Caesar (Latin: [ˈkae̯.sar] English pl. Caesars; Latin pl. Caesares; in Greek: Καῖσαρ Kaîsar) is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator. The change from being a familial name to a title adopted by the Roman emperors can be traced to AD 68, following the fall of the Julio–Claudian dynasty.
|Pronunciation||English: // SEE-zər|
Classical Latin: [ˈkae̯sar]
|Region of origin||Roman Empire|
|Popularity||see popular names|
The first known individual to bear the cognomen of "Caesar" was Sextus Julius Caesar, who is likewise believed to be the common ancestor of all subsequent Julii Caesares. Sextus' great-grandson was (Gaius) Julius Caesar. After Julius Caesar seized control of the Roman Republic following his war against the Senate, he adopted the title of dictator perpetuo or "dictator in perpetuity" – a title he only held for about a month before he was infamously assassinated. Julius Caesar's death did not lead to the restoration of the Republic, and instead led to the rise of the Second Triumvirate, three dictators including Julius' adopted son Gaius Octavius, who divided up and ruled the land for nearly two decades. During his rule, Octavius styled himself as "Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus", often simplifying it to merely "Gaius Caesar", to emphasize his relationship with Julius Caesar. Eventually, distrust and jealousy between the three dictators led to the alliance crumbling, and a lengthy civil war which ultimately ended with Octavius gaining control of the entire Roman Principate. Now in control of all the land, Octavius declared himself "Imperator" ("commander") and the Republic formally became the Roman Empire. Upon assuming the throne, Octavius again took a new name, "Imperator Caesar Augustus", the honorific Augustus being added by the Roman Senate. As a matter of course, Augustus' own adopted son and successor, Tiberius, followed his (step)father's example and bore the name "Caesar" following his adoption on 26 June 4 AD, restyling himself as "Tiberius Julius Caesar". Upon his own ascension to the throne, he took the name of "Tiberius Caesar Augustus", and the precedent was then set: the Emperor designated his successor by adopting him and giving him the name "Caesar".
The fourth Emperor, Claudius, was the first to assume the name "Caesar" upon accession, without having been adopted by the previous emperor; however, he was at least a member by blood of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, being the maternal great-nephew of Augustus on his mother's side, the nephew of Tiberius, and the uncle of Caligula. Claudius, in turn, adopted his stepson and grand-nephew Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, giving him the name "Caesar" in the traditional way; his stepson would rule as the Emperor Nero. The first emperor to assume the position and the name simultaneously without any real claim to either was the usurper Servius Sulpicius Galba, who took the imperial throne under the name "Servius Galba Imperator Caesar" following the death of Nero in 68 AD. Galba helped solidify "Caesar" as the title of the designated heir by giving it to his own adopted heir, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi Licinianus.
Galba's reign did not last long, however, and he was soon deposed by Marcus Otho. At first, Otho opted to style himself as emperor with the name "Nero", adopting the title of "Caesar" only later in his reign. Otho was then defeated by Aulus Vitellius, who acceded with the name "Aulus Vitellius Germanicus Imperator Augustus". Vitellius did not adopt the cognomen "Caesar" as part of his name, and may have intended to replace it with "Germanicus", as he bestowed the name upon his own son and heir later that year.
Nevertheless, Caesar had become such an integral part of the imperial dignity that its place was immediately restored by Titus Flavius Vespasianus ("Vespasian"), whose defeat of Vitellius in 69 AD put an end to the period of instability and began the Flavian dynasty. Vespasian's son, Titus Flavius Vespasianus became "Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus".
By this point the status of "Caesar" had been regularised into that of a title given to the Emperor-designate (occasionally also with the honorific title Princeps Iuventutis, "Prince of Youth") and retained by him upon accession to the throne (e.g., Marcus Ulpius Traianus became Marcus Cocceius Nerva's designated heir as Caesar Nerva Traianus in October 97 and acceded on 28 January 98 as "Imperator Caesar Nerva Traianus Augustus"). After some variation among the earliest emperors, the style of the Emperor-designate on coins was usually Nobilissimus Caesar "Most Noble Caesar" (abbreviated to NOB CAES, N CAES etc.), though Caesar (CAES) on its own was also used.
The popularity of using the title caesar to designate heirs-apparent increased throughout the third century. Many of the soldier emperors during the Crisis of the Third Century attempted to strengthen their legitimacy by naming heirs, including Maximinus Thrax, Philip the Arab, Decius, Trebonianus Gallus and Gallienus. Some of these were promoted to the rank of augustus within their father's lifetime, for example Philippus II. The same title would also be used in the Gallic Empire, which operated autonomously from the rest of the Roman Empire from 260 to 274, with the final Gallic emperor Tetricus I appointing his heir Tetricus II as caesar and his consular colleague for 274.
