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Gaius Cassius Longinus

(3 October 85 - 3 October 42 BCE)

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Denarius with the image of Cassius.
Author: Carlomorino | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Gaius Cassius Longinus was born on October 3, 85 BCE. He was a Roman commander, one of Caesar’s assassins who later fought against the Second Triumvirate. One of the last defenders of the republic.

Youth and private life

Little is known about the early life of Gaius Cassius. We know the story that as a young boy he argued with the son of the dictator Sulla about tyranny while in school. Thus, from a young age, he showed aversion to autocracy. He studied philosophy on the island of Rhodes with the philosopher Archelaos from Athens, which over time resulted in proficiency in Greek. Cassius also became a follower of epicureanism.

Gaius Cassius married Junia Tertia (Tertulla), daughter of Serwilla – mother of Brutus. They had a son who was born around 60 BCE.

Political career

His political career was initially related to the activities of the richest Roman of that time – Marcus Crassus. Gaius Cassius became quaestor in Crassus’ army and distinguished himself in the war with the Parthians in 53 BCE. He was one of the few to survive the battle at the Carrhae. In 50 BCE he returned to Rome, where in 49 BCE he was named people’s tribune. In 49 BCE in Greece he was appointed fleet commander under the orders of Pompey the Great – thus facing Caesar in the civil war (his brother Lucius Cassius sided with Caesar). Gaius Cassius, at the head of his fleet, was destroyed in 48 BCE. much of Caesar’s ships. He spent the rest of the war off the coast of Italy, constantly attacking Caesar’s fleet. After Pompey’s defeat of at Pharsalus in 48 BCE he went towards the Dardanelles with a plan to reunite with King of Pontus Pharnakes II. Cassius was caught, however. Julius Caesar forgave Cassius, appointed him his legate, and sent him to fight against the same ruler. Cassius later refused to fight against Cato the Younger and Metellus Scipio in Africa and settled in Rome.

For the next two years, Cassius held no office. During this time, he developed a closer relationship with Cicero, who, like him and Brutus, had pro-republican views. In 44 BCE was elected praetor peregrinus with the promise of being administered to the province of Syria. At the same time, Brutus became the praetor urbanus which offended Cassius.

On Cassius’ initiative, a conspiracy began to form against Caesar, ultimately led by Marcus Brutus. During March ides 44 BCE the conspirators killed Caesar and Cassius struck a blow to the chest. According to some sources, Cassius wanted to kill Antony as well, but Brutus did not agree. The killers’ victory was short-lived, however, as Marcus Antony seized power and turned the people against them. Cassius and Brutus had to escape from the city.

Fighting Caesarians

Cassius’ popularity in the east made it easier for him and Brutus to assemble an army from the provincial governors. In 43 BCE Cassius was to face 12 legions of Publius Cornelius Dolabella. After Caesar’s death, this Roman officer initially supported his murderers, but later sided with Marcus Antony, who appointed him governor of Syria. Between 44 and 43 BCE took Smyrna (now Izmir) and killed its governor, Gaius Trebonius, for which the Roman Senate declared him an enemy public and sent troops against him under the command of Cassius Longinus. In the Battle of Laodicea (Syria), Dolabella’s troops were defeated, and he himself died a suicide. Now Cassius had an open road to Egypt. However, following the formation of the Triumvirate II, Brutus asked for support. They joined forces and Brutus was appointed governor in Syria.

Caesar’s assassins decided to attack the forces of the triumvirs in Asia. Cassius struck and took Rhodes when Brutus took over from Lycia. In 42 BCE there was a regrouping of troops in Sardis, where the armies named them emperors. The troops crossed the Dardanelle, marched through Thrace, and crashed near Philippi in Macedonia.

There was also a battle. Brutus successfully battled Octavian when Cassius was defeated by Antony. During the Battle of Philippi, in the ensuing confusion, Cassius, thinking that triumvir soldiers were approaching and Brutus failed to avoid captivity, ordered a slave to stab him with his sword on October 3, 42 BCE. As it turned out, however, they were his soldiers.

Brutus remembered him as “the last of the Romans” and buried him in Thasos.

Sources
  • Plutarch, Brutus
  • Syme Ronald, Rewolucja rzymska, Poznań 2009

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