Roman Emperor

Roman Emperor

Overview
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State
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....

 during the imperial period (starting at about 27 BC). The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor. If a man was "proclaimed emperor" this normally meant he was proclaimed 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...

, or (for generals) 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...

(from which English 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...

ultimately derives). Several other titles & offices were regularly accumulated by emperors, such as caesar
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

, 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:...

, 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...

and 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...

.
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Encyclopedia
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State
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....

 during the imperial period (starting at about 27 BC). The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor. If a man was "proclaimed emperor" this normally meant he was proclaimed 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...

, or (for generals) 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...

(from which English 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...

ultimately derives). Several other titles & offices were regularly accumulated by emperors, such as caesar
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

, 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:...

, 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...

and 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...

. The power of emperors was generally based on the accumulation of powers from republican offices and the support of the army.

Roman emperors refused to be considered "kings", instead claiming to be leaders of a republic, however nominal. The first emperor, 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...

, resolutely refused recognition as a monarch. Although Augustus could claim that his power was authentically Republican, his successor, 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...

, could not convincingly make the same claim. Nonetheless, the Republican institutional framework (senate, consuls, magistracies etc.) was preserved until the very end of the Western Empire.

By the time of Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

, emperors were openly "monarchs", but the contrast with "kings" was maintained: Although the imperial succession was, de facto, generally hereditary, it was only hereditary if there was a suitable candidate acceptable to the army and the bureaucracy so the principle of automatic inheritance was not adopted. The Eastern (Byzantine) emperors ultimately adopted the formal title of 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...

, which had meant king in Greek, but became a title reserved solely for the "Roman" emperor (and the ruler of the Sassanid Empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

). Other kings were referred to as regas.

In addition to their pontifical
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...

 office, emperors were given divine status: initially after their death, but later from their accession. As Christianity prevailed over paganism, the emperor's religious status changed to that of Christ's regent on earth, and the Empire's status was seen as part of God's plan to Christianize the world.

The Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 ended in 476 and the Eastern Roman 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...

 in 1453.

Overview



Rome used no single constitutional office, title or rank
Rank
-Position within a command hierarchy requiring obedience:*Military rank* Police rank* Fire service rank* Nobility, ranks of nobility and peerage* Catholic Church hierarchy* Diplomatic rank* Taxonomic rank, a position within a taxonomy...

 exactly equivalent to the English title "Roman emperor". Romans of the Imperial era used several titles to denote their emperors, and all were associated with the pre-Imperial, Republican era. "Roman emperor" is a convenient shorthand used by historians to express the complex nature of the person otherwise known as princeps - itself a republican honorific.

The emperor's legal authority derived from an extraordinary concentration of individual powers and offices extant in the Republic rather than from a new political office; emperors were regularly elected to the offices of 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...

 and censor. Among their permanent privileges were the traditional Republican title of 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:...

(leader of the Senate) and the religious office of 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...

(chief priest of Roman state). Every emperor held the latter office and title until Gratian
Gratian
Gratian was Roman Emperor from 375 to 383.The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian's brother Valentinian II was declared emperor by his father's soldiers...

 surrendered it in 382 AD to St. Siricius
Pope Siricius
Pope Saint Siricius, Bishop of Rome from December 384 until his death on 26 November 399, was successor to Damasus I and was himself succeeded by Anastasius I....

; it eventually became an auxiliary honor of the Bishop of Rome
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

.

These titles and offices conferred great personal prestige (dignitas) but the basis of an emperor's powers derived from his 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...

: this assumed his greater powers of command (imperium maius
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...

) and tribunician power (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...

) as personal qualities, independent of his public office. As a result, he formally outranked provincial governors and ordinary magistrates. He had the right to enact or revoke sentences of capital punishment, was owed the obedience of private citizens (privati) and by the terms of the ius auxiliandi could save any plebeian
Plebs
The plebs was the general body of free land-owning Roman citizens in Ancient Rome. They were distinct from the higher order of the patricians. A member of the plebs was known as a plebeian...

 from any patrician magistrate's decision. He could 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 of any magistrate, including the tribunes of the people
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...

 (ius intercedendi or ius intercessionis). His person was held to be sacrosanct.

Roman magistrates on official business were expected to wear the form of toga
Toga
The toga, a distinctive garment of Ancient Rome, was a cloth of perhaps 20 ft in length which was wrapped around the body and was generally worn over a tunic. The toga was made of wool, and the tunic under it often was made of linen. After the 2nd century BC, the toga was a garment worn...

 associated with their office; different togas were worn by different ranks; senior magistrates had the right to togas bordered with purple. A triumphal imperator of the Republic had the right to wear the toga picta (of solid purple, richly embroidered) for the duration of the triumphal rite. During the Late Republic, the most powerful had this right extended. Pompey and Caesar are both thought to have worn the triumphal toga and other triumphal dress at public functions. Later emperors were distinguished by wearing toga
Toga
The toga, a distinctive garment of Ancient Rome, was a cloth of perhaps 20 ft in length which was wrapped around the body and was generally worn over a tunic. The toga was made of wool, and the tunic under it often was made of linen. After the 2nd century BC, the toga was a garment worn...

e purpurae
, purple togas; hence the phrase "to don the purple" for the assumption of imperial dignity.

The titles customarily associated with the imperial dignity are 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...

("commander", lit. "one who prepares against"), which emphasizes the emperor's military supremacy and is the source of the English word emperor; caesar
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

, which was originally a name but it came to be used for the designated heir (as Nobilissimus Caesar, "Most Noble Caesar") and was retained upon accession. The ruling emperor's title was the descriptive 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...

