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Triumvirate is derived from the Latin word for three. It originally referred to the triumvir positions held in the magisterial system of ancient Rome. These positions gave three individuals (triumviri) authority to oversee an administrative task, it was a respected office.
Later, triumvirate came to refer to the political alliance of Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus – the First Triumvirate. This was due to the three men being perceived as sharing power. The term was not used at the time, but was applied by later scholars.
The Second Triumvirate consisted of Octavian, Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. This was referred to as a triumvirate at the time, and was more formal than the agreement between the First Triumvirate.
In modern times triumvirate is used to refer to any similar situation, where three individuals are seen to be sharing power or working together closely.