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In the Roman Republic, the dictator (“one who dictates”), was an extraordinary magistrate (magistratus extraordinarius) with the absolute authority to perform tasks beyond the authority of the ordinary magistrate (magistratus ordinarius). The office of dictator was a legal innovation originally named Magister Populi (Master of the People), i.e., Master of the Citizen Army.
The Roman Senate passed a senatus consultum authorizing the consuls to nominate a dictator — the sole exception to the Roman legal principles of collegiality (multiple tenants in the same office) and responsibility (legal liability for official actions) — only one man was appointed, and, as the highest magistrate, he was not legally liable for official actions; 24 lictors attended him. Only a single dictator was allowed, because of the imperium magnum, the great, extraordinary power with which he could over-rule, or depose from office, or put to death other curule magistrates, also possessed of imperium.
There were several forms of dictator, distinguished by their causa, or reason for their creation. The most common form, and the one most associated with the Roman dictator, was rei gerundae causa, "for the matter to be done," which almost always involved leading an army in the field and specified the enemy to be combated. At least one dictator (and possibly more) was designated seditionis sedandae et rei gerundae causa, "for the putting down of rebellion and the matter to be done." Dictators were also appointed to serve administrative or religious functions, such as holding elections (comitiorum habendorum causa, the second most common form of dictatorship) or driving a nail into the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus to end a pestilence (clavi figendi causa).
Rome ceased to appoint dictators around the time of the Second Punic War. The office was revived during the Roman Civil War by Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, who was appointed dictator legibus faciendis et rei publicae constituendae causa (dictator for the making of laws and for the settling of the constitution). Julius Caesar was also named dictator on several occasions. The Roman emperors eschewed use of the title to avoid the opprobrium it attracted as the result of these last two dictators.
Other articles related to "roman dictator, dictators":
... Other types of dictators were occasionally appointed for more mundane reasons comitiorum habendorum causa (for summoning the comitia for elections), clavi figendi causa (for fixing the clavus annalis in the ...
Famous quotes containing the words dictator and/or roman:
“Learn to shrink yourself to the size of the company you are in. Take their tone, whatever it may be, and excell in it if you can; but never pretend to give the tone. A free conversation will no more bear a dictator than a free government will.”
—Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl Chesterfield (16941773)
“A Roman divorced from his wife, being highly blamed by his friends, who demanded, Was she not chaste? Was she not fair? Was she not fruitful? holding out his shoe, asked them whether it was not new and well made. Yet, added he, none of you can tell where it pinches me.”
—Plutarch (c. 46120 A.D.)