("majestic" or "venerable", which had tinges of the divine), which was adopted upon accession. In Greek, these three titles 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 ("") respectively. In Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

's 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 traditional seniorities were maintained: Augustus was reserved for the two senior emperors and Caesar for the two junior emperors - each delegated a share of power and responsibility but each an emperor-in-waiting, should anything befall his senior.

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., "first man of the senate"), the emperor could receive foreign embassies to Rome; some emperors (such as Tiberius) are known to have delegated this task to the Senate. In modern terms these early emperors would tend to be identified as chiefs of state. The office of princeps senatus, however, was not a magistracy and did not own 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...

. At some points in the Empire's history, the emperor's power was nominal; powerful praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect was the title of a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders becoming the Emperor's chief aides...

s, masters of the soldiers
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

 and on a few occasions, other members of the Imperial family including Imperial mothers and grandmothers acted as the true source of power
Power behind the throne
The phrase power behind the throne refers to a person or group that informally exercises the real power of an office. In politics, it most commonly refers to a spouse, aide, or advisor of a political leader who serves as de facto leader, setting policy through influence or manipulation.The...

.

Imperator



The title imperator dates back to 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...

, when a victorious commander could be hailed as imperator in the field by his troops. The Senate could then award (or withhold) the extraordinary honour of 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...

; the triumphal commander retained the title until the end of his magistry. Roman tradition held the first triumph as that of Romulus but the first attested recipient of the title imperator in a triumphal context is Aemilius Paulus in 189 BC. It was a title held with great pride: Pompey
Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

 was hailed imperator more than once, as was Sulla, but it was 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....

 who first used it permanently - according to Dio, this was a singular and excessive form of flattery granted by the Senate, passed to Caesar's adopted heir along with his name and virtually synonymous with it.

In 38 BC Agrippa
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was a Roman statesman and general. He was a close friend, son-in-law, lieutenant and defense minister to Octavian, the future Emperor Caesar Augustus...

 refused a triumph for his victories under Octavian
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...

's command and this precedent established the rule that the princeps should assume both the salutation and title of imperator. It seems that from then on Octavian (later first emperor Augustus) used imperator as a praenomen (Imperator Caesar not Caesar imperator). From this the title came to denote the supreme power and was commonly used in that sense. Otho
Otho
Otho , was Roman Emperor for three months, from 15 January to 16 April 69. He was the second emperor of the Year of the four emperors.- Birth and lineage :...

 was the first to imitate Augustus but only with Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 did imperator (emperor) become the official title by which the ruler 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....

 was known.

Princeps


The word princeps (plural principes), meaning "first", was a republican term used to denote the leading citizen(s) of the state. It was a purely honorific title with no attached duties or powers. It was the title most preferred by Caesar 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...

 as its use implies only primacy, as opposed to another of his titles, 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...

, which implies dominance. Princeps, because of its republican connotation, was most commonly used to refer to the emperor in 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...

 (although the emperor's actual constitutional position was essentially "pontifex maximus with tribunician power and imperium superseding all others") as it was in keeping with the façade of the restored Republic; the 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;...

 word basileus ("king") was modified to be synonymous with emperor (and primarily came into favour after the reign of Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

) as the Greeks had no republican sensibility and openly viewed the emperor as a monarch.

In the era of Diocletian and beyond, princeps fell into disuse and was replaced with dominus ("lord"); later emperors used the formula Imperator Caesar NN. Pius Felix (Invictus) Augustus. NN representing the individual's personal name, Pius Felix, meaning "Pious and Blest", and Invictus meaning "undefeated". The use of princeps and dominus broadly symbolise the differences in the empire's government, giving rise to the era designations "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...

" and "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...

".

First Roman emperor


At the end of 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...

 no new, and certainly no single title indicated the individual who held supreme power. Insofar as emperor could be seen as the English translation of 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...

, then Julius Caesar had been an emperor, like several Roman generals before him. Instead, by the end of the civil wars in which 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....

 had led his armies, it became clear on the one hand that there was certainly no consensus to return to the old-style monarchy
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...

, and that on the other hand the situation where several officials, bestowed with equal power by the senate, fought one another had to come to an end.

Julius Caesar, then Octavian after him, accumulated offices and titles of the highest importance in the Republic, making the power attached to these offices permanent, and preventing anyone with similar aspirations from accumulating or maintaining power for themselves. However, Julius Caesar, unlike those after him, did so without the Senate's vote and approval.

Julius Caesar held the Republican offices of 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...

 four times and dictator
Roman dictator
In the Roman Republic, the dictator , was an extraordinary magistrate with the absolute authority to perform tasks beyond the authority of the ordinary magistrate . The office of dictator was a legal innovation originally named Magister Populi , i.e...

 five times, was appointed dictator in perpetuity (dictator perpetuo) in 45 BC and had been "pontifex maximus" for several decades. He gained these positions by senatorial consent. By the time of his assassination in 44 BC he was the most powerful man in 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...

.

In his will, Caesar appointed his adopted son Octavian as his heir. On Caesar's death, Octavian inherited his adoptive father's property and lineage, the loyalty of most of his allies and - again through a formal process of senatorial consent – an increasing number of the titles and offices that had accrued to Caesar. A decade after Caesar's death, Octavian's victory over his erstwhile ally Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

 at Actium
Actium
Actium was the ancient name of a promontory of western Greece in northwestern Acarnania, at the mouth of the Sinus Ambracius opposite Nicopolis, built by Augustus on the north side of the strait....

 put an end to any effective opposition and confirmed Octavian's supremacy.

In 27 BC, Octavian appeared before the Senate and offered to retire from active politics and government; the Senate not only requested he remain, but increased his powers and made them lifelong, awarding him the title of 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...

