Quintus Curtius Rufus

Quintus Curtius Rufus (/ˈkwɪntəs ˈkɜːrʃiəs ˈruːfəs/) was a Roman historian, probably of the 1st century, author of his only known and only surviving work, Historiae Alexandri Magni, "Histories of Alexander the Great", or more fully Historiarum Alexandri Magni Macedonis Libri Qui Supersunt, "All the Books That Survive of the Histories of Alexander the Great of Macedon." Much of it is missing. Apart from his name on the manuscripts, nothing else certain is known of him. This fact alone has led philologists to believe that he had another historical identity, to which, due to the accidents of time, the link has been broken. A few theories exist. They are treated with varying degrees of credibility by various authors. Meanwhile, the identity of Quintus Curtius Rufus, historian, is maintained separately.

Quintus Curtius Rufus
CitizenshipRoman Empire
Period1st Century
GenresBiography, History
SubjectLife and times of Alexander the Great
Literary movementSilver Age of Latin Literature
Notable workHistoriarum Alexandri Magni Macedonis Libri Qui Supersunt

The historical alter ego

Curtius' work is uniquely isolated. No other ancient work refers to it, or as far as is known, to him.[1] Peter Pratt[2] pointing out that the Senate and emperors frequently proscribed or censored works, suggests that Curtius had not published the manuscript before his death, but left it in care of the emperor. The emperors intended to publish it posthumously but did not find a political opportunity. They had adopted the identity of Alexander for themselves. The provinces fashioned from the Macedonian Empire were difficult to govern, always on the point of rebellion. The work of Curtius, Pratt conjectures, was not politically appropriate because it would have encouraged independence.

The earliest opportune moment was the year 167, when the campaign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius against the Parthian Empire had failed, and the returning troops were in bad morale and infected with the Antonine Plague. The emperor attempted to build national pride among the former Macedonian states. Avidius Cassius, commandant of Legio III Gallica, returning veterans, was promoted to Consul. He claimed descent from the Seleucids of Macedonia. New coins and medals were issued in Macedonia on Alexandrian themes. Pratt conjectures that the manuscript in storage, by this time damaged and partly destroyed, was published finally, accounting for the previous lack of references to it. It is also possible Books I and II along with other loci were censored out. As the emperors probably had surmised, it was immediately popular.

Most credible date

Claudius Ny Carlsberg02

The dating available relies entirely on internal evidence, which is not certain, but offers some degree of preponderance. In Book X Curtius digresses to give an encomium on blessings of peace under empire, citing the Roman Empire with the implication of contemporaneity.[3] In essence he reasserts the policy of Augustus, which casts the empire as the restoration of monarchy for the suppression of the civil wars fomented by the contention of powerful noblemen vying for control of the Republic. Curtius' glowing endorsement of the policy dates him to the Roman Empire.

He also mentions the Parthian Empire. It was formed by the eastern satrapies recusing themselves from Macedonian overlordship and restoring a purely Iranian empire. It defended itself successfully against Rome, even though Rome absorbed what was left of the Macedonian kingdoms. The dates of the Parthian Empire are 247 BC through 224 AD. Although Curtius may have been writing about an empire vanished in his own day, the most straightforward approach assumes that he wrote in a window, 63 BC (start of the Roman Empire) through 224 AD.[4]

For further localization, the same imperial purple passage contrasts the civil wars of the Macedonians (Diadochi wars) due to failure to obtain a stable emperor, with an incident of the Roman Empire in which the risk of civil war was avoided by the appointment of a new emperor in a single night. Not very many incidents fit the description. Baynham summarizes the argument of Julius Nützell that the crisis might be the night of January 24/25, 41 AD, following the assassination of Caligula on that day. The Senate met on an emergency basis to debate whether the Roman Republic should be restored. The Praetorian Guard forced its way in to insist on the appointment of Caligula's uncle, Claudius. His reign concentrated on the restoration of the rule of law. A lawyer, he issued up to 20 imperial edicts per day, re-establishing the Pax Romana. If this argument is correct, Curtius' work must be dated to after 41 AD.[5]

