). The use of the word princeps
as a title originated according to Tacitus (
Ann. iii. 56
) in the desire of Augustus to secure a term which should
express the preëminence of the first citizen of the Republic (princeps
), and imply the possession of all the functions belonging to him, and yet not
suggest the idea of despotic rule (Tac. Ann. i.
; ii. 53;
Hist. iv. 3
; Dio Cassius, lvii. 8). The word princeps
, as thus used, was merely a title of courtesy; it does not appear in the
titular list in the inscriptions, it was not official and did not refer to any definite
The origin of the title has been variously assigned to the phrases princeps
and princeps civitatis.
The former was an honorary title
indicating that the holder was first on the list of senators and was the first to be asked his
opinion. We know from Monumentum Ancyranum (Gr. iv. 2) that Caesar was princeps
in B.C. 28. Nevertheless he is always termed simply princeps
i. 2, 50) and thus speaks of himself (me principe,
ii. 45; vi. 9). In the same inscription the Greek translation of the word
. The title princeps senatus
would certainly be too restricted in its application, indicating the relation to the Senate
and not to the State.
The view that the word princeps
as used of the emperor was an
abridgment of the phrase princeps senatus
which came to have a wider
signification is best stated by Herzog in his Geschichte und Syst. der röm.
ii. 134. The other view which is more generally accepted is held by Mommsen
, ii. 733), and is clearly set forth by H. F. Pelham in
Jour. of Philol.
viii. p. 322. The expression princeps
is found in classical writers and is applied by Cicero to Pompey, while princeps
, evidently standing for the complete phrase, is used by Cicero of
both Pompey and Caesar (Ad Att.
viii. 9; Ad Fam.
vi. 6), and by
Sallust of Pompey (Hist. iii. 61 D or 81 K). Cf. also Iul.
26. See Principatus