Quintus Curtius Rufus: A different, and uniquely Roman take on Alexander the Great

Mar 2012

Just finished Quintus Curtius Rufus' history of Alexander the Great, tranlation Jon Yardley, and it differs dramatically from those of Arrian, Plutarch, and Faux-Callisthenis, which I have previously read.

A distinctly Roman take on Alexander the Great, it is ultimately as reverential as any, but dwells much more on his faults to get there. Rufus shows us an Alexander that vacillates, and even fears before battles. He gives logical reasons for Alexander's victories over Darius rather than ascribing them to genius or divinity. He dwells on Alexander's poor decisions as encouraged by male and female prostitutes Boagas and Thais, reprimands him for his treatment of Clietus and Parmenion, condemns him for his favor of proskynesis and burning of Persepolis, and even has him losing an engagement and having to retreat in the mountains.

Rufus attributes his failure to establish an heir as his greatest shortcoming, and uses it as an opportunity to prop up the emperor by comparing the Roman imperial system favorably with the diodochi. To me, this is Alexander as filtered through a Roman lense. Alexander may have been the greatest, but he was still a rival.

Curiously, I did some research on the internet, and it is unknown if Rufus was a real person, or merely an alias.

Anyone else read him? What is your take.

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