An official in the Roman Republic. The Dictatorate was not a constant position, it was given by The Senate to a certain person in times of great emergency to the Republic (if the city itself was under attack, or in a case of severe drought that caused famine etc.). The Dictator was elected for a period of 6 months only, and it was considered honourable if he laid down his power even before his alotted time. As a symbol of his Imperium the Dictator bore 24 Fasces.

The Dictator held absolute military, political, judicial and religious power. He could execute any citizen of the city without trial, and could veto the decision of any other offcial.

At first the bearers of this post did not abuse its power, but later as Dictatores (the Latin plural of Dictator) started to abuse its power, the Senate started to allocate it less and less. After the Third Punic War (2nd century BC) and until the abolishment of the Republic (1st century AD), there were only two Dictatores (Sulla and Caesar), and both abused their power severely.

Dic*ta"tor (?), n. [L.]

1.

One who dictates; one who prescribes rules and maxims authoritatively for the direction of others.

Locke.

2.

One invested with absolute authority; especially, a magistrate created in times of exigence and distress, and invested with unlimited power.

Invested with the authority of a dictator, nay, of a pope, over our language. Macaulay.

 

© Webster 1913.

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