Primus inter pares  

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-The '''Principate''' (27 BC – 284 AD) 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 illusion of the formal continuance of the [[Roman Republic]]. It is etymologically derived from the [[Latin]] word ''[[princeps]]'', meaning ''chief'' or ''first'', the political regime dominated by such a political leader, whether or not he is formally [[head of state]] and/or [[head of government]]; this reflects the Principate Emperors' assertion that they were merely "[[primus inter pares|first among equals]]" among the citizens of Rome. In practice, the Principate was a period of [[enlightened absolutism]], with occasional forays into quasi-[[constitutional monarchy]]; Emperors tended not to flaunt their power and usually respected the rights of citizens (although they never let this fact bind them). 
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-==History== 
-The title, in full, ''princeps senatus'' / ''princeps civitatis'' (first amongst the senators, ''viz.'', amongst the citizens), was first adopted by [[Augustus|Octavian Caesar Augustus]] (27 BC-AD 14), the first [[Ancient Rome|Roman]] 'Emperor', who chose – like the assassinated [[Roman dictator|dictator]] [[Julius Caesar]] – not to reintroduce a legal [[monarchy]]. The purpose was to establish the political stability desperately needed after the exhausting [[Roman civil wars|civil wars]] by a ''de facto'' dictatorial regime within the [[constitution]]al framework of the [[Roman Republic]] as an alternative to the hated early [[Roman Kingdom]]. 
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-The title itself derived from the position of the ''princeps senatus'', traditionally the oldest member of the [[Senate]] who had the right to be heard first on any debate. Although dynastic pretenses crept in from the start, formalizing this in a monarchic style remained politically unthinkable. 
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-Often, in a more limited and precise ''chronological'' sense, the term is applied either to the Empire (in the sense of the post-Republican Roman state) or specifically the earlier of the two phases of 'Imperial' government in the ancient [[Roman Empire]], extending from when Augustus claimed ''[[auctoritas]]'' for himself as ''princeps'' until Rome's military collapse in the West ([[fall of Rome]]) in 476, leaving the [[Byzantine Empire]] sole heir, or, depending on the source, up to the rule of [[Commodus]], of [[Maximinus Thrax]] or of [[Diocletian]]. Afterwards, Imperial rule in the Empire is designated as the ''[[Dominate]]'', which is subjectively more like an (absolute) [[monarchy]] while the earlier ''Principate'' is still more 'Republican'. 
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-Under this 'Principate ''stricto sensu''', the political reality of [[autocratic]] rule by the [[Roman Emperor (Principate)|Emperor]] was still scrupulously masked by forms and conventions of [[oligarchy|oligarchic]] self-rule inherited from the political period of the 'uncrowned' [[Roman Republic]] (509 BC-27 BC) under the motto ''Senatus Populus Que Romanus'' or [[SPQR]]. Initially, the theory implied the 'first citizen' had to earn his extraordinary position (''de facto'' evolving to nearly absolute [[monarchy]]) by merit in the style that Augustus himself had gained the position of ''auctoritas''. Imperial [[propaganda]] developed a 'paternalistic' [[ideology]], presenting the ''Princeps'' as the very incarnation of all virtues attributed to the ideal ruler (much like a Greek ''[[tyrannos]]'' earlier), such as clemency and justice, and in turn placing the impetus upon the ''Princeps'' to play this designated role within [[Ancient Rome|Roman]] society, as his political insurance as well as a moral duty. What specifically was expected of the ''Princeps'' seems to have varied according to the times; [[Tiberius]], who amassed a huge surplus for the city of [[Rome]], was criticized as a miser, while [[Caligula]] was criticized for his lavish spending on games and spectacles. Generally speaking it was the duty of the Emperor to be seen as generous, not just as a good ruler but also with his personal fortune (as in the proverbial "bread and circuses" – ''[[panem et circenses]]'' – meaning various public games, not just gladiators and horse races, but also artistic, as well as distributions of food), charitable institutions, ''de facto'' public works, ''et cetera'', as popularity boosters, in the way of the Greek ''[[leitourgia]]'' (called ''[[Munera (ancient Rome)|munera]]'' in [[Latin]]) and the republican election campaigns. 
