Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (519 BC-438 BC)
Cincinnatus was a Patrician who was consul once and Dictator twice. On the list of Republican heroes, first comes Lucius Junius Brutus, second comes Camillus, third comes Scipio Africanus, and fourth comes Cincinnatus.
Cincinnatus first appears in the historical record not as a major player, but as the father of one. His son, Caeso Quinctius, was a vocal opponent of the Plebeians, and would continually disrupt the Tribune of the Plebs by driving him out of the Forum, preventing any work from being done. In 461, the Plebs finally snapped, and he was brought to court on the charges of murder (which were false) by the Tribune, Aulus Virginius. He was released on bail, and ran away to Etruria, never to be seen again. His father, Cincinnatus, a rich man, was forced to pay such an enormous fine that he was left with nothing but a small farm in the countryside, and this is where his story begins.
He was elected suffect consul the next year, as he was still held in high esteem by the Senate. However, the Senate was too preoccupied with a war with the Volscis to pay much attention to the Tribune, Gaius Terentilius, who was trying to push through a sort of proto-12 Tables type of legislation. Cincinnatus now hated the Plebs after what they had done to his family, so pushed back forcefully against Terentilius. He managed to stop the legislation being put into law.
During a war with the Sabines and the Aequi in 458 BC, one of the consuls for that year, Minucius Esquilinus, was trapped with his army by the Sabines. Needless to say, when the Senate heard of this, they freaked
. The other consul was permitted to choose a dictator, and he chose our man Cincinnatus. Cincinnatus was toiling in his fields, and a group of senators approached him. He was told to put on a toga, and was hailed as dictator.
After choosing his Master of Horse, Lucius Tarquitius, he ordered every man who could fight to assemble on the Campus Martius, which was at that point in Roman history simply a big empty field. They set off to fight the Aequi, and met them at Mons Algidus. The Romans used a double attack, with Cincinnatus leading the infantry, and Tarquitius leading the cavalry. The Aequi were defeated, but Cincinnatus spared the survivors, provided that they walk under the Roman's yoke and hand over their leaders.
Sixteen days after being declared the absolute ruler of the city, Cincinnatus resigned, knowing that his job was done, and immediately went back to working on his farm.
Almost 20 years later, in 438, Cincinnatus was called up to be dictator again. This time, a rich Plebeian called Spurius Maelius, had bought lots of grain during a famine and sold it to the Plebs at low prices. Whether this was an act of kindness or not is unknown, but the Patricians saw it as an attempt to become a King. Maelius was called before Cincinnatus, but refused. Gaius Servilius Ahala, the Master of Horse, sought him out and killed him. His property was distributed to the general public. Cincinnatus, seeing that he was no longer needed, resigned once more.
The city of Cincinnati, OH is named after this man. In a public park stands this statue: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ci...tus_statue.jpg
This shows Cincinnatus handing back the Fasces to return to his farm.
Whether you agree with the contention that he was a great hero (which I certainly don't), you cannot deny the amount of self-control needed to hand back such enormous power, not once, but twice.