CINCINNATUS AND THE ÆQUIANS
 IN the old days of Rome, not far from the time when
Coriolanus yielded up his revenge at his mother's
entreaty, the Roman state possessed a citizen as
patriotic as Coriolanus was proud, and who did as much
good as the other did evil to his native land. This
citizen, Lucius Quinctius by name, was usually called
Cincinnatus, or the "crisp-haired," from the fact that
he let his hair grow long, and curled and crisped it so
carefully as to gain as much fame for his hair as for
his wisdom and valor.
Cincinnatus was the simplest and least ambitious of
men. He cared nothing for wealth, and had no craving
for city life, but dwelt on his small farm beyond the
Tiber, which he worked with his own hands, content, so
his crops grew well, to let the lovers of power and
wealth pursue their own devices within the city walls.
But he was soon to be drawn from the plough to the
While Cincinnatus was busy ploughing his land, Rome
kept at its old work of ploughing the nations. War at
this time broke out with the Æquians, a neighboring
people; but for this war the Æquians were to blame.
They had plundered the lands of some of the allies of
Rome, and when deputies were sent to
 complain of this wrong, Gracchus, their chief, received
them with insulting mockery.
He was sitting in his tent, which was pitched in the
shade of a great evergreen oak, when the deputies
"I am busy with other matters," he answered them; "I
cannot hear you; you had better tell your message to
the oak yonder."
"Yes," said one of the deputies, "let this sacred oak
hear, and let all the gods hear also, how treacherously
you have broken the peace. They shall hear it now, and
shall soon avenge it; for you have scorned alike the
laws of the gods and of men."
The deputies returned to Rome, and reported how they
had been insulted. The senate at once declared war, and
an army was sent towards Algidus, where the enemy lay.
But Gracchus, who was a skilled soldier, cunningly
pretended to be afraid of the Romans, and retreated
before them, drawing them gradually into a narrow
valley, on each side of which rose high, steep, and
When he had lured them fairly into this trap, he sent a
force to close up the entrance of the valley. The
Romans suddenly found that they had been entrapped into
a cul-de-sac, with impassable hills in front and on
each side, and a strong body of Æquians guarding the
entrance to the ravine. There was neither grass for the
horses nor food for the men. Gracchus held not only the
entrance, but the hilltops all round, so that escape
in any direction was impossible. But before the road in
the rear was quite closed up five horsemen had managed
 out; and these rode with all speed to Rome, where they
told the senate of the imminent danger of the consul
and his army.
These tidings threw the senate into dismay. What was to
be done? The other consul was with his army in the
country of the Sabines. He was at once sent for, and
hastened with all speed to Rome. Here a consultation
took place, which ended in the leading senators saying,
"There is only one man who can deliver us. We must make
Lucius Quinctius Master of the People." Master of the
People meant in Rome what we now mean by Dictator,—that
is, a man above the law, an autocrat supreme. What
service this unambitious tiller of the ground had
previously done for Rome to make him worthy this
distinction we are not told, but it is evident that he
was looked upon as the man of highest wisdom and
soldiership in Rome.
Caius Nautius, the consul, appointed Cincinnatus to
this high office, as he alone was privileged to do, and
then hastened back to his army. Early the next morning
deputies from the senate sought the farm of the new
dictator, to apprise him of the honor conferred on him.
Early as it was, Cincinnatus was already at work in his
fields. He was without his toga, or cloak, and
vigorously digging in the ground with his spade, never
dreaming that he, a simple husbandman, had been chosen
to save a state.
"We bring you a message from the senate," said the
deputies. "You must put on your cloak to receive it
with the fitting respect."
"Has evil befallen the state?" asked the farmer,
 as he bade his wife to bring him his cloak. When he had
put it on he returned to the deputies.
"Hail to you, Lucius Quinctius!" they now said. The
senate has declared you Master of the People, and have
sent us to call you to the city; for the consul and the
army in the country of the Æquians are in imminent
Without further words, Cincinnatus accompanied them to
the boat in which they had crossed the Tiber, and was
rowed in it to the city. As he left the boat he was met
by a deputation consisting of his three sons, his
kinsmen and friends, and many of the senators of Rome.
