Text #9629

Livius. "Ab urbe condita"
[Bk. 2 ]

For the next year Sp. Cassius and Proculus Verginius were elected consuls. A treaty was concluded with the Hernici, two-thirds of their territory was taken from them. Of this Cassius intended to give half to the Latins and half to the Roman plebs. He contemplated adding to this a quantity of land which, he alleged, though State land, was occupied by private individuals. This alarmed many of the patricians, the actual occupiers, as endangering, the security of their property. On public grounds, too, they felt anxious, as they considered that by this largess the consul was building up a power dangerous to liberty.

Then for the first time an Agrarian Law was proposed, and never, from that day to the times within our own memory, has one been mooted without the most tremendous commotions. The other consul resisted the proposed grant. In this he was supported by the senate, whilst the plebs was far from unanimous in its favour. They were beginning to look askance at a boon so cheap as to be shared between citizens and allies, and they often heard the consul Verginius in his public speeches predicting that his colleague’s gift was fraught with mischief, the land in question would bring slavery on those who took it, the way was being prepared for a throne. Why were the allies, he asked, and the Latin league included? What necessity was there for a third part of the territory of the Hernici, so lately our foes, being restored to them, unless it was that these nations might have Cassius as their leader in place of Coriolanus?’ The opponent of the Agrarian Law began to be popular. Then both consuls tried who could go furthest in humouring the plebs. Verginius said that he would consent to the assignment of the lands provided they were assigned to none but: Roman citizens. Cassius had courted popularity amongst the allies by including them in the distribution and had thereby sunk in the estimation of his fellow-citizens. To recover their favour he gave orders for the money which had been received for the corn from Sicily to be refunded to the people. This offer the plebeians treated with scorn as nothing else than the price of a throne. Owing to their innate suspicion that he was aiming at monarchy, his gifts were rejected as completely as if they had abundance of everything.

It is generally asserted that immediately upon his vacating office he was condemned and put to death. Some assert that his own father was the author of his punishment, that he tried him privately at home, and after scourging him put him to death and devoted his private property to Ceres. From the proceeds a statue of her was made with an inscription, “Given from the Cassian family.” I find in some authors a much more probable account, viz., that he was arraigned by the quaestors Caeso Fabius and L. Valerius before the people and convicted of treason, and his house ordered to be demolished. It stood on the open space in front of the temple of Tellus. In any case, whether the trial was a public or a private one, his condemnation took place in the consulship of Servius Cornelius and Q. Fabius.

Text #9618

"Spurius Cassius Viscellinus", in Wikipedia.

Spurius Cassius Viscellinus or Vecellinus (d. 485 BC) was one of the most distinguished men of the early Roman Republic. He was three times consul, and celebrated two triumphs. He was the first magister equitum, and the author of the first agrarian law. The year following his last consulship, he was accused of aiming at regal power, and was put to death by the patricians.

From his filiation, Spurius Cassius S. f. S. n. Viscellinus, we know that Cassius’ father and grandfather were both named Spurius. According to one tradition, his father was still living and hale at the time of his death. If this were the case, it would be difficult to place Cassius’ birth much earlier than 540 or 535 BC. Cassius also left behind him three sons, whose names have not been preserved. It is believed that the Cassii Viscellini were patricians, although the later members of the gens occurring in history were all plebeian. The historian Niebuhr suggests that Cassius’ sons may have been expelled by the patricians from their order, or that they or their descendants may have voluntarily passed over to the plebeians, because the patricians had shed the blood of their father.

Cassius’ first consulship was in 502 BC, the eighth year of the Republic. His colleague was Opiter Verginius Tricostus. Dionysius reports that Cassius carried on war against the Sabines, whom he defeated with great loss near Cures. The Sabines sued for peace, and surrendered a large portion of their land. On his return to Rome, Cassius celebrated his first triumph, which is confirmed by the Fasti Triumphales. Livius, however, states that the two consuls carried on war against the Aurunci, and took the town of Suessa Pometia. The same events he reports under BC 495, which is in agreement with Dionysius. Thus, Dionysius probably preserves the correct account.

In the following year, Titus Lartius Flavus was appointed the first dictator, and as his magister equitum he nominated Cassius. The reason for the institution of these offices was the fear of impending war with both the Sabines and the Latins. After a failed round of negotiations, war was declared against the Sabines, but as both sides were reluctant to come to blows, no hostilities ensued. War with the Latins came in 498 BC, with the Battle of Lake Regillus. Following the Roman victory, Cassius is said to have urged the senate to destroy the Latin towns.