Despite the best efforts of these emperors, however, the granting of this title does not seem to have made succession in this chaotic period any more stable. Almost all Caesars would be killed before or alongside their fathers, or at best outlive them for a matter of months, as in the case of Hostilian. The sole Caesar to successfully obtain the rank of augustus and rule for some time in his own right was Gordian III, and even he was heavily controlled by his court.
On 1 March 293, Diocletian established the Tetrarchy, a system of rule by two senior Emperors and two junior sub-Emperors. The two coequal senior emperors were styled identically to previous Emperors, as Imperator Caesar NN. Pius Felix Invictus Augustus (Elagabalus had introduced the use of Pius Felix, "the Pious and Blessed", while Maximinus Thrax introduced the use of Invictus, "the Unconquered") and were called the Augusti, while the two junior sub-Emperors were styled identically to previous Emperors-designate, as Nobilissimus Caesar. Likewise, the junior sub-Emperors retained the title "Caesar" upon accession to the senior position.
The Tetrarchy was quickly abandoned as a system (though the four quarters of the empire survived as praetorian prefectures) in favour of two equal, territorial emperors, and the previous system of Emperors and Emperors-designate was restored, both in the Latin-speaking West and the Greek-speaking East.
The title of remained in use throughout the Constantinian period, with both Constantine I and his co-emperor and rival Licinius utilising it to mark their heirs. In the case of Constantine, this meant that by the time he died, he had four caesares: Constantius II, Constantine II, Constans and his nephew Dalmatius, with his eldest son Crispus having been executed in mysterious circumstances earlier in his reign. In the event, Constantine would be succeeded only by his three sons, with Dalmatius dying in the summer of 337 in similarly murky circumstances.
Constantius II himself would nominate as caesares his two cousins Constantius Gallus and Julian in succession in the 350s, although he first executed Gallus and then found himself at war with Julian before his own death. After Julian's revolt of 361, the title fell out of imperial fashion for some time, with emperors preferring simply to elevate their sons directly to augustus, as with Gratian. It would be revived nearly three quarters of a century later when Theodosius II gave it to his nephew Valentinian III before successfully installing him upon the western throne. Thereafter it would receive limited use in the Eastern Roman Empire, for example, in the designation of the future Leo II in the final months of his grandfather's life.
Caesar or Kaisar (Καῖσαρ) remained a senior court title in the Eastern or Byzantine Empire. Originally, as in the classical Roman Empire, it was used for the heir apparent, and was first among the "awarded" dignities. From the reign of Theodosius I, however, most emperors chose to solidify the succession of their intended heirs by raising them to co-emperors. Hence the title was more frequently awarded to second- and third-born sons, or to close and influential relatives of the Emperor: thus for example Alexios Mosele was the son-in-law of Theophilos (ruled 829–842), Bardas was the uncle and chief minister of Michael III (r. 842–867), while Nikephoros II (r. 963–969) awarded the title to his father, Bardas Phokas. An exceptional case was the conferment of the dignity and its insignia to the Bulgarian khan Tervel by Justinian II (r. 685–695, 705–711) who had helped him regain his throne in 705. The title was awarded to the brother of Empress Maria of Alania, George II of Georgia in 1081.
The office enjoyed extensive privileges, great prestige and power. When Alexios I Komnenos created the title of sebastokrator, kaisar became third in importance, and fourth after Manuel I Komnenos created the title of despot, which it remained until the end of the Empire. The feminine form was kaisarissa. It remained an office of great importance, usually awarded to imperial relations, as well as a few high-ranking and distinguished officials, and only rarely awarded to foreigners.
According to the Klētorologion of 899, the Byzantine caesar's insignia were a crown without a cross, and the ceremony of a caesar's creation (in this case dating to Constantine V), is included in De Ceremoniis I.43. The title remained the highest in the imperial hierarchy until the introduction of the sebastokratōr (a composite derived from sebastos and autokrator, the Greek equivalents of augustus and imperator) by Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118) and later of despotēs by Manuel I Komnenos (r. 1143–1180). The title remained in existence through the last centuries of the Empire. In the Palaiologan period, it was held by prominent nobles like Alexios Strategopoulos, but from the 14th century, it was mostly awarded to rulers of the Balkans such as the princes of Vlachia, Serbia and Thessaly.
