Princeps

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Princeps (plural: principes) is a Latin word meaning "first in time or order; the first, foremost, [1] chief, the most eminent, distinguished, or noble; the first man, first person". [2] As a title, "princeps" originated in the Roman Republic wherein the leading member of the Senate was designated princeps senatus. [3] It is primarily associated with the Roman emperors as an unofficial title first adopted by Augustus in 23 BC. Its use in this context continued until the reign of Diocletian at the end of the third century. He preferred the title of dominus, meaning "lord" or "master". As a result, the Roman Empire from Augustus to Diocletian is termed the "principate" (principatus) and from Diocletian onwards as the "dominate" (dominatus). Other historians define the reign of Augustus to Severus Alexander as the Principate, and the period afterwards as the "Autocracy". [4]

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Roman Republic Period of ancient Roman civilization (509–27 BC)

The Roman Republic was the era of classical Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome's control expanded from the city's immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.

Augustus First emperor of the Roman Empire

Augustus was a Roman statesman and military leader who was the first emperor of the Roman Empire, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. His status as the founder of the Roman Principate has consolidated an enduring legacy as one of the most effective and controversial leaders in human history. The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. The Roman world was largely free from large-scale conflict for more than two centuries, despite continuous wars of imperial expansion on the Empire's frontiers and the year-long civil war known as the "Year of the Four Emperors" over the imperial succession.

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The medieval title "Prince" is a derivative of princeps. [3]

Roman military

Principes were spearmen, and later swordsmen, in the armies of the early Roman Republic. They were men in the prime of their lives who were fairly wealthy, and could afford decent equipment. They were the heavier infantry of the legion who carried large shields and wore good quality armor.

Centurion professional officer of the Roman army

A centurion was a professional officer of the Roman army after the Marian reforms of 107 BC. Centurions originally commanded a hundred men of around 80 legionaries, with the other 20 being servants and orderlies, but senior centurions commanded cohorts or took senior staff roles in their legion. Centurions were also found in the Roman navy. In the Byzantine Army, they were also known by the name kentarch. Their symbol of office was the vine staff, with which they disciplined even Roman citizens protected from other forms of beating by the Porcian Laws.

A vexillatio was a detachment of a Roman legion formed as a temporary task force created by the Roman army of the Principate. It was named from the standard carried by legionary detachments, the vexillum, which bore the emblem and name of the parent legion.

Princeps was also used as the second part of various other military titles, such as Decurio princeps, Signifer princeps (among the standard-bearers). See also Principalis (as in Optio principalis): NCO.

Decurio was an official title in Ancient Rome, used in various connections:

  1. A member of the senatorial order in the Italian towns under the administration of Rome, and later in provincial towns organized on the Italian model. The number of decuriones varied in different towns, but was usually 100. The qualifications for the office were fixed in each town by a special law for that community. Cicero alludes to an age limit, to a property qualification, and to certain conditions of rank. The method of appointment varied in different towns and at different periods. In the early municipal constitution ex-magistrates passed automatically into the senate of their town; but at a later date this order was reversed, and membership of the senate became a qualification for the magistracy. Cicero speaks of the senate in the Sicilian towns as appointed by a vote of the township. But in most towns it was the duty of the chief magistrate to draw up a list (album) of the senators every five years. The decuriones held office for life. They were convened by the magistrate, who presided as in the Roman Senate. Their powers were extensive. In all matters the magistrates were obliged to act according to their direction, and in some towns they heard cases of appeal against judicial sentences passed by the magistrate. By the time of the municipal law of Julius Caesar special privileges were conferred on the decuriones, including the right to appeal to Rome for trial in criminal cases. Under the principate their status underwent a marked decline. The office was no longer coveted, and documents of the 3rd and 4th centuries show that means were devised to compel members of the towns to undertake it. By the time of the jurists it had become hereditary and compulsory. This change was largely due to the heavy financial burdens which the Roman government laid on the municipal senates.
  2. The leader of a decuria, a subdivision of the curia.
  3. An officer in the Roman cavalry, originally commanding a troop of ten men (decuria) during the early republican era. In the late republic and during the empire a decurio commanded a turma of 32 men in the auxiliary cavalry. It is the equivalent of the ancient Greek dekarchos, a cavalry officer.
  4. Decurio was also a name given to certain priests intended, as it should seem, for some particular sacrifices, or other religious ceremonies; or for the sacrifices of private families and houses, as Burkhard Gotthelf Struve (1671-1738) conjectures, who from that source derives their name. Whatever the origin of the name, we have an inscription in Gruter's work, which confirms their function: ANCHIALVS. CVB. AED. Q. TER. IN. AEDE. DECVRIO. ADLECTVS. EX. CONSENSV. DECVRIONVM. FAMILIAE. VOLVNTATE., which describes a decurio in the house of a private person, Q. Terentius.
Optio

An optio, plural optiones and sometimes, albeit rarely, anglicised as option – was a position in a centuria (century) of a Roman army similar to that of an executive officer. The main function of an optio was as an optio centuriae, the second-in-command of a century, although there were many other roles an optio could adopt.

Roman administration

Princeps is also the (official) short version of Princeps officii, the chief of an officium (the office staff of a Roman dignitary).