The upper limit is provided by a passage that mentions the "continued prosperity of Tyre under Roman dominion."[6] The peace of the empire came to an end in 43 AD when Claudius invaded Britain. None of these dates are certain, but the union of all the ranges presents a credible view of Curtius' date. Baynham says: "many modern scholars now accept a date in the middle to late part of the first century A.D. as a likely floruit for Curtius."[7]

Most credible identity

By his name, Quintus Curtius Rufus was a member of the Curtii Rufi branch of the Curtii family, one of the original nobility of Rome. Due to the frequently used institution of adoption, people of the name Curtius (or female Curtia) might not be consanguineous. Moreover, the same name tended to be repeated, typically from grandfather to grandson. After centuries of Curtii, a Curtius might turn up in history at any location or in any period.

The candidates for the historical identity of the author are but few. Given the time frame of the mid-1st century, however, there is a credible candidate. He is a certain Curtius Rufus (The praenomen has been omitted. Presumably it is Quintus.) In the List of Roman consuls he served as Consul Suffectus for October through December, 43 AD under the emperor Claudius. He had been a protégé of Tiberius.[8]

He must have written the Histories in the year or two before the consulship. Tacitus says that he was on the staff of the Quaestor of Africa during that time, which would have given him the opportunity to use the Library of Alexandria.[9] Tiberius had died in 37; Caligula was emperor then. Curtius’ relations with Caligula are not mentioned. But Caligula was not in his vicinity.

On Curtius’ return, a book such as the Historiae unless politically incorrect would have impressed the scholarly Claudius. Tiberius already had been an admirer before the book: he said that Curtius Rufus was his own ancestor; i.e., a self-made man. Tacitus hints that Curtius was of low birth, possibly the son of a gladiator. The story is only compatible with the name if one assumes adoption, which Tiberius could easily have arranged,

If Curtius took office at the minimum age of 25, and Tiberius made his comment in the year of his own death, Curtius would have been 19 or younger when described as a self-made man. In an age when Alexander had become regent of Macedon at 16, a rise to fame at 19, and consulship at 25, would not have been incredible. Tiberius would have been a senior emperor when Curtius came to his attention. What his qualifications were for the patronage remain obscure. If, on the other hand, Quintus Curtius Rufus is to be identified with Curtius Rufus, Consul Suffect of 43, then the most likely circumstantial evidence places his birth in the early years of the 1st century, in the reign of Augustus.[10]

The Historiae

Manuscripts and editions

Historiae survives in 123 codices, or bound manuscripts, all deriving from an original in the 9th century. As it was a partial text, already missing large pieces, they are partial as well. They vary in condition. Some are more partial than others, with lacunae that developed since the 9th century. The original contained ten libri, "books," equivalent to our chapters. Book I and II are missing, along with any Introduction that might have been expected according to ancient custom. There are gaps in V, VI, and X. Many loci, or "places," throughout are obscure, subject to interpretation or emendation in the name of restoration.[11]

The work enjoyed popularity in the High Middle Ages. It is the main source for a genre of tales termed the Alexander Romance (some say romances); for example, Walter of Chatillon's epic poem Alexandreis, which was written in the style of Virgil's Aeneid. These romances spilled over into the Renaissance, especially of Italy, where Curtius was idolized.[12] Painters, such as Paolo Veronese and Charles Le Brun, painted scenes from Curtius.

The Editio Princeps, or first printed edition, was published in 1470 or 1471 at Venice by Vindelinus Spirensis. A slow but steady stream of editions appeared subsequently until more of a need for standardization was perceived. In 1867 Edmund Hedicke instigated a convention that persists yet. He based his edition of that year on the five best manuscripts.[13]

The vulgate authors

In what remains of his work, Curtius mainly does not identify sources. They were, perhaps, stated in the missing books. Speculations of what they were based on thorough analysis of the content and style vary widely. Yardley and Heckel say: "The internal evidence for Curtius' sources is disappointing."[14] He does, however, mention Cleitarchus, a historian in camp, twice,[15] Ptolemy once, and Timagenes once. These men were participants in the Alexander story and therefore are counted as eyewitnesses, or primary sources. All accounts based on them are by analogy also termed "primary."[16] These works are also called "the Vulgate."

