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Cassia gens

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Denarius of Lucius Cassius Longinus, 63 BC. The obverse depicts Vesta. On the reverse, a voter is casting a ballot inscribed V, for uti rogas ("as you propose"). Vesta and the voter are allusions to the election of Longinus Ravilla as prosecutor in the Vestals' scandal of 113.

The gens Cassia was a Roman family of great antiquity. The earliest members of this gens appearing in history may have been patrician, but all those appearing in later times were plebeians. The first of the Cassii to obtain the consulship was Spurius Cassius Vecellinus, in 502 BC. He proposed the first agrarian law, for which he was charged with aspiring to make himself king, and put to death by the patrician nobility. The Cassii were amongst the most prominent families of the later Republic, and they frequently held high office, lasting well into imperial times. Among their namesakes are the Via Cassia, the road to Arretium, and the village of Cassianum Hirpinum, originally an estate belonging to one of this family in the country of the Hirpini.[1]

Their most famous member is Gaius Cassius Longinus, an assassin of Julius Caesar alongside Brutus.


Denarius of Gaius Cassius Longinus, 126 BC. Roma is depicted on the obverse, with a voting urn behind. The reverse shows Libertas holding a pileus and driving a chariot. Both the urn and Libertas refer to the Lex Tabellaria passed by his uncle Longinus Ravilla as tribune of the plebs in 137.

A possible clue to the origin of the Cassii is the cognomen Viscellinus or Vecellinus, borne by the first of this gens to appear in history. It appears to be derived from the town of Viscellium or Vescellium, a settlement of the Hirpini, which is mentioned by Titus Livius in connection with the Second Punic War. The town was one of three captured by the praetor Marcus Valerius Laevinus after they had revolted in 215 BC. Its inhabitants, the Viscellani, are also mentioned by Pliny the Elder. This suggests the possibility that the ancestors of the Cassii were from Hirpinum, or had some other connection with Viscellium. The existence of a substantial estate of the Cassii in Hirpinum at a later time further supports such a connection.[2][3]

Spurius Cassius Vecellinus, thrice consul at the beginning of the Republic, has traditionally been regarded as a patrician, in part because all of the consuls before 366 BC were supposed to have been patricians. The previous year saw the passage of the lex Licinia Sextia, formally permitting the plebeians to stand for the consulship. However, scholars have long suspected that a number of consuls bearing traditionally plebeian names during the nearly century and a half before this law were in fact plebeians, and that the original intent of the lex Licinia Sextia was not to open the consulship to the plebeians, but to require the election of a plebeian consul each year, although this was not permanently achieved for a number of years after its passage. Viscellinus may thus have been a plebeian, who made enemies of the patricians through his efforts at agrarian reform, and his proposed treaty with Rome's allies during his last consulship.[4]

However, this point cannot be definitely settled. Many patrician families had plebeian branches, and it was common for families to vanish into obscurity for decades or even centuries, before returning to prominence in the Roman state. Patricians could also be expelled from their order, or voluntarily go over to the plebeians; but few examples are known. It may be that the sons of Viscellinus were expelled from the patriciate in lieu of being executed, or that they chose to pass over to the plebeians following their father's betrayal and murder.[4][1]

From the imagery on their coins, it appears that the Cassii had a special devotion to the Aventine Triad of Ceres, Liber, and Libera, for whom Spurius Cassius Vecellinus built a temple on the Aventine Hill in 494. Libertas, a goddess associated with Liber and Libera, also features regularly on their coins. She was later the emblem of the Liberatores during the Civil War led by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Brutus against Octavian and Mark Antony.


The principal names of the Cassii during the Republic were Lucius, Gaius, and Quintus. The praenomen Spurius is known only from Spurius Cassius Vecellinus, at the very beginning of the Republic, while Marcus appears in the first century BC.

Branches and cognomina[edit]

The chief family of the Cassii in the time of the Republic bears the name of Longinus. The other cognomina during this time are Parmensis, Sabaco, Varus, and Viscellinus. One of the earliest Roman historians was Lucius Cassius Hemina, whose cognomen—unique in Roman history—comes from a unit of measure of about half a pint, or a quarter litre, perhaps an allusion to his short stature.[5] A number of other surnames are found from the final century of the Republic onwards.[1] The famous censor Lucius Cassius Longinus also used the agnomen Ravilla. A single Caecianus is known; his cognomen shows that he or an ancestor was adopted from the gens Caecia. He might have been related to the Longini as he pictured Ceres on the coins he minted.


