Augustus (honorific)

Augustus (honorific)

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Augustus Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 for "majestic," "the increaser," or "venerable", was an Ancient Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 title, which was first held by Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus (often referred to simply as Augustus), and subsequently came to be considered one of the titles of what are now known as the Roman Emperors
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

. The feminine form is Augusta
Augusta (honorific)
Augusta was the imperial honorific title of empresses. It was given to the women of the Roman and Byzantine imperial families. In the third century, Augustae could also receive the titles of Mater castrorum and Mater Patriae .The title implied the greatest prestige, with the Augustae able to...

.

Although the use of the cognomen "Augustus" as part of one's name is generally understood to identify Emperor Augustus, this is somewhat misleading; "Augustus" was the most significant name associated with the Emperor, but it did not actually represent any sort of constitutional office until the 3rd century under Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

. The Imperial dignity was not an ordinary office, but rather an extraordinary concentration of ordinary powers in the hands of one man; "Augustus" was the name that unambiguously identified that man.

In Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, which was widely used in the eastern provinces of the Empire, the translation sebastos
Sebastos
Sebastos was an honorific used by the ancient Greeks to render the Roman imperial title of Augustus. From the late 11th century on, during the Komnenian period, it and variants derived from it formed the basis of a new system of court titles for the Byzantine Empire. The female form of the title...

(σεβαστός, "venerable") or the hellenized form augoustos were used. After the fall of the Empire the word was not uncommon as a name for men of aristocratic birth in Europe, especially in the lands of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

.

Caesar Augustus



The first "augustus" (and first man counted as a Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

) was Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

, who was given that name by the Roman Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

 on January 16, 27 BC; over the next forty years, Augustus (as he became known) literally set the standard by which subsequent emperors could be recognised, by accumulating various offices and powers and making his own name ("Augustus") identifiable with the consolidation of powers. Although the name signified nothing in constitutional theory, it was recognized as representing all the powers that Caesar Augustus had accumulated.

As princeps senatus
Princeps senatus
The princeps senatus was the first member by precedence of the Roman Senate. Although officially out of the cursus honorum and owning no imperium, this office brought enormous prestige to the senator holding it.-Overview:...

(lit., "prince of the senate", "first man of the senate") he was the leader of the Senate, presiding over the meetings and bringing forth motions before the body, equivalent to a modern day prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 or American Speaker of the House; as pontifex maximus
Pontifex Maximus
The Pontifex Maximus was the high priest of the College of Pontiffs in ancient Rome. This was the most important position in the ancient Roman religion, open only to patricians until 254 BC, when a plebeian first occupied this post...

(lit. "high priest") he was the chief priest of the Roman state religion; as bearing consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

ar imperium
Imperium
Imperium is a Latin word which, in a broad sense, translates roughly as 'power to command'. In ancient Rome, different kinds of power or authority were distinguished by different terms. Imperium, referred to the sovereignty of the state over the individual...

he had authority
Authority
The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

 equal to the official chief executive (and eponym
Eponym
An eponym is the name of a person or thing, whether real or fictitious, after which a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item is named or thought to be named...

ous) magistrates within Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 and as bearing imperium maius he had authority greater than theirs outside Rome (because of this, he outranked all provincial governors and was also supreme commander of all Roman legion
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

s); as bearing tribunicia potestas
Tribune
Tribune was a title shared by elected officials in the Roman Republic. Tribunes had the power to convene the Plebeian Council and to act as its president, which also gave them the right to propose legislation before it. They were sacrosanct, in the sense that any assault on their person was...

("tribunician power") he had personal inviolability (sacrosanctitas) and the right to veto
Veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

 any act or proposal by any magistrate within Rome, acting as the chief officer for the general legislative body of the people. This concentration of powers became the ideal model, as presented by the surviving histories, by which all subsequent emperors were to have ruled Rome in theory (in practice this systematic and sophisticated theory gradually lost any resemblance to reality and completely collapsed in the 3rd and 4th centuries, when the emperors became rather more reminiscent of oriental despots, nakedly displaying their despotic and monarchical power, than the moderate "first among equals").

