Home Ancient History Ancient Rome The Second Triumvirate (Gaius Octavius, Marcus Antonius, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus)

The Second Triumvirate (Gaius Octavius, Marcus Antonius, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus)

Sextus Pompey portrait on the coin side.

Caesar‘s soldiers and veterans who served in the Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus Younger troops and in Octavian legions wanted to establish the harmony between these three man. Soldiers and veterans anxiously waited for the final clash with Caesar’s murderers and plots of land that were promised by the Caesar.

Octavian took into account the mood of the army and he abolished the Senate decision about designating Marcus Antonius and  Marcus Aemilus Lepidus Younger as the enemies of the Rome. Negotiations between Marcus Antonius, Gaius Octavius (Octavian) and Lepidus were completed on November, 43 BC near the town of Bononia (today’s Bologna). This agreement is known in history as the Second Triumvirate (see also First Triumvirate).
The news of the alliance was welcomed in Rome with horror. By the end of November triumvirs came to Rome and implemented the decision through the Assembly about recognition of their authority. Antonius, Octavian and Lepidus received extraordinary authorities as triumvirs for the regulation of state with the main aim to stop the civil war –Tresviri Republicae constituendae (One of Three Men for the Regulation of the Republic).

Publishing the Proscriptions (list of the expelled people) was one of the first triumvirate measures. Proscriptions, by the number of victims of the cruelty and by the number of implementation ruthlessness, left far behind proscription from the time of Sulla. Proscriptions did not only involved senators, which most of them left the Rome during that time but it also involved people which were known for their wealth. In these activities 300 senators were killed. Marcus Tullius Cicero was also in that list. 3.000 knights were also killed. Triumvirates promised huge rewards for betrayal of those who were on the list.

Octavia, elder sister of Gaius Octavius (Octavian). Image source: Wikimedia

Meanwhile, Sextus Pompey (Gnaeus Pompey’s son) established control over Sicily. Syria, Asia, Greece and Macedonia went into the hands of Brutus and Cassius, which through excessive taxes on the cities created a strong army, brutally crushing any resistance. Vassal kingdoms had to give huge amounts of money and they had to send their troops in order to assist in the war.

Near Philippi (city in eastern Macedonia) was created a fortified camp of Brutus and Cassius. Triumvirs attacked Brutus and Cassius army. At the battle of Philippi 42 BC, Brutus and Cassius army was defeated by Octavian and Marcus Antonius. Brutus and Cassius committed suicide. Victory of triumvirate did not mean the end of the war, although it meant the end of the Republican Party. After this great victory, triumvirates made new division of provinces. Antonius moved into the eastern provinces, Octavian returned to Italy in order to solve the agrarian issue and to give land to veterans. Triumvirate decided to settle veterans in different colonies in 16 Italic cities. The land in these cities was confiscated from their inhabitants. Veterans behaved towards these confiscations like wild invaders.

Activities Marcus Antonius on the Eastern Roman provinces

Second Triumvirate

In the east, Marcus Antonius intended to raise funds in order to pay soldiers and regulate relations in the eastern provinces. He punished the cities which supported Brutus and Cassius, and he rewarded those who resisted. He made dynastic changes in the dependent kingdoms by taking huge taxes. Egyptian queen Cleopatra came in Tarsos in order to show Marcus Antonius that accusation of her support for Cassius were false. Marcus Antonius went with her in Alexandria where he spent winter of 41/40 BC as Cleopatra’s guest. In the spring of 40 BC, Marcus Antonius left Egypt and went to Italy in order to make an agreement with Sextus Pompey. In the south of Italy, Antonius and Sextus troops came into conflict with the Octavian, but very soon they managed to made peace.

Triumvirs (Octavian, Lepidus, Antonius) made new agreement in Brundisium 40 BC. According to agreement new division of provinces was made. Octavian got the western provinces of Illyria, while Marcus Antonius got eastern provinces. The agreement was secured by the dynastic marriage. Marcus Antonius married Octavian’s sister Octavia.
In 39 BC, Triumvirs made an agreement with Sextus Pompey in Puteoli (today’s Pozzuoli). They assigned Sicily, Sardinia and Peloponnese to Sextus Pompey, and they even promised him a compensation for the confiscated property of his father.

Battle of Actium, interpretation by painter Lorenzo A. Castro (XVII century)

An agreement of triumvirates with Sextus Pompey proved to be short-lived because his fleet made it difficult for other ships to move towards Italy. Pompey continued to receive runaway slaves. Octavian soon entered into a fight with Sextus Pompey. In 36 BC, Octavian at the Battle of Naulochus defeated Sextus Pompey, who fled to Asia. Marcus Antonius supporters killed Sextus Pompey. Octavian’s victory over Sextus Pompey raised Octavian prestige in Italy. Octavian actually became the absolute master of the west, while in the east was still Antonius, whose relations with Octavian each year got worse. During these events, Antonius divorced from the Octavian sister Octavia and he married Cleopatra. After marrying Cleopatra, Marcus Antonius started to fight against the state Parthia. When Octavian learned that Marcus Antonius is planning to make Cleopatra’s son as a legal Caesar heir to the throne, he decided to attack Marcus Antonius in Egypt. In the naval battle of Actium in September 31 BC Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra suffered a defeat when they fled to Egypt.

Octavian decided to follow them. Marcus Antonius committed suicide. Cleopatra tried to use her strongest weapon – the charm and beauty in order to seduce Octavian as well, but she realized that this time she will not succeed. She decided to commit suicide so that she would not become a decoration of Octavian triumphal parade in Rome. According to some sources, she committed suicide by placing a snake-serpent on her chest. Antonius supporters were also killed. Egypt has finally lost its independence and became Roman Province. Octavian had huge war loot in his hands and he was finally able to generously reward troops and to cover all debts. In 29 BC, Octavian celebrated 3 magnificent triumphs and he became the first Roman emperor.






Exit mobile version