A triumvirate (from Latin, triumvirātus, from trēs three + vir man) is a political regime dominated by three powerful individuals, each a triumvir (pl. triumviri). The arrangement can be formal or informal, and though the three are usually equal on paper, in reality this is rarely the case. The term can also be used to describe a state with three different military leaders who all claim to be the sole leader.
Originally, triumviri were special commissions of three men appointed for specific administrative tasks apart from the regular duties of Roman magistrates. The triumviri capitales, for instance, oversaw prisons and executions, along with other functions that, as Andrew Lintott notes, show them to have been "a mixture of police superintendents and justices of the peace." The capitales were first established around 290–287 BCE. They were supervised by the praetor urbanus. These triumviri, or the tresviri nocturni, may also have taken some responsibility for fire control.
Three-man commissions were also appointed for purposes such as establishing colonies (triumviri coloniae deducendae) or distributing land.Triumviri mensarii served as public bankers; the full range of their financial functions in 216 BCE, when the commission included two men of consular rank, has been the subject of debate. Another form of three-man commission was the tresviri epulones, who were in charge of organizing public feasts on holidays. This commission was created in 196 BCE by a tribunician law on behalf of the people, and their number was later increased to seven (septemviri epulones).
In the late Republic, two three-man political alliances are called triumvirates by modern scholars, though only for the second was the term triumviri used at the time to evoke constitutional precedents:
The Second Triumvirate was recognized as a triumvirate at the time. A Lex Titia formalized the rule of Octavian, Mark Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. The legal language makes reference to the traditional tresviri. This "three-man commission for restoring the constitution of the republic" (tresviri rei publicae constituendae) in fact was given the power to make or annul law without approval from either the Senate or the people; their judicial decisions were not subject to appeal, and they named magistrates at will. Although the constitutional machinery of the Republic was not irrevocably dismantled by the Lex Titia, in the event it never recovered. Lepidus was sidelined early in the triumvirate, and Antony was eliminated in civil war, leaving Octavian the sole leader.
Despite the Three Excellencies—including the Chancellor, Imperial Secretary, and irregularly the Grand Commandant—representing the most senior ministerial positions of state, this triumvirate was supported by the economic technocrat and Imperial Secretary Sang Hongyang (d. 80 BCE), their political lackey. The acting Chancellor Tian Qianqiu was also easily swayed by the decisions of the triumvirate.
The Three Excellencies existed in Western Han (202 BCE – 9 CE) as the Chancellor, Imperial Secretary, and Grand Commandant, but the Chancellor was viewed as senior to the Imperial Secretary while the post of Grand Commandant was vacant for most of the dynasty. After Emperor Guangwu established the Eastern Han (25–220 CE), the Grand Commandant was made a permanent official while the Minister over the Masses replaced the Chancellor and the Minister of Works replaced the Imperial Secretary. Unlike the three high officials in Western Han when the Chancellor was senior to all, these new three senior officials had equal censorial and advisory powers. When a young or weak-minded emperor ascended to the throne, these Three Excellencies could dominate the affairs of state. There were also other types of triumvirates during the Eastern Han; for example, at the onset of the reign of Emperor Ling of Han (r. 168–189), the General-in-Chief Dou Wu (d. 168), the Grand Tutor Chen Fan (d. 168), and another prominent statesman Hu Guang (91–172) formed a triumvirate nominally in charge of the Privy Secretariat, when in fact it was a regent triumvirate that was overseeing the affairs of state and Emperor Ling.
Prior to Napoleon and during the Terror Robespierre, Louis de Saint-Just, and Couthon, as members of the governing Committee of Public Safety, were purported by some to have formed an unofficial triumvirate. Although officially all members of the committee shared equal power the three men's friendship and close ideological base led their detractors to declaim them as triumvirs which was used against them in the coup of 9 Thermidor.