 (the elevated or divine one, somewhat less than a god but approaching divinity). Octavian stayed in office till his death; the sheer breadth of his superior powers as princeps and permanent imperator of Rome's armies guaranteed the peaceful continuation of what nominally remained a republic. His "restoration" of powers to the Senate and the people of Rome was a demonstration of his 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...

and pious respect for tradition.

Even at Augustus' death, some later historians such as Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 would say that the true restoration of the Republic might have been possible. Instead, Augustus actively prepared his adopted son Tiberius to be his replacement and pleaded his case to the Senate for inheritance through merit. The Senate disputed the issue but eventually confirmed 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...

 as princeps. Once in power, Tiberius took considerable pains to observe the forms and day-to-day substance of republican government.

The historians of the 1st centuries observed the dynastic continuity: if a hereditary monarchy-not-by-kings existed after the republic, it had started with Julius Caesar. In this sense Suetonius
Lives of the Twelve Caesars
De vita Caesarum commonly known as The Twelve Caesars, is a set of twelve biographies of Julius Caesar and the first 11 emperors of the Roman Empire written by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus.The work, written in AD 121 during the reign of the emperor Hadrian, was the most popular work of Suetonius,...

 wrote of The Twelve Caesars, meaning the emperors from Julius Caesar to the Flavians included (where, after Nero, the inherited name had turned into a title), and emperors adopted themselves into an Imperial lineage.

Fall of the West


By the end of the 3rd century, the Roman Empire was split into Western and an Eastern parts, each with its own augustis (and/or caesares). In the West, which included Rome, the succession of emperors ended in the year 476 when the last Western emperor, Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus , was the last Western Roman Emperor, reigning from 31 October 475 until 4 September 476...

, was deposed by the Germanic King Odoacer
Odoacer
Flavius Odoacer , also known as Flavius Odovacer, was the first King of Italy. His reign is commonly seen as marking the end of the Western Roman Empire. Though the real power in Italy was in his hands, he represented himself as the client of Julius Nepos and, after Nepos' death in 480, of the...

, although many maintain that Julius Nepos
Julius Nepos
Julius Nepos was Western Roman Emperor de facto from 474 to 475 and de jure until 480. Some historians consider him to be the last Western Roman Emperor, while others consider the western line to have ended with Romulus Augustulus in 476...

 was the last emperor and that the Eastern Emperor Zeno decided not to appoint a new emperor in the West. This is generally accepted to be the end of Antiquity and the beginning the Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

 also known as the Dark Ages.

However, Roman rule had disintegrated somewhat earlier in the century as a result of Germanic invasions which had overrun all of the territory that had belonged to the western half of the Roman Empire. In the east however, the Eastern Roman Empire survived until 1453. Although the Greek-speaking inhabitants were Romaioi (Ῥωμαῖοι), many in Western Europe referred to the political entity as the "Greek Empire". Today it is known as 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...

, as its capital was once the city of Byzantium, which had been massively expanded and re-named Constantinople in honour of the emperor Constantine the Great
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

, and is now known as the Turkish city of Istanbul.

Survival of the Roman Empire in the East


The line of Roman emperors in the Eastern Roman Empire continued unbroken until the fall of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 in 1453 under Constantine XI Palaiologos. These emperors eventually normalized the imperial dignity into the modern conception of an emperor, incorporated it into the constitutions of the state, and adopted the aforementioned title Basileus kai 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...

 Rhomaiōn
("Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans"). These emperors ceased to use Latin as the language of state after Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

. Historians have customarily treated the state of these later Eastern emperors under the name "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...

", though Byzantine is not a term that the Byzantines ever used to describe themselves.

Last Roman emperor


Constantine XI Palaiologos was the last reigning Roman emperor. A member of the Palaiologos dynasty
Palaiologos
Palaiologos , often latinized as Palaeologus, was a Byzantine Greek noble family, which produced the last ruling dynasty of the Byzantine Empire. After the Fourth Crusade, members of the family fled to the neighboring Empire of Nicaea, where Michael VIII Palaiologos became co-emperor in 1259,...

, he ruled the feeble remnant of the Eastern Roman 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...

 from 1449 until his death in 1453 defending its capital Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

.

He was born in Mystra
Mystras
Mystras is a fortified town and a former municipality in Laconia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Sparti, of which it is a municipal unit. Situated on Mt...

 as the eighth of ten children of Manuel II Palaiologos
Manuel II Palaiologos
Manuel II Palaiologos or Palaeologus was Byzantine Emperor from 1391 to 1425.-Life:...

 and Helena Dragaš
Helena Dragaš
Helena Dragaš Helena was born to Constantine Dragaš of the noble House of Dejanović. Constantine was a Serbian provincial lord, ruling one of the principalities that emerged after the breakup of the Serbian Empire, centered at Velbăžd . Her mother was Constantine's unnamed first wife...

, the daughter of the Serbian
Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

 prince Constantine Dragaš
Constantine Dragas
Constantine Dragaš Dejanović was a Serbian magnate that ruled the area around Kyustendil from 1378, during the fall of the Serbian Empire, until his death on May 17, 1395 at the battle of Rovine...

 of Kumanovo
Kumanovo
Kumanovo is a city in the Republic of Macedonia and is the seat of Kumanovo Municipality which is the largest municipality in the country. Municipal institutions include a city council, mayor and other administrative bodies.-Name:...

. He spent most of his childhood in Constantinople under the supervision of his parents. During the absence of his older brother
John VIII Palaiologos
John VIII Palaiologos or Palaeologus , was the penultimate reigning Byzantine Emperor, ruling from 1425 to 1448.-Life:John VIII Palaiologos was the eldest son of Manuel II Palaiologos and Helena Dragaš, the daughter of the Serbian prince Constantine Dragaš...

 in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Constantine was regent in Constantinople from 1437-1440.

