A triumvirate (from Latin, "triumvirātus," from trēs three + vir man) is a political regime dominated by three powerful individuals, each a triumvir (pl. triumviri). The arrangement can be formal or informal, and though the three are usually equal on paper, in reality this is rarely the case. The term can also be used to describe a state with three different military leaders who all claim to be the sole leader.
- 1 Roman triumvirates
- 2 Chinese triumvirates
- 3 Hindu mythology
- 4 Tamil Triumvirate (in South India)
- 5 Modern triumvirates
- 6 Other triumvirates
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 Sources and references
- 10 External links
Originally, triumviri were special commissions of three men appointed for specific administrative tasks apart from the regular duties of Roman magistrates. The triumviri capitales, for instance, oversaw prisons and executions, along with other functions that, as Andrew Lintott notes, show them to have been "a mixture of police superintendents and justices of the peace." The capitales were first established around 290–287 BC. They were supervised by the praetor urbanus. These triumviri, or the tresviri nocturni, may also have taken some responsibility for fire control.
Three-man commissions were also appointed for purposes such as establishing colonies (triumviri coloniae deducendae) or distributing land. Triumviri mensarii served as public bankers; the full range of their financial functions in 216 BC, when the commission included two men of consular rank, has been the subject of debate. Another form of three-man commission was the tresviri epulones, who were in charge of organizing public feasts on holidays. This commission was created in 196 BC by a tribunician law on behalf of the people, and their number was later increased to seven (septemviri epulones).
In the late Republic, two three-man political alliances are called triumvirates by modern scholars, though only for the second was the term triumviri used at the time to evoke constitutional precedents:
- The so-called First Triumvirate was an informal political alliance of Julius Caesar, Pompeius Magnus ("Pompey the Great") and Marcus Crassus. The arrangement had no legal status, and its purpose was to consolidate the political power of the three and their supporters against the senatorial elite. After the death of Crassus in 53 BC, the two survivors fought a civil war, during which Pompey was killed and Caesar established his sole rule as perpetual dictator.
- The Second Triumvirate was recognized as a triumvirate at the time. A Lex Titia formalized the rule of Octavian, Mark Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. The legal language makes reference to the traditional tresviri. This "three-man commission for restoring the constitution of the republic" (tresviri rei publicae constituendae) in fact was given the power to make or annul law without approval from either the Senate or the people; their judicial decisions were not subject to appeal, and they named magistrates at will. Although the constitutional machinery of the Republic was not irrevocably dismantled by the Lex Titia, in the event it never recovered. Lepidus was sidelined early in the triumvirate, and Antony was eliminated in civil war, leaving Octavian the sole leader.
One of the most notable triumvirates formed in the history of China was by the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) statesmen Huo Guang (d. 68 BC), Jin Midi (d. 86 BC), and Shangguan Jie 上官桀 (d. 80 BC), following the death of Emperor Wu of Han (r. 141–87 BC) and the installation of the child emperor Zhao.
Despite the Three Excellencies—including the Chancellor, Imperial Secretary, and irregularly the Grand Commandant—representing the most senior ministerial positions of state, this triumvirate was supported by the economic technocrat and Imperial Secretary Sang Hongyang (d. 80 BC), their political lackey. The acting Chancellor Tian Qianqiu was also easily swayed by the decisions of the triumvirate.
The Three Excellencies existed in Western Han (202 BC – 9 AD) as the Chancellor, Imperial Secretary, and Grand Commandant, but the Chancellor was viewed as senior to the Imperial Secretary while the post of Grand Commandant was vacant for most of the dynasty. After Emperor Guangwu established the Eastern Han (25–220 AD), the Grand Commandant was made a permanent official while the Minister over the Masses replaced the Chancellor and the Minister of Works replaced the Imperial Secretary. Unlike the three high officials in Western Han when the Chancellor was senior to all, these new three senior officials had equal censorial and advisory powers. When a young or weak-minded emperor ascended to the throne, these Three Excellencies could dominate the affairs of state. There were also other types of triumvirates during the Eastern Han; for example, at the onset of the reign of Emperor Ling of Han (r. 168–189), the General-in-Chief Dou Wu (d. 168), the Grand Tutor Chen Fan (d. 168), and another prominent statesman Hu Guang (91–172) formed a triumvirate nominally in charge of the Privy Secretariat, when in fact it was a regent triumvirate that was overseeing the affairs of state and Emperor Ling.
In Hindu mythology, the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva form the triumvirate Trimurti "in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified" respectively by those gods.."
Tamil Triumvirate (in South India)
The title was revived a few times for (short-lived) three-headed political 'magistratures' in post-feudal times.
Early-modern and modern France
While French Huguenots had derisively bestowed the name Triumvirate on the alliance formed in 1561 between Catholic Francis, Duke of Guise, Anne de Montmorency, and Jacques Dalbon, Seigneur de Saint Andre during the French Wars of Religion, in later years the term would be used to describe other arrangements within France.
