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DICTATOR
The Latin term for a magistrate appointed for special emergencies, after auspices duly taken by the consuls on the commission of the senate. The dictator was never eapgointed for more than six months. The first instance of the appointment occurred in 501 B.C. The dictator was usually, though not always, chosen from the number of consulares or men who had hold the office of consul. No plebeian was elected before 356 B.C. He was always nominated for a particular or specified purpose, on the fulfilment of which he laid down his office. He combined the supreme judicial with the supreme military power, and there was, originally, no appeal against his proceedings, even the veto of the tribunes being powerless against him. He was entirely irresponsible for his acts, and could therefore not be called to account on the expiration of his term of office. His insignia were the sella curulis, toga proetexta, and 24 lictors, who represented the lictors of two consuls, and who even in the city bore axes in their bundle of rods, as a sign of the unlimited power of life and death. His assistant was the magister equitum (master of the horse), who was bound absolutely to obey his commands, and whom he had to nominate immediately after his own election. The original function of the dictator was military; but after 363 B.C. a dictator was occasionally chosen, in the absence of the consuls, for other purposes than dealing with external danger or internal troubles; especially to hold the games or religious festivities. The office gradually passed out of use, though not legally abolished. The last military dictator was appointed in 206 B.C., the last absolutely in 202 B.C. The dictatorships of Sulla and Caesar, who was named perpetual dictator not long before his death, were anti-republican and unconstitutional. After Caesar was murdered in 44 B.C., the office was abolished for ever by a law of Marcus Antonius.
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