Before the beginning of the siege
Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

, Mehmed II
Mehmed II
Mehmed II , was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire for a short time from 1444 to September 1446, and later from...

 made an offer to Constantine XI. In exchange for the surrender of Constantinople, the emperor's life would be spared and he would continue to rule in Mystra. Constantine refused this offer. Instead he led the defense of the city and took an active part in the fighting along the land walls
Walls of Constantinople
The Walls of Constantinople are a series of defensive stone walls that have surrounded and protected the city of Constantinople since its founding as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire by Constantine the Great...

. At the same time, he used his diplomatic skills to maintain the necessary unity between the Genovese, Venetian, and Byzantine troops. As the city fell on May 29, 1453, Constantine is said to have remarked: "The city is fallen but I am alive." Realizing that the end had come, he reportedly discarded his purple cloak and led his remaining soldiers into a final charge
Last stand
Last stand is a loose military term used to describe a body of troops holding a defensive position in the face of overwhelming odds. The defensive force usually takes very heavy casualties or is completely destroyed, as happened in "Custer's Last Stand" at the Battle of Little Big HornBryan Perrett...

, in which he was killed. With his death, Roman imperial succession came to an end, almost 1500 years 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...

.

After the fall of Constantinople, Thomas Palaiologos
Thomas Palaiologos
Thomas Palaiologos was Despot in Morea from 1428 until the Ottoman conquest in 1460. After the desertion of his older brother to the Turks in 1460, Thomas Palaiologos became the legitimate claimant to the Byzantine throne...

, brother of Constantine IX, was elected emperor and tried to organize the remaining forces. His rule came to an end after the fall of the last major Byzantine city, Corinth
Corinth
Corinth is a city and former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Corinth, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit...

. He then moved in Italy and continued to be recognized as Eastern emperor by the Christian powers.

His son Andreas Palaiologos
Andreas Palaiologos
Andreas Palaiologos titular Byzantine emperor and Despot of Morea from 1465 until his death in 1502.-Biography:He was the nephew of Constantine XI Palaiologos, the last Byzantine Emperor of Constantinople...

 continued claims on the Byzantine throne until he sold the title to Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the grandparents of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

New Western lineage



The concept of the Roman Empire was renewed in the West with the coronation of the king of the Franks, Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

, as Roman emperor by the Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 on Christmas Day
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

, 800. This line of Roman emperors was actually generally Germanic
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 rather than Roman, but maintained their Roman-ness as a matter of principle. These emperors used a variety of titles (most frequently "Imperator Augustus") before finally settling on Imperator Romanus Electus ("Elected Roman Emperor"). Historians customarily assign them the title "Holy Roman Emperor", which has a basis in actual historical usage, and treat their "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...

" as a separate institution. To Latin Christians of the time, the Pope was the temporal authority as well as spiritual authority, and as Bishop of Rome he was recognized as having the power to anoint or crown a new Roman emperor.

The title of "Western Roman emperor" was further legitimized when the Eastern Roman emperor at Constantinople recognized Charlemagne as Basileus of the West. The last man to hold the title of proper Roman emperor and to be crowned by the pope
Pope Clement VII
Clement VII , born Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici, was a cardinal from 1513 to 1523 and was Pope from 1523 to 1534.-Early life:...

 (although in Bologna
Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

, not Rome) was Charles V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

. All his successors bore only a title of "emperor-elect". Charles V was also the last man to celebrate a triumph in Rome.

The line of "emperor-elect" rulers lasted until 1806 when Francis II
Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor
Francis II was the last Holy Roman Emperor, ruling from 1792 until 6 August 1806, when he dissolved the Empire after the disastrous defeat of the Third Coalition by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz...

 dissolved the Empire during 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...

. Despite the existence of later potentates styling themselves "emperor", such as the Napoleons, the Habsburg
Habsburg
The House of Habsburg , also found as Hapsburg, and also known as House of Austria is one of the most important royal houses of Europe and is best known for being an origin of all of the formally elected Holy Roman Emperors between 1438 and 1740, as well as rulers of the Austrian Empire and...

 Emperors of Austria
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

, and the Hohenzollern heads of the German Reich
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

, this marked the end of the Western Empire. Although there is a living heir to the Habsburg dynasty, as well as a Pope and pretenders to the positions of the electors, and although all the medieval coronation regalia are still preserved in Austria, the legal abolition of all aristocratic prerogatives of the former electors and the imposition of republican constitutions in Germany and Austria removed the potential for a revival of the Holy Roman Empire.

New Eastern lineage


The "seat" of the eastern lineage was claimed in Russia by the Byzantine-born wife of Ivan III "the Great" who would become the first 'Tsar' or 'Czar' the Russian title for 'Caesar.' He called Russia the third Rome (The capital of the Roman Empire moved to Byzantium
Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

 by Constantine I, first called 'Nova Roma
Nova Roma
Nova Roma is an international Roman revivalist and reconstructionist organization created in 1998 by Joseph Bloch and William Bradford, later incorporated in Maine as a non-profit organization with an educational and religious mission...

' and then Constantinople) where some of the relics of the Eastern Orthodox Church and from the Roman Empire were brought.

When Mehmed II
Mehmed II
Mehmed II , was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire for a short time from 1444 to September 1446, and later from...

 conquered Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 on 29 May 1453, he claimed the title emperor of the Roman Empire (Kayser-i-Rûm) and protector of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Here, the Caesar title should not be understood as the minor title it had become, but as the glorious title of the emperors of the past, a connotation that had been preserved in Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 and Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

. The adoption of the title also implied that the Ottoman state
State organisation of the Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire developed a highly advanced organisation of state over the centuries. Even though it had a very centralized government with the Sultan as the supreme ruler, it had an effective control of its provinces and inhabitants, as well as its officials. Wealth and rank wasn't necessarily...

 considered itself the continuation (by absorption) of the Roman Empire - a view not shared in the West. Acting in his capacity as Caesar of the Roman Empire, Mehmed reinstated the defunct Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

He appointed the Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome – ranking as primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church....

