First Triumvirate

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This article is about Roman political alliance between Crassus, Pompey, and Julius Caesar. For the 19th century AD Argentinian alliance, see First Triumvirate (Argentina).
From left to right: Julius Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey the Great

The First Triumvirate was an unofficial political alliance known as an Amitica, between three prominent Roman politicians (triumvirs) which included Julius Caesar, Pompey the Great and Marcus Licinius Crassus. "Pompey and Caesar now formed a pact, jointly swearing to oppose all legislation of which any one of them might disapprove. It lasted from approximately 59 BCE to Crassus' defeat by the Parthians in 53 BCE.[1] The alliance was "not at heart a union of those with the same political ideals and ambitions", but one where "all [were] seeking personal advantage."[2]


Marcus Licinius Crassus and Pompey the Great had been colleagues in the consulship in 70 BC, when they had legislated the full restoration of the tribunate of the people.[3] However, since that time, the two men had entertained considerable antipathy for one another, each believing the other to have gone out of his way to increase his own reputation at his colleague's expense.[4][page needed] Caesar contrived to reconcile the two men, and then combined their clout with his own to have himself elected consul in 59 BC; as Goldsworthy notesar's persuasiveness and charm to convince the old enemies" that he could give them they wanted if they both joined in supporting him.[5][page needed] Caesar and Crassus were already allies, Crassus already having made "substantial loans" to Caesar),[6] and he solidified his alliance with Pompey—his political motivation—by giving his daughter, Julia, in marriage.[7] Each triumvir had their own reasons for joining together; per Goldsworthy, "Pompey wanted land for his veterans and... ratification of his eastern settlement… Crassus... relief for the tax collectors of Asia… [Caesar] needed powerful backers if he was to achieve anything."[8]

The Triumvirate was kept secret until the Senate obstructed Caesar's proposed agrarian law establishing colonies of Roman citizens,[citation needed] and the associated distribution of portions of the public lands (ager publicus).[9] He promptly brought the law before the Council of the People in a speech that found him flanked by Crassus and Pompey,[citation needed] whose enthusiastic support thus revealed the alliance.[10] Caesar's agrarian law was carried through,[citation needed] and the Triumviri then proceeded to allow the demagogue Publius Clodius Pulcher's election as tribune of the people,[citation needed] successfully ridding themselves both of Marcus Tullius Cicero and Cato the Younger, both adamant opponents of the Triumviri.[citation needed]

Caesar was elected consul jointly with Marcus Bibulus.[11] The senate awarded Caesar and Bibulus "the woods and roads" as their proconsul territory, for which Caesar took offense.[11]

The Triumvirate proceeded to make further arrangements for itself; through a tribune, Caesar passed his own ruling on the proconsul territory matter, the triumvirate naming him proconsul of both Gauls (Gallia Cisalpina and Gallia Transalpina), and of the Roman province of Illyricum, with command of four legions, for five years.[citation needed] Caesar's new father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, was made consul for the year 58 BC.[citation needed]

By 56 BC, the bonds between the three men were fraying,[12] so Caesar invited Crassus, then Pompey, to a secret meeting, the Lucca Conference, to rethink their joint strategy, a meeting that renewed their political alliance.[citation needed] They agreed that Pompey and Crassus would again stand for the consulship in 55 BC; once elected, they would extend Caesar's command in Gaul by five years.[citation needed] At the end of their joint consular year, Pompey would keep Hispania in absentia, and Crassus would have the influential and lucrative governorship of Syria and use it as a base to conquer Parthia[13][14][15][16][17][18]

The alliance allowed the triumvirs to dominate Roman politics completely, but it would not last indefinitely due to the ambitions, egos, and jealousies of the three.[citation needed] Caesar and Crassus were implicitly "hand-in-glove",[this quote needs a citation] but Pompey disliked Crassus and grew increasingly envious of Caesar's spectacular successes in the Gallic War, whereby he annexed the whole of the Three Gauls to Rome.[citation needed]

Death of Crassus and Pompey and breakdown of relations[edit]

Julia's death during childbirth and Crassus's ignominious defeat and death at Carrhae at the hands of the Parthians in 53 BC effectively undermined the alliance.

