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A dictator was a magistrate of the Roman Republic, entrusted with the full authority of the state to deal with a military emergency or to undertake a specific duty. All other magistrates were subordinate to his imperium , and the right of the plebeian tribunes to veto his actions or of the people to appeal from them was extremely limited. However, in order to prevent the dictatorship from threatening the state itself, severe limitations were placed upon its powers: a dictator could only act within his intended sphere of authority; and he was obliged to resign his office once his appointed task had been accomplished, or at the expiration of six months. Dictators were frequently appointed from the earliest period of the Republic down to the Second Punic War (218–201 BC), but the magistracy then went into abeyance for over a century, until it was revived in a significantly modified form, first by Sulla between 82 and 79 BC, and then by Julius Caesar between 49 and 44 BC. The office was formally abolished after the death of Caesar, and not revived under the Empire.
The Roman magistrates were elected officials in Ancient Rome.
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.
In ancient Rome, Imperium was a form of authority held by a citizen to control a military or governmental entity. It is distinct from auctoritas and potestas, different and generally inferior types of power in the Roman Republic and Empire. One's imperium could be over a specific military unit, or it could be over a province or territory. Individuals given such power were referred to as curule magistrates or promagistrates. These included the curule aedile, the praetor, the consul, the magister equitum, and the dictator. In a general sense, imperium was the scope of someone's power, and could include anything, such as public office, commerce, political influence, or wealth.
With the abolition of the Roman monarchy in 509 BC, the imperium, or executive power, of the king was divided between two annually-elected magistrates, known as praetors. In time they would come to be known as consuls , although probably not until the creation of a third, junior praetor in 367 BC.Neither consul was superior to the other, and the decisions of one could be appealed to the other (provocatio). Their insignia were the toga praetexta and the sella curulis , and each was attended by an escort of twelve lictors, each of whom bore the fasces , a bundle of rods topped by an axe; but by custom the lictors had to remove the axes from their fasces within the pomerium , the sacred boundary of Rome, to signify that the people, and not the consuls, were sovereign.
The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the earliest period of Roman history, when the city and its territory were ruled by kings.
A consul held the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic, and ancient Romans considered the consulship the highest level of the cursus honorum.
Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army ; or, an elected magistratus (magistrate), assigned various duties. The functions of the magistracy, the praetura (praetorship), are described by the adjective: the praetoria potestas, the praetorium imperium, and the praetorium ius, the legal precedents established by the praetores (praetors). Praetorium, as a substantive, denoted the location from which the praetor exercised his authority, either the headquarters of his castra, the courthouse (tribunal) of his judiciary, or the city hall of his provincial governorship.
After several years,the fear of impending war with both the Sabines and the Latin League, combined with widespread suspicion that one or both of the consuls favoured the restoration of the monarchy, led to the call for a praetor maximus, or dictator ("one who gives orders"), akin to the supreme magistrate of other Latin towns. According to most authorities, the first dictator was Titus Lartius in 501 BC, who appointed Spurius Cassius his magister equitum .
The Sabines were an Italic people that lived in the central Apennine Mountains of ancient Italy, also inhabiting Latium north of the Anio before the founding of Rome.
The Latin League was an ancient confederation of about 30 villages and tribes in the region of Latium near the ancient city of Rome, organized for mutual defense. The term "Latin League" is one coined by modern historians with no precise Latin equivalent.
Titus Lartius, surnamed either Flavus or Rufus, was one of the leading men of the early Roman Republic, twice consul and the first Roman dictator.
Although there are indications that the term praetor maximus may have been used in the earliest period,the official title of the dictator throughout the history of the Republic was magister populi, or "master of the infantry". His lieutenant, the magister equitum, was the "master of the horse" (that is, of the cavalry ). However, the use of dictator to refer to the magister populi seems to have been widespread from a very early period.
The appointment of a dictator involved three steps: first, the Senate would issue a decree known as a senatus consultum , authorizing one of the consuls to nominate a dictator. Technically, a senatus consultum was advisory, and did not have the force of law, but in practice it was nearly always followed.Either consul could nominate a dictator. If both consuls were available, the dictator was chosen by agreement; if they could not agree, the consuls would draw lots for the responsibility. Finally, the Comitia Curiata would be called upon to confer imperium on the dictator through the passage of a law known as a lex curiata de imperio .
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.
A senatus consultum is a text emanating from the senate in Ancient Rome. It is used in the modern phrase senatus consultum ultimum.
