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Marcus Aemilius Lepidus


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The Second Triumvirate
Ancient Rome

Marcus Aemilius Lepidus was a powerful Roman who was a great supporter of Julius Caesar and Marc Antony and served in the Second Triumvirate with Antony and Octavian.

Lepidus the most famous was the third generation in his family to have the same name. His grandfather was consul, censor, and pontifex maximus (high priest). His father was praetor and consul but wound up on the losing end of a fight with Pompey and died in rebellion against the Republic.

A praetor and consul, the youngest Lepidus proved a valuable asset to Caesar, who made him "Master of the Horse" in 44 B.C., when Caesar was elected dictator for life. In effect, this made Lepidus deputy dictator. When Caesar was murdered, some of the assassins, notably Cassius, wanted to kill Lepidus as well. Brutus, who was Lepidus's brother-in-law, insisted that Caesar was the only target.

Lepidus formed an alliance with Antony and then joined with Octavian in 42 B.C. to form the Second Triumvirate, which gave the three men unlimited power for a period of five years. Lepidus remained in Rome while Antony and Octavian defeated Cassius and Brutus at Philippi. Then, the triumvirs assumed rule of Rome's provinces. Lepidus took control of Spain and Africa.

Antipathy between Antony and Octavian grew, but Lepidus stayed out of the fray, although he retained his first loyalty to Antony. However, in 36, he raised an army and went to Octavian's aid in Sicily, stamping out a rebellion there. Later, seeing what he thought was an opportunity to increase his power and prestige, Lepidus tried to take Sicily for himself. Octavian, who was much more powerful and popular with the Senate, got stripped Lepidus of all of his titles except pontifex maxims and then, on top of that, exiled him. (He was allowed to keep his fortune, however.) Antony was otherwise occupied in the East, most notably with Egypt's pharaoh, Cleopatra, and so didn't object.

Lepidus played no part in the subsequent power struggle between Antony and Octavian and died nearly anonymous in 13 B.C.


 
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