 Gennadius Scholarius, whom he protected and whose stature he elevated into leader of all the Eastern Orthodox Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

s. As emperor of the Romans he laid claim to all Roman territories. However, at the time of the Fall of Constantinople
Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

, they extended to little more than the city itself, as well as a small area in Morea
Morea
The Morea was the name of the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece during the Middle Ages and the early modern period. It also referred to a Byzantine province in the region, known as the Despotate of Morea.-Origins of the name:...

 (the Peloponnese
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

). Partly to bolster his claim to the title and reunite the Roman Empire, Mehmed II planned to conquer the city of Rome in 1480, but failed. The title of Roman emperor was added to the long list of other titles claimed by the Ottoman sultans.

A branch of the Comnenus family who provided emperors from 1081-1185 continued rule over the break-away Empire of Trebizond
Empire of Trebizond
The Empire of Trebizond, founded in April 1204, was one of three Byzantine successor states of the Byzantine Empire. However, the creation of the Empire of Trebizond was not directly related to the capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, rather it had broken away from the Byzantine Empire...

 till 1461.

Titles and positions


Although these are the most common offices, titles, and positions, one should note that not all Roman emperors used them, nor were all of them used at the same time in history. The consular and censorial offices especially were not an integral part of the Imperial dignity, and were usually held by persons other than the reigning emperor.
  • 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...

     (also "" or ""), "Majestic" or "Venerable"; an honorific 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...

     exclusive to the emperor, 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...

    (lit. "Self-ruler"); Greek title equivalent to imperator i.e. Commander-in-Chief (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...

    ), Greek for King
    King
    - Centers of population :* King, Ontario, CanadaIn USA:* King, Indiana* King, North Carolina* King, Lincoln County, Wisconsin* King, Waupaca County, Wisconsin* King County, Washington- Moving-image works :Television:...

    , popularly used in the east to refer to the emperor; a formal title of the Roman emperor beginning with Heraclius
    Heraclius
    Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

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

     (also "" or "Nobilissimus
    Nobilissimus
    Nobilissimus , in Byzantine Greek nōbelissimos was one of the highest imperial titles in the late Roman and Byzantine empires...

     Caesar"), "Caesar" or "Most Noble Caesar"; an honorific name later used to identify an emperor-designate
  • Censor, a Republican office with a five year term and one coequal officeholder
  • 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...

    , the highest magistracy of the Roman Republic with a one year term and one coequal officeholder
  • Dominus, "Lord" or "Master"; an honorific title popular in the Empire's middle history
  • 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...

    , "Commander" or "Commander-in-Chief"; a victory title taken on accession to the purple and after a major military victory; the 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...

     of most Roman emperors
  • Imperator Destinatus, "Destined to be Emperor"; heir apparent, used by Septimius Severus
    Septimius Severus
    Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

     for Caracalla
    Caracalla
    Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

    .
  • Imperium maius
    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...

    , "greater imperium"; absolute power to a degree greater than any other, including power of enacting capital punishment
  • Invictus, "Unconquered"; an honorific title
  • Pater Patriae
    Pater Patriae
    Pater Patriae , also seen as Parens Patriae, is a Latin honorific meaning "Father of the Country," or more literally, "Father of the Fatherland".- Roman history :...

    , "Father of the Fatherland"; an honorific title
  • Pius Felix, "Pious and Blessed" an honorific title
  • 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...

    , "Supreme Pontiff" or "Chief Priest" (lit. "Greatest Bridgemaker"); a title and office of Republican origin—could not be used by "Catholic" emperors, while by that time only the pope
    Pope
    The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

     had a claim on the title of highest religious authority.
  • Princeps
    Princeps
    Princeps is a Latin word meaning "first in time or order; the first, chief, the most eminent, distinguished, or noble; the first man, first person."...

    , "First Citizen" or "Leading Citizen"; an honorific title denoting the status of the emperor as first among equals
    Primus inter pares
    Primus inter pares is Latin phrase describing the most senior person of a group sharing the same rank or office.When not used in reference to a specific title, it may indicate that the person so described is formally equal, but looked upon as an authority of special importance by their peers...

  • Princeps Iuventutis, "Prince of Youth"; an honorific title awarded to a presumptive emperor-designate
  • 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:...

    , "First Man of the Senate" a Republican office with a five year term
  • Tribunitia 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"; the powers of a tribune of the people including sacrosanctity and the veto (the emperor could not be a "tribune
    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...

    " because a tribune was a plebeian by definition, therefore the emperor had the powers of a tribune without actually being one)

Powers


When Augustus established the Princeps, he turned down supreme authority in exchange for a collection of various powers and offices, which in itself was a demonstration of his 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...

("authority"). As holding 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:...

, the emperor declared the opening and closure of each Senate session, declared the Senate's agenda, imposed rules and regulation for the Senate to follow, and met with foreign ambassadors in the name of the Senate. Being 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...

made the emperor the chief administrator of religious affairs, granting him the power to conduct all religious ceremonies, consecrate temples, control the Roman calendar (adding or removing days as needed), appoint the vestal virgin
Vestal Virgin
In ancient Roman religion, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins , were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The College of the Vestals and its well-being was regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome, as embodied by their cultivation of the sacred fire that could not be...

s and some flamen
Flamen
In ancient Roman religion, a flamen was a priest assigned to one of fifteen deities with official cults during the Roman Republic. The most important three were the flamines maiores , who served the three chief Roman gods of the Archaic Triad. The remaining twelve were the flamines minores...

s, lead the Collegium Pontificum
College of Pontiffs
The College of Pontiffs or Collegium Pontificum was a body of the ancient Roman state whose members were the highest-ranking priests of the polytheistic state religion. The college consisted of the Pontifex Maximus, the Vestal Virgins, the Rex Sacrorum, and the flamines...

