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A triumvirate (Latin: triumvirātus) or a triarchy is a political institution ruled or dominated by three individuals, known as triumvirs (Latin: triumviri). The arrangement can be formal or informal. Though the three leaders in a triumvirate are notionally equal, the actual distribution of power may vary. The term can also be used to describe a state with three different military leaders who all claim to be the sole leader.

Pre-modern triumvirates[edit]


In the Bible triumvirates occurred at some notable events in both the Old Testament and New Testament. In the Book of Exodus Moses, his brother Aaron and, according to some views their nephew or brother-in-law, Hur acted this way during the Battle of Rephidim against the Amalekites.[1][2] Later, when Moses was away on the Mount Sinai Aaron and Hur were left in charge of all the Israelites.[3]

In the Gospels as a leading trio among the Twelve Apostles at three particular occasions during public ministry of Jesus acted Peter, James, son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were the only apostles present at the Raising of Jairus' daughter,[4] Transfiguration of Jesus[5] and Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.[6] Later, at the time of the Early Christian Church this triumvirate of the leading apostles changed slightly after the former James's death, as it became composed of Peter, John and James, brother of Jesus, known collectively also as the three Pillars of the Church.[7][8]

Ancient China[edit]

During the Han Dynasty (202 BCE – 220 CE), statesmen Huo Guang (d. 68 BCE), Jin Midi (d. 86 BCE), and Shangguan Jie 上官桀 (d. 80 BCE) formed a triumvirate following the death of Emperor Wu of Han (r. 141–87 BCE) 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 BCE), their political lackey. The acting Chancellor Tian Qianqiu was also easily swayed by the decisions of the triumvirate.[9]

The Three Excellencies existed in Western Han (202 BCE – 9 CE) 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 CE), 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.[10]


In Hinduism, the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva form the triumvirate Trimurti, where they each represent the balancing forces of creation, preservation, and destruction, respectively.[11] Their female counterparts and consorts, the goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati, make up the parallel Tridevi.


Triumvirates during the Pagaruyuang era in the Minangkabau Highlands were known as Rajo Tigo Selo, or "the three reigning kings." The Rajo Tigo Selo was descended from the same line in the same dynasty and ruled at the same reigning time. It consisted of three kings, the Rajo Alam who ruled the government and diplomatic affairs, the Rajo Adaik who ruled the customs and the Rajo Ibadaik who acted as a Grand Mufti.[12]

Ancient Rome[edit]

During the Roman Republic, triumviri (or tresviri) were special commissions of three men appointed for specific administrative tasks apart from the regular duties of Roman magistrates.

The term triumvirate is most commonly used by historians of ancient Rome to refer to two political alliances during the crisis of the Roman Republic:


Tamil Triumvirate refers to the triumvirate of Chola, Chera, and Pandya who dominated the politics of the ancient Tamil country. Sivaperuman, Murugan and Agatiyar are considered triumvirate of Tamil language and Sangam literature.

Rum Seljuks[edit]

Seljuk dirham struck on behalf of three sultans, citing their names

In 1246, Rum Seljuk sultan Kaykaus II was invited to Güyük Khan's coronation. Instead he sent Kilij Arslan IV, who went to Karakorum with a delegation. Two years later, he was accompanied by a Mongolian military unit of 2000, returned to Anatolia with a jarlig given by Guyuk declaring him sultan. He was recognized as sultan in Sivas, Erzincan, Diyarbakır, Malatya, Harput. Later, a meeting was held, resulting in an accord where the three brothers (Kaykaus, Kilij and Kayqubad) would share the throne. A khutbah was read on their behalf, and coins were struck in their names. However, influenced by some emirs, Kilij Arslan did not accept this and went into conflict with Kaykaus, but suffered an unexpected defeat. On 14 June 1249, he was caught and brought to his brother. However, he was well received and returned together to Konya. Both were enthroned alongside Kayqubad II. Thus a period of joint rule began from 1249 until 1254.[13] Kaykaus, controlled the capital, Konya, and everything further west, and the coast at Antalya, up to Ankara. Kilij Arslan was allocated everything to the east of Konya up to Erzurum. Kayqubad was granted minor estates on a scale sufficient for his personal expenses.[14][page needed]

Modern triumvirates[edit]

The title was revived a few times for (short-lived) three-headed political 'magistratures' in post-feudal times.

Ottoman Empire[edit]

The Three Pashas

Talaat Pasha (left), Enver Pasha (middle), Djemal Pasha (right)

The Three Pashas also known as Ottoman Triumvirate effectively ruled the Ottoman Empire during World War I: Mehmed Talaat Pasha (1874–1921), the Grand Vizier (prime minister) and Minister of the Interior; Ismail Enver Pasha (1881–1922), the Minister of War; and Ahmed Djemal Pasha (1872–1922), the Minister of the Navy.

Modern Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit]

Post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina is ruled by a three-member Presidency.

Early modern and modern France[edit]

Triumvirate of (L-R) Saint-Just, Robespierre, and Couthon

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 d'Albon 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 newly created institutions, the three-headed collective head of state was named the Consulat (1799–1804), a term in use for two-headed magistratures since Antiquity; furthermore it included an office of 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 in 1804.

Prior to Napoleon and during the Terror from 1793 to 1794 Maximilien Robespierre, Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, and Georges Couthon, as members of the governing Committee of Public Safety, were accused by their political opponents of forming an unofficial triumvirate, pointing out the first triumvirate of Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus which led to the end of the Roman Republic. 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 (27 July 1794).[15]

Pre-Independent India[edit]

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 Bal Gangadhar Tilak, often dubbed Lokmanya Tilak.


