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Acts of the Triumvirs

This page is  a summary page and does not provide a detailed account of the period. Readable accounts are available in Appian, Civil Wars 4 and 5, and in Cassius Dio, 47, 48, 49, and 50.

The triumvirate can be seen as an ‘in-between’ period. It is neither properly Republican nor Augustan. The remaking of Octavian as Augustus in 27 BC creates a tempting break in history. If we combine this with Augustus’ emphasis on a new age, then there is a danger that historians might be seduced into the view that the Romans had a new start in 27 BC with the start of the Age of Augustus.

The reality was inevitably more complicated. Those who had lived through the proscription and the three civil wars from 43 – 30 BC would hardly forget the violence and disruption of the period. Further, the rhetoric of peace that was introduced after 27 BC worked on comparison with the earlier period of violence. The threat was always that without Augustus, civil war would return.

Many of the ways in which Octavian represented himself continued into the Augustan period. The association with Julius Caesar, for example, remained prominent, either with references to the Sidus Iulium or to Augustus as ‘Son of the Deified’.

Augustus Divi F

Coin of 17 BC. Coin Shows Augustus as Divi Filius (right) and (left) wreathed in victory and with the sidus Iulium on his brow (CNG)

Even if 27 BC marked a break with the past, there was no forgetting the triumviral period.

Although this was clearly a period of emergency in which violence was used as a political weapon by the triumvirs in defiance of any legal protections of Roman citizens, much of the constitutional structure of Roman politics continued. After the Perusine War and further after the defeat of Sextus Pompeius, there was a degree of normality in Roman politics, though politics functioned under the long shadows of Antony and Octavian.

Key issues are:

  • To what extent was there ‘normal politics’ in the Triumviral period?
  • How did Octavian and Antony build their support?
  • Why did Antony and Octavian eventually go to war (and why did they not go to war before 32 BC)?
  • What was the role of Cleopatra?
  • How did the traumatic events of the triumviral period affect the Age of Augustus?



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