The triumvir, younger son of another Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (consul 78, who agitated against Sulla's settlement and marched on Rome). As praetor 49 bc, he supported Julius Caesar, then governed Hither Spain (48–7), intervening in the dissensions in Further Spain and returning to triumph. He was consul (46) and Caesar's ‘master of the horse’ (lieutenant and deputy of a dictator) (46–44). On Caesar's death he gave armed support to Mark Antony, who in return contrived his appointment as pontifex maximus (the most prominent and influential member of the four colleges of priests) in Caesar's place. He then left to govern the provinces assigned him by Caesar, Gallia Narbonensis and Hither Spain. When, after the war of Mutina, Antony retreated into Gaul, Lepidus assured Cicero of his loyalty to the republic but on 29 May 43 joined forces with Antony and was declared a public enemy by the senate. At Bononia (modern Bologna) in October he planned the Triumvirate with Antony and Octavian (see AUGUSTUS), accepting Further Spain with his existing provinces as his share of the empire; and demanding (or conceding) the proscription of his brother Lucius Aemilius Paullus. After triumphing again ex Hispania (‘from Spain’) he held a second consulship (42) and took charge of Rome and Italy during the campaign of Philippi. After their victory his colleagues deprived him of his provinces, on the rumour of a collusion between him and Sextus Pompey, but nothing serious was proved; and after helping Octavian ineffectively in the war against Mark Antony's brother Lucius Antonius (Pietas), he was allowed by Octavian to govern Africa, where he had sixteen legions and won an imperatorial salutation. Kept out of the discussions at Tarentum over the renewal of the Triumvirate (37) and ignored in the arrangements, he asserted himself when summoned by Octavian to aid in the war against Sextus Pompeius. He tried to take over Sicily, but Octavian won over his army, ousted him from the Triumvirate and banished him to Circeii, though he later contemptuously allowed him to enter Rome. He kept his title of pontifex maximus until his death in 13 or 12, when Augustus took it over. Superior to his two partners in social rank and inherited connections, he lacked their ability to organize support and their total dedication to the pursuit of power.
Geoffrey Walter Richardson; Theodore John Cadoux; Ernst Badian
Subjects: Classical studies