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Cassius Longinus's defeat, 107 BC

Cassius Longinus's defeat, 107 BC

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Cassius Longinus's defeat, 107 BC

Cassius Longinus's defeat (107 BC) saw a Roman army defeated and humiliated by the Tigurini, a Helvetian tribe that was raiding across southern Gaul.

This battle is normally associated with the Cimbric Wars, but it isn't clear if there is any direct connection. The Cimbri had first appeared to the north-east of the Alps, where they defeated a Roman at the battle of Noreia (113 BC), before disappearing into Gaul. They reappeared in 109 or 108 BC, probably threatening the Roman province in southern Gaul, and defeated another Roman army, under the consul Silanus. After that they disappear again, not reappearing until 105 BC. However they probably stayed somewhere in southern Gaul, so may have encouraged the Tigurini to also attempt a raid into the same area.

None of our sources give a clear location for this battle. It is sometimes called the battle of Burdigala (modern Bordeaux), presumably because Orosius has the campaign reaching the Atlantic coast. It is also sometimes called the battle of Tolosa, perhaps because Orosius's account of the battle is followed by an accounting of fighting there in the following year. Livy places it in the country of the Nitiobriges, a Gallic tribe based on the borders of Aquitaine, around the Garonne

Orosius gives the longest account of the campaign. The Tigurini, one of the four tribes of the Helveti, must have been raiding across Gaul. The consul L. Cassius Longinus pursued them to the ocean (the Atlantic), but presumably without actually defeated them. He then began to return back to the Roman province of Gaul, when he was ambushed by the Tigurini. Cassius was killed, as was Lucius Piso, a former consul and one of his legates. The survivors fled to their nearest camp, but then had to come to terms with the enemy. A number of hostages, including the surviving tribune, C. Publius, and half of all of their property, were handed over to the Tigurini in return for the safety of the survivors. After his return to Rome Publius was prosecuted by C. Caelius, one of the tribunes of the plebs, for having given hostages, and was forced to flee into exile.

The Periochae of Livy places the battle in the country of the Nitiobriges. The Consul Lucius Cassius Longinus was massaced along with his army by the Tigurini, a tribe that had migrated from Helvetia. The survivors had to give up hostages and half of their possessions and were then released unharmed.

The battle is briefly mentioned in a fragment of Appian's Gallic History, who described the Tigurini as having 'captured a Roman army commanded by Piso and Cassius and sent them under the yoke, as is related in the writings of Paulus Claudius'.

The battle clearly had a long term impact in Rome. Caesar mentions it several times in his account of his own Gallic Wars, in particular when negotationg with Divico, the leader of a delegation from the Tigurini, who Caesar says was the same man who had commanded their army during the battle with Cassius. There was also a family connection - Lucius Piso was the grandfather of Caesar's father-in-law, another Lucius Piso, the father of Caesar's third wife Calpurnia. This was the third defeat of a Roman army at the hands of a northern tribe in a short period of time, following on from the battle of Noreia (113 BC) and Silanus's defeat of 109 or 108 BC, but it was soon to be followed by worse, the destruction of a massive consular army at Arausio in 105 BC.

Event #5569: Death of Gaius Cassius Longinus: leader of the assassination plot against Julius Caesar

Gaius Cassius Longinus (October 3, before 85 BC – October 3, 42 BC) was a Roman senator, a leading instigator of the plot to kill Julius Caesar, and the brother in-law of Marcus Junius Brutus. He commanded troops with Brutus during the Battle of Philippi against the combined forces of Mark Antony and Octavian, Caesar’s former supporters, and committed suicide after being defeated by Mark Antony.

Little is known of Gaius Cassius’ early life, apart from a story that he showed his dislike of despots while still at school, by quarreling with the son of the dictator Sulla. He studied philosophy at Rhodes under Archelaus and became fluent in Greek. He was married to Junia Tertia (Tertulla), who was the daughter of Servilia Caepionis and thus a half-sister of his co-conspirator Brutus. They had one son, who was born in about 60 BC. In 53 BC he took part in the Battle of Carrhae lost by Marcus Licinius Crassus against the Parthians.

Cassius returned to Rome in 50 BC, when civil war was about to break out between Julius Caesar and Pompey. Cassius was elected tribune of the Plebs for 49 BC, and threw in his lot with the Optimates, although his brother Lucius Cassius supported Caesar. Cassius left Italy shortly after Caesar crossed the Rubicon. He met Pompey in Greece, and was appointed to command part of his fleet.

