Imperator

Imperator

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The 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...

 word Imperator was originally a title roughly equivalent to commander under the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

. Later it became a part of the titulature of the 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...

s as part of their cognomen
Cognomen
The cognomen nōmen "name") was the third name of a citizen of Ancient Rome, under Roman naming conventions. The cognomen started as a nickname, but lost that purpose when it became hereditary. Hereditary cognomina were used to augment the second name in order to identify a particular branch within...

. The English word 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...

derives from imperator via Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 Empreur. The Roman emperors themselves generally based their authority on multiple titles and positions, rather than preferring any single title. Nevertheless, Imperator was used relatively consistently as an element of a Roman ruler's title throughout the principate
Principate
The Principate is the first period of the Roman Empire, extending from the beginning of the reign of Caesar Augustus to the Crisis of the Third Century, after which it was replaced with the Dominate. The Principate is characterized by a concerted effort on the part of the Emperors to preserve the...

 (derived from princeps, from which prince in English is derived) and the dominate
Dominate
The Dominate was the "despotic" latter phase of government in the ancient Roman Empire from the conclusion of the Third Century Crisis of 235–284 until the formal date of the collapse of the Western Empire in AD 476. It followed the period known as the Principate...

.

In Latin, the feminine form of Imperator is Imperatrix, denoting a ruling female.

Imperatores in the ancient Roman Kingdom


When Rome was ruled by kings
King of Rome
The King of Rome was the chief magistrate of the Roman Kingdom. According to legend, the first king of Rome was Romulus, who founded the city in 753 BC upon the Palatine Hill. Seven legendary kings are said to have ruled Rome until 509 BC, when the last king was overthrown. These kings ruled for...

,
to be able to rule, the king had to be invested with the full regal authority and power. So, after the comitia curiata, held to elect the king, the king also had to be conferred the 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...

.

Imperatores in the Roman Republic


In Roman Republican literature and epigraphy, an imperator was a magistrate with imperium (Rivero, 2006). But also, mainly in the later Roman Republic and during the late Republican civil wars, imperator was the honorifical title assumed by certain military commanders. After an especially great victory, an army's troops in the field would proclaim their commander imperator, an acclamation necessary for a general to apply to the 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...

 for a triumph
Roman triumph
The Roman triumph was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the military achievement of an army commander who had won great military successes, or originally and traditionally, one who had successfully completed a foreign war. In Republican...

. After being acclaimed imperator, the victorious general had a right to use the title after his name until the time of his triumph
Roman triumph
The Roman triumph was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the military achievement of an army commander who had won great military successes, or originally and traditionally, one who had successfully completed a foreign war. In Republican...

, where he would relinquish the title as well as his 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...

.

Since a triumph was the goal of many politically ambitious Roman commanders, Roman Republican history is full of cases where legions
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"...

 were bribed to call their commander imperator. The title of imperator was given in 90 BC to Lucius Julius Caesar
Lucius Julius Caesar III
Lucius Julius Caesar was a son of Lucius Julius Caesar , and elder brother to Gaius Julius Caesar Strabo Vopiscus. Lucius was involved in the downfall of tribune Lucius Appuleius Saturninus in 100 BC and became praetor in 94 BC without being a quaestor and aedile first...

, in 84 BC to Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus
Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

, in 60 BC to Gaius Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

, relative of the previously mentioned Lucius Julius Caesar, in 45 BC again to Gaius Julius Caesar, in 44 BC to Marcus Iunius Brutus, and in 41 BC to Lucius Antonius
Lucius Antonius
Lucius Antonius may refer to:*Lucius Antonius , the brother of Mark Antony*Lucius Antonius , the grandson of Mark Antony...

 (younger brother and ally of the more famous Marcus Antonius). In 15 AD Tiberius Augustus Germanicus was also imperator during the empire (see below) of his most famous relative Tiberius Augustus.

Imperator as an imperial title


After 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...

 established the hereditary, one-man rule in Rome that we refer to as the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, the title imperator was generally restricted to the emperor, though it would occasionally be granted to a member of his family. As a permanent title, imperator was used as a praenomen
Praenomen
The praenomen was a personal name chosen by the parents of a Roman child. It was first bestowed on the dies lustricus , the eighth day after the birth of a girl, or the ninth day after the birth of a boy...

 by the Roman emperors and was taken on accession. After the reign of Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

, the act of being proclaimed imperator was transformed into the act of imperial accession. In fact, if a general was acclaimed by his troops as imperator, it would be tantamount to a declaration of rebellion against the ruling emperor.

