Curtia (gens)

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Curtius leaping into the Chasm

The gens Curtia was an ancient but minor noble family at Rome, with both patrician and plebeian branches. The only member of the gens invested with the consulship under the Republic was Gaius Curtius Philo, in 445 BC.[1] Curtii appear in Roman legends about the earliest period, including the story of how the topographical feature known as the Lacus Curtius got it name when a Curtius sacrificed himself by leaping into the chasm.


In the legendary history of the reign of Romulus, first King of Rome, Mettius Curtius was the Sabine champion opposed to the Roman warrior Hostus Hostilius. The legend implies that the Curtii were of Sabine origin, and only afterwards settled at Rome. Either Marcus Curtius or Mettius Curtius is associated with the naming of the Lacus Curtius; the legend of Mettius was depicted on a relief, excavated in 1553 between the Column of Phocas and the Temple of Castor and Pollux, which seems to be a copy of an original dating perhaps to the 2nd century BC.[2]

The consulship of Gaius Curtius Philo in 445 BC is one indication that the gens Curtia must have been patrician, since the consulship at that time was not open to plebeians. Further evidence is found in stories about early Roman history, in which the Curtii are associated, for instance, with the Lacus Curtius. In 57 BC Gaius Curtius Peducaeanus was tribune of the people, indicating that a plebeian branch developed at some point.[1]


The Curtii are known to have used the praenomina (first names) Mettius, Gaius, Marcus, Gnaeus, Quintus, and Publius, all of which except Mettius were common throughout Roman history.[1]

Branches and cognomina[edit]

The cognomina (third element when a Roman used three names) which occur in this gens under the Republic are Peducaeanus, Philo, and Postumus.[1]

Curtii of the Republic[edit]

The Sacrificial Death of Marcus Curtius (1550–52) by Paolo Veronese
  • Mettius Curtius, the Sabine champion in the time of Romulus, who slew the Roman champion, Hostus Hostilius. After his victory, he was pursued by the Romans into a swamp, afterwards called the Lacus Curtius, from which he was only able to extricate himself with great difficulty. The location of this swamp later formed part of the Roman Forum.[3][4][5][6]
  • Gaius Curtius Philo, consul in 445 BC.[7][8][9][10][11]
  • Marcus Curtius, a noble youth, who in 362 BC is said to have leapt with his horse into a chasm that had appeared in the Forum, and which could not be filled, according to the haruspices, until that upon which Rome's greatness was to be based was thrown in. Upon receiving this living sacrifice, the earth closed up once more. This tradition appears to be an echo of the story of Mettius Curtius, as the abyss is also described as the Lacus Curtius.[12][13][14][15]
  • Curtius, an accuser, who was killed by Gaius Marius near the lake of Servilius, at the time of the proscription of Sulla, or perhaps even before.[16][17]
  • Gaius Curtius, perhaps the son of the accuser, lost his property during the proscription of Sulla, and went into exile. He was subsequently allowed to return, through the mediation of Cicero, his childhood friend. He was made a senator by Caesar in 45 BC, and Cicero interceded with Caesar's legate to prevent the redistribution of Curtius' land to the veterans.[18]
  • Gnaeus Curtius Postumus, an argentarius, with whom Verres had pecuniary dealings.[19]
  • Quintus Curtius Postumus, brother of Gnaeus, an argentarius and friend of Verres, is called by Cicero a judex quaestionis, concerning which nothing further is known.[20]
  • Quintus Curtius, a good and well-educated young man, who in 54 BC brought the charge of ambitus against Gaius Memmius, then a candidate for the consulship.[21]
  • Gaius Curtius Peducaeanus, praetor in 50 BC, was probably the son of Sextus Peducaeus, to whom Cicero had been quaestor, and had been adopted by Gaius Curtius.[22]
  • Marcus Curtius Postumus, recommended by Cicero to Caesar in 54 BC for the post of military tribune, which he obtained. Espoused the cause of Caesar during the Civil War, causing an estrangement with Cicero.[23]
  • Quintus Curtius, possibly the same man who accused Memmius, appears on several unusual coins, together with the names of Marcus Silanus and Gnaeus Domitius. Eckhel conjectures that they were triumvirs for the establishment of a colony, and that their coins were struck at some distance from Rome.[24]
  • Publius Curtius, a brother of Quintus Salassus, in 45 BC plotted to deliver Gnaeus Pompeius, the son of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, into the hands of Caesar, with the help of Spanish locals, but was discovered and beheaded at Pompeius' orders, in front of the whole army.[25]

