A triumvirate (Latin: triumvirātus) or a triarchy is a political institution ruled or dominated by three powerful individuals known as triumvirs (Latin: triumviri). The arrangement can be formal or informal. Though the three are notionally equal, this is rarely the case in reality. The term can also be used to describe a state with three different military leaders who all claim to be the sole leader. In the context of the Soviet Union and Russia, the term troika (Russian for "group of three") is used for "triumvirate".
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.
Triumvirates during the Pagaruyuang era in the Minangkabau Highlands was known as Rajo Tigo Selo or the three reigning kings. The Rajo Tigo Selo was descended from the same line in the same dynasty and ruled at the same reigning time. It consisted of three kings, the Rajo Alam who ruled the government and diplomatic affairs, the Rajo Adaik who ruled the customs and the Rajo Ibadaik who acted as a Grand Mufti.
During the Roman Republic, triumviri (or tresviri) were special commissions of three men appointed for specific administrative tasks apart from the regular duties of Roman magistrates.
The triumviri capitales 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 to 287 BC. They were supervised by the praetor urbanus. These triumviri, or the tresviri nocturni, may also have taken some responsibility for fire control. They went the rounds by night to maintain order, and among other things they assisted the aediles in burning forbidden books. It is possible that they were entrusted by the praetor with the settlement of certain civil processes of a semi-criminal nature, in which private citizens acted as prosecutors. They also had to collect the sacramenta (deposits forfeited by the losing party in a suit) and examined the plea of exemption put forward by those who refused to act as jurymen. Julius Caesar increased their number to four, but Augustus reverted to three. In imperial times most of their functions passed into the hands of the Vigiles.
The triumviri monetalis ("triumviri of the temple of Juno the Advisor" or "monetary triumvirs") supervised the issuing of Roman coins. Their number was increased by Julius Caesar to four, but again reduced by Augustus. As they acted for the senate they only coined copper money under the empire, the gold and silver coinage being under the exclusive control of the emperor.
Tresviri epulones, a priestly body, assisted at public banquets. Their number was subsequently increased to seven, and by Caesar to ten, although they continued to be called septemviri, a name which was still in use at the end of the 4th century. They were first created in 196 BC to superintend the Epulum Jovis feast on the Capitol, but their services were also requisitioned on the occasion of triumphs, imperial birthdays, the dedication of temples, games given by private individuals, and so forth, when entertainments were provided for the people, while the senate dined on the Capitol. Their number was later increased to seven (septemviri epulones).
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 BC, when the commission included two men of consular rank, has been the subject of debate.
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 triumvirate 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
(L-R) Zhou Enlai, Mao Zedong, and Liu Shaoqi in 1964
May 1922 – April 1925: When Vladimir Lenin suffered his first stroke in May 1922, a Troika was established to govern the country in his place, although Lenin briefly returned to the leadership from 2 October 1922 until a severe stroke on 9 March 1923 ended Lenin's political career. The Troika consisted of Lev Kamenev, Joseph Stalin, and Grigory Zinoviev. The Troika broke up in April 1925, when Kamenev and Zinoviev found themselves in a minority over their belief that socialism could only be achieved internationally. Zinoviev and Kamenev joined forces with Leon Trotsky's Left Opposition in early 1926. Later, Kamenev, Zinoviev and Trotsky would all be murdered on Stalin's orders.
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 Roufos, 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 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".
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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.
^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.
^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.
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