In 48 BC, Cassius sailed his ships to Sicily, where he attacked and burned a large part of Caesar’s navy. He then proceeded to harass ships off the Italian coast. News of Pompey’s defeat at the Battle of Pharsalus caused Cassius to head for the Hellespont, with hopes of allying with the king of Pontus, Pharnaces II. Cassius was overtaken by Caesar en route, and was forced to surrender unconditionally.

Caesar made Cassius a legate, employing him in the Alexandrian War against the very same Pharnaces whom Cassius had hoped to join after Pompey’s defeat at Pharsalus. However, Cassius refused to join in the fight against Cato and Scipio in Africa, choosing instead to retire to Rome.

Cassius spent the next two years without office, and apparently tightened his friendship with Cicero. In 44 BC, he became praetor peregrinus with the promise of the Syrian province for the ensuing year. The appointment of his junior and brother-in-law, Marcus Brutus, as praetor urbanus deeply offended him.

Although Cassius was “the moving spirit” in the plot against Caesar, winning over the chief assassins to the cause of tyrannicide, Brutus became their leader. On the Ides of March, 44 BC, Cassius urged on his fellow liberators and struck Caesar in the chest area. Though they succeeded in assassinating Caesar, the celebration was short-lived, as Mark Antony seized power and turned the public against them. In letters written during 44 BC, Cicero frequently complains that Rome was still subjected to tyranny, because the “Liberators” had failed to kill Antony. According to some accounts, Cassius had wanted to kill Antony at the same time as Caesar, but Brutus dissuaded him.

Cassius’ reputation in the East made it easy to amass an army from other governors in the area, and by 43 BC he was ready to take on Publius Cornelius Dolabella with 12 legions. By this point the Senate had split with Antonius and cast its lot with Cassius, confirming him as governor of the province. Dolabella attacked but was betrayed by his allies, leading him to commit suicide. Cassius was now secure enough to march on Egypt, but on the formation of the Second Triumvirate, Brutus requested his assistance. Cassius quickly joined Brutus in Smyrna with most of his army, leaving his nephew behind to govern Syria.

The conspirators decided to attack the triumvirate’s allies in Asia. Cassius set upon and sacked Rhodes, while Brutus did the same to Lycia. They regrouped the following year in Sardis, where their armies proclaimed them imperator. They crossed the Hellespont, marched through Thrace, and encamped near Philippi in Macedon. Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian (later known as Augustus) and Mark Antony soon arrived, and Cassius planned to starve them out through the use of their superior position in the country. However, they were forced into a pair of battles by Antony, collectively known as the Battle of Philippi. Brutus was successful against Octavian, and took his camp. Cassius, however, was defeated and overrun by Antony. Cassius, unaware of Brutus’ victory, gave up all for lost, and killed himself with the very same dagger he used against Julius Caesar. The date of Cassius’ death is the same as that of his birth, October 3. He was mourned by Brutus as “the Last of the Romans” and buried in Thasos.

“Among that select band of philosophers who have managed to change the world,” writes David Sedley, “it would be hard to find a pair with a higher public profile than Brutus and Cassius — brothers-in-law, fellow-assassins, and Shakespearian heroes,” adding that “it may not even be widely known that they were philosophers.”

Like Brutus, whose Stoic proclivities are widely assumed but who is more accurately described as an Antiochean Platonist, Cassius exercised a long and serious interest in philosophy. His early philosophical commitments are hazy, though D.R. Shackleton Bailey thought that a remark by Cicero indicates a youthful adherence to the Academy. Sometime between 48 and 45 BC, however, Cassius famously converted to the school of thought founded by Epicurus. Although Epicurus advocated a withdrawal from politics, at Rome his philosophy was made to accommodate the careers of many prominent men in public life, among them Caesar’s father-in-law, Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus. Arnaldo Momigliano called Cassius’ conversion a “conspicuous date in the history of Roman Epicureanism,” a choice made not to enjoy the pleasures of the Garden, but to provide a philosophical justification for assassinating a tyrant.

Cicero associates Cassius’s new Epicureanism with a willingness to seek peace in the aftermath of the civil war between Caesar and Pompeius. Miriam Griffin dates his conversion to as early as 48 BC, after he had fought on the side of Pompeius at the Battle of Pharsalus but decided to come home instead of joining the last holdouts of the civil war in Africa. Momigliano placed it in 46 BC, based on a letter by Cicero to Cassius dated January 45. Shackleton Bailey points to a date of two or three years earlier.