The Curiate Assembly was the principal assembly during the first two decades of the Roman Republic. During these first decades, the people of Rome were organized into thirty units called "Curiae". The Curiae were ethnic in nature, and thus were organized on the basis of the early Roman family, or, more specifically, on the basis of the thirty original patrician (aristocratic) clans. The Curiae formed an assembly for legislative, electoral, and judicial purposes. The Curiate Assembly passed laws, elected Consuls, and tried judicial cases. Consuls always presided over the assembly. While plebeians (commoners) could participate in this assembly, only the patricians could vote.
A dictator could be nominated for different reasons, or causa. The three most common were rei gerundae causa, "for the matter to be done", used in the case of dictators appointed to hold a military command against a specific enemy; comitiorum habendorum causa, for holding the comitia, or elections, when the consuls were unable to do so; and clavi figendi causa , an important religious rite involving the driving of a nail into the wall of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, as a protection against pestilence.Other reasons included seditionis sedandae causa ("to quell sedition"); ferarium constituendarum causa (to establish a religious holiday in response to a dreadful portent ); ludorum faciendorum causa (to hold the Ludi Romani , or "Roman Games", an ancient religious festival); quaestionibus exercendis, (to investigate certain actions); and in one extraordinary case, senatus legendi causa, to fill up the ranks of the Senate after the Battle of Cannae. These reasons could be combined (seditionis sedandae et rei gerundae causa), but are not always recorded or clearly stated in ancient authorities, and must instead be inferred.
The Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, also known as the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus was the most important temple in Ancient Rome, located on the Capitoline Hill. It had a cathedral-like position in the official religion of Rome, and was surrounded by the Area Capitolina, a precinct where certain assemblies met, and numerous shrines, altars, statues and victory trophies were displayed.
The Ludi Romani was a religious festival in ancient Rome. Usually including multiple ceremonies called ludi. They were held annually starting in 366 BC from September 12 to September 14, later extended to September 5 to September 19. In the last 1st century BC, an extra day was added in honor of the deified Julius Caesar on 4 September. The festival first introduced drama to Rome based on Greek drama.
The Battle of Cannae was a major battle of the Second Punic War that took place on 2 August 216 BC in Apulia, in southeast Italy. The army of Carthage, under Hannibal, surrounded and decisively defeated a larger army of the Roman Republic under the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro. It is regarded both as one of the greatest tactical feats in military history and as one of the worst defeats in Roman history.
In the earlier period it was customary to nominate someone whom the consul considered the best available military commander; often this was a former consul, but this was never required. However, from 360 BC onward, the dictators were usually consulares.Normally there was only one dictator at a time, although a new dictator could be appointed following the resignation of another. A dictator could be compelled to resign his office without accomplishing his task or serving out his term if there were found to be a fault in the auspices under which he had been nominated.
Like other curule magistrates, the dictator was entitled to the toga praetexta and the sella curulis. He received a ceremonial bodyguard that was unique in Roman tradition: "[t]wenty-four lictors indicated his quasi-regal power, which, however, was rather a concentration of the consular authority than a limited revival of the kingship."
In a notable exception to the Roman reluctance to reconstitute the symbols of the kings, the lictors of the dictator never removed the axes from their fasces, even within the pomerium. Symbolizing their power over life and death, the axes of a dictator's lictors set him apart from all other magistrates.In an extraordinary sign of deference, the lictors of other magistrates could not bear fasces at all when appearing before the dictator.
As the kings had been accustomed to appear on horseback, this right was forbidden to the dictator, unless he first received permission from the comitia.
In addition to holding a military command and carrying out the actions decreed by the Senate, a dictator could summon the Senate or convene one of the legislative assemblies of the Roman people. The full extent of the dictatorial power was considerable, but not unlimited. It was circumscribed by the conditions of a dictator's appointment, as well as by the evolving traditions of Roman law, and to a considerable degree depended on the dictator's ability to work together with other magistrates. The precise limitations of this power were not sharply defined, but subject to debate, contention, and speculation throughout Roman history.
In the pursuit of his causa, the dictator's authority was nearly absolute. However, as a rule he could not exceed the mandate for which he was appointed; a dictator nominated to hold the comitia could not then take up a military command against the wishes of the Senate.Some dictators appointed to a military command also performed other duties, such as holding the comitia, or driving a nail into the wall of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus; but presumably they did so with the Senate's consent.
The imperium of the other magistrates was not vacated by the nomination of a dictator. They continued to perform the duties of their office, although subject to the dictator's authority, and continued in office until the expiration of their year, by which time the dictator had typically resigned.It is uncertain whether a dictator's imperium could extend beyond that of the consul by whom he was nominated; Mommsen believed that his imperium would cease together with that of the nominating magistrate, but others have suggested that it could continue beyond the end of the civil year; and in fact there are several examples in which a dictator appears to have entered a new year without any consuls at all, although some scholars doubt the authenticity of these dictator years.
