Cassius Aurelius is currently a powerful senator and the praetor urbanus of Rome, the magistrate who supervises all the domestic affairs of the world's largest city. He grew up in the imperial household with his cousins Tiberius and Gaius Domitius while his grandfather was emperor and was originally groomed as a possible imperial heir. However, when he was ten years old, both his father and his uncle died and the succession switched to the Domitian branch of the family. Cassius became a close friend of Gaius Domitius, and the two served together as tribunes on the Parthian and German frontiers in the years 35 and 36 respectively. After that they drifted apart as Domitius continued his military carrer while Cassius returned to Rome and entered politics.
After going through the prerequisite stints as quaestor and aedile, and short stints as praetor of first Ephesus and then Athens, Cassius Aurelius received the highly south position of Praetor of Carthage in 46. However, in 48 his wife Arria became gravely ill during a difficult pregnancy and the family retired to Rhodes. (There are those who also note the timing with the imperial succession and believe that Cassius Aurelius purposefully took himself out of the picture.)
A year later Cassius Aurelius returned to Rome and became the chief political advisor in Domitius's court, helping the new emperor consolidate his rule. After serving as the emperor's primary voice in the Senate for four years, in 54 he requested and was granted the Proconsulship of Asia. (Again there were rumors of a falling out with Domitius, as this also marked the beginning of the emperor's series of extended campaigns of conquest.) He later served as Proconsul of Africa. Eventually in 59 he returned to Rome and there was talk of electing him consul, but instead he requested and received the the title of praetor urbanus, an old office which had been split into multiple praetorships in the past but was now revived. (Note that though praetors are generally of lower rank that proconsuls, the praetor urbanus ranks directly below the consuls.)
In all of his positions, Cassius Aurelius managed to become popular with both plebeians and equestrians, and he has spent decades honing the art of bread and circuses. He thus has broad support in Africa and Asia (including the current proconsuls in those provinces) and is widely liked in Rome, where he directly or indirectly controls most of the bureaucracy and has spearheaded extensive public programs. The people of Rome are aware of the high taxes being collected elsewhere in the empire and, whether it is true or not, many of them consider Cassius partially responsible for ensuring that they do not share that burden. From their point of view, it's a good thing when your local praetor is the emperor's cousin.
One of Cassius Aurelius's most popular endeavours has been expansion of the games in Rome. He personally owns a number of gladiators and chariot-racing teams, and regularly sponsors lavish exhibitions. Until recently he was the owner of the famous gladiator Cassipor, now freed and known as Cassius Iulius Rutger. He also has influence over many construction firms, local wine merchants, and importers.
Page updated 7/15/99, Scott Martin