Template:Roman government The Latin word imperator was a title originally roughly equivalent to commander during the period of the Roman Republic. It later went on to become a part of the titulature of the Roman emperors and to enter European political theory as a synonym for emperor. Unlike emperor, the word is pronounced with stress on the third syllable.


Imperatores in the Roman Republic

In the Roman Republic, imperator was the title assumed by certain military commanders. After an especially great victory, an army's troops in the field would proclaim their commander imperator, an acclamation necessary for a general to apply to the Senate for a triumph. After being acclaimed imperator, the victorious general had a right to use the title after his name until the time of his triumph, where he would relinquish the title as well as his imperium. The commander's wife would be styled imperatrix.

Since a triumph was the goal of many politically ambitious Roman commanders, Roman Republican history is full of cases where legions were bribed to call their commander imperator.

Imperator as an imperial title

After Caesar Augustus established the hereditary, one-man rule in Rome that we refer to as the Roman Empire, the title imperator was restricted to the emperor and occasionally members of his immediate family. As a permanent title, imperator was used as a praenomen by the Roman emperors and was taken on accession. After the reign of Tiberius, the act of being proclaimed imperator was transformed into the act of imperial accession. In fact, if a general were acclaimed by his troops as imperator, it was tantamount to a declaration of rebellion against the ruling emperor.

In the imperial period, the term did continue to be used in the Republican sense as a victory title; however, it could only be granted to the emperor, even if he had not commanded the victorious army in person. The title followed the emperor's name along with the number of times he was acclaimed as such, for example IMP V (Imperator five times).

The title imperator was generally translated into Greek as autokrator. This title (along with sebastos for augustus) was used in Greek-language texts by eastern Roman emperors until the seventh century, when basileus began to supplant it.

Post-Roman use

After the Roman empire collapsed in the West in the fifth century, Latin continued to be used as the language of learning and diplomacy for some centuries. The Eastern Roman, or Byzantine emperors, were referred to as imperatores in Latin texts. After 800, the title was used (in conjunction with augustus) in succession by the Carolingian and German Holy Roman emperors until the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved in 1806. Over time, imperator became the title most often used.

In 1721, as part of his drive to both Westernize the Russian Empire and assert his imperial status as a successor to the Byzantine emperors, Peter the Great imported the Latin word directly into Russian and styled himself imperator (ИМПЕРАТОРЪ). The style remained the official one for all his successors down to the end of the Russian Empire in 1917, though the Russian rulers continued to be colloquially known as tsar. Reigning female Russian rulers were styled imperatritsa.

Signature of The 'R' and 'I' after his name indicate 'king' and 'emperor' ('rex' and 'imperator', respectively).
Signature of King Edward VIII
The 'R' and 'I' after his name indicate 'king' and 'emperor' ('rex' and 'imperator', respectively).

After the Napoleonic wars, the number of emperors in Europe proliferated, but Latin began to fall out of use for all but the most ceremonial situations. Still, in those rare cases in which a European monarch's Latin titles were used, imperator was used as a translation for emperor. Famously, after assuming the title Emperor of India, British monarchs would follow their signatures with the initials RI, standing for rex imperator ("king-emperor"). George VI of the United Kingdom was the last European ruler to claim an imperial title; when he abdicated as Emperor of India in 1948, the last active use of the title imperator ceased.


Imperator is the root of the English word "emperor" as well as related adjectives like "imperial." It is also the root of most Romance languages' word for emperor. It is believed to be the ultimate origin of the Albanian term for king, mbret.

See also: imperium

Imperator is also a title used in occult societies. For example see AMORC, Confraternity of the Rose Cross, FUDOSI.

Imperator is also an Alternate Earth MMORPG by Mythic Entertainment, the makers of DAOC, one set in a future world where Ancient Rome never fell. Small changes at crucial moments in Roman history create an entirely new timeline for Earth, leading to a star-spanning Roman Respublica and thousands of years of interstellar Pax Romana.

See also: Imperator Online


la:Imperator pl:Imperator pt:Imperator


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