Boris Johnson speech: Who was Cincinnatus? Did Boris Johnson hint at a return with reference to Roman dictator?

Boris Johnson promised “the most fervent support” to his successor Liz Truss as he compared himself to Cincinnatus in his final speech as prime minister.

While he drew laughs for his reference to being a booster rocket, his other reference in the speech to Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus had many questioning whether this was the last they would see of Boris Johnson.

Hide Ad

He told the nation: “On the subject of bouncing around in future careers - let me say I am now like one of those booster rockets that has fulfilled its function and I will now be gently re-entering the atmosphere and splashing down invisibly in some remote and obscure corner of the Pacific.

Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson references Cincinnatus who was asked to leave his plough to return to politics
Hide Ad

“And like Cincinnatus, I am returning to my plough.”

But who was Cincinnatus – and what could the reference imply?

Hide Ad

Who was Cincinnatus?

Cincinnatus was a Roman statesman who battled against invasion before returning to his farm.

Hide Ad

The Senate of ancient Rome decided to elect him as dictator in their hour of need against invasion, asking him to leave his plough to help the republic – which he did before leaving once victory was secured.

However, legend has it Cincinnatus returned to power a decade or so later.

Hide Ad

Mary Beard told BBC Radio 4 that Cincinnatus was "absolutely resolutely anti populist, he completely opposed the rights of the poor and unprivileged in Rome".

Read More
LIVE: Liz Truss to become Prime Minister as Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street ...
Hide Ad

She said: “He's often treated as an absolute hero.

“The man who comes in, saves the state, but doesn't take power for himself long term, but goes back to his plough.”

Hide Ad

“But it wasn't quite so simple, because one thing you need to know about Cincinnatus is that he was absolutely resolutely anti-populist.

“He completely opposed the rights of the poor and the unprivileged in Rome. He was, in our terms, extremely right wing.

Hide Ad

“There is also an even worse sting in the tail, in that there's another story, which says after he saves Rome, and a decade or so later, he comes does come back to power again, very briefly.

“Why does he come back to power? to suppress a popular uprising by the underprivileged.”

Hide Ad

It is also not the first time Boris Johnson has compared himself to the dictator, In 2009, during his time as London mayor he said in an interview: "If, like Cincinnatus, I were to be called from my plough, then obviously it would be wrong of me not to help out."