Princeps
Overview
 
Princeps is a Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word meaning "first in time or order; the first, chief, the most eminent, distinguished, or noble; the first man, first person."

This article is devoted to a number of specific historical meanings the word took, in approximate historical order.
Princeps (in this sense usually translated as "First Citizen") was an official title of a Roman Emperor
Emperor
An emperor is a monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife or a woman who rules in her own right...

 as the title determining the leader in Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 at the beginning of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Princeps is a Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word meaning "first in time or order; the first, chief, the most eminent, distinguished, or noble; the first man, first person."

This article is devoted to a number of specific historical meanings the word took, in approximate historical order.

Roman Emperor

Princeps (in this sense usually translated as "First Citizen") was an official title of a Roman Emperor
Emperor
An emperor is a monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife or a woman who rules in her own right...

 as the title determining the leader in Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 at the beginning of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. It created the principate
Principate
The Principate is the first period of the Roman Empire, extending from the beginning of the reign of Caesar Augustus to the Crisis of the Third Century, after which it was replaced with the Dominate. The Principate is characterized by a concerted effort on the part of the Emperors to preserve the...

 Roman imperial system.

The word "Princeps" derived from Princeps Senatus
Princeps senatus
The princeps senatus was the first member by precedence of the Roman Senate. Although officially out of the cursus honorum and owning no imperium, this office brought enormous prestige to the senator holding it.-Overview:...

 ("Primus inter pares
Primus inter pares
Primus inter pares is Latin phrase describing the most senior person of a group sharing the same rank or office.When not used in reference to a specific title, it may indicate that the person so described is formally equal, but looked upon as an authority of special importance by their peers...

" of the Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

). The princeps senatus (plural principes senatus) was the first member by precedence of the Roman Senate.

It was first given as a special title to Caesar Augustus in 27 BC , who circumspectly saw that use of the titles rex
Roman Kingdom
The Roman Kingdom was the period of the ancient Roman civilization characterized by a monarchical form of government of the city of Rome and its territories....

 (king) or dictator
Roman dictator
In the Roman Republic, the dictator , was an extraordinary magistrate with the absolute authority to perform tasks beyond the authority of the ordinary magistrate . The office of dictator was a legal innovation originally named Magister Populi , i.e...

 would create resentment amongst senators and other influential men, who had earlier demonstrated their disapproval by supporting the assassination of Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

. While Augustus had political and military supremacy, he needed the assistance of his fellow Romans to manage the Empire. In his Res Gestae
Res Gestae Divi Augusti
Res Gestae Divi Augusti, is the funerary inscription of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, giving a first-person record of his life and accomplishments. The Res Gestae is especially significant because it gives an insight into the image Augustus portrayed to the Roman people...

, Augustus claims auctoritas
Auctoritas
Auctoritas is a Latin word and is the origin of English "authority." While historically its use in English was restricted to discussions of the political history of Rome, the beginning of phenomenological philosophy in the twentieth century expanded the use of the word.In ancient Rome, Auctoritas...

 for the princeps (himself).

For a comprehensive list of other official Roman titles used for the office of emperor see Roman Emperor. These titles included imperator
Imperator
The Latin word Imperator was originally a title roughly equivalent to commander under the Roman Republic. Later it became a part of the titulature of the Roman Emperors as part of their cognomen. The English word emperor derives from imperator via Old French Empreur...

, Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

, Caesar
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

, and later dominus
Dominate
The Dominate was the "despotic" latter phase of government in the ancient Roman Empire from the conclusion of the Third Century Crisis of 235–284 until the formal date of the collapse of the Western Empire in AD 476. It followed the period known as the Principate...

 (lord) and basileus
Basileus
Basileus is a Greek term and title that has signified various types of monarchs in history. It is perhaps best known in English as a title used by the Byzantine Emperors, but also has a longer history of use for persons of authority and sovereigns in ancient Greece, as well as for the kings of...