(L-R) Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Milan Rastislav Štefánik, and Edvard Beneš

The Czechoslovak National Council, an organization founded in Paris in 1916 by Czech and Slovak émigrés during World War I to liberate their homeland from Austria-Hungary, consisted of the triumvirate[16] of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk as a chairman, Edvard Beneš, who joined Masaryk in exile in 1915, as the organization's general secretary, and Milan Rastislav Štefánik, a Slovak who was an aviator in the French Army, designating to represent Slovak interests in the national council. During the closing weeks of the war, the Czechoslovak National Council was formally upgraded to a provisional government and its members were designated to hold top offices in the First Czechoslovak Republic.


According to the Article 8 paragraph (3) from the Constitution of Indonesia, there are three head of government institutions that can act as a "temporary" triumvirate only if there are vacancies in the position of president and vice president at the same time (e.g. both president and vice president were assassinated, sick, not doing their duties, died, or resigned). They are Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Home Affairs, and Minister of Defense. Those three ministers can act for president and vice president together for maximum 30 days.

After that, during the term of the triumvirate, the People's Consultative Assembly must elect a new president and vice president from the two pairs of candidates nominated by the political party or coalition of political parties whose candidates were the winner and the runner-up in the previous presidential election. The newly elected president and vice president will continue the remaining term of former president and vice president that were elected from previous general election, not five years.

Modern Israel[edit]

  • 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.[17][18][19]
  • 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 triumvirate 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.


Soviet Union[edit]

See also List of Troikas in the Soviet Union

In the context of the Soviet Union, the term troika (Russian: for "group of three") is used for "triumvirate".[21]

Triumvirate of: (L-R) Nikolai Podgorny, Leonid Brezhnev, and Alexei Kosygin during October Revolution anniversary celebrations in 1973

Modern Italy[edit]

In the Roman Republic (1849), the title of two sets of three joint chiefs of state in the year 1849:

Almost immediately following the Roman Republic, the Red Triumvirate governed the restored Papal States from 1849 to 1850:[23][24]

Modern Greece[edit]

  • 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 Roufos, 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.
The "Triumvirate of National Defence": (L-R) Admiral Kountouriotis, Venizelos, and General Danglis

The Netherlands[edit]



The oath of the provisional triumviral regents of the Empire of Brazil in the Imperial Chapel, 1831
The members of the Brazilian military juntas of 1930 and 1969, respectively

The Americas[edit]

Other triumvirates[edit]

The word has been used as a term of convenience, though not an official title, for other groups of three in a similar position:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Exodus 17:10
  2. ^ Magill, Frank Northen (2003). Dictionary of World Biography. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1579580407. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  3. ^ Exodus 24:14
  4. ^ Mark 5:37
  5. ^ Matthew 17:1
  6. ^ Matthew 26:37
  7. ^ Galatians 2:9
  8. ^ "Galatians 2:9 And recognizing the grace that I had been given, James, Cephas, and John – those reputed to be pillars – gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the Jews". biblehub.com.
  9. ^ Loewe (1986), 178.
  10. ^ Beck (1986), 319.
  11. ^ For quotation defining the trimurti see Matchett, Freda. "The Purāṇas", in: Flood (2003), p. 139.
  12. ^ "BAB III. Rajo Tigo Selo". 11 March 2008.
  13. ^ "Kilicarslan IV (ö. 664/1266) Anadolu Selçuklu sultanı (1249–1254, 1257–1266).". TDV Encyclopedia of Islam (44+2 vols.) (in Turkish). Istanbul: Turkiye Diyanet Foundation, Centre for Islamic Studies. 1988–2016.
  14. ^ Thomas Sinclair (2019). Eastern Trade and the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages. Routledge. ISBN 978-1000752670.
  15. ^ Colin Jones (2021). The Fall of Robespierre: 24 Hours in Revolutionary Paris. Oxford University Press. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-19-871595-5.
  16. ^ Rob Humphreys, Susie Lunt (2002). Czech and Slovak Republics. Rough Guides. p. 453. ISBN 1-85828-904-1.
  17. ^ Ladies and gentlemen, your next government, By Amir Oren, Published: 13 January 2009, Haaretz Daily Newspaper. Archived from the original 25 January 2009
  18. ^ Diplomacy: Endgame politics, By Herb Keinon, 8 January 2009, Jerusalem Post
  19. ^ Israel launches PR blitz ahead of Gaza operation, Roni Sofer, Published: 21 December 2008, Ynetnews
  20. ^ Decalo, Samuel (1973). "Regionalism, Politics, and the Military in Dahomey". The Journal of Developing Areas. 7 (3): 449–478.
  21. ^ "Definition of TROIKA". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 17 July 2022.
  22. ^ Rappaport, Helen (1999). Joseph Stalin: A Biographical Companion. ABC-CLIO. pp. 141, 326. ISBN 978-1576070840.
  23. ^ Coppa, Frank J. (1990). Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli and Papal Politics in European Affairs. Albany: State University of New York. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-791-40185-9.
  24. ^ Glueckert, Leopold G. (1989). Between Two Amnesties: Former Political Prisoners and Exiles in the Roman Revolution of 1848 (PhD). Loyola University Chicago. p. 128.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ Tim Weber (4 September 2008), A decade on: Google's internet economy, BBC News, retrieved 10 February 2013


  • 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, ed. (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

External links[edit]