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Julius Caesar an Emperor?

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Why do many teachers of Social Studies and History confuse Julius Caesar for being an emperor? I have had numerous students come to me and swear up and down he was in fact the first Roman Emperor.

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Probably beacuse he's a famous main actor in the events that led to the empire. I am faced with the same question all the time, as lately as yesterday. They just need a short lesson in Roman history to cure them.

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The name itself would seem to be a key component in the confusion.

 

I can see the wheels turning something to this effect...

"What... the guy actually named Caesar wasn't an emperor but all the emperors were called Caesar even though they had other names???"

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The name itself would seem to be a key component in the confusion.

 

I can see the wheels turning something to this effect...

"What... the guy actually named Caesar wasn't an emperor but all the emperors were called Caesar even though they had other names???"

That's like that whole "why do we park in the driveway, but drive on the parkway" thing!

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There also seems to be an attitude of 'if in doubt blame/credit G J Caesar'.

 

Example (from documentary that accompanies Gladiator on DVD)

"Many experts dispute whether Julius Caesar actually flooded the Colloseum to create naval battles..."

 

He certainly was a great man if he managed to organise games in a structure that wasn't built during his lifetime.

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There also seems to be an attitude of 'if in doubt blame/credit G J Caesar'.

 

Example (from documentary that accompanies Gladiator on DVD)

"Many experts dispute whether Julius Caesar actually flooded the Colloseum to create naval battles..."

 

He certainly was a great man if he managed to organise games in a structure that wasn't built during his lifetime.

I guess in a technical sense that statement is true then, ay? :)

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I'v never looked at it like that. I concede the statement is highly disputable. haha.

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Why do many teachers of Social Studies and History confuse Julius Caesar for being an emperor? I have had numerous students come to me and swear up and down he was in fact the first Roman Emperor.

 

Salve. amici!

 

It was a deliberate misconception by the Augustean propaganda to made him the divine royal founder of the Imperial tradition, as he was the first officially deified Roman leader and the key to Augustus' and later emperor's cult.

 

Octavius use it as a cognomen after his adoption, and after the demise of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, later emperors add it ot their names to legitimate their claims.

 

After all, Caesar was the eponymous beginner of C Suetonius' De vita XII Caesarum.

 

The cognomen eventually became an Imperial title, and during the Tetrarchy it even got a curricular status as the junior imperial position subordinated to the Augustus.

 

The name and its alternative spellings in several languages (Kaiser, Tsar, Czar) became identified with Monarchy and Autocracy.

 

In fact, Constantinople was referred to by East and South Slavic languages (including Russian) as Tsarigrad or Carigrad.

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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Why do many teachers of Social Studies and History confuse Julius Caesar for being an emperor? I have had numerous students come to me and swear up and down he was in fact the first Roman Emperor.

 

Salve. amici!

 

It was a deliberate misconception by the Augustean propaganda to made him the divine royal founder of the Imperial tradition, as he was the first officially deified Roman leader and the key to Augustus' and later emperor's cult.

 

Octavius use it as a cognomen after his adoption, and after the demise of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, later emperors add it ot their names to legitimate their claims.

 

After all, Caesar was the eponymous beginner of C Suetonius' De vita XII Caesarum.

 

The cognomen eventually became an Imperial title, and during the Tetrarchy it even got a curricular status as the junior imperial position subordinated to the Augustus.

 

The name and its alternative spellings in several languages (Kaiser, Tsar, Czar) became identified with Monarchy and Autocracy.

 

In fact, Constantinople was referred to by East and South Slavic languages (including Russian) as Tsarigrad or Carigrad.

 

I think the answer is far simpler than this. 'Emperor' is the term that we have come to use in modern parlance (say the last 200 years or so) for the ruler of an empire. Caesar was Dictator but was he ever truly seen, in Roman eyes, as the autonomous ruler of all the territories of the Roman Empire? Did his imperium extend over all those territories? If there is evidence that it did, I will gladly stand to be corrected here, gents. Therefore, 'Emperor' as we know it today, would fit with Augustus as the first holder of that position. MPC may be able to clarify this in terms of how far a Dictator's imperium did extend legally. (Was it definitely a maius imperium proconsulare, as in the case of Augustus?)

 

But as Asclepiades mentions above, it only later became a sort of title within the imperial nomenclature. Augustus' official 'title' or 'position' was Princeps.

 

Emperor in Caesar's day - and indeed in Augustus' own, was a military title awarded to a victorious general. We have had a recent thread about the official use of the title on coinage etc., and I still maintain that Augustus was the first to use it regularly (see the Fasti, for example).

 

But whichever way we look at it, either using the title as an official part of the Princeps' nomenclature, or in its more modern conception of an autonomous ruler governing vast territories as overlord, Augustus was most definitely the first Roman emperor.

 

I am not sure about Asclepiades' argument regarding a 'deliberate misconception by Augustan propaganda to make him the divine royal founder of the Imperial tradition'. After 31BC his position was unprecedented, after all. No propaganda was necessary as far as this was concerned. His constitutional position was very different from Caesar's. Caesar was not awarded powers of office without holding such offices.

Edited by The Augusta

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Could it possibly be that the word 'Imperator' has been melded into the word 'emperor' by the ignoratti? My 'spell checker' advises emperor for imperator.

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Could it possibly be that the word 'Imperator' has been melded into the word 'emperor' by the ignoratti? My 'spell checker' advises emperor for imperator.

Salve, GO!

 

It's simply the morphological evolution of the Latin word into modern English, via French empereur..

 

In Latin, both the commander's and the Emperor's title were written the same, Imperator.

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The "G J Caesar was emperor" myth will not die down soon, especially when there's full page adverts for Discovery Channel's series on Julius Caesar, which refers to him as the first emperor. I also notice that 'Ancient Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire' refers to him as emperor, even though Mary Beard was the historical consultant for the documentary. well...at least they aren't calling Rome's first emperor 'Julius Augustus' as one History Channel documentary did a few years back.

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Could it possibly be that the word 'Imperator' has been melded into the word 'emperor' by the ignoratti? My 'spell checker' advises emperor for imperator.

Salve, GO!

 

It's simply the morphological evolution of the Latin word into modern English, via French empereur..

 

In Latin, both the commander's and the Emperor's title were written the same, Imperator.

 

If my memory serves, the title imperator, i.e., 'commander', was given to a victorious general by acclamation of his men and did not (originally) have a political connotation.

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In fact the word Imperator was only a military title of "supreme commander victorious in battle" given by the men to their leader, from the republic to the time of Augustus when it began to be given almost automatically to all the men we know as Imperor. Since it was, like Caesar, present in all imperial inscriptions it was taken as the formal title of the leader of the roman empire. Both Caesar and Imperator became in later languages the word used to design the supreme leader of an empire ( Czar - Empereur ) as equal one to the other one. But in fact the post of supreme leader of the roman empire was titled Princeps and nothing else, this is "first among equals" ( with some more equals than others, as is always the case ), a word derived from previous republican senate's practice.

 

Now since all this is going into more details than most people do when they learn about the roman empire and deeper than the where the classics teachers are willing to go for a class on Suetonius or Caesar's De Bello then the mistake of making Caesar who calls himself Imperator in many passages of the De Bello the first emperor goes from generation to generation.

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