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Old October 10th, 2017, 05:32 PM   #1
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Defining the Roman Empire


Hello all. This is my first post and I'm glad to be here!

My question is: In your opinion when did Rome transform from a Republic to an Empire? If I recall correctly, modern historians mostly believe that the Republic ended with the rise of Augustus. However, Augustus never called himself Emperor.I believe that it is a modern term that historians use to classify the leaders of Imperial Rome. I believe that at the time of Augustus' reign the Roman "Empire" was (at least in name only) a republic. To be honest, I don't know whether to consider it an true Empire or a Republic.

Also, who was the first Emperor? Again, most historians would say it would be Augustus, but considering he never crowned himself king, he was only de facto Emperor, I feel like Julius Caesar could be considered the first actual de facto Emperor of Rome. That's just my 2 cents.

This question regarding the transition from Republic to Empire and who the first Emperor was has been on my mind for the past few days. I just wanted to hear what everyone else thought about this issue.

Thank you all for your time and for hearing me out.
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Old October 10th, 2017, 05:49 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kreonidus View Post
Hello all. This is my first post and I'm glad to be here!

My question is: In your opinion when did Rome transform from a Republic to an Empire? If I recall correctly, modern historians mostly believe that the Republic ended with the rise of Augustus. However, Augustus never called himself Emperor.I believe that it is a modern term that historians use to classify the leaders of Imperial Rome. I believe that at the time of Augustus' reign the Roman "Empire" was (at least in name only) a republic. To be honest, I don't know whether to consider it an true Empire or a Republic.

Also, who was the first Emperor? Again, most historians would say it would be Augustus, but considering he never crowned himself king, he was only de facto Emperor, I feel like Julius Caesar could be considered the first actual de facto Emperor of Rome. That's just my 2 cents.

This question regarding the transition from Republic to Empire and who the first Emperor was has been on my mind for the past few days. I just wanted to hear what everyone else thought about this issue.

Thank you all for your time and for hearing me out.
Practicaly with Julius Caesar, but really wirh Augustus. While Augustis merely called himself the First Citizen of Rome, he is acknowledge by all as Emperor. With the death of Caesar, the Republic finally breathed out its last breath. The Republic had been dying at least a generation or 2 before then, bit it is with Julius Caesar it finally died, The killing of Caesar was the last dying act of the Republic.
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Old October 10th, 2017, 06:10 PM   #3

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But did the Empire really start when Caesar died? I remember something about the Senate still having a lot of power at Augustus' time, and how this is still causing some controversy as to when did the Empire really start and when did the Republic really end.
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Old October 10th, 2017, 06:12 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Kreonidus View Post
Hello all. This is my first post and I'm glad to be here!

My question is: In your opinion when did Rome transform from a Republic to an Empire? If I recall correctly, modern historians mostly believe that the Republic ended with the rise of Augustus. However, Augustus never called himself Emperor.I believe that it is a modern term that historians use to classify the leaders of Imperial Rome. I believe that at the time of Augustus' reign the Roman "Empire" was (at least in name only) a republic. To be honest, I don't know whether to consider it an true Empire or a Republic.

Also, who was the first Emperor? Again, most historians would say it would be Augustus, but considering he never crowned himself king, he was only de facto Emperor, I feel like Julius Caesar could be considered the first actual de facto Emperor of Rome. That's just my 2 cents.

This question regarding the transition from Republic to Empire and who the first Emperor was has been on my mind for the past few days. I just wanted to hear what everyone else thought about this issue.

Thank you all for your time and for hearing me out.
1)The Roman Republic ceased being a Republic in many ways before Augustus(part of why Cassius and Brutus killed Caesar) although Augustus being made ruler for life was the official recognized moment if that answers your question.Sulla giving himself absolute power in the 80s created bad precedent and Julius Caesar and Octavian/Mark Antony(in their respective territories prior to Actium) had a great deal of power.

2)Augustus was the first Roman Emperor or "Augustus"(as his actual name was Octavian and Augustus was a title)in practice, in theory Diocletian was the first one to go by this title or Imperator which means Emperor(although I've only read this on the history world timeline and can't find a secondary source right now to affirm this). When the tetrarchy was founded by Diocletian and the Roman Empire was founded, it was split into two pieces both ruled by Augustus with Caesar being the title given to the junior emperors(which the translations of became the titles Tsar and Kaiser).

3)In regards to your Caesar argument most would disagree with you as Augustus being the first leader of the Roman Empire is a recognized fact. Julius Caesar was a consul from the First Triumvirate who became dictator in perpetuity(got the last part from wikipedia). Dictator was a traditional title that was meant to be given out in emergency's for a limited time(which in theory was what happened and I'm sure if we asked Caesar or his supporters they would hold this opinion) but Caesar(due to taking power by force) was given it for a few years and then in perpetuity. However the Roman senate was still a viable institution at the time(and they kind of did kill him). Sulla achieved Caesar's level of power prior to him though and the Octavian/Mark Antony were the ones that actually took out the senate rebellion(both had mostly absolute power but like in the late empire period, the empire was split in two so neither ruled the whole thing).