Initially a dictator's power was not subject to either provocatio , the right to appeal from the decision of a magistrate, or intercessio, the veto of the tribunes of the plebs.However, the lex Valeria , establishing the right of appeal, was not abrogated by the appointment of a dictator, and by 300 BC even the dictator was subject to provocatio, at least within the city of Rome. There is also evidence that the power of the plebeian tribunes was not vitiated by the dictator's commands, and 210 BC, the tribunes threatened to prevent elections held by the dictator, Quintus Fulvius Flaccus, unless he agreed to withdraw his name from the list of candidates for the consulship.
A dictator was expected to resign his office upon the successful completion of the task for which he was appointed, or at the expiration of six months.These sharp limitations were intended to prevent the dictatorship from too closely resembling the absolute power of the Roman kings. But the six month limitation may have been dispensed with when the Senate deemed it expedient; no consuls are known for the years 333, 324, 309, and 301, and it is reported that the dictator and magister equitum continued in office without any consuls.
Most authorities hold that a dictator could not be held to account for his actions after resigning his office, the prosecution of Marcus Furius Camillus for misappropriating the spoils of Veii being exceptional, as perhaps was that of Lucius Manlius Capitolinus in 362,which was dropped only because his son, Titus, threatened the life of the tribune who had undertaken the prosecution. However, some scholars suggest that the dictator was only immune from prosecution during his term of office, and could theoretically be called to answer charges of corruption.
The dictator's lieutenant was the magister equitum, or "master of the horse". He would be nominated by the dictator immediately upon his own appointment, and unless the senatus consultum specified the name of the person to be appointed, the dictator was free to choose whomever he wished.It was customary for the dictator to nominate a magister equitum even if he were appointed for a non-military reason. Before the time of Caesar, the only dictator who refused to nominate a magister equitum was Marcus Fabius Buteo in 216 BC, and he strenuously objected to his own nomination, because there was already a dictator in the field.
Like the dictator, the magister equitum was a curule magistrate, entitled to the toga praetexta and the sella curulis. His imperium was equivalent to that of a praetor (in the later use of the term), in that he was accompanied by six lictors, half the number accorded to the consuls. But like the dictator, he could summon the Senate, and probably also the popular assemblies. His authority was not subject to recall, although if the dictator were compelled to resign due to a fault in the auspices, the magister equitum was also expected to resign, and when the dictator laid down his imperium, so would the magister equitum.
In theory, the magister equitum was commander of the cavalry, but he was not limited to that role. The dictator and magister equitum did not always take the field together; in some instances the magister equitum was assigned the defense of the city while the dictator took an army into the field, while on other occasions the dictator remained at Rome to see to some important duty, and entrusted the magister equitum with an army in the field.The magister equitum was necessarily subordinate to the dictator, although this did not always prevent the two from disagreeing.
During the first two centuries of the Republic, the dictatorship served as an expedient means by which a powerful magistracy could be created quickly in order to deal with extraordinary situations.Created for military emergencies, the office could also be used to suppress sedition and prevent the growing number of plebeians from obtaining greater political power. In the Conflict of the Orders, the dictator could generally be counted upon to support the patrician aristocracy, since he was always a patrician, and was nominated by consuls who were exclusively patrician. After the lex Licinia Sextia gave plebeians the right to hold one of the annual consulships, a series of dictators were appointed in order to hold elections, with the apparent goal of electing two patrician consuls, in violation of the Licinian law.
After the Second Samnite War, the dictatorship was relegated almost exclusively to domestic activities. No dictator was nominated during the Third Samnite War, and the six-month limitation on its powers made the dictatorship impractical for campaigns beyond the Italian peninsula.In 249 BC, Aulus Atilius Calatinus became the only dictator to lead an army outside Italy, when he invaded Sicily, and he was the only dictator to hold a military command during the First Punic War. The last dictators to lead an army in the field were Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus in 217, and Marcus Junius Pera the following year, during the early stages of the Second Punic War. All of the other dictators appointed during that conflict remained at Rome in order to hold the comitia; the last dictator named in the traditional manner was Gaius Servilius Geminus, in 202 BC.