, and summarize the dogma
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

 of the Roman religion
Religion in ancient Rome
Religion in ancient Rome encompassed the religious beliefs and cult practices regarded by the Romans as indigenous and central to their identity as a people, as well as the various and many cults imported from other peoples brought under Roman rule. Romans thus offered cult to innumerable deities...

.

While these powers granted the emperor a great deal of personal pride and influence, they did not include legal authority. In 23 BC, Augustus gave the emperorship its legal power. The first was Tribunitia 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...

, or the power of the tribune without actually holding the office. This endowed the emperor with inviolability (sacrosanctity) of his person, and the ability to pardon
Pardon
Clemency means the forgiveness of a crime or the cancellation of the penalty associated with it. It is a general concept that encompasses several related procedures: pardoning, commutation, remission and reprieves...

 any civilian for any act, criminal or otherwise. By holding the powers of the tribune, the emperor could prosecute anyone who interfered with the performance of his duties. The emperor's tribuneship granted him the right to convene the Senate at his will and lay proposals before it, as well as the ability 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, including the actual tribune
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...

 of the plebeians. Also, as holder of the tribune's power, the emperor would convoke the Council of the People
Roman assemblies
The Legislative Assemblies of the Roman Republic were political institutions in the ancient Roman Republic. According to the contemporary historian Polybius, it was the people who had the final say regarding the election of magistrates, the enactment of new statutes, the carrying out of capital...

, lay legislation before it, and served as the council's president. But his tribuneship only granted him power within Rome itself. He would need another power to veto the act of governors and that of the consuls while in the provinces.

To solve this problem, Augustus managed to have the emperor be given the right to hold two types of 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...

. The first being consular imperium
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...

while he was in Rome, and imperium maius
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...

outside of Rome. While inside the walls of Rome, the reigning consuls and the emperor held equal authority, each being able 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...

 each other's proposals and acts, with the emperor holding all of the consul's powers. But outside of Rome, the emperor outranked the consuls and could veto them without the same effects on himself. Imperium Maius also granted the emperor authority over all the provincial
Roman province
In Ancient Rome, a province was the basic, and, until the Tetrarchy , largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's territorial possessions outside of Italy...

 governor
Roman governor
A Roman governor was an official either elected or appointed to be the chief administrator of Roman law throughout one or more of the many provinces constituting the Roman Empire...

s, making him the ultimate authority in provincial matters and gave him the supreme command of all of Rome's 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. With Imperium Maius, the emperor was also granted the power to appoint governors of imperial province
Imperial province
An imperial province was a Roman province where the Emperor had the sole right to appoint the governor . These provinces were often the strategically located border provinces....

s without the interference of the Senate. Also, Imperium Maius granted the emperor the right to veto the governors of the provinces and even the reigning consul while in the provinces.

Lineages and epochs


In the listings of Roman emperors below, the common name is given first, followed by the more formal name adopted upon accession to the purple, the name given at birth, and the years of his reign. So-called victory titles and other titles not forming an integral part of the name (Pontifex Maximus, Princeps Senatus, Pater Patriae
Pater Patriae
Pater Patriae , also seen as Parens Patriae, is a Latin honorific meaning "Father of the Country," or more literally, "Father of the Fatherland".- Roman history :...

, &c.) are not listed. Co-emperors are listed in inferior text, along with notes identifying senior emperors who had hitherto served as co-emperors. Following abbreviations are used:
  • A.: Aulus
  • Aug.: Augustus (as a title)
  • C.: Gaius
  • Germ.: Germanicus
  • Imp.: Imperator
  • L.: Lucius
  • M.: Marcus
  • Max.: Maximus

  • Nob.: Nobilissimus
  • P.: Publius
  • P.F.: Pius Felix
  • Princ. Iuv.: Princeps Iuventutis
  • Q.: Quintus
  • Ser.: Servius
  • T.: Titus
  • Ti.: Tiberius


Principate


The nature of the imperial office and 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...

 was established under 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....

's heir and posthumously adopted son, Caesar 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...

, and his own heirs, the descendants of his wife Livia
Livia
Livia Drusilla, , after her formal adoption into the Julian family in AD 14 also known as Julia Augusta, was a Roman empress as the third wife of the Emperor Augustus and his adviser...

 from her first marriage to a scion of the distinguished Claudian
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...

 clan. This Julio-Claudian dynasty
Julio-Claudian Dynasty
The Julio-Claudian dynasty normally refers to the first five Roman Emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula , Claudius, and Nero, or the family to which they belonged; they ruled the Roman Empire from its formation, in the second half of the 1st century BC, until AD 68, when the last of the line,...

 came to an end when the Emperor 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 great-great-grandson of Augustus through his daughter and of Livia through her son—was deposed in 68.

Nero was followed by a succession of usurper
Usurper
Usurper is a derogatory term used to describe either an illegitimate or controversial claimant to the power; often, but not always in a monarchy, or a person who succeeds in establishing himself as a monarch without inheriting the throne, or any other person exercising authority unconstitutionally...

s throughout 69, commonly called the "Year of the Four Emperors
Year of the Four Emperors
The Year of the Four Emperors was a year in the history of the Roman Empire, AD 69, in which four emperors ruled in a remarkable succession. These four emperors were Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian....