This list includes abbreviated praenomina. For an explanation of this practice, see filiation.
Denarius of Lucius Cassius Longinus, 78 BC. Liber is depicted on the obverse, Libera on the reverse. They allude to the Temple of Ceres, Liber and Libera built by Spurius Cassius Vecellinus, and to the Lex Tabellaria of 137.

Early Cassii[edit]

  • Spurius Cassius Vecellinus, consul in 502, 493, and 486 BC, and the first magister equitum in 501; put to death by the patricians after proposing the first agrarian law during his third consulship.
  • Cassii Viscellini, three sons of the consul Viscellinus, whose praenomina are unknown, were spared by the senate after the murder of their father. They or their descendants may have been expelled by the patricians from their order, or have voluntarily passed over to the plebeians.[6][7]

Cassii Longini[edit]


Denarius of Lucius Cassius Caecianus, 102 BC. On the obverse is Ceres, while the reverse shows a yoke of oxen, an allegory of agriculture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sumner thought that the moneyer was also the consul of 124 BC, but according to Crawford, he would have already been too old in 127.
  2. ^ Sumner suggested that L. Cassius, military tribune in 69, was a son of Gaius, consul in 96,[19] but Broughton later identified him with L. Longinus, praetor in 66.[20] Broughton was also less certain than Crawford and Sumner that the praetor should be identified with L. Cassius Q. f., monetalis in 78.[21][22][19]
  3. ^ It is unknown whether he was one of the Longini, neither Broughton nor Sumner gives his family connections with the other Cassii.


  1. ^ a b c Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. I, pp. 621, 622 ("Cassia Gens").
  2. ^ Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, xxiii. 37.
  3. ^ Gaius Plinius Secundus, Historia Naturalis, iii. 11. s. 16; Lib. Col. p. 235.
  4. ^ a b Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, pp. 252–256.
  5. ^ John Briscoe, in Cornell (ed.), Fragments of the Roman Historians, vol. I, p. 220.
  6. ^ Dionysius, viii. 80.
  7. ^ Niebuhr, History of Rome, ii. 166 ff., Lectures on the History of Rome, 189 ff. (ed. Schmitz).
  8. ^ Zonaras, viii. 14.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Sumner 1973, p. 50
  10. ^ Livy xliv.16
  11. ^ Fasti Capitolini, AE 1927, 101; 1940, 59, 60.
  12. ^ Broughton, vol. I, pp. 485, 502, 507, 510, 534-537.
  13. ^ Cassiodorus, Chronica.
  14. ^ Velleius Paterculus, i. 15.
  15. ^ Crawford 2001, pp. 316, 317
  16. ^ Cicero, Pro Plancio, 21.
  17. ^ RE, vol. III (2), col. 1680 (Cassius 12).
  18. ^ Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage, pp. 370, 371.
  19. ^ a b Sumner 1973, p. 50.
  20. ^ Broughton, vol. III, p. 50.
  21. ^ Broughton, vol. III, p. 51.
  22. ^ a b Crawford 2001, p. 403.
  23. ^ Asconius Pedianus, In Ciceronis in Toga Candida, 82 (ed. Orelli).
  24. ^ Appian, Bellum Civile, ii. 4.
  25. ^ Sallust Bellum Catilinae, 17, 44, 50.
  26. ^ Cicero, In Catilinam, iii. 4, 6, 7, Pro Sulla, 13, 19.
  27. ^ Broughton, vol. II, pp. 229, 237, 242, 259, 320, 327, 343, 344, 360, 369.
  28. ^ Broughton, vol. II, pp. 275, 324.
  29. ^ Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage, p. 440.
  30. ^ Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage, p. 452.
  31. ^ Plutarch, "The Life of Brutus", 14.
  32. ^ Appian, Bellum Civile, iv. 63, 135.
  33. ^ Hirtius, De Bello Alexandrino, 52, 57.
  34. ^ Cicero, Philippicae, iii. 10.
  35. ^ Broughton, vol. II, pp. 280, 319.
  36. ^ Fasti Capitolini, AE 1927, 101; 1940, 59, 60.
  37. ^ a b Fasti Ostienses, CIL XIV, 244.
  38. ^ Livy, xliv. 31.
  39. ^ Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage, pp. 325, 326.
  40. ^ Broughton, vol. II, p. 26.
  41. ^ SIG, 747.
  42. ^ Broughton, vol. II, p. 114.
  43. ^ Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, xiii. 52.
  44. ^ Senatus Consultum de Nundinis Saltus Beguensis, CIL III, 270.
  45. ^ a b c Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. I, pp. 1028–1032 ("Dion Cassius Cocceianus").
  46. ^ Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage, p. 513.
  47. ^ Cassius Dio, lxxiv. 9.
  48. ^ AE 1985, 821
  49. ^ PLRE, vol. I, p. 253.


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