In the late Byzantine hierarchy, as recorded in the mid-14th century Book of Offices of pseudo-Kodinos, the rank continued to come after the sebastokratōr. Pseudo-Kodinos further records that the caesar was equal in precedence to the panhypersebastos, another creation of Alexios I, but that Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (r. 1259–1282) had raised his nephew Michael Tarchaneiotes to the rank of protovestiarios and decreed that to come after the caesar; while under Andronikos II Palaiologos (r. 1282–1328) the megas domestikos was raised to the same eminence, when it was awarded to the future emperor John VI Kantakouzenos (r. 1347–1354). According to pseudo-Kodinos, the caesar's insignia under the Palaiologoi were a skiadion hat in red and gold, decorated with gold-wire embroideries, with a veil bearing the wearer's name and pendants identical to those of the despotēs and the sebastokratōr. He wore a red tunic (rouchon) similar to the emperor's (without certain decorations), and his shoes and stockings were blue, as were the accouterments of his horse; these were all identical to those of the sebastokratōr, but without the embroidered eagles of the latter. Pseudo-Kodinos writes that the particular forms of another form of hat, the domed skaranikon, and of the mantle, the tamparion, for the caesar were not known.
"Caesar" is the title officially used by the Sasanid Persians to refer to the Roman and Byzantine emperors. In the Middle East, the Persians and the Arabs continued to refer to the Roman and Byzantine emperors as "Caesar" (in Persian: قیصر روم Qaysar-i Rum, "Caesar of the Romans", from Middle Persian kēsar). Thus, following the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the victorious Ottoman sultan Mehmed II became the first of the rulers of the Ottoman Empire to assume the title (in Ottoman Turkish: قیصر روم Kayser-i Rûm).
After the Fall of Constantinople, having conquered the Byzantine Empire, Mehmed took the title Kayser-i Rûm, claiming succession to the Roman imperium. His claim was that, by possession of the city, he was emperor, a new dynast by conquest, as had been done previously by the likes of Heraclius and Leo III. Contemporary scholar George of Trebizond wrote "the seat of the Roman Empire is Constantinople ... and he who is and remains Emperor of the Romans is also the Emperor of the whole world".
Gennadius II, a staunch antagonist of the West because of the Sack of Constantinople committed by the Western Catholics and theological controversies between the two Churches, had been enthroned the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople-New Rome with all the ceremonial elements and ethnarch (or milletbashi) status by the Sultan himself in 1454. In turn, Gennadius II formally recognized Mehmed as successor to the throne. Mehmed also had a blood lineage to the Byzantine Imperial family; his predecessor, Sultan Orhan I had married a Byzantine princess, and Mehmed may have claimed descent from John Tzelepes Komnenos. Ottoman sultans were not the only rulers to claim such a title, as there was the Holy Roman Empire in Western Europe, whose emperor, Frederick III, traced his titular lineage from Charlemagne who obtained the title of Roman Emperor when he was crowned by Pope Leo III in 800, although he was never recognized as such by the Byzantine Empire.
In diplomatic writings between the Ottomans and Austrians, the Ottoman bureaucracy was angered by their use of the Caesar title when the Ottomans saw themself as the true successors of Rome. When war broke out and peace negotiations were done, the Austrians (Holy Roman Empire) agreed to give up the use of the Caesar title according to Treaty of Constantinople (1533) (though they would continue to use it and the Roman imperial title until the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806). The Russians, who defined Moscow as the Third Rome, were similarly sanctioned by the Ottomans, who ordered the Crimean Khanate to raid Russia on numerous occasions. The Ottomans would lose their political superiority over the Holy Roman Empire with the Treaty of Zsitvatorok in 1606, and over the Russian Empire with the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in 1774, by diplomatically recognising the monarchs of these two countries as equals to the Ottoman Sultan for the first time.
