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Avidius Cassius and Maecianus in the Historia Augusta

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 21:10 authored by Jarvis, P

In CE 175 C. Avidius Cassius, governor of Syria and possessing imperium maius in the East, mounted an ill-fated rebellion against Marcus Aurelius. Just over three months later, Cassius was murdered by his own soldiers. A supporter of Cassius was also killed: an individual recorded in the Historia Augusta only as Maecianus. Maecianus is now typically considered by scholars to be a son of Cassius. I hope to demonstrate that there are contextual and historical reasons to identify this man with L. Volusius Maecianus, a tutor of Marcus, noted jurist, and probably the father-in-law of Cassius, and that this identification has implications for the significance of the rebellion. The vitae of Marcus and Cassius in the HA provide muddled accounts of Maecianus, the rebellion, and subsequent events. Xiphilinus’ epitomes of Dio are scarcely clearer. It is thus necessary to examine the problem of Maecianus’ identity in three ways: i) the context of Cassius’ career and his rebellion; ii) the textual difficulties concerning Maecianus in the HA; and iii) the career of Volusius.

Before proceeding, it is important to remark briefly on the rebellion itself. It was a more serious threat to Marcus than is apparent from the extant sources. There are indications of this threat in the scope and swiftness of Marcus’ response: he concluded a hasty treaty on the Danubian frontier in order to free the veteran legions there to fight the usurper, and a force of veteran cavalry was dispatched immediately under a trusted officer to Rome. In its aftermath, the rebellion required Marcus to undertake a tour of the East and adopt a more aggressive policy regarding the promotion of Commodus. In this context, the attempt to identify precisely the supporters of Cassius is worthwhile: not enough is known of their number or identities, and the threat of the rebellion seems therefore muted. An investigation of Maecianus, as well as being a useful case-study, is the first step in a long road.


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School of Humanities


Brill Academic Publishers

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Copyright 2014 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden

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