The History of Sicily

Roman Sicily: The Second Triumvirate

In 80 B.C., the Romans sent Gaius Verres, an extremely corrupt politician to govern Sicily, where, as John Julius Norwich notes, “he taxed, he impounded, he confiscated, he seduced, he raped, he imprisoned, he robbed, and he looted.” By 70 B.C., things got so bad that the Sicilians forced his removal to Rome, where he was prosecuted by none other than Cicero himself, who had served as a financial officer in Sicily and had endeared himself to the people. Thanks to Cicero’s meticulous work, Verres was convicted. Before the trial even ended, however, Verres escaped to what is now Marseille.

After the assassination of Julius Caesar (100-44), a second triumvirate took power in Rome. It comprised Octavian (63 B.C.-14 A.D.), Caesar’s great-nephew, whom he had adopted shortly before his death; Marc Antony (83-30), one of Caesar’s generals and strongest supporters; and Lepidus (89?-12?), another general in Caesar’s army. Their first objective was to track down Brutus (85-42), Cassius (85-42), and the rest Caesar’s assassins.

Earlier, Sextus (67-35), the son of Caesar’s former adversary, Pompey (106-48), had sought revenge on Caesar for having his father murdered when Pompey and his family sought refuge in Egypt. Hearing of Caesar’s death, Sextus believed he could take advantage of the political confusion that followed, and he sailed for Sicily.

By 44 B.C., Sextus was in control of nearly the entire island. He stopped all grain shipments to the mainland and blockaded Italy’s southern ports, thereby denying supplies of bread to the triumvirates’ army now in pursuit of Caesar’s assassins.

In 36 B.C., however, a naval force led by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (64-12) and Lepidus (89-13) defeated Sextus at Naulochus, near Taormina. After having fled to Asia Minor, Sextus was captured and executed the following year.


Telamon: Statue Used as a Column in Temple of Zeus, Agrigento