Curtius, Quintus

, is the name, or assumed name, of a Latin historian, who has written the actions of Alexander the Great, in ten books; the two first of which are indeed not extant, but yet are so well supplied by Freinshemius, as to be thought equal to the others. Where this author was born, and when he lived, are disputed points among the learned, and never likely to be settled. Some have fancied, from the elegant style of his history, that he must have lived in or near the Augustan age; but there are no explicit testimonies to confirm this opinion; 'and a judgment formed upon the single circumstance of style will always be found precarious. Others place him in the reign of Vespasian, and others have brought him down so low as to Trajan’s: Gibbon is inclined to place him in the time of Gordian, in the middle of the third century; and some have imagined that the name of Quintus | Curtius was forged by an Italian, who composed that history, or romance as it has been called, about three hundred years ago; yet why so good a Latin writer, who might have gained the reputation of the first Latin scholar of his time, should have been willing to sacrifice his glory to that of an imaginary Quintus Curtius, is a question yet to be resolved. On the other hand it is certain that Quintus Curtius was an admired historian of the romantic ages. He is quoted in the “Policraticon” of John of Salisbury, who died in the year 1181; and Peter Blesensis, archdeacon of London, a student at Paris, about 1150, mentioning the books most common in the schools, declares that “he profited much by frequently looking into this author.” All this is decidedly against the opinion that Quintus Curtiuis a forgery of only three hundred years old.

Cardinal du Perron was so great an admirer of this historian, that he declared one page of him to be worth thirty of Tacitus. This extravagant admiration, however, may be somewhat abated by a view of what Le Clerc has written about this author, at the end of his book upon the art of of criticism; in which are manifestly shewn several great faults in him, ignorance of astronomy and geography, contradictions, erroneous descriptions, bad taste in the choice of matter, carelessness in dating the events, &c. though perhaps, as Bayle rightly observes, the greatest part of those faults might be found in most ancient historians, if one would take the pains, or had the opportunity, to criticise them severely. He has nevertheless many qualities as a writer, which will always make him admired and applauded; and notwithstanding the censures of some critics, this historian deserves to be commended for his sincerity, for he speaks the good and the bad of his hero, without the least prepossession of his merit. If any fault is to be found with his history, it is for being too highly polished.

There is a singular anecdote, relating to this historian, preserved of Alphonso king of Naples, which may be mentioned as another proof of what we have advanced above, respecting the forgery of Quintus Curtius. This prince, who lived in the thirteenth century, labouring under an indisposition at Capua, from which none of his physicians could relieve him, every one strove to bring him such things as they thought would divert him best. Antonius Panormita made choice of books, and among the rest, the history of Alexander, by Quintus Curtius. To | this the prince listened very attentively, and was so extremely pleased with it, that he almost entirely recovered the very first day it was read to him. Upon which occasion he could not help rallying his physicians, and telling them, that whatever they might think of their Hippocrates and their Avicenna, Quintus Curtius was worth a thousand of them.

The first edition of this author was printed in 1470. The best editions of more modern date, are the Elzevir, 12mo, 1633 and 1653 Freinsheim’s, 1640, 2 vols. 8vo, and those of Kapp, 1640, 4to; Cellarius, 1688-91-96, 12mo, and Snakenburg, 1724, 4to. We have a very old English translation by John Brende, dated 1561; a second by Codrington, 1670; and a third more modern, by Digby, 2 vols. 12mo. 1


Gen. Dict. in art. Quintus.—Moreri.—Warton’s Hist. of Poetry.—Saxii Onomast.