2012: The leadership of Shas, the ultra-orthodox Sepharadi political party of Israel, was given by its spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and the Council of Torah Sages, to a triumverate formed by the convicted Aryeh Deri who decided to return to politics after a thirteen-year hiatus, the former party leader Eli Yishai and Ariel Atias.
People's Republic of China
Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Zhu De had the biggest contribution to the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and are regarded as the most influenced members of the first generation of the Chinese communist leaders. All of them died during 1976.
1–4 July 1849: Aurelio Saffi (again), Alessandro Calandrelli (b. 1805 – d. 1888), and Livio Mariani (no dates available)
After the downfall of the first King of Greece, the Bavarian Otto, on 23 October 1862, and Dimitrios Voulgaris' unsuccessful term (23 October 1862 – 30 January 1863) as president of the Provisional Government, a Triumvirate (30 January – 30 October 1863) was established consisting of the same Dimitrios Voulgaris, the renowned Admiral Konstantinos Kanaris and Benizelos Rouphos, which acted as a regency until the arrival of the new monarch, the first "King of the Hellenes", George I.
A triumvirate was established to head the Theriso revolt of 1905 in autonomous Crete, consisting of Eleftherios Venizelos (later Prime Minister of Greece) in charge of organisational matters, Konstantinos Foumis in charge of finances and Konstantinos Manos, the former mayor of Chania, in charge of military affairs.
The "Triumvirate of National Defence": (L-R) Admiral Kountouriotis, Venizelos, and General Danglis
A triumvirate was set up during the First World War in September 1916, to head the "Provisional Government of National Defence" in Thessaloniki. It consisted of the popular liberal statesman Eleftherios Venizelos, General Panagiotis Danglis and Admiral Pavlos Koundouriotis. This "Triumvirate of National Defence" functioned as a collective head of government, although effective control was in Venizelos' hands. With the abdication of King Constantine I in June 1917 and the reunification of the country under Venizelos, the triumvirate was dissolved. The Triandria municipality in Thessaloniki is named after this triumvirate.
A triumvirate was set up on 13 September 1922 to lead the military revolt against the royalist government in Athens in the aftermath of the Asia Minor Disaster. It was composed of Colonels Nikolaos Plastiras and Stylianos Gonatas, and Commander Dimitrios Fokas. The triumvirate assumed the government of Greece on 15 September, and would control the country until it laid down its powers on 2 January 1924. Plastiras however quickly became the dominant figure among the triumvirate, and was eventually labelled as the "Chief of the Revolution".
This section is outdated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(April 2014)
Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google has referred to himself, along with founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as part of a triumvirate, stating, "This triumvirate has made an informal deal to stick together for at least 20 years".
The word has been used as a term of convenience, though not an official title, for other groups of three in a similar position:
^Triumviri or tresviri nocturni may be another name or nickname for the capitales, because their duties often pertained to the streets at night.
^John E. Stambaugh, The Ancient Roman City (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), p. 347, note 4 online and p. 348, note 13; O.F. Robinson, Ancient Rome: City Planning and Administration (Routledge, 1994), p. 105 online.
^Andrew Lintott, The Constitution of the Roman Republic (Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 12 and 95 online.
^Jean Andreau, Banking and Business in the Roman World (Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 115 online.
^Rachel Feig Vishnia, State, Society, and Popular Leaders in Mid-Republican Rome, 241-167 B.C. (Routledge, 1996), p. 86ff. online.
^Livy 33.42.1; Vishnia, State, Society, and Popular Leaders, p. 171; Fergus Millar, Rome, the Greek World, and the East (University of North Caroline Press, 2002), p. 122 online; Lintott, Constitution, p. 184.
^Beck, Roger B.; Linda Black, Larry S. Krieger, Phillip C. Naylor, Dahia Ibo Shabaka, (1999). World History: Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell. ISBN0-395-87274-X.Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
^Christopher Pelling, "The Triumviral Period," in The Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge University Press, 1996, 2nd ed.), vol. 10, p. 1 online.
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