Boris Johnson has fueled speculation over a potential return to frontline politics by referencing a Roman statesman in his farewell speech.
Pledging his ‘strongest support’ to his successor Liz Truss, Mr Johnson compares to Cincinnatuswho was made dictator in 458 BC to lead the battle against an invasion before returning to his farm.
In doing so, he became famous for resisting the temptation to cling to power or meddle in politics.
According to tradition, however, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus later returned to serve a second term.
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“About bouncing back into future careers, let me say I am now like one of those booster rockets that has served its purpose,” Mr Johnson told crowded Downing Street.
“I will now gently re-enter the atmosphere and crash invisibly into a remote, dark corner of the Pacific.
“Like Cincinnatus, I return to my plow and will offer this government only the strongest support.”
As a classics scholar, Mr Johnson will know how much people will read into his remarks.
“Enemy of the People”
Classic classic Mary Beard tweeted: “If you’re curious about Boris Johnson’s reference to Cincinnatus in his farewell speech – he was a 5th century BC Roman politician who saved the state from an invasion, so – job done – returned to his farm (“to his plow”).
“He was also an enemy of the people.
This refers to his resistance to allowing the commoners of Rome – the plebeians – to have a written constitution that would check the power of the patrician class.
Satirist Armando Iannucci, who created the political sitcom The Thick of It, said: “Johnson expects to be called back.
“Cincinnatus has been called back from his plow to become leader of Rome for a second time. Someone tell the people with microphones in Downing Street.”
Mr Johnson has the previous form in mentioning the Roman senator. In a 2009 interview, he said, “In the immortal words of Michael Heseltine, I cannot foresee the circumstances under which I would be called to serve. [as prime minister].
“If, like Cincinnatus, I were to be called from my plow, then obviously it would be wrong of me not to help.”
According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on Cincinnatus: “At the time of his appointment he was working on a small farm. It is said that he defeated the enemy in a single day and celebrated a triumph in Rome.
“Cincinnatus only maintained his authority long enough to get Rome through the emergency. He then resigned and returned to his farm.
“Most scholars see no factual truth in the tradition that Cincinnatus received a second dictatorship in 439 to check the monarchical ambitions of Spurius Maelius. .”
It remains to be seen whether Mr Johnson’s benchmark is any indication of his plans to return to the top job.
There has been speculation that he will chart a return to Trump from the benches.
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