Cassius was consul for the second time in 493 BC, with Postumus Cominius Auruncus. The consuls entered upon their office during the secession of the plebs to the Mons Sacer. The strife between the patricians and plebeians was a recurring theme throughout the early history of the Republic, and in time cost Cassius his life. In contrast with his former position, Cassius ratified a treaty with the Latins on Rome’s behalf, thereby removing one source of danger to the fledgling Republic. The treaty became known as the Foedus Cassianum, bearing the consul’s name. Cicero related that a copy of the treaty was still extant in his day, and its terms are summarized by Dionysius. Later the same year, Cassius consecrated the temple of Ceres, Bacchus, and Proserpina.

In 486 BC, Cassius was consul for the third time, with Proculus Verginius Tricostus Rutilus. Cassius marched against the Volsci and Hernici, but they sued for peace, and once again showing his talent for diplomacy, Cassius formed a league with the Hernici. The alliances secured by Cassius with both the Latins and Hernici placed the Republic in the same position it had enjoyed under the kings. Livius states that the Hernici agreed to surrender two thirds of their land, but a more likely explanation is that the Romans, Latins, and Hernici agreed to share their acquired land evenly, with each receiving one third of the lands conquered by their mutual arms. This treaty held for over a hundred years. On his return, Cassius celebrated his second triumph.

After concluding the treaty with the Hernici, Cassius proposed the first agrarian law at Rome, arguing for the land to be distributed amongst the plebs and the Latin allies. Cassius’ colleague, Verginius, and the patricians strongly opposed the law. Debate and discord ensued, and the plebs turned against Cassius, suspecting him of aiming at regal power.

In 485 BC once Cassius had left office he was condemned and executed. Livy says that the method of his trial is uncertain. Livy’s preferred version is that a public trial on the charge of high treason was held on the orders of the quaestores parricidii Kaeso Fabius and Lucius Valerius, at which Cassius was condemned by the people, and subsequently by public decree his house was demolished (being near the temple of Tellus). The alternative version is that Cassius’ own father conducted a private trial (presumably exercising authority as pater familias) and put his son to death, and subsequently dedicated his son’s assets to the goddess Ceres, including by dedicating a statue to her with the inscription ““given from the Cassian family”.

Dionysius states that he was hurled from the Tarpeian Rock.

Niebuhr argues that it was impossible that a man who had been thrice consul and twice triumphed should still be in his father’s power.

Cassius Dio expressed his belief in the consul’s innocence.

In 159 BC the statue of Cassius erected on the spot of his house was melted down by the censors . Some seem to have called for the execution of Cassius’ sons also, but according to Dionysius, they were spared by the senate.

The chronographer E.J. Bickerman has suggested that Cassius’ third consulship occurred in 480 BC, the same year as the Battle of Salamis. However, this assertion rests on the accuracy of Diodorus Siculus, who stated that his consulship coincided with the archonship of Calliades in Athens. Calliades was archon in 480 BC. Herodotus confirms the possibility that the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis were fought shortly after the Olympic Games of that year, and only a few months after these events: “On approach of spring, the sun suddenly quit his seat in the heavens, and disappeared” when Xerxes left Sardis, a few weeks or months before crossing over to Greece. This eclipse occurred on February 17, 478 BC, providing a valuable chronological reference.


Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft.

Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.

Barthold Georg Niebuhr, History of Rome, vol. ii, p. 166 ff, Lectures on the History of Rome, p. 89 ff, ed. Schmitz (1848).

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia, v. 49, vi. 29.

Fasti Capitolini.

Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, ii. 17, 22, 25, 26.

Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, ii. 18.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia, v. 75, vi. 20.

Livy, Ab urbe condita, 2.33

Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, ii. 33.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Republica, ii. 33, Pro Balbo, 23.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia, vi. 49, 94, 95.

Barthold Georg Niebuhr, History of Rome, vol. ii, p. 38, ff.

Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, ii. 41.

Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2nd Ed. (1970).

Fasti Triumphales

Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, ii. 41.

Livy, Ab urbe condita, 2.41

Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Republica, ii. 27, 35, Philippicae, ii. 44, Laelius de Amicitia, 8, 11, Pro Domo Sua, 38.

Valerius Maximus, Factorum ac Dictorum Memorabilium libri IX, vi. 3. § 1.

Gaius Plinius Secundus, Historia Naturalis, xxxiv. 6. s. 14.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia, viii. 68-80.

Barthold Georg Niebuhr, History of Rome, vol. ii, p. 166 ff, Lectures on the History of Rome, p. 89 ff, ed. Schmitz (1848).

Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus, Exc. de. Sentent., 19, p. 150.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia, viii. 80.

Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.

Bickerman, E. J. Chronology of the ancient world. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York (1980), 138.

Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, xi. 1. § 2.

Herodotus, vii. 37, 166, 206, viii. 51.

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