Rome’s First Triumvirate

Romans First Triumvirate

The first Triumvirate of Ancient Rome, was an alliance between Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, lasting seven years; 60 BC – 53 BC.  An unstable Republic was on the brink of Civil War.  These three men set aside their differences, joining forces for the good of Rome.  They dominated Rome’s government and controlled elections for the good of the people.

The Republic was in tatters, and  Rome’s political order in chaos.  Streets alive with violence and rioting.  Marcus Tillius Cicero, exposed a conspiracy led by Senator Lucius Sergius Catiline, to overthrow the Roman leadership.

With the Republic on the brink of collapse, three men stepped in to save the day; Pompey, Crassus and Caesar.

Each man had his own agenda, but realised he could not accomplish it alone.  While each had already attained personal success, each wanted more glory and dignity.  In 60 BC, Pompey, Crassus and Caesar, combined their resources, setting aside personal differences, and seized control of Rome.

Cicero, friend to Caesar and Pompey, took an utter dislike to Optimates (Rome’s Senators) and chose not to join the Triumvirate.  His opposition would bring about his exile, until his return in 57 BC.

Romans - Crassus


In the year 73 BC, Spartacus a Thracian, led a gladiator revolt at Capua, and his followers went on the rampage through Italy.  They became a highly organised and effective fighting machine, repelling Roman legions sent to quash them.  In 71 BC Crassus was ordered to put an end to Spartacus.

Spartacus and some 6,000 of his followers were captured and crucified along the Appian Way… the road between Rome and Capua, as a warning to others.  Pompey upon his return from Spain, attempted to steal some of the limelight, even though, he only rounded up the stragglers.

The Senate called for Crassus and Pompey to disband their armies, following the end of the Gladiator Revolt, and both men refused.

In 67 BC Pompey faced problems in the east, piracy causing food shortages in Rome, and Mithridates of Pontus attacking Roman provinces.

Over a three year period Pompey’s forces marched north to the Red Sea, redrawing the map in the eastern Mediterranean.  He reorganised provinces as client states of Rome, returning home as a hero in 62 BC.

Romans - Pompey


Pompey has disbanded his army, and entered Rome as a citizen, not a military leader.  He wanted land for veteran soldiers… but getting Senate approval was another matter.  Marcus Porcius (Cato the Younger), leader of the Optimates of the Senate would block such suggestions.

Pompey also wanted his military veterans to be rewarded for their years of bravery, whilst Crassus sought dignity in military command.  The third member of the Triumvirate, Julius Caesar, a military hero sought fame and wealth.

To achieve such goals, all three pooled their resources, and set their plan in motion.

Julius Caesar reconciled differences between Pompey and Crassus, and then married his daughter Julia to Pompey, thus sealing the alliance.

Julius Caesar became co-consul in 59 BC with Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, a friend of Cato.

Pompey, Crassus and Caesar formed a pact, swearing to oppose all legislation of which any one of them would disapprove of.

Caesar found the pact had issues, getting new reforms passed through the Senate.  The law stated consul could veto proposals put forward by fellow consul, as was the case by Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, who tried to block the military veterans’ bill.

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

A frustrated Caesar took his proposal to the General Assembly, instead of fighting with the Senate.  Bibulus attempted to interfere, and was thrown down the steps of the Temple of Castor, and showered with rubbish.

Caesar ruled as sole consul.  Cato admitted defeat and accepted the bill, and the military veterans received their land, as payment for bravery… The Triumvirate worked.

Caesar’s consulship came to an end; he took his army over the Alps into Gaul in 60 BC, returning as a hero ten years later.  Pompey was jealous of Caesar’s success, but received favour from the Senate in 57 BC, taking command of the food riots.  In 55 BC Pompey and Crassus were appointed joint consulship.  After his term was up Pompey was named Governor of Spain, remaining at home and ruled through deputies.  Crassus got his wish at last, to command an army at the “Battle of Carrhae” in 53 BC, where he was defeated by Rome’s long time enemy; the Partians, who decapitated him.  His death spelled doom for the Triumvirate.  Caesar and Pompey no longer saw eye to eye, and it gradually got worse, when Pompey’s wife and Caesar’s daughter, Julia died in childbirth.

With some 40,000 soldiers at his disposal, Caesar returned to Rome, a wealthier and more powerful leader.  He sought a return to politics, opposed openly by Pompey.  Pompey the favoured son of the Senate, named consul in 52 BC, with Cato’s support.

The deep hatred that lay dormant between Caesar and Pompey, led to Civil War.  Pompey would leave Rome bound for Greece, with Caesar on his tail.  In 48 BC they met at the “Battle of Pharsalus,” where Caesar was victorious.

Pompey fled to Egypt, only to be murdered on the beach, on the orders of Ptolemy XIII, and beheaded.  His head was presented to Caesar.

