Fall of the Roman Republic 78-31 BC

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Activities and breakdown of the First Triumvirate

Past HSC question: 2008
Explain the activities and breakdown of the First Triumvirate.

Past HSC question: 2004
Explain the reasons for the formation and breakdown of the ‘First Triumvirate’.

Past HSC question: 2003
Assess the significance of the career of EITHER Pompey OR Crassus.

Past HSC question: 2002
Account for the formation and breakdown of the ‘First Triumvirate’.

From booklet 2:

The tribunate of Clodius
  • What measures were passed by Clodius as tribune?
  • What impact did they have? Refer to 1. Cicero; 2. Cato; 3. the urban mob

The triumvirate under pressure
  • What pressures were exerted on the unity of the triumvirate? Make detailed notes on this point, outlining the rival gangs and their purpose; Clodius' attacks on Pompey and the role of Crassus in these years; Cicero's recall to Rome; Pompey's new command; L. Domitius Ahenobarbus.

The Conference of Luca
  • Where is Luca?
  • Who met there and why?
  • What was decided?

The second joint consulship of Pompey and Crassus
  • How were the elections for 55 manipulated by Pompey and Crassus?
  • What proconsular commands were given to Pompey and Crassus?
  • What did they do for Caesar?

The breakdown of the triumvirate
  • List and outline the significance of the factors which brought about the end of the triumvirate.

from Modern Sources:
Gelzer on the Conference of Luca (56):
"These were the main points of the arrangements - for the time being wrapped in deep secrecy - made at Luca. Through them three individual politicians intended for a period of years utterly to subordinate Roman politics to their personal interests without regard for the organs provided by the constitution. This represented, as an ancient writer puts it, 'a conspiracy to share the sovereignty and destroy the constitution' (see Plutarch below) ... One would not be far wrong in describing these arrangements as entirely characterized by the stamp of Caesar's genius. From whatever angle they are viewed, the same thorough exploitation of the possible appears. Every link in the chain fitted into another. Caesar subordinated his own egotism to a minute regard for equality among the confederates and yet was successful in protecting his own special advantages. How carefully he weighed up how far one could go for the time being in brutal disregard of the constitution! Yet all was permeated by a clear conviction that a fatal blow was being struck against the structure of the optimate oligarchy."
Gelzer, M., Caesar: Politician and Statesman, pp.122-3

from Ancient Sources:
Plutarch on the political machinations of Caesar while he was in Gaul:
"All this time Caesar was growing great and famous as a result of his wars in Gaul. Though he seemed to be very far away from Rome and wholly taken up with the Belgae, Suevi, and the Britons, in fact he was secretly and with great cleverness at work in the heart of the city and in all important matters was undermining Pompey's position."
Plutarch, Life of Pompey, 51

Plutarch on the impact of the Conference at Luca:
"Pompey and Crassus, by agreement with Caesar, who crossed the Alps to see them, had formed a design, that they two should stand to be chosen consuls a second time, and when they should be in their office, they would continue to Caesar his government for five years more, and take to themselves the greatest provinces, with armies and money to maintain them. This seemed a plain conspiracy to subvert the constitution and parcel out the empire."
Plutarch, Cato the Younger, 41

Plutarch on the impact of the deaths of Julia (August 54 BC) and Crassus (June 53 BC):
"For now immediately the city began, as it were, to roll and heave like the sea before a storm. Everything was in a state of agitation and every speech that was made tended towards division, now that there no longer existed between the two men this marriage relationship which hitherto had disguised rather than restrained their rival ambitions. Before long, too, news arrived of how Crassus had lost his life in Parthia. So was removed another factor which had been an important obstacle to the outbreak of civil war, since it was largely through fear of Crassus that up to now Pompey and Caesar had continued to behave reasonably correctly to each other."
Plutarch, Life of Pompey, 53