Avidius Cassius

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Avidius Cassius
Emperor of the Roman Empire
ReignApril to July 175
PredecessorMarcus Aurelius
SuccessorMarcus Aurelius
  • Volusia Vettia Maeciana
Full name
Gaius Avidius Cassius
(from birth to accession);
Imperator Caesar Gaius Avidius Cassius Augustus
(as emperor)[citation needed]
FatherGaius Avidius Heliodorus
MotherJulia Cassia Alexandra

Gaius Avidius Cassius (c. 130 – July 175) was a Roman general and usurper who briefly ruled Egypt and Syria in 175.


He was the son of Gaius Avidius Heliodorus, a noted orator who was Prefect of Egypt from 137 to 142 under Hadrian, and wife Junia Cassia Alexandra. His birthplace is uncertain but he called Alexandria his 'paternal city' which may suggest he was born there.[1]

Life and career

He had a distinguished military career under Marcus Aurelius during the Parthian War, as the Legatus (General) of Legio III Gallica, capturing Seleucia and Ctesiphon, and managed to enter the Senate. He became Consul Suffectus in 160 and sometime between 161 and 163 and Governor of Syria in 166 and suppressed a revolt of the Bucoli in Egypt that had broken out in 172 and centered in the area of the Pentapolis of Middle Egypt due to an explosion in grain prices at the time.


In 175 he was proclaimed Roman Emperor after the premature news of the death of Marcus Aurelius; the sources also indicate he was encouraged by Marcus's wife Faustina, who was concerned about her husband's ill health, believing him to be on the verge of death, and felt the need for Cassius to act as a protector in this event, since her son Commodus was still young (13). The evidence, including Marcus's own Meditations, supports the idea that Marcus was indeed quite sick, but contrary to the report that reached Cassius, he had not died. Cassius chose to continue his revolt even after he learned that Marcus was still alive, however.

At first, according to Cassius Dio, Marcus, who was on campaign against tribes in the north, tried to keep the rebellion a secret from his soldiers, but after the news had spread among them, he addressed them. In this speech that Dio attributes to Marcus, he laments the disloyalty of "a dearest friend", while at the same time expressing his hope that Cassius would not be killed or commit suicide, so that he could show mercy. The Senate declared Cassius a public enemy.

It is known that Cassius was recognized as emperor by May 3, since a document of that date is recorded as being in the first year of Cassius's reign. The beginning of his rebellion have been in April 175.

Although he seized control of some of the most vital parts of the Roman east — Egypt being an important source of grain for the city of Rome — Cassius failed to find widespread support for his rebellion. The governor of Cappadocia, Martius Verus, remained loyal to Marcus Aurelius. Clearly Marcus was in a stronger position, with many more legions available to him than were available to Cassius. "After a dream of empire lasting three months and six days", Cassius was murdered by a centurion; his head was sent to Marcus, who refused to see it and ordered it buried.

The events of his life are known from Cassius Dio's Roman History, and the Historia Augusta.

Through his maternal great-great grandmother Junia Lepida (a great grandmother of Cassia Alexandria), Avidius Cassius was a direct descendant (sixth great-grandson) of the first Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, and thus the Julian bloodline would carry on through Avidius' children.

Marriage and children

He married Volusia Vettia or Volusia Maeciana (c. 135 – aft. 175), daughter of Lucius Volusius Maecianus and wife, and had four[citation needed] children:


  1. ^ Millar, Fergus (1995). The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337. Harvard University Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-0674778863.

Further reading

  • William Smith (ed) (1870), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology Vol 1 p. 626
  • Anthony Birley, Marcus Aurelius: A Biography
  • Maria Laura Astarita, Avidio Cassio [Italian]

External links

  • Relief at Ephesus, including a possible rendering of Avidius Cassius, now headless (third photo on page)