The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Cincinnatus, Lucius Quintius

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The American Cyclopædia
Cincinnatus, Lucius Quintius
Edition of 1879. See also Cincinnatus on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

CINCINNATUS, Lucius Quintius, a Roman senator, born about 519 B. C., died after 439. He was a rich patrician, and was occupied with the cultivation of his estates at the time when Terentilus Arsa commenced his demands for the enactment of written laws which should be binding upon the patricians and plebeians alike (462). These demands gave rise to great disturbances, and Cæso, son of Cincinnatus, took an active part in them on the side of the patricians. One Marcus Volscius, a plebeian, testified that Cæso knocked down his brother while he was feeble from sickness, and injured him in such a manner that he died. Upon this evidence Cæso was convicted, and according to Livy Cincinnatus was compelled to pay such a heavy fine on his account that he was ruined. The resistance to the passage of the Terentilian law was kept up by the patricians, and in the course of it Herdonius (460) took possession of the capitol with a band of outlaws and slaves. The citizens attempted to recover possession of it, and in the conflict that resulted the consul, Publius Valerius Publicola, and Cæso were killed. Cincinnatus was appointed consul in the place of Publicola. He was embittered by the loss of his son, and opposed with great violence the enactment of the Terentilian law. When his consulship expired he retired to a small estate beyond the Tiber which belonged to him, and devoted himself to its cultivation. In 459, the patricians then being in the ascendancy, Marcus Volscius was accused of having borne false witness upon the trial of Cæso. In 458 the Æqui and Volsci resumed war against the Romans. Lucius Minucius, the Roman consul, with all his army, was shut up in a defile and hemmed in by the enemy on all sides. Five horsemen broke through, and brought news of what had happened to Rome. It was resolved that Cincinnatus should be created dictator. Messengers were sent by the senate to inform him of his appointment. They found him at work in his field, clad in his tunic. He called his wife, Racilia, and bade her bring him his toga, in order that he might receive the message of the senate clothed in the garb of a Roman citizen. He accepted the office, and made Lucius Tarquitius, a patrician, master of the horse. He raised an army by making a general levy of all the citizens, and marched to the relief of the consul. He surrounded the enemy in turn, so that they were in a ring between the consul's army and his own, and were compelled to capitulate. In this manner Cincinnatus saved the state within 24 hours. Such is the account given by Livy; but Niebuhr and other modern historians have shown that the legend is destitute of truth. While Cincinnatus was dictator, the trial of Marcus Volscius for bearing false witness came on for hearing at the comitia, and Cincinnatus presided over it. Marcus Volscius was compelled to go into exile. In 439 L. Minucius Augurinus, præfectus annonæ, charged Spurius Mælius, a rich plebeian knight, with seeking to make himself king. Thereupon Cincinnatus, then 80 years of age, was again appointed dictator. Caius Ahala was appointed master of the horse. The capitol and other strong places were garrisoned by the patricians. Ahala sent an officer to bring Mælius before the dictator, but Mælius kept the officer at bay with a butcher's knife, and took refuge in the crowd. Ahala, at the head of a band of patricians, rushed into the crowd and killed him. Though the dictator himself had not power to put Mælius to death, but only to bring him before the comitia centuriata for trial, Cincinnatus and all the patricians approved of the act. Ahala was however afterward brought to trial, and only escaped condemnation by voluntary exile. At the end of 21 days Cincinnatus retired from the dictatorship and returned to his farm.