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Addressing the Emperor
#1
I am writing a novel set in Rome, AD 335. I ran across a problem.

How would someone address the Emperor, or address a Caesar?

How about addressing a member of the Imperial family, but not in the "Chain of command?"
AKA Tom Chelmowski

Historiae Eruditere (if that is proper Latin)
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#2
Interesting question. I imagine that it could vary quite a bit, depending upon how familiar the person was with the Emperor, the Emperor’s personal tastes and the formality and context of the conversation (are they talking in the bath or in the Senate, for instance).

Anyway, I glanced through Fronto to see how he addressed various members of the Imperial family. Of course, this is in writing. Would they speak differently? I don’t know.

When Fronto first became the tutor of Marcus Aurelius, who was at that time Caesar, he says “my Lord.” This is the most popular address through the years, and lasts even after Marcus is Emperor.

Years later, when they become more intimate friends, he calls him simply “Caesar,” “my own Caesar,” “my Lord Caesar,” or “my Lord Marcus Caesar.”

To Domitia Lucilla, Marcus’ mother, Fronto calls her “mother of Caesar.”

Augusta is used for the wife of an Emperor.

To the Emperor he uses “Antoninus Pius Augustus.”

When Marcus first takes the purple, Fronto addresses him as “Lord Antoninus Augustus.” However, he also rarely uses the personal name “Marcus Aurelius” with no titles. Once, in the context of a treatise on love he says “My Dear Boy.” By this time, of course, they were very close friends.

Lucius Verus as Emperor gets “Lord Verus Augustus.”

Now the time frame that you are writing in, I would imagine that the address would be more formal. Under the Dominate titles and address seemed to become more fawning. Fronto uses dominus almost as a term of endearment, but after Diocletian it seems to have been more "Master" than "Lord."
David J. Cord
http://www.davidcord.com
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#3
I'm not sure that forms of address at the time of Marcus Aurelius would apply to the later period represented by AD 335. This is post-Constantine and the emperors were, to my understanding, more self-consciously "Imperial". Society was more rigidly heirarchical at this period, too. Ammianus' history might be a place to start since he is roughly contemporary. My copy is at home, unfortunately, so I can't go poking through it for gleanings of how the emperor was addressed (in either spoken or written communication). The imperial household structure was very formal, with more layers of bureacracy to get through before being able to approach the emperor, including Imperial eunuchs, something that Marcus Aurelius would have been horrified by. In any case, you want to look at sources from the Late Roman Empire.
Quinton Johansen
Marcus Quintius Clavus, Optio Secundae Pili Prioris Legionis III Cyrenaicae
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#4
Ave Epictetus et Quintius,

Thanks for the prompt reply. I looked in the ND but that seemed more tilted toward formal social positions rather than titles used when addressing someone.

I will look through my copy of Ammianus and see if I can find a reference.

Thanks again. As always, you guys are great.

me
AKA Tom Chelmowski

Historiae Eruditere (if that is proper Latin)
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#5
Quote:How would someone address the Emperor, or address a Caesar?
I thought that it might be interesting to consider the so-called panegyrici, or speeches in praise of some of the later emperors. Like Pliny's speech to Trajan, these were directly addressed to the honorand.

But the so-called Panegyricus Constantino Augusto (Pan. Lat. Vet. VI (VII)) addressed the emperor Constantine simply as sacratissime imperator, "most sacred emperor" (and the author later addresses him by name, Constantine maxime, "Great Constantine"). Also, the so-called Panegyricus Constantio Caesari (Pan. Lat. Vet. VIII (V)) addressed the Caesar Constantius Chlorus as Caesar invicte, "invincible Caesar".

Not very enlightening, I'm afraid. Cry
posted by Duncan B Campbell
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#6
Hello

Sorry to reignite this thread after so long, but I also have a question about addressing the emperor. Obviously as has been pointed out by Epictetus, we have evidence that Marcus Aurelius was addresses as "my lord", and presumably this was the case with most emperors of the principate?

However, calling someone, "my lord", in my opinion, conjures notions of more modern (post Norman conquest) nobility, when Dukes and Earls were addressed as such. Lord, seems to me to be anachronistic in a Roman setting (I even thought so as a child when I watched Cleopatra and heard them refer to "My Lord Caesar" and "My Lord Admiral Agrippa"). I realise that this comes from historical evidence so cannot be argued with, but as a modern reader, is there perhaps something else I could use instead?

I had toyed with the idea of using a title instead, maybe. One would address a consul as "Consul", or a praetor as "Praetor", a centurion would be addressed as "Centurion" for example. So could the emperor perhaps be addressed by his title? "Augustus" springs to mind as the obvious choice, but I'd hesitate to use this as it may bring to mind the original rather than a successor. Instead, as a compromise, do you think addressing the emperor as "Princeps" would work; using the derivate of principate?

Many thanks
David Hobday
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#7
'Dominus' (which is usually translated as 'My Lord') was used pretty widely for various social and official interactions. You could probably use the word in the original latin - the meaning is quite clear, I think.

