The Second Triumvirate: Members & Overview

Instructor: Flint Johnson

Flint has tutored mathematics through precalculus, science, and English and has taught college history. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow

This essay will explain the development and uses of the second triumvirate in the aftermath of Julius Caesar's assassination, from their creation to its dissolution.

Why a Second Triumvirate, What Happened to the First?

When you were a kid, did you ever want to start a band? Maybe you were a drummer, for example. However, you still needed at least a singer and a guitarist. You knew you couldn't do all three of these roles; you recognized you needed some help.

The First Triumvirate in ancient Rome was based on that principle. Three men wanted control of the Roman Republic - one was a wealthy man named Crassus, one was a popular man named Julius Caesar, and one was a great general named Pompey. The triumvirate fell apart when Crassus died fighting the Parthians in the East and Julius Caesar became a better general than Pompey. At that point, Julius Caesar became the first ruler of Rome.

Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C.E., his death leaving the Republic a pretty big mess. His closest allies had been Lepidus and Marc Antony, and they were busy fighting each other. His nephew, adopted son, and designated heir was a young man named Octavian. Julius Caesar's assassins, mainly Brutus and Longinus, were in the East conspiring for power while Pompey's son, Sextus Pompey, controlled Sicily and Sardinia. It wasn't long before Lepidus, Marc Antony, and Octavian realized that they could accomplish more together than apart, though, and they quickly legalized their alliance in the Lex Titia.

Lex Titia

The Lex Titia, was a Roman law of 43 B.C.E. Officially, it set up a three-man commission for restoring the Republic, but it also gave all three men power over every other office in the government. Octavian, Marc Antony, and Lepidus were able to make laws without the approval of the Senate or the people, their judicial decisions could not be appealed, they were able to appoint their own magistrates, and of course the legions were divided among them. The only limitation the law gave them was that it only lasted five years. The triumvirate was renewed in 38 B.C.E.

Internal Politics

Young Augustus

Just like any joint venture, the triumvirate members all tried to strengthen their positions. The Lex Titia had divided the territories of the empire among them, with Lepidus receiving Spain and a small portion of Gaul, Marc Antony acquiring the eastern provinces and a majority of Gaul, and Octavian getting Africa, Sextus Pompey-controlled Sicily, and Sardinia. Italy was left under all three men's authority. With Spain stable, the east still in doubt, and Africa a small province, Lepidus had the upper hand until he gave his allies seven legions so that they could chase after and defeat the co-conspirators Brutus and Longinus. Octavian and Marc Antony quickly defeated Brutus and Longinus, but retained control of the legions. By doing this, they weakened Lepidus' position. Octavian took over Spain and left him with Africa.

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