Lepidus, the cognomen of a distinguished Roman family of the AEmilian gens, the most illustrious of whom were the following.
I. M. Aemilins, died in 152 B. 0. He was one of the three persons sent to Egypt by the Romans in 201 to act as guardians to the infant king Ptolemy V., was elected pontiff in 199, aedile in 192, praetor in 191, and consul in 187. While consul he reduced the Ligurians, and continued the Via Flaminia from Ariminum to Aquileia. In 180 he became pontifex maximus, in 179 censor, and in 175 a second time consul. He was six times chosen princeps senatus.
II. M. Aemilius Poreina, consul in 137 B. C, was sent into Spain to conduct the war against the Numantines; but instead of doing so, he attacked the Vac-caei, with whom the Romans were at peace, and laid waste their territory. For this aggression he was recalled, deprived of his command, and fined. He was, according to Cicero, the most eloquent orator of his age.
III. M. .AEmilius, in the civil war between Marius and Sulla, espoused the cause of the latter, but afterward married the daughter of the tribune Saturni-nus, and deserted to Marius. In 81 B. C. he was praetor in Sicily, and by his exactions and oppressions rendered himself odious to the inhabitants. In 79 he became a candidate for the consulship, and was elected through the instrumentality of Pompey; but having failed in an attempt to effect the legal abrogation of Sulla's laws, he retired into Etruria, raised an army, and advanced against Rome. He was encountered by Pompey and Catulus under the walls of the city, and completely defeated (77).
IV. M. Aemilius, the triumvir, died in 13 B. C. He was praetor in 49, and on the outbreak of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey joined the party of the former, who intrusted him with the government of Rome during his absence from Italy. In 48 he received the province of Hither Spain, where he distinguished himself by his vanity and avarice. In 47 Caesar made him his magister equitum, and the next year his colleague in the consulship. Lepidus was in the vicinity of Rome at the head of a considerable force when the dictator was assassinated, and by supporting Antony obtained for himself the office of pontifex maximus. He then repaired to his proconsular provinces beyond the Alps, and remained there in a state of armed neutrality till Antony fled to him for protection after his defeat at Mutina. The two generals, now uniting their forces, once more entered Italy, and at Bononia, in 43, formed in conjunction with Octavius that celebrated coalition termed the triumvirate. In this combination Lepidus was but a cipher, receiving in the division of the empire only the provinces of Spain and Narbonese Gaul, and remaining in Rome as consul while Antony and Octavius marched against Brutus and Cassius. After the battle of Philippi he was deprived of his provinces on an unfounded charge of treasonable conduct, but was to receive Africa on its being disproved; it was not till two years later (40), however, that he was allowed to proceed thither.
In 36, being called to Sicily by Octavius to aid him against Sextus Pompey, he attempted to take possession of the island and make himself independent of his colleague; he succeeded in gaining over eight of the Pom-peian legions, which with his own made a powerful army. Octavius, after tampering with his soldiers, ventured personally into his camp, exhorting them to prevent a civil war by coming over to him. Though he was wounded and obliged to retire, this bold proceeding had the desired effect, the legions gradually deserting Lepidus till he was left powerless, and on his knees begged Octavius for his life. He was deprived of all share in the government, and kept under strict surveillance at Circeii.