The highest-ranking title, that of emperor, derived from the Latin imperator, was originally a military title; the leader of a victorious army was saluted imperator by his soldiers. It was assumed by Augustus Caesar and the sovereigns of the Roman and Byzantine empires who followed him. The title received its modern meaning when it was conferred on Charlemagne in 800, and it was revived when Otto I was crowned (962) Holy Roman emperor. In Russia it was used from the time of Peter I until the dissolution of imperial Russia. It has also been the equivalent of the titles of the sovereigns of China, Japan, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, Ethiopia, and India. Napoleon assumed the title of emperor of the French in 1804, and Queen Victoria was proclaimed empress of India in 1877. Caesar, the cognomen of Julius Caesar, was adopted by Augustus (44 B.C.), and his successors as emperor took the name until Hadrian, who designated Caesar as the title of the heir apparent; the imperial use of Caesar was continued with the German Kaiser and the Russian czar.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.