus, who had written about Rome in his history of the Western Greeks.

His history began with the arrival of the legendary Trojan refugee Aeneas in Latium. He dated the founding of Rome to be in the "first year of the eighth Olympiad" or 747 BC.[3] His work ended with his own recollections of the Second Punic War, although it is unclear whether he survived long enough to record it entirely. His account was highly partisan towards Rome, blaming the war on Carthage and particularly on the Barca family of Hamilcar and Hannibal.


Fabius was used as a source by Gellius and Quadrigarius,[2] Plutarch,[4] Polybius, Livy, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Despite his use of Fabius's history, Polybius complained about the quality of his work, saying that Fabius had been biased towards the Romans and inconsistent.[5] Cicero references a Latin translation of Fabius's work.

An anonymous Account of the Roman History of Fabius Pictor was published in 1749,[6] claiming that a manuscript in the "Carthaginian language" had been discovered in the ruins of Herculaneum near Pompeii. In fact, it was a political satire on English religion and politics at the time.[7]


  1. ^ Frier, Bruce W., Libri Annales Pontificum Maximorum University of Michigan Press, 2nd edition 1999, p. 231
  2. ^ a b Frier, Bruce W. (1979), Libri Annales Pontificum Maximorum: The Origins of the Annalistic Tradition, Papers & Monographs of the American Academy in Rome, No. XXVII, Rome: American Academy, p. 260.
  3. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, I.74.
  4. ^ Plut., Parallel Lives: The Life of Romulus.
  5. ^ Polybius, 1.14–15
  6. ^ Some Account of the Roman History of Fabius Pictor from a Manuscript Lately Discover'd in Herculaneum, the Underground City near Naples, in a Letter from an English Gentleman Residing at Naples to His Friend at London, London: M. Cooper, 1749.
  7. ^ Moormann, Eric M. (2015), Pompeii's Ashes: The Reception of the Cities Buried by Vesuvius in Literature, Music, and Drama, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 335-336.

Further reading

  • Du Rieu, Willem Nikolaas. Disputatio de Gente Fabia; Accedunt Fabiorum Pictorum et Serviliani Fragmenta. Lugduni Batavorum: Van der Hoek, 1856.
  • Cornell, T. J. (ed.) The Fragments of the Roman Historians, 3 volumes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

External links

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