". The last of these, Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

, established his own Flavian dynasty
Flavian dynasty
The Flavian dynasty was a Roman Imperial Dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 69 and 96 AD, encompassing the reigns of Vespasian , and his two sons Titus and Domitian . The Flavians rose to power during the civil war of 69, known as the Year of the Four Emperors...

. Nerva
Nerva
Nerva , was Roman Emperor from 96 to 98. Nerva became Emperor at the age of sixty-five, after a lifetime of imperial service under Nero and the rulers of the Flavian dynasty. Under Nero, he was a member of the imperial entourage and played a vital part in exposing the Pisonian conspiracy of 65...

, who replaced the last Flavian emperor, Vespasian's son Domitian
Domitian
Domitian was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.Domitian's youth and early career were largely spent in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War...

, in 96, was elderly and childless, and chose therefore to adopt
Adoption
Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting for another and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities from the original parent or parents...

 an heir, Trajan
Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

, from outside his family. When Trajan acceded to the purple he chose to follow his predecessor's example, adopting Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

 as his own heir, and the practice then became the customary manner of imperial succession for the next century, producing the "Five Good Emperors" and the Empire's period of greatest stability.

The last of the Good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius, chose his natural son Commodus
Commodus
Commodus , was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180. His name changed throughout his reign; see changes of name for earlier and later forms. His accession as emperor was the first time a son had succeeded...

 as his successor rather than adopting an heir. Commodus's misrule led to his murder on 31 December 192, following which a brief period of instability quickly gave way to Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

, who established the Severan dynasty
Severan dynasty
The Severan dynasty was a Roman imperial dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 193 and 235. The dynasty was founded by the Roman general Septimius Severus, who rose to power during the civil war of 193, known as the Year of the Five Emperors....

 which, except for an interruption in 217-218, held the purple until 235.

Crisis of the Third Century


The accession of Maximinus Thrax
Maximinus Thrax
Maximinus Thrax , also known as Maximinus I, was Roman Emperor from 235 to 238.Maximinus is described by several ancient sources, though none are contemporary except Herodian's Roman History. Maximinus was the first emperor never to set foot in Rome...

 marks both the close and the opening of an era. It was one of the last attempts by the increasingly impotent 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...

 to influence the succession. Yet it was the second time that a man had achieved the purple while owing his advancement purely to his military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 career; both Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 and Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

 had come from noble or middle class families, while Thrax was born a commoner. He never visited the city of 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...

 during his reign
Reign
A reign is the term used to describe the period of a person's or dynasty's occupation of the office of monarch of a nation or of a people . In most hereditary monarchies and some elective monarchies A reign is the term used to describe the period of a person's or dynasty's occupation of the office...

, which marks the beginning of a series of "barracks emperor
Barracks emperor
A Barracks emperor was a Roman Emperor who seized power by virtue of his command of the army. Barracks emperors were especially common in the period from 235 through 284, during the Crisis of the Third Century. There were approximately fourteen barracks emperors in 33 years, producing an average...

s" who came from the army. Between 235 and 285 over a dozen emperors achieved the purple, but only Valerian
Valerian (emperor)
Valerian , also known as Valerian the Elder, was Roman Emperor from 253 to 260. He was taken captive by Persian king Shapur I after the Battle of Edessa, becoming the only Roman Emperor who was captured as a prisoner of war, resulting in wide-ranging instability across the Empire.-Origins and rise...

 and Carus
Carus
Carus , was Roman Emperor from 282 to 283. During his short reign, Carus fought the Germanic tribes and Sarmatians along the Danube frontier with success. During his campaign against the Sassanid Empire he sacked their capital Ctesiphon, but died shortly thereafter...

 managed to secure their own sons' succession to the throne; both dynasties died out within two generations.

Dominate


The accession to the purple on 20 November 284, of 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 lower-class, Greek-speaking Dalmatia
Dalmatia (Roman province)
Dalmatia was an ancient Roman province. Its name is probably derived from the name of an Illyrian tribe called the Dalmatae which lived in the area of the eastern Adriatic coast in Classical antiquity....

n commander of Carus's and Numerian's household cavalry (protectores domestici
Domesticus (Roman Empire)
A domesticus was a member of the protectores domestici, an elite guard unit of the Late Roman army, who served as bodyguards and staff officers to the emperor. As its name testifies, these were troops considered as belonging to the household of the emperor...

), marked a major departure from traditional Roman constitutional theory regarding the emperor, who was nominally first among equals; Diocletian introduced oriental despotism
Oriental despotism
Oriental despotism is a term used to describe a despotic form of government that opposes the western tradition. Historically, the term's meaning has varied and today it is hardly ever used at all, largely because of all the issues surrounding the concept of orientalism.- Origins in Ancient Greece...

 into the imperial dignity. Whereas before emperors had worn only a purple toga (toga purpura) and been greeted with deference, Diocletian wore jewelled robes and shoes, and required those who greeted him to kneel (proskynesis
Proskynesis
Proskynesis refers to the traditional Persian act of prostrating oneself before a person of higher social rank....

) and kiss the hem of his robe (adoratio). In many ways, Diocletian was the first monarchical emperor, and this is symbolised by the fact that the word dominus ("Lord") rapidly replaced princeps as the favoured word for referring to the emperor. Significantly, neither Diocletian nor his co-emperor, Maximian
Maximian
Maximian was Roman Emperor from 286 to 305. He was Caesar from 285 to 286, then Augustus from 286 to 305. He shared the latter title with his co-emperor and superior, Diocletian, whose political brain complemented Maximian's military brawn. Maximian established his residence at Trier but spent...

, spent much time in Rome after 286, establishing their imperial capitals at Nicomedia
Nicomedia
Nicomedia was an ancient city in what is now Turkey, founded in 712/11 BC as a Megarian colony and was originally known as Astacus . After being destroyed by Lysimachus, it was rebuilt by Nicomedes I of Bithynia in 264 BC under the name of Nicomedia, and has ever since been one of the most...

 and Mediolanum
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 (modern Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

), respectively.

