Learn more about First Triumvirate
The First Triumvirate is a common name among historians to refer to the unofficial political alliance of Gaius Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus, and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Unlike the somewhat less famous so called "Second Triumvirate", the First Triumvirate had no official status whatsoever – its overwhelming power in the Roman state was strictly unofficial influence – and was in fact kept secret for some time as part of the political machinations of the Triumviri themselves. It formed in 60 BC and lasted until Crassus's death in 53 BC.
Crassus and Pompey had been colleagues (they had always despised each other) in the consulate for 70 BC, when they had legislated the full restoration of the tribunate of the people (the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla had stripped the office of all its powers except the ius auxiliandi, the right to rescue a plebeian from the clutches of a patrician magistrate). 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.
Caesar contrived to reconcile the two men, and then combined their clout with his own to have himself elected consul in 59 BC; he and Crassus were already the best of friends, and he solidified his alliance with Pompey by giving him his own daughter Julia in marriage. The alliance combined Caesar's enormous popularity and legal reputation with Crassus's fantastic wealth and influence within the plutocratic Ordo Equester and Pompey's equally spectacular wealth and military reputation.
The Triumvirate was kept secret until the Senate obstructed Caesar's proposed agrarian law establishing colonies of Roman citizens and distributing portions of the public lands (ager publicus). He promptly brought the law before the Council of the People in a speech which found him flanked by Crassus and Pompey, thus revealing the alliance. Caesar's agrarian law was carried through, and the Triumviri then proceeded to allow the demagogue Publius Clodius Pulcher's election as tribune of the people, successfully ridding themselves both of Marcus Tullius Cicero and Marcus Porcius Cato, both adamant opponents of the Triumviri.
The Triumvirate proceeded to make further arrangements for itself. The senate awarded Caesar, as a snub to his dealings in the Triumvirate, "the woods and paths of Italy" as his proconsul territory. Caesar passed, through a tribune, his own ruling on the matter, and becameproconsul of both Gauls (Gallia Cisalpina and Gallia Transalpina) and of Illyricum, with command of four legions, for five years; Caesar's new father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, was made consul for 58 BC, and Pompey and Crassus shared a second consulate in 55 BC. Pompey and Crassus then extended Caesar's proconsular government in the Gauls for another five years and secured for themselves as proconsuls the government of both Spains (Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior) and of Syria, respectively, for five-year terms.
The alliance had allowed the Triumviri to dominate Roman politics completely, but it would not last indefinitely due to the ambitions, egos, and jealousies of the three; Caesar and Crassus were implicitly hand-in-glove, but Pompey disliked Crassus and grew increasingly envious of Caesar's spectacular successes in the Gallic War, whereby he annexed the entirety of modern France to Rome. Julia's death during childbirth and Crassus's ignominious defeat and death at Carrhae at the hands of the Parthians in 53 BC seriously undermined the alliance.
Pompey remained in Rome – he governed 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. Pompey's subsequent murder in Egypt in an inept political intrigue left Caesar sole master of the Roman world.
 In-Depth Timeline
 Revolts of Lepidus and Sertorius (78 to 72 BC)
Within two years of Sulla's death, someone attempted to emulate him. When one of the Consuls of 78 BC, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, failed to carry out his intended political agenda, or have his Consulship extended, he attempted to raise an army in Cisalpine Gaul and march on Rome to seize power. The Senate turned to a military general who had aided Sulla in his civil war, and shown himself also to be a competent commander in Africa for Sulla: Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus.
Pompey put down Lepidus's rebellion, and then marched his own legions on Rome. Pompey camped his army outside the walls of Rome, and "requested" that he be given the right to campaign against the rebellion of Quintus Sertorius in Hispania (Sertorius was an opponent of Sulla's who had fled to Hispania during the proscriptions, and set up his own "counter-Rome" in that province). Though the brilliant guerilla tactics and leadership of Sertorius proved a thorn in Pompey's side, his murder by his former allies ended the campaign against his forces. The Senate, having "blessed" Pompey with the undertaking, was pleased at the young general's success and he was able to gain great political and military influence from his campaigns.