For the next century, Rome's ordinary magistrates and promagistrates successfully carried on all Roman campaigns, without the need for a dictator, and the office fell into abeyance. Then, in 82 BC, the dictatorship was suddenly revived by Sulla. Sulla, already a successful general, had previously marched on Rome and taken the city from his political opponents six years earlier; but after he permitted the election of magistrates for 87, and departed to campaign in the east, his enemies returned. In 83 he turned his attention to regaining Rome, and after defeating his opponents decisively the next year, the Senate and the people named him dictator legibus faciendis et rei publicae constituendae, giving Sulla the power to rewrite the Roman constitution, without any time limit.
Sulla's reforms of the constitution doubled the size of the Senate from 300 to 600, filling its ranks with his supporters. He then placed severe limits on the tribunician power, limiting the veto and forbidding ex-tribunes from holding higher magistracies. Although he resigned the dictatorship in 81, and held the consulship in 80, before returning to private life, Sulla's actions had weakened the Roman state and set a precedent for the concentration of power without effective limitation.
The dictatorial power was then granted to Caesar in 49 BC, when he returned to Rome from his campaigns in Gaul, and put the forces of Pompeius ("Pompey the Great") to flight. He resigned the dictatorship after only eleven days, having held the comitia at which he himself was elected consul for the following year. Late in 48, Caesar was named dictator rei gerundae causa with a term of one year, and granted the tribunician power for an indefinite period. He saw to the impeachment of two tribunes who had tried to obstruct him, and having been granted censorial powers, he filled the depleted numbers of the Senate with his supporters, raising the number of senators to 900. In 47, he was named dictator for a term of ten years. Shortly before his assassination in BC 44, Caesar was named dictator perpetuo rei publicae constituendae, and given the power to appoint magistrates at will.
Caesar's murder came at the hands of conspirators who presented themselves as saviours of the Republic. In order to maintain popular support, Caesar's followers took great care to show their own commitment to preserving the Roman state. The month after the assassination, Mark Antony, who had been Caesar's magister equitum in BC 47, proposed a series of laws, confirming Caesar's actions, but allowing appeals and formally abolishing the dictatorship. These were passed, as the leges Antoniae .
In 23 BC, when Caesar's nephew and heir Augustus had attained full control of the state, the Senate offered to appoint him dictator, but he declined, while at the same time accepting proconsular imperium and the tribunician power for life. Thus, Augustus preserved the appearance of respecting Republican forms, even as he arrogated most of the powers of the Roman state.Following his example, none of the emperors who succeeded him ever adopted the title of dictator. When Constantine chose to revive the ancient concept of the infantry commander, he pointedly gave the office the name of magister peditum , "master of the foot", rather than magister populi, the official style of a dictator.
The cursus honorum was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in both the Roman Republic and the early Roman Empire. It was designed for men of senatorial rank. The cursus honorum comprised a mixture of military and political administration posts. Each office had a minimum age for election, and Lex Villia Annalis made those requirements formal. There were minimum intervals between holding successive offices and laws forbade repeating an office.
Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, surnamed Cunctator, was a Roman statesman and general of the third century BC. He was consul five times and was appointed dictator in 221 and 217 BC. He was censor in 230 BC. His agnomen, Cunctator, usually translated as "the delayer", refers to the strategy that he employed against Hannibal's forces during the Second Punic War. Facing an outstanding commander with superior numbers, he pursued a then-novel strategy of targeting the enemy's supply lines, and accepting only smaller engagements on favourable ground, rather than risking his entire army on direct confrontation with Hannibal himself. As a result, he is regarded as the originator of many tactics used in guerrilla warfare.
The lictor was a Roman civil servant who was a bodyguard to magistrates who held imperium. Lictors were used since the Roman Kingdom, and according to Roman historian Livy, the custom may have originated earlier, in the Etruscan civilization.
The gens Fabia was one of the most ancient patrician families at Rome. The gens played a prominent part in history soon after the establishment of the Republic, and three brothers were invested with seven successive consulships, from 485 to 479 BC, thereby cementing the high repute of the family. Overall, the Fabii received 45 consulships during the Republic. The house derived its greatest lustre from the patriotic courage and tragic fate of the 306 Fabii in the Battle of the Cremera, 477 BC. But the Fabii were not distinguished as warriors alone; several members of the gens were also important in the history of Roman literature and the arts.
Gaius Flaminius C. f. L. n. was a leading Roman politician in the third century BC. Twice consul, in 223 and 217, Flaminius is notable for his Lex Flaminia land reform of 232, the construction of the Circus Flaminius in 221, and his battle against Hannibal's army in 217 during the Second Punic War where he was defeated and killed. Flaminius is celebrated by ancient sources as being a skilled orator and a man possessed of great piety, strength, and determination. He is, however, simultaneously criticised by ancient writers such as Cicero and Livy for his popular policies and disregard of Roman traditions, particularly during the terms of his tribunate and second consulship.
