from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The German title emperor (female empress ) is derived from the name of the Roman politician Gaius Iulius Caesar , who functioned as the de facto head of state at the end of the Roman Republic . The rule and seldom also the area of ​​rule are referred to as empire . In antiquity, since the time of Augustus , Caesar's great-nephew, the rulers of the Roman Empire were called Emperor Caesar Augustus (see also Principle and Late Antiquity ). While inEastern Roman-Byzantine Empire, the empire existed until 1453, the western Roman empire expired in 476/80.

In the European Middle Ages , after the "renewal" of the western empire by Charlemagne in 800, the rulers of the Franconian Empire and later of the Holy Roman Empire, crowned by the Pope, were also referred to as emperors. The previously existing sacred aspect of the empire was interpreted more Christianly than before, the western emperors were seen as protectors of the West and of the Christian faith. In connection with this, they should also be entitled to the honorary sovereignty over the Latin-Christian kings, although this was in fact impossible or difficult to enforce. The medieval empire was thus a "increased royal rule". In modern times the title lost its sacred and universal character, became increasingly identical with the title of king and also referred to non-Christian, non-European rulers, especially if they claimed a divine origin. Since 1979, the Tennō of Japan is the only monarch to be called emperor.


The Old High German keisar is derived from the Latin proper name Caesar by Gaius Iulius Caesar, which was pronounced [kaisar] in ancient times, in Greek [kaisar] or [kaisaros]. The change from the personal name Caesar to the title of ruler Caesar took place in a process that lasted eight and a half decades from the death of Gaius Julius Caesar in 44 BC. Until the inauguration of the emperor Claudius in the year 41 AD. At the same time keisar was probably the oldest Latin loan word in Germanic. The historically and culturally Catholic peoples of Eastern Central Europe such as Poles, Czechs and Hungarians speak of "Cesarz", "Císař" and "Császár". Only in the Middle Ages, however, did the old Slavic borrowing emerge, which later led to the word tsar .

In the Romance languages , on the other hand, a word borrowed from Imperator - the title of military high commander in the sense of general , which Augustus had also led, but which only became an integral part of the Roman imperial titulature from Nero onwards - denotes the emperor, such as the Italian imperatore , the Spanish emperador or the French empereur , to which the English emperor also goes back. Also in the Albanian word mbret for “king” the imperator can still be recognized.

In Middle High German scripts, the spellings kayser , keizer or keyser usually appear.

The imperial title in the ancient Roman Empire

Statue of Augustus

The emergence of the imperial title under Augustus

After Gaius Iulius Caesar in the years 49 to 45 BC. After having achieved sole rule over the Roman Empire during the civil war , he did not dare to acquire the title of king , which the Romans hated . Since the early Roman Republic had known the extraordinary office of dictator for times of need , Caesar was elected Dictator perpetuus (“dictator for life”) by the Senate .

He also carried the title Imperator , which, like Imperium, is derived from imperare ("command") and originally referred to the military command over a legion . At the time of the republic, any commander in a legion could be proclaimed emperor by his troops. Later the title was reserved for the emperors alone. It denoted the real source of their power, military power.

The first emperor in history is not generally considered to be Caesar, but rather his great-nephew Gaius Octavius, who later became Augustus . After Caesar's murder in 44 BC, he took Chr. The name, since the dictator him testamentary adopted had. He called himself from 42 BC. Until 38 BC Chr. Gaius Julius Caesar divi filius (ie "Julius Caesar, son of the deified") until 27 v. BC Emperor Caesar divi filius ( he did not officially use the nickname Octavian , by which he is known to historians).

After he too had eliminated all rivals for power, he disguised his de facto monarchical position, which was formally secured by the granting of some important exceptional powers ( tribunicia potestas , imperium proconsulare maius ), by the modest-sounding title princeps , previously known as princeps senatus ( "First of the Senate") had designated a first among equals, but was now understood as the "first citizen". From this title the words principe (Italian) and prince (French, English) emerged, which mean "prince". The German word " Prinz " comes from the old French prince .