An important thing to remember is that Kings weren't held in high regard by Rome due to their pre Republic experience from when they had been ruled by Etruscan Kings(although going back that far is semi mythic)and the idea of a Republic was held in high regard(this last paragraph is word for word what I remember being told in college about this). Sulla to Octavian was also a period where many great men in Roman society were constantly jockeying for power and several achieved something resembling absolute power/shared absolute power for a certain period of time. When Octavian took power after killing Mark Antony, Cleopatra(and their family) that was it, he was in charge no more competitors. Like the list of important people vying for control /power in Rome in that century was huge(Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, Cassius, Brutus, Pompey's son, Octavian, Mark Antony, Caesarion(Cleopatra and Julius Caesar's love child), Lepidus). Octavian's conquest at Egypt put an end to all of this. Cicero was alive during this time and Herod the Great was the Roman puppet in Judea. This century had an absolute influx of important/memorable people in the Republic while before their weren't as many because it was a Republic after all.

Last edited by EmperoroftheBavarians43; October 10th, 2017 at 06:20 PM.
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Old October 11th, 2017, 12:23 AM   #5
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When people talk about the Roman Empire, they really mean the establishment of an official and ongoing de facto Roman dictatorship. Rome had become an Empire by any sensible definition centuries earlier, when they became the centrapole ruling over numerous external territories.
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Old October 11th, 2017, 01:15 AM   #6

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Originally Posted by Caesarmagnus View Post
When people talk about the Roman Empire, they really mean the establishment of an official and ongoing de facto Roman dictatorship. Rome had become an Empire by any sensible definition centuries earlier, when they became the centrapole ruling over numerous external territories.
Agreed.

The title 'emperor' didn't really exist either. Unless you count 'imperator'.
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Old October 11th, 2017, 03:42 AM   #7

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Duke and Caesar, nice to see you can agree on something! This could be the start of a beautiful friendship ;-)
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Old October 11th, 2017, 05:08 AM   #8

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Constitutionally, the Roman state remained a republic right up until its cessation (476CE in the West). Offices such as Consul remained in use but their power was subordinated.

In terms of definition of Empire, the Roman state had acquired overseas dominions as early as the third century BCE and in fact most of the territory thought of as 'Roman Empire' was acquired under the Republic.

Politically, the republican constitution effectively ceased independent operation once Caesar won control, as it had under Sulla. Unlike Sulla however, Caesar did not have time to arrange any political outcome to his dominance. Following his death, his faction won control of the state at Phillilpi in 42BCE but had already enshrined its position in law in the Triumvirate of 43BCE.

Following the collapse of the Triumvirate, the victor, Octavian, was named 'Augustus' with the position of 'Princeps' in 27BCE. The political structure then and afterwards - colloquially referred to as the 'Roman Empire' - is the Principate. This structure lasted until Diocletian instituted the Dominate c284CE.

There was no Roman term for Empire or Emperor. Emperor derives from the latin word Imperator, meaning 'General' and was an acclamation by the army frequently applied to the Princeps (coins frequently enumerate these acclamations and the number of occasions a Princeps held the Consulship or Tribunician power.)

Last edited by benzev; October 11th, 2017 at 05:23 AM.
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Old October 11th, 2017, 09:09 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kreonidus View Post
My question is: In your opinion when did Rome transform from a Republic to an Empire?
it didn't. Rome was a republic that found itself saddled with dominant individuals. Rome was, technically, still a republic during the imperial period, and developed an empire during the Republican era.

Quote:
Also, who was the first Emperor?
Strictly speaking none of them were - Although Augustus is usually credited, Suetonius considered Julius Caesar to be the first (and the most powerful of them for a short while). Caesars were not constitutional monarchs - whatever Dio said - and were never crowned nor sat on a throne. There was nothing in Roman law that said their empire needed such a guy in charge. The way to look at them is to see them as the Alpha Male of the Roman Wolf Pack, in charge as long as they can fend off rivals but basically having no actual right to be there other than opportunity, support, and daring. However, it is also true they became gradually more monarchical as time went by but the increasing desire to hold more and more power eventually led to issues with being able to govern Rome. And on that subject, I might add these Caesar's 'ruled' in Rome - the provinces were not always under their sway and in any case needed representatives to oversee them on behalf of the Empire - the Roman Empire was not ruled centrally as many assume.
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Old October 11th, 2017, 09:28 AM   #10

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Originally Posted by EmperoroftheBavarians43 View Post
2)Augustus was the first Roman Emperor or "Augustus"(as his actual name was Octavian and Augustus was a title)in practice, in theory Diocletian was the first one to go by this title or Imperator which means Emperor(although I've only read this on the history world timeline and can't find a secondary source right now to affirm this). When the tetrarchy was founded by Diocletian and the Roman Empire was founded, it was split into two pieces both ruled by Augustus with Caesar being the title given to the junior emperors(which the translations of became the titles Tsar and Kaiser).
I believe the title you're thinking of is "Dominus", "Lord". Emperors were referred to as Imperator, "victorious commander", for centuries before diocletian, and republican generals centuries more. The tetrarchy was also split into four, hence the name, having two Augustii bossing around two Caesars. It was originally supposed to only be split in two, with Diocletian ruling in the east as Augustus and Maximian in the west as Caesar, but Maximian needed extra authority and legitimacy to deal properly with a rebellion, so Diocletian made him an Augustus, appointed some more Caesars, and just rolled with it thereafter.
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