In the later empire, imperial terms of address became very formalised and highly inflated; fawning, even. Late Roman emperors were exalted and semi-divine beings, after all! Duncan's suggestion of using the panegyrics is a good one. Several of these are addressed to emperors of the tetrarchic era and later (sometimes in absentia), and preserve the wording quite accurately.

The orators often address the emperor by name ('Diocletian Augustus' or 'Invincible Maximian'), or simply 'Emperor' (Imperator). Otherwise, the most common phrase appears to be 'Your Majesty' (Maiestatis tuae). 'Most Sacred Emperor' (Sacratissime imperator) also appears a few times, as Duncan says.

'Most Blessed Emperor' appears to be a Christian version. Ambrose addresses Valentinian as 'Most Blessed Prince and Most Christian Emperor' (Beatissimo principi et christianissimo imperatori), and elsewhere Theodosius as 'Most Clement Prince and Most Christian Emperor' (Clementissimo principi ac beatissimo imperatori).

In other sources there are references to later emperors being addressed as personifications of virtues: 'Your Clemency', 'Your Divinity', or even 'Your Tranquillity'. Whether there was some system to these hyperbolic terms, or whether courtiers were trying to outdo one another in flattery, we don't know - although the Theodosian Code does have rescripts in which the emperor refers to himself (usually in the plural) by these and similar titles!

Lesser beings might be addressed by their rank, or by their position in the hierarchy of honours: senators were clarissimus, various equestrian roles held the title perfectissimus, and the praetorian prefects were (before they became clarissimi too) eminentissimus... Later the 'clarissimate' gained additional layers of inflated honour: illustris and spectabilis. The holders of these titles might be addressed as (for example) perfectissimus vir ('most perfect (or 'excellent') man' - or just 'your excellency', perhaps!).

Women would be addressed as Domina ('lady'), sometimes with added status qualification: a daughter of the senatorial order would be clarissima domina, for example. Constantine's wife Fausta was titled nobilissima femina ('most noble woman') until her promotion to Augusta in c.AD325.
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#8
Thank you. You are certainly a fountain of fantastic knowledge! This is exactly the reason I found my way to these forums! Big Grin

So it seems that titles and forms of address were more formalised in the later empire; would this be after Diocletian's move from Principate to Dominate? Would I be right in saying that earlier emperors would not have had such formality, especially since they liked to propagate the fallacy that Rome was still a Republic and they weren't really emperors? Depending on who was addressing them I assume then that it would be either Dominus, Imperator, or maybe just their name that would be used?

I often find the Imperial system of the early Empire hard to get my head round - there was an emperor, but no one thought of him as an emperor because they liked to think they were a Republic, even though the emperor had all the power. Or is that just the fanciful wishes of the Senate? Were Augustus's successors really recognised as what they were?

I think, perhaps, Imperator might be a good term to use as it sounds suitably Roman, but is also recognisable enough for a modern audience to associate with emperor. I know Dominus is probably the most accurate, but I have always associated this with the way a slave would address a master rather than a free citizen addressing another citizen. To me, it comes cross as a little subservient for a Roman. But again, however, this is my own personal prejudice rather than a historical fact.

Many thanks
David Hobday
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#9
(03-23-2016, 03:31 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: In other sources there are references to later emperors being addressed as personifications of virtues: 'Your Clemency', 'Your Divinity', or even 'Your Tranquillity'.

My immediate thought was to look at Vegetius, whose treatise was addressed to his emperor. He regularly refers to the emperor in these sort of terms: 'Your Clemency', 'Your Tranquillity', 'Your Majesty', 'Your Eternity', 'Your Serenity' and 'Your Piety'. However, when he addresses him directly in the vocative, he calls him 'Invincible Emperor' (imperator invicte).
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
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#10
(03-23-2016, 05:58 PM)Renatus Wrote: My immediate thought was to look at Vegetius, whose treatise was addressed to his emperor... when he addresses him directly in the vocative, he calls him 'Invincible Emperor' (imperator invicte).

Yes, I was thinking of Vegetius. The addresses to abstract virtues would be necessarily indirect!



(03-23-2016, 05:01 PM)Lord Hobbers Wrote: would this be after Diocletian's move from Principate to Dominate? Would I be right in saying that earlier emperors would not have had such formality...?

Diocletian seems to have formalised a lot of aspects of court ritual, including the 'godlike' status of the emperor. Although some of the third century emperors (Aurelian springs to mind) were already heading in this direction. The change (very generally) was from calling the emperor Princeps to calling him Dominus...

The emperors of the Principiate varied - one at least (Domitian) allegedly wanted to be addressed as 'Master and God' (dominus et deus), which at the time was thought pretty outrageous. Calling the emperor Caesar neatly got around the distaste for monarchy: it was originally a personal name, but had come to denote the Princeps.


(03-23-2016, 05:01 PM)Lord Hobbers Wrote: Imperator might be a good term to use as it sounds suitably Roman

Imperator was a republican military victory title, adopted by the emperors as their own property. I'm not sure at what point it became usual to address or refer to an emperor in this way (Fergus Millar's The Emperor in the Roman World is probably the book to check - dense but brilliant).

