Princeps

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Picture of a statue of a man holding his arm up and wearing a toga.
How does a dictator avoid being assassinated? Augustus Caesar called himself the Princeps meaning "first citizen" as a way to make his rule sound less repulsive to powerful citizens in Rome. He didn't call himself "King" or "Emperor" or "Dictator", but in reality, Romans understood that Augustus was, indeed, their ruler. Augustus brought peace and prosperity to the Mediterranean world.

Princeps was a Latin term used by the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, also known as Octavian, to describe his role as a dictator of the Roman Empire in a way which sounded less threatening to the culture of Rome. Augustus was, in fact, the dictator; but he chose the term Princeps to describe himself in the disarming term meaning "first citizen", or more exactly "first in time or order"[1] as if he was an ordinary citizen, but a primary one. Augustus had watched the mistake of the former Roman dictator Julius Caesar who had flirted with calling himself a king and, as a result, was assassinated by a group of Roman senators. The term is derived from the words "Princeps Senatus". In terms of etymology, the term "princeps" is related to the word prince.

References

  1. Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary, Internet website, 2010-04-02. Retrieved on 2010-04-02. “first in time or order (syn. primus).—Lit., in gen.: “ut quisque in fugā postremus, ita periculo princeps erat,””