The dating bears on, but is not essential to, the question of whether Cassius justified the murder of Caesar on Epicurean grounds. Griffin argues that his intellectual pursuits, like those of other Romans, may be entirely removed from any practical application in the realm of politics. Romans of the Late Republic who can be identified as Epicureans are more often found among the supporters of Caesar, and often literally in his camp. Momigliano argued, however, that many of those who opposed Caesar’s dictatorship bore no personal animus toward him, and Republicanism was more congenial to the Epicurean way of life than dictatorship. The Roman concept of libertas had been integrated into Greek philosophical studies, and though Epicurus’ theory of the social contract admitted various forms of government based on consent, including but not limited to democracy, a tyrannical state was regarded by Roman Epicureans as incompatible with the highest good of pleasure, defined as freedom from pain. Tyranny also threatened the Epicurean value of parrhesia (παρρησία), “free speech”, and the movement toward deifying Caesar offended Epicurean belief in abstract gods who lead an ideal existence removed from mortal affairs.

Momigliano saw Cassius as moving from an initial Epicurean orthodoxy, which emphasized tolerance and detachment, to a “heroic Epicureanism.” For Cassius, virtue was active. In a letter to Cicero, he wrote:

“I hope that people will understand that for all, cruelty exists in proportion to hatred, and goodness and clemency in proportion to love, and evil men most seek out and crave the things which accrue to good men. It’s hard to persuade people that ‘the good is desirable for its own sake’ but it’s both true and creditable that pleasure and tranquility are obtained by virtue, justice, and the good. Epicurus himself, from whom all your Catii and Amafinii take their leave as poor interpreters of his words, says ‘there is no living pleasantly without living a good and just life.’ ”

Sedley agrees that the conversion of Cassius should be dated to 48, when Cassius stopped resisting Caesar, and finds it unlikely that Epicureanism was a sufficient or primary motivation for his later decision to take violent action against the dictator. Rather, Cassius would have had to reconcile his intention with his philosophical views. Cicero provides evidence that Epicureans recognized circumstances when direct action was justified in a political crisis. In the quotation above, Cassius explicitly rejects the idea that morality is a good to be chosen for its own sake morality, as a means of achieving pleasure and ataraxia, is not inherently superior to the removal of political anxieties.

The inconsistencies between traditional Epicureanism and an active approach to securing freedom ultimately could not be resolved, and during the Empire, the philosophy of political opposition tended to be Stoic. This circumstance, Momigliano argues, helps explain why historians of the Imperial era found Cassius more difficult to understand than Brutus, and less admirable.

Cassius Dio Cocceianus (1987). The Roman History: The Reign of Augustus. Ian Scott-Kilvert, trans. London: Penguin Books,.

Cicero, Marcus Tullius (1986). Selected Letters. D. R. H. Shackleton Bailey, trans. London: Penguin Books.

Gowing, Alain M. (1990). “Appian and Cassius’ Speech Before Philippi (“Bella Civilia” 4.90-100)”. Phoenix 44 (2): 158–181. doi:10.2307/1088329.

Plutarch (1972). Fall of the Roman Republic: Six Lives. Rex Warner, trans. New York: Penguin Books.

Plutarch (1965). Maker’s of Rome: Nine Lives by Plutarch. Ian Scott-Kilvert, trans. London: Penguin Books.

Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution (Oxford University Press, 1939, reprinted 2002),

Elizabeth Rawson, “Caesar: Civil War and Dictatorship,” in The Cambridge Ancient History: The Last Age of the Roman Republic 146–43 BC

T.R.S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic (American Philological Association, 1952), vol. 2, p. 320, citing Plutarch, Brutus 7.1–3 and Caesar 62.2 and Appian, Bellum Civile 4.57.(Cambridge University Press, 1994), vol. 9

Adkins, Roy A. Adkins, Lesley (1998). “Republic and Empire”. Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome. Oxford University Press US.

David Sedley, “The Ethics of Brutus and Cassius,” Journal of Roman Studies 87 (1997) 41–53.

Miriam Griffin, “Philosophy, Politics, and Politicians at Rome,” in Philosophia togata: Essays on Philosophy and Roman Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989).