Diocletian established 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...

, a system by which 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....

 was divided into East and West, with each having an 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...

 to rule over it and a Caesar
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

 to assist him. The Tetrarchy ultimately degenerated into civil war, but the eventual victor, Constantine the Great
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

, restored Diocletian's system of dividing the Empire into East and West. He kept the East for himself and founded his city of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 as its new capital.

The dynasty
Dynasty
A dynasty is a sequence of rulers considered members of the same family. Historians traditionally consider many sovereign states' history within a framework of successive dynasties, e.g., China, Ancient Egypt and the Persian Empire...

 Constantine established was also soon swallowed up in civil war and court intrigue until it was replaced, briefly, by Julian the Apostate
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

's general Jovian and then, more permanently, by Valentinian I
Valentinian I
Valentinian I , also known as Valentinian the Great, was Roman emperor from 364 to 375. Upon becoming emperor he made his brother Valens his co-emperor, giving him rule of the eastern provinces while Valentinian retained the west....

 and the dynasty he founded in 364. Though he was a soldier from a low middle class background, Valentinian was not a barracks emperor
Barracks emperor
A Barracks emperor was a Roman Emperor who seized power by virtue of his command of the army. Barracks emperors were especially common in the period from 235 through 284, during the Crisis of the Third Century. There were approximately fourteen barracks emperors in 33 years, producing an average...

; he was elevated to the purple by a conclave of senior generals and civil officials.

Late empire


Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 acceded to the purple in the East in 379 and in the West in 394. He outlawed paganism
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 and made Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 the Empire's official religion. He was the last emperor to rule over a united Roman Empire; the distribution of the East to his son Arcadius
Arcadius
Arcadius was the Byzantine Emperor from 395 to his death. He was the eldest son of Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the Western Emperor Honorius...

 and the West to his son Honorius
Honorius (emperor)
Honorius , was Western Roman Emperor from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the eastern emperor Arcadius....

 after his death in 395 represented a permanent division.

In the West, the office of emperor soon degenerated into being little more than a puppet of a succession of Germanic
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 tribal king
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

s, until finally the Heruli
Heruli
The Heruli were an East Germanic tribe who are famous for their naval exploits. Migrating from Northern Europe to the Black Sea in the third century They were part of the...

 Odoacer
Odoacer
Flavius Odoacer , also known as Flavius Odovacer, was the first King of Italy. His reign is commonly seen as marking the end of the Western Roman Empire. Though the real power in Italy was in his hands, he represented himself as the client of Julius Nepos and, after Nepos' death in 480, of the...

 simply overthrew the child-emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476, shipped the imperial regalia to the Emperor Zeno
Zeno (emperor)
Zeno , originally named Tarasis, was Byzantine Emperor from 474 to 475 and again from 476 to 491. Domestic revolts and religious dissension plagued his reign, which nevertheless succeeded to some extent in foreign issues...

 in Constantinople and assumed the title "King of Italy". Though during his own lifetime Odoacer maintained the legal fiction that he was actually ruling Italy as the viceroy
Viceroy
A viceroy is a royal official who runs a country, colony, or province in the name of and as representative of the monarch. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roi, meaning king. A viceroy's province or larger territory is called a viceroyalty...

 of Zeno, historians mark 476 as the traditional date of the fall of the Roman Empire
Decline of the Roman Empire
The decline of the Roman Empire refers to the gradual societal collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Many theories of causality prevail, but most concern the disintegration of political, economic, military, and other social institutions, in tandem with foreign invasions and usurpers from within the...

 in the West. Large parts of Italy (Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, the south part of the peninsula, Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

, Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 etc.), however, remained under actual imperial rule from Constantinople for centuries, with imperial control slipping or becoming nominal only as late as the 11th century. In the East, the Empire continued until the fall of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 to the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 Turks in 1453. Although known as 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...

 by contemporary historians, the Empire was simply known 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....

 to its citizens and neighboring countries.
For rulers of Italy after Romulus "Augustulus" and Julius Nepos, see list of barbarian kings
King of Italy
King of Italy is a title adopted by many rulers of the Italian peninsula after the fall of the Roman Empire...

.

For the Roman emperors who ruled in the East after The Fall in the West, see List of Byzantine emperors.

For emperors of the HRE in the West , see 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...

.

See also

  • Byzantine Emperor
  • 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...

  • 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...

  • Interregnum
    Interregnum
    An interregnum is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organization, or social order...

  • Justitium
    Justitium
    Justitium is a concept of Roman law, equivalent to the declaration of the state of emergency. It was usually declared following a sovereign's death, during the troubled period of interregnum, but also in case of invasions...

  • King of Rome
    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...

  • Roman Emperors family tree
    Roman Emperors family tree
    This is a family tree of the Roman Emperors, showing only the relationships between the emperors.- 27BC-AD192 :The emperors from Augustus to Commodus can be organised into one large family tree with one non-related emperor...

    ; also Julio-Claudian family tree
    Julio-Claudian family tree
    The Julio-Claudian dynasty of the early Roman Empire has a family tree complicated by multiple marriages between the members of the gens Julia and the gens Claudia.-Family tree:...

     and Severan dynasty family tree
    Severan dynasty family tree
    This is a family tree of the Severan dynasty of the Roman Empire.-See also:*List of family trees...

  • Roman usurper
    Roman usurper
    Usurpers are individuals or groups of individuals who obtain and maintain the power or rights of another by force and without legal authority. Usurpation was endemic during roman imperial era, especially from the crisis of the third century onwards, when political instability became the rule.The...



Lists:

External links