|Titus||21 December 69||24 June 79||succeeded as augustus||Vespasian||Son|||
|Domitian||21 December 69||14 September 81||succeeded as augustus||Titus||Son|||
|Trajan||Late October 97||28 January||succeeded as augustus||Nerva||Adopted son|||
|Lucius Caesar||June/August 136||1 January 138||died of illness||Hadrian||Adopted son|||
|Antoninus Pius||25 February 138||10 July 138||succeeded as augustus||Hadrian||Adopted son|||
|Marcus Aurelius||Late 139||7 March 161||succeeded as augustus||Antoninus Pius||Son-in-law|||
|Lucius Verus||12 October 166||c. January 169||succeeded as augustus||Marcus Aurelius||Son-in-law|||
|Marcus Verus||12 October 166||10 September 169||died of a tumor||Marcus Aurelius||Son|||
|Commodus||12 October 166||27 November 176||proclaimed augustus||Marcus Aurelius||Son|||
|Clodius Albinus (?||c. 194||c. 196||title revoked||Septimius Severus||–|||
|Caracalla||4 April 196||28 January 198||proclaimed augustus||Septimius Severus||Son|||
|Geta||28 January 198||c. October 209||proclaimed augustus||Septimius Severus||Son|||
|Diadumenian||April 217||May 218||proclaimed augustus||Macrinus||Son|||
|Sallustius (?||c. 227||c. 227||executed||Severus Alexander||Father-in-law|||
|Verus Maximus||January/May 236||May/June 238||murdered||Maximinus Thrax||Son|||
|Gordian III||April/May 238||August 238||proclaimed augustus||Balbinus/Pupienus||–|||
|Philip II||August 244||July/August 247||proclaimed augustus||Philip the Arab||Son|||
|Hostilian||September 250||June 251||proclaimed augustus||Decius||Son|||
|Volusianus||c. July 251||c. August 253||proclaimed augustus||Trebonianus Gallus||Son|||
|Valerian II||c. September 256||Summer 258||murdered?||Gallienus||Son|||
|Saloninus||c. June 258||c. July 260||proclaimed augustus||Gallienus||Son|||
|Maximian||21 July (?) 285||1 April 286||succeeded as augustus||Diocletian (East)||–|||
|Constantius I||1 March 293||1 May 305||succeeded as augustus||Maximian (West)||step-grandson|||
|Galerius||21 March 293||1 May 305||succeeded as augustus||Diocletian (East)||son-in-law|||
|Severus II||1 May 305||25 July 306||succeeded as augustus||Maximian (West)||–|||
|Maximinus II||1 May 305||1 May 310||succeeded as augustus||Galerius (East)||Nephew|||
|Licinius Junior||1 March 317||19 September 324||deposed||Licinius (East)||Son|||
|Crispus||1 March 317||c. March 326||executed||Constantine I||Son|||
|Constantine II||1 March 317||9 September 337||succeeded as augustus||Constantine I||Son|||
|Constantius II||1 March 317||9 September 337||succeeded as augustus||Constantine I||Son|||
|Constans I||25 December 333||9 September 337||succeeded as augustus||Constantine I||Son|||
|Dalmatius||18 September 335||337||murdered||Constantine I||Nephew|||
|Decentius||July/August 350||18 August 353||committed suicide||Magnentius (West)||Brother|||
|Gallus||15 March 351||354||executed||Constantius II||half-cousin|||
|Julian||6 November 355||3 November 361||succeeded as augustus||Constantius II||Cousin|||
|Constans||408||409 / 410||proclaimed augustus||Constantine III (W)||Son|||
|Valentinian III||23 October 424||23 October 425||proclaimed augustus||Theodosius II (E)||half-cousin|||
|Palladius||17 March 455||31 May 455||executed by Avitus||Maximus (West)||Son|||
|Patricius||c. 470||c. 471||deposed or executed||Leo I (East)||Son-in-law|||
|Leo II||c. October 472||17 November 473||proclaimed augustus||Leo I (East)||Son|||
|Marcus||475||475||proclaimed augustus||Basiliscus (East)||Son|||
|Tiberius II||7 December 574||26 September 578||proclaimed augustus||Justin II||Adopted son|||
|Germanus||5 August 582||by 11 August 582||rejected the title||Tiberius II||Son-in-law|||
|Maurice||5 August 582||13 August 582||proclaimed augustus||Tiberius II||Son-in-law|||
|Theodosius||c. 587||26 March 590||proclaimed augustus||Maurice||Son|||
|Heraclonas||1 January 632||4 July 638||proclaimed augustus||Heraclius||Son|||
|David Tiberius||4 July 638||November 641||proclaimed augustus||Heraclius||Son|||
|Martinus||4 July 638 (?)||November 641||deposed||Heraclius||Son|||
The history of "Caesar" as an imperial title is reflected by the following monarchic titles, usually reserved for "emperor" and "empress" in many languages (note that the name Caesar, pronounced // in English, was pronounced [kaisar] in Classical Latin):
In various Romance and other languages, the imperial title was based on the Latin Imperator (a military mandate or a victory title), but Caesar or a derivation is still used for both the name and the minor ranks (still perceived as Latin).
There have been other cases of a noun proper being turned into a title, such as Charlemagne's Latin name, including the epithet, Carolus (magnus), becoming Slavonic titles rendered as King: Kralj (Serbo-Croatian), Král (Czech) and Król (Polish), etc.
However certain languages, especially Romance languages, also commonly use a "modernized" word (e.g., César in French) for the name, both referring to the Roman cognomen and modern use as a first name, and even to render the title Caesar, sometimes again extended to the derived imperial titles above.
Translation of the name Caesar first recorded in the first book translated to Yoruba, the bible. The Caesar in the bible refers to Emperor Augustus, who was referred to as Caesar. It was not used as a title for kings as it did not reach the language till the late 19th century and was not widely known till the 20th century. The main title for king was "Kábíyèsi", meaning one who cannot be questioned (Ká-bí-yò-èsi).