Dentatus, Manius Curius
DENTATUS, MANIUS CURIUS, Roman general, conqueror of the Samnites and Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, was born of humble parents, and was possibly of Sabine origin. He is said to have been called Dentatus because he was born with his teeth already grown (Pliny, Nat. Hist. vii. 15). Except that he was tribune of the people, nothing certain is known of him until his first consulship in 290 B.C. when, in conjunction with his colleague P. Cornelius Rufinus, he gained a decisive victory over the Samnites, which put an end to a war that had lasted fifty years. He also reduced the revolted Sabines to submission; a large portion of their territory was distributed among the Roman citizens, and the most important towns received the citizenship without the right of voting for magistrates (civitas sine suffragio). With the proceeds of the spoils of the war Dentatus cut an artificial channel to carry off the waters of Lake Velinus, so as to drain the valley of Reate. In 275, after Pyrrhus had returned from Sicily to Italy, Dentatus (again consul) took the field against him. The decisive engagement took place near Beneventum in the Campi Arusini, and resulted in the total defeat of Pyrrhus. Dentatus celebrated a magnificent triumph, in which for the first time a number of captured elephants were exhibited. Dentatus was consul for the third time in 274, when he finally crushed the Lucanians and Samnites, and censor in 272. In the latter capacity he began to build an aqueduct to carry the waters of the Anio into the city, but died (270) before its completion. Dentatus was looked upon as a model of old Roman simplicity and frugality. According to the well-known anecdote, when the Samnites sent ambassadors with costly presents to induce him to exercise his influence on their behalf in the senate, they found him sitting on the hearth and preparing his simple meal of roasted turnips. He refused their gifts, saying that earthen dishes were good enough for him, adding that he preferred ruling those who possessed gold to possessing it himself. It is also said that he died so poor that the state was obliged to provide dowries for his daughters. But these and similar anecdotes must be received with caution, and it should be remembered that what was a competence in his day would have been considered poverty by the Romans of later times.
Livy, epitome, 11-14; Polybius ii. 19; Eutropius ii. 9, 14; Florus i. 18; Val. Max. iv. 3, 5, vi. 3, 4; Cicero, De senectute, 16; Juvenal xi. 78; Plutarch, Pyrrhus, 25.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)