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Refusing to cling on to power… why Boris Johnson is obsessed with Cincinnatus 


Defending Rome from invasion and refusing to cling on to power… why Boris Johnson is obsessed with Cincinnatus and name dropped him in his final speech

  • Former PM Boris Johnson frequently makes allusions to ancient Rome or Greece 
  • The classicist referred to Roman statesman Cincinnatus in his farewell speech
  • Figure is known for retiring to his farm and later being recalled to rescue an army
  • Reference could indicate that Mr Johnson plans to return to frontline politics 

It would hardly have been a Boris Johnson speech without an allusion to ancient Rome or Greece.

And classicist Mr Johnson appears to have picked his final reference carefully – cheekily implying that he might be planning a return to frontline politics.

The outgoing prime minister, who studied classics at Oxford, said: ‘Like Cincinnatus, I am returning to my plough and I will be offering this Government nothing but the most fervent support.’

Cincinnatus, a Roman statesman who died in around 430BC, is celebrated for defending Rome from invasion and for his virtue in refusing to cling on to power any longer than was necessary. But after retiring to his farm, he was later recalled to rescue an army.

The outgoing prime minister, who studied classics at Oxford, said: ‘Like Cincinnatus (pictured), I am returning to my plough and I will be offering this Government nothing but the most fervent support'

It would hardly have been a Boris Johnson speech without an allusion to ancient Rome or Greece. The outgoing prime minister, who studied classics at Oxford, said: ‘Like Cincinnatus (right), I am returning to my plough and I will be offering this Government nothing but the most fervent support’

Mr Johnson is fond of referring to the Roman farmer-turned-dictator.

Asked in 2008 if he would like to be PM, the then London mayor said: ‘Were I to be pulled like Cincinnatus from my plough, then obviously it would be xa great privilege.’

He made the same reference the next year, and again in 2011 when asked where he would be in 2020, saying he would be prepared to serve as prime minister ‘if like Cincinnatus I was summoned from my plough’.

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