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longshotgene

Julius Caesar an Emperor?

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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.

Your memory serves well, but this word was not restricted to such use.

 

Check out this related thread, especially my two posts (#16 and #19).

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Suetonius lists Julius Caesar as the first emperor. He does so deliberately, and for reasons I agree with. In the republic, there were checks and balances to ensure that no one man could dominate as an autocrat. Power was short, temporary, and by consent. What Julius Caesar did was not only to become Dictator (and thus autocrat by consent for up to six months), but dictator for ten years. This was a new precedent, but that didn't satisify Caesars lust for power and soon afterward he became dictator for life. That meant he was a permanent autocrat. The senators no longer had any route to power over Rome, because Caesar was in charge and wasn't going to move. It also smacked of royalty, something abhorrent to roman thought, at least for senior romans anyway. There was that incident at the lupercalia where marc antony attempts at least twice to crown julius caesar as king, and caesar steadfastly and publicly refused. A publicity stunt aimed at putting down rumours of Caesar becoming a new roman king. Did it work? Nope. As dictator for life, Caesar had all the power of emperor as we understand it. As previously mentioned, the romans did not use the term emperor. That is a modern corruption of the roman word Imperator, meaning military leader, a title conferred on a leader, not assumed by him.

 

Was Julius Caesar the first Emperor? Yes, in real terms he had assumed that status by another name. In strict terms however he had been given a different title even though his power and status were essentially the same.

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Salve, Amici!

 

When C. Suetonius lists the evidence of Caesar's power abuse (abusus dominatione ) on Ch. LXXVI sec. I of his Divus Iulius, he specifically states that the Dictator accepted the title Imperator as part of his name (insuper praenomen Imperatoris); ie, for him (and presumably for his family), the use of the title (and the triumphal condition) was going to be permanent, the same as the consulship (continuum consulatum) and the dictatorship (perpetuam dictaturam ):

 

"Non enim honores modo nimios recepit: continuum consulatum, perpetuam dictaturam praefecturamque morum, insuper praenomen Imperatoris, cognomen Patris patriae, statuam inter reges, suggestum in orchestra;"

 

"For not only did he accept excessive honours, such as an uninterrupted consulship, the dictatorship for life, and the censorship of public morals, as well as the forename Imperator, the surname of Father of his Country, a statue among those of the kings, and a raised couch in the orchestra;"

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Was Julius Caesar the first Emperor? Yes, in real terms he had assumed that status by another name. In strict terms however he had been given a different title even though his power and status were essentially the same.

 

What then was the constitutional position of the Dictator in the provinces? I asked in my post above, whether or not Caesar was ever granted a maius imperium proconsulare. Was this the case? Was he ever granted the tribunician potestas? These two were the cornerstones of Augustus' autocracy, doled out to him as they were for five and ten year periods at a time.

 

So, I know that the powers of a Dictator (at least in Republican times) gave him autonomy in Rome and absolute power for six months - but what was such a man's position with regards to senatorial provinces? Do we have any records? Or do we take it as read that the Dictatorship naturally brought with it an over-riding power in the senatorial provinces?

 

This one could run and run, however - for I think it hinges on what we in the 21st century understand by the term 'Emperor'. I suppose there's no easy answer. I can agree with Caldrail that Caesar forged for himself an unprecedented position, in that he assumed the Dictatorship in perpetuum, but this still, for me, does not equate with the position of an 'Emperor' as generations have seen it. After all, for centuries the division by scholars between Republic and Empire has fallen in either 31BC or 27BC - or sometimes 23BC. It could, of course, be a totally false or convenient division, but I guess we'll never all agree about it.

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I can agree with Caldrail that Caesar forged for himself an unprecedented position, in that he assumed the Dictatorship in perpetuum, but this still, for me, does not equate with the position of an 'Emperor' as generations have seen it.

Salve, Lady A et amici.

 

I agree (with both statements).

 

I think the main difference would be that Dictatorship, even perpetual, was not implied to be an hereditary condition.

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So, I know that the powers of a Dictator (at least in Republican times) gave him autonomy in Rome and absolute power for six months - but what was such a man's position with regards to senatorial provinces? Do we have any records? Or do we take it as read that the Dictatorship naturally brought with it an over-riding power in the senatorial provinces?

 

And this?

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So, I know that the powers of a Dictator (at least in Republican times) gave him autonomy in Rome and absolute power for six months - but what was such a man's position with regards to senatorial provinces? Do we have any records? Or do we take it as read that the Dictatorship naturally brought with it an over-riding power in the senatorial provinces?

 

And this?

Salve, GO! Sorry for the omission.

 

Aside form the obviously anomalous cases of LC Sulla and CJ Caesar, one of the few restrictions specifically imposed over Dictators' power was that they couldn't leave Italy, as they might become a danger to the Res Publica.

 

Cassius Dio was quite explicit when he quoted the lecture given to tha Senate by Q. Lutatius Catulus at DCLXXXVIII (66 BC) cautioning them about the risk in giving to much power to a man (Gn. Pompeius Magnus) for the war against the Cilician Pirates (Libri XXXVI, Ch. XXXIV, Sec. I-II):

 

"Yet if there should be any necessity of choosing another in addition to the annual officials, there is for this, too, an ancient precedent

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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I'm just happy if they know Caesar was some dude from ancient Rome, and not the inventor of a type of salad.

