The Cassian Portraiture

    Research output: Working paper


    Brutum et Cassium laudavisse dicor, quorum res gestas cum plurimi composuerint, nemo sine honore memoravit. […] Scipionem, Afranium, hunc ipsum Cassium, hunc Brutum nusquam latrones et parricidas, quae nunc vocabula imponuntur, saepe ut insignis viros nominat. Asinii Pollionis scripta egregiam eorundem memoriam tradunt; Messala Corvinus imperatorem suum Cassium praedicabat: et uterque opibusque atque honoribus perviguere. […] an illi quidem septuagesimum ante annum perempti, quo modo imaginibus suis noscuntur, quas ne victor quidem abolevit, sic partem memoriae apud scriptores retinent?

    I am said to have praised Brutus and Cassius, whose careers many have described and no one has mentioned without eulogy. […] Scipio, Afranius, this very Cassius, this same Brutus, he nowhere describes as brigands and traitors, terms now applied to them, but repeatedly as illustrious men. Asinius Pollio's writings too hand down a glorious memory of them, and Messala Corvinus used to speak with pride of Cassius as his general. Yet both these men prospered to the end with wealth and preferment. […] Did [Cassius and Brutus] not fall more than seventy years ago, and as they are known to us by statues which even the conqueror did not destroy, so too is not some portion of their memory preserved for us by historians?

    Tacitus, illustrating the nature of the memory of Cassius, records the trial of Cremutius Cordus, the historian who had covered the civil wars and the following reign of Augustus, who had subsequently been charged with treason after praising Brutus and describing Cassius as the ultimus Romanorum. In his example, Tacitus intends to substantiate his assertion of the metaphorical link between the Liberatores and the defence of the Republic, using Cordus as a representation of the struggle between dominatio and libertas. Over sixty years had passed between Cassius’ death and the trial of Cordus, yet, both Cassius and Brutus had transformed into highly political – and dangerous – figureheads. Consequently, the subject of this chapter is the kernel of evidence that Tacitus presents: the manifestations of Cassius’ memory within portraiture. I shall begin by reviewing the sculptural group previously known as the ‘Pseudo-Corbulo’ group, wherein I argue against the previous suggestions of identifications, proposing that the portrayed is, in fact, Cassius. Against this background, we shall then turn to examine the coins of Servius and Valaa, not only demonstrating that the individual present on RRC 514/2 belongs to the new grouping of Cassian portraiture, but analysing how the symbols Servius and Valaa chose connect directly with the images of Cassius and Brutus. This representational language discreetly forms a coherent and cohesive narrative, containing images which are ambiguous, thus allowing Valaa and Servius to avoid the danger that came with advocating for the enemies of the Second Triumvirate. However, while we should be aware that our identification of the portraits has a direct impact on our interpretation of these coins, the key is through the understanding that Vaala and Servius’ issues must not be analysed as separate pieces, but as two coins of the same story. These coins and portraits illuminate the usage of Cassius’ memory and illustrate how the following generations transformed the image that he left behind at Philippi. Thus, of crucial importance for this dissertation, this chapter will not only aim to identify Cassius in sculptural and numismatic portraiture, but it seeks to demonstrate how the images of Cassius represent the evolution of the iconography - and memory - of the Liberator.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusSubmitted - 2022

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