No ancient author mentions a Quintus Curtius Rufus who wrote a history of Alexander the Great, but the manuscripts of Historiae Alexandri Magni name him as the author. Most scholars today, though, think that the Roman politician Curtius Rufus mentioned by Tacitus and Pliny the Younger is the same man as the author of that history.
This Curtius Rufus was a prominent politician in the early empire. From humble beginnings (he was a novus homo and was rumored to be the son of a gladiator), he found success under the emperors. He was elected praetor and became a senator in the reign of Tiberius, and by 43 he was elected consul suffectus. In 47, as a legatus in Germany, he struck silver and was rewarded a triumph by emperor Claudius.
From the Historiae, it can be gathered he had formal rhetorical training, as many of the passages look very similar to Seneca the Elder’s Suasoriae.
As an old man, he was granted proconsulship of Africa, where he lived out his remaining days.
The Historiae Alexandri Magni is a work of history in ten books. What remains begins with book III in 333 BCE, though summaries of books I & II, which covered Alexander’s youth, the destruction of Thebes, and the Battle at Granicus, exist.
The rest of the book narrates the conquest of the Persian Empire in chronological order until the death of Alexander in 323.
Curtius Rufus’ legacy in antiquity is best felt in Tacitus’ Annales. Not only did Tacitus dwell on Curtius Rufus’ career, but in his own history are numerous intertextual allusions to Curtius’ Historiae. Other than these allusions, antiquity is silent on the work. It would take until the Medieval era for the Historiae Alexandri Magni, despite large gaps in the text, to become immensely popular.
Latin: PHI Latin Texts
Books & Articles
- J. C. Yardley & J. E. Atkinson 2009. Curtius Rufus: Histories of Alexander the Great, Book 10. Oxford: Clarendon Press.