The Magister equitum, in English Master of the Horse or Master of the Cavalry, was a Roman magistrate appointed as lieutenant to a dictator. His nominal function was to serve as commander of the Roman cavalry in time of war, but just as a dictator could be nominated to respond to other crises, so the magister equitum could operate independently of the cavalry; like the dictator, the appointment of a magister equitum served both military and political purposes.
The gens Cornelia was one of the greatest patrician houses at Rome. For more than seven hundred years, from the early decades of the Republic to the third century AD, the Cornelii produced more eminent statesmen and generals than any other gens. At least seventy-five consuls under the Republic were members of this family, beginning with Servius Cornelius Maluginensis in 485 BC. Together with the Aemilii, Claudii, Fabii, Manlii, and Valerii, the Cornelii were almost certainly numbered among the gentes maiores, the most important and powerful families of Rome, who for centuries dominated the Republican magistracies. All of the major branches of the Cornelian gens were patrician, but there were also plebeian Cornelii, at least some of whom were descended from freedmen.
Quintus Fabius Q. f. M. n. Maximus Gurges, the son of Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, was consul in 292, 276, and 265 BC. After a dissolute youth and a significant military defeat during his first consulate, he was given the opportunity to retrieve his reputation through the influence of his father, and became a successful general, eventually holding the highest honours of the Roman state. He was slain in battle during his third and final consulate.
Quintus Fabius Maximus was a general and politician of the late Roman Republic who became suffect consul in 45 BC.
The constitution of the Roman Republic was a set of unwritten norms and customs, which together with various written laws, guided the procedural governance of the Roman Republic. The constitution emerged from that of the Roman kingdom, evolved over the almost five hundred years of the Republic, and was transformed into the constitution of the Roman Empire.
The Roman Constitution was an uncodified set of guidelines and principles passed down mainly through precedent. The Roman constitution was not formal or even official, largely unwritten and constantly evolving. Having those characteristics, it was therefore more like the British and United States common law system than a sovereign law system like the English Constitutions of Clarendon and Great Charter or the United States Constitution, even though the constitution's evolution through the years was often directed by passage of new laws and repeal of older ones.
The executive magistrates of the Roman Republic were officials of the ancient Roman Republic, elected by the People of Rome. Ordinary magistrates (magistratus) were divided into several ranks according to their role and the power they wielded: censors, consuls, praetors, curule aediles, and finally quaestor. Any magistrate could obstruct (veto) an action that was being taken by a magistrate with an equal or lower degree of magisterial powers. By definition, plebeian tribunes and plebeian aediles were technically not magistrates as they were elected only by the plebeians, but no ordinary magistrate could veto any of their actions. Dictator was an extraordinary magistrate normally elected in times of emergency for a short period. During this period, the dictator's power over the Roman government was absolute, as they were not checked by any institution or magistrate.
The Fasti Capitolini, or Capitoline Fasti, are a list of the chief magistrates of the Roman Republic, extending from the early fifth century BC down to the reign of Augustus, the first Roman emperor. Together with similar lists found at Rome and elsewhere, they form part of a chronology referred to as the Fasti Annales, Fasti Consulares, or Consular Fasti, or occasionally just the fasti.
In the constitution of ancient Rome, the lex curiata de imperio was the law confirming the rights of higher magistrates to hold power, or imperium. In theory, it was passed by the comitia curiata, which was also the source for leges curiatae pertaining to Roman adoption.
Gaius Junius Bubulcus Brutus was a Roman general and statesman, he was elected consul of the Roman Republic thrice, he was also appointed dictator or magister equitum thrice, and censor in 307 BC. In 311, he made a vow to the goddess Salus that he went on to fulfill, becoming the first plebeian to build a temple. The temple was one of the first dedicated to an abstract deity, and Junius was one of the first generals to vow a temple and then oversee its establishment through the construction and dedication process.
Fabius Ambustus was a name used by ancient Roman men from a branch of the gens Fabia, including:
The gens Laetoria was a plebeian family at ancient Rome. Its members appear regularly throughout the history of the Republic. None of the Laetorii ever obtained the consulship, but several achieved lesser offices of the Roman state.
Quintus Publilius Philo was a Roman politician who lived during the 4th century BC. His birth date is not provided by extant sources, however, a reasonable estimate is ca. 365 BC since he first became consul in 339 BC at a time when consuls were regularly elected in their twenties. His Greek cognomen ‘Philo’ was unique to his family. Lucius Papirus, who shared his several positions with Quintus, is presumed to have been his brother.