Arnaldo Momigliano, review of Science and Politics in the Ancient World by Benjamin Farrington (London 1939), in Journal of Roman Studies 31 (1941), pp. 151–157.

Miriam Griffin, “The Intellectual Developments of the Ciceronian Age,” in The Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 726

Miriam Griffin, “Philosophy, Politics, and Politicians at Rome,” in Philosophia togata (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), particularly citing Plutarch, Caesar 66.2 on a lack of philosophical justification for killing Caesar: Cassius is said to commit the act despite his devotion to Epicurus.

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From left to right, Mark Antony, Octavian and Lepidus portrayed in Roman coins. All coins are inscribed “III VIR R P C”, abbreviating tresviri rei publicae constituendae (“One of Three Men for the Regulation of the Republic”). / Wikimedia Commons

After the murder of Caesar, Brutus and Cassius (the two main conspirators, also known as the Liberatores) had left Italy and taken control of all Eastern provinces (from Greece and Macedonia to Syria) and of the allied Eastern kingdoms. In Rome the three main Caesarian leaders (Antony, Octavian and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus), who controlled almost all the Roman army in the west, had crushed the opposition of the senate and established the second triumvirate. One of their first tasks was to destroy the Liberators’ forces, not only to get full control of the Roman world, but also to avenge Caesar’s death.

The triumvirs decided to leave Lepidus in Italy, while the two main partners of the triumvirate (Antony and Octavian) moved to Northern Greece with their best troops (28 legions). In 42 BC, Gaius Norbanus Flaccus and Decidius Saxa were sent by the triumvirs with an eight-legion advance guard into Macedonia against the murderers of Julius Caesar. In the neighborhood of Philippi, Norbanus and Saxa met the combined advancing troops of Cassius and Brutus. Although they were outnumbered, Norbanus and Saxa occupied a position near Philippi which prevented the republicans from advancing. By a ruse, Brutus and Cassius managed to make Norbanus leave this position, but Norbanus discovered the ruse in time to recover the dominating position. When Brutus and Cassius managed to outflank them, Norbanus and Saxa retreated toward Amphipolis. As Marc Antony and the bulk of the triumvir’s troops arrived (minus Octavian, who was delayed at Dyrrachium because of ill health), they found Amphipolis well guarded and Norbanus was left in command of the town.

Subsequent modifications [ edit | edit source ]

The cohort legions of the late republic and early empire are often called Marian legions. Following the Battle of Vercellae in 101 BC Marius granted all Italian soldiers Roman citizenship. He justified this action to the Senate by saying in the din of battle he could not distinguish Roman from ally. This effectively eliminated the notion of allied legions henceforth all Italian legions would be regarded as Roman Legions. Thus the three different types of heavy infantry (the Hastati, the Principes and the Triarii, which composed the pre-Marian Roman armies) were replaced by a single, standard type of legionary based on the Principes.

The role of allied legions would eventually be taken up by contingents of allied/auxiliary troops, called Auxilia. Each legion had a same size or near same size Auxilia (auxiliary), which contained specialist units, engineers and pioneers, artillerymen and siege craftsmen, service and support units plus units made up of non-citizens (who were granted Roman citizenship upon discharge) and undesirables. These were usually formed into complete units such as light cavalry, light infantry or velites, and laborers. There was also a reconnaissance squad of 10 or more light, mounted infantry called speculatores who could also serve as messengers or even as an early form of military intelligence service.

During these reforms, the legions were also organized into permanent cohorts for the first time. Prior to this cohorts had been temporary administrative units or tactical task forces of several maniples, even more transitory than that of the legions of the early republic themselves. Now the cohorts were six to ten permanent units, composed of five to eight centuries each led by a centurion assisted by an Optio, a soldier who could read and write. These came to form the basic tactical unit of the legions. The senior centurion of the legion was called the primus pilus, a career soldier and adviser to the legate he was generally 50 years of age or older. There were also additional officers assigned to each legion, an Aquilifer, Imaginifer (Imperial Rome only), a Tesserarius, and a Cornicen. The aquilifer was in charge of the legion standard, so there was only one per legion. The imaginifer carried an image of the deified emperor (whichever one was in power at the time). The tesserarius was in charge of the guard outposts for each century. The cornicen was crucial in the heat of battle, as he blew the formation, attack, withdrawal, and many other notes. This was the only way legionaries and their officers could hear or issue orders in the din of battle.

