Cassia (gens)

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The gens Cassia was a Roman family of great antiquity. The gens was originally patrician, but all of the members who appear in later times were plebeians. The first of the Cassii to obtain the consulship was Spurius Cassius Viscellinus, in 502 BC. He was the proposer of the first agrarian law, and was put to death by the patricians. As all of the Cassii known from after his time are plebeians, it is not improbable either that the patricians expelled them from their order, or that they abandoned it on account of the murder of Viscellinus.[1]

The Cassia gens was reckoned one of the noblest in Rome; and members of it are constantly mentioned under the Empire as well as during the Republic. The Roman road to Arretium was called the Via Cassia, and the village of Cassianum Hirpinum was named for an estate of the family in the country of the Hirpini. One family of the Cassii was one of the dominant houses of Olissipo in Lusitania.[2]


A possible clue to the origin of the Cassii is the cognomen Viscellinus or Vecellinus, borne by the eldest branch of the family. It appears to be derived from the town of Viscellium or Vescellium, a settlement of the Hirpini, which is mentioned by Titus Livius in connection with the Second Punic War. The town was one of three captured by the praetor Marcus Valerius Laevinus after they had revolted in 215 BC. Its inhabitants, the Viscellani, are also mentioned by Plinius. This suggests the possibility that the ancestors of the Cassii were from Hirpinum, or had some other connection with Viscellium. The existence of a substantial estate of the Cassii in Hirpinum at a later time further supports such a connection.[3][4]


The principal names of the Cassii during the Republic were Lucius, Gaius, and Quintus. The praenomen Spurius was used only by the patrician house of the Cassii Viscellini. Marcus is known from a single instance at the very end of the Republic, in which the praenomen is given only by Valerius Maximus.[5]

Branches and cognomina[edit]

The chief family of the Cassii in the time of the Republic bears the name of Longinus. The other cognomina during this time are Hemina, Parmensis, Ravilla, Sabaco, Varus, and Viscellinus. The Viscellini were the only patrician family of the gens. Under the Empire, the surnames are very numerous.[6]


This list includes abbreviated praenomina. For an explanation of this practice, see filiation.

Cassii Viscellini[edit]

  • Spurius Cassius (Viscellinus), grandfather of the consul.
  • Spurius Cassius S. f. (Viscellinus), father of the consul.
  • Spurius Cassius S. f. S. n. Viscellinus, consul in 502, 493, and 486 BC, and the first magister equitum in 501; put to death by the patricians after proposing the first agrarian law during his third consulship.
  • Cassii Viscellini, three sons of the consul whose praenomina are unknown, spared by the senate after the murder of their father. They or their descendants may have been expelled by the patricians from their order, or have voluntarily passed over to the plebeians.[7][8]

Cassii Longini[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.
  2. ^ Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.
  3. ^ Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, xxiii. 37.
  4. ^ Gaius Plinius Secundus, Historia Naturalis, iii. 11. s. 16; Lib. Col. p. 235.
  5. ^ Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.
  6. ^ Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.
  7. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia, viii. 80.
  8. ^ Barthold Georg Niebuhr, History of Rome, ii. 166 ff., Lectures on the History of Rome, 189 ff., ed. Schmitz, 1848.
  9. ^ Joannes Zonaras, Epitome Historiarum, viii. 14.
  10. ^ Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator, Chronica.
  11. ^ Marcus Velleius Paterculus, Compendium of Roman History, i. 15.
  12. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pro Plancio, 21.
  13. ^ Quintus Asconius Pedianus, in Toga Candida, 82, ed. Orelli.
  14. ^ Appianus, Bellum Civile, ii. 4.
  15. ^ Gaius Sallustius Crispus, The Conspiracy of Catiline, 17, 44, 50.
  16. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, In Catilinam, iii. 4, 6, 7, Pro Sulla, 13, 19.
  17. ^ Plutarchus, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, Brutus, 14.
  18. ^ Appianus, Bellum Civile, iv. 63, 135.
  19. ^ Aulus Hirtius, De Bello Alexandrino, 52, 57.
  20. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Philippicae, iii. 10.
  21. ^ Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, xliv. 31.
  22. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, xiii. 52.
  23. ^ Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus, Roman History, lxxiv. 9.
  24. ^ Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.