Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

Leader of the Roman Republic

Image ID: 1806563 Cincinnatus taken from the plough. (1809)
Image ID: 1806563 Cincinnatus taken from the plough. (1809). NYPL Digital Gallery


Cincinnatus was a Roman farmer, dictator, and consul from the legendary period of Roman history. He gained fame as a model of Roman virtue. He was a farmer above all, but when called to serve his country he did so well, efficiently, and without question, even though a prolonged stay away from his farm could mean starvation for his family. When he served his country, he made his stint as dictator as brief as possible. He was also admired for his lack of ambition.

Dates of Cincinnatus

As is true of many figures from the ancient world, we don't have dates for Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, but he was consul in 460 and 438 B.C.
Background ​

About 458 B.C., the Romans were at war with the Aequi. After losing a few battles, the Aequi tricked and trapped the Romans. A few Roman horsemen managed to escape to Rome to warn the Senate of their army's plight.

The Name Cincinnatus

The name given to Lucius Quinctius was Cincinnatus -- because of his curly hair.
About Cincinnatus

Cincinnatus was plowing his field when he learned he had been appointed dictator. The Romans had appointed Cincinnatus dictator for 6 months so he could defend the Romans against the neighboring Aequi, who had surrounded the Roman army and the consul Minucius, in the Alban Hills. Cincinnatus rose to the occasion, defeated the Aequi, made them pass under the yoke to show their subjugation, gave up the title of dictator 16 days after it had been granted, and promptly returned to his farm.​

Cincinnatus was appointed dictator for a later Roman crisis in the wake of a grain distribution scandal. According to Livy, Cincinnatus (Quinctius) was past 80 at the time:

"whilst those who knew nothing of the plot asked what disturbance or sudden outbreak of war called for the supreme authority of a dictator or required Quinctius, after reaching his eightieth year, to assume the government of the republic."

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