Gateway to the Classics: Stories from the History of Rome by Emily Beesly
Stories from the History of Rome by  Emily Beesly

The Gulf in the Forum

S OME years after the taking of Rome by the Gauls, the people of Rome were greatly troubled by a strange thing that happened in the city.

The ground in the middle of the Forum, or market place, split and sunk down to a great depth, leaving a large hole or gulf so deep that no man could tell where the bottom of it might be. The Romans tried to fill it up, and threw in cartloads of earth and stones; but it was of no use. However much they threw in, the gulf still seemed to be as deep as ever; do what they would, they could not find the bottom.

So wonderful a thing, the people thought, must be caused by the anger of the gods. They enquired of the prophets, and begged them to pray to the gods, and to say what the Roman people must do to win pardon.

At last the prophets brought their answer, which was as follows:—

"If the Roman people would have their republic last for ever, let them throw into the gulf the best and most precious thing that there is in Rome."

Then all the people began to consult and talk together, that they might find out what was the most precious thing in Rome. Some said gold, and others jewels, and others corn. Some said one thing and some another.

But a brave young man called Marcus Curtius came forward, and said,

"There is nothing in Rome so precious as the brave heart and good weapons of a Roman."

Then, when all were silent, he looked at the temples of the gods that stood on the Capitol and could be seen from the Forum, and stretching his hands out first towards heaven and then towards the deep gulf at his feet, he vowed to sacrifice himself for Rome.

He then put on his armour, and mounting his good horse rode to the gulf and leaped in, while crowds of men and women flung fruit and flowers in after him. The earth closed over him; and for hundreds of years afterwards the place where the gulf had been was called the Curtian Pool.

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