For the alleged "restoration of the republic" the Senate awarded Octavian in 27 BC The honorary title Augustus , the "sublime", under which he went down in history. From then on he was officially called Imperator Caesar Augustus , and all three components of his name became titles of rulers over time: Not only Caesar and Augustus as well as the title Imperator (das praenomen imperatoris ), but also his state offices, the highest in Rome, became practically hereditary in his family, so that the principate was de facto a monarchy , while de iure continued to live in the res publica . The origin of the empire as an exceptional office was always preserved by the fact that the office was never hereditary de iure : Even in late antiquity , the presumptive successor had to become his co-emperor during the lifetime of the predecessor in order to ensure a smooth succession to the throne. At the same time, the eternal exceptional character of the imperial position ensured that the position of the Roman rulers was on the one hand always threatened because their legitimacy was fragile, but on the other hand they had an abundance of power that was not restricted by any law or opposition. Their options for action were limited only by the fact that they had to expect attacks and usurpations in the event of a loss of acceptance .

Since Emperor Claudius , the name Caesar has finally become part of the Roman ruler's title. The neighbors of the empire therefore soon used it as a name for the Roman monarch - this practice caught on early on in the Germanic and Slavic languages ​​as well as in Persian and Arabic. In the Romansh, however, the names of the ruler are mostly derived from imperator .

Since Vespasian at the latest, all special competencies have been assigned to each emperor when he took office and was recognized by the Senate. From then on, all Roman rulers carried the three names or titles of Imperator Caesar Augustus until the end of antiquity , supplemented by their individual names and any nicknames. The origins of the empire in the exceptional powers of Augustus always remained recognizable.

The emperor in late antiquity

In late antiquity , the meaning of the title changed Augustus . During the time of the tetrarchy of Emperor Diocletian, there were two Augusti , i.e. senior emperors , each of whom had its own domain. Formally, the empire remained a monarchy in which only one ruler allowed others to participate in his empire; if the hierarchy was not clear, there was a risk of disputes over rank up to the civil war. A tendency towards this development had already become noticeable during the imperial crisis of the 3rd century , when several emperors appointed co-emperors. A junior emperor and designated successor was usually referred to as Caesar (see below). After 285 there was seldom (324–337; 361–364) just a single Augustus , imperial colleges from Augusti (and sometimes Caesares ) became the rule. Since Valentinian I and Valens , one emperor as Augustus has usually ruled in the west and another in the east. After the death of Theodosius I , the last emperor of the entire empire, this development was in fact final in 395 ( empire division of 395 ), as the western empire expired in 476/80. From the point of view of the Eastern Roman emperors, however, this only meant that the West was again subject to them - a claim that Justinian actually tried to enforce militarily. In fact, under constitutional law there was never a division of the Roman Empire, only a division of the Empire; when this ended, the remaining Augustus had a formal claim to rule over the entire (former) empire.

The late antique empire largely, but never completely, renounced the ideology of the Augustan principate ; Since Diocletian, the emperors have openly presented themselves as monarchs and documented their position with insignia such as the diadem and a sophisticated court ceremony. In fact, however, they had less power than in the early and high imperial period; this is especially true of the Western Roman rulers.

In the west, the series of Roman emperors ended in 476 with Romulus Augustulus and 480 with Julius Nepos , in the east Herakleios abandoned the title imperator (or autocrator ) around 625 and henceforth used the name basileus - this ended the late antique empire and the Greco-Byzantine empire started.

Special meanings of the title "Caesar"

For the first time under Galba , then consistently since the time of Emperor Hadrian , the title Caesar (without the addition of Augustus ) was applied to the designated successor of the ruler. The imperial reform under Emperor Diocletian then provided for a tetrarchy of two senior emperors ( Augusti ) and two junior emperors ( Caesares ). This remained the norm for a long time, so Constantine the Great made his sons Caesares . Only Emperor Valentinian I elevated his son Gratian to Augustus . From then on, only those sub-emperors who were not sons of the ruling Augustus were raised to Caesares .

In the Byzantine Empire , Caesar remained part of the official imperial title until Justinian II . It then continues to appear as a special honorary title, almost exclusively within the imperial family. Under Alexios I. Komnenos , the title lost this meaning and was later devalued to an honorary title.