Every legion had a baggage train of 500–550 mules, or about 1 mule for every 10 legionaries. To keep these baggage trains from becoming too large, Marius had each man carry as much of his own equipment as he could, including his own armor, weapons and 15 days' rations or about 50–60 pounds of load total. To make this easier, he issued each legionary a forked stick to carry his load on his shoulders. The soldiers were nicknamed Marius' Mules (muli mariani in Latin) due to the amount of gear they had to carry themselves.

A typical legion of this period had around 5,000-6,000 legionaries as well as a large number of camp followers, servants and slaves. Legions could contain as many as 6,000 fighting men divided among several cohorts. Numbers would also vary depending on casualties suffered during a campaign Julius Caesar's legions during his campaign in Gaul often only had around 3,500 men and on one occasion during his civil war against Pompey the Great he had to join two of his battle-reduced legions together to achieve the strength of one conventional legion.

Hundreds of years later, under the Emperor Diocletian and his successors, new legions raised for the field armies, as opposed to those stationed along the frontiers, were recruited to only about 1,000 men and were, therefore, the size of military auxiliary cohorts. This was a response to the logistical needs of the late Empire: the smaller units were more easily dispatched as needed to trouble spots than were the older, larger units, and they were no longer made up exclusively of fully armored heavy infantry. Instead, they often consisted of light infantry or archers. Except with regard to Roman citizenship (and even then not always), they were, in fact, no longer sharply distinguished, if distinguished at all, from auxiliary units raised from barbarians within and without the Empire. These later legions (comitatenses) should not be confused with the legions of heavy infantry of the earlier empire.

The battle [ edit | edit source ]

In 107 BC, the Roman Senate launched another campaign under Lucius Cassius Longinus, Lucius Caesoninus and Lucius Caesoninus, son of Gaius Popillius Laenas, to defend one of their allied tribes. The Tigurinis were able to successfully ambush the Romans and the consul Longinus was killed in the action along with most of his entourage. The remaining Roman forces were saved from the same fate by Laenas who was forced to surrender a majority of the army's supplies to the Tigurini in return for permission to retire from the field "under the yoke".

The Battle of Philippi 42 BCE

The Battle of Philippi in 42 BCE was an all-Roman affair fought between the young Octavian, chosen heir of Julius Caesar, and the mercurial Mark Antony, widely regarded as the greatest living Roman general on the one side against Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Caesar and champions of the Republican cause on the other. The battle, on an inland plain in eastern Macedonia near the city of Philippi, would involve the largest Roman armies to ever take the field and, as 36 legions clashed, the bloody outcome would decide the future of the Roman Empire and finally bring to an end the 500-year old Roman Republic.


In 44 BCE Mark Antony and Gaius Octavian, Caesar's most accomplished general and his chosen heir respectively, formed an uneasy alliance to take revenge on the dictator's assassins and restore order to the Republic. After an initial reconciliation with the conspirators Antony tried to marginalise Brutus and Cassius by appointing them supervisors of Rome's grain supply from Asia and Sicily. The positions were refused and both men left Rome for the east. Octavian, meanwhile, began a successful campaign to increase his own popularity with the people by sponsoring a series of public games. Antony, though, came under attack from Cicero who wanted a fully independent Senate and who cast his support for Octavian. However, even if Antony was coming off second-best in the political arena, he still had control of the army, and he brought four of his Macedonian legions to Italy to drive home the strength of his position.


Events took a twist when Antony went to meet his legions at Brundisium in October 44 BCE. Angry at Antony's lack of decisive action against Caesar's killers, the troops had switched loyalties to Octavian who had offered them greater financial rewards. The old distinction between these two ambitious men that one had political power and the other military was now no longer the case. Further, other legions began to throw their allegiance at Octavian's feet. Antony responded by fixing that the Senate redistributed important provinces to his own loyal supporters. The consequence of this was the conciliation with Caesar's assassins was reversed. Decimus Brutus, another of the conspirators who had killed Caesar, ignored the re-division and, raising two legions, held station at Mutina (Modena). Antony, still with three legions at his disposal, lay siege to the fortified city. Meanwhile, and now supported by the Senate, Octavian took command of four legions and declared Antony guilty of tumultus, or civil disorder, one step short of a declaration of war against his great rival for control of the Roman Empire.