Pompey remained in Rome, governing his Spanish provinces through lieutenants, and remained in virtual control of the city throughout that time. He gradually drifted further and further from his alliance with Caesar, eventually marrying the daughter of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Cornelianus Scipio Nasica, one of the boni ("Good Men"), an archconservative faction of the Senate steadfastly opposed to Caesar.

Pompey was elected consul without colleague in 52 BC, and took part in the politicking which led to Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon in 49 BC, starting the Civil War. Pompey was made commander-in-chief of the war by the Senate, and was defeated by his former ally Caesar at Pharsalus despite the fact that he heavily out-numbered Caesar's army. Pompey's subsequent murder in Egypt in an inept political intrigue left Caesar sole master of the Roman world.

The death of both Crassus and Pompey secured the breakdown of the First Triumvirate, as only one triumvir remained: Caesar.

Family tree[edit]

Family tree showing the relationship between the three members of the First Triumvirate, as well as their relationships with other prominent members of the Republic.[citation needed][original research?]

See also[edit]

Notes and citations[edit]

  1. ^ Toynbee, Encyclopedia Britannica "Julius Caesar (Roman ruler)," §"The first triumvirate...," and §"Antecedents and outcome…".
  2. ^ Goldsworthy, p. 164.
  3. ^ Goldsworthy, p. 94
  4. ^ Goldsworthy, p. UNKNOWN; "Although Pompey and Crassus had combined to seek office and cooperated in the restoration of the tribunate, their mutual dislike and envy swiftly resurfaced."[page needed]
  5. ^ Goldsworthy, p. UNKNOWN.[page needed]
  6. ^ Goldsworthy, p. 81.
  7. ^ Goldsworthy, p. 174.
  8. ^ Goldsworthy, p. 166.
  9. ^ Goldsworthy, p. 167; "A commission would oversee the purchase and distribution of the land to both Pompey's veteran soldiers and large numbers of the urban poor."
  10. ^ Goldsworthy, p. 170; "Both enthusiastically supported the bill, for the first time giving a clear public indication of the association with the consul."
  11. ^ a b Suetonius (1889). "19". In Reed, J. Eugene; Thomson, Alexander. Suetonius: The Lives of the Twelve Caesars; An English Translation, Augmented with the Biographies of Contemporary Statesmen, Orators, Poets, and Other Associates. Julius Caesar. Philadelphia: Gebbie & Co / hosted online by Tufts University. 
  12. ^ Boak, History of Rome to 565 A.D., pg. 169.
  13. ^ Cicero, Letters to his brother Quintus, see 2.3, accessed UNKNOWN.
  14. ^ Suetonius, "Julius" in Twelve Caesars, see 24, accessed UNKNOWN.
  15. ^ Plutarch, "Caesar" in Lives, see 21, accessed UNKNOWN.
  16. ^ Plutarch, "Crassus" in Lives, see 14–15, accessed UNKNOWN.
  17. ^ Plutarch, "Pompey" in Lives, see 51, accessed UNKNOWN.
  18. ^ Boatwright, et al. pg. 229.

Literature cited[edit]

  • Boak, Arthur E.R. (1925). History of Rome to 565 A.D., New York:Macmillan, see [1], accessed 18 April 2015.
  • Boatwright, Mary T.; Daniel J. Gargola & Richard J. A. Talbert (2004). The Romans: From Village to Empire, Oxford, UK:Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195118758, see [2], accessed 18 April 2015.
  • Goldsworthy, Adrian (2008). Caesar: Life of a Colossus. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300126891. 
  • Suetonius [Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus] (2003). The Twelve Caesars, with an introduction by Michael Grant. [Robert Graves, Transl.] (Rev. ed.). London, UK: Penguin Books. ISBN 0140449213. Retrieved 18 April 2015. 
  • Toynbee, Arnold Joseph (2014). "Julius Caesar (Roman ruler): The first triumvirate and the conquest of Gaul," and "Julius Caesar (Roman ruler): Antecedents and outcome of the civil war of 49–45 bcd," at Encyclopedia Britannica (online), see [3] and [4], accessed 18 April 2015.

External links[edit]