Roman emperor

The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles throughout history. Often when a given Roman is described as becoming "emperor" in English, it reflects his taking of the title Augustus or Caesar. Another title often used was imperator, originally a military honorific. Early Emperors also used the title princeps (first citizen). Emperors frequently amassed republican titles, notably princeps senatus, consul and pontifex maximus.

The legitimacy of an emperor's rule depended on his control of the army and recognition by the Senate; an emperor would normally be proclaimed by his troops, or invested with imperial titles by the Senate, or both. The first emperors reigned alone; later emperors would sometimes rule with co-emperors and divide administration of the empire between them.

The Romans considered the office of emperor to be distinct from that of a king. The first emperor, Augustus, resolutely refused recognition as a monarch.[1] Although Augustus could claim that his power was authentically republican, his successor, Tiberius, could not convincingly make the same claim.[2] Nonetheless, for the first three hundred years of Roman emperors, from Augustus until Diocletian, efforts were made to portray the emperors as leaders of a republic.

From Diocletian, whose tetrarchic reforms also divided the position into one emperor in the West and one in the East, until the end of the Empire, emperors ruled in an openly monarchic style[3] and did not preserve the nominal principle of a republic, but the contrast with "kings" was maintained: although the imperial succession was generally hereditary, it was only hereditary if there was a suitable candidate acceptable to the army and the bureaucracy,[4] so the principle of automatic inheritance was not adopted. Elements of the republican institutional framework (senate, consuls, and magistrates) were preserved even after the end of the Western Empire.

The Western Roman Empire collapsed in the late 5th century after multiple invasions of imperial territory by Germanic barbarian tribes. Romulus Augustulus is often considered to be the last emperor of the West after his forced abdication in 476, although Julius Nepos maintained a claim recognized by the Eastern Empire to the title until his death in 480. Following Nepos' death, the Eastern Emperor Zeno abolished the division of the position and proclaimed himself as the sole Emperor of a reunited Roman Empire. The Eastern imperial lineage continued to rule from Constantinople ("New Rome"); they continued to style themselves as Emperor of the Romans (later βασιλεύς Ῥωμαίων in Greek), but are often referred to in modern scholarship as Byzantine emperors. Constantine XI Palaiologos was the last Roman emperor in Constantinople, dying in the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453.

The "Byzantine" emperors from Heraclius in 629 and onwards adopted the title of basileus (βασιλεύς), which had originally meant king in Greek but became a title reserved solely for the Roman emperor and the ruler of the Sasanian Empire. Other kings were then referred to as rēgas.[5]

In addition to their pontifical office, some emperors were given divine status after death. With the eventual hegemony of Christianity, the emperor came to be seen as God's chosen ruler, as well as a special protector and leader of the Christian Church on Earth, although in practice an emperor's authority on Church matters was subject to challenge.

Due to the cultural rupture of the Turkish conquest, most western historians treat Constantine XI as the last meaningful claimant to the title Roman Emperor. From 1453, one of the titles used by the Ottoman Sultans was "Caesar of Rome" (Turkish: Kayser-i Rum)[6], part of their titles until the Ottoman Empire ended in 1922. A Byzantine group of claimant Roman emperors existed in the Empire of Trebizond until its conquest by the Ottomans in 1461, though they had used a modified title since 1282.

Eastern emperors in Constantinople had been recognized and accepted as Roman emperors both in the East, which they ruled, and by the Papacy and Germanic kingdoms of the West until the deposition of Constantine VI and accession of Irene of Athens as Empress regnant in 797. Objecting to a woman ruling the Roman Empire in her own right and issues with the eastern clergy, the Papacy would then create a rival lineage of Roman emperors in western Europe, the Holy Roman Emperors, which ruled the Holy Roman Empire for most of the period between 800 and 1806. These Emperors were never recognized as Roman emperors by the court in Constantinople.

Emperor of
the Roman Empire
Imperial
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire
Bust of augustus
First to reign
Augustus
16 January 27 BC – 19 August AD 14
Details
StyleImperator, Augustus, Caesar, Princeps, Dominus Noster, Autokrator or Basileus (depending on period)
First monarchAugustus
Last monarchTheodosius I (Unified or Classical),
Julius Nepos (Western),
Constantine VI (Universally recognized),
Constantine XI (Eastern)
Formation16 January 27 BC
Abolition17 January 395 AD (Unified or Classical),
22 June 480 AD (Western),
29 May 1453 AD (Eastern)
AppointerRoman Military and/or Roman Senate (traditionally)
Pretender(s)none

Background and first Roman emperor

Caesar augustus
Statue of Augustus, c. 30 BC–20 BC; this statue is located in the Louvre

Modern historians conventionally regard Augustus as the first Emperor whereas Julius Caesar is considered the last dictator of the Roman Republic, a view having its origins in the Roman writers Plutarch, Tacitus and Cassius Dio.[7] However, the majority of Roman writers, including Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius and Appian, as well as most of the ordinary people of the Empire, thought of Julius Caesar as the first Emperor.[8]

At the end of the Roman Republic no new, and certainly no single, title indicated the individual who held supreme power. Insofar as emperor could be seen as the English translation of imperator, then Julius Caesar had been an emperor, like several Roman generals before him. Instead, by the end of the civil wars in which Julius Caesar had led his armies, it became clear that there was certainly no consensus to return to the old-style monarchy, but that the period when several officials, bestowed with equal power by the senate, would fight one another had come to an end.

Julius Caesar, and then Augustus after him, accumulated offices and titles of the highest importance in the Republic, making the power attached to those offices permanent, and preventing anyone with similar aspirations from accumulating or maintaining power for themselves. However, Julius Caesar, unlike those after him, did so without the Senate's vote and approval.

Julius Caesar held the Republican offices of consul four times and dictator five times, was appointed dictator in perpetuity (dictator perpetuo) in 45 BC and had been "pontifex maximus" for a long period. He gained these positions by senatorial consent. By the time of his assassination, he was the most powerful man in the Roman world.

In his will, Caesar appointed his adopted son Octavian as his heir. On Caesar's death, Octavian inherited his adoptive father's property and lineage, the loyalty of most of his allies and – again through a formal process of senatorial consent – an increasing number of the titles and offices that had accrued to Caesar. A decade after Caesar's death, Octavian's victory over his erstwhile ally Mark Antony at Actium put an end to any effective opposition and confirmed Octavian's supremacy.

In 27 BC, Octavian appeared before the Senate and offered to retire from active politics and government; the Senate not only requested he remain, but increased his powers and made them lifelong, awarding him the title of Augustus (the elevated or divine one, somewhat less than a god but approaching divinity). Augustus stayed in office until his death; the sheer breadth of his superior powers as princeps and permanent imperator of Rome's armies guaranteed the peaceful continuation of what nominally remained a republic. His "restoration" of powers to the Senate and the people of Rome was a demonstration of his auctoritas and pious respect for tradition.

Some later historians such as Tacitus would say that even at Augustus' death, the true restoration of the Republic might have been possible. Instead, Augustus actively prepared his adopted son Tiberius to be his successor and pleaded his case to the Senate for inheritance on merit. The Senate disputed the issue but eventually confirmed Tiberius as princeps. Once in power, Tiberius took considerable pains to observe the forms and day-to-day substance of republican government.