The sacred aspect of the empire

One of the highest offices in ancient Rome was that of the high priest, the Pontifex Maximus , which Caesar had already held. Since 12 BC All emperors were also Pontifex Maximus. This gave Augustus and his successors a sacral dignity in addition to their secular dignity. The sacred dimension of the empire could look back on a long tradition that had already begun in the ancient Near East and, especially under Hellenism , had penetrated into the Mediterranean. Caesar was deified after his death, his successor Augustus was implicitly brought closer to the gods, and this line was continued in ancient Rome. It finally culminated in the rigid court ceremony of late antiquity . After the Christianization under Constantine the Great , the pagan title Pontifex Maximus was discarded (albeit first under Gratian and Theodosius I ), but the sacredness of the imperial dignity remained practically untouched, as the idea of divine right now developed.

The Byzantine emperors, the Russian tsars and the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire derived from the sacred rites of their coronation , which are sometimes understood as sacrament , a priestly position and the claim to be on an equal footing with the pope as the highest secular dignitaries. This claim and the related interventions by the emperors in the ecclesiastical sphere led in the West in the 11th century to a serious conflict between the Roman-German Empire and the Roman papacy , the investiture controversy , in which the latter largely prevailed and later even for itself claimed to have the empire and even the election of the Rex Romanorum . However, this claim was finally rejected in the 14th century (see Golden Bull ). But a dispute also arose in the other western kingdoms, albeit not with such severity. In the East - in Byzantium as well as in Russia - the emperors and tsars always succeeded in maintaining priority over the patriarchs of their respective Orthodox churches .

The precarious position of the Roman emperor

In the eyes of many ancient historians, the Roman monarchy was an “acceptance system” ( Egon Flaig ): Like any legitimate government, the Roman monarchy was dependent on the approval or at least tolerance by the majority; Due to their origins in an exceptional office, it was particularly difficult for the Roman rulers to secure this. Since one still lived formally in the res publica , there was no single, indisputable source of legitimacy (such as succession or election) for an autocratic ruler. For this very reason the imperial position de iure was not hereditary. It is true that the empire as such was undisputed very soon after Augustus, but the person of the monarch was particularly easy to question in Rome and his legitimacy to be doubted particularly easily. So the emperor had to be accepted by the relevant groups in the empire so that he could stay in power. These groups were initially (27 BC to around 260 AD) the Senate, the plebs urbana in Rome and the military ( Praetorians and legionaries ). No authority could emerge which made the authority of a person as a whole binding; there was never a generally accepted rule in the event of a controversial succession. Neither the Senate, the plebs urbana nor the army were authorized to appoint or depose an emperor - if one of these groups proclaimed a new ruler, he had to buy, blackmail or fight for the approval of the other groups. The army, as the most important power factor, quickly gained a dominant position. In 37 AD the soldiers acclaimed Caligula to be emperor, which the other two institutions had to accept. But the army was not homogeneous either. No part of the army could speak in the name of others, so that the armed conflict between various imperial candidates had to bring about the decision ( four-emperor year , second four-emperor year ). Only when one part of the army gained supremacy could it rule on the rise of the emperor. The system of tetrarchical rule introduced by Diocletian led to a corresponding number of armies that could possibly face each other again - this case also occurred during the dissolution of the Roman tetrarchy after 306.

The assumption of power by usurpation meant that the incumbent emperor died or was overthrown. Therefore the pretender had to try to control the center as much as possible. This was true of the principate era (including the time of the soldier emperors ). With the exception of Postumus , Zenobia and the emperors of the tetrarchy, almost all of them strove to gain rule over the entire empire. In the later 4th century, when the multi-emperorship had established itself and a regional division of tasks among the members of the imperial college became more and more established, this changed fundamentally. The usurpers after Constantine I mostly did not want to rule the whole empire, but only their part (like Magnus Maximus ).

This situation allowed two possibilities: Either the regional emperors subordinated themselves to the central emperor, or the rulers were in fact divided up. This last development had the consequence that the Roman Empire could hardly react to tensions as a whole. There was no longer a center of the entire empire, but several centers. There was no longer any capital or institution that braced the empire from Syria to Spain. The developments diverged: in the east the empire held, in the west it was gradually marginalized by the army masters ( magistri militum ) in the 5th century. Nevertheless, the military strength of the empire remained relatively intact for a long time, and the two halves of the empire, which had in fact been finally divided since 395, often cooperated closely and saw themselves not as separate states but as one and the same res publica . Until 450, both halves were ruled by closely related emperors.

