A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

the Roman historian of Alexander the Great. Respecting his life and the time at which he lived, nothing is known with any certainty, and there is not a single passage in any ancient writer that can be positively said to refer to Q. Curtius, the historian. One Curtius Rufus is mentioned by Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 11.21) and Pliny (Plin. Ep. 7.27), and a Q. Curtius Rufus occurs in the list of the rhetoricians of whom Suetonius treated in his work " De Claris Rhetoribus." But there is nothing to shew that any of them is the

same as our Q. Curtius, though it may be, as F. A. Wolf was inclined to think, that the rhetorician spoken of by Suetonius is the same as the historia. This total want of external testimony compels us to seek information concerning Q. Curtius in the work that has come down to us under his name; but what we find here is as vague and unsatisfactory as that which is gathered from external testimonies. There are only two passages in his work which contain allusions to the time at which he lived. In the one (4.4, in fin.), in speaking of the city of Tyre, he says, nunc tamen longa pace cuncta refovente, sub tutela Romanae mansuetudinis acquiescit; the other, which is the more important one (10.9), contains an eulogy on the emperor for having restored peace after much bloodshed and many disputes about the possession of the empire. But the terms in which this passage is framed are so vague and indefinite, that it may be applied with almost equal propriety to a great number of epochs in the history of the Roman empire, and critics have with equal ingenuity referred the eulogy to a variety of emperors, from Augustus down to Constantine or even to Theodosius the Great, while one of the earlier critics even asserted that Q. Curtius Rufus was a fictitious name, and that the work was the production of a modern writer. This last opinion, however, is refuted by the fact, that there are some very early MSS. of Q. Curtius, and that Joannes Sarisberiensis, who died in A. D. 1182, was acquainted with the work. All modern critics are now pretty well agreed, that Curtius lived in the first centuries of the Christian aera. Niebuhr regards him and Petronius as contemporaries of Septimius Severus, while most other critics place him as early as the time of Vespasian. The latter opinion, which also accords with the supposition that the rhetorician Q. Curtius Rufus mentioned by Suetonius was the same as our historian, presents no other difficulty, except that Quintilian, in mentioning the historians who had died before his time, does not allude to Curtius in any way. This difficulty, however, may be removed by the supposition, that Curtius was still alive when Quintilian wrote. Another kind of internal evidence which might possibly suggest the time in which Curtius wrote, is the style and diction of his work; but in this case neither of them is the writer's own; both are artificially acquired, and exhibit only a few traces which are peculiar to the latter part of the first century after Christ. Thus much, however, seems clear, that Curtius was a rhetorician: his style is not free from strained and high-flown expressions, but on the whole it is a masterly imitation of Livy's style, intermixed here and there with poetical phrases and artificial ornaments.