The Story of Cincinnatus
THERE was a man named
"Go and tell Cincinnatus. He will help you."
Now there lived among the mountains, not far away, a tribe
of fierce, half-wild men, who were at war with the Roman
At first the Romans, who were very proud and brave, did not think there was much danger. Every man in Rome was a soldier, and the army which went out to fight the robbers was the finest in the world. No one staid at home with the women and children and boys but the white-haired "Fathers," as they were called, who made the laws for the city, and a small company of men who guarded the walls. Everybody thought that it would be an easy thing to drive the men of the mountains back to the place where they belonged.
But one morning five horsemen came riding down the road
from the mountains. They rode with great speed; and both
men and horses were covered with dust and blood. The
watchman at the gate knew them, and shouted to them as they
They did not answer him, but rode into the city and along the quiet streets; and everybody ran after them, eager to find out what was the matter. Rome was not a large city at that time; and soon they reached the market place where the white-haired Fathers were sitting. Then they leaped from their horses, and told their story.
"What shall we do?" said the white-haired Fathers. "Whom can we send but the guards and the boys? and who is wise enough to lead them, and thus save Rome?"
All shook their heads and were very grave; for it seemed as if there was no hope. Then one said "Send for Cincinnatus. He will help us."
Cincinnatus was in the field plowing when the men who had been sent to him came in great haste. He stopped and greeted them kindly, and waited for them to speak.
"Put on your cloak, Cincinnatus," they said, "and hear the words of the Roman people."
Then Cincinnatus wondered what they could mean. "Is all well with Rome?" he asked; and he called to his wife to bring him his cloak.
She brought the cloak; and Cincinnatus wiped the dust from his hands and arms, and threw it over his shoulders. Then the men told their errand.
They told him how the army with all the noblest
men of Rome had been
So Cincinnatus left his plow standing where it was, and hurried to the city. When he passed through the streets, and gave orders as to what should be done, some of the people were afraid, for they knew that he had all power in Rome to do what he pleased. But he armed the guards and the boys, and went out at their head to fight the fierce mountain men, and free the Roman army from the trap into which it had fallen.
A few days afterward there was great joy in Rome. There was good news from Cincinnatus. The men of the mountains had been beaten with great loss. They had been driven back into their own place.
And now the Roman army, with the boys and the guards, was
coming home with banners flying and shouts of
Cincinnatus might then have made himself king; for his word was law, and no man dared lift a finger against him. But, before the people could thank him enough for what he had done, he gave back the power to the white-haired Roman Fathers, and went again to his little farm and his plow.
He had been the ruler of Rome for sixteen days.