In the imperial period, the term did continue to be used in the Republican sense as a victory title; however, it could only be granted to the emperor, even if he had not commanded the victorious army in person. The title followed the emperor's name along with the number of times he was acclaimed as such, for example IMP V ("imperator five times").

The title imperator was generally translated into Greek as autokrator
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...

.
This title (along with 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...

for augustus
Augustus (honorific)
Augustus , Latin for "majestic," "the increaser," or "venerable", was an Ancient Roman title, which was first held by Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus , and subsequently came to be considered one of the titles of what are now known as the Roman Emperors...

) was used in Greek-language texts by eastern Roman emperors until the seventh century, when 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...

began to supplant it.

Post-Roman use


After the Roman empire collapsed in the West in the fifth century, Latin continued to be used as the language of learning and diplomacy for some centuries. The Eastern Roman, or Byzantine emperors, were referred to as imperatores in Latin texts, while the word basileus (king) was used in Greek.

After 800, the imperator was used (in conjunction with augustus) as a formal Latin title in succession by the Carolingian
Carolingian
The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family with origins in the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century AD. The name "Carolingian", Medieval Latin karolingi, an altered form of an unattested Old High German *karling, kerling The Carolingian dynasty (known variously as the...

 and German Holy Roman
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...

 Emperors until 1806 and by the Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n Emperors until 1918.

In 1721, as part of his drive to both westernize
Westernization
Westernization or Westernisation , also occidentalization or occidentalisation , is a process whereby societies come under or adopt Western culture in such matters as industry, technology, law, politics, economics, lifestyle, diet, language, alphabet,...

 the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 and assert his imperial status as a successor to the Byzantine emperors, Peter the Great imported the Latin word directly into Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 and styled himself imperator (Императоръ). The style remained the official one for all his successors down to the end of the Russian Empire in 1917, though the Russian rulers continued to be colloquially known as tsar
Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

 (a word derived from "Caesar"). Reigning female Russian rulers were styled imperatritsa.

After the Napoleonic wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

, the number of emperors in Europe proliferated, but Latin began to fall out of use for all but the most ceremonial situations. Still, in those rare cases in which a European monarch's Latin titles were used, imperator was used as a translation for emperor. Famously, after assuming the title Emperor of India
Emperor of India
Emperor/Empress of India was used as a title by the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II, and revived by the colonial British monarchs during the British Raj in India....

, British monarchs would follow their signatures with the initials RI, standing for rex imperator ("king-emperor
King-Emperor
A king-emperor, the female equivalent being queen-empress, is a sovereign ruler who is simultaneously a king of one territory and emperor of another...

"). George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

 was the last European ruler to claim an imperial title; when he abdicated as Emperor of India in 1948, the last active use of the title imperator ceased.

Imperatrix


The term imperatrix seems not to have been used in Ancient Rome to indicate the consort
Queen consort
A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. A queen consort usually shares her husband's rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king's monarchical titles. Historically, queens consort do not share the king regnant's political and military powers. Most queens in history were queens consort...

of an imperator or later of an 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...

. In the early years of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 there was no standard title or honorific for the Emperor's wife, even the "Augusta" honorific
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...

 was rather exceptionally granted, and not exclusively to wives of living emperors.

It is not clear when the feminine form of the Latin term imperator originated or was used for the first time. It usually indicates a reigning monarch, and is thus used in the Latin version of titles of modern reigning Empresses.

Likewise, when Fortuna is qualified "imperatrix mundi" in the Carmina Burana
Carmina Burana
Carmina Burana , Latin for "Songs from Beuern" , is the name given to a manuscript of 254 poems and dramatic texts mostly from the 11th or 12th century, although some are from the 13th century. The pieces were written principally in Medieval Latin; a few in Middle High German, and some with traces...

there's no implication of any type of consort - the term describes (the Goddess or personified) Fortune "ruling the world".

In Christian context, Imperatrix became a laudatory address to the Virgin Mary, in diverse forms at least since the Middle Ages — for example, she is sometimes called "Imperatrix angelorum" ("regnant of the angels").

Derivatives


Imperator is the root of most Romance languages' word for emperor. It is the root of the English word "emperor", which entered the language via the French empereur, while related adjectives like "imperial" were imported into English directly from Latin. It is also believed to be the ultimate origin of the Albanian
Albanian language
Albanian is an Indo-European language spoken by approximately 7.6 million people, primarily in Albania and Kosovo but also in other areas of the Balkans in which there is an Albanian population, including western Macedonia, southern Montenegro, southern Serbia and northwestern Greece...

term for king, mbret and emperor "perandor".