The creatures of Catiline who had been left behind in the city were brought together and encouraged by Cornelius Lentulus, surnamed Sura, a man of illustrious birth, but one who had led a low life and for his licentiousness had formerly been expelled from the senate, though now he was serving as praetor for the second time, as is the custom with those who have recovered their senatorial dignity.
It is said too that he got his surname of Sura for the following reason. In Sulla's time he was quaestor and lost and wasted large amounts of the public moneys. Sulla was angry at this and demanded an accounting from him in the senate, whereupon Lentulus came forward with a very careless and contemptuous air and said that he would not give an account, but would offer his leg, as boys were accustomed to do when they were playing ball and made a miss.
On this account he was surnamed Sura, for
’ is the Roman word for leg
. At another time, too, he was under prosecution and had bribed some of the jurors, and when he was acquitted by only two votes, he said that what he had given to the second juror was wasted money, since it would have sufficed if he had been acquitted by one vote only.
Such was the nature of this man who had been stirred up by Catiline, and he was further corrupted by vain hopes held out to him by false prophets and jugglers. These recited forged oracles in verse purporting to come from the Sibylline books,1
which set forth that three Cornelii were fated to be monarchs in Rome, two of whom had already fulfilled their destiny, namely, Cinna and Sulla, and that now to him, the third and remaining Cornelius, the heavenly powers were come with a proffer of the monarchy, which he must by all means accept, and not ruin his opportunities by delay, like Catiline.