 

I guess that this is the correct answer. Romans never used the title emperor for designating their leaders. The title of emperor was given this meaning in later times by people with little regard to the constitutional terms of the Republic. So, emperor has little to do with imperator and imperium, but with people that did not believe the republican facede of the principate and had no need to use the complex titles that we see in roman inscriptions and coins. They used also caesar, but given the evolution of the power connected with this title in the Later Empire and Byzantium emperor was better. We should note that after Charlemagne the title meant someone above the kings in the feudal pyramid and later designated the ruler of a powerful state (emperor of India, China, Ottomans, etc) despite local names (sultan, mikkodo, son of Heaven etc).

So, Augustus it's called emperor despite being more accurate princeps, Domitian (and others) it's emperor despite calling himself Lord and God, Diocletian put accent on the augustus title and from Heraklius onward Basileus was most used.

We call them emperors to make things more simple. And for the same reason the short, unconstitutional rule of Caesar (and why not Sulla?) is considered from the Republic despite having the same unchecked authority as the later so called emperors.

It's easier to say that the victory of Octavian heralded the begining of the empire that continued until 1453 then to distinguish between various rulers, the ammount of power they helded and the titles they used.

So, if you want to call Caesar emperor, that could be unusual, but not completly incorrect. Of course, calling Sulla emperor would raise an eyebrow despite similarities between the two.

For the sake of simplicity I prefer to see the death of M. Antonius as the begining of the empire and the end of an intermediary period between the Republic and the Empire - the period of Civil Wars (from Marius to Actium).

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The "imperium proconsulare maius" was a later improvisation by Octavius/Augustus and Co. (Agrippa, Maecenas, et al) during the Second Settlement of DCCXXXI AUC (23 BC) to over-compensate his consulship resignation.

 

Actually if I remember correct, both Brutus and Cassius receive imperium maius in 43 BC.

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The "imperium proconsulare maius" was a later improvisation by Octavius/Augustus and Co. (Agrippa, Maecenas, et al) during the Second Settlement of DCCXXXI AUC (23 BC) to over-compensate his consulship resignation.

 

Actually if I remember correct, both Brutus and Cassius receive imperium maius in 43 BC.

 

Indeed - the maius imperium was bestowed before Augustus - the difference with Augustus' award of the power though was that he did not have to lay down such an imperium when governing in Rome, which - if my memory serves me right - Republic magistrates were obliged to do. This was what was unprecedented about the award of it to Augustus - although, if such a power was indeed bestowed upon anyone prior to Augustus, I am sure our Asclepiades will root it out for us in the sources :)

 

But Kosmo made an excellent point above. Perhaps the whole argument of 'Emperor' is a fallacious one in any case, given that the Romans would not have thought of it in the way we do today.

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But Kosmo made an excellent point above. Perhaps the whole argument of 'Emperor' is a fallacious one in any case, given that the Romans would not have thought of it in the way we do today.

 

Certainly not at first, but I think they would've gradually understood the nature of the principate. Had Augustus simply been replaced by a "next best man", rather than an heir, the veil would've remained. By the end of the Julio-Claudians, the people would've been fairly dense to not recognize it for what it was. Though I suppose the adoptive period after the Flavians could've altered the perspective slightly, considering the re-emergence of the Senate as an advisory board. (Except perhaps under Hadrian).

 

Then again, we are simply talking about Caesar as an emperor. So clearly, the people would not have seen it as such.

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The "imperium proconsulare maius" was a later improvisation by Octavius/Augustus and Co. (Agrippa, Maecenas, et al) during the Second Settlement of DCCXXXI AUC (23 BC) to over-compensate his consulship resignation.

 

Actually if I remember correct, both Brutus and Cassius receive imperium maius in 43 BC.

I'm not sure about that one, Octavian had had them both declared enemies of the state by 43, and such a grant would have been conferred by the senate.

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The "imperium proconsulare maius" was a later improvisation by Octavius/Augustus and Co. (Agrippa, Maecenas, et al) during the Second Settlement of DCCXXXI AUC (23 BC) to over-compensate his consulship resignation.

 

Actually if I remember correct, both Brutus and Cassius receive imperium maius in 43 BC.

I'm not sure about that one, Octavian had had them both declared enemies of the state by 43, and such a grant would have been conferred by the senate.

 

Without question it was a short lived affair, but it was seemingly a legal appointment despite the somewhat chaotic atmosphere of post-Caesar politics.

 

According to Livy's Periochae, they were granted transmarinis provinciis. Essentially, imperium over the provinces across the sea. This was provided after a similar proposal by Cicero had been rejected earlier.

 

Paterculus is much more detailed in Book 2.62. Here he suggests that Brutus and Cassius held the imperium with confirmation by the Senate.

 

Appian offers that the confirmation of the imperium took place after Antony besieged Dec. Brutus in Gaul which resulted in him being declared a public enemy. Book 3.63 is similar to the account of Paterculus while BC 4.58 reconfirms it.

 

[EDIT] By the way, I'm sure it's been noticed by now, but this was moved from the off-topic forum

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