LEPIDUS, the jiame of a Roman patrician family in the Aemilian gens.
1. MARCUS AEMILIUS LEPIDUS, one of the three ambassadors sent to Egypt in 201 B. c. as guardians of the infant king Ptolemy V. He was consul in 187 and 175, censor 179, pontifex maximus from 180 onwards, and was six times chosen by the censors princeps senatus. He died in 152. He distinguished himself in the war with Antiochus III. of Syria, and against the Ligurians. He made the Via Aemilia from Ariminum to Placentia, and led colonies to Mutina and Parma.
Livy xl. 42-46, epit. 48; Polybius xvi. 34.
2. MARCUS AEMILIUS LEPIDUS, surnamed PORCINA (probably from his personal appearance), consul 137 B.C. Being sent to Spain to conduct the Numantine war, he began against the will of the senate to attack the Vaccaei. This enterprise was so unsuccessful that he was deprived of his command in 136 and condemned to pay a fine. He was among the greatest of the earlier Roman orators, and Cicero praises him for having introduced the well-constructed sentence and even flow of language from Greek into Roman oratory.
Cicero, Brutus, 25, 27, 86, 97; Veil. Pat. ii. 10; Appian, Hisp. 80-83; Livy, epit.$6.
3. MARCUS AEMILIUS LEPIDUS, father of the triumvir. In 81 B.C. he was praetor of Sicily, where he made himself detested by oppression and extortion. In the civil wars he sided with Sulla and bought much of the confiscated property of the Marian partisans. Afterwards he became leader of the popular party, and with the help of Pompey was elected consul for 78, in spite of the opposition of Sulla. When the dictator died, Lepidus tried in vain to prevent the burial of his body in the Campus Martius, and to alter the constitution established by him. His colleague Lutatius Catulus found a tribune to place his veto on Lepidus's proposals; and the quarrel between the two parties in the state became so acute that the senate made the consuls swear not to take up arms. Lepidus was then ordered by the senate to go to his province, Transalpine Gaul; but he stopped in Etruria on his way from the city and began to levy an army. He was declared a public enemy early in 77, and forthwith marched against Rome. A battle took place in the Campus Martius, Pompey and Catulus commanding the senatorial army, and Lepidus was defeated. He sailed to Sardinia, in order to put himself into connexion with Sertorius in Spain, but here also suffered a repulse, and died shortly afterwards.
Plutarch, Sulla, 34, 38, Pompey, 15; Appian, B.C. i. 105, 107; Livy, epil. 90; Florus ih. 23; Cicero, Balbus, 15.
4. MARCUS AEMILIUS LEPIDUS, the triumvir. He joined the party of Julius Caesar in the civil wars, and was by the dictator thrice nominated magister equitum and raised to the consulship in 46 B.C. He was a man of great wealth and influence, and it was probably more on this ground than on account of his ability that Caesar raised him to such honours. In the beginning of 44 B.C he was sent to Gallia Narbonensis, but before he had left the city with his army Caesar was murdered. Lepidus, as commander of the only army near Rome, became a man of great importance in the troubles which followed. Taking part with Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony), he joined in the reconciliation which the latter effected with the senatorial party, and afterwards sided with him when open war broke out. Antony, after his defeat at Mutina, joined Lepidus in Gaul, and in August 43 Octavian (afterwards the emperor Augustus), who had forced the senate to make him consul, effected an arrangement with Antony and Lepidus, and their triumvirate was organized at Bononia. Antony and Octavian soon reduced Lepidus to an inferior position. His province of Gaul and Spain was taken from him; and, though he was included in the triumvirate when it was renewed in 37, his power was only nominal. He made an effort in the following year to regain some reality of power, conquered part of Sicily, and claimed the whole island as his province, but Octavian found means to sap the fidelity of his soldiers, and he was obliged to supplicate for his life. He was allowed to retain his fortune and the office of pontifex maximus to which he had been appointed in 44, but had to retire into private life. According to Suetonius (Augustus, 16) he died at Circeii in the year 13.
See ROME: History ii., "The Republic," Period C, ad fin.; Appian, Bell. Civ. ii.-v. ; Dio Cassius *li.-xlix. ; Veil. Pat. ii. 64, 80; Orelli's Onomasticon to Cicero.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)