Like any epic story, there is a great deal of philosophy within Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. Whether this is intentional or not, Kirkman hasn’t made too many major comments on his influences so it’s left up to fans to find the distinctions.
Human beings within the story are pushed to their limits. The zombie apocalypse has brought major decisions of good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life or death to the survivors of the aftermath.
Some questions that fall on the tip of the tongue revolve around the effort to keep humanity within extreme choices of kill or be killed. This could mean suicide, killing a loved one, or simply being eaten so someone else can live. None of these philosophies are more important than the connection between Rick Grimes and Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.
Cincinnatus | Painting by Ian K
Badss of the Week
“In 458 BCE the fledgling Roman Republic was in some deep shit,” writes Ben Thompson on his website, Badass of the Week. “The city was under attack on two fronts by a couple of her ancient enemies, and the vaunted Roman Legions were having difficulty defending the borders simultaneously against two powerful foes.”
Rome’s standing army was deeply engaged in the fight but had no chance of winning. Minucius chose to send five of his fastest riders to Rome to find help. These men took their word to the Senate who knew there was one hope. In a provision within the Roman Law, they could appoint a Dictator to lead the people.
Back then, a Dictator wasn’t something considered evil, which is what happened with Hitler or Stalin. In Roman Law, the Dictator was someone to be appointed in time of crisis. This man would perform the necessary duties with unchecked and unquestioned power until the job was done. Then, they would leave.
The Roman Senate chose Cincinnatus for this job. The horsemen found him plowing the fields of his humble farm. A farmer, Cincinnatus recognized the situation, listened to what was happening, and knew he was their last hope. He was the only man with experience to lead the Romans to victory.
The Walking Dead | Photo Credit AMC
Life of a Dictator on The Walking Dead
“Cincinnatus arrived at Rome, assumed the mantle of Dictator and went to work immediately. He appointed his Master of the Horse (second in command), shut down all private business in the City and put the population on Terror Alert Red. He ordered all men of military age to put their weapons and armor together, collect twelve palisades and assemble on the Campus Martius parade ground at dawn.”
Starting to sound familiar? Similar portrayals exists in movies such as Braveheart, Shooter, The Patriot and the list goes on. But perhaps no one is quite so similar to Cincinnatus as Rick Grimes. Like Cincinnatus, he fights when we need him, and then turns over his rule when we do not, so he can live at peace.
Consider the prison on The Walking Dead. Rick was literally farming once he was able to take a break from all of the killing. In Alexandria, despite allowing for others to lead him, once the trouble really broke out, they will seek Rick to fix their problems.
Rick, like Cincinnatus, is a farmer until desperate times happen once more.
The Walking Dead | Photo Credit AMC
It takes a deep moral compass to know that desperate times call for desperate measures, but then also to be able to stand off once resolve has been found. He steps up when we need him and provides as a farmer when he isn’t needed. If things are running smoothly it’s not worth his time. This is what makes Rick a leader. This is what makes Rick Cincinnatus.