Curtii of the Empire[edit]

  • Curtius, an eques, who once, while dining with Augustus, availed himself of a joke and threw a fish, which was standing on the table, out of the window.[26]
  • Curtius Lupus, quaestor in AD 24, suppressed a slave insurrection in the neighborhood of Brundisium, with the help of the crews of three vessels that happened to arrive at the port.[27]
  • Curtius Atticus, accompanied the emperor Tiberius on a trip to Campania in AD 26 and was eventually destroyed by Lucius Aelius Sejanus and Julius Marinus.[28] Two of Ovid's poems are addressed to him.[29]
  • Curtius Montanus, accused of libelling Nero in AD 67; the charge was disproved, but Curtius was briefly sent into exile. In 71, he urged the Senate to rescind the decree against Piso, and attacked the informer, Marcus Aquillius Regulus. A friend of the younger Plinius, he may be the same Curtius Montanus satirized by Juvenal.[30][31][32]
  • Curtius Rufus, said by some to have been the son of a gladiator, received a prophecy from a giantess that he would one day visit Africa as proconsul. He obtained the quaestorship and praetorship under Tiberius, and later the consulship, eventually receiving the government of Africa as foretold. He is sometimes supposed to be the same person as the historian, Quintus Curtius Rufus.[33][34]
  • Quintus Curtius Rufus, a historian, and author of a biography of Alexander the Great in ten books. There is considerable disagreement as to the period in which he lived, although a Curtius Rufus is mentioned by Tacitus and Plinius, and a rhetorician named Quintus Curtius Rufus is described by Suetonius.[1][34][35][36]

See also[edit]

List of Roman gentes


  1. ^ a b c d e Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.
  2. ^ Article on the Lacus Curtius by Samuel Ball Platner at the LacusCurtius website.
  3. ^ Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, i. 12 ff.
  4. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia, ii. 42.
  5. ^ Marcus Terentius Varro, De Lingua Latina libri XXV, v. 148.
  6. ^ Plutarchus, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, Romulus, 13.
  7. ^ Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, iv. 1 ff.
  8. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia, xi. 52, 58.
  9. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, xii. 31.
  10. ^ Joannes Zonaras, Epitome Historiarum, vii. 19.
  11. ^ Marcus Terentius Varro, De Lingua Latina libri XXV, v. 150 (ed. Müller).
  12. ^ Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, vii. 6.
  13. ^ Valerius Maximus, Factorum ac Dictorum Memorabilium libri IX, v. 6. § 2.
  14. ^ Gaius Plinius Secundus, Historia Naturalis, xv. 18.
  15. ^ Sextus Pompeius Festus, epitome of Marcus Verrius Flaccus, De Verborum Significatu, s.v. Curtilacum.
  16. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pro Sexto Roscio, 32.
  17. ^ Lucius Annaeus Seneca, De Providentia, 3.
  18. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, xiii. 5.
  19. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, In Verrem, i. 39.
  20. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, In Verrem, i. 39, 61.
  21. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad Quintum Fratrem, iii. 2.
  22. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, xiii. 59; Post Reditum in Senatu, 8.
  23. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad Quintum Fratrem, ii. 15. § 3, iii. 1. § 3; Epistulae ad Atticum, ix. 2, a. 5, 6, x. 13. § 3, xii. 49, xiv. 9. § 2; Epistulae ad Familiares, ii. 16. § 7, vi. 12. § 2.
  24. ^ Joseph Hilarius Eckhel, Doctrina Numorum Veterum, v. p. 200.
  25. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, vi. 18.
  26. ^ Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius, Saturnalia, ii. 4.
  27. ^ Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Annales, iv. 27.
  28. ^ Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Annales, iv. 58, vi. 10.
  29. ^ Publius Ovidius Naso, Epistulae ex Ponto, iv and vii.
  30. ^ Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Annales, xvi. 28, 29, 33; Historiae, 40, 42, 43.
  31. ^ Decimus Junius Juvenalis, Satires, iv. 107, 131, xi. 34.
  32. ^ Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, Epistulae, vii. 29, viii. 6.
  33. ^ Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Annales, xi. 20, 21.
  34. ^ a b Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, Epistulae, vii. 27.
  35. ^ Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Annales, xi. 21.
  36. ^ Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, De Claris Rhetoribus.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSmith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 

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