Explain the formation and the break down of the First Triumvirate

Explain the formation and the break down of the First Triumvirate

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Explain the formation and the break down of the First Triumvirate


The formation of the First Triumvirate took place because of the political motives and the personal motives of the three ruthlessly ambitious power brokers in Rome. These men required the co-operation of the other two in order to further their political careers. During the time of the First Triumvirate many extraordinary powers where obtained and in some cases these where unprecedented. There are some key factors that have to be considered towards the break down of the Triumvirate. The most powerful and influential people, the Optimates became increasingly dis empowered, and a sense of desperation to regain power is felt with the use of Pompey in an a final attempt to restore power to the Senate.

"By uncompromising refusal to meet the demands of Pompey, Caesar and Crassus the senate naturally drove them into each others arms. The three men agreed to form a political amicitia ....."

Pompey upon return from his successful campaign in the East, disbanded his army probably to diffuse tension in Rome and prove to the Optimates in Rome he had no intention of over throwing the Government. This suggests Pompey's political naivety and the fact that Pompey thought he had done enough in order to get recognition and acceptance from the Optimates to gain land for his veterans and to have his innumerable arrangements in the East ratified. Cato also refused Pompey's offer of marriage to one of his nieces.

According to Bradley

"Cato was a staunch conservative, and distrusted Pompey's motives"
Crassus had a problem with his supporters. He supported a request from a company of tax gatherers (Equites), that after realizing Asia had been economically raped, and virtually un-taxable due to the Mithradatic campaign, could not possibly make money from taxes, so the request he supported is that the Senate should adjust the bad bargain to on a third rebate which they had made in contracting for the taxes of Asia. This request according to Scullard was rejected under Cato's leadership which had led to the stagnation of Crassus' political career. Thus Crassus needed some support of Pompey and Caesar to kick start his career and eventually lead to the formation of the First Triumvirate.
Caesar, who had been Propraetor in Spain during, 61BC, hoped to return to Rome in 60BC and stand for the consulship for the following year.

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On his return he wanted a triumph and the consulship, but since he could not as a commander enter the city to stand for election, he asked the senate for permission to stand in absentia. The senate refused, Caesar's political career for future glory and fame had ended. According to Bradley
" Caesar now saw the possibilities for exploiting the difficulties that Pompey and Crassus where having with the Optimates."
Caesar needed powerful supporters in order to be elected, particularly since Cato and his associates,

"Put all their resources behind one of his competitors, Biblus (Cato's son-in-law)."
A sense of desperation to fight Caesar politically is shown here by the Optimate faction.
Upon formation many laws where passed, Lex Argaria (land for Pompey's veterans ). Pompey's eastern settlement was confirmed, secured rebate on Asiatic tax, Lex Vatinia (gave Caesar provinces of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyreium for 5 years), laws against extortion and Clodius transferred to the Plebeians to qualify as a tribune and to act on Caesar's behalf, and to safe guard the interests of the Triumvirs.

Caesar's actions must be seriously considered towards the breakdown and the increase of violence in Rome. Desperation by the Optimates is constantly shown against him. Caesar's actions where unconstitutional. He applied force (using Pompey's veterans) to scare the assembly and ignored the obstruction of the tribunes and of his fellow consuls.
With the employment of Clodius as Caesar's agent and to manage Caesar's affairs in Rome, Clodius who hated Cicero kicked Cicero out of Rome, Cicero seeked helped from Pompey the Great, but he too could not help Cicero nor could the most influential people the Optimates against Clodius' mere street gang. So Cicero went on voluntary exile, many people believed this to be the death of the Republic. Clodius the thug paid to become Tribune by Caesar also giving Pompey a hard time, halted in a stale mate against Pompey's newly paid for gang under the leadership of Milo. Pompey thinking Crassus played a part in this thought Crassus wanted Pompey dead, thus creating friction in the Triumvirate.
Caesar who does not want total instability in Rome, as it is inconvenient for him to due the face that he is not in Rome, tries to patch up rifts in the Triumvirate, hence the renewal. This was done at a meeting at Luca in Gaul, in March 56Bc. It was successful,
"Some 120 senators then toiled all the weary way to Luca to wait their masters" 1
The man they wanted to see was Caesar the Power Broker. Pompey and Crassus entered on their second joint consulship, and Pompey received consulship in Spain for 5 years and Crassus 5 years in Syria, both wealthy provinces. Caesar's procunsular command in both Gaul and Illyricum for 5 years until late in 50BC (according to Scullard). Crassus went of to Syria to seek his ultimate glory, "military success" in the Parthian war.
Apart from the increase in the political uncertainty and the escalating violence in Rome and war being predicted as a matter of 'when' not 'if'.

"Two events soon destroyed the Triumvirate" 2

In 53 one of the chief bonds between Pompey and Caesar snapped when Pompey's wife, Julia died. When Caesar offered to renew the marriage alliance, Pompey declined and in 53BC married Cornelia (member of an Optimate clan). In this same year the death of Crassus', another

"Bridge, or buffer, between the two remaining Triumvirs was gone." 1
Dictatorship of Anarchy seemed evident. The Gang warfare culminated in the murder of Clodius by Milo. Thus these events lead to the break down of the First triumvirate.
The Senate declared martial law and gave Pompey as procunsul charge of a special levy. Thus ending the official alliance and heading for civil war shortly. The short term advantages for each man ending in a halt, further ambition was yet to come, with only a sole victor.

It can also be suggested that a reason for the formation and breakdown of the First Triumvirate is the denial by the Optimates of the individual requests of the 3 men, is thought to be that, experience from the past taught the Optimates that able and popular generals with client armies were a great dancer to the Senate's power. Yet by denying the requests brought the three men into each others arms and formed the ' Three Headed Monster'
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