Curtius Rufus

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Curtius Rufus was a Roman politician mentioned by Tacitus for actions during the reigns of the emperors Tiberius and Claudius. In all probability he is to be equated with the first-century Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus.[1]

Early life[edit]

Tacitus is cryptic in his discussion of the birth of Curtius Rufus, while revealing that some believed him to be son of a gladiator. It is worth repeating in full his words: "Of the birth of Curtius Rufus, whom some affirm to have been the son of a gladiator, I would not publish a falsehood, while I shrink from telling the truth."[2]

Encounter with Africa[edit]

In his letter to Lucius Licinius Sura concerning the existence of ghosts, Pliny tells him that he is "primarily led to believe in the existence of ghosts because of those things that I heard happened to Curtius Rufus". He then goes on to say that Rufus, while he was out on an afternoon stroll in Africa, was visited by Africa, who is described as "a figure of a woman, larger and more beautiful than life". She tells him that he will return to Africa "with the greatest command" and there he would die.

Adult life[edit]

On reaching adulthood Rufus attached himself to a quaestor allotted to the Roman province of Africa.[3] Rufus returned to Rome with high hopes for his future, subsequently attaining the offices of quaestor and then praetor during the reign of Tiberius. During his election as Praetor, Tiberius had cast a veil over his origins by saying, "Curtius Rufus seems to me to be his own ancestor".[4]

Military career[edit]

Rufus was awarded a triumph by Claudius in 47 for opening up silver mines in the territory of the Mattiaci. This triumph, seemingly earned without military engagement, led to a sarcastic letter from the legions which begged Claudius to award triumphs immediately command of an army was conferred.[5]

Later life[edit]

Tacitus notes that during a long old age of "surly sycophancy to those above him, of arrogance to those beneath him, and of moroseness among his equals", having attained the consulship in 43 (suffect for Claudius) and his triumph in 47, he received the province of Africa, where he eventually died, in accordance with the earlier prediction.[6] Pliny also notes in his letter to Sura that he was struck down with illness upon reaching Africa after the same female figure met him upon the docks. Recounting the prophecy, he is said to have given up hope of survival, even though none of his companions were despairing.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barbara M. Levick,
  2. ^ Tacitus, Annals 11.21
  3. ^ Tacitus, Annals 11.21
  4. ^ Tacitus, Annals 11.21
  5. ^ Tacitus, Annals 11.20
  6. ^ Tacitus, Annals 11.21


  • Tacitus Annals
  • Pliny Epistles

External links[edit]