Lentulus or Lentulus Sura
18. P. Cornelius
Lentulus, P. F. P. N., surnamed SURA, son of the last, the man of chief note in Catiline's crew. (Cic. in Cat.
3.5, 4.6; Ascon. ad Divin.
He was quaestor to Sulla in B. C. 81 (Plut. Cic. 17
): before him and L. Triarius, Verres had to give an account of the monies he had received as quaestor in Cisalpine Gaul. (Cic. in Verr.
He was soon after himself called to account for the same matter, but was acquitted.
It is said that he got his cognomen of Sura from his conduct on this occasion; for when Sulla called him to account, he answered by scornfully putting out his leg,
"like boys," says Plutarch, "when they make a blunder in playing at ball." (Cic.
17.) Other persons, however, had borne the name before, one perhaps of the Lentulus family. (Liv. 22.31
; comp. Suet. Domit.
13; D. C. 68.9
.) In B. C. 75 he was praetor; and Hortensius, pleading before such a judge, had no difficulty in procuring the acquittal of Terentius Varro, when accused of extortion. (Ascon. ad Divin. 7 ; Plut. Cic. 17
; Acron. ad Horat. Serm.
2.1. 49.) In B. C. 71 he was consul. (Fasti,
A. U. 682; Consularis
in Vell. 2.34
; D. C. 37.30
But in the next year he was ejected from the senate, with sixty-three others, for infamous life and manners. (Gel. 5.6
; Plut. l.c. ;
Dio Cass., &c.; see No. 25.)
It was this, probably, that led him to join Catiline and his crew. From his distinguished birth and high rank, he calculated on becoming chief of the conspiracy: and a prophecy of the Sibylline books was applied by flattering haruspices to him. Three Cornelii were to rule Rome, and he was the third after Sulla and Cinna; the twentieth year after the burning of the capitol, &c., was to be fatal to the city. (Cic. in Cat.
3.4, 4.1, 6; Sal. Cat. 47
To gain power, and recover his place in the senate, he became praetor again in B. C. 63. (Sall. B. C. 17, 46, &c.) When Catiline left the city for Etruria, Lentulus remained as chief of the home-conspirators, and his irresolution probably saved the city from being fired. (Sal. Cat. 32
; Cic. in Cat.
3.4, 7, 4.6, Brut.
66, &c.; comp. CETHEGUS, 8.) For it was by his over-caution that the negotiation with the ambassadors of the Allobroges was entered into; and these unstable allies revealed the secret to the consul Cicero, who directed them to feign compliance with the conspirators' wishes, and thus to obtain written documents which might be brought in evidence against them.
The well-known sequel will be found under the life of Catiline [p. 632]. Lentulus was deposed from the praetorship; given to be kept in libera custodia
by the aedile P. Lentulus Spinther (No. 20; comp. Cic. in Cat.
3.6, 4.3, p. Red. ad Quir.
6; Sal. Cat. 50
, &c.); and was strangled in the Capitoline prison on the 5th of December. (Cic. pro Flacc.
40, &c., Philipp.
2.7 (8); Sal. Cat. 55
, &c.) His step-son Antony pretended that Cicero refused to deliver up his corpse for burial. (Cic. Philipp. l.c. ; Plut. Ant. 2
.) Lentulus was slow in thought and speech, but this was disguised by the dignity of his person, the expressiveness and grace of his action, the sweetness and power of his voice. (Cic. Brut. 64
.) His impudence was excessive, his morals infamous, so that there was nothing so bad but he dared say or do it; but when danger showed itself he was slow and irresolute.
The former qualities made him join the gang of Catiline; the latter were in great part the ruin of their cause. (Comp. Senec. de Ira,
3.38; Cic. pro Sull.