The best statue of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus may be the one in the American city, in Ohio, which bears his name.
That statue does not show him as a statesman, or a general.
It does not depict him as a Consul far less the Dictator who twice served, and saved, the Roman Republic.
That statue depicts one of the greatest men in history as a simple farmer with his plough.
The post of Dictator might seem like an anachronism in the modern age, but in fact it isn’t. The idea of giving one man absolute power to deal with a sudden crisis is actually enshrined in emergency power acts in almost every major country, including this one.
During the Cold War, if we’d ever gone beyond the threshold towards an actual one, each of Britain’s major cities would have been run by a single individual with proconsular power … legislation called him The Controller. The role would have been filled by the city’s chief executive. Every year, the men and women running all our municipalities used to travel to the Royal War College in London for a weekend long paper exercise in how to wield that power.
Cincinnatus was an incredible man who twice did that incredible job. At a time of danger to the Roman Republic he assumed the office of Dictator, took on that enormous power, he dealt with the matter and he waited not one extra minute before he voluntarily gave that power back to the Senatorial class and retired back to the farm where he had been in retirement.
And for that, he is held in great reverence by history and honoured all around the world.
Neil Lennon did us an immense service when he stepped in with the departure of Brendan Rodgers. He got us through an incredibly difficult period, with great integrity and honour.
Our board of directors should have allowed him to serve out that term and sent him on his way to his next challenge with the gratitude of the whole institution, and for that we would have remembered him as one of the genuine icons of our history.
From where we sit tonight, Lennon clings on in spite of a rapidly deteriorating situation, out of his depth, unable to lead, blaming his players, lashing out at everyone.
It is horrible to watch, and a great personal tragedy for the man himself.
We cannot hold this entirely against him; he ought never to have been granted his powers a minute longer than was necessary for him to stave off the crisis we were in that year.
For that, the true responsibility falls on the men who appointed him manager again.
He took the job, but we all might have made the same decision.
Now we are back in crisis, and this board have created it and not only by his appointment, but by more general failures in other areas.
Last week, I was going to do a piece comparing Lennon not with Cincinnatus – although he’d have been a central component of the argument – but with one of the fallen emperors of Rome, one of those who fell to the assassin’s blade or retreated into exile one step ahead of the plotters.
It would not have been a favourable comparison.
Yet, I realise today that in fact that piece would have missed the greater point, and the opportunity that still rests in Lennon’s hands.
He does not have to be one of those men defined by a horrible end.
He can still be our Cincinnatus; he can still play that heroic role.
The Dictator is not the image history has of Cincinnatus; it rejoices in his memory as the simple farmer.
He is revered not because of how he used his power, but that he gave it up in the service of a greater good, an act of civic virtue and responsibility which echoes down through the ages.
For the precise opposite of that man’s greatness, look across the water right now at the horrific spectacle of the psychopath in the Oval Office, beaten but clinging to delusion and fantasy, dividing people with lies, casting about for others to blame for his own failure, arrogant beyond belief, egotistical beyond comprehension, self-absorbed like nothing short of Milton’s Satan, and all the while his country burns and people die.
That man has only one thing left to give to America and the world; to find the grace and decency and compassion and self-awareness he has completely lacked up until now, and I don’t think he will do it, I think this will end with him being dragged kicking and screaming to Marine One and for the rest of his life he’ll still be telling a dwindling band of followers that he won.
Good God, what a way to be remembered; to leave for history an image of such appalling selfishness and misplaced conceit, a vulgar joke and embarrassment to his country. Generations to come will excoriate him for it. It’s absolutely ghastly.
Cincinnatus is the shining example of putting the Republic first.
For Neil Lennon, this might be the last moment at which he can control the manner in which he departs … and it will be all the more awe-inspiring for the fact that the small men who placed him in this gigantic role apparently lack the courage to remove him themselves.
This might be the moment where he can do the greatest good with a single act of self-sacrifice, for the benefit of Celtic … and if he does it, and we win the ten that will be his finest hour, that will be Neil Lennon’s greatest triumph and the singular act which will assure and enshrine his legacy.
The finest service Neil Lennon can still do this club is to walk away from it.