The Principate

The Princeps was an unofficial but important title that mean "First Citizen" or "First Statesman."

During the Republican era the princeps was used to give honor to special leaders. Pompey the Great was called princeps out of recognition for his victories for the state and his position within Rome.

Others received the name, including Cicero for the Catiline Affair in 63 B.C. Julius Caesar won the title from Cicero in 49 B.C.

Julius Caesar had wanted to transform Roman society and Octavian wanted to re-establish it within a new order. For example Octavian forced men out of the Senate if they were not a direct descendant of the highest Roman nobility. He made a decree that no Roman citizen could marry a freeman, or anyone outside his own rank.

Octavian restored the old Republican Temples with marble and the old forms of the Republican government were to be observed. When Octavian acted it was only through the Senate and Assembly. In 27 B.C. he laid down all of his powers and it was the Senate who would grant them back to him through the people. Therefore by senatorial proclamation Octavian became:

Princeps – The head of the Senate and first citizen of the state

Imperator Caesar Divi filius – Commander-in-chief of the armed forces and son of the divine Julius (thus he became an object of worship).

Augustus – Restorer and augmenter of the state (a title bestowed on gods).

The Senate therefore recognized that the old order was gone and new times had come. After nearly a century of civil war the biggest desire of all Romans was peace and order and Augustus Caesar would give it to them.