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Lentulus or Lentulus Spinther

20. P. Cornelius Lentulus, P. F. L. N., surnamed SPINTHER. (Fast. A. U. 696; comp. Goltz. A. U. 698; Eckhel, vol. v. p. 182.) He received this nickname from his resemblance to the actor Spinther, and it was remarked as curious, that his colleague in the consulship, Metellus Nepos, was like Pamphilus, another actor. (Plin. Nat. 7.10; V. Max. 9.14.4.) Caesar commonly calls him by this name (B. C. 1.15, &c.): not so Cicero; but there could be no harm in it, for he used it on his coins when pro-praetor in Spain, simply to distinguish himself from the many of the same family (Eckhel, l.c.); and his son bore it after him. He was curule aedile in B. C. 63, the year of Cicero's consulship, and was entrusted with the care of the apprehended conspirator, P. Lent. Sura (No. 18). His games were long remembered for their splendour; but his toga, edged with Tyrian purple, gave offence. (Sal. Cat. 47; Cic. de Off. 2.16; Plin. Nat. 9.63, 36.12, (7).) He was praetor in B. C. 60: at the Apollinarian games he, for the first time, drew an awning over the theatre (carbasina vela, Plin. Nat. 19.6), and ornamented the scenes with silver. (V. Max. 2.4.6.) By Caesar's interest he obtained Hither Spain for his next year's province, where he remained into part of 58. (Caes. B. C. i 22; Cic. Fam. 1.9.4, &c.)

He returned to become candidate for the consulship, when he was elected again, by Caesar's support. (Caes. l.c.) But on the very day of his entering office, 1 Jan. B. C. 57, he moved for the immediate recall of Cicero (Cic. in Pis. 15); brought over his colleague Metellus Nepos to the same views; and his services were gratefully acknowledged by Cicero. (Pro Sext. 40, 69, Brut. 77, ad Att. 3.22. &c.; and comp. the letters to Lentulus himself, ad Fam. 1.1-9.) Now, therefore, notwithstanding his obligations to Caesar, he had openly taken part with the aristocracy. Yet he opposed them in promoting Pompey's appointment to the supreme superintendence of the corn market. His secret motive was to occupy Pompey at home, and thus prevent him from being charged with the office of restoring Ptolemy Auletes, the exiled king of Egypt; for then he hoped that this would fall to his share, as proconsul of Cilicia. (Cic. Att. 4.1, ad Fam. 1.1.7; Plut. Pomp. 49. For the life and fortunes of this king, see PTOLEMAEUS AULETES). Lentulus obtained a decree in his favour; and intended to depart at the close of his consulship. But in December, a statue of Jupiter on the Alban hill was struck by lightning: the Sibylline books were consulted, and an oracle found which forbade the restoration of a king of Egypt by armed force. Cato, who had just become tribune, was an enemy of Lentulus: he availed himself of this oracle (which had probably been forged to use against Pompey), and ordered the quindecemviri to read it publicly. (Fenestella, apud Non. Marcell. p. 385, ed. Lips. 826.) The matter was then brought before the senate, and gave rise to long and intricate debates. The pretensions of Pompey were supported by several tribunes: Lentulus was backed by Hortensius and Lucullus. The high aristocratic party, led by Bibulus, leaned to a middle course, to send three ambassadors to Egypt. Cicero was bound by gratitude to Lentulus; by fear of another exile to Pompey; and seems to have taken little active part in the matter. The proposition of Bibulus being rejected, the new consul, Marcellinus, exerted himself to procure the adjournment of the question sine die, and it rested till the year 55 B. C., when Gabinius got a law passed, without the authority of the senate, entrusting the coveted office to Pompey. (See Cic. to Lentulus, ad Fam. i., ad Q. Fr. 2.2 and 6; Plut. Pomp. 49; D. C. 39.15, 16). Lentulus remained as proconsul in Cilicia from B. C. 56 till July, 53, though Cato proposed to recall him. We hear little of his doings. He was saluted Imperator for a campaign in the Amanus, and Cicero warmly supported his claims to a triumph, which, however, he did not obtain till B. C. 51, when Cicero was himself in Cilicia. The orator praises his justice, but recommends him to make friends of the equites (publicani). (Cic. Fam. 1.5, &c., 3.7, 3, pro Sext. 69; comp. Eckhel, vol. iv. p. 360, vol. v. p. 184.) That Cicero's praise was deserved appears from the fact that Lentulus was obliged to sell his villa at Tusculum soon after. (Ad Att. 6.1. 20.)

In B. C. 49, when the civil wars began, Lentulus took part against Caesar, and had the command of 10 cohorts in Picenum. At the approach of the enemy, he fled and joined Domitius Ahenobarbus at Corfinium. When Caesar invested the place, and Pompey refused to come to their relief, Lentulus was allowed by the garrison to open negotiations with Caesar. The general received him favourably, dismissed him with his friends, and took the troops into his own service. (Caes. Civ. 1.15-23.) Lentulus retired to Puteoli and probably joined Pompey in Greece not long after. (Cic. Att. 9.11, 13, 15.) He shared in the presumption of his party, for we find him disputing with Metellus, Scipio, and Domitius, who had the best right to succeed Caesar as pontifex maximus. (Caes. Civ. 3.83.) After Pharsalia, he followed Pompey to Egypt, and got safe to Rhodes. (Ad Fam. 12.14; comp. Caes. Civ. 3.102.) Of his subsequent fate we are not informed.

Lentulus Spinther owes his importance chiefly to his high birth and his connection with Cicero. He was a common-place sort of man, of tolerable honesty. As an orator, he made up, by pains and industry, for the gifts that had been denied him by nature. (Cic. Brut. 77.)

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hide References (18 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (18):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 1.9.4
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 4.1
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 9.11
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 9.13
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 9.15
    • Caesar, Civil War, 1.23
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.102
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.83
    • Caesar, Civil War, 1.15
    • Sallust, Catilinae Coniuratio, 47
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.12
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 7.10
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 9.63
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 19.6
    • Plutarch, Pompey, 49
    • Cicero, Brutus, 77
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 2.4.6
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 9.14.4
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