See also


  1. ^ Baynham 1998, p. 2
  2. ^ Pratt 1809, pp. xvi-xxi The lesser known Pratt was a clerk in the library of East India House. His employment was to research and publish documents on the East Indies trade. He expanded that process into writing universal history books, such as the History of Japan. He did some writing to gratify his own interests, such as the translation of Curtius, which reveals the depth of his education and research. He remained so unself-confident that he did not put his name on the work. In the Preface he begins one footnote with “As a stranger to antiquarian studies, I hesitate to point out ....” He was certainly no stranger. The book received professional reviews, becoming popular.
  3. ^ Chapter 9, 1-6.
  4. ^ Baynham 1998, p. 7
  5. ^ Baynham 1998, pp. 205–207
  6. ^ Curtius 1896, p. xii On Book IV, Chapter 4, 21.
  7. ^ Baynham 1998, p. 8
  8. ^ Yardley & Atkinson 2009, pp. 9–14.
  9. ^ Annales, Book XI, Section 21.
  10. ^ Hamilton 1988
  11. ^ Baynham 1998, p. 1
  12. ^ Baynham 1998, p. 3
  13. ^ Baynham 1998, pp. 3–4. They are B for Bernensis, F for Florentinus, L for Leidensis, P for Parisinus, and V for Vosianus.
  14. ^ Yardley & Heckel 2004, Introduction: C. Curtius' Sources and Models.
  15. ^ 9.5.21, 9.18.15.
  16. ^ Yardely & Atkinson 2009, p. 1 identifies five: Curtius, Diodorus Siculus Book 17; Gnaeus Pompeius Trogus, "Philippic History," Books 11-12 (in epitome by Justin); Arrian, Anabasis Alexandri, and Plutarch, "Life of Alexander."


Baynham, Elizabeth (1998). Alexander the Great: The Unique History of Quintus Curtius. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Curtius, Rufus Quintus (1896). Humphreys, Willard (ed.). Selections from the History of Alexander the Great. Boston: Ginn & Co.
Hamilton, J.R. (1988). "The Date of Quintus Curtius Rufus". Zeitschrift für alte Geschichte. Bd. 37: 445–456.
Lucarini, Carlo M. (2009). Q. Curtius Rufus: Historiae. Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana (in Latin). Berolini [Berlin]; Novi Eboraci [New York]: Walter De Gruyter.
Pratt, P. (1809). The History of the Life and Reign of Alexander the Great. Volume I. London: Samuel Bagster.
Rolfe, John C. (1971A) [1946]. Quintus Curtius, with an English Translation. Volume I, Books I-V. Cambridge; London: Harvard University Press; William Heinemann Ltd.
Yardley, J.C., Translator; Atkinson, J.E., Commentator (2009). Curtius Rufus, Histories of Alexander the Great, Book 10. Clarendon Ancient History Series. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
Yardley, J.C., Translator; Heckel, Waldemar, Commentator (2004) [1984]. Quintus Curtius Rufus: The History of Alexander. London: Penguin Books.

External links


Acadera or Acadira was a region in the northwest of India, traversed by Alexander the Great as related by first-century Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus. Arrian has it not a region but a city he terms Andaca, which Alexander took by storm, during the Cophen Campaign, 327 BCE to 326 BCE.

Alexandre le Grand

Alexandre le Grand is a tragedy in 5 acts (of 3, 5, 7, 5 and 3 scenes, respectively) and verse by Jean Racine. It was first produced on 4 December 1665 at the Palais Royal Theater in Paris. The subject of the play is the love of Alexander the Great and the Indian princess Cleofile complicated by intrigues between her brother Taxilus and his ally Porus. The play is largely based on a surviving work by the Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus.