Octavian "Caesar Augustus" also set the standard by which Roman emperors were named. The three titles used by the majority of Roman emperors -- "imperator
Imperator
The Latin word Imperator was originally a title roughly equivalent to commander under the Roman Republic. Later it became a part of the titulature of the Roman Emperors as part of their cognomen. The English word emperor derives from imperator via Old French Empreur...

", "caesar
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

" and "augustus" -- were all used personally by Caesar Augustus (he officially renamed himself "Imperator Caesar Augustus"); of these names, only "Augustus" was unique to the emperor himself (although the emperor's mother or wife could bear the name "Augusta"), as others could and did bear the titles "Imperator", and "Caesar" was the name of a clan within the Julian line. It became customary for an emperor-designate to adopt the name NN. Caesar (where NN. is the individual's personal name) or later NN. Nobilissimus Caesar ("NN. Most Noble Caesar"), and occasionally to be awarded the title Princeps Iuventutis ("First among the Youth"). Upon accession to the purple
Purple
Purple is a range of hues of color occurring between red and blue, and is classified as a secondary color as the colors are required to create the shade....

, the new emperor usually adopted at least one of these titles and integrated it into their official name. Later emperors took to inserting Pius Felix, "Pious and Blessed", and Invictus, "Unconquered", into his personal names.

In this usage, by signifying the complete assumption of all Imperial powers, "Augustus" is roughly analogous to "Emperor
Emperor
An emperor is a monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife or a woman who rules in her own right...

", though a modern reader should be careful not to project onto the ancients a modern, monarchical understanding of what an emperor is. As noted, there was no constitutional office associated with the imperial dignity; the Emperor's personal authority (dignitas) and influence (auctoritas
Auctoritas
Auctoritas is a Latin word and is the origin of English "authority." While historically its use in English was restricted to discussions of the political history of Rome, the beginning of phenomenological philosophy in the twentieth century expanded the use of the word.In ancient Rome, Auctoritas...

) derived from his position as princeps senatus, and his legal authority derived from his consulari imperium and tribunicia potestas; in Roman constitutional theory, one might consider "augustus" as being shorthand for "princeps senatus et pontifex maximus consulari imperio et tribuniciae potestate" (loosely, "Leader of the House and Chief Priest with Consular Imperium and Tribunician Power"). "Augustus" in and of itself signified that the individual in question had both the dignitas and auctoritas to hold these informal positions.

In many ways, "augustus" is comparable to the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 dignity of prince
Prince
Prince is a general term for a ruler, monarch or member of a monarch's or former monarch's family, and is a hereditary title in the nobility of some European states. The feminine equivalent is a princess...

; it is a personal title, dignity, or attribute rather than a title of nobility such as duke
Duke
A duke or duchess is a member of the nobility, historically of highest rank below the monarch, and historically controlling a duchy...

 or king. The Emperor was most commonly referred to as princeps, though as time passed imperator or Caesar became more common terms.

Women of the Imperial dynasty



Originally, the title Augusta was only exceptionally bestowed on women of the Imperial dynasties: for these women it meant a fortification of their worldly power, and a status near to divinity. There was no qualification with higher prestige.

The first woman to receive it was Livia Drusilla, by the last will of her husband Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 (14 AD). Hence she was known as Julia Augusta from his death in AD 14 until her own death in AD 29. As much as Augustus was the model for all further Augusti, Livia was the model for all further Augustae (plural of Augusta) -- a model that included scheming for a son to become successor to the throne, and falling in disgrace under the new emperor if the scheming had been successful.

