11. C. Cassius
Longinus, the murderer of Julius Caesar, is sometimes represented as the son of the preceding [No. 10], but this is quite uncertain.
He first appears in history as the quaestor of Crassus in his unfortunate campaign against the Parthians in B. C. 53, in which he greatly distinguished himself by his prudence and military skill ; and if his advice had been followed by Crassus, the result of the campaign would probably have been very different. Indeed at first he attempted to dissuade Crassus from invading the country of the Parthians at all, and recommended him to take up a strong position on the Euphrates.
In the fatal battle of Carrhae Cassius commanded one of the wings of the Roman army, and recommended the Roman general to extend his line, in order to prevent the enemy from attacking them on their flank, and likewise to distribute cavalry on the wings; but here again his advice was not followed.
After the defeat of the Roman army, Cassius and the legate, Octavius, conducted the remnants of it back to Carrhae, as Crassus had entirely lost all presence of mind, and was incapable of giving any orders. So highly was Cassius thought of by the Roman soldiers, that they offered him in Carrhae the supreme command of the army; but this he declined, although Crassus, in his despondency, was quite willing to resign it.
In the retreat from Carrhae, which they were soon afterwards obliged to make, Crassus was misled by the guides, and killed [CRASSUS, p. 878]; but Cassius, suspecting treachery, returned to Carrhae, and thence made his escape to Syria with 500 horsemen by another way.
After crossing the Euphrates, he collected the remains of the Roman army, and made preparations to defend the province against the Parthians.
The enemy did not cross the river till the following year, B. C. 52, and then only with a small force, which was easily driven back by Cassius, upon whom the government of the province had devolved as proquaestor, as no successor to Crassus had yet been appointed. Next year, B. C. 5], the Parthians again crossed the river, with a much larger army, under the command of Osaces and Pacorus, the son of Orodes, the Parthian king. As M. Bibulus, who had been appointed proconsul of Syria, had not yet arrived, the conduct of the war again devolved upon Cassius.
He thought it more prudent to retire at first before the Parthians, and threw himself into the strongly fortified city of Antioch; and when the barbarians withdrew finding it impossible to take the place, he followed them, and gained, in September, a brilliant victory over them. Osaces died a few days after of the wounds which he had received in the battle, and the remains of the army fled in confusion across the Euphrates. Cicero, who commanded in the neighbouring province of Cilicia, was now delivered from the great fear he had entertained of being obliged to meet the Parthians himself, and accordingly wrote to Cassius to congratulate him on his success (ad Fam.
15.14.3), but notwithstanding this attempted, in every possible way, to rob him of the honour of the victory. (Ad Fam.
3.8, 8.10, ad Att.
5.21.) On the arrival of Bibulus, Cassius returned to Italy.
He expected to be accused of extortion; and he was generally supposed, and apparently with justice, to have fleeced the provincials unmercifully.
But the breaking out of the civil war, almost immediately afterwards, saved him from the accusation which he dreaded.
In B. C. 49 Cassius was tribune of the plebs.
He was a supporter of the aristocratical party, and, with the rest of the leaders of that party, left Rome in the month of January.
He crossed over to Greece with Pompey in the month of March, and subsequently received the command of the Syrian, Phoenician, and Cilician ships.
With these he went to Sicily in the following year, B. C. 48, where he burnt off Messana thirty-five ships, commanded by the Caesarian, M. Pomponius, and subsequently five ships belonging to the squadron of Sulpicius and Libo.
After that he made many descents upon the coasts of Sicily and Italy, till the news of the battle of Pharsalia obliged him to put a stop to his devastations.
Cassius sailed to the Hellespont, with the hope of inducing Pharnaces to join him against Caesar; but in that sea he accidentally fell in with Caesar, and although he had a much larger force, he was so much astonished and alarmed at meeting with the conqueror, that he did not attempt to make any resistance, but surrendered himself unconditionally into his power. Caesar not only forgave hint, but made him soon afterwards one of his legates. Whether Cassius took part in the Alexandrian war, is unknown; but he appears to have been engaged in that against Pharnaces. In B. C. 46 he remained in Rome, as he did not wish to accompany Caesar to Africa in order to fight against his former friends, and he was busily engaged during this time in studying along with Cicero.
