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Dictatorship is extraordinary; emergency position in ancient Rome, which was introduced at critical moments for the state - during wars or civil unrest. This word comes from the Latin verb dictare (repeat, prescribe).

Initially, the dictator was called the "leader of the people." At first he was elected from the patricians, but in 356 BC. For the first time, a plebeian became a dictator.

In the hands of the dictator was unlimited judicial, legislative and executive power. During the execution of his office, he was not accountable to anyone. For up to 6 months, the dictator received a full empire - the highest powers in the state. His court sentences were considered final and not subject to appeal, and the laws he issued were immediately put into effect without the usual approval in such cases at the people's assembly. All the magistrates were subordinate to the dictator, with the exception of the people's tribunes, but even they could not use the right of "veto" against the actions of the dictator. And any citizen could not appeal to the people's assembly with a protest if he believed that the actions of the dictator were arbitrariness. The dictator was the commander-in-chief of the Roman army and had the right to appoint an assistant to himself - the head of the cavalry, whose powers were lower (in 217 BC, both of these positions were equalized in rights). The dictator appointed auspices - divination by the behavior of sacred birds about upcoming events, the results of which were given state significance.

Inside Rome, the power of the dictator was not complete: he could not control the life and death of citizens. But behind the first mile post from the city - where the power of the people's assembly and the tribune did not operate - he could put any person to death.

At the end of six months, the dictator was obliged to withdraw his powers and submit a report to the people's assembly on his actions.

The Romans made up legends about the simplicity of the manners of the ancient dictators. Let's take one of them. In 458 BC, when the Italic tribe of the Equi surrounded the Roman army on Mount Algid, the senate appointed Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus as dictator. This man did not know anything about such a high appointment, he was found plowing his own field: in the eyes of the Romans, this work was honorable. It was a hot day, and Cincinnatus worked completely naked. In this form, the messengers found him. Having learned what was the matter, he wiped off the sweat, dressed and at the head of a small detachment attacked the enemies. When the Roman army was saved, Cincinnatus resigned as dictator and returned to plowing.
Especially often dictators were appointed in the IV century. BC, when the Romans had to repel the invasion of the Gauls, as well as fight with neighboring Italic tribes. From the time of the Second Punic War until the 1st c. BC. the post of dictator remained unfilled.

From the beginning of the civil wars, which shook the Roman state to its foundations, the nature of the dictatorship changed dramatically. This position now only covered the personal arbitrariness of political leaders, who aspired to it only in order to give the legal character to their own sole power. The attitude of the Romans to this position also changed: from now on, the image of Cincinnatus evoked in them a feeling of hopeless longing for the good old days.

In 82 BC Lucius Cornelius Sulla (see Art. "Marius and Sulla") achieved the adoption of a law that, bypassing all republican traditions, gave him, under the plausible pretext of the need to issue laws and establish a state, a dictatorship for an indefinite period and, moreover, with the broadest powers. Sulla received not only the usual right for a dictator to legislate. He had the right to appoint magistrates (and earlier the dictator could only control their activities), conducted foreign policy (in the previous period, the dictators did not do this), and, which the dictators of the past did not even dare to dream of, Sulla received the right to freely dispose of the life and property of citizens .

In 44 BC Caesar, also for the first time in Roman history, received a lifetime magistracy from the senate. Together with other high positions - the emperor, the supreme commander and the great pontiff (high priest) - the dictatorship became the basis of his almost monarchical power.

After the assassination of Caesar in 44 BC. Mark Antony, the dictator's de facto successor, passed a law that banned dictatorship forever. From now on, the person who seized this position, as well as the one who nominated the dictator, was awaiting the death penalty.

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