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The First Triumvirate Notes

Classics Notes > Roman History; the Roman Republic from 146 BC to 46 BC Notes

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The First Triumvirate of Pompey, Caesar and Crassus The formation of the so-called first triumvirate is one of the last, fatal steps in the history of the Roman Republic; it would not be much later that two of its members, Pompey and Caesar, would be embroiled in civil war. Since this was such a pivotal event it is important to consider what factors drove these three men together, how well (or not) they worked together and finally why they felt it was necessary to re-affirm their arrangement as early as 56 BC at Luca. Such investigation should also reveal how the balance of power in the Roman state began to shift from one man to another and why this would have such a radical impact on the final years of the Republic. The reasons why the great man Pompey needed this arrangement are clear but at the same time are also probably a little surprising; he did, after all, return to Rome with eight years of consular standing and with his outstanding successes in the East he was the greatest general in living memory. However immediately he was forced to realise that this did not equate to the sort of influence he might have reasonably expected to have held when Cato rejected his offers of marriage. He was left politically embarrassed and confused as to how someone could possibly refuse an alliance with the great man; his illusion of invulnerability, or at the very least, his ego was shattered. Furthermore the controversy surrounding Clodius and the Bona Dea scandal distracted attention away from Pompey upon his return (since there was so much interest in this sort of intrigue it is tempting to put even more emphasis on how politically damaging the Cato's refusal of marriage would have been to his reputation) and when he, ill-informed and uninterested, refused to be drawn on the matter in the senate, Crassus spoke instead and extolled the virtues of Cicero; the fact his thunder was stolen in such a way was much to the annoyance of Pompey as Cicero tells us in a letter to Atticus of this period. Cicero himself, offended by the lack of praise given to him by Pompey, begins to become privately critical as early as 61, something which his speech against his agrarian bill begins to show. This bill proved to be further detrimental to Pompey's reputation with Celer, Crassus and Cato all fighting to have it rejected and not let the great man have the land which he had promised them; this was a problem for him because he could not afford to lose the support of his trusted veterans as well and probably felt a close affection for them so this would, no doubt, have been a personal blow as well. The situation was further exacerbated by the negative propaganda his enemies began to spread, particularly Cato who began to criticize his victory against Mithradates and his treatment of Lucullus, who celebrated his own victory in 63 BC. He could not expect help from the consuls of the 60s either; Metellus Celer began to become increasingly hostile to Pompey because he had divorced his sister in his disastrous attempt to court an alliance with Cato and Afranius, coconsul with Celer in 61, proved to be truly incompetent and unable to exert any meaningful influence because of his low birth. Pompey needed a well-born and positive ally as consul rather than the underlings Piso and Afranius he had supported before; Julius Caesar, following a good year in command in Spain seemed like the perfect man, especially since he

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