Roman Emperor

Princeps civitatis ("First Citizen") was an official title of a Roman Emperor as the title determining the leader in Ancient Rome at the beginning of the Roman Empire. It created the principate Roman imperial system. [5]

An emperor is a monarch, and usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife, mother, or a woman who rules in her own right. Emperors are generally recognized to be of a higher honour and rank than kings. In Europe, the title of Emperor has been used since the Middle Ages, considered in those times equal or almost equal in dignity to that of Pope due to the latter's position as visible head of the Church and spiritual leader of the Catholic part of Western Europe. The Emperor of Japan is the only currently reigning monarch whose title is translated into English as Emperor.

Ancient Rome History of Rome from the 8th-century BC to the 5th-century

In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman Kingdom, Roman Republic and Roman Empire until the fall of the western empire. The civilization began as an Italic settlement in the Italian Peninsula, conventionally founded in 753 BC, that grew into the city of Rome and which subsequently gave its name to the empire over which it ruled and to the widespread civilisation the empire developed. The Roman Empire expanded to become one of the largest empires in the ancient world, though still ruled from the city, with an estimated 50 to 90 million inhabitants ) and covering 5.0 million square kilometres at its height in AD 117.

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–476 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of ancient Rome, consisting of large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean sea in Europe, North Africa and West Asia ruled by emperors. From the accession of Caesar Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, it was a principate with Italy as metropole of the provinces and its city of Rome as sole capital. The Roman Empire was then ruled by multiple emperors and divided into a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when it sent the imperial insignia to Constantinople following the capture of Ravenna by the barbarians of Odoacer and the subsequent deposition of Romulus Augustus. The fall of the Western Roman Empire to Germanic kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

This usage of "princeps" derived from the position of Princeps senatus , the "first among equals" of the Senate. The princeps senatus (plural principes senatus) was the first member by precedence of the Roman Senate, and his opinion would usually be asked first in senatorial debates. [3]

<i>Princeps senatus</i>

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 conferred prestige on the senator holding it.

Primus inter pares is a Latin phrase meaning first among equals. It is typically used as an honorary title for someone who is formally equal to other members of their group but is accorded unofficial respect, traditionally owing to their seniority in office. Historically, the princeps senatus of the Roman Senate was such a figure and initially bore only the distinction that he was allowed to speak first during debate. Also, Constantine the Great was given the role of primus inter pares. However, the term is also often used ironically or self-deprecatingly by leaders with much higher status as a form of respect, camaraderie, or propaganda. After the fall of the Republic, Roman emperors initially referred to themselves only as princeps despite having power of life and death over their "fellow citizens". Various modern figures such as the Chair of the United States Federal Reserve System, the prime minister of parliamentary countries, the Federal President of Switzerland, the Chief Justice of the United States, the Chief Justice of the Philippines, the Archbishop of Canterbury of the Anglican Communion and the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church fall under both senses: bearing higher status and various additional powers while remaining still merely equal to their peers in important senses.

Roman Senate A political institution in ancient Rome

The Roman Senate was a political institution in ancient Rome. It was one of the most enduring institutions in Roman history, being established in the first days of the city of Rome,. It survived the overthrow of the kings in 509 BC, the fall of the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC, the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, and the barbarian rule of Rome in the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries.

It was first given as a special title to Caesar Augustus in 27 BC, [6] who saw that use of the titles rex (king) or dictator would create resentment amongst senators and other influential men, who had earlier demonstrated their disapproval by supporting the assassination of Julius Caesar. While Augustus had political and military supremacy, he needed the assistance of his fellow Romans to manage the Empire. In his Res Gestae , Augustus claims auctoritas for the princeps (himself). [5]

Various official titles were associated with the Roman Emperor. These titles included imperator, Augustus, Caesar, and later dominus (lord) and basileus (the Greek word for "sovereign"). The word Emperor is derived from the Roman title "imperator", which was a very high, but not exclusive, military title until Augustus began to use it as his praenomen.

The Emperor Diocletian (284–305), the father of the Tetrarchy, was the first to stop referring to himself as "princeps" altogether, calling himself "dominus" (lord, master), thus dropping the pretense that emperor was not truly a monarchical office. The period when the emperors that called themselves princeps ruled—from Augustus to Diocletian—is called "the Principate", Diocletian's rule began "the Dominate" period. [3]

Ancient Rome knew another kind of "princely" principes too, like "princeps iuventutis" ("the first amongst the young"), which in the early empire was frequently bestowed on eligible successors to the emperor, especially from his family. It was first given to Augustus' maternal grandsons Gaius and Lucius. [7]

Nobiliary legacy

"Princeps" is the root and Latin rendering of modern words as the English title and generic term prince (see that article, also for various equivalents in other languages), as the Byzantine version of Roman law was the basis for the legal terminology developed in feudal (and later absolutist) Europe. [3]

Non-Roman meaning

"Princeps" is also the name of an obsolete genus of Swallowtail butterflies (now merged with the genus Papilio).

Fiction

Footnotes

  1. Simpson, D.P. (1968). Cassell's Latin Dictionary, Latin-English, English-Latin. London: Cassell Publishers Limited. p. 713. ISBN   9780826453785.
  2. Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short (1897). "princeps, cĭpis, adj". A Latin Dictionary. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Encyclopædia Britannica – Princeps
  4. A History of Rome to A.D. 565, rev. 6th ed., Sinnigen & Boak, PanMacMillan, ç1975
  5. 1 2 Grant, p. 62
  6. Africa, Thomas (1991). The Immense Majesty: A History of Rome and the Roman Empire. Harlan Davidson, Inc. p. 219.
  7. Suetonius

See also

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