In the year 45 BC, Julius Caesar was appointed dictator for life and hailed as the Father of his country.  On the Ides of March in 44 BC, he was assassinated by Longinus and Brutus.

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Republic of Rome

Rome - Colosseum

The Colosseum in Rome

Rome found itself divided by class lines.  The ruling classes called themselves Optimates, whilst the lower classes were known as the Populares.  These names were based on choice of political ideology, but not strict political parties.

The Optimates favoured the power of the Senate of Rome and the prestige of the ruling classes.  Whilst the Populares, favoured reform of the Roman Republic.

These opposing ideologies, would clash and bring about the end of the Roman Republic.

Three men would rise from its ashes, creating the First Triumvirate of Rome:

  • Marcus Licinius Crassus
  • Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great)
  • Gaius Julius Caesar

Crassus and Pompey were of the Optimates, whilst Caesar was of the Populares.  Each man was equally ambitious, and vying for power, and able to keep each other in check, to make Rome prosper.

Crassus was the richest man in Rome, and corrupt to the core.  He forced wealthy citizens to pay him for protection.  Crassus charged a fee, not to burn down their property, if no money paid, the property would be razed to the ground, and then he would charge for his people to put the fire out.

Crassus created Rome’s first fire department…

Pompey and Caesar were great generals of their time, who through their conquests, made Rome wealthy.  Though the richest man in Rome, Crassus sought the respect, as Pompey and Caesar received for their military achievements.  Crassus led a military force against the Parthians at Carrhae in 53 BC, where he lost his life, when negotiations for peace broke down.

With Crassus dead, the first Triumvirate disintegrated, as Pompey and Caesar declared war against each other.  Pompey attempted to eliminate his rival, by legal means.

In 48 BC, Pompey and Caesar met at the Battle of Pharsalus in Greece, where Caesar was victorious on the battlefield.  Pompey fled to Egypt, seeking sanctuary, but was assassinated upon his arrival.

The news spread like wildfire, that Caesar had been victorious against Pompey.  Friends and allies of Pompey, swiftly sided with Caesar, in the belief he was favoured by the Gods.

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Rome’s expansion through warfare

Punic Wars

The Punic Wars

Rome owed much of its prosperity to trade in its early years, but it was war which would make the city a powerful force to be reckoned with.

The Punic Wars (264-146 BC), saw Rome go to war against the North African city of Carthage, and Rome’s power grew in wealth and Prestige.  Rome and Carthage, rivals in trade in the Western Mediterranean.  With the defeat of Carthage, Rome had almost absolute dominance over the area, except for minor incursions by pirates.

Rome’s republic grew in power and prestige, the city suffered from corruption, greed and over reliance on foreign slave labour.  Roman worker’s replaced by cheap slaves, as unemployed Romans became thugs for hire, undertaking which senator wanted their services.

The Patricians, Rome’s wealthy elite, grew in wealth, as the Plebeians, the working class, reached the realms of poverty.

Tiberius and Gaius, two 2nd century BC Roman tribunes, led a movement calling for land and political reforms.  The brothers died for their cause, their legacy… The corruption within the Senate ceased.

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Rome’s Early Years

Rome on River Tiber

Rome on the banks of the River Tiber

Rome started out as a small town on the banks of the Tiber, and grew in size and strength through trade.  Its location provided merchants with an easily navigable waterway to traffic their goods.

The city was ruled by seven kings; Romulus to Tarquin, as it grew in size and power.  Greek culture and civilization came to Rome, by way of Greek colonies in the south, providing these early Romans, with a model upon which, to build their culture.  From the Greeks, they borrowed literacy, religion and the fundamentals of architecture.

Romans showed they possessed a talent for borrowing and improving upon the skills and concepts of other cultures.  Rome grew quickly from a small trading town to a prosperous city between 8th and 6th century BC.

The nobles of Rome deposed King Tarquin the Proud, the last of the seven Kings of Rome in 509 BC.

Lucius Junius Brutus, reformed the system of government, which led to the creation of the Roman Replublic.

In Rome, the Senate (Council of Elders) watched events unfold, and convened at the King’s request to advise him.  The changes that took place, allowed nobility to choose two of its own to act as executive officer’s known as praetor’s then consuls for a year.

These praetor’s or consuls could appoint a dictator, giving him power absolute for six months, and he would resign once his task was completed.

(Image) Rome & River Tiber: Trekearth

Yorkshire’s Spiritual Glory

Fountains Abbey Ruins

Fountains Abbey Ruins

With its remote wooded valleys and vast areas of wild, uncultivated but fertile land, Yorkshire must have seemed like ‘God’s own Country’ a blessing to the monks who went there to seek refuge from the world.  This was particularly true of the Cistercians, a religious movement within the Benedictine order, who began to found religious houses across England during the first half of the 12th century.  Although other order’s such as the Augustine’s were active in Yorkshire at this time, none could match the Cistercians spiritual drive and eventually their wealth.  To which the magnificent ruined Abbey of Fountains, they are credited with.

