“I lost a son you lost a son” Lepidus’s survival a case for database research into Family politics and power during the second Triumvirate and the early Principate.
(VU University Amsterdam ACASA, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Keywords: database controversy powerstructures Principate
The story of the fall of the Roman Republic is filled with larger than life individuals. Caesar, Crassus, Pompey, Antony/ Cleopatra and Augustus fill the pages of popular and scientific literature documentaries and movies. And when the fighting was over in 30 B.C. Augustus emerged as sole victor. All his predecessors and rivals died a violent death. The Fall of the Roman Republic is not unlike the mafia wars of the 20th century.
But wait, what about Marcus Aemilius Lepidus? Who? Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, part of the second triumvirate together with Antony and Augustus. He survived the fighting and remained the supreme high priest of the Roman world the Pontifex Maximus until his death in 12 BC.
But why was this opponent of Augustus allowed to live and perform the function of high priest. Augustus was not squeamish about killing opponents. And Killing your opponents was a way of life in the Late Republic. Again not unlike the actions of the Boss of Bosses in the 20th century. Yet he let Lepidus live.
In order to understand the dynamics of the Late Republic we have to look beyond the individuals that are blurring the scene. Every prominent Roman politician has a backing consisting of the people depending on him and his family (La familia). This pattern resembles very clearly the pattern in Maffia families in the 20TH century, a very controversial idea.
Unfortunately, due to the incompleteness of the data, the disperses of the data and the huge amount of untapped indirect data no real research has been done in that direction.
Today all this information has been put into a database, allowing us to bring the “first families” into the limelight and explaining why Lepidus was not killed and why the basis of power in Rome was la Familia
Relevance for the conference: story of ancient rome is prime Heritage
Relevance for the session: Explaining the power structures in Rome using a database and compairing them with maffia organization is very controversial
Innovation: The database of the Roman families is a first it did not exist, allowing to develop studies, speculations, investigations, aimed to rethink and better analyse the period, with a linear or non-linear approach, something that can be helpful and capable to bring some new elements on the desk of the scholar
• Weigel 2002 Lepidus the tarnished triumvir.
• Ridderhof 2018 The Roman family and the Maffia some remarks about similarity