(plural: principes) is a
word meaning "first in time or
order; the first, foremost, chief, the most eminent, distinguished,
or noble; the first man, first person." As a title, "princeps"
originated in the Roman Republic wherein the leading member of the
Senate was designated princeps senatus. It is primarily associated
with the Roman emperors as an unofficial title first adopted by
in 23 BC. Its use in this context continued until the reign
at the end of the third century. He preferred the title
of dominus, meaning "lord" or "master". As a result, the Roman Empire
is termed the "principate" (principatus)
onwards as the "dominate" (dominatus). The
medieval title "prince" is a derivative of princeps.
1 Roman military
2 Roman administration
3 Roman Emperor
4 Nobiliary legacy
5 Non-Roman meaning
8 See also
Principes (legionary heavy infantry soldier)
centurio(n) in command of a unit or administrative office.
Princeps ordinarius vexillationis: centurion in command of a
Princeps peregrinorum ("commander of the foreigners"): centurion in
charge of troops in the castra peregrina (military base at Rome for
personnel seconded from the provincial armies)
Centurion commanding a manipulus (unit of two
centuries) of principes (legionary heavy infantry).
Princeps posterior: deputy to the
Princeps praetorii : centurion attached to headquarters.
Princeps was also used as defining second part of various other
military titles, such as
Decurio princeps, Signifer princeps (among
the standard-bearers). See also Principalis (as in
Main article: Officium (Ancient Rome)
Princeps is also the (official) short version of
Princeps officii, the
chief of an officium (the office staff of a Roman dignitary).
"First Citizen" redirects here. For the novel by Thomas Thurston
Thomas, see First Citizen (novel).
Princeps civitatis ("First Citizen") was an official title of a Roman
Emperor as the title determining the leader in
Ancient Rome at the
beginning of the Roman Empire. It created the principate Roman
This usage of "princeps" derived from the position of Princeps
senatus, the "first among equals" of the Senate. The princeps senatus
(plural principes senatus) was the first member by precedence of the
Roman Senate, and his opinion would usually be asked first in
It was first given as a special title to
Caesar Augustus in
27 BC, who saw that use of the titles rex (king) or dictator
would create resentment amongst senators and other influential men,
who had earlier demonstrated their disapproval by supporting the
assassination of Julius Caesar. While
Augustus had political and
military supremacy, he needed the assistance of his fellow Romans to
manage the Empire. In his Res Gestae,
Augustus claims auctoritas for
the princeps (himself).
For a comprehensive list of other official Roman titles used for the
office of emperor see Roman Emperor. These titles included imperator,
Augustus, Caesar, and later dominus (lord) and basileus (the Greek
word for "sovereign"). The word
Emperor is derived from the Roman
title "imperator", which was a very high, but not exclusive, military
Augustus began to use it as his praenomen.
Diocletian (285-305), the father of the Tetrarchy, was the
first to stop referring to himself as "princeps" altogether, calling
himself "dominus" (lord, master), thus dropping the pretense that
emperor was not truly a monarchical office. The period when the
emperors that called themselves princeps ruled — from Augustus
to Diocletian — is called "the Principate", while no later than
Diocletian began "the Dominate" period.
Ancient Rome knew another kind of "princely" principes too, like
"princeps iuventutis" ("the first amongst the young"), which in the
early empire was frequently bestowed on eligible successors to the
emperor, especially from his family. It was first given to Augustus'
adoptive sons Gaius and Lucius.
"Princeps" is the root and
Latin rendering of modern words as the
English title and generic term prince (see that article, also for
various equivalents in other languages), as the Byzantine version of
Roman law was the basis for the legal terminology developed in feudal
(and later absolutist) Europe.
"Princeps" is also the name of an obsolete genus of Swallowtail
butterflies (now merged with the genus Papilio).
Cattleya walkeriana var. princeps, a synonym for Cattleya walkeriana,
an orchid species
Emberiza flaviventris princeps, a bird subspecies found in Angola and
Heterohyrax brucei princeps, a mammal subspecies found in Africa
Star Trek episode "Bread and Circuses" takes place on Magna Roma,
an alternate Earth where the
Roman Empire never fell. In this episode,
the leader of Magna Roman society (Merikus, played by William
Smithers) is referred to as First Citizen of his empire.
Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, First Citizen is the title
taken by the Mule and his successors in their position as leader of
the Union of Worlds.
Princeps is the name of a dog that Brother Priad meets in the
Warhammer 40,000 book Brothers of the Snake.
Princeps is the title for the captain of a Titan, a massive humanoid
war machine in the tabletop wargame Warhammer 40,000.
In the book series
Codex Alera by Jim Butcher,
Princeps is the title
given to the crown prince of the empire of Alera. It is also used in
the title of the fifth book in the series, Princeps' Fury.
In the Star Trek: Infinity's Prism book Seeds of Dissent by James
Swallow, "Princeps" is the title for "Commander"
Julian Bashir of the
warship Defiance, which exists in an alternate universe from the more
familiar 24th Century envisioned in the television series Star Trek:
Deep Space Nine.
In the book The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, "Princeps" is the
title of the leader of the Trisolaran civilization.
^ Simpson, D.P. (1968). Cassell's
Latin Dictionary, Latin-English,
English-Latin. London: Cassell Publishers Limited. p. 713.
^ Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short (1897). "princeps, cĭpis, adj". A
Latin Dictionary. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
^ a b c d e Encyclopædia Britannica – Princeps
^ a b Grant, p. 62
^ Africa, Thomas (1991). The Immense Majesty: A History of Rome and
the Roman Empire. Harlan Davidson, Inc. p. 219.
Chief of the Name
Head of State
Grant, Michael, The Twelve Caesars, Michael Grant Publications 1975,