In the following year, B. C. 45, he retired from Rome to Brundisium, waiting to hear the result of the struggle in Spain, and intending to return to Rome on the first news of the victory of the dictator. During this time he and Cicero kept up a diligent correspondence with one another. (Cic. Fam. 17-19
; comp. ad Att.
In B. C. 44 Cassius was praetor peregrinus, and was to receive the province of Syria next year.
But although his life had been spared, and he was thus raised to honours by Caesar, yet he was the author of the conspiracy against the dictator's life.
He was said to have been deeply aggrieved, because M. Brutus, although his junior, had been appointed by Caesar as city praetor, in preference to himself; but this slight only exasperated the feelings he had previously entertained.
He had never ceased to be Caesar's enemy, and Caesar seems to have looked upon him with more mistrust than upon most of his former foes (comp. Plut. Caes. 62
; Vell. 2.56
). One thing, however, is clear, that it was mere personal hatred and ambition which urged on Cassius to take away the dictator's life; and that a love of country and of liberty was a sheer pretext. His groat object was to gain over M. Brutus, the dictator's favourite, and when this was done, everything else was easily arranged.
In the bloody tragedy of the 15th of March, Cassius took a distinguished part. When the conspirators pressed round Caesar, and one of them hesitated to strike, Cassius called out " Strike, though it be through me," and he himself is said to have wounded Caesar in the face.
After the murder the conspirators fled to the Capitol; but they were bitterly disappointed in finding that the supreme power fell into the hands of Antony, who was supported by the army of Lepidus, which was in the neighbourhood of the city. [LEPIDUS, p. 767.] A hollow agreement was patched up between Antony and the conspirators, in consequence of which the latter left the Capitol; but the riots which broke out at Caesar's funeral showed the conspirators that even their lives were not safe in Rome. Many of them immediately quitted the city, but Cassius and Brutus remained behind, till the attempts of the Pseudo-Marius, who was executed by Marius, hastened their departure in the middle of April. They did not, however, go far, but flattering themselves with the hope that there might be some change in their favour, they remained for the next four months in Latium and Campania.
As praetors, they ought of course to have continued in Rome; and the senate, anxious to make it appear that they had not fled from the city, passed a decree on the 5th of June, by which they were commissioned to purchase corn in Sicily and Asia. But Cassius looked upon this as an insult in the guise of a favour. About the same time he and Brutus received Cyrene and Crete as praetorian provinces, but this was a poor compensation for the provinces of Syria and Macedonia, the former of which Caesar had promised to Cassius and the latter to Brutus, but which had now been assigned to Dolabella and Antony respectively. Resolving to make a final effort to regain the popular favour, Brutus celebrated the Ludi Apollinares with extraordinary splendour in the month of July; but as this was not followed by the expected results, they resolved to leave Italy. They accordingly published a decree, in which they resigned their office as praetors, and declared that they would for the future live in banishment, in order to preserve the harmony of the state.
This, however, was only done to excite odium against Antony. Instead of going to the provinces which had been assigned to them by the senate, Brutus went into Macedonia, and Cassius hastened to take possession of Syria before Dolabella could arrive there. In Asia Cassius received the support of the proconsul L. Trebonius, and of the quaestor P. Lentulus Spinther, who supplied him with money. On his arrival in Syria, where his former victories over the Parthians had gained him a great reputation, Cassius soon collected a considerable army.
He was joined by the troops of Caecilius Bassus, the Pompeian, as well as by those of the Caesarian generals, who had for some years been carrying on war against one another. [BASSUS, CAECILIUS.] His army was still further strengthened by the addition of four legions, commanded by A. Allienus, the legate of Dolabella, and which went over to Cassius in Judea, at the beginning of B. C. 43. Cassius was now prepared to meet Dolabella; he was at the head of twelve legions, besides the troops which he had brought with him into Syria.
The senate, meantime, who had come to an open rupture with Antony, confirmed Cassius in his province, and entrusted to him the conduct of the war against Dolabella.
The latter, after he had killed Trebonius in Smyrna, entered Syria in the month of April.
