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Cassius

Cassius (kăshˈəs) [key], ancient Roman family. There were a number of well-known members. Spurius Cassius Viscellinus, d. c.485 B.C., seems to have been consul several times. In 493 B.C. he negotiated a treaty establishing equal military assistance between Rome and the Latin cities. In 486 he proposed that land be distributed equally among the Roman and the Latin poor (see agrarian laws). It is said that the patricians, outraged at the suggestion, accused Cassius of royal aspirations and had him executed. A descendant, Quintus Cassius Longinus, d. 45 B.C., won a reputation for greed and corruption when he was a quaestor in Spain (54 B.C.). He and Antony, as tribunes in 49 B.C., vetoed the attempts of the senate to deprive Julius Caesar of his army. When the senate overrode the tribunes on Jan. 7, 49 B.C., Cassius and Antony fled to Caesar, who crossed the Rubicon and began the civil war. After Caesar's triumph, Cassius was given (47 B.C.) a post in Farther Spain. There was a rebellion against him, and Caesar had to come from Italy to put it down. Cassius died in a shipwreck. Best known of all was Caius Cassius Longinus, d. 42 B.C., leader in the successful conspiracy to assassinate Julius Caesar. He fought as a quaestor under Marcus Licinius Crassus (see under Crassus, family) at Carrhae in 53 B.C. and saved what was left of the army after the battle. He supported Pompey against Caesar but was pardoned after the battle of Pharsalus. He was made (44 B.C.) peregrine praetor and Caesar promised to make him governor of Syria. Before the promise could be fulfilled, Cassius had become ringleader in the plot to kill Caesar. The plot involved more than 60 men (including Marcus Junius Brutus, Publius Servilius Casca, and Lucius Tillius Cimber) and was successfully accomplished in the senate on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. When the people were aroused by Antony against the conspirators, Cassius went to Syria. He managed to capture Dolabella at Laodicea and coordinated his own movements with those of Brutus. Antony and Octavian (later Augustus) met them in battle at Philippi. In the first engagement Cassius, thinking the battle lost, committed suicide. Another of the conspirators was Caius Cassius Parmensis, d. 30 B.C. He fought at Philippi and later with Sextus Pompeius. He later sided with Antony in the naval battle off Actium and was killed by order of Octavian.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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