This was question asked by my professor, not a reader. A reader has proposed a question and I do intend to answer it soon, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime here is the answer to the above question, which was one of my assignments.
To me the greatest Roman was Cincinnatus. Not only for what he did for Rome, but for being the inspiration and role model of a great leader that would follow over 2000 years later.
In the very early days of the Republic, Cincinnatus had served as consul, but was really just a farmer at heart. He was known for his simplicity and virute and when crisis befell Rome, the Aequi and Volscians were threatening the city, the Senate pleaded with him to accept their appointment of him as dictator to save the city. Knowing this would mean the sacrifice of his farm and the possibility of starvation for his family, he answered duty’s call. The invaders were repelled and order restored.
With legally obtained dictatorial powers, he could have relatively easily refused to relinquish them. But being the quintessential virtuous Roman, he willingly gave up power and returned to his humble farm.
Similarly, in the late 18th century, George Washington would be the unanimous choice for President of the newly created United States. Many wanted to make him the king, but he refused such a title or its powers. He reluctantly left his farm at Mt. Vernon to do what he felt was his duty to lead the country through its crucial formative years. After two terms as President, there were no limits then, he more than willingly laid aside the mantle of power to return to his beloved Mt. Vernon. Cincinnattus was greatly admired by Washington and provided the model for a virtuous Republican leader 2000 years in the future.