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Curtius, Mettus

A Roman youth, who devoted himself, for his country, to the Manes, B.C. 362. According to the account given by Livy (vii. 6), the ground near the middle of the Forum, in consequence either of an earthquake or some other violent cause, sank down to an immense depth, forming a vast aperture; nor could the gulf be filled up by all the earth which could be thrown into it. At last the soothsayers declared that, if the Romans wished the commonwealth to be everlasting, they must devote to this chasm what constituted the principal strength of the Roman people. Curtius, on hearing the answer, demanded of his countrymen whether they possessed anything so valuable as their arms and courage. They yielded a silent assent to the question put them; whereupon, having arrayed himself in full armour and mounted his horse, Curtius plunged into the chasm, and the people threw after him their offerings and quantities of the fruits of the earth. Valerius Maximus (v. 6, 2) states that the earth closed immediately over him. Livy , however, speaks of a lake occupying the spot, called Lacus Curtius. In another part of his history (i. 13), he mentions this same lake as existing in the time of Romulus, and as having derived its name from Mettus Curtius, a Sabine in the army of Titus Tatius. In all probability it was of volcanic origin, since the early accounts speak of its great depth, and was not produced merely by the inundations of the Tiber. Tarquinius Priscus is said to have filled up this lake at the time that he drained the whole of this district and constructed the Cloaca Maxima. Possibly he may have been aided in this by a natural tunnel gradually formed through the basin of the lake itself.

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