At the end of the 1700s, when the French revolutionaries turned to several Roman Magistrature names for their new institutions, the three-headed collective Head of State was named Consulat, a term in use for two-headed magistratures since Antiquity; furthermore it included a "First Consul" who was not an equal, but the de facto solo head of state and government – a position Napoleon Bonaparte chose to convert openly into the First French Empire.
Prior to Napoleon and during the Terror Robespierre, Louis de Saint-Just, and Couthon, as members of the governing Committee of Public Safety, were purported by some to have formed an unofficial triumvirate. Although officially all members of the committee shared equal power the three men's friendship and close ideological base led their detractors to declaim them as triumvirs which was used against them in the coup of 9 Thermidor.
In the early days of the national struggle and before Gandhi, the Indian National Congress was known to be under Lal-Bal-Pal i.e. Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal and the leader of the three Balgangadhar Tilak often dubbed Lokmanya Tilak.
- 2008-2009: Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni were sometimes referred to as a triumvirate.
- 2012: The leadership of Shas, the ultra-orthodox Sepharadi political party of Israel, was given by its spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and the Council of Torah Sages, to a triumverate formed by the convicted Aryeh Deri who decided to return to politics after a thirteen-year hiatus, the former party leader Eli Yishai and Ariel Atias.
People's Republic of China
Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Zhu De had the biggest contribution to the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and are regarded as the most influenced members of the first generation of the Chinese communist leaders. All of them died during 1976. 
- 13 April 1970 until 26 October 1972: After the contentious 1970 presidential elections, the country of Benin (then known as the Republic of Dahomey) adopted a Presidential Council which included the three main political figures in the country: Hubert Maga, Justin Ahomadégbé-Tomêtin, and Sourou-Migan Apithy. In addition, the formal office of President would rotate between the three of them beginning with Hubert Maga. After one successful change of leadership, military leader Mathieu Kérékou staged a coup and overthrew the Presidential Council becoming the leader of the country until 1991.
- See also List of Troikas in the Soviet Union
- 13 March – 26 June 1953: After the death of Joseph Stalin power was shared between Lavrenty Beria, Georgy Malenkov, and Vyacheslav Molotov.
- 14 October 1964 – 16 June 1977: After the removal of Nikita Khrushchev the Soviet Union went through a period of collective leadership. Power was initially shared between Premier Alexei Kosygin, General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and Chairman of the Presidium Anastas Mikoyan. Mikoyan was replaced by Nikolai Podgorny in 1965.
In the Roman Republic (1849), the title of two sets of three joint chiefs of state in the year 1849:
- 29 March – 1 July 1849: Carlo Armellini (b. 1777 – d. 1863), Giuseppe Mazzini (b. 1805 – d. 1872) & Conte Aurelio Saffi (b. 1819 – d. 1890)
- 1–4 July 1849: Aurelio Saffi (again), Alessandro Calandrelli (b. 1805 – d. 1888) & Livio Mariani (no dates available)
- After the downfall of the first King of Greece, the Bavarian Otto, on 23 October 1862, and Dimitrios Voulgaris' unsuccessful term (23 October 1862 – 30 January 1863) as president of the Provisional Government, a Triumvirate (30 January – 30 October 1863) was established consisting of the same Dimitrios Voulgaris, the renowned Admiral Konstantinos Kanaris and Benizelos Rouphos, which acted as a regency until the arrival of the new monarch, the first "King of the Hellenes", George I.
- A triumvirate was established to head the Theriso revolt of 1905 in autonomous Crete, consisting of Eleftherios Venizelos (later Prime Minister of Greece) in charge of organisational matters, Konstantinos Foumis in charge of finances and Konstantinos Manos, the former mayor of Chania, in charge of military affairs.
- A triumvirate was set up during the First World War in September 1916, to head the "Provisional Government of National Defence" in Thessaloniki. It consisted of the popular liberal statesman Eleftherios Venizelos, General Panagiotis Danglis and Admiral Pavlos Koundouriotis. This "Triumvirate of National Defence" functioned as a collective head of government, although effective control was in Venizelos' hands. With the abdication of King Constantine I in June 1917 and the reunification of the country under Venizelos, the triumvirate was dissolved. The Triandria municipality in Thessaloniki is named after this triumvirate.
- A triumvirate was set up on 13 September 1922 to lead the military revolt against the royalist government in Athens in the aftermath of the Asia Minor Disaster. It was composed of Colonels Nikolaos Plastiras and Stylianos Gonatas, and Commander Dimitrios Fokas. The triumvirate assumed the government of Greece on 15 September, and would control the country until it laid down its powers on 2 January 1924. Plastiras however quickly became the dominant figure among the triumvirate, and was eventually labelled as the "Chief of the Revolution".
- A de facto triumvirate existed during the early years of the Greek military junta of 1967–1974, when the junta's three main leaders were Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos, Brigadier Stylianos Pattakos and Colonel Nikolaos Makarezos. With the increasing predominance of Papadopoulos from 1970 on, this triumvirate ceased to function.
- The Greek People's Liberation Army, active during the Axis Occupation of Greece, had a triadic leadership structure, consisting of the kapetánios ("captain", the unit's leader), the stratiotikós (the military specialist, usually a former Army officer) and the politikós (the political representative of the National Liberation Front).
