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Roman titles

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Octavian Augustus
Octavian Augustus


Title in proper form Augustus (“venerable” or “majestic”) – a word derived from the augur’s technical jargon, meaning place, thing, act or person who gained religious sanction through inauguration. This word had the form of a nickname, which, having regard to the above religious significance, the Roman Senate gave Octavian on January 16, 27 BCE, after the end of the civil war. He played both the title and name role. After his death, this title was given to subsequent rulers. For example, the full title of the first emperor was: Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus.

This nickname was used by subsequent emperors. In tetrarchy, this title was used by the two most important of the four joint rulers of the empire. As a result of political turmoil after the abdication of Diocletian (305 CE), for a short time there were as many as five Augustas (in 310 CE).

There was also a female title form – Augusta – which was given to the wives of emperors and other women of the ruler’s family.


Caesar was one of the titles used by Roman emperors. The word “Caesar” was the family name of Julius Caesar and Octavian – his adopted son and first Roman emperor, but over time it became the title of the rulers of Rome. Octavian, for political and personal reasons, decided to emphasize his close links with Caesar and ordered himself to be Emperor Caesar (only the Senate added Augustus to his titles). Following his example, subsequent rulers also accepted this title.

During the tetrarchy, the Caesar title was used by two younger tetrarchs.


The title, derived from the Latin word imperium, was given in times of the republic by soldiers to victorious leaders who independently led (suis auspiicis) and successfully ended the war in which a minimum of 5,000 enemies were killed. The award of the title meant that the leader had demonstrated in battle that he was worthy of the authority derived from the gods that the people entrusted to him, and that the gods were in his favor. The Senate awarded thanksgiving services in honor of the leader (supplicationes). The highest recognition on the part of the Senate was the award of triumph, which was valid when the chief submitted a war report to the Senate before entering the city. Had he entered the city before, he would have lost his right to that honor. The title of the Emperor was given to: Lucius Julius Caesar (90 BCE), Pompey the Great (84 BCE), Gaius Julius Caesar (60 and 45 BCE), Marek Juniusz Brutus (44 BCE), younger brother of Mark Antony, Lucius Antony (41 BCE) and adopted son of Tiberius, Germanic (15 CE).

It is worth mentioning that imperium was also granted to Roman kings. The ruler, to be able to take the throne, first had to receive imperium from curial commissions.

The first chief who used this title was probably the Scipio Africanus proclaimed emperor by his subordinate forces during the battles with Carthaginians in Spain at the end of the 3rd century BCE. In 45 BCE, the Senate awarded this title to Julius Caesar with the right to transfer it descendants. He was one of the titles used by Octavian Augustus and subsequent Roman emperors (he formally functioned as the first name of each emperor – praenomen).


The title (from the Greek tettares – “four”, archo – “govern”) given during the empire after the introduction of the system tetrarchy (“the rule of four”). It consisted of the simultaneous reign of four people: two with the title of Augustus and two lower-rank rulers with the title of Caesar.

Princeps senatus

In 28 BCE, Octavian received the title princeps senatus, chairman of the senate, and introduced a new political census under which they sat in the senate only his supporters.
On Creative Commons Attribution license - On the same terms 3.0.

The title literally meaning “the first in the senate” or “the best senator”) was given to the senator, whose censors were the first to put on the list of members of the senate. Although this title officially did not belong to the cursus honorum, and the senator who possessed it did not have the imperium, the title brought great prestige to the senator who possessed it. The title was given for five years (for another new pair of censors), in addition to prestige, it gave measurable benefits. During the republic, the function of princeps senatus was performed by patricians, usually censors and consuls. The candidate must have been a patrician with an impeccable political career; respected by his fellow senators.

The title began to be used around 275 BCE. Initially, princeps had the honorary right to speak first. The senator honored in this way began the discussion on the submitted motions, which could significantly affect its course. In addition to this privilege, the senator received a huge dignitas.

During the late Roman Republic and Principality, a person with this title was given the right to debate and additional powers:

  • Convening and dissolving the Senate;
  • Deciding on the agenda;
  • Deciding where to hold a meeting;
  • Keeping the agenda going;
  • Meeting with foreign ambassadors on behalf of the Senate;
  • Writing letters and letters on behalf of the Senate

It is believed that around 80 BCE, the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla changed, through numerous constitutional reforms, the functions and status of the office. Many prerogatives have been banned, especially the privilege of speaking first. These powers were then taken over by a representative appointed by the dictator.

During the Roman Empire, the name princeps senatus was willingly accepted by subsequent emperors, despite the fact that already Octavian Augustus significantly limited the role of the Senate in the empire’s power structure. During the “Third Age crisis” it happened that the title was accepted by several people at the same time (for example, the future emperor Valerian I was in office in 238 CE, during the reign of Maximinus Thrax and Gordian I).

List of politicians who received the title principes senatus:

  • Manius Valerius Maximus;
  • Marcus Fabius Ambustus;
  • c. 275/269 BCE – Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus;
  • c. 269/265 BCE – Gaius Marcius Rutilus Censorinus?;
  • in or after 258 BCE – Quintus Fabius Maximus Gurges, son of Rullianus;
  • c. 247/241 BCE – Gnaeus Cornelius Blasio?;
  • c. 236/230 BCE – Gaius Duilius?;
  • c. 225 BCE – Manius Valerius Maximus Messalla?;
  • c. 220 BCE – Aulus Manlius Torquatus Atticus?;
  • by 216 BCE – Marcus Fabius Buteo;
  • 209 – 203 BCE – Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator;
  • 199 – 184/183 BCE – Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus;
  • 184/183 – 180 BCE – Lucius Valerius Flaccus;
  • 179 – 153/152 BCE – Marcus Aemilius Lepidus;
  • 153/152 – around 147 BCE – vacancy;
  • c. 147 – Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Corculum;
  • Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Serapio?;
  • c. 136 – 130 BCE? – Appius Claudius Pulcher;
  • 130 BCE? – Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Lupus;
  • c. 125 BCE – Publius Cornelius Lentulus;
  • 115 – around 89 BCE – Marcus Aemilius Scaurus;
  • to 86 BCE – Lucius Valerius Flaccus;
  • c. 70 BCE – Mamercus Aemilius Lepidus Livianus;
  • Quintus Lutatius Catulus (Capitolinus);
  • Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus;
  • 43 – 43 BCE – Marek Tuliusz Cicero (not a patrician);
  • 43-28 BCE – unknown;
  • 28 BCE – Octavian Augustus, title held by emperors up to Dominat;
  • 238 CE – Valerian I

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