 (the Greek word for "sovereign
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

"). The word Emperor
Emperor
An emperor is a monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife or a woman who rules in her own right...

 itself is derived from the Roman title 'imperator', which was a very high, but not exclusive, military title until Augustus began to use it as his praenomen
Praenomen
The praenomen was a personal name chosen by the parents of a Roman child. It was first bestowed on the dies lustricus , the eighth day after the birth of a girl, or the ninth day after the birth of a boy...

.

The Emperor Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

 (285-305), the father of the Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
The term Tetrarchy describes any system of government where power is divided among four individuals, but usually refers to the tetrarchy instituted by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293, marking the end of the Crisis of the Third Century and the recovery of the Roman Empire...

, was the first to stop referring to himself as "princeps" altogether, calling himself 'dominus' (lord, master), thus dropping the pretense that emperor was not truly a monarchical office. The period when the emperors that called themselves princeps ruled - from Augustus to Diocletian - is called "the Principate
Principate
The Principate is the first period of the Roman Empire, extending from the beginning of the reign of Caesar Augustus to the Crisis of the Third Century, after which it was replaced with the Dominate. The Principate is characterized by a concerted effort on the part of the Emperors to preserve the...

", while no later than under Diocletian began "the Dominate
Dominate
The Dominate was the "despotic" latter phase of government in the ancient Roman Empire from the conclusion of the Third Century Crisis of 235–284 until the formal date of the collapse of the Western Empire in AD 476. It followed the period known as the Principate...

" period.

Ancient Rome knew another kind of 'princely' principes too, like 'princeps iuventutis' ("the first amongst the young"), which in the early empire was frequently bestowed on eligible successors to the emperor, especially from his family. It was first given to Augustus' adoptive sons Gaius and Lucius.

Roman administration

Princeps is also the (official) short version of Princeps officii, the chief of an officium (the office staff of a Roman dignitary) -

Military

  • See Principes
    Principes
    Principes were spearmen, and later swordsmen, in the armies of the early Roman Republic. They were men in the prime of their lives who were fairly wealthy, and could afford decent equipment. They were the heavier infantry of the legion who carried large shields and wore good quality armour. Their...

     (legionary heavy infantry soldier)
  • centurio(n)
    Centurion
    A centurion was a professional officer of the Roman army .Centurion may also refer to:-Military:* Centurion tank, British battle tank* HMS Centurion, name of several ships and a shore base of the British Royal Navy...

     in command of a unit or administrative office.
  • Princeps ordinarius vexillationis: centurion in command of a vexillatio
    Vexillatio
    A vexillatio was a detachment of a Roman legion formed as a temporary task force created by the Roman Army of the Principate. It was named from the standards carried by legionary detachments, vexillum , which bore the emblem and name of the parent legion...

    (detachment).
  • Princeps peregrinorum ("commander of the foreigners"): centurion in charge of troops in the castra peregrina (military base at Rome for personnel seconded from the provincial armies)
  • Princeps prior: Centurion commanding a manipulus (unit of two centuries) of principes (legionary heavy infantry).
  • Princeps posterior: deputy to the Princeps prior
  • Princeps praetorii : centurion attached to headquarters.


Princeps was also used as defining second part of various other military titles, such as Decurio
Decurio
Decurio was an official title in Ancient Rome, used in various connections:# A member of the senatorial order in the Italian towns under the administration of Rome, and later in provincial towns organized on the Italian model . The number of decuriones varied in different towns, but was usually 100...

 princeps
, Signifer princeps (among the standard-bearers). See also Principalis (as in Optio
Optio
An optio , sometimes anglicized option , was a soldier in the Roman army who held a position similar to that of an executive officer in modern armies...

 principalis
): NCO.

Nobiliary legacy

"Princeps" is the root and Latin rendering of modern words as the English title and generic term prince
Prince
Prince is a general term for a ruler, monarch or member of a monarch's or former monarch's family, and is a hereditary title in the nobility of some European states. The feminine equivalent is a princess...

