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Technically, the Latin word imperator (roughly equivalent to "commander") was the title given, in the time of the Roman Republic, to generals who had won an especially celebrated victory. Unlike emperor, this word is pronounced with stress on the third syllable.
Imperator is not synonymous with emperor, although it is the root of it. Through the history of Rome, the title evolved to the meaning of a general, especially able, who had won an enormous victory. Traditionally it was the troops in the field that proclaimed a man imperator, an acclamation necessary for a general to apply to the Senate for a triumph. Imperatrix was the title of the wife an imperator.
After being acclaimed imperator, the victorious general had a right to use the tile after his name until the time of his triumph, where he would relinquish the title as well as his imperium. Since a triumph was the ambition of every Roman politician, history is full of cases where legions were bribed to call their commander imperator.
After Augustus established the hereditary, one-man rule in Rome that we refer to as the Roman Empire, the title imperator was restricted to the emperor and occasionally members of his immediate family. As a permanent title, imperator was used as a praenomen by the Roman emperors and was taken on accession. After the reign of Tiberius, the act of being proclaimed imperator now transformed into the act of being declared emperor. In fact, when a general was acclaimed by his troops as imperator, it was tantamount to a declaration of rebellion against the ruling emperor. However, it continued to be used in the Republican sense as a victory title and in this case, the title follows the emperor's name along with the number of times he was acclaimed as such, for example IMP V (Imperator five times).
The title Augustus ("majestic one") is probably the closest Latin equivalent to the English word emperor; however, because of the close association between the term imperator and the emperor, imperator became the root of the English word as well as the Romance languages' word for emperor. It is also the root of the Albanian term for king, mbret.
See also: imperium
Imperator is also an Alternate Earth MMORPG by Mythic Entertainment, the makers of DAOC, one set in a future world where Ancient Rome never fell. Small changes at crucial moments in Roman history create an entirely new timeline for Earth, leading to a star-spanning Roman Respublica and thousands of years of interstellar Pax Romana.
See also: Imperator Online
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