 Crassus: Spartacus and the Third Servile War (73 to 71 BC)
One of the more easily over-looked social aspect in classical antiquity and of Roman society is Slavery. At that time almost all societies used slaves in various positions. The vast majority would perform back-breaking and dangerous labor and the more educated slave (a small minority) would work in a more bureaucratic position. The lives of the majority of slaves would usually consist of hard work and their living conditions would be quite harsh. From time to time slaves would revolt and military might would be used to crush the rebellion and the matter would be conveniently forgotten and nothing would happen. This time, it would be different.
The Roman Republic would be rocked by a slave revolt led by Spartacus who according to ancient sources was a Thracian auxiliary who had deserted from the Roman legions. He had been captured, enslaved and trained as a gladiator. In 73 BC he and some of his fellow gladiators rebelled at Capua and set up a military camp on Mount Vesuvius. Slaves across all the Italian peninsula flocked to him, and their numbers soon swelled to about 70,000. The best Roman legions were absent from Italy: some were in Spain under the command of Pompey, suppressing a rebellion led by Quintus Sertorius, while others were fighting in Asia Minor under the command of Lucius Licinius Lucullus against Mithridates. Initially, the rebel slaves had great success against the Roman legions sent against them, and wreaked havoc across the Italian peninsula. In 71 BC, however, Marcus Licinius Crassus was given military command and crushed the rebels. About 6,000 were crucified; 10,000 survivors who escaped were intercepted by Pompey, then returning with his army from Spain. Although Crassus did most of the fighting, Pompey also claimed credit for the victory, and this created tension between the two men.
 Pompey and Crassus (70 BC)
With the slave rebellion crushed, Pompey once again marched his legions on Rome, and encamped outside its walls. He then demanded that he be elected Consul for the year 70 BC. In response Crassus immediately marched his legions towards Rome. However, instead of blocking Pompey's extortion, he camped his own legions outside Rome and demanded that he be elected co-Consul with Pompey. The Senate had no real choice but to agree.
Crassus and Pompey spent most of the year trying to outdo each other in the lavishness of their public expenditures. However they also pushed through several laws which wiped away the last vestiges of the "Sullan Reforms" and restored the problematic power of the Plebeian Assembly.
 Third Mithradatic War
Meanwhile, Lucullus was fighting quite successfully, against Mithridates and his ally and son-in-law, Tigranes the Great, King of Armenia, but was unable to completely pacify the territories he conquered. At the same time, Marcus Antonius Creticus (father of Mark Antony) and Q. Caecilius Metellus were attempting to stamp out the plague of piracy afflicting the Mediterranean, with reportedly grotesque incompetence.
Because of these lack of successes, Pompey was given an extraordinary military command in 66 BC. He stamped out piracy within forty-nine days and then began pursuing Mithridates. Pompey annihilated his army, and Mithridates remained a fugitive for the last three years of his life. Pompey followed up these successes by conquering the entirety of the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, ending the rule of the Syrian Seleucid dynasty. The captured wealth of the conquests more than doubled the income of the Roman state, and Pompey now surpassed Crassus as the wealthiest man in Rome.
 Catilinarian conspiracies
The economic situation in Rome itself, however, was still problematic. Debt was the intractable problem and many, both noble and not, found themselves burdened with incredible debts. Their mantle was taken up by Lucius Sergius Catilina, who ran for consul in 64 BC for the year 63 BC on the platform of a wholesale debt cancellation – essentially a redistribution of wealth. Despite his noble birth, his policies scared the optimates, who instead supported the novus homo Marcus Tullius Cicero. Cicero was duly elected; Catilina finished third and out of office. Catilina ran again the following year, but this time he was defeated even more heavily. He then, along with several dissolute senators, began planning a coup d'état that would include arson throughout Rome, the arming of slaves, and the accession of Catilina as dictator. Cicero found out and informed the Senate in a series of brilliant speeches, and was given absolute power by the senate ("senatus consultum ultimum"), in order to save the republic. He ordered the execution of the conspirators in the city without due trial; and his fellow consul, Gaius Antonius Hybrida defeated the army of Catilina near Pistoria. None of Catilina's soldiers were taken alive.