Shortly after the play's opening at the Théâtre Palais Royal, Racine moved it to the more prestigious company at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, where it opened on 18 December, creating a rift with Molière.


Alexandreis (or Alexandreid) is a medieval Latin epic poem by Walter of Châtillon, a 12th-century French writer and theologian. A version of the Alexander romance, it gives an account of the life of Alexander the Great, based on Quintus Curtius Rufus' Historia Alexandri Magni. The poem was popular and influential in Walter's own times, even being translated into Icelandic prose as the Alexanderssaga; Matthew of Vendôme and Alan of Lille borrowed from it and Henry of Settimello imitated it, but it is now seldom read. One line is sometimes quoted:

Incidis in Scyllam cupiens vitare Charybdim (You run into Scylla, desiring to avoid Charybdis) (V.301).The same line is frequently quoted in a slight variation:

Incidit in Scyllam qui vult vitare Charybdim (He runs into Scylla who wishes to avoid Charybdis).


Arimazes (Ancient Greek: Ἀριμάζης) or Ariomazes (Ancient Greek: Ἀριομάζης), was a chief who had possession, in 328 BCE, of a very strong fortress in Sogdiana, usually called the Rock of Ariamazes, which the historian Johann Gustav Droysen identifies with a place called Kohiten, situated near the pass of Kolugha or Derbend.

Arimazes at first refused to surrender the place to Alexander the Great, but afterwards yielded when some of the Macedonians had climbed to the summit. In this fortress Alexander found Roxana, the daughter of the Bactrian chief, Oxyartes, whom he made his wife. The first century historian Quintus Curtius Rufus relates that Alexander crucified Arimazes and the leading men who were taken; but this is not mentioned by the Greek historian Arrian in his account or Polyaenus, and is improbable.

Bagoas (courtier)

Bagoas (Old Persian: 𐎲𐎦𐎡 Bagoi, Ancient Greek: Βαγώας Bagōas) was a eunuch in the court of the Persian Empire in the 4th century BC. Bagoas was a eunuch, a courtier of Darius and later of Alexander the Great.

Battle of Gaugamela

The Battle of Gaugamela (; Greek: Γαυγάμηλα), also called the Battle of Arbela (Greek: Ἄρβηλα), was the decisive battle of Alexander the Great's invasion of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. In 331 BC Alexander's army of the Hellenic League met the Persian army of Darius III near Gaugamela, close to the modern city of Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan. Though heavily outnumbered, Alexander emerged victorious due to his army's superior tactics and his deft employment of light infantry. It was a decisive victory for the Hellenic League and led to the fall of the Achaemenid Empire.


Curtius may refer to:

Curtius (crater), a lunar crater

Curtius (beer), a Belgian beer

Curtius Museum, Jean Curtius's mansion, now a museum

Curtius baronets, a title in the Baronetcy of England

Curtius, a spring of the Aqua Claudia

Didymoglossum curtii, a species of Didymoglossum

Pleurothallis curtii, a species of Pleurothallis

Begonia curtii, a species of Begonia

Lotononis curtii, a species of Lotononis'

Curtius Rufus

Curtius Rufus () was a Roman professional magistrate of senatorial rank mentioned by Tacitus and Pliny the Younger for life events occurring 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.


