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DO´MINUS means master, owner [DOMINIUM]. The word was applied as a title of respect to a superior in rank or station. Thus the head of a family was sometimes called dominus by the free members of his family as well as by his slaves (Suet. Aug. 53; Dig. 24, 1, 57). The title of dominus came to be ascribed to the emperor. The history of this use of the word, which corresponds with changes in the character of the emperor, is briefly as follows:--Augustus refused to be called dominus (domini appellationem ut maledictum et opprobrium semper exhorruit, Suet. Aug. 53; Ov. Fast. 2.142), as did also Tiberius (Tac. Ann. 2.87; Suet. Tib. 27).

Caligula was the first emperor who allowed himself to be called by the title (Victor. Caes. 3). Domitian claimed the titles of Deus et Dominus (D. C. 62.13; Martial, 5.8). Trajan only wished to be called princeps (Plin. Paneg. § § 2, 63, 88). Pliny in his letters always addresses Trajan as dominus, but in doing so he does not intend to make use of an official title. Dominus first appears on imperial monuments in the reign of Severus. Aurelian first adopted the title Deus et Dominus on his coins. Diocletian allowed himself to be publicly addressed as dominus (Vict. Caes. 39). From the fourth century the emperors freely ascribe the title to themselves. (Mommsen, Staatsrecht, 2.737, &c.)


hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 27
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.87
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 53
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 5.8
    • Ovid, Fasti, 2
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