Two Triumvirates And Their Significance

If you want rainbow, you have to deal with the rain

Augustus Caesar

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Mark Antony

Triumvirate was the term used for any official institution in which authority was equally divided among three people. The formation of both First Triumvirate in 60 BC and Second Triumvirate in 43 BC is notable in the history of Rome. To understand the significance of the first Triumvirate, one has to become aware of the events that led to its formation and which followed it afterwards.

1. Reduction in Republic’s Power

The Republic’s authority in Rome which vested on the Senate lost its effectiveness after the First Triumvirate came into existence. The First Triumvirate was the coalition of the 3 great military commanders or warlords who became forefront in Roman politics. These great military commanders were Pompey, Crassus and Julius Caesar. Notably, the objective of First Triumvirate‘s formation was to counter the Senate because of the fact that the Senate tried to curtail the power of Pompey. The conflict between Pompey and the Senate began after Pompey returned to Rome from his campaign in the east in 62 BC. Undoubtedly, the objective of First Triumvirate’s formation was successful as the entire authority and power got vested in the hands of these 3 Warlords.

2. Triumvirate to Dictatorship

In 53 BC, Crassus died in the Battle of Carrhae which was a war with the Parthians of Iran and Mesopotamia. After his death, conflicts aroused between Julius Caesar and Pompey. In 50 BC, Julius Caesar succeeded in subjugating the Gauls, who inhabited in the northern part of Italy, between the Alps and the river Po. To prevent Pompey from acquiring the entire authority of Rome, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon river which was in the southern part of Italy and beyond his territory. This clearly led to a full fledged war between Julius Caesar and Pompey in which Pompey was defeated in 48 BC. After that, Pompey fled to Egypt and he was murdered on the orders of King Ptolemy of Egypt. Julius Caesar became the dictator of Rome with tremendous powers. In 47 BC, he was made dictator for 10 years.

3. Julius Caesar’s Death

Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC. The main leaders of his murder conspiracy were Marcus Junius Brutus and Cassius. Julius Caesar used his position to give grain to the poor and used his oratory skills to further win the favor of the masses. Both these conspirators belonged to the faction of the oligarchy which wanted to prevent Julius Caesar from converting the republic into a monarchy. The latin phrase ” Et tu Brute ” of Shakespeare’s play which means ” you too Brutus ” is significant throughout history. The main significance of this phrase is due to the fact that Brutus was a friend of Julius Caesar. This is the most horrible way of backstabbing which a friend did to a friend in Roman history.

The Second Triumvirate was formed in 43 BC after the death of Julius Caesar. It was the coalition of Mark Antony ( military commander, politician and prominent friend of Julius Caesar) , Octavian Caesar ( grand nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar) and Lepidus ( Consul in 46 BC, loyal supporter and ‘ master of the horse’ under Julius Caesar). The significance of the Second Triumvirate lies due to the following events-

1. Defeat of Brutus and Cassius

The most important objective of Second Triumvirate was to bring justice to the death of Julius Caesar. Both the conspirators of Julius Caesar‘s murder i.e Marcus Junius Brutus and Cassius were defeated in the second Battle of Philippi by Mark Antony in 42 BC. After this defeat, both Brutus and Cassius suicided. Mark Antony ordered Brutus’s body to be wrapped in Antony’s most expensive purple mantle as a sign of respect to Brutus after his death.

2. Mark Antony And Octavian Caesar’s Conflict

The differences between Mark Antony and Octavian arose soon after Lepidus retired from the Second Triumvirate. Mark Antony became the lover of Ptolemid ruler of Egypt, Cleopatra from 41 BC onwards. In 32 B.C Octavian declared war after Mark Antony divorced his wife i.e the sister of Octavian Caesar, Octavia. Mark Antony sought the support of Cleopatra but soon, both of their combined forces were defeated at Actium on the western coast of mainland Greece. After that, both of them commited suicide.

3. Beginning of the Roman Principate

Octavian Caesar assumed the title of Augustus in 27 B.C and became the supreme ruler of the whole Roman empire. He declared himself as the Princep i.e the first and foremost citizen. Although he didn’t abolish the Republic and the designation of public official of the Senate, but the constitutional machinery of the republic had collapsed. Thus, 27 B.C formally marks the end of the Republic and the beginning of the new Roman Principate.

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