Triumvirate

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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.

Roman triumvirates[edit]

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."[1] The capitales were first established around 290–287 BC.[2] They were supervised by the praetor urbanus. These triumviri, or the tresviri nocturni,[3] may also have taken some responsibility for fire control.[4]

Three-man commissions were also appointed for purposes such as establishing colonies (triumviri coloniae deducendae) or distributing land.[5] Triumviri mensarii served as public bankers;[6] the full range of their financial functions in 216 BC, when the commission included two men of consular rank, has been the subject of debate.[7] 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 BC by a tribunician law on behalf of the people, and their number was later increased to seven (septemviri epulones).[8]

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:

In various municipalities under the Principate, the chief magistracy was a college of three, styled triumviri.

Chinese triumvirates[edit]

One of the most notable triumvirates formed in the history of China was by the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) statesmen Huo Guang (d. 68 BC), Jin Midi (d. 86 BC), and Shangguan Jie 上官桀 (d. 80 BC), following the death of Emperor Wu of Han (r. 141–87 BC) and the installation of the child emperor Zhao.

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 BC), their political lackey. The acting Chancellor Tian Qianqiu was also easily swayed by the decisions of the triumvirate.[11]

The Three Excellencies existed in Western Han (202 BC – 9 AD) 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 AD), 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.[12]

Hindu mythology[edit]

In Hindu mythology, the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva form the triumvirate Trimurti "in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified" respectively by those gods.."[13]

Tamil Triumvirate (in South India)[edit]

Tamil Triumvirate refers to the triumvirate of Jay ], Chera and Pandya who dominated the politics of the ancient Tamil country.

Modern triumvirates[edit]

The title was revived a few times for (short-lived) three-headed political 'magistratures' in post-feudal times.

Early-modern and modern France[edit]

While French Huguenots had derisively bestowed the name Triumvirate on the alliance formed in 1561 between Catholic Francis, Duke of Guise, Anne de Montmorency, and Jacques Dalbon, Seigneur de Saint Andre during the French Wars of Religion, in later years the term would be used to describe other arrangements within France.

At the end of the 1700s, when the French revolutionaries turned to several Roman Magistrature names for their new institutions, the three-headed collective Head of State was named Consulat, a term in use for two-headed magistratures since Antiquity; furthermore it included a "First Consul" who was not an equal, but the de facto solo head of state and government – a position Napoleon Bonaparte chose to convert openly into the First French Empire.

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.

Modern India[edit]

In the early days of national struggle and before Gandhi, the Indian National Congress was known to be under Lal-Bal-Pal i.e. Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal and the leader of the three Balgangadhar Tilak often dubbed Lokmanya Tilak.

Modern Israel[edit]

Benin[edit]

Soviet Union[edit]

See also List of Troikas in the Soviet Union

Modern Italy[edit]

In the Roman Republic (1849), the title of two sets of three joint chiefs of state in the year 1849:

Modern Greece[edit]

New World[edit]

European Union[edit]

After the Lisbon Treaty came into force from 1 December 2009:

Business slang[edit]

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".[19]

Other triumvirates[edit]

The word has been used as a term of convenience, though not an official title, for other groups of three in a similar position:

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Andrew Lintott, Violence in Republican Rome (Oxford University Press, 1999, 2nd ed.), p. 102 online.
  2. ^ Livy, Periocha 11.
  3. ^ Triumviri or tresviri nocturni may be another name or nickname for the capitales, because their duties often pertained to the streets at night.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Andrew Lintott, The Constitution of the Roman Republic (Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 12 and 95 online.
  6. ^ Jean Andreau, Banking and Business in the Roman World (Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 115 online.
  7. ^ Rachel Feig Vishnia, State, Society, and Popular Leaders in Mid-Republican Rome, 241-167 B.C. (Routledge, 1996), p. 86ff. online.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Beck, Roger B.; Linda Black, Larry S. Krieger, Phillip C. Naylor, Dahia Ibo Shabaka, (1999). World History: Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell. ISBN 0-395-87274-X. 
  10. ^ Christopher Pelling, "The Triumviral Period," in The Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge University Press, 1996, 2nd ed.), vol. 10, p. 1 online.
  11. ^ Loewe (1986), 178.
  12. ^ Beck (1986), 319.
  13. ^ For quotation defining the trimurti see Matchett, Freda. "The Purāṇas", in: Flood (2003), p. 139.
  14. ^ Ladies and gentlemen, your next government, By Amir Oren, Published: 13.01.2009, Haaretz Daily Newspaper
  15. ^ Diplomacy: Endgame politics, By HERB KEINON, Jan 8, 2009, Jerusalem Post
  16. ^ Israel launches PR blitz ahead of Gaza operation, Roni Sofer, Published: 12.21.2008, Ynetnews
  17. ^ Decalo, Samuel (1973). "Regionalism, Politics, and the Military in Dahomey". The Journal of Developing Areas 7 (3): 449–478. 
  18. ^ Lachman, Seymour & Polner, Robert (2006). Three Men in a Room: The Inside Story of Power and Betrayal in an American Statehouse. New York : New Press.
  19. ^ Tim Weber (2008-09-04), A decade on: Google's internet economy, BBC News, retrieved February 10, 2013 

Sources and references[edit]

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