They received him with the highest honor, and led him
in great state to his city residence, the twenty-four
lictors walking before him, with their rods and axes,
while a great multitude of the people crowded round
with shouts of welcome. The presence of the lictors
signified that this plain farmer had been invested with
all the power of the former kings.
The new dictator quickly proved himself worthy of the
trust that had been placed in him. He chose at once as
his Master of the Horse Lucius Tarquitius, a brave man,
of noble descent, but so poor that he had been forced
to serve among the foot-soldiers instead of the horse.
Then the two entered the Forum, where orders were
given that all booths should be closed and all lawsuits
stopped. All men were forbidden to look after their own
affairs while a Roman army lay in peril of destruction.
Orders were next given that every man old enough to go
to battle should appear before sunset with his
 arms and with five days' food in the Field of Mars, and
should bring with him twelve stakes. These they were to
cut where they chose, without hinderance from any
person. While the soldiers occupied themselves in
cutting these stakes, the women and older men dressed
their food. Such haste was made, under the energetic
orders of the dictator, that an army was ready,
equipped as commanded, in the Field of Mars before the
sun had set. The march was at once begun, and was
continued with such rapidity that by midnight the
vicinity of Algidus was reached. On the enemy being
perceived, a halt was called.
Cincinnatus now rode forward and inspected the camp of
the enemy, so far as it could be seen by night. He then
ordered the soldiers to throw down their baggage, and
to keep only their arms and stakes. Marching stealthily
forward, they now extended their lines until they had
completely surrounded the hostile camp. Then, upon a
given signal, a simultaneous shout was raised, and each
soldier began to dig a ditch where he stood and to
plant his stakes in the ground.
The shout rang like a thunder-clap through the camp of
the Æquians, waking them suddenly and filling them with
dismay. It also reached the ears of the Romans who lay
in the valley, and inspired them with hope, for they
recognized the Roman war-cry. They raised their own
battle-shout in response, and, seizing their arms,
sallied out and made a fierce attack upon the foe,
fighting so desperately that the Æquians were prevented
 the work of the outer army. All the remainder of the
night the battle went on, and when day broke the
Æquians found that a ditch and a palisade of stakes had
been made around their entire camp.
This work accomplished, Cincinnatus ordered his men to
attack the foe, and thus aid their entrapped
countrymen. The Æquians, finding themselves between two
armies, and as closely walled in as the Romans in the
valley had before been, fell into a panic of
hopelessness, threw down their arms, and begged their
foes for mercy. Cincinnatus now signalled for the
fighting to cease, and, meeting those who came to ask
on what terms he would spare their lives, said,—
"Give me Gracchus and your other chiefs bound. As for
you, you can have your lives on one condition. I will
set two spears upright in the ground, and put a third
spear across, and every man of you, giving up your arms
and your cloaks, shall pass under this yoke, and may
then go away free."
To go under the yoke was accounted the greatest
dishonor to a soldier. But the Æquians had no
alternative and were obliged to submit. They delivered
up to the Romans their king and their chiefs, left
their camp with all its spoil to the foe, and passed
without cloaks or arms under the crossed spears. Their
heads bowed with shame. They then went home, leaving
their chiefs as Roman prisoners. Thus was Gracchus
punished for his pride.
In less than a day's time Cincinnatus had saved a Roman
army and humiliated the Æquian foe. As for the
battle-spoils, he distributed them among his own
 men, giving none to the consul's army, and degraded the
consul, making him his under-officer. He then marched
the two armies back to Rome, which he reached that same
evening, and where he was received with as much
astonishment as joy. The rescued army were too full of
thankfulness at their escape to feel chagrin at their
loss of spoil, and voted to give Cincinnatus a golden
crown, calling him their protector and father.
The senate decreed that Cincinnatus should enter the
city in triumph. He rode in his chariot through the
gates, Gracchus and the chiefs of the Æquians being led
in fetters before him. In front of all the standards
were borne, while in the rear marched the soldiers,
laden with their spoil. At the door of every house
tables were set, with meat and drink for the soldiers,
while the people, singing and rejoicing, danced with
joy as they followed the conqueror's chariot, and all
Rome was given up to feasting and merry-making.
As for Cincinnatus, he laid down his power and returned
to his farm, glad to have rescued a Roman army, but
caring nothing for the pomp and authority he might have
gained. And for all we know, he lived and died
thereafter a simple tiller of the ground.