Dioxippus (Διώξιππος) was an ancient Greek pankratiast, renowned for his Olympic victories in the sport of pankration. His fame and skill were such that he was crowned Olympic champion by default in 336 BC when no other pankratiast dared meet him on the field. This kind of victory was called "akoniti" (literally: without getting dusted). The most famous story of Dioxippus is his victory over Coragus of the Macedonian army.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World as listed by Hellenic culture, described as a remarkable feat of engineering with an ascending series of tiered gardens containing a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and vines, resembling a large green mountain constructed of mud bricks, and said to have been built in the ancient city of Babylon, near present-day Hillah, Babil province, in Iraq. Its name is derived from the Greek word kremastós (κρεμαστός, lit. "overhanging"), which has a broader meaning than the modern English word "hanging" and refers to trees being planted on a raised structure such as a terrace.According to one legend, the Hanging Gardens were built alongside a grand palace known as The Marvel of Mankind, by the Neo-Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II (who ruled between 605 and 562 BC), for his Median wife Queen Amytis, because she missed the green hills and valleys of her homeland. This was attested to by the Babylonian priest Berossus, writing in about 290 BC, a description that was later quoted by Josephus. The construction of the Hanging Gardens has also been attributed to the legendary queen Semiramis, who supposedly ruled Babylon in the 9th century BC, and they have been called the Hanging Gardens of Semiramis as an alternate name.The Hanging Gardens are the only one of the Seven Wonders for which the location has not been definitively established. There are no extant Babylonian texts that mention the gardens, and no definitive archaeological evidence has been found in Babylon. Three theories have been suggested to account for this. One: that they were purely mythical, and the descriptions found in ancient Greek and Roman writers including Strabo, Diodorus Siculus and Quintus Curtius Rufus represent a romantic ideal of an eastern garden. Two: that they existed in Babylon, but were completely destroyed sometime around the first century AD. Three: that the legend refers to a well-documented garden that the Assyrian King Sennacherib (704–681 BC) built in his capital city of Nineveh on the River Tigris, near the modern city of Mosul.

Histories of Alexander the Great

Histories of Alexander the Great (Latin: Historiae Alexandri Magni) is a biography of Alexander the Great written by Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus, dating to the 1st century. More fully title is Historiarum Alexandri Magni Macedonis Libri Qui Supersunt, "All the Books That Survive of the Histories of Alexander the Great of Macedon".

Historiography of Alexander the Great

There are numerous surviving ancient Greek and Latin sources on Alexander the Great, king of Macedon, as well as some Asian texts. The five main surviving accounts are by Arrian, Plutarch, Diodorus Siculus, Quintus Curtius Rufus, and Justin. In addition to these five main sources, there is the Metz Epitome, an anonymous late Latin work that narrates Alexander's campaigns from Hyrcania to India. Much is also recounted incidentally by other authors, including Strabo, Athenaeus, Polyaenus, Aelian, and others. Strabo, who gives a summary of Callisthenes, is an important source for Alexander's journey

to Siwah.

History of Alexander

The History of Alexander, also known as Perì Aléxandron historíai, is a lost work by the late-fourth century BC Hellenistic historian Cleitarchus, covering the life and death of Alexander the Great. It survives today in around thirty fragments and is commonly known as The Vulgate, with the works based on it known as The Vulgate Tradition. These works consist primarily of that of Diodorus, the Bibliotheca historica, and Quintus Curtius Rufus, with his Historiae Alexandri Magni.Completed at some point between 309 and 301 BC, it was the most popular work depicting Alexander in its time, but is valuable today for its unique perspective on the conqueror, in particular his psychological disposition and specifics of how the soldiers under him lived. Unfortunately, it is considered an unreliable source, with modern scholars considering Cleitarchus to have been more dedicated to writing an entertaining story than a reliable historical account. This dedication was also challenged by contemporary historians such as Arrian, who wrote his The Anabasis of Alexander in what is believed to be a deliberate attempt to counter Cleitarchus' "Vulgate Tradition", and in doing so created a work regarded by modern scholars as the best source on Alexander.

Metz Epitome

The Metz Epitome is a late antiquity summary of earlier historical fragments and covers the conquests of Alexander the great between Hyrcania and northwest India. The only surviving manuscript was found in Metz, from which the text's name originates. The manuscript was destroyed during the Second World War, but there are two transcriptions of the original. The Epitome was part of the same manuscript as the so-called Liber de Morte Alexandri Magni Testamentumque (which may have been written by the same epitomator, as suggested by E. Baynham).