The battles around Mutina in April 43 BCE were as confused as the various conflicting accounts by ancient historians but the end result was Antony was first victorious but then partially defeated, the Republicans won but lost both consuls, and Octavian was upset not to be given a triumph by the Senate and was alienated by their decision to give Sextus Pompey command of the navy. While Octavian manipulated politics in Rome, Antony strengthened his own position and now controlled Gaul and Spain. Octavian also made his decisive move in August 43 BCE and marched his eight legions to Rome where the three Republican legions promptly switched sides and Octavian became consul at the unprecedented young age of 20. His position was further strengthened when he was joined by six more ex-Republican legions. Octavian, now with 17 legions at his disposal, turned his full attention to Antony, who had 20 legions and 10,000 cavalry under his command. Even now though, diplomacy prevailed and the three leading Romans - Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus - met in November 43 BCE to discuss terms and form the Second Triumvirate where each member was given carte blanche power for five years in their respective zones of the empire. The legions were re-shuffled so that Lepidus had three legions in Rome and Octavian and Antony each had 20. Vicious revenge was then taken on Republican supporters in Rome and such notable figures as Cicero were executed.


Meanwhile, Brutus collected his army in upper Macedonia whilst Cassius amassed 12 legions in Judea. In 43 BCE the two joined forces at Smyrna. Then, after successful campaigns against Rhodes and Xanthus, the two took position at Philippi on the Hellespont in September 42 BCE. The third threat to Octavian and Antony was Sextus Pompey whose large naval fleet had helped him take control of Sicily in December 43 BCE. Octavian, unable to overwhelm Sextus, instead heeded Antony's request to fight together against the larger threat of Brutus and Cassius. From Brundisium the two armies crossed the Adriatic. For the first time, the opposing legions were in close proximity and ready for battle.


Marcus Junius Brutus, although previously successful in smaller conflicts in Thrace and Lycia, has been judged by history as a little too soft and lacking in authority when it came to the serious generalship of commanding large armies in set-piece battles and, consequently, he has been described as more of a statesman than a military commander by many historians. The other Republican leader Gaius Cassius Longinus, on the other hand, had gained a reputation as an astute general and tough disciplinarian - defeating the Parthians in 51 BCE and half of Julius Caesar's fleet during the Civil War, when he sided with Pompey. This pair, then, were an odd but formidable commanding team but it was their bad luck that they now happened to face two of Rome's greatest ever leaders.

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Marcus Antonius, better known as Mark Antony, had already enjoyed a glittering military career by the time of Philippi with a long series of successes as Caesar's right-hand man and Master of the Horse. Antony was notoriously bad at leadership in peace time and all too easily neglected politics for wild parties but in the chaos and horror of battle he was second-to-none. His ally, albeit one of pure convenience to defeat a common enemy, was Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. Technically, Octavian, chosen heir of the now deified Julius Caesar, was the son of a god but this disguised his relatively modest background. Octavian would go on to become the first, and arguably greatest ever, Roman emperor but at Philippi he was still a young and inexperienced commander, even worse, he was beset with health problems during the battle and so it was Antony who would, as so many times before, steal the military lime-light. Daring and incautious but so often lucky, Antony would once more excel in the role he was seemingly born for.

Armies & Weapons

The two Roman armies which clashed at Philippi were composed of the now well-established military units, the legions. A legion was composed of 4,800 men broken down into 10 cohorts and 60 centuries. Each legion was commanded by a legate (legati) who was aided by military tribunes (tribunimilitum). Each century was led from the front by a centurion and a sergeant (tesserarius) whilst an optio (deputy) marshalled the rear. An ordinary legionary was armed with a gladius short sword (double-edged and around 60 cm long), a pilum spear or javelin, a pugio dagger, and he had a scutum shield (around a metre tall, made of wood and edged with iron), mail armour, and helmet for protection. Supplementing each legion were a force of 300 cavalry, and slingers, archers and other light-armed auxiliaries.


Opening Positions

The battle would involve the largest number of troops in Roman warfare up to that point. 19 legions of 110,000 men on the Triumvirate side faced 17 Republican legions of 90,000 men. The Triumvirs had a force of 13,000 cavalry and one extra legion stationed at nearby Amphipolis whilst the Republicans had two legions guarding the fleet and a cavalry force of 17,000 on the plain. The Republican army was then, not only smaller but it also consisted of a much more varied mix of troops taken from across the empire. On top of that, many of the veterans and all-important centurions had fought many times for Julius Caesar, and so to now face his heir and best general must have severely tested the troops' resolve and loyalty.

