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.
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.
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.
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.