Valentinian I. had strengthened the army master's office around 370. He had raised his son Gratian to the second Augustus in the western empire. When Valentinian died, the two military masters Equitus and Merobaudes raised the 4-year-old son Valentinian II to Augustus. Gratian accepted this act. With this, the army masters had for the first time acted as emperor-makers in disobedience to the will of the deceased and in opposition to the incumbent emperor; However, Valentinian was Gratian's half-brother, so this was not an act against the imperial family. 15 years later there was a confrontation between Valentinian and Arbogast , in the course of which the emperor tried to dismiss his master, but it did not succeed. He tore up the certificate of discharge with the words: “You have not given me the office and you will not be able to take it from me” ( Zosimos IV 53f.). After the death of his predecessor (probably his father), the Franconian army master Bauto , Arbogast had been elevated by the officers to his successor, the first real usurpation of the office of army master. The young emperor had to accept that. The Army Master's Office thus appeared as an independent institution alongside the Imperial Office. The subsequent emperors of the west had lost control of the army. That was the beginning of the end of the Western Roman Empire. At the latest with the assassination of the emperor Valentinian III. This decline was sealed by the followers of the army master Flavius ​​Aëtius, whom he had slain with his own hands shortly before, in 455: the liberation attempt had failed.

In Ostrom, on the other hand, the rulers succeeded in maintaining freedom of action vis-à-vis the powerful aristocrats and the military; The last three decades of the 5th century were decisive here, when Emperor Leo killed the overpowering army master Aspar and Anastasius was also able to suppress the power of the Isaurians by 498 . From then on, the Eastern Roman emperors were again the undisputed rulers in the empire, and in the 6th century the most important of them, Justinian , was even able to extend his rule over large parts of the lost West. It was under him that the late antique court ceremony, which was supposed to rapture the emperor and make it as unassailable as possible, reached its climax; it was retained and refined in Byzantine times.

The Byzantine Empire and the imperial titles derived from it


In the Byzantine Empire , the Roman imperial tradition continued for around 800 years after the end of antiquity in the 7th century - until Constantinople was conquered by the Turks in 1453. Under Emperor Herakleios (610–641) the Greek title was replaced by the Latin Augustus Imperator Basileus introduced, which took into account the increasing Greekization of the empire. The respective basileus of Byzantium never gave up the constitutional right to be the legal successor of the ancient Roman emperors. With the title Basileus ton Rhomaion , "Ruler of the Romans", expanded since 812 , the emperors in Constantinople made this claim even more clear. Presumably this served as a special demarcation to the empire in the west, which was renewed by Charlemagne in 800, which is, however, controversial in research. The title of the Byzantine main emperor was also autocrator , while Basileus was given to co-emperors, especially since the 10th century.

During the Crusades Constantinople was taken by the Crusader armies at the instigation of Venice in 1204. In Constantinople and other areas ruled by the “Latins” (Catholics), the so-called Latin Empire emerged , a crusader state that was dependent on papal Rome and Venice and ruled primarily by French nobles. The same was in fact - both through successful "Greek" counter-offensives and through the independence efforts of its own "Frankish" vassals - very soon limited to the capital Constantinople. With their recapture by the Greek emperors of Nikaia in 1261, the Latin Empire ended, the last emperor Baldwin II (1228–1261) died in exile in 1273. His son Philipp von Courtenay , however, maintained his claim to the throne as titular emperor († 1283), his granddaughter Katherina II von Courtenay († 1346) bequeathed the Latin emperor title to her son Robert von Anjou , Prince of Taranto († 1366). After the Tarentine Anjou died out in 1373, the titular empire fell to Jacques des Baux , and after his death to the French prince Ludwig I (Louis I) , Duke of Anjou († 1384). His son Ludwig II (Louis I) of Anjou seems to have made the last claim to the imperial title in 1384. This younger house of Anjou, which in the 14th and 15th centuries also laid claim to the royal crown of Sicily (more precisely: to the partial kingdom of Naples ) with varying success , died in 1480 with Count Rene of Provence , who was the titular king of Jerusalem, Sicily and Aragon had also inherited the claims to the Latin imperial title. These ultimately fell - without being obviously asserted - to Renes' heirs: the kings of France and the dukes of Lorraine and Bar, and through these in turn the Austrian imperial house of Habsburg-Lothringen .