In the field Cassius took advantage of two mounds located above the plain of Philippi to make two fortified camps for his nine legions. Brutus and his eight legions camped at the foot of the mountains and a palisaded corridor was built to connect the two Republican armies. Both camps received additional protection from the Gangites River. The two camps were a significant 2.7 km apart though, which meant the two armies could not easily offer mutual support. Antony, therefore, concentrated on Cassius' camp and, with typical bravado, established his army of ten legions in a well-fortified camp a mere 1.5 km from the enemy. Ten days later, Octavian's army of nine legions arrived. Nevertheless, the Republicans had all the advantages of a better supply line and an elevated position so that time was on their side. The Triumvirs would have to take the initiative.

First Battle of Philippi

Several early attempts by Antony and Octavian to draw the enemy down to the plain failed completely. As a consequence, Antony, while still making a show of troop manoeuvres on the plain, attempted to cross the reed marshes undetected by building a causeway and, when behind the Republican camps, try to cut their supply lines. Cassius soon got wind of the strategy and responded by trying to cut off Antony's advance forces by himself building a transverse wall from his camp to the marshes. Seeing his plan had been discovered, on October 3rd, Antony led a direct assault on Cassius' wall overwhelming the stunned left flank of the enemy and destroying their fortifications. Then, while the bulk of Cassius' army was engaged on the plain, Antony went straight for Cassius's largely undefended camp. As things swung against Cassius' legions on the plain and when they saw their camp routed a chaotic retreat followed.


Meanwhile Brutus was doing well against Octavian's legions who, caught by a surprise charge from Brutus' over-eager advance troops which had necessitated the whole Republican army mobilising in support, were routed in a chaotic battle during which Octavian's camp was captured. Fortunately, Octavian - ill again and missing the battle - had taken refuge in the marshes and avoided certain capture. Brutus, on discovering the loss of Cassius' camp, sent reinforcements but Cassius, holding out with a small force on the acropolis of Philippi, interpreted them as more of Antony's forces and so committed suicide - as it happened, on his birthday - rather than be captured. While all this was happening Antony and Octavian's reserve troops, arriving by sea, were destroyed crossing the Adriatic by the Republican fleet. Thus, the first battle of Philippi ended, more or less, in a 1:1 draw, with 9,000 losses on the Republican side and more than double that figure from Octavian's army.

Second Battle of Philippi

Following the first battle both sides returned to their original camps to re-group. Brutus, taking over Cassius' camp, sought to stick to his original plan of holding station until the enemy was forced to withdraw through lack of provisions. Brutus did harass the enemy via night attacks on their position and even diverting a river to wash away part of their camp. Lacking supplies and having lost their back-up in the Adriatic, Antony and Octavian had to make their move before winter really set in and forced them to leave the field. Initially, Brutus stoically resisted the repeated taunting by the enemy to come out and face them but eventually, at least according to the ancient Roman historians, ill-discipline got the upper hand and Brutus' army took their own initiative and descended to the plain.

Antony had, meanwhile, also made some daring and decisive moves. First, he took full advantage of a small mound south of Brutus' camp which the Republican leader had left unguarded (and this despite the fact that Cassius had previously stationed a garrison on it). Building a palisade of whicker, four legions were now dangerously close to Brutus' position. At the same time Antony moved ten legions into the central marsh area and two more a little further east. Brutus responded by building a fortified camp facing each of these two blocks of enemy troops but if the battle lines were extended any further then Brutus would be isolated from his supplies and backed up against the mountains -an impossible position to defend. The Republican army, then, had little choice but to engage the enemy with a full-scale assault. The time for dilly-dallying was over.


The use of artillery weapons in the confines of such a tightly-packed battlefield was considered impractical and the opposing armies immediately clashed in fearsome hand-to-hand fighting. Initially, the Republicans did well against the enemy's left wing but Brutus, with fewer troops at his disposal, had stretched his lines thin to ward of an out-flanking manoeuvre. The consequence was Antony relentlessly pushed forward and smashed the enemy centre and, moving left, attacked the rear of Brutus' lines. The order of the Republican troops now completely broke down and chaos ensued. Meanwhile, Octavian had attacked the Republican camp while Antony used his cavalry to chase down Brutus and prevent his escape. The Republican leader had found refuge in the nearby mountains but when his four remaining legions moved to plea for clemency from Antony, Brutus took his own life. In total 14,000 soldiers surrendered and while some others managed to flee by ship to Thasos, the Republican cause was at an end and Julius Caesar's murder had been avenged. In the words of Ovid, "all the daring criminals who in defiance of the gods, defiled the high priest's head [Caesar], have fallen in merited death. Philippi is witness, and those whose scattered bones whiten its earth".