 Julius Caesar and the First Triumvirate
In 62 BC Pompey returned from the east. Many senators, especially among the optimates, feared that Pompey would follow in the footsteps of Sulla and establish himself as dictator. Instead, Pompey disbanded his army upon arriving in Italy. Nevertheless, the Senate maintained its opposition to land grants for Pompey's veterans and the ratification of Pompey's eastern settlement. In addition, the Senate was also stonewalling Pompey's old enemy, Crassus, in his attempts to gain some measure of relief for his allies, the tax farmers. Now arriving onto the scene was a young politician who had a heretofore successful, but not brilliant, career — Gaius Julius Caesar. Caesar took advantage of the two enemies' dissatisfaction to bring them into an informal alliance known as the First Triumvirate. In addition, he reinforced his alliance by marrying his daughter, Julia, to Pompey. The three triumvirs would be able to dominate Roman politics because of their collective influence; the first step was Caesar's election to the consulship for 59 BC.
Attempting to pass the laws which would benefit both Pompey and Crassus, Caesar ran into heavy opposition from his very conservative consular colleague Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, who used all manner of parliamentary tactics to stall the legislation. Caesar resorted to violence and Bibulus ended up under house arrest for most of the year, while Caesar was able to pass almost all of his legislation. He was then appointed Governor of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum for a five year period. When the Governor of Transalpine Gaul died unexpectedly, the Senate assigned that province to him as well.
Caesar took up his governorships in 58 BC. He immediately launched a series of military campaigns across all of Gaul known as the Gallic Wars, and even raided Germania and Britannia. For a nine year period he carefully played the gallic tribes against each other (divide and rule) and crushed all military opposition. These wars caused massive death and destruction and were, technically, illegal, as Caesar had exceeded his authority (which was supposedly limited to his provinces) in launching the invasions, but in Rome no one, except his enemies in the Senate, was too concerned.
Meanwhile, the Triumvirate at home needed a boosting. In 56 BC, the three triumvirs met at Lucca, just inside Caesar's province of Cisalpine Gaul (as a man in control of an army, he was not allowed to cross into Italy). The three triumvirs reached a new settlement: Crassus and Pompey were once again to be elected consuls for the year 55 BC; Pompey kept the command of the Roman legions in Spain (which he ruled in "absentia"), and Crassus, desiring military glory so that he could be on the same level as Pompey and Caesar, was given a military command in the east. Caesar's governorships were extended for another five years.
 Death of Crassus
In 53 BC, Crassus launched an invasion of the Parthian Empire. He marched his army deep into the desert; but here his army was cut off deep in enemy territory, surrounded and routed at the Battle of Carrhae. Crassus himself was killed in battle, the story being that the Parthians, upon finding his body poured molten gold down his throat, symbolising Crassus' obsession with money.
The death of Crassus removed some of the balance in the Triumvirate; consequently, Caesar and Pompey began to move apart (a process which had begun in 54 BC, when Julia died in childbirth). Pompey, who previously had been the effective leader of the Triumvirate and, indeed, of the republic, was beginning to see his authority threatened by Caesar, whose campaigns in Gaul were vastly increasing his prestige, fortune and power. Consequently, Pompey began to align increasingly with the optimates, who themselves were very much opposed to Caesar and his "party" (that is, the populares).
At the same time an united Gallic uprising, led by Vercingetorix, nearly succeeded in toppling the Roman military presence in Gaul; but Caesar, with his usual speed and brilliant mix of military strategy and ruthlessness, was able to defeat Vercingetorix at the siege of Alesia. The Gallic Wars were essentially over (a third of all male Gauls had been slain; another third had been sold into slavery).
By 50 BC all Gallic resistance had been stamped out and Caesar had a veteran and loyal army to further his political ambitions. With Caesar's governorship drawing to a close, the two greatest political and military leaders of the Roman Republic were hard-pressed to find any common ground, and a crisis was growing which would be the final nail in the coffin of the Republic.
 See also
 External links
- Herodotuswebsite.co.uk - an article on how the First Triumvirate came into being.eo:Unua triumviraro