Nikaia (Nicaea)

After the conquest of Constantinople in 1204, in sharp opposition to the Latin Empire, a number of "Greek" (i.e. Orthodox) successor states had formed, some of which claimed the vacant Byzantine imperial title. The most powerful part of the state was the empire of Nikaia (Latin also: Nicaea) ruled first by the Laskarids , from 1258/59 by the palaeologists , which finally managed to recapture Constantinople in 1261 and the Byzantine Empire again under the dynasty of the palaeologists for almost two centuries to build. The last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI. Palaiologos (1449–1453) was killed in battle during the conquest of his capital by the Ottomans. Side branches of the paleologists dynasty survived long term in Italy (Margraves of Montferrat ) and to this day in France; Influential people come from the latter line, such as the ambassador at the Tsar's court, Maurice Paléologue (1859–1944), who was also gifted as a writer , who played an important political role in World War I and whose memoirs are an important historical source.


Despite better dynastic claims, the rival states of Thessaloniki , whose rulers came from the Byzantine imperial dynasty of the Angeloi , which ruled until 1204 and who also claimed the imperial title from 1215 to 1240, as well as the Trapezunt empire located in northern Asia Minor , that of Descendants of the imperial dynasty of the Comnenes who ruled Byzantium until 1185 . While Thessaloniki was partly conquered by Nikaia and partly disintegrated into subordinate principalities ( despotates ), Trebizond was able to maintain its independence even longer than the Byzantine Empire, which was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453 .

In 1282, however, the ruling dynasty gave up the claim to the title of "Emperor of the Rhomeans" and thus recognized the nominal supremacy of the emperor in Constantinople. This went hand in hand with a dynastic connection between the two ruling houses. With Andronikos II, the Byzantine emperor was even temporarily regent of Trebizond at the beginning of the 14th century. Similar to Byzantium in its late period, Trebizond had long since become a Turkish vassal state - first dependent on the Sultanate of Asia Minor Iconium ( Konya ), then on the Ottomans. They forced the surrender of Trebizond in 1461, deposed the last "Grand Comnene" David Komnenos (1458–1461) and murdered the ex-emperor and almost his entire family in 1466.

Russian Empire

Just as the Frankish and later the German kings saw themselves as successors to the Western Roman emperors , the Russian grand dukes viewed themselves as the legitimate heirs of the Eastern Roman Empire after the fall of Constantinople , although they never attributed this to it in international exchange. With the fall of Constantinople they were the most respected rulers of the Orthodox faith, and Grand Duke Ivan III. 1472 had Zoe (Russian Sofia ), a niece of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI. Married paleologos.

Under Ivan III. the idea of ​​Moscow as “Third Rome” was formulated and the title “ Tsar ” was used. The tsar title stood for two things: the unrestricted autocracy of the Russian rulers and the protection of the true faith (i.e. the Orthodox faith). But the European powers hesitated to grant or, after the coronation of Ivan IV the Terrible in 1547, to recognize the title of Tsar. The problem of the recognition of the Tsar's title by the other European powers was based on the problem of the comparability of the title. The term tsar had no meaning within the European state system and could not easily be classified into it. However, since the Russian rulers used this title and became more and more important for Europe, the other European rulers had to grapple with this foreign title. The powers of Europe did not know how to translate the title of Tsar. From the beginning the words "imperator", "Keyser" or "emperor" were used in the translations. In accepting the tsarist title, the Moscow Grand Dukes were not concerned with becoming part of the European state system, but with using the title as an expression of the independence and autonomy of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. If the rulers of Moscow had seen the integration of their empire into the European hierarchy as their primary goal, they would have chosen a title known to the European rulers and thus documented their required position in it. This is made clear by the fact that the Moscow rulers did not opt ​​for royal dignity, but deliberately chose the title of tsar.

Only Tsar Peter I ("Peter the Great") took the title "Emperor and autocrat ( autocrat ) of all Russians - Tsar of Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod, Kazan and Astrakhan" or "Emperor of all Russians " on October 20, 1721 and announced a month later on November 21 the title as "Imperial Majesty" ( Imperatorskoje Velitschestwo ). But it was only gradually that the Russian rulers were recognized as equal to the emperor's title in the Western European system of courts and diplomacy . The Russian rulers carried the title of imperator until the fall of Nicholas II in 1917. The title “Tsar” was retained in a subordinate position in the full title.