I think addressing the emperor as Caesar would have been more common in the earlier centuries (except, it seems, by soldiers, who may have preferred the martial association of the alternative title - the militarisation of the Roman state in the later third century might have caused the shift, perhaps?).


(03-23-2016, 05:01 PM)Lord Hobbers Wrote: Dominus is probably the most accurate, but I have always associated this with the way a slave would address a master rather than a free citizen addressing another citizen. To me, it comes cross as a little subservient for a Roman.

It might sound that way to us, and of course it was indeed the way that slaves addressed their masters, but it does seem to have had a wider application. Soldiers seem to have used it to their commanding officers, for example. The Vindolanda tablets have soldiers addressing their commander in this way.

But it wasn't necessarily subservient - one officer addresses his friend as 'domine frater' ('Master and brother'), which just underlines that this word was a lot more flexible that its common English translation would imply!

There have been a few discussions of this over the years. These two are quite detailed:

Forms of verbal address

Language
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#11
"Hey! What's up, Dude?" Big Grin Cool Wink Tongue
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#12
(03-23-2016, 08:21 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Calling the emperor Caesar neatly got around the distaste for monarchy: it was originally a personal name, but had come to denote the Princeps.

Oh, did they actually do that? I knew the emperors took 'Caesar' as a name, but I thought using it to address them was a sort of Hollywood-ism. I didn't realise it was actually true. I always assumed that Caesar referred to the heir, and Augustus was the name used by the emperors. In that case, Caesar might be the best option to use (unless, as you say, it is a soldier addressing him).

(03-23-2016, 08:21 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Fergus Millar's The Emperor in the Roman World is probably the book to check - dense but brilliant

Thank you; I shall endeavour to find a copy of this book.

(03-24-2016, 07:07 AM)Alanus Wrote: "Hey! What's up, Dude?" Big Grin Cool Wink Tongue

Ha! If only...
David Hobday
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#13
(03-30-2016, 08:34 AM)Lord Hobbers Wrote: I knew the emperors took 'Caesar' as a name, but I thought using it to address them was a sort of Hollywood-ism. I didn't realise it was actually true.

They did, although how common it was compared to dominus or imperator I don't know. The context might have been important too (and direct v indirect address?). In Suetonius's Domitian there's this anecdote:

"At the beginning of his reign [Domitian] used to spend hours in seclusion every day, doing nothing but catch flies and stab them with a keenly-sharpened stylus. Consequently when someone once asked whether anyone was in there with Caesar, Vibius Crispus made the witty reply: 'Not even a fly'."

(...ut cuidam interroganti, essetne quis intus cum Caesare, non absurde responsum sit a Vibio Crispo, ne muscam quidem)

Then there's Florus's epigram to Hadrian, Ego nolo Caesar esse:

"I don't want to be Caesar, to stroll among the Britons, and endure the Scythian frosts"


(03-30-2016, 08:34 AM)Lord Hobbers Wrote: I always assumed that Caesar referred to the heir, and Augustus was the name used by the emperors.

Caesar and Augustus were both used by the early emperors, as far as I know, although there does seem to have been a sense that Augustus was the superior title. Later it was structured further, until the development of the imperial 'college' under Diocletian, by which time Caesar was definitely the junior, as you say.
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#14
You know the Theodosian Code states exactly how the Emperor was address. We also have surviving sets of "minutes" from the imperial senate, including one where Aetius himself presided over the reception of the Theodosian Code in the West.

"Aeti aveas! [Dictum XV.] Ter consulem te! [Dictum XIII.] Excubiis tuis salvi et securi sumus! [Dictum XII.] Excubiis tuis, laboribus tuis! [Dictum XV.]"

- Gesta Senatus Urbis Romae, 6

IIRC in the Theodosian Code it stated that some of the phrases to be said before the emperor would be repeated like 35 and 50 times.

They may have skipped some of the formalities though. Lol.
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#15
(03-30-2016, 01:46 PM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: You know the Theodosian Code states exactly how the Emperor was address. We also have surviving sets of "minutes" from the imperial senate, including one where Aetius himself presided over the reception of the Theodosian Code in the West.

Thank you. But does that code only cover the later Empire? I was hoping to find out how the emperors of the Principate were addressed, before everything became kind of formalised (specifically, if it helps, the emperors of the early Third Century - Septimius Severus, Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus etc. I know the Third Century was a time of great change, but would these emperors have adhered to the earlier Principate system, or perhaps have begun the move towards the more formalised, militaristic address of the later emperors I wonder).

(03-30-2016, 01:46 PM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: IIRC in the Theodosian Code it stated that some of the phrases to be said before the emperor would be repeated like 35 and 50 times.

Wowsers! And I thought my meetings in work were repetitive!

(03-30-2016, 01:46 PM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: They may have skipped some of the formalities though. Lol.

I'm not sure who would be more grateful for that; the emperor or the person addressing him!
David Hobday
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