Princeps is Latin ( primus caps (of capere ), originally meaning " ( at the prey distribution) Taking First") and is generally translated as " first citizen " or "first among equals". He was the official title of the Roman emperors in the system of the principate.

The origin of this name is in the Office of the Princeps Senatus, who served in the Roman Senate as a primus inter pares, who cast his vote during a Senate meeting first. For the designation of a potential successor of the emperor was used the title princeps iuventutis.

The first holder of the title princeps was Augustus, BC his position with this term since rewrote 27 ( "me principe "). He had recognized that an open monarchical order of the senate and people would not be accepted, and gave up his title dictator or even rex (king), because he had learned of the assassination of Julius Caesar, which the dictator perpetuus ( dictator without term limits ) had let appoint. Augustus therefore constructed a monarchical order, which was obscured by a republican facade. The details of this system see Principate.

Already Domitian described himself not as princeps, dominus et deus but as ( Lord and God ), but returned his followers back to the older language rules. In late antiquity, was then also refrained from openly by the Republican facade - it corresponded to reality, of course, already under Augustus not. At the same time the name stuck princeps still common to the 6th century. Go to the official Kaisertitulatur ( Imperator Caesar Augustus ) never counted, only the usurper Maxentius was called at the beginning of his reign princeps invictus.

From about the middle ages is among the Latin word princeps in the German language of the noble title of prince with a claim to the title " Highness " and " Grace " understood. The German name " Prince " again is linguistically related to the English word "the first", or " the first ".