Agrippina the Younger
Agrippina the Younger
Julia Agrippina, most commonly referred to as Agrippina Minor or Agrippina the Younger, and after 50 known as Julia Augusta Agrippina was a Roman Empress and one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

, becoming "Augusta" under her last husband and uncle Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

, would adhere to this model, being sent to death by her son Nero
Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

 a few years after he had become emperor.

If the honorific Augustus could be compared to the title of Prince in more modern societies, then Augusta would be analogous to the British title of the Princess Royal
Princess Royal
Princess Royal is a style customarily awarded by a British monarch to his or her eldest daughter. The style is held for life, so a princess cannot be given the style during the lifetime of another Princess Royal...

, a title bestowed by the reigning monarch in rare cases to a relative that received by this title prominence among other members of the royal household. Of course, this is only a partial comparison: Princess Royal was a title most often received by younger women, while Augusta was rather reserved for the aged. In this sense, Augusta also has something of the connotation of Queen Mother
Queen mother
Queen Mother is a title or position reserved for a widowed queen consort whose son or daughter from that marriage is the reigning monarch. The term has been used in English since at least 1577...

. Further, the "akin to divinity" does not really translate in any of these more modern titles or understood honorifics.

In the divided Roman Empire



Later, under the Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
The term Tetrarchy describes any system of government where power is divided among four individuals, but usually refers to the tetrarchy instituted by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293, marking the end of the Crisis of the Third Century and the recovery of the Roman Empire...

, the rank of "augustus" referred to the two senior emperors (in East and West), while "caesar
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

" referred to the junior sub-emperors.

The aforementioned three principal titles of the emperors -- "imperator", "caesar", and "augustus" -- were rendered as autokratōr
Autokrator
Autokratōr is a Greek epithet applied to an individual who exercises absolute power, unrestrained by superiors. In a historical context, it has been applied to military commanders-in-chief, and to Roman and Byzantine emperors as the translation of the Latin title imperator. Its connection with...

, kaisar, and augoustos (or sebastos
Sebastos
Sebastos was an honorific used by the ancient Greeks to render the Roman imperial title of Augustus. From the late 11th century on, during the Komnenian period, it and variants derived from it formed the basis of a new system of court titles for the Byzantine Empire. The female form of the title...

) in Greek. The Greek title continued to be used in the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 until its extinction in 1453, although "sebastos" lost its imperial exclusivity: persons who were not the emperor could receive titles formed from "sebastos", and "autokratōr" became the exclusive title of the Byzantine Emperor.

The last Roman Emperor to rule in the West, Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus , was the last Western Roman Emperor, reigning from 31 October 475 until 4 September 476...

 became known as Augustulus, or 'little Augustus,' due to the unimportance of his reign.

Legacy


The Latin title of the Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 was usually "Imperator Augustus", which conveys the modern understanding of "emperor" rather than the original Roman sense (i.e., the "first citizen" of the Republic). Although the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 word for "emperor" is "Kaiser", a relatively clear derivative of "caesar", that was the only one of the three principal titles of the Latin- and Greek-speaking Roman emperors that was not regularly used in Latin by the German-speaking Holy Roman emperors.

See also

  • Archons
  • Auctoritas
    Auctoritas
    Auctoritas is a Latin word and is the origin of English "authority." While historically its use in English was restricted to discussions of the political history of Rome, the beginning of phenomenological philosophy in the twentieth century expanded the use of the word.In ancient Rome, Auctoritas...

  • Basileus
    Basileus
    Basileus is a Greek term and title that has signified various types of monarchs in history. It is perhaps best known in English as a title used by the Byzantine Emperors, but also has a longer history of use for persons of authority and sovereigns in ancient Greece, as well as for the kings of...

  • Caesar (title)
    Caesar (title)
    Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

  • Imperium
    Imperium
    Imperium is a Latin word which, in a broad sense, translates roughly as 'power to command'. In ancient Rome, different kinds of power or authority were distinguished by different terms. Imperium, referred to the sovereignty of the state over the individual...