Cassius and Pompey’s Relationship

I was reading the Cicero’s letters from 50 BCE as he’s preparing to leaving his province (was looking for a reference on Credit systems I half remember, haven’t found it yet).

Now I’m worried I’ve misinterpreted Q. Cassius’ political position in 55 BCE in my forthcoming book and am wondering if it is too late to tweak it before it comes out: typescript is submitted and we should be in production soon.

I’ve read Cassius’ types (RRC 428/1-3) as a rejection of the (so-called) First Triumvirate…  BUT how the heck does that square with this (Cic. Att. 6.6.4):

“… Then there is this consideration: Pompey— so strong a man and in so secure a position—selected Q. Cassius without regard to the lot; Caesar did the same in the case of Antony: was I to put such a slight on one regularly assigned me by lot…”

Was his selection by Pompey a ‘gift’ to “win friends and influence people”?  Is this Pompey trying to bring Cassius over to his ‘side’?  OR, was Cassius already entangled with Pompey and I’m reading his types all wrong.  Then again by 49 50 he’s clearly a Caesarean….DPRR (below) doesn’t take into consideration Shakleton Bailey’s work in Cicero’s letters: 6.8 dates to 1 Oct 50 BCE and was written from Ephesus.

Batonius, however, brought news about Caesar that is really terrifying, and he enlarged still more on the subject in Conversation with Lepta. I hope what he said was false, but it is certainly alarming: that he would on no account dismiss his army; that Of the magistrates-elect the praetors, Cassius the tribune, Lentulus the consul, side with him; that Pompey is thinking of leaving the city.

I just don’t know what to make of this (yet) and it bothers me.

Here’s the DPRR entry:



Here’s the portion of the book as sent to the publisher already:

2.23. RRC 428/2, 55 BCE, denarius, 3.82 grams, ANS 1948.19.203; obverse: head of Libertas, Q·CASSIVS before, LIBERT behind; reverse: temple of Vesta with curule chair inside, flanked by urn and voting ballot with A C; moneyer: probably Q. Cassius Longinus, q. 52 BCE.

Other types of these two years [i.e. 56-55 BCE] that seem to be in opposition to the ascendancy of Pompey and the ‘triumvirate’ simultaneously memorialize the actions of the moneyer’s own ancestors, and promote alternate values which have a central position for both the state and the moneyer’s own family. Q. Cassius Longinus celebrates three major acts in the career of his ancestor L. Cassius Longinus Ravilla, consul of 127 BCE. As tribune in 137 BCE, he carried a law that extended the use of the secret ballot to public trials. Cicero sums up the controversy in 56 BCE around this historical act thus:

The people thought their liberty was at stake; the leading men (principes) dissented, and for the safety of the best men (optimatium), they feared the audacity of the multitude, and the license of the secret ballot. (Cicero, For Sestius 103; author’s translation)[1]

Just as in Cicero’s rhetoric, one of the coins explicitly juxtaposes the image of Libertas, the personification of liberty, with the images of the secret ballot (2.23).[2] The moneyer of 55 BCE is not the first to refer to the secret ballot on the Republican coin series: in fact there are numerous other references, including two by other members of his own gens (4.4.1).[3] The other ‘popular’ act of Ravilla was his service as chief judge against the delinquent Vestal Virgins in 113 BCE: he condemned two Vestals, Marcia and Licinia, previously exonerated by the pontifex maximus, L. Caecilius Metellus, who had only condemned Aemilia.[4] Cassius may have chosen to emphasize this trial partly because of how it disgraced the Licinii Crassi, the family of his pro-Pompeian fellow-moneyer and Pompey’s own co-consul. Their ancestor, the famous orator Crassus, failed to aid their other family member, the Vestal Licinia, even with his powerful, well-remembered defense.[5] Why was the condemnation of the Vestals ‘popular’? The well-being of the community was as a whole dependent on maintaining correct relations with the gods (cf. 4.2.1). To exonerate guilty Vestals because of pressures from their elite families endangered the whole community.

2.24. RRC 428/3, 55 BCE, denarius, 3.74 grams, ANS 1944.100.2636; obverse: youthful head of the Genius of the Roman People, scepter over shoulder; reverse: eagle on a thunderbolt, flanked by lituus (augur’s staff) and jug, Q·CASSIVS beneath; moneyer: same as last.  In Roman thought, anyone or almost anything could have a genius (male) or juno (female), an idea encompassing both the guardian spirit and the sacred essence or even soul of that thing or person.

Another coin type alludes to the sovereignty of the Roman people themselves through the image of the Genius of the Roman People with regal scepter and Jupiter’s eagle on a thunderbolt, a common representation of imperium (2.24).[6] In this reference to sovereignty, there may also be an allusion to the lex Cassia of 104 BCE, which removed from the Senate any one condemned by the people or who had their imperium revoked by the Roman people. The law, like the coin type, emphasizes that sovereignty at Rome rests not in the individual or the Senate, but with the people themselves.[7]

[1] He spoke more favorably of it in 65 BCE when defending Cornelius: “The Cassian Law under which the right and power inherent in the suffrage was restored to health and strength”. Preserved in Ascon. 78C. On liberty and the secret ballot, see also Cic. Planc. 16, 54 BCE.

[2] Cf. Feig Vishnia 2008.

[3] Arena 2012: 57; Bruce 1997.

[4] Ascon. 45-46.

[5] Rhet. Her. 4.47 and Cic. Brut. 159.

[6] On sovereignty of the people as a popular position, ANRW 5 (1981): 853 and Cic. Planc. 11, 54 BCE.

[7] Ascon. 78C.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s