According to legend, it happened one day in 362 BCE that the earth in the Forum Romanum gave way, sank, and formed a great chasm. All attempts to fill it up were useless, and when at length the aruspices were consulted about it, they declared, that the chasm could not be filled except by throwing into it that on which Rome's greatness was to be based, and that then the state should prosper. When all were hesitating and doubting as to what was meant, a noble youth of the name of M. Curtius came forward, and declaring that Rome possessed no greater treasure than a brave and gallant citizen in arms, he offered himself as the victim demanded, and having mounted his steed in full armor, he leaped into the abyss, and the earth soon closed over him. Cp. Anchurus.
The Lacus Curtius on the Forum Romanum, still recognizable by the flagged floor (travertine, late Republic period), was the location of a pit where Marcus Curtius reputedly gave his life to save the city. According to others, the hole was the result of lightning and was consecrated and enclosed by the consul Caius Curtius Philo in 445 BCE.
The heroic act of Curtius is depicted on various prints, facade paintings (for example, Pordenone), and reliefs, such as on the relief discovered at the Lacus Curtius on the Forum Romanum (125 BCE).
- Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Augustine. City of God v, 18.
- Festus, s.v. Curtilacum.
- Livy. History of Rome vii, 6.
- Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia xv, 18.
- Plutarch. Parallela Minora, 5.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
- Statius. Silvae i, 1, 65 ff.
- Valerius Maximus, v, 6.2.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.