Imperial title in Bulgaria

The Byzantine model had an impact in the High Middle Ages on the formation of larger empires of Slavic peoples in the Balkans, who also took on the title of emperor or tsar in open competition with the Byzantine empire, although it should be noted that the Byzantine emperor title Basileus corresponded to the Roman emperor, the Slavic tsar but only the subordinate Caesar title. Tsar was not automatically to be equated with emperor. Bulgarian and Serbian tsars therefore strove for a clear rise in rank.

The first attempt of this kind was made by Boris I , who became the first Christian ruler of Bulgaria after his baptism as Knjas . International recognition took place under Simeon I († 927), who was crowned "Basileus (Emperor) of the Bulgarians" by the Patriarch of Constantinople Nicholas I in 912 and was thus de facto for a short time on a par with the Byzantine emperor. After the defeat of the Byzantines in the Battle of Anchialos , he declared himself - according to the imperial title - now to the "Tsar of the Bulgarians and Rhomeans". The title reveals that Simeon was not concerned with a Bulgarian empire, as was initially assumed, but with taking over the Byzantine imperial title and his capital, Constantinople, which he sought to conquer. Both failed, the First Bulgarian Empire was destroyed 100 years later (1018) by the Byzantines. The dynasty of the Asseniden tied to the Tsar tradition again in 1185, and after the fall of Constantinople, the Bulgarian Tsar thought again to take over the Byzantine imperial title, however, were from the Latin Empire defeated. The Second Bulgarian Empire lost its power and importance in the 14th century, long before it was conquered by the Ottomans in 1393.

When the Principality of Bulgaria, which had been autonomous since 1878, declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1908, the previous Prince Ferdinand I took on the title of Tsar again, following on from the medieval tradition of the Greater Empire. In international comparison, however, he could be called a king, not an emperor.

Imperial title in Serbia

Instead of Bulgaria, the Kingdom of Serbia became the new challenger to Byzantium, whose ruler Stefan Uroš IV. Dušan († 1355) demonstratively accepted the imperial title in 1346 as "Tsar of Serbs and Rhomeans", here too a counter-empire to Byzantium instead of a Serbian empire . Dušan's empire quickly fell apart after the sudden death of its founder, even before the Ottomans subjugated the Serbs to their rule. None of his successors claimed the title of emperor, the princes of Serbia, who had been independent again since 1878, called themselves kings from 1882.

Western European empire and imperial title (800–1918)

The imperial title in the Franconian Empire

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the deposition of its last emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476, the imperial tradition in the west was initially torn down. The Eastern Roman emperors claimed to be the rightful rulers of the entire Roman Empire, and Justinian I (527-565) was able to underpin this claim temporarily through the conquest of parts of Italy, Spain and North Africa. In the 7th and 8th centuries, however, this Byzantine claim in the west was only theoretical in view of the growing Germanic kingdoms of the Franks and Lombards and the Islamic conquest of North Africa and large parts of Spain.

The imperial coronation of the Frankish king Charlemagne on Christmas Day of the year 800 in Rome was therefore regarded as a power-politically based restoration of the Roman Empire (or empire) in the west ( restauratio imperii ) or as a transfer of the same to the Frankish king ( translatio imperii ). In 812 Charlemagne also achieved recognition of the equality of his imperial title from the Byzantine Empire .

Charlemagne called himself serenissimus Augustus a deo coronatus magnus, pacificus, imperator romanum gubernans imperium, qui et per misericordiam dei rex Francorum et Langobardorum , "most gracious, exalted, god-crowned, great, peace-bringing emperor who rules the Roman Empire, through God's mercy also King of the Franks and Lombards ”. Above all, the rule over the Longobard Empire, thus the Lombard (Lombard) Kingdom of Italy, has since become the key to power politics of the Northern Italian Empire ( Imperial Italy ). This was handed down during the 9th century in different lines of the Carolingians , the last being two East Franconian (German) Carolingian kings - Karl III. (Karl der Dicke, 887–888) and Arnulf von Kärnten (896–899) - rose to become emperors, but fell into the hands of Burgundian or northern Italian kings when the Carolingians fell in power in the early 10th century, and after 924 for almost three decades to come completely out of use.

