This man, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus lived 2500 years ago, at the rise of the Roman Empire, and over the ages, he’s been considered an outstanding example of a person who would humbly surrender power for the good of his fellow citizens.
Cincinnatus’ story especially touches us now when we see presidents and dictators grab more power but it has been true throughout history as leaders have always lusted to rule.
In 458 BC, Rome was under such a severe military siege, its very existence was threatened. In desperation, the Senate pleaded with Cincinnatus to become dictator and rule the city/state and defeat Rome’s enemies.
At first Cincinnatus hesitated, knowing that if he didn’t sow his crops, his family could struggle to survive. But seeing how dangerous the situation was for all the Roman people, he quickly made arrangements to take care of his family and accepted the throne.
Just 15-days later, under Cincinnatus’ brilliant leadership, the Roman army defeated its enemies and the Roman people could live in peace and prosperity.
But rather than rule the Roman Empire, or even accept the military honors due him, Cincinnatus tendered his resignation and returned to his small farm, grateful to have been of service.
In 439 BC a revolt took place in Rome and the Senate again asked Cincinnatus to rule and to put down the revolt. Again he was given absolute authority. At 80-years of age he put down the revolt and as before, resigned his office to return to his small farm to live in peace.
More than 2000 years later, George Washington would remember Cincinnatus’ example when in 1783, he refused his Army’s desire to make him a dictator and instead surrendered power to the Congress and returned to his home. Years later a grateful public elected him the first President of the United States and today he is an American hero.
Often leaders who have held enormous power hope to be remembered throughout history. Few of them are. Today you may recognize Cincinnatus’ name from the Ohio city of Cincinnati or from the New York town of Cincinnatus or the Italian community of Cincinnato.
But if you are a serious student of history, you may already recognize his name and be aware of the wonderful influence he’s had on many humble leaders throughout the ages.