After an unsuccessful attack upon Antioch, he obtained possession of Laodiceia, where he maintained himself for a short time; but the town was soon afterwards betrayed to Cassius, and Dolabella, to avoid falling into the hands of his enemies, ordered one of his soldiers to put him to death.
The inhabitants of Laodiceia, as well as those of Tarsus, which had also submitted to Dolabella, were obliged to purchase their pardon by large contributions.
Cassius now proposed to march against Cleopatra in Egypt; but Brutus summoned him to his assistance, in consequence of the formation of the celebrated triumvirate, in the month of October, by Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus.
After appointing his brother's son, L. Cassius Longinus, governor of Syria, and leaving him one legion, he set out with the rest of his forces to join Brutus. They met at Smyrna, and there concerted measures for the prosecution of the war. Brutus was anxious to proceed at once into Macedonia, but Cassius was of opinion that they should first put down all the friends of the triumvirs in Asia, and not proceed further till they had increased their army and fleet, and obtained further resources by plundering the provinces.
The latter plan was resolved upon, and Rhodes, which had assisted Dolabella, was first destined to feel the vengeance of Cassius.
After conquering the Rhodians in a sea-fight, he obtained possession of their city by treachery, executed fifty of the leading inhabitants, and plundered them so unmercifully that the booty was said to amount to 8500 talents.
This immense sum only whetted still more the appetite of Cassius, and accordingly, on his return to Asia, he imposed upon the province a ten years' tribute, which was to be raised immediately. Meanwhile, the colleague of Cassius, M. Brutus, was employed in the same way in robbing the towns of Lycia; and the liberators of the Roman world made it pay very dearly for its freedom.
At the beginning of the following year, B. C. 42, Brutus and Cassius met again at Sardis, where their armies greeted them with the title of imperators. Here they had some serious differences, and were nearly coming to an open rupture; but the common danger to which they were exposed produced a reconciliation between them. They crossed over the Hellespont, marched through Thrace, and finally took up their position near Philippi in Macedonia. Here Antony also soon appeared with his army, and Octavian followed ten days afterwards. Brutus and Cassius, whose position was far more favourable than that of the enemy, resolved to avoid a battle, and to subdue them by hunger.
But this plan was frustrated by the bold manoeuvres of Antony, who forced them into a general engagement.
The left wing, commanded by Brutus, conquered Octavian's forces, and took his camp; but Antony, who commanded the other wing, defeated Cassius and obtained possession of his camp. Cassius himself, supposing all was lost, and ignorant of the success of Brutus, commanded his freedman Pindarus to put an end to his life. Brutus mourned over his companion, calling him the last of the Romans, and caused him to be buried in Thasos.
Cassius was married to Junia Tertia or Tertulla, half-sister of his confederate, M. Brutus: she survived him upwards of sixty years, and did not die till the reign of Tiberius, A. D. 22. [JUNIA, No. 3.] Only one of his children is mentioned [See No. 13], and we do not know whether he had any more.
Cassius was a man of literary tastes and habits.
He received instruction in the Greek language and literature from Archelaus of Rhodes, and he both wrote and spoke Greek with facility.
He was a follower of the Epicurean philosophy; but was absteimious and simple in his mode of life. His abilities were considerable; and though he would certainly have been incapable, like Caesar or Augustus, of governing the Roman world, yet he excelled the rest of the conspirators in prudence, resolution, and power of ruling. His campaigns against the Parthians had early gained for him a military reputation, and he was always respected and cheerfully obeyed by his soldiers.
But with all this he had a mean soul.
He was a lover of money, and a lover of self of the worst kind.
In his first government of Syria he was notorious for his rapacity; and when a second time in Asia, he availed himself of the pretext of liberating his country, in order to increase his private fortune by plundering the provincials.
It was his high estimate of himself, his envy of Caesar's position, and mortification at becoming an inferior and a subject, which led him to become a murderer of the greatest man that Rome ever produced.
Cicero, in the passages collected in Orelli's Onomast. Tull.
vol. ii. p. 134, &c.; Plut. Cress.
18, 20, 22, 24, 27, Brut.
39-44; Appian, App. BC 2.88
; Dio Cass. lib. xl.--xlvii. All the authorities are collected in Drumann, Gesch. Roms,
vol. ii. pp. 117-152.