The Holy Roman Emperors

The imperial coronation of Henry VI. by Pope Celestine III. (from the Liber ad honorem Augusti by Petrus de Ebulo , 1196)
Since the 10th century one saw a continuity of the Roman Empire from antiquity to its own time. Emperor portraits from Caesar to Rudolf II on an engraving by Ambrogio Brambilla in the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae by Antonio Lafreri , printed by Claudio Duchetti (Rome 1582)

After his conquest of northern Italy in 951/52, it was the East Franconian King Otto I (Otto the Great) who revived the tradition of the Roman Empire and the Carolingian Empire in 962 with his coronation by the Pope in Rome. Since then, all East Franconian and Roman-German kings, until the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, regarded themselves as the only legitimate successors of the Roman Caesars and as secular heads of Christianity . In order to obtain the imperial crown, however, an elaborate Rome procession to the coronation by the Pope was necessary throughout the Middle Ages , which required the appropriate means of money and power. This explains why a number of German kings took years or decades to achieve the imperial title and that a number of other kings could never receive this title. In particular between 1250 and 1312 ( Henry VII was the first king after the end of the Hohenstaufen to achieve the imperial coronation) and again between 1378 and 1433 there were decades of "imperial" phases. The last German kings to be crowned Roman emperors by popes were the Luxemburgish Sigismund in 1433 and the Habsburg Friedrich III in 1452 . who died in 1493. His son and successor Maximilian I , on the other hand, did not succeed in moving to Rome, but in 1508 he was allowed, with papal approval, to assume the title of "Elected Roman Emperor", which has been held by all German kings until 1806 when they came to power. Maximilian's grandson and successor, Charles V, was the last German king to be crowned emperor again by a pope in 1530 - but no longer in Rome (which he had conquered and plundered in 1527), but in Bologna - as a deliberate humiliation of the pope who had to travel there instead of hosting the future emperor as before. Karl's brother and successor Ferdinand I completely renounced a papal coronation when he came to power in 1556, but with the consent of the elector, from then on automatically also held the Roman imperial title as German king. The papal protest went unheard, and all of Ferdinand I's successors acted in the same way until 1806.

The Roman-German Empire had remained with the Habsburg family since 1438 . This became extinct in the male line in 1740 with the death of Emperor Charles VI . Due to the pragmatic sanction , his daughter Maria Theresa was able to acquire the Habsburg hereditary lands , but could not be elected empress, as this office was reserved for men. The dignity of emperor therefore went to a Wittelsbacher, Karl Albrecht von Bayern . Only after his death did Maria Theresa manage to have her husband Franz Stephan of Lorraine elected emperor ( War of the Austrian Succession ). Maria Theresa also made her husband co-regent in the hereditary countries, where his influence was relatively small. Conversely, Maria Theresa, as the emperor's wife, held the title of empress (imperatrix) due to her, but had little influence on imperial politics. This temporary separation of imperial dignity and head of the monarchical hereditary lands promoted the detachment of the Habsburg monarchy from the empire, even when their son Joseph II succeeded his father in 1765 and his mother in 1780. Incidentally, Joseph II was the last Roman-German emperor who still pursued an active imperial policy - which, however , resulted in the opposition of the princes in the Fürstenbund of 1785. The rule of the last two emperors, Leopold II and Franz II , was already overshadowed by the French Revolution and the dispute with Napoleon . In 1806, Emperor Franz II finally laid down the crown and declared the empire extinct.

Between the election (see also elective monarchy ) and their coronation as Roman emperor, these monarchs carried the title of "Roman king". This was also the title of the chosen heir to the throne of an emperor, provided that such was chosen during the lifetime of the predecessor.

The title of Augustus was also retained by the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages, however, the word was derived from its original Latin verb form augere (“to increase”, “to enlarge”). This is why the title component Semper Augustus the Roman-German emperor is usually translated as “All-time multiples of the empire” in the Middle Ages, and in modern times also as “All-time exalted emperor”.

Imperial title of the Iberian Peninsula

In the 11th and 12th centuries, the kings of Navarre , Castile and Aragon carried the title Imperator totius Hispaniae ("Emperor of all Spain") to express their hegemony over the other Christian and Islamic monarchs of the Iberian Peninsula, which their kingdoms did not Made empires. This title was also neither awarded nor recognized by the Roman Pope or the Patriarch in Constantinople.

The French Empire

Napoleon I in his regalia as emperor

France had been a kingdom since the days of the West Frankish Carolingians and the Capetians who had ruled since 987 , from whom all later ruling dynasties descended from the Bourbons and the Orléans . In the course