(see that article, also for various equivalents in other languages), as the Byzantine version of Roman law was the basis for the legal terminology developed in feudal (and later absolutist) Europe.

Non-Roman meaning

"Princeps" is also the name of an obsolete genus of Swallowtail
Swallowtail butterfly
Swallowtail butterflies are large, colorful butterflies that form the family Papilionidae. There are over 550 species, and though the majority are tropical, members of the family are found on all continents except Antarctica...

 butterflies (now merged with the genus Papilio
Papilio
Papilio is a genus in the swallowtail butterfly family, Papilionidae. The word papilio is Latin for butterfly.The genus includes a number of well-known North American species such as the Western Tiger Swallowtail...

).

Fiction

  • In the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
    Isaac Asimov
    Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000...

    , First Citizen is the title taken by the Mule
    Mule (Foundation)
    The Mule is a fictional character from Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. One of the greatest conquerors the galaxy has ever seen, he is a mentalic who has the ability to reach into the minds of others and "adjust" their emotions, individually or en masse, using this capability to forcibly enlist...

     and his successors in their position as leader of the Union of Worlds.
  • Princeps is the name of a dog that Brother Priad meets in the Warhammer 40,000
    Warhammer 40,000
    Warhammer 40,000 is a tabletop miniature wargame produced by Games Workshop, set in a dystopian science fantasy universe. Warhammer 40,000 was created by Rick Priestley in 1987 as the futuristic companion to Warhammer Fantasy Battle, sharing many game mechanics...

    book Brothers of the Snake.
  • Princeps is the title for the captain of a Titan, a massive humanoid war machine in the tabletop wargame Warhammer 40,000
    Warhammer 40,000
    Warhammer 40,000 is a tabletop miniature wargame produced by Games Workshop, set in a dystopian science fantasy universe. Warhammer 40,000 was created by Rick Priestley in 1987 as the futuristic companion to Warhammer Fantasy Battle, sharing many game mechanics...

    .
  • In the book series Codex Alera
    Codex Alera
    Codex Alera is a fantasy book series by Jim Butcher. The series chronicles the coming-of-age of a young man named Tavi in the realm of Alera, an empire similar to Rome, on the world of Carna. Every Aleran has some degree of command over elemental forces or spirits called furies, save for Tavi, who...

    by Jim Butcher
    Jim Butcher
    Jim Butcher is a New York Times Best Selling author most known for his contemporary fantasy book series The Dresden Files. He also wrote the Codex Alera series. Butcher grew up as the only son of his parents, and has two older sisters. He currently lives in Independence with his wife, Shannon K...

    , Princeps is the title given to the crown prince of the empire of Alera. It is also used in the title of the fifth book in the series, Princeps' Fury
    Princeps' Fury
    Princeps' Fury is a 2008 high fantasy novel by Jim Butcher. It is book five of the Codex Alera novel series.Tavi of Calderon, now recognized as Princeps Gaius Octavian and heir to the crown, has achieved a fragile alliance with Alera's oldest foes, the savage Canim...

    .
  • In the Star Trek: Infinity's Prism book Seeds of Dissent by James Swallow
    James Swallow
    James Swallow is a British author and scriptwriter. He is the author of several original books and tie-in novels, as well as numerous audio dramas and videogames....

    , "Princeps" is the title for 'Commander' Julian Bashir
    Julian Bashir
    Lieutenant Julian Subatoi Bashir, M.D., played by Alexander Siddig, is a main character in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Bashir is the chief medical officer of space station Deep Space Nine and the USS Defiant.-Overview:...

     of the warship Defiance which exists in an alternate universe
    Parallel universe (fiction)
    A parallel universe or alternative reality is a hypothetical self-contained separate reality coexisting with one's own. A specific group of parallel universes is called a "multiverse", although this term can also be used to describe the possible parallel universes that constitute reality...

     from the more familiar 24th Century envisioned from the television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
    Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
    Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a science fiction television series set in the Star Trek universe...

    .
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