Whilst Antony was hailed as imperator by the victors and losers alike, Octavian, who had dealt more harshly with the defeated, was not so highly esteemed. As Plutarch stated in no uncertain terms, "[Octavian] did nothing worth relating, and all the success and victory were Antony's". The legions were again re-distributed with Antony taking eight to campaign against Parthia whilst Octavian, with three, returned to Italy. The battle, with its 40,000 fatalities and subsequent retaliations against Republican sympathizers, robbed Rome of some of its finest citizens and soldiers, and still the question of just who would rule Rome was not settled. For, despite the obvious military skills of Antony, in the end, it would be Octavian's political skills and genius at inspiring loyalty from other, more talented commanders such as Marcus Agrippa, that ensured Antony was prevented from becoming Caesar. Following several more years of struggle and intrigue, it was Octavian who would be the real winner at Philippi and ultimately, following the defeat of Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, he would rule the Roman Empire as the first of a long line of Roman emperors.

Roman History #5

The conspirators planned to carry out their plot on the Ides of March (March 15) that same year. On that day, Caesar was delayed going to the Senate because his wife, Calpurnia Pisonis, tried to convince him not to go.[21] The conspirators feared the plot had been found out.[22] Brutus persisted, however, waiting for Caesar at the Senate, and allegedly still chose to remain even when a messenger brought him news that would otherwise have caused him to leave.[23]

When Caesar finally did come to the Senate, they attacked him. Publius Servilius Casca Longus was allegedly the first to attack Caesar with a blow to the shoulder, which Caesar blocked.[24] However, upon seeing Brutus was with the conspirators, he covered his face with his toga and resigned himself to his fate.[25] The conspirators attacked in such numbers that they even wounded one another. Brutus is said to have been wounded in the hand and in the legs.[26][27]


On 3 October, the two sides met in battle for the first time, with Brutus' army facing Octavian's, and Antony's forces fighting against Cassius' forces. At first, Brutus pushed back Octavian and entered his camp, but, to the south, Antony defeated Cassius' forces. Cassius committed suicide after hearing a false report that Brutus had been defeated and that his ally Titinius had been slain Titinius himself committed suicide upon hearing of Cassius' death. Brutus rallied Cassius' remaining forces, and both sides retreated to their camps with their spoils. On 23 October, Antony and Octavian's forces flanked and finished off Brutus' army after a hard-fought battle, and Brutus went on to commit suicide as well. Brutus' death left the triumvirate in control of the Roman Republic, but the triumvirate would later collapse, and Octavian would defeat Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and become the first Roman emperor in 27 BC.


Early Life

Third Servile War

As proconsul of Cisalpine Gaul in the next year, 72 BC, during the Third Servile War, Cassius tried to stop Spartacus and his followers near Mutina (modern day Modena) as the slave army was trying to break through to unoccupied Gaul, but suffered defeat and barely managed to get away alive.

Varus was replaced by Gaius Calpurnius Piso as the Governor of Cisalpine Gaul.

Later life

Two years later, Cassius appeared as witness of the prosecution in the trial against the corrupt former governor of Sicily, Verres. In 66 BC, Cassius supported the Manilian law that gave command of the war against Mithridates to Pompey he was joined in this by Cicero, then praetor, whose famous speech in support of the same bill survives.

In literature

In Dante's Inferno (Canto XXXIV), Cassius is one of three people deemed sinful enough to be chewed in one of the three mouths of Satan, in the very center of Hell, for all eternity, as a punishment for killing Julius Caesar. The other two are Brutus, his fellow conspirator, and Judas Iscariot, the Biblical betrayer of Jesus.

Cassius also plays a major role in Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar (I. ii. 190–195) as the leader of the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. Caesar distrusts him, and states, "Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.", but is still killed, as in reality. In one of the final acts of the play, Cassius mentions to one of his subordinates that the day, October 3, is his birthday, which he died shortly afterwards in the scenes following.