Classical period

Rome had no single constitutional office, title or rank exactly equivalent to the English title "Roman emperor". Romans of the Imperial era used several titles to denote their emperors, and all were associated with the pre-Imperial, Republican era.

The emperor's legal authority derived from an extraordinary concentration of individual powers and offices that were extant in the Republic rather than from a new political office; emperors were regularly elected to the offices of consul and censor.[9] Among their permanent privileges were the traditional Republican title of princeps senatus (leader of the Senate) and the religious office of pontifex maximus (chief priest of the College of Pontiffs). Every emperor held the latter office and title until Gratian surrendered it in AD 382 to Pope Siricius; it eventually became an auxiliary honor of the Bishop of Rome.

These titles and offices conferred great personal prestige (dignitas) but the basis of an emperor's powers derived from his auctoritas: this assumed his greater powers of command (imperium maius) and tribunician power (tribunicia potestas) as personal qualities, separate from his public office. As a result, he formally outranked provincial governors and ordinary magistrates. He had the right to enact or revoke sentences of capital punishment, was owed the obedience of private citizens (privati) and by the terms of the ius auxiliandi could save any plebeian from any patrician magistrate's decision. He could veto any act or proposal of any magistrate, including the tribunes of the people (ius intercedendi or ius intercessionis). His person was held to be sacrosanct.

Roman magistrates on official business were expected to wear the form of toga associated with their office; different togas were worn by different ranks; senior magistrates had the right to togas bordered with purple. A triumphal imperator of the Republic had the right to wear the toga picta (of solid purple, richly embroidered) for the duration of the triumphal rite. During the Late Republic, the most powerful had this right extended. Pompey and Caesar are both thought to have worn the triumphal toga and other triumphal dress at public functions. Later emperors were distinguished by wearing togae purpurae, purple togas; hence the phrase "to don the purple" for the assumption of imperial dignity.

The titles customarily associated with the imperial dignity are imperator ("commander"), which emphasizes the emperor's military supremacy and is the source of the English word emperor; Caesar, which was originally a name but came to be used for the designated heir (as Nobilissimus Caesar, "Most Noble Caesar") and was retained upon accession. The ruling emperor's title was the descriptive Augustus ("majestic" or "venerable", which had tinges of the divine), which was adopted upon accession. In Greek, these three titles were rendered as autokratōr ("Αὐτοκράτωρ"), kaisar ("Καίσαρ"), and augoustos ("Αὔγουστος") or sebastos ("Σεβαστός") respectively. In Diocletian's Tetrarchy, the traditional seniorities were maintained: "Augustus" was reserved for the two senior emperors and "Caesar" for the two junior emperors – each delegated a share of power and responsibility but each an emperor-in-waiting, should anything befall his senior.

As princeps senatus (lit., "first man of the senate"), the emperor could receive foreign embassies to Rome; some emperors (such as Tiberius) are known to have delegated this task to the Senate. In modern terms these early emperors would tend to be identified as chiefs of state. The office of princeps senatus, however, was not a magistracy and did not entail imperium. At some points in the Empire's history, the emperor's power was nominal; powerful praetorian prefects, masters of the soldiers and on a few occasions, other members of the Imperial household including Imperial mothers and grandmothers were the true source of power.

Imperator

The title imperator dates back to the Roman Republic, when a victorious commander could be hailed as imperator in the field by his troops. The Senate could then award or withhold the extraordinary honour of a triumph; the triumphal commander retained the title until the end of his magistracy.[10] In Roman tradition, the first triumph was that of Romulus, but the first attested recipient of the title imperator in a triumphal context is Aemilius Paulus in 189 BC.[10] It was a title held with great pride: Pompey was hailed imperator more than once, as was Sulla, but it was Julius Caesar who first used it permanently – according to Dio, this was a singular and excessive form of flattery granted by the Senate, passed to Caesar's adopted heir along with his name and virtually synonymous with it.[11]

In 38 BC Agrippa refused a triumph for his victories under Octavian's command, and this precedent established the rule that the princeps should assume both the salutation and title of imperator. It seems that from then on Octavian (later the first emperor Augustus) used imperator as a first name (praenomen): Imperator Caesar not Caesar imperator. From this the title came to denote the supreme power and was commonly used in that sense. Otho was the first to imitate Augustus, but only with Vespasian did imperator (emperor) become the official title by which the ruler of the Roman Empire was known.

Princeps

The word princeps (plural principes), meaning "first", was a republican term used to denote the leading citizen(s) of the state. It was a purely honorific title with no attached duties or powers. It was the title most preferred by Caesar Augustus as its use implies only primacy, as opposed to another of his titles, imperator, which implies dominance. Princeps, because of its republican connotation, was most commonly used to refer to the emperor in Latin (although the emperor's actual constitutional position was essentially "pontifex maximus with tribunician power and imperium superseding all others") as it was in keeping with the façade of the restored Republic; the Greek word basileus ("king") was modified to be synonymous with emperor (and primarily came into favour after the reign of Heraclius) as the Greeks had no republican sensibility and openly viewed the emperor as a monarch.

In the era of Diocletian and beyond, princeps fell into disuse and was replaced with dominus ("lord");[12] later emperors used the formula Imperator Caesar NN. Pius Felix (Invictus) Augustus: NN representing the individual's personal name; Pius Felix meaning "Pious and Blest"; and Invictus meaning "undefeated". The use of princeps and dominus broadly symbolise the differences in the empire's government, giving rise to the era designations "Principate" and "Dominate".

Evolution in Late Antiquity

In 293, following the Crisis of the Third Century which had severely damaged Imperial administration, Emperor Diocletian enacted sweeping reforms that washed away many of the vestiges and façades of republicanism which had characterized the Augustan order in favor of a more frank autocracy. As a result, historians distinguish the Augustan period as the principate and the period from Diocletian to the 7th-century reforms of Emperor Heraclius as the dominate (from the Latin for "lord".)

Reaching back to the oldest traditions of job-sharing in the republic, however, Diocletian established at the top of this new structure the Tetrarchy ("rule of four") in an attempt to provide for smoother succession and greater continuity of government. Under the Tetrarchy, Diocletian set in place a system of co-emperors, styled "Augustus", and junior emperors, styled "Caesar". When a co-emperor retired (as Diocletian and his co-emperor Maximian did in 305) or died, a junior "Caesar" would succeed him and the co-emperors would appoint new Caesars as needed.

The four members of the Imperial college (as historians call the arrangement) shared military and administrative challenges by each being assigned specific geographic areas of the empire. From this innovation, often but not consistently repeated over the next 187 years, comes the notion of an east-west partition of the empire that became popular with historians long after the practice had stopped. The two halves of empire, while often run as de facto separate entities day-to-day, were always considered and seen, legally and politically, as separate administrative divisions of a single, insoluble imperium by the Romans of the time.

Roman coins (i.e. the tremissis) of the emperors Romulus Augustulus and Julius Nepos, the last emperors of the Western Roman Empire, although Nepos was a de jure ruler in Dalmatia after the deposition of Romulus Augustulus

RomulusAugustus
Julius Nepos Tremissis

The final period of co-emperorship began in 395, when Emperor Theodosius I's sons Arcadius and Honorius succeeded as co-emperors. Eighty-five years later, following Germanic migrations which had reduced the empire's effective control across Brittania, Gaul and Hispania and a series of military coup d'état which drove Emperor Nepos out of Italy, the idea of dividing the position of emperor was formally abolished by Emperor Zeno (480).

