The story of Marcus Curtius is derived from Livy. He described how soothsayers in Rome predicted that a chasm in the Roman Forum from which poisonous fumes escaped, could only be closed if Rome's 'greatest treasure' were sacrificed. In order to prove that nothing was more valuable than a brave citizen, Marcus Curtius leapt fully armed and on horseback into the chasm, which closed behind him.
The centre of this pendant appears to be a mid 16th Century enseigne or hat badge, while the mount is unquestionably late 19th Century in origin. Such hat badges originated as French Court jewels and were originally derived from pilgrim badges and military signs sewn, or pinned to, caps or sleeves.
Hackenbroch, 1996, loc. cit., points out the great appeal which this heroic scene would have had for those shouldering political and patriotic responsibility. Certainly the Emperor, Maximillian I, owned an enseigne, or Zaichen with a scene of the hero, which was listed in a posthumous inventory, drawn up on 27 December 1544.