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A Roman title, originally the designation of each separate possessor of an independent command (imperium). In the course of time

Augustus. (Glyptothek, Munich.)

it became customary to assume the title after a man had gained his first great victory, usually after having been greeted as imperator either by the soldiers on the battlefield, or by the decree of the Senate. Under the Empire the title, which was seldom conferred by Augustus, was granted for the last time by Tiberius, A.D. 22. It was usually followed by a triumph, and ceased when the triumph was over. As a permanent title, it was first assumed by Caesar, whose adopted son and heir, Octavian (Augustus), bore it as an inherited cognomen, and from the year B.C. 40 onwards, according to a custom that arose at that time, substituted it for his previous praenomen Gaius , instead of Caesar Imperator (Mommsen, Staatsr. ii.3 pp. 767-770). His immediate successors, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius abstained from using this praenomen; Nero used it frequently, but it first became permanent with Vespasian. The emperors also took the title Imperator, in its earlier signification, after a victory won by themselves or on their behalf. See Imperium.

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