The office of Roman Emperor
went through a complex evolution over the centuries of its existence. During its earliest phase, the Principate
, the reality of autocratic
rule was masked behind the forms and conventions of oligarch
self-government inherited from the Roman Republic
. The emperor
had no specific office unless he chose to occupy the Republican office of consul
The Julio-Claudian dynasty was composed of the Iulii Caesares and the Claudii Nerones, two distinguished patrician
families in the waning days of the old Republic. The Iulii Caesares rose to absolute power in the Roman state in the person of the paterfamilias
, Julius Caesar
himself; upon his murder in 44 BC
, the majority of his estate passed to his posthumously adopted son, Octavian
, the grandson of Caesar's sister Julia
Octavian emerged from a series of civil wars as the sole master of the Roman world, and in January 27 BC
was appointed princeps senatus
and given the cognomen
"Augustus" (Latin, "Majestic" or "Venerable"); henceforth he styled himself "Imperator Caesar Augustus".
He continued to be elected consul ordinarius
each year until 23 BC
Historians customarily mark the "First Settlement"
of 27 as inaugurating Caesar Augustus's reign as Emperor. This is generally misleading, as his constitutional position that year was little different from his constitutional position as early as July 32 BC
(when he provoked war with Cleopatra......