Formed in 1098 at Citeaux, France, the Cistercian order founded its first English monastery around 1130, and their first in Yorkshire at Rievaulx a few years thereafter.

Known as the White Monks for their plain woollen habits, the Cistercians strove to revive the simplicity and integrity of the early church.

Cistercian churches were cruciform in shape, with a short presbytery for liturgical requirements with small chapels located in the transepts for prayer.  An aisle styled nave divided in the middle by a screen to separate Monks and Lay Brothers.

Cistercian architectural contained no ornamentation, thus no distraction from religious life… their buildings were very plain and simple.

Their austerity showed itself in their strict observance of monastic rules.  At the same time, aided by lay brothers, peasant farmers and labourers they helped to develop Yorkshire by creating arable land, mining lead, smelting iron and farming.

Yorkshire’s Cistercian Abbey’s quickly increased in size, prestige and wealth.  The richest was Fountains, founded around 1133 beside the River Skell, with the help of two-hundred lay brothers, the monks of Fountains cultivated enormous areas of land, even in their zeal, enforcing the clearance of peasants homes and hamlets.  Their acreage was huge, and their flocks of sheep yielded as much as thirteen tons of wool each year.  A commodity which was sold to trading merchants in England, France and Spain.

Monastic life in England came to an abrupt halt between 1536-1540, when King Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  In Yorkshire, some 100 plus religious houses closed.  Monastic lands sold off, bells melted down and religious icons destroyed.  With their roofing lead stripped, abbey churches fell into ruin, and even today old weathered traceries and arches are a reminder of past times, a former age of spiritual glory.

Norman Queen: Matilda of Flanders

Matilda of Flanders

Matilda of Flanders

Matilda of Flanders, was born in 1031 to parents Baldwin V the Count of Flanders and Adele of France, daughter of Robert II of France and Constance of Arles.  Matilda’s mother Adele was a religious woman, later known as “Adele the Holy,”  who oversaw her  daughter’s education.

Matilda’s early years were spent in Lille, Northern France.  She fell in love with Brihtric an English Ambassador to Flanders, but he rebuffed her advances.  Some years later she acted as Regent for William I of England.  She confiscated Brihtric’s lands, and had him thrown in prison, where he died.  (A scorned woman got her revenge).

Duke William of Normandy sent his representatives to the Court of the Count of Flanders, asking for the hand of Matilda in marriage.  His request was denied by Matilda, she would not marry the illegitimate son of “Robert the Devil.”

A furious William, rode to Bruges, pulled her from her horse as she was on her way to church and threw her to the ground.  Another account states he entered her room at her father’s court, threw her to the floor and hit her.  Where after Matilda is reported as saying: “No other man will marry me, but William.”

In 1049 Pope Leo IX condemned their proposed marriage as incestuous and the couple were excommunicated.  Duke William of Normandy and Matilda of Flanders were married at Notre Dame in 1051/52.  In 1059 William was reconciled with the papacy, and so it was William and Matilda founded two churches as penance for defiance of a papal ban.

The union of marriage between William and Matilda was successful, for they had ten children of which only seven reached adulthood: Richard, Cecilia, William II, Adele, Agatha, Constance and Henry I.

In 1066, William launched an invasion on England, and Matilda commissioned “The Mora” a flagship for her husband’s crossing of the English Channel.  Matilda remained in Normandy as Regent and William presented her with crown jewels upon his return.  On the 11th May, Matilda was crowned Queen of England in 1068 at Westminster Abbey.

When illness struck down his beloved wife; Matilda, William rushed to Normandy to be at her side.  In November 1083, Matilda died at Caen, and William her husband heard her final confession.  She was buried in the Choir of the Holy Trinity “I’Abbaye aux Dames” in Caen, Normandy.

Her final bequests: She left money to the poor, and her royal Sceptre and Crown to Holy Trinity Abbey.

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Bishops Bridge: Norwich


Bishops Bridge – Norwich


During the Roman occupation, the area around what is now Bishop’s Bridge, was marshland, and it is quite probable that a ford stood here at that time.

The original bridge was built in the 13th century, and used to control entry into the cathedral area of the city. It wasn’t until the 14th century when Norwich received a charter for self-governing, the wealthy merchants re-built the bridge along with many other buildings within the city, leaving a mark of remembrance of that time.

The bridge has three medieval arches, spanning the River Wensum, and has seen many comings and going’s over the centuries, when Robert Ket fought rebel troops across the bridge in a bid to enter the city.  Some years later Queen Elizabeth I is believed to have crossed over it, whilst visiting The Earl of Surrey’s residence.

Thanks to the work of the Norwich Society a local Heritage group, it has been saved from demolition during the 1920’s, and is still in use as one of the bridges across the river.