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An Upside-Down History of the World [Japanese]
[Chapter 3] The Origins of Monotheism

Part 1: A Human Hypothesis
36 Titles of Influence

(Caesar) Gaius Julius Caesar was the Roman Empire’s first Imperator (emperor).

illustrator/Masato Kumagai

You might remember Saladin, the leader of the Islamic Empire’s Fatimid Caliphate who became leader and first sultan of Egypt. The title of sultan, along with Christianity’s many influential appellations, is unique.

You might also remember that the territory of Rome was initially a republic—that is, a country without a monarch. Of course, the people of the Roman Republic had none of the modern communication methods we enjoy today. They had no way to instantaneously communicate over long distances, and certainly no way to listen to the voice of the people. With its preference for collective decision-making, the expanding empire became increasingly indecisive. The republic fell apart, and the need for a dictator grew.

Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44 BC), most popularly known as Julius Caesar, assumed control of the government as dictator and began a number of social and governmental reforms to the republic, but was eventually assassinated by the opposition.

His adoptive son, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (lived 63 BC-AD 14, reigned 27 BC- AD 14) or Augustus (title meaning “majestic” or “venerable”) inherited and built upon his dictatorial power. But it was Augustus who became the first Roman Emperor.

Imperial Inheritors

Imperial succession in the empire was originally not hereditary, but became so once the empire split between the East and the West in 395.

After Rome had split into Eastern and Western empires, the world would, for a period, witness two emperors. But the collapse of both the Western Roman Empire in 476 and the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) in 1453 would push the emperor, in the original sense of the word, into extinction.

Eventually, it was the East’s and the West’s adoption of Christianity (Catholic and Greek Orthodox, respectively) that gave rise to the idea that the architects of the equally great Christian Empire were, in the Church’s eyes, “inheritors of the Roman Empire.”

And it was the leader of the Church who had the authority to not only invest such people as the inheritors of the Roman Empire, but also crown them as emperor.

In the year AD 800, the pope in Rome proceeded over the coronation of Charles the Great (lived 742-814, reigned 800-814), the great conqueror of Western Europe. For the Catholic Church, Charles the Great’s empire symbolized the rebirth of the Roman Empire. Its Christian rival, the Byzantine Empire, however, didn’t recognize the leader as emperor. And when it came to the Western Roman Empire’s thoughts on the leader of the Byzantine Empire, the feeling was mutual.

But with the influx of the completely dissimilar Germanic culture, particularly in the West, Christian Europe began to fragment along national lines, and the illustrious conqueror of the West, like Charles the Great, had become a thing of the past.