- Venezuela: by decree of the Caracas Junta and ratified in the Federal Constitution of 1811 the executive power was vested in "three individuals" (1810–12)
- The United Provinces of South America (modern-day Argentina) had two triumvirates:
- The United Provinces of New Granada, now present day Colombia, and Panama, were headed by two triumvirates in the period known as the "Patria Boba" or Foolish Fatherland
- Interim Triumvirate, 5 October – 23 November 1814
- Triumvirate of the United Provinces of New Granada, 23 November 1814 – October 1815
- The Dominican Republic had two triumvirates, which were essentially three-member juntas:
- 29 May – 22 August 1866 – 1st Triumvirate (in rebellion against Buenaventura Báez from 1 May 1866):
- 26 September 1963 – 25 April 1965 – 2nd Triumvirate:
- New York: the political arrangement of "three men in a room", consisting of the Governor, Speaker of the New York State Assembly, and the Majority Leader of the New York State Senate
After the Lisbon Treaty came into force from 1 December 2009:
- President of the European Council - Herman Van Rompuy
- President of the European Commission - José Manuel Barroso
- High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission - Catherine Ashton
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Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google has referred to himself, along with founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as part of a triumvirate, stating, "This triumvirate has made an informal deal to stick together for at least 20 years".
The word has been used as a term of convenience, though not an official title, for other groups of three in a similar position:
- Ottoman Triumvirate is another name for the Ottoman Interregnum
- The "Three Pashas" formed a triumvirate that de facto governed the Ottoman Empire in World War I.
- Great Triumvirate (19th Century American Politics – Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun)
- Great Triumvirate (Early 20th century golf – Harry Vardon, James Braid, and J.H. Taylor)
- Polish and Czechoslovak Council of Three (World War II resistance governments)
- Tuscan Triumvirate (Middle Ages Italian Poets – Dante, Bocaccio, and Petrarch)
- Triumvirate as per Hinduism (Gods of Creation, Preservation and Destruction – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva)
- Constitution of the Roman Republic
- Council of Three (disambiguation)
- Decemvirate - the equivalent term for ten people
- Duumvirate - the equivalent term but with two members
- Andrew Lintott, Violence in Republican Rome (Oxford University Press, 1999, 2nd ed.), p. 102 online.
- Livy, Periocha 11.
- Triumviri or tresviri nocturni may be another name or nickname for the capitales, because their duties often pertained to the streets at night.
- John E. Stambaugh, The Ancient Roman City (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), p. 347, note 4 online and p. 348, note 13; O.F. Robinson, Ancient Rome: City Planning and Administration (Routledge, 1994), p. 105 online.
- Andrew Lintott, The Constitution of the Roman Republic (Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 12 and 95 online.
- Jean Andreau, Banking and Business in the Roman World (Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 115 online.
- Rachel Feig Vishnia, State, Society, and Popular Leaders in Mid-Republican Rome, 241-167 B.C. (Routledge, 1996), p. 86ff. online.
- Livy 33.42.1; Vishnia, State, Society, and Popular Leaders, p. 171; Fergus Millar, Rome, the Greek World, and the East (University of North Caroline Press, 2002), p. 122 online; Lintott, Constitution, p. 184.
- Beck, Roger B.; Linda Black, Larry S. Krieger, Phillip C. Naylor, Dahia Ibo Shabaka, (1999). World History: Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell. ISBN 0-395-87274-X.
- Christopher Pelling, "The Triumviral Period," in The Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge University Press, 1996, 2nd ed.), vol. 10, p. 1 online.
- Loewe (1986), 178.
- Beck (1986), 319.
- For quotation defining the trimurti see Matchett, Freda. "The Purāṇas", in: Flood (2003), p. 139.
- Ladies and gentlemen, your next government, By Amir Oren, Published: 13.01.2009, Haaretz Daily Newspaper
- Diplomacy: Endgame politics, By HERB KEINON, Jan 8, 2009, Jerusalem Post
- Israel launches PR blitz ahead of Gaza operation, Roni Sofer, Published: 12.21.2008, Ynetnews
- Decalo, Samuel (1973). "Regionalism, Politics, and the Military in Dahomey". The Journal of Developing Areas 7 (3): 449–478.
- Lachman, Seymour & Polner, Robert (2006). Three Men in a Room: The Inside Story of Power and Betrayal in an American Statehouse. New York : New Press.
- Tim Weber (2008-09-04), A decade on: Google's internet economy, BBC News, retrieved February 10, 2013
Sources and references
- Beck, Mansvelt. (1986). "The Fall of Han," in The Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C. – A.D. 220. Edited by Denis Twitchett and Michael Loewe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-24327-0.
- Flood, Gavin (Editor) (2003). The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-4051-3251-5.
- Loewe, Michael. (1986). "The Former Han Dynasty," in The Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C. – A.D. 220, 103–222. Edited by Denis Twitchett and Michael Loewe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-24327-0.
- Etymology on line
- World Statesmen here Greece - see under each present country