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CASSIA gens. - This Roman house, whose coins exist in thrity seven varieties, was at first patrician, afterwards plebeian. Ancient, consular, and surnamed Longinus, this family figures eminently in the republic. It's name of CASSIA appears to have been assumed from Cassis, that is a helmet.
The original silver coins of this family are common - those restored by Trajan are very rare. The brass are asses or parts of the as, struck by the moneyers of Augustus, and by the Colonies. Mionnet describes from Morrell. Thesau. the following denarius of this family: -
Q. CASSIVS. A veiled head of Vesta, on the side VEST.
Rev. - A circular temple, in which is a curule chair; on the right is a vase, and there is on the left a little tablet with the letters A.C. being the initials of the words absolvo (I absolve); condemno (I condemn.)
This bears reference, and is in conformity to the Lex Tabellaria, relative to certain judgements which Quintus Cassius, an ancestor of this family, had carried with great severity against two Vestals charged with misconduct whilst he was a tribune, in the year of Rome 617 (B.C. 137). The vase is the urn destined to receive the tablets on which one of these two letters are written. See Eckhel, v. 166 - see also TABELLAE.
On another denarius of this family, the temple, as in the preceding coin, appears on the reverse; but instead of the headof Vesta, that of Liberty (LIBERT.) is depictured on the obverse as a young female.
C. CASSI. IMP. LIBERTAS. Head of Liberty, with decorated hair, earrings, and necklace. Rev. - LENTVLVS SPINTER. The lituus and the praefericulum. Marked RRRR by Riccio (p.50) who values it, in gold, at thirty piastres.
This and several other coins were struck by Caius Cassius Longinus, commonly call Cassius - named on coins of the Cassia, Cornelia, and Servilia families C. CASSI. IMP. - CASSI. LONGIN. - CASSI. PR. COS. (proconsul). He was born in what was always regarded as one of the most distinguished families of Rome; it is not said in what year. Having joined Pompey against Caesar, he fought under the orders of the former at the battle of Pharsalia, in the year of Rome 706 (B.C. 48). See a notice of his further career below.
The lituus and sacrificial vase on the reverse of this denarius, refer to the augural priesthood of Lentulus Spinter, who, after the murder of the Dictator, openly declared himself a partisan of the conspirators; and when Brutus and Cassius took the field, he joined them, and in their name coined money, with the effigy and legend of Liberty, as is seen by the denarius above engraved.
By the augural insignia on silver coins of Augustus, in which the name of Lentulus appears, it is also evident, not only that he escaped death after the civil conflict at Philippi, but that he was alive B.C. 27, when Octavian assumed the name of exclusive distinction and honor. See Dictionary of G. and R. Biog. and Mythol. by Dr. Smith, ii. 73(?).
On a silver coin of this family, we see on one side the bare head of a young man with long hair, and behind it a sceptre. On the other side an eagle standing on a thunderbolt, between the lituus and praefericulum, with the legend of Q. CASSIVS.
In opposition to far fetched and less probable opinions of the earlier antiquaries, Eckhel points to the sceptrum, the fulmen, and the aquila, as unquestionable and exclusive attributes of Jupiter; and shews other good reasons for concluding that this coin of Quintus Cassius was struck in honor of the young Jove. v. p167.
On a rare denarius of this family, the name and military title of the same C. CASSIVS has for it's obverse type a tripod, with it's cortina (or cauldron), and a little net-work placed upon it. The reverse exhibits the lituus and praefericulum, with the legend LENTVLVS SPINT. as in the foregoing example.
These types have given rise to much imaginative speculation among numismatists of the elder school, but it does not appear that they refer to any other subject than the initiation of C. Cassius into some order of the Roman priesthood.
Obv. - Head of Vesta veiled; before it A, or some isolated letter of the alphabet.
Rev. - LONGINVS IIIVIR. A man, habited in the toga, holding in his left hand a sceptre or a short staff,and in the right hand a tabella, or voting billet, on which is inscribed the letter V (as given in Morell. Thesaur. Fam. Rom. and in the following cut) - before the man is the cista, or basket for depositing the suffrage tablets.
Riccio considers the letter V on these ancient coins to mean Veto, which was the word uttered by the tribune of the plebs, in opposition to some law proposed by the nobles, or by the Senate, against the plebs, to prevent its taking effect. Lucius Cassius obtained this political privilege for the people of Rome, and in commemoration of the event, his descendants struck the present coin, which exhibits the tribune about to deposit the tabella of inhibition.
Cavedoni, on the other hand, is of the opinion, that the said type has referece to the lex tabularia, whereby "the power and weight of votes was strengthened". He regards the letter V is the initial of Volo, which formal word stood for the rogations, velitis jubeatis Quirites, or at least of Uti, Roges being understood. Or else it may refer to another law, viz. "the Lex Cassia, which confirmed the suffrages of the people on judicial questions".
This Cassius Longinus is unknown. The coins are contemperaneous with the last years of the free republic. eckhel, looking to the head of Vesta on the obverse of this denarius, is disposed to assign it's mintage to the Quintus Cassius already mentioned; but the style of the coin brings it to moneyers of a different age. C. CASSI IMP. Female head laureated. Rev. M. SERVILIVS LEG. The aplustrum. in gold RRRR. valued by Riccio at twenty piastres. Same legend and type as the preceding. Rev. M. SERVILIVS LEG. A crab, which holds the aplustrum in it's claws; below it are a flower and a diadem.
These and other coins relate to Caius Cassius, the chief conspirator against, and foremost in the murder of, Julius Caesar 710 (B.C. 44). He received the title of Imperator after the defeat of the Rhodians, friends of the triumvirs, when he was but just returned with his forces to Sardis. In combination with Brutus, he levied a formidable army, and equipped a fine fleet; but although he was conqueror by sea, the triumvirs totally defeated him by land; and Cassius slew himself, or was killed by his own freedman 712 (B.C. 42); notwithstanding the wing of the army, which Brutus commanded at Philippi, had gained possession of the enemy's camp.
The head of Liberty indicates that Cassius and the rest of the conspirators, had, from the time of the assassination, dated the accession of liberty to the people of Rome. The aplustrum, that winged-like ornament of a ship's stern, is the cognizance, or mark of the people of Rhodes, and, placed on this denarius, it alludes to the overthrow of the maritime power of that island by Cassius.