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-With the fall of the [[Julio-Claudian dynasty]], the ''Principate'' was redefined in formal terms under the Emperor [[Vespasian]]. The position of ''Princeps'' became a distinct entity within the broader - formally still republican - Roman [[constitution]]. While many of the cultural and political expectations remained, the ''Princeps'' was no longer a position extended on the basis of merit, or ''auctoritas'', but on a firmer basis, allowing Vespasian and future emperors to designate their own heir without those heirs having to earn the position through years of success and public favor. Under the [[Nerva–Antonine dynasty|Antonine dynasty]], it was the norm for the Emperor to appoint a successful and politically promising general as his successor. In modern historical analysis this is treated by many authors as an "ideal" situation; the individual who was most capable was promoted to the position of Princeps. Of the Antonine dynasty, [[Edward Gibbon]] famously wrote that this was the happiest and most productive period in human [[history]], and credited the system of succession as the key factor. Other [[historian]]s have pointed out that the generals appointed to the Principate during the Antonine dynasty were largely made heirs because they would have constituted the greatest threat to the Emperor as well as his eventual heir, had he chosen someone different. Additionally, the promotion of individuals to the position of ''Princeps'' based mainly on their military prowess is seen by many as contributing directly to the downfall of the ''Principate'', the chaos of the third century and the rise of the militaristic ''[[Dominate]]''. 
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-This first phase was to be followed by, or rather evolved into, the so-called ''[[Dominate]]''. Starting with the Emperor [[Diocletian]], oriental type of styles like ''dominus'' ('Lord, Master', suggesting the citizens became ''servi'', servants or slaves) became current, though not legal, but there could by definition never be a clear, constitutional turning point, so this appreciation remains subjective. The reality is gradual development. This process is also said to be established by the Emperor [[Septimius Severus]]; while the [[Severan Dynasty|Severan dynasty]] initially began the terminology of the ''Dominate'' in reference to the emperor, the various emperors and their usurpers throughout the third century appealed to the people as both military ''dominus'' and political ''princeps''. 
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-After the [[Crisis of the Third Century]] almost resulted in the Roman Empire's political collapse, the Emperor [[Diocletian]] replaced the one-headed ''Principate'' with the [[tetrarchy]] (''circa'' 300 AD, two ''Augusti'' ranking above two ''Caesares''), in which the remaining pretense of the old [[Republic]]an forms was largely abandoned. The title of ''princeps'' was abandoned - like the territorial unity of the Empire -, in favor of ''dominus'', and the position of the Emperor(s), especially in the [[Western Roman Empire]], was entirely dependent on his control of the armed forces. The ''Dominate'' developed more and more, especially in the [[Byzantine Empire]], along the lines of an oriental absolute [[monarchy]], where the subjects, and even diplomatic allies, could be termed ''servus'' or ''doulos'' 'servant/slave' to express the exalted position of the Emperor as second only to [[God]], and on earth to none. 
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-==Sources and references== 
-*[[Pauly-Wissowa]] (in German) 
 +'''''Primus inter pares''''' ({{lang-gr|'''Πρῶτος μεταξὺ ἴσων'''}} (''protos metaxy ison''), {{lang-en|'''the first among equals''' ''or'' '''first among peers'''}}) is [[Latin language|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. However, in some cases it may also be used to indicate that while the person described appears to be an equal, they actually are the group's unofficial or hidden leader, and thus the reference to this person being "equal" to the rest is intended to project mutual respect and comradery.
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Primus inter pares (Template:Lang-gr (protos metaxy ison), Template:Lang-en) 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. However, in some cases it may also be used to indicate that while the person described appears to be an equal, they actually are the group's unofficial or hidden leader, and thus the reference to this person being "equal" to the rest is intended to project mutual respect and comradery.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Primus inter pares" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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