The sources of the anonymous author have much in common with the historian Cleitarchus, through the writings of Diodorus Siculus and Quintus Curtius Rufus. Non-Cleitarchan elements in the text seem to reflect a certain Hebraic view concerning Alexander.The Epitome paints a unique portrait of Alexander and includes some information not found elsewhere but in view of its late authorship and the few additional historical fact it offers, the value of the Metz Epitome lies in its interpretation of Alexander's career rather than as a source for it.

Michel Maittaire

Michel Maittaire (also Michael) (1668 – 7 September 1747) was a French-born classical scholar and bibliographer in England, and a tutor to Lord Philip Stanhope. He edited an edition of Quintus Curtius Rufus, later owned by Thomas Jefferson. His works included a grammar of English (1712).

Rufus (Roman cognomen)

Rufus () is one of the most common of the ancient Roman cognomina.

Thebe Hypoplakia

Thebe Hypoplakia (Ancient Greek: Ὑποπλακίη Θήβη, romanized: Hypoplakíē Thḗbē), also Cilician Thebe, was a city in ancient Anatolia. Alternative names include Placia, Hypoplacia and Hypoplacian Thebe(s), referring to the city's position at the foot of Mount Placus.

Usher Gahagan

Usher Gahagan (died 1749), was an Irish classical scholar.

Gahagan belonged to a good family of Westmeath, Ireland; was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, but took no degree, and then proceeded to study for the Irish bar. His parents had brought him up as a Protestant, but he was converted in youth to Roman Catholicism, and was thus prevented from being called to the bar. He soon married a rich heiress, whom he treated very cruelly, and a separation followed. His relatives were alienated by his conduct, and he came to London, where he tried to make a livelihood out of his classical scholarship.

He edited in Brindley's beautiful edition of the classics the works of Horace, Cornelius Nepos, Sallust, Juvenal, Persius, Virgil, and Terence, all published in 1744; Quintus Curtius Rufus in 1746; Catullus, Propertius, and Tibullus, issued in 1749. He also translated into good Latin verse Pope's ‘Essay on Criticism’ (‘Tentamen de re critica’), which appeared in 1747 with a Latin dedication to the Earl of Chesterfield, and a poem descriptive of the earl's recent reception in Dublin as lord-lieutenant.

Gahagan fell into very bad company in London. A compatriot, Hugh Coffey, suggested to him a plan for making money by filing coins or ‘diminishing the current coin of the realm.’ Another Irishman, of some education, Terence Connor, who is variously described as Gahagan's servant or lodger, was introduced into at the end of 1748. Coffey turned informer, and Gahagan and Connor were arrested in a public-house at Chalk Farm early in January 1748–9. The trial took place at the Old Bailey on Monday, 16 Jan. 1748–9, and both were convicted on Coffey's evidence. While awaiting execution in Newgate, Gahagan translated Pope's ‘Messiah’ and ‘Temple of Fame’ into Latin verse, and this was published immediately (1749), with a dedication to the Duke of Newcastle, praying for pardon. Gahagan also addressed Prince George to the same effect in English verse, while Connor wrote a poetic appeal in English to the Duchess of Queensberry. These effusions are printed in the ‘Newgate Calendar.’ But all efforts failed, and the young men were hanged at Tyburn on Monday, 20 Feb. 1748–9. Some verses lamenting Gahagan's fate are quoted in the ‘Newgate Calendar.’ In the preface to the collected edition of Christopher Smart's poems, ‘unfortunate Gahagan’ is described as Smart's immediate predecessor in the successful writing of Latin verse.


For the skipper butterfly genus, see Zopyrion (skipper).Zopyrion (Greek: Ζωπυρίων) (died 331 BC) was a Macedonian general.

Major cities
Lists and other
Kings of Cyrene
Kings of Bithynia
Kings of Pontus
Kings of Commagene
Kings of Cappadocia
Kings of the
Cimmerian Bosporus

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.