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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Lentulus

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The name of a Roman patrician family of the Cornelian gens, derived from lentes (" lentils"), which its oldest members were fond of cultivating (according to Pliny, Nat. Hist. xviii. 3, io). The word Lentulitas (" Lentulism"; cf. Appietas) is coined by Cicero ( Ad Fam. iii. 7, 5) to express the attributes. of a pronounced aristocrat. The three first of the name were L. Cornelius Lentulus (consul 327 B.C.), Servius Cornelius Lentulus (consul 303) and L. Cornelius Lentulus Caudinus (consul 275). Their connexion with the later Lentuli (especially those of the Ciceronian period) is very obscure and difficult to establish. The following members of the family deserve mention.

Publius Cornelius Lentulus, nicknamed Sura, one of the chief figures in the Catilinarian conspiracy. When accused by Sulla (to whom he had been quaestor in 81 B.C.) of having squandered the public money, he refused to render any account, but insolently held out the calf of his leg (sera ), on which part of the person boys were punished when they made mistakes. in playing ball. He was praetor in 75, governor of Sicily 74, consul 71. In 70, being expelled from the senate with a number of others for immorality, he joined Catiline. Relying upon a Sibylline oracle that three Cornelii should be rulers of Rome, Lentulus regarded himself as the destined successor of Cornelius. Sulla and Cornelius Cinna. When Catiline left Rome after Cicero's first speech In Catilinam, Lentulus took his place as. chief of the conspirators in the city. In conjunction with C. Cornelius Cethegus, he undertook to murder Cicero and set fire to Rome, but the plot failed owing to his timidity and indiscretion. Ambassadors from the Allobroges being at the time in Rome, the bearers of a complaint against the oppressions of provincial governors, Lentulus made overtures to them, with the object of obtaining armed assistance. Pretending to fall in with his views, the ambassadors obtained a written agreement signed by the chief conspirators, and informed Q. Fabius Sanga, their "patron" in Rome, who in his turn acquainted Cicero. The conspirators were arrested and forced to admit their guilt. Lentulus was compelled to abdicate his praetorship, and, as it was feared that there might be an attempt to rescue him, he was put to death in the Tullianum on the 5th of December 63.

See Dio Cassius xxxvii. 30, xlvi. 20; Plutarch, Cicero, 17; Sallust, Catilina; Cicero, In Catilinam, iii., iv.; Pro Sulla, 25; also Catiline.

Publius Cornelius Lentulus, called Spinther from his likeness to an actor of that name, one of the chief adherents, of the Pompeian party. In 63 B.C. he was curule aedile, assisted Cicero in the suppression of the Catilinarian conspiracy, and distinguished himself by the splendour of the games he provided. Praetor in 60, he obtained the governorship of Hispania Citerior (19) through the support of Caesar, to whom he was also indebted for his election to the consulship (J7). Lentulus played a prominent part in the recall of Cicero from exile, and although a temporary coolness seems to have arisen between them, Cicero speaks of him in most grateful terms. From 56-53 Lentulus was governor of the province of Cilicia (with Cyprus) and during that time was commissioned by the senate to restore Ptolemy XI. Auletes to his kingdom (see Ptolemies). The Sibylline books, however, declared that the king must not be restored by force, of arms, at the risk of peril to Rome. As a provincial governor, Lentulus appears to have looked after the interests of his subjects, and did not enrich himself at their expense. In spite of his indebtedness to Caesar, Lentulus joined the Pompeians on the outbreak of civil war (49). The generosity with which he was treated by Caesar after the capitulation of Corfinium made him hesitate, but he finally decided in favour of Pompey. After the battle of Pharsalus, Lentulus escaped to Rhodes, where he was at first refused admission, although he subsequently found an asylum there (Cicero, Ad Att. xi. 13. I). According to Aurelius Victor ( De vir. ill. lxxviii., 9, if the reading be correct), he subsequently fell into Caesar's hands and was put to death.

See Caesar, Bell. Civ. i. 15-23, iii. 102; Plutarch, Pomp. 49; Valerius Maximus ix. 14, 4; many letters of Cicero, especially Ad _Earn. i. 1-9.

Lucius Cornelius Lentulus, surnamed Crus Or CrusCELLO, (for what reason is unknown), member of the anti-Caesarian party. In 61 B.C. he was the chief accuser of P. Clodius in the affair of the festival of Bona Dea. When consul (49) he advised the rejection of all peace terms offered by Caesar, and declared that, if the senate did not at once decide upon opposing him by force of arms, he would act upon his own responsibility. There seems no reason to doubt that Lentulus was mainly inspired by selfish motives, and hoped to find in civil war an opportunity for his own aggrandizement. But in spite of his brave words he fled in haste from Rome as soon as he heard of Caesar's advance, and crossed over to Greece. After Pharsalus, he made his way to Rhodes (but was refused admission), thence, by way of Cyprus, to Egypt. He landed at Pelusium the day after the murder of Pompey, was immediately seized by Ptolemy, imprisoned, and put to death.

See Caesar, Bell. Civ. i. 4, iii. 104; Plutarch, Pompey, 80.

A full account of the different Cornelii Lentuli, with genealogical table, will be found in Pauly-Wissowa's Realencyclopeidie, iv. pt. 1, p. 1 355 (1900) (s.v. "Cornelius"); see also V. de Vit, Onomasticon, ii. 433.


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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Lentulus'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/bri/l/lentulus.html. 1910.

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