Roman Emperor (Principate)
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The office of Roman Emperor went through a complex evolution over the centuries of its existence. During its earliest phase, the Principate, the reality of autocratic rule was masked behind the forms and conventions of oligarchic self-government inherited from the Roman Republic. The emperor had no specific office unless he chose to occupy the Republican office of consul.
The Julio-Claudian dynasty was composed of the Iulii Caesares and the Claudii Nerones, two distinguished patrician families in the waning days of the old Republic. The Iulii Caesares rose to absolute power in the Roman state in the person of the ''paterfamilias'', Julius Caesar himself; upon his murder in 44 BC, the majority of his estate passed to his posthumously adopted son, Octavian, the grandson of Caesar's sister Julia.
Octavian emerged from a series of civil wars as the sole master of the Roman world, and in January 27 BC was appointed ''princeps senatus'' and given the ''cognomen'' "Augustus" (Latin, "Majestic" or "Venerable"); henceforth he styled himself ''"Imperator Caesar Augustus".'' He continued to be elected ''consul ordinarius'' each year until 23 BC.
Historians customarily mark the "First Settlement" of 27 as inaugurating Caesar Augustus's reign as Emperor. This is generally misleading, as his constitutional position that year was little different from his constitutional position as early as July 32 BC (when he provoked war with Cleopatra VII of Egypt as a means of ridding himself of his rival Mark Antony), except that he now held the principate of the senate (an office with chiefly parliamentary and ceremonial functions) and bore an honorific surname.
A far more important development was the "Second Settlement" of 23 BC, when Caesar Augustus accepted ''tribunicia potestas'' for life and ''imperium maius proconsulare''. Two further developments concluded the establishment of the Imperial dignity: Caesar Augustus accepted ''imperium consulare'' on an ''ad personam'' basis in 19 BC and was elected ''pontifex maximus'' in 13 BC. Thus the Imperial dignity was fully established as the extraordinary concentration of ordinary powers and immunities.
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