The Roman Empire survived in the east until 1453, but the marginalization of the former heartland of Italy to the empire had a profound cultural impact on the empire and the position of emperor. In 620, the official language was changed from Latin to Greek. The Greek-speaking inhabitants were Romaioi (Ῥωμαῖοι), and were still considered Romans by themselves and the populations of Eastern Europe, the Near East, India, and China. But many in Western Europe began to refer to the political entity as the "Greek Empire". The evolution of the church in the no-longer imperial city of Rome and the church in the now supreme Constantinople began to follow divergent paths, culminating in the schism between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths. The position of emperor was increasingly influenced by Near Eastern concepts of kingship. Starting with Emperor Heraclius, Roman emperors styled themselves "King of Kings" (from the imperial Persian Shahanshah) from 627 and "Basileus" (from the title used by Alexander the Great) from 629. The later period of the empire is today called the Byzantine Empire as a matter of scholarly convention.

Titles and positions

Although these are the most common offices, titles, and positions, not all Roman emperors used them, nor were all of them used at the same time in history. The consular and censorial offices especially were not an integral part of the Imperial dignity, and were usually held by persons other than the reigning emperor.

  • Augustus: (also "Αὔγουστος" or "Σεβαστός"), "Majestic" or "Venerable"; an honorific cognomen exclusive to the emperor
  • Autokrator: (Αὐτοκράτωρ, Autokratōr), (lit. "Self-ruler"); Greek title equivalent to imperator or commander-in-chief
  • Basileus: (Βασιλεύς), Greek for king, popularly used in the east to refer to the emperor; a formal title of the Roman emperor beginning with Heraclius
  • Caesar: (also "Καίσαρ"), "Caesar"; initially the cognomen of Julius Caesar, it was transformed into a title; an honorific name later used to identify an emperor-designate
  • Censor: a Republican office held jointly by two former consuls every five years for the purpose of conducting the lustrum that determined the role of citizens; the censor could audit all other magistrates and all state finances
  • Consul: the highest magistracy of the Roman Republic with a one-year term and one coequal officeholder; the consul was the head of state within Rome. The last emperor to be bestowed the title by the Senate was Constans II, who was also the last emperor to visit Rome.
  • Dominus ("Lord" or "Master"): an honorific title mainly associated with the Dominate
  • Dominus Noster ("Our Lord"): an honorific title; the praenomen of later emperors.
  • Imperator ("Commander" or "Commander-in-Chief"): a victory title taken on accession to the purple and after a major military victory
  • Imperator Destinatus ("Destined to be Emperor"): heir apparent, used by Septimius Severus for Caracalla
  • Invictus ("Unconquered"), an honorific title.
  • Nobilissimus: (Nωβελίσσιμος, Nōbelissimos), ("Most Noble"), one of the highest imperial titles held by the emperor
  • Pater Patriae ("Father of the Fatherland"): an honorific title
  • Perpetuus ("Universal"): an honorific title of later emperors
  • Pius Felix ("Pious and Blessed"): an honorific title
  • Pontifex Maximus ("Supreme Pontiff" or "Chief Priest"): in the Republican era, the Pontifex Maximus was the head of the College of Pontiffs, the religious body that oversaw the ancestral public religion of the Romans; Julius Caesar had become Pontifex Maximus before he was elected consul, and the precedent set by his heir Augustus in consolidating supreme authority through this religious office was in general followed by his successors until the empire came under Christian rule
  • Princeps ("First Citizen" or "Leading Citizen"): an honorific title denoting the status of the emperor as first among equals, associated mainly with the Principate
  • Princeps Iuventutis: ("Prince of Youth"), an honorific title awarded to a presumptive emperor-designate
  • Princeps Senatus: ("First Man of the Senate"), a Republican office with a five-year term
  • Sebastos: (Σεβαστός), ("Venerable"); the Greek rendition of the imperial title Augustus
  • Sebastokrator: (Σεβαστοκράτωρ, Sebastokratōr), ("Venerable Ruler); a senior court title from the compound words "sebastos" ("venerable", the Greek equivalent of the Latin Augustus) and "kratōr" ("ruler", the same element as is found in "autokratōr", "emperor")
  • Tribunicia Potestas: ("Tribunician Power"); the powers of a tribune of the people, including sacrosanctity and inviolability of his person, and the veto over any decision by any other magistrate, assembly, or the Senate (the emperor could not be a "tribune" because a tribune was a plebeian by definition, therefore the emperor had all the powers of a tribune without actually being one)

Powers

When Augustus established the Princeps, he turned down supreme authority in exchange for a collection of various powers and offices, which in itself was a demonstration of his auctoritas ("authority"). As holding princeps senatus, the emperor declared the opening and closure of each Senate session, declared the Senate's agenda, imposed rules and regulation for the Senate to follow, and met with foreign ambassadors in the name of the Senate. Being pontifex maximus made the emperor the chief administrator of religious affairs, granting him the power to conduct all religious ceremonies, consecrate temples, control the Roman calendar (adding or removing days as needed), appoint the vestal virgins and some flamens, lead the Collegium Pontificum, and summarize the dogma of the Roman religion.

While these powers granted the emperor a great deal of personal pride and influence, they did not include legal authority. In 23 BC, Augustus gave the emperorship its legal power. The first was Tribunicia Potestas, or the powers of the tribune of the plebs without actually holding the office (which would have been impossible, since a tribune was by definition a plebeian, whereas Augustus, although born into a plebeian family, had become a patrician when he was adopted into the gens Julia). This endowed the emperor with inviolability (sacrosanctity) of his person, and the ability to pardon any civilian for any act, criminal or otherwise. By holding the powers of the tribune, the emperor could prosecute anyone who interfered with the performance of his duties. The emperor's tribuneship granted him the right to convene the Senate at his will and lay proposals before it, as well as the ability to veto any act or proposal by any magistrate, including the actual tribune of the plebeians. Also, as holder of the tribune's power, the emperor would convoke the Council of the People, lay legislation before it, and served as the council's president. But his tribuneship only granted him power within Rome itself. He would need another power to veto the act of governors and that of the consuls while in the provinces.

To solve this problem, Augustus managed to have the emperor be given the right to hold two types of imperium. The first being consular imperium while he was in Rome, and imperium maius outside of Rome. While inside the walls of Rome, the reigning consuls and the emperor held equal authority, each being able to veto each other's proposals and acts, with the emperor holding all of the consul's powers. But outside of Rome, the emperor outranked the consuls and could veto them without the same effects on himself. Imperium Maius also granted the emperor authority over all the provincial governors, making him the ultimate authority in provincial matters and gave him the supreme command of all of Rome's legions. With Imperium Maius, the emperor was also granted the power to appoint governors of imperial provinces without the interference of the Senate. Also, Imperium Maius granted the emperor the right to veto the governors of the provinces and even the reigning consul while in the provinces.

Lineages and epochs

Principate

The nature of the imperial office and the Principate was established under Julius Caesar's heir and posthumously adopted son, Caesar Augustus, and his own heirs, the descendants of his wife Livia from her first marriage to a scion of the distinguished Claudian clan. This Julio-Claudian dynasty came to an end when the Emperor Nero – a great-great-grandson of Augustus through his daughter and of Livia through her son – was deposed in 68.

Nero was followed by a succession of usurpers throughout 69, commonly called the "Year of the Four Emperors". The last of these, Vespasian, established his own Flavian dynasty. Nerva, who replaced the last Flavian emperor, Vespasian's son Domitian, in 96, was elderly and childless, and chose therefore to adopt an heir, Trajan, from outside his family. When Trajan acceded to the purple he chose to follow his predecessor's example, adopting Hadrian as his own heir, and the practice then became the customary manner of imperial succession for the next century, producing the "Five Good Emperors" and the Empire's period of greatest stability.

The last of the Good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius, chose his natural son Commodus as his successor rather than adopting an heir. Commodus's misrule led to his murder on 31 December 192, following which a brief period of instability quickly gave way to Septimius Severus, who established the Severan dynasty which, except for an interruption in 217–218 when Macrinus was emperor, held the purple until 235.

Crisis of the Third Century

The accession of Maximinus Thrax marks both the close and the opening of an era. It was one of the last attempts by the increasingly impotent Roman Senate to influence the succession. Yet it was the second time that a man had achieved the purple while owing his advancement purely to his military career; both Vespasian and Septimius Severus had come from noble or middle-class families, while Thrax was born a commoner. He never visited the city of Rome during his reign, which marks the beginning of a series of "barracks emperors" who came from the army. Between 235 and 285 over a dozen emperors achieved the purple, but only Valerian and Carus managed to secure their own sons' succession to the throne; both dynasties died out within two generations.

Dominate

The accession on 20 November 284, of Diocletian, the lower-class, Greek-speaking Dalmatian commander of Carus's and Numerian's household cavalry (protectores domestici), marked major innovations in Rome's government and constitutional theory. Diocletian, a traditionalist and religious conservative, attempted to secure efficient, stable government and a peaceful succession with the establishment of the Tetrarchy. The empire was divided into East and West, each ruled by an Augustus assisted by a Caesar as emperor-in-waiting. These divisions were further subdivided into new or reformed provinces, administered by a complex, hierarchic bureaucracy of unprecedented size and scope. Diocletian's own court was based at Nicomedia. His co-Augustus, Maximian, was based at Mediolanum (modern Milan). Their courts were peripatetic, and Imperial progressions through the provinces made much use of the impressive, theatrical adventus, or "Imperial arrival" ceremony, which employed an elaborate choreography of etiquette to emphasise the emperor's elevation above other mortals. Hyperinflation of imperial honours and titles served to distinguish the Augusti from their Caesares, and Diocletian, as senior Augustus, from his colleague Maximian. The senior Augustus in particular was made a separate and unique being, accessible only through those closest to him. The overall unity of the Empire still required the highest investiture of power and status in one man.[13]

The Tetrarchy ultimately degenerated into civil war, but the eventual victor, Constantine the Great, restored Diocletian's division of Empire into East and West. He kept the East for himself and founded his city of Constantinople as its new capital. Constantine's own dynasty was also soon swallowed up in civil war and court intrigue until it was replaced, briefly, by Julian the Apostate's general Jovian and then, more permanently, by Valentinian I and the dynasty he founded in 364. Though a soldier from a low middle-class background, Valentinian was made emperor by a conclave of senior generals and civil officials.

Late empire

Theodosius I acceded to the purple in the East in 379 and in the West in 394. He outlawed paganism and made Christianity the Empire's official religion. He was the last emperor to rule over a united Roman Empire; the distribution of the East to his son Arcadius and the West to his son Honorius after his death in 395 represented a permanent division.

In the West, the office of emperor soon degenerated into being little more than a puppet of a succession of Germanic tribal kings, until finally the Heruli Odoacer simply overthrew the child-emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476, shipped the imperial regalia to the Emperor Zeno in Constantinople and became King of Italy. Though during his own lifetime Odoacer maintained the legal fiction that he was actually ruling Italy as the viceroy of Zeno, historians mark 476 as the traditional date of the fall of the Roman Empire in the West. Large parts of Italy (Sicily, the south part of the peninsula, Ravenna, Venice etc.), however, remained under actual imperial rule from Constantinople for centuries, with imperial control slipping or becoming nominal only as late as the 11th century. In the East, the Empire continued until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Although known as the Byzantine Empire by contemporary historians, the Empire was simply known as the Roman Empire to its citizens and neighboring countries.

Post-classical assertions to the title

Survival of the Roman Empire in the East

Constantine Palaiologos
Imaginary portrait of Constantine XI, the last Roman emperor of the Eastern Roman empire (until 1453).

The line of Roman emperors in the Eastern Roman Empire continued unbroken at Constantinople until the capture of Constantinople in 1204 by the Fourth Crusade. In the wake of this action, four lines of Emperors emerged, each claiming to be the legal successor: the Empire of Thessalonica, evolving from the Despotate of Epirus, which was reduced to impotence when its founder Theodore Komnenos Doukas was defeated, captured and blinded by the Bulgarian Emperor Ivan Asen III;[14] the Latin Empire, which came to an end when the Empire of Nicaea recovered Constantinople in 1261; the Empire of Trebizond, whose importance declined over the 13th century, and whose claims were simply ignored;[15] and the Empire of Nicaea, whose claims based on kinship with the previous emperors, control of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and possession of Constantinople through military prowess, prevailed. The successors of the emperors of Nicaea continued until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 under Constantine XI Palaiologos.

These emperors eventually normalized the imperial dignity into the modern conception of an emperor, incorporated it into the constitutions of the state, and adopted the aforementioned title Basileus kai autokratōr Rhomaiōn ("Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans"). They had also ceased to use Latin as the language of state after Emperor Heraclius (d. 641 AD). Historians have customarily treated the state of these later Eastern emperors under the name "Byzantine Empire". It is important to note, however, that the adjective Byzantine, although historically used by Eastern Roman authors in a metonymic sense, was never an official term.

Last Roman emperor

Constantine XI Palaiologos was the last reigning Roman emperor. A member of the Palaiologos dynasty, he ruled the remnant of the Eastern Roman Empire from 1449 until his death in 1453 defending its capital Constantinople.

He was born in Mystra[16] as the eighth of ten children of Manuel II Palaiologos and Helena Dragaš, the daughter of the Serbian prince Constantine Dragaš of Kumanovo. He spent most of his childhood in Constantinople under the supervision of his parents. During the absence of his older brother in Italy, Constantine was regent in Constantinople from 1437–40.

Before the beginning of the siege, Mehmed the Conqueror made an offer to Constantine XI.[17] In exchange for the surrender of Constantinople, the emperor's life would be spared and he would continue to rule in Mystra. Constantine refused this offer. Instead he led the defense of the city and took an active part in the fighting along the land walls. At the same time, he used his diplomatic skills to maintain the necessary unity between the Genovese, Venetian, and Byzantine troops. As the city fell on May 29, 1453, Constantine is said to have remarked: "The city is fallen but I am alive." Realizing that the end had come, he reportedly discarded his purple cloak and led his remaining soldiers into a final charge, in which he was killed. With his death, Roman imperial succession came to an end, almost 1500 years after Augustus.

After the fall of Constantinople, Thomas Palaiologos, brother of Constantine XI, was elected emperor and tried to organize the remaining forces. His rule came to an end after the fall of the last major Byzantine city, Corinth. He then moved in Italy and continued to be recognized as Eastern emperor by the Christian powers.

His son Andreas Palaiologos continued claims on the Byzantine throne until he sold the title to Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the grandparents of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

New Western lineage

Emperor Charles Conquers Furor (Leone Leoni)
Charles V was the last emperor of the Holy Roman Empire to receive a papal coronation (until abdication in 1556).

The concept of the Roman Empire was renewed in the West with the coronation of the king of the Franks, Charlemagne (Charles the Great), as Roman emperor by the Pope on Christmas Day, 800. This coronation had its roots in the decline of influence of the Pope in the affairs of the Byzantine Empire at the same time the Byzantine Empire declined in influence over politics in the West. The Pope saw no advantage to be derived from working with the Byzantine Empire, but as George Ostrogorsky points out, "an alliance with the famous conqueror of the Lombards, on the other hand ... promised much".[18]

The immediate response of the Eastern Roman emperor was not welcoming. "At that time it was axiomatic that there could be only one Empire as there could be only one church", writes Ostrogorsky. "The coronation of Charles the Great violated all traditional ideas and struck a hard blow at Byzantine interests, for hitherto Byzantium, the new Rome, had unquestionably been regarded as the sole Empire which had taken over the inheritance of the old Roman imperium. Conscious of its imperial rights, Byzantium could only consider the elevation of Charles the Great to be an act of usurpation."[19]

Nikephoros I chose to ignore Charlemagne's claim to the imperial title, clearly recognizing the implications of this act. According to Ostrogorsky, "he even went so far as to refuse the Patriarch Nicephorus permission to dispatch the customary synodica to the Pope."[20] Meanwhile, Charlemagne's power steadily increased: he subdued Istria and several Dalmatian cities during the reign of Irene, and his son Pepin brought Venice under Western hegemony, despite a successful counter-attack by the Byzantine fleet. Unable to counter this encroachment on Byzantine territory, Nikephoros' successor Michael I Rangabe capitulated; in return for the restoration of the captured territories, Michael sent Byzantine delegates to Aachen in 812 who recognized Charlemagne as Basileus.[21] Michael did not recognize him as Basileus of the Romans, however, which was a title that he reserved for himself.[22]

This line of Roman emperors was actually generally Germanic rather than Roman, but maintained their Roman-ness as a matter of principle. These emperors used a variety of titles (most frequently "Imperator Augustus") before finally settling on Imperator Romanus Electus ("Elected Roman Emperor"). Historians customarily assign them the title "Holy Roman Emperor", which has a basis in actual historical usage, and treat their "Holy Roman Empire" as a separate institution. To Latin Catholics of the time, the Pope was the temporal authority as well as spiritual authority, and as Bishop of Rome he was recognized as having the power to anoint or crown a new Roman emperor. The last man to be crowned by the pope (although in Bologna, not Rome) was Charles V. All his successors bore only a title of "Elected Roman Emperor".

This line of Emperors lasted until 1806 when Francis II dissolved the Empire during the Napoleonic Wars. Despite the existence of later potentates styling themselves "emperor", such as the Napoleons, the Habsburg Emperors of Austria, and the Hohenzollern heads of the German Reich, this marked the end of the Western Empire. Although there is a living heir, Karl von Habsburg, to the Habsburg dynasty, as well as a Pope and pretenders to the positions of the electors, and although all the medieval coronation regalia are still preserved in Austria, the legal abolition of all aristocratic prerogatives of the former electors and the imposition of republican constitutions in Germany and Austria render quite remote any potential for a revival of the Holy Roman Empire.

For rulers of Italy after Romulus "Augustulus" and Julius Nepos, see list of barbarian kings.
For the Roman emperors who ruled in the East after The Fall in the West, see List of Byzantine emperors.
For emperors of the Holy Roman Empire in the West, see Holy Roman Emperor.

See also

Lists

References

  1. ^ Galinsky 2005, pp. 13–14
  2. ^ Alston 1998, p. 39
  3. ^ Williams 1997, p. 147
  4. ^ Heather 2005, p. 28
  5. ^ Kazhdan 1991, p. 264
  6. ^ İlber Ortaylı, "Büyük Constantin ve İstanbul", Milliyet, 28 May 2011.
  7. ^ Barnes 2009, pp. 278–279
  8. ^ Barnes 2009, pp. 279–282
  9. ^ Murray, John (1875). A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. University of Chicago. pp. 260–266.
  10. ^ a b The Oxford Classical Dictionary, entry 'Imperator', Third Edition, Oxford University Press, 1996.
  11. ^ Cassius Dio, 43.44.2.
  12. ^ Goldsworth 2010, p. 443
  13. ^ Rees 2004, pp. 46–56, 60
  14. ^ Ostrogorsky 1957, p. 387
  15. ^ On the imperial claims of the Grand Komnenos and international response to them, see N. Oikonomides, "The Chancery of the Grand Komnenoi; Imperial Tradition and Political Reality", Archeion Pontou, 35 (1979), pp. 299–332
  16. ^ "Constantine Palaeologus the last Hellene emperor Fall of Constantinople". www.agiasofia.com.
  17. ^ Mansel, Philip (1995). "Constantinople: City of the World's Desire 1453–1924". Washington Post. St. Martin's Press. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  18. ^ Ostrogorsky 1957, p. 164
  19. ^ Ostrogorsky 1957, p. 164f
  20. ^ Ostrogorsky 1957, p. 175
  21. ^ Ostrogorsky 1957, p. 176
  22. ^ Eichmann, Eduard (1942). Die Kaiserkrönung im Abendland: ein Beitrag zur Geistesgeschichte des Mittelalters, mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des kirchlichen Rechte, der Liturgie und der Kirchenpolitik. Echter-Verlag. p. 33.

Sources

Further reading

  • Scarre, Chris. Chronicle of the Roman Emperors: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial Rome. London: Thames & Hudson, October 1, 1995. ISBN 0-500-05077-5 (hardcover).

External links

Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor

Charles IV (Czech: Karel IV., German: Karl IV., Latin: Carolus IV; 14 May 1316 – 29 November 1378), born Wenceslaus, was the first King of Bohemia to become Holy Roman Emperor. He was a member of the House of Luxembourg from his father's side and the Czech House of Přemyslid from his mother's side; he emphasized the latter due to his lifelong affinity for the Czech side of his inheritance, and also because his direct ancestors in the Přemyslid line included two saints.He was the eldest son and heir of King John of Bohemia, who died at the Battle of Crécy on 26 August 1346. His mother, Elizabeth of Bohemia, was the sister of King Wenceslas III, the last of the male Přemyslid rulers of Bohemia. Charles inherited the County of Luxembourg from his father and was elected king of the Kingdom of Bohemia. On 2 September 1347, Charles was crowned King of Bohemia.

On 11 July 1346, the prince-electors chose him as King of the Romans (rex Romanorum) in opposition to Emperor Louis IV. Charles was crowned on 26 November 1346 in Bonn. After his opponent died, he was re-elected in 1349 and crowned King of the Romans. In 1355, he was crowned King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor. With his coronation as King of Burgundy in 1365, he became the personal ruler of all the kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire.

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

Charles V (24 February 1500 – 21 September 1558) was Holy Roman Emperor (1519–1556), King of Spain and ruler of the Spanish Empire (as Charles I, 1516–1556), Archduke of Austria (as Charles I, 1519–1521), and ruler of the Habsburg Netherlands (1506–1555). The Spanish conquest of Peru and Mexico, and the German colonisation of Venezuela both occurred during his reign. Charles V revitalized the medieval concept of the universal monarchy of Charlemagne and travelled from city to city, with no single fixed capital: overall he spent 28 years in the Habsburg Netherlands (primarily Bruxelles), 18 years in Spain (notably Toledo and Extremadura) and 9 years in Germany. After four decades of incessant warfare with the Kingdom of France, the Ottoman Empire, and the Protestants, Charles V abandoned his multi-kingdoms project with a series of abdications between 1554 and 1556 in favor of his son Philip II of Spain and brother Ferdinand I of Austria. The personal union of his European and American territories, spanning over nearly 4 million square kilometres, was the first collection of realms to be defined as "the empire on which the sun never sets".Charles was the heir of three of Europe's leading dynasties: Valois of Burgundy, Habsburg of Austria, and Trastámara of Spain. As heir to the House of Burgundy, he inherited areas in the Netherlands and around the eastern border of France. As the head of the House of Habsburg, he inherited Austria and other lands in central Europe, and was also elected to succeed his grandfather, Maximilian I, as Holy Roman Emperor. As a grandson of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, both from the Spanish House of Trastámara he inherited the Crown of Castile, which was developing a nascent empire in the Americas and Asia, and the Crown of Aragon, which included a Mediterranean empire extending to southern Italy. Charles was the first king to rule Castile and Aragon simultaneously in his own right, and as a result he is sometimes referred to as the first king of Spain. The personal union under Charles of the Holy Roman Empire with the Spanish Empire was the closest Europe has come to a universal monarchy since the time of Charlemagne in the 9th century.

Because of widespread fears that his vast inheritance would lead to the realisation of a universal monarchy and that he was trying to create a European hegemony, Charles was the object of hostility from many enemies. His reign was dominated by war, particularly by three major simultaneous prolonged conflicts: the Italian Wars with France, the struggle to halt the Turkish advance into Europe, and the conflict with the German princes resulting from the Protestant Reformation. The French wars, mainly fought in Italy, lasted for most of his reign. Enormously expensive, they led to the development of the Tercios.

The struggle with the Ottoman Empire was fought in Hungary and the Mediterranean. The Turkish advance was halted at the Siege of Vienna in 1529, and a lengthy war of attrition, conducted on Charles' behalf by his younger brother Ferdinand (King of Hungary and archduke of Austria), continued for the rest of Charles's reign. In the Mediterranean, although there were some successes, he was unable to prevent the Ottomans' increasing naval dominance and the piratical activity of the Barbary pirates. Charles opposed the Reformation, and in Germany he was in conflict with Protestant nobles who were motivated by both religious and political opposition to him. He could not prevent the spread of Protestantism and was ultimately forced to concede the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, which divided Germany along denominational lines.

While Charles did not typically concern himself with rebellions, he was quick to put down three particularly dangerous rebellions; the Revolt of the Comuneros in Castile, the revolt of the Arumer Zwarte Hoop in Frisia, and, later in his reign, the Revolt of Ghent (1539). Once the rebellions were quelled the essential Castilian and Burgundian territories remained mostly loyal to Charles throughout his rule.

Charles's Spanish dominions were the chief source of his power and wealth, and they became increasingly important as his reign progressed. In the Americas, Charles sanctioned the conquest by Castilian conquistadores of the Aztec and Inca empires. Castilian control was extended across much of South and Central America. The resulting vast expansion of territory and the flows of South American silver to Castile had profound long term effects on Spain.

Charles was only 56 when he abdicated, but after 40 years of active rule he was physically exhausted and sought the peace of a monastery, where he died at the age of 58. The Holy Roman Empire passed to his younger brother Ferdinand, archduke of Austria, while the Spanish Empire, including the possessions in the Netherlands and Italy, was inherited by Charles's son Philip II of Spain. The two empires would remain allies until the extinction of the male line of the Spanish branch of the Habsburgs in 1700.

Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor

Charles VI (1 October 1685 – 20 October 1740; German: Karl VI., Latin: Carolus VI) succeeded his elder brother, Joseph I, as Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia (as Charles II), King of Hungary and Croatia, Serbia and Archduke of Austria (as Charles III) in 1711. He unsuccessfully claimed the throne of Spain following the death of his relative, Charles II, In 1708 He married Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, by whom he had his two children: Maria Theresa, the last Habsburg sovereign, and Maria Anna, Governess of the Austrian Netherlands.

Four years before the birth of Maria Theresa, faced with his lack of male heirs, Charles provided for a male-line succession failure with the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713. The Emperor favoured his own daughters over those of his elder brother and predecessor, Joseph I, in the succession, ignoring the decree he had signed during the reign of his father, Leopold I. Charles sought the other European powers' approval. They exacted harsh terms: Britain demanded that Austria abolish its overseas trading company. In total, Great Britain, France, Saxony-Poland, the Dutch Republic, Spain, Venice, States of the Church, Prussia, Russia, Denmark, Savoy-Sardinia, Bavaria, and the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire recognised the sanction. France, Spain, Saxony-Poland, Bavaria and Prussia later reneged. Charles died in 1740, sparking the War of the Austrian Succession, which plagued his successor, Maria Theresa, for eight years.

Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor

Ferdinand I (Spanish: Fernando I) (10 March 1503 – 25 July 1564) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1558, king of Bohemia and Hungary from 1526, and king of Croatia from 1527 until his death in 1564. Before his accession, he ruled the Austrian hereditary lands of the Habsburgs in the name of his elder brother, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Also, he often served as Charles' representative in Germany and developed encouraging relationships with German princes.

The key events during his reign were the contest with the Ottoman Empire, which in the 1520s began a great advance into Central Europe, and the Protestant Reformation, which resulted in several wars of religion. Ferdinand was able to defend his realm and make it somewhat more cohesive, but he could not conquer the major part of Hungary. His flexible approach to Imperial problems, mainly religious, finally brought more result than the more confrontational attitude of his brother.

Ferdinand's motto was Fiat iustitia, et pereat mundus: "Let justice be done, though the world perish".

Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor

Ferdinand III (13 July 1608 – 2 April 1657) was Holy Roman Emperor from 15 February 1637 until his death, as well as King of Hungary and Croatia, King of Bohemia and Archduke of Austria.

Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor

Francis I (German: Franz Stefan, French: François Étienne; 8 December 1708 – 18 August 1765) was Holy Roman Emperor and Grand Duke of Tuscany, though his wife Maria Theresa effectively executed the real powers of those positions. They were the founders of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty. From 1728 until 1737 he was Duke of Lorraine. Francis traded the duchy to the ex-Polish king Stanisław Leszczyński in exchange for the Grand Duchy of Tuscany as one of the terms ending the War of the Polish Succession in November 1738. The duchy and the ducal title to Lorraine and Bar passed to King Louis XV of France upon Leszczynski's death in 1766, though Francis and his successors retained the right to style themselves as dukes of Lorraine and Bar.

Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor

Francis II (German: Franz; 12 February 1768 – 2 March 1835) was the last Holy Roman Emperor, ruling from 1792 until 6 August 1806, when he dissolved the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation after the decisive defeat at the hands of the First French Empire led by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz. In 1804, he had founded the Austrian Empire and became Francis I, the first Emperor of Austria, ruling from 1804 to 1835, so later he was named the one and only Doppelkaiser (double emperor) in history.

For the two years between 1804 and 1806, Francis used the title and style by the Grace of God elected Roman Emperor, ever Augustus, hereditary Emperor of Austria and he was called the Emperor of both the Holy Roman Empire and Austria. He was also Apostolic King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia as Francis I. He also served as the first president of the German Confederation following its establishment in 1815.

Francis II continued his leading role as an opponent of Napoleonic France in the Napoleonic Wars, and suffered several more defeats after Austerlitz. The proxy marriage of state of his daughter Marie Louise of Austria to Napoleon on 10 March 1810 was arguably his severest personal defeat. After the abdication of Napoleon following the War of the Sixth Coalition, Austria participated as a leading member of the Holy Alliance at the Congress of Vienna, which was largely dominated by Francis's chancellor Klemens Wenzel, Prince von Metternich culminating in a new European map and the restoration of Francis's ancient dominions (except the Holy Roman Empire which was dissolved). Due to the establishment of the Concert of Europe, which largely resisted popular nationalist and liberal tendencies, Francis became viewed as a reactionary later in his reign.

Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor

Frederick I (German: Friedrich I., Italian: Federico I; 1122 – 10 June 1190), also known as Frederick Barbarossa (Italian: Federico Barbarossa), was the Holy Roman Emperor from 2 January 1155 until his death. He was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152 and crowned in Aachen on 9 March 1152. He was crowned King of Italy on 24 April 1155 in Pavia and emperor by Pope Adrian IV on 18 June 1155 in Rome. Two years later, the term sacrum ("holy") first appeared in a document in connection with his empire. He was later formally crowned King of Burgundy, at Arles on 30 June 1178. He was named Barbarossa by the northern Italian cities which he attempted to rule: Barbarossa means "red beard" in Italian; in German, he was known as Kaiser Rotbart, which has the same meaning.

Before his imperial election, Frederick was by inheritance Duke of Swabia (1147–1152, as Frederick III). He was the son of Duke Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen dynasty and Judith, daughter of Henry IX, Duke of Bavaria, from the rival House of Welf. Frederick, therefore, descended from the two leading families in Germany, making him an acceptable choice for the Empire's prince-electors.

Historians consider him among the Holy Roman Empire's greatest medieval emperors. He combined qualities that made him appear almost superhuman to his contemporaries: his longevity, his ambition, his extraordinary skills at organization, his battlefield acumen and his political perspicacity. His contributions to Central European society and culture include the reestablishment of the Corpus Juris Civilis, or the Roman rule of law, which counterbalanced the papal power that dominated the German states since the conclusion of the Investiture Controversy.

Frederick died in 1190 in Asia Minor while leading an army in the Third Crusade.

Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor

Frederick II (26 December 1194 – 13 December 1250; Latin: Fridericus, Federicus, Italian: Federico, German: Frîderich, Friedrich) was King of Sicily from 1198, King of Germany from 1212, King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor from 1220 and King of Jerusalem from 1225.

He was the son of emperor Henry VI of the Hohenstaufen dynasty and of Constance, heiress to the Norman kings of Sicily.

Frederick's reign saw the Holy Roman Empire achieve its greatest territorial extent.

His political and cultural ambitions were enormous as he ruled a vast area beginning with Sicily and stretching through Italy all the way north to Germany. As the Crusades progressed, he acquired control of Jerusalem and styled himself its king. However, the Papacy became his enemy, and it eventually prevailed.

Viewing himself as a direct successor to the Roman emperors of antiquity, he was Emperor of the Romans from his papal coronation in 1220 until his death; he was also a claimant to the title of King of the Romans from 1212 and unopposed holder of that monarchy from 1215. As such, he was King of Germany, of Italy, and of Burgundy. At the age of three, he was crowned King of Sicily as a co-ruler with his mother, Constance of Hauteville, the daughter of Roger II of Sicily. His other royal title was King of Jerusalem by virtue of marriage and his connection with the Sixth Crusade.

Frequently at war with the papacy, which was hemmed in between Frederick's lands in northern Italy and his Kingdom of Sicily (the Regno) to the south, he was excommunicated four times and often vilified in pro-papal chronicles of the time and after. Pope Gregory IX went so far as to call him an Antichrist.

Speaking six languages (Latin, Sicilian, Middle High German, Langues d'oïl, Greek and Arabic), Frederick was an avid patron of science and the arts. He played a major role in promoting literature through the Sicilian School of poetry. His Sicilian royal court in Palermo, beginning around 1220, saw the first use of a literary form of an Italo-Romance language, Sicilian. The poetry that emanated from the school had a significant influence on literature and on what was to become the modern Italian language.

He was also the first king to formally outlaw trial by ordeal, which had come to be viewed as superstitious.After his death his line did not survive, and the House of Hohenstaufen came to an end. Furthermore, the Holy Roman Empire entered a long period of decline from which it did not completely recover until the reign of Charles V, 250 years later.

Historians have searched for superlatives to describe him, as in the case of Donald Detwiler, who wrote: A man of extraordinary culture, energy, and ability – called by a contemporary chronicler stupor mundi (the wonder of the world), by Nietzsche the first European, and by many historians the first modern ruler – Frederick established in Sicily and southern Italy something very much like a modern, centrally governed kingdom with an efficient bureaucracy.

Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor

Frederick III (21 September 1415 – 19 August 1493) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1452 until his death. He was the first emperor of the House of Habsburg, and the fourth member of the House of Habsburg to be elected King of Germany after Rudolf I of Germany, Albert I in the 13th century and his predecessor Albert II of Germany. He was the penultimate emperor to be crowned by the Pope, and the last to be crowned in Rome.

Prior to his imperial coronation, he was duke of the Inner Austrian lands of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola from 1424, and also acted as regent over the Duchy of Austria (as Frederick V) from 1439. He was elected and crowned King of Germany (as Frederick IV) in 1440. He was the longest-reigning German monarch when in 1493, after ruling his domains for more than 53 years, he was succeeded by his son Maximilian I.

During his reign, Frederick concentrated on re-uniting the Habsburg "hereditary lands" of Austria and took a lesser interest in Imperial affairs. Nevertheless, by his dynastic entitlement to Hungary as well as by the Burgundian inheritance, he laid the foundations for the later Habsburg Empire. Mocked as "Arch-Sleepyhead of the Holy Roman Empire" (German: Erzschlafmütze) during his lifetime, he is today increasingly seen as an efficient ruler.

Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor

Henry IV (German: Heinrich IV; 11 November 1050 – 7 August 1106) became King of the Germans in 1056. From 1084 until his forced abdication in 1105, he was also referred to as the King of the Romans and Holy Roman Emperor. He was the third emperor of the Salian dynasty and one of the most powerful and important figures of the 11th century. His reign was marked by the Investiture Controversy with the Papacy, and he was excommunicated five times by three different popes. Civil wars over his throne took place in both Italy and Germany. He died of illness, soon after defeating his son's army near Visé, in Lorraine, France.

Holy Roman Emperor

The Holy Roman Emperor (also "German-Roman Emperor", German: Römisch-deutscher Kaiser "Roman-German emperor"; historically Imperator Romanorum, "Emperor of the Romans") was the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire (considered by itself to be the successor of the Roman Empire) during the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The title was, almost without interruption, held in conjunction with title of King of Germany (rex teutonicorum) throughout the 12th to 18th centuries.From an autocracy in Carolingian times (AD 800–924) the title by the 13th century evolved into an elected monarchy chosen by the prince-electors.

Various royal houses of Europe, at different times, became de-facto hereditary holders of the title, notably the Ottonians (962–1024) and the Salians (1027–1125). Following the late medieval crisis of government, the Habsburgs kept possession of the title without interruption from 1440–1740.

The final emperors were from the House of Lorraine (Habsburg-Lorraine), from 1765–1806.

The Holy Roman Empire was dissolved after the defeat at Austerlitz by emperor Francis II, who continued to rule as Austrian emperor.

The Holy Roman Emperor was widely perceived to rule by divine right, though he often contradicted or rivaled the Pope, most notably during the Investiture controversy.

In theory, the Holy Roman Emperor was primus inter pares (first among equals) among other Catholic monarchs. In practice, a Holy Roman Emperor was only as strong as his army and alliances, including marriage alliances, made him. There was never a Holy Roman Empress regnant, though women such as Theophanu and Maria Theresa of Austria served as de facto Empresses regnant.

Throughout its history, the position was viewed as a defender of the Roman Catholic faith. Until the Reformation, the Emperor elect (imperator electus) was required to be crowned by the Pope before assuming the imperial title. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor was the last to be crowned by the Pope in 1530. Even after the Reformation, the elected Emperor always was a Roman Catholic. There were short periods in history when the electoral college was dominated by Protestants, and the electors usually voted in their own political interest.

Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor

Leopold I (full name: Leopold Ignaz Joseph Balthasar Felician; Hungarian: I. Lipót; 9 June 1640 – 5 May 1705) was Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary, Croatia, and Bohemia. The second son of Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, by his first wife, Maria Anna of Spain, Leopold became heir apparent in 1654 by the death of his elder brother Ferdinand IV. Elected in 1658, Leopold ruled the Holy Roman Empire until his death in 1705, becoming the longest-ruling Habsburg emperor (at 46 years and 9 months).

Leopold's reign is known for conflicts with the Ottoman Empire in the east and rivalry with Louis XIV, a contemporary and first cousin, in the west. After more than a decade of warfare, Leopold emerged victorious from the Great Turkish War thanks to the military talents of Prince Eugene of Savoy. By the Treaty of Karlowitz, Leopold recovered almost all of the Kingdom of Hungary, which had fallen under Turkish power in the years after the 1526 Battle of Mohács.

Leopold fought three wars against France: the Franco-Dutch War, the Nine Years' War, and the War of the Spanish Succession. In this last, Leopold sought to give his younger son the entire Spanish inheritance, disregarding the will of the late Charles II. Leopold started a war that soon engulfed much of Europe. The early years of the war went fairly well for Austria, with victories at Schellenberg and Blenheim, but the war would drag on until 1714, nine years after Leopold's death, which barely had an effect on the warring nations. When peace returned, Austria could not be said to have emerged as triumphant as it had from the war against the Turks.

Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor

Leopold II (Peter Leopold Joseph Anton Joachim Pius Gotthard; 5 May 1747 – 1 March 1792) was Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary, and Bohemia from 1790 to 1792, and Archduke of Austria and Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1765 to 1790. He was the earliest opponent of capital punishment in modern history. He was a son of Emperor Francis I and his wife, Empress Maria Theresa, and the brother of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France and Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor. Leopold was a moderate proponent of enlightened absolutism. He granted the Academy of Georgofili his protection.

Lothair II, Holy Roman Emperor

Lothair II or Lothair III (before 9 June 1075 – 4 December 1137), known as Lothair of Supplinburg, was Holy Roman Emperor from 1133 until his death. He was appointed Duke of Saxony in 1106 and elected King of Germany in 1125 before being crowned emperor in Rome. The son of the Saxon count Gebhard of Supplinburg, his reign was troubled by the constant intriguing of the Hohenstaufens, Duke Frederick II of Swabia and Duke Conrad of Franconia. He died while returning from a successful campaign against the Norman Kingdom of Sicily.

Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor

Maximilian I (22 March 1459 – 12 January 1519) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1508 until his death. He was never crowned by the Pope, as the journey to Rome was always too risky. He was instead proclaimed Emperor elect by Pope Julius II at Trent, thus breaking the long tradition

of requiring a papal coronation for the adoption of the imperial title. Maximilian was the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, and Eleanor of Portugal. He ruled jointly with his father for the last ten years of the latter's reign, from c. 1483 to his father's death in 1493.

Maximilian expanded the influence of the House of Habsburg through war and his marriage in 1477 to Mary of Burgundy, the heiress to the Duchy of Burgundy, though he also lost the Austrian territories in today's Switzerland to the Swiss Confederacy. Through marriage of his son Philip the Handsome to eventual queen Joanna of Castile in 1498, Maximilian helped to establish the Habsburg dynasty in Spain, which allowed his grandson Charles to hold the thrones of both Castile and Aragon.

Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor

Rudolf II (18 July 1552 – 20 January 1612) was Holy Roman Emperor (1576–1612), King of Hungary and Croatia (as Rudolf I, 1572–1608), King of Bohemia (1575–1608/1611) and Archduke of Austria (1576–1608). He was a member of the House of Habsburg.

Rudolf's legacy has traditionally been viewed in three ways: an ineffectual ruler whose mistakes led directly to the Thirty Years' War; a great and influential patron of Northern Mannerist art; and an intellectual devotee of occult arts and learning which helped seed what would be called the scientific revolution.

Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor

Sigismund of Luxembourg (15 February 1368 in Nuremberg – 9 December 1437 in Znaim, Moravia) was Prince-elector of Brandenburg from 1378 until 1388 and from 1411 until 1415, King of Hungary and Croatia from 1387, King of Germany from 1411, King of Bohemia from 1419, King of Italy from 1431, and Holy Roman Emperor from 1433 until 1437, and the last male member of the House of Luxembourg. In 1396 he led the Crusade of Nicopolis, which attempted to liberate Bulgaria and save the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople from Ottoman rule. Afterwards, he founded the Order of the Dragon to fight the Turks. He was regarded as highly educated, spoke several languages (among them French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin) and was an outgoing person who also took pleasure in the tournament. Sigismund was one of the driving forces behind the Council of Constance that ended the Papal Schism, but which also led to the Hussite Wars that dominated the later period of Sigismund's life.

Valerian (emperor)

Valerian (; Latin: Publius Licinius Valerianus Augustus; 193/195/200 – 260 or 264), also known as Valerian the Elder, was Roman Emperor from 22 October 253 AD to spring 260 AD. He was taken captive by the Persian Emperor, Shapur I, after the Battle of Edessa, becoming the first Roman emperor to be captured as a prisoner of war, causing shock and instability throughout the empire.

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