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Curtius, Marcus

CURTIUS, MARCUS, a legendary hero of ancient Rome. It is said that in 362 B.C. a deep gulf opened in the forum, which the seers declared would never close until Rome's most valuable possession was thrown into it. Then Curtius, a youth of noble family, recognizing that nothing was more precious than a brave citizen, leaped, fully armed and on horseback, into the chasm, which immediately closed again. The spot was afterwards covered by a marsh called the Lacus Curtius. Two other explanations of the name Lacus Curtius are given: (i) a Sabine general, Mettius (or Mettus) Curtius, hard pressed by the Romans under Romulus, leaped into a swamp which covered the valley afterwards occupied by the forum, and barely escaped with his life; (2) in 445 B.C. the spot was struck by lightning, and enclosed as sacred by the consul, Gaius Curtius. It was marked by an altar which was removed to make room for the games in celebration of Caesar's funeral (Pliny, Nat. Hist. xv. 77), but restored by Augustus (cf. Ovid, Fasti, vi. 403), in whose time there was apparently nothing but a dry well. The altar seems to have been restored early in the 4th century A.D. In April 1004, on the N. side of the Via Sacra and 20 ft. N.W. of the Equus Domitiani, remains of the buildings were discovered.

See Livy i. 12, vii. 6; Dion Halic. ii. 42 ; Varro, De lingua Latina, v. 148; Ch. Hiilsen, The Roman Forum (Eng. trans, of 2nd ed., J. B. Carter, 1906); O. Gilbert, Geschichte und Topographic der Stadt Rom im Altertum, i. (1883), 334-338.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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