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Cassius, Conspirator

My coin of interest today was issued by Gaius Cassius Longinus not long before Mark Antony defeated him at Philippi where he committed suicide. Cassius is named as the leading instigator of the plot to kill Julius Caesar by Plutarch and Appian, but other sources lean to Brutus or are more vague. According to Plutarch, he had both personal and political grievances against Caesar. Cassius was married to Junia Tertia, the daughter of Servilia & Decimus Junius Silanus and half-sister to Brutus, son of Servilia and Marcus Junius Brutus.

"But Cassius, a man of violent temper, and rather a hater of Caesar on his own private account than a hater of tyranny on public grounds, fired him up and urged him on. Brutus, it is said, objected to the rule, but Cassius hated the ruler, and among other charges which he brought against him was that of taking away some lions which Cassius had provided when he was about to be aedile..."
-Plutarch, Lives. Brutus VIII 

"from the outset there was in the nature of Cassius great hostility and bitterness towards the whole race of tyrants, as he showed when he was still a boy and went to the same school with Faustus the son of Sulla. For when Faustus blustered among the boys and bragged about his father’s absolute power, Cassius sprang up and gave him a thrashing."
-Plutarch, Lives. Brutus IX 

Broughton's Magistrates of the Roman Republic, lists Cassius and Brutus as quaestors in 53 BC.

Broughton is an indispensable reference to Roman republican magistrates. The numbers in parentheses after the magistrates name refer to another essential reference, Pauly's Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft (often referenced simply as RE) e.g. Cassius 59; Iunia 53


Cassius had served in Carrhae a disastrous battle for the Romans against Parthia in 53 BC.

"He (Crassus) had crossed the Euphrates and was now marching toward Seleucia when he was surrounded by King Orodes with his innumerable bands of cavalry and perished together with the greater part of his army.​132 Remnants of the legions were saved by Gaius Cassius — (he was later the perpetrator of a most atrocious crime [against Julius Caesar],​ but was at that time quaestor) — who not only retained Syria in its allegiance to the Roman people, but succeeded, by a fortunate issue of events, in defeating and putting to rout the Parthians when they crossed its borders."
-Velleius Paterculus, 2.46.4 

Cassius rescued the otherwise humiliating loss, and went on the be proquaestor in Syria where he was successful in holding back subsequent Parthian attacks. He returned to Rome and was tribune of people in 49 BC when the first triumvirate degenerated into a civil war between Caesar and Pompey.


Cicero writing to his friend Atticus describes the situation at the end of 50 BC - Caesar returning from success in Rome and Pompey and his allies stacking the deck against him in Rome:

"The political situation alarms me deeply, and so far I have found scarcely anybody who is not for giving Caesar what he demands rather than fighting it out. The demand is impudent no doubt, but more moderate than was expected (?). And why should we start standing up to him now? ‘Sure, ’tis no worse a thing’ than when we gave him his five years extension or when we brought in the law authorizing his candidature in absentia. Or did we put these weapons into his hands only to fight him now that he is equipped and ready?"
-Cicero Letters to Atticus, LCL 8: 208-209, 129 (VII.6), Formiae, ca. 18 December 50

Cicero reports that Cassius went to Capua on February 7th with the supporters of Pompey "with a message for the Consuls instructing them to go to Rome, remove the money from the Inner Treasury, and leave again at once." (Letters to Atticus 145 (VII.21) Cales, 8 February 49). Cassius commanded the Syrian fleet for Pompey in the civil war. After Pompey's defeat in Pharsalus, Cassius defected to Caesar and was pardoned. Caesar seems to have been very lenient in forgiving his enemies.


The Cassia gens

Roman Republican, C. Cassius, 126 BC, AR denarius, Rome mint

Obv: Helmeted head of Roma right; to left, mark of value above voting urn

Rev: C CASSI, Libertas, holding vindicta and pileus, driving quadriga right, ROMA in exergue

Ref: Crawford 266/1; Sydenham 502; Cassia 1; RBW 1075


The Cassia gens was a prominent family in the later republic with many consuls (and moneyers). This tree highlights a subset close to the line of our subject of interest today (Julius Caesar's assassins):

Cassius served as legate to Caesar in the Alexandrine War, although Cicero, after the death of Caesar, suggests that Cassius was not exactly a loyal follower:

"Caius Cassius, a man of that family which could not endure, I will not say the domination, but even the power of any individual,— he,I suppose, was in need of me to instigate him? a man who, even without the assistance of these other most illustrious men, would have accomplished this same deed in Cilicia, at the mouth of the river Cydnus, if Cæsar had brought his ships to that bank of the river which he had intended, and not to the opposite one. "
-Cicero, Philipics, 2.26 

When Brutus and Cassius were rivals for praetorships in 44, Caesar chose Brutus for the more prestigious role, and made Cassius praetor peregrinus and gave him Syria for the following year. This furthered Cassius' displeasure.

"Brutus, however, made the contest supported only by his fair fame and his virtue, as against many brilliant and spirited exploits of Cassius in the Parthian war. But Caesar, after hearing the claims of each, said, in council with his friends: “Cassius makes the juster plea, but Brutus must have the first praetorship.” So Cassius was appointed to another praetorship, but he was not so grateful for what he got as he was angry over what he had lost."
- Plutarch, Life of Brutus, 7 

Vincenzo Camuccini (1771-1884), detail from "La morte di Cesare", oil on canvas, painted between 1804 and 1805, Public domain image, via Wikimedia Commons


Cassius, soon after this, organized with Brutus the conspiracy to assassinate Julius Caesar (15 March 44 BC).

First Servilius Casca stabbed him on the left shoulder a little above the collar bone, at which he had aimed but missed through nervousness. Caesar sprang up to defend himself against him, and Casca called to his brother, speaking in Greek in his excitement. The latter obeyed him and drove his sword into Caesar's side. A moment before Cassius had struck him obliquely across the face. Decimus Brutus struck him through the thigh. Cassius Longinus was eager to give another stroke, but he missed and struck Marcus Brutus on the hand. Minucius, too, made a lunge at Caesar but he struck Rubrius on the thigh. It looked as if they were fighting over Caesar. He fell,under many wounds, before the statue of Pompey, and there was not one of them but struck him as he lay lifeless, to show that each of them had had a share in the deed, until he had received thirty-five wounds, and breathed his last.
-Nicolaus of Damascus, Life of Augustus, 25 

However Brutus had advocated not to kill Caesar's co-consul, Mark Antony, and the conspirators soon had to reconcile with Mark Antony and Octavian. This coin issued by Cassius not long before Mark Antony defeated him at Philippi on October 42 BC, where Cassius, defeated, had a freedman, Pindarus, cut off his head.

Roman Republican, C. Cassius Longinus, AR denarius (3.83g, 20mm), 42 BC, military mint moving with Brutus and Cassius, probably at Smyrna, P. Lentulus Spinther, legatus

Obv: C CASSI IMP / LEIBERTAS, diademed and draped bust of Libertas right.

Rev: LENTVLVS SPINT, capis and lituus

Ref: Crawford 500/3


Although the coin is significantly double struck it is still attractive and key elements are well defined. The obverse showing liberty and declaring Cassius as Imperator. the items on the reverse referring to Cassius as augur. P. Cornelius Lentulus Spinther was the quaestor or proquaestor in Asia during the years 44 and 43 BC. In the spring of 42, Lentulus played an important role in the Rhodian campaign of Cassius also supported Brutus in Lycia.


Spinther is specifically mentioned by Appian as joining the "Liberators" after the murder of Julius Caesar:

The murderers wished to make a speech in the Senate, but as nobody remained there they wrapped their togas around their left arms to serve as shields, and, with swords still reeking with blood, ran, crying out that they had slain a king and tyrant. One of them bore a cap​ on the end of a spear as a symbol of freedom, and exhorted the people to restore the government of their fathers and recall the memory of the elder Brutus and of those who took the oath together against ancient kings. With them ran some with drawn swords who had not participated in the deed, but wanted to share the glory, among whom were Lentulus Spinther, Favonius, Aquinus, Dolabella, Murcus, and Patiscus. These did not share the glory, but they suffered punishment with the guilty. As the people did not flock to them they were disconcerted and alarmed.
-Appian, The Civil Wars, 2.119 

Woytek in Arma et Nummi notes that Crawford makes the suggestion that this issue of Spinther was minted on the occasion of Cassius and Brutus meeting at Smyrna in early 42 BC (RRC p. 741, note 3) further supported by David Sear as "probably at Smyrna". He then goes into a long discussion of the historical evidence, style and legends of types types, and concludes for this coin that is was minted in Asia minor, sometime after Cassius was declared IMPERATOR by his troops, after his victory in Rhodes, and before the second meeting of Brutus and Cassius in Sardes (Summer, 42 BC).


References (in addition to those linked inline)

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