Definitions

Cassius Longinus

Gaius Cassius Longinus

[lon-jahy-nuhs]
For the Roman consul, see Gaius Cassius Longinus (consul 171 BC). For the Roman centurion who pierced Jesus Christ's side with a spear, see Holy Lance

Gaius Cassius Longinus (before 85 BC – October 42 BC) was a Roman senator, the prime mover in the conspiracy against Julius Caesar, and the brother in-law of Brutus.

Biography

Little is known of Gaius Cassius's early life. What we do know is that he was married to the daughter of Servilia Caepionis and half-sister of Brutus, and had one son with her. He studied philosophy at Rhodes under Archelaus and became fluent in Greek. His first office was as quaestor under Marcus Licinius Crassus in 53 BC, and he proved himself to have a capable military mind. He traveled with Crassus to the province of Syria, and attempted to dissuade him from attacking the Parthians, suggesting that they secure a base at the Euphrates. Crassus ignored Cassius and led the army into the Battle of Carrhae, during which he also ignored Cassius' plans for strengthening the Roman line. The result was the most famous Roman rout since the Second Punic War. Cassius managed to save the remnants of the army with the help of Crassus' legate Gaius Octavius. The army in turn tried to make Cassius its new commander, but he refused out of loyalty to Crassus. Crassus was killed by treacherous guides during the retreat from Carrhae, but Cassius managed to escape with 500 cavalry and meet up with the legions once more. For two years afterwards, Cassius governed the province of Syria as proquaestor, defending the border against Parthian incursions until the new proconsul arrived. The last incursion resulted in the death of the Parthian commander Osaces, and split the Parthian troops. Marcus Tullius Cicero, then governor of Cilicia, sent Cassius a note of congratulations for the victory.

On his return to Rome two years later, the outbreak of the civil war between Caesar and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus saved Cassius from being brought to trial by his enemies for extortion in Syria. Cassius was elected tribune of the Plebs in 49 BC, and threw in his lot with the Optimates, fleeing Italy as Caesar crossed the Rubicon. He met Pompey in Greece, and was made commander of his fleet. In 48 BC, Cassius sailed his ships to Sicilia where he attacked and burned a large part of Caesar's navy. He then proceeded to harass ships off the Italian coast. News of Pompey's defeat at the Battle of Pharsalus caused Cassius to head for Hellespont, with hopes of allying with its king, Pharnaces II. Cassius was overtaken by Caesar en route, and was forced to surrender unconditionally.

Caesar made Cassius a legate, employing him in the Alexandrian War against the very same Pharnaces Cassius had hoped to join. However, Cassius refused to join in the fight against Cato and Scipio in Africa, choosing instead to retire to Rome. He spent the next two years without office, and apparently tightened his friendship with Cicero. In 44 BC he became Praetor Peregrinus with the promise of the Syrian province for the ensuing year. The appointment of his junior, Marcus Junius Brutus, as praetor urbanus deeply offended him, and only deepened the hatred and resentment Cassius felt for the dictator. Caesar, though still officially forgiving of Cassius, seems to have mistrusted him. He was one of the busiest conspirators against Caesar, winning over the chief assassins to the cause of tyrannicide. On the Ides of March, 44 BC, Cassius urged on his fellow assassins, and struck Caesar in the face. He and his fellow conspirators referred to themselves as the "Liberators" (Liberatores). The celebration was short-lived, as Antony seized power and turned the public against them.

In April, Cassius fled Rome for the countryside, hoping that Antonius would be overthrown. In June, the Senate assigned Cassius the province of Cyrene in order to give him clearance to leave Italy while retaining his office as praetor. Cassius balked at being given such a small province and resigned his office, stating that he would rather live in exile than under Antonius. He left for his previously assigned province of Syria, which had been reassigned to Publius Cornelius Dolabella at Antony's behest, hoping to take control of it before Dolabella arrived. His reputation in the East made it easy to amass an army from other governors in the area, and by 43 BC he was ready to take on Dolabella with 12 legions. By this point the Senate had split with Antony and cast its lot with Cassius, confirming him as governor of the province. Dolabella attacked but was betrayed by his allies, leading him to commit suicide. Cassius was now secure enough to march on Egypt, but on the formation of the triumvirate, Brutus requested his assistance. Cassius quickly joined Brutus in Smyrna with most of his army, leaving his nephew behind to govern Syria. The conspirators decided to attack the triumviri’s allies in Asia. Cassius set upon and sacked Rhodes, while Brutus did the same to Lycia. They regrouped the following year in Sardis, where their armies proclaimed them imperators. They crossed the Hellespont, marched through Thrace, and encamped near Philippi in Macedon. Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian (later known as Augustus) and Marcus Antonius soon arrived, and Cassius planned to starve them out through the use of their superior position in the country. However, they were forced into a pair of battles by Antony, collectively know as the Battle of Philippi. Brutus was successful against Octavian, and took his camp. Cassius, however, was defeated and overrun by Marcus Antonius. Cassius, unaware of Brutus' victory, gave up all for lost, and ordered his freedman Pindarus to slay him. He was mourned by Brutus as "the Last of the Romans" and buried in Thasos.

In literature

In Dante's Inferno, Cassius is one of three people deemed sinful enough to be chewed in one of the three mouths of Satan, in the very center of Hell, for all eternity. The other two are Brutus and Judas Iscariot, the biblical betrayer of Jesus Christ. (Canto XXXIV) In Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar he is depicted as a manipulative character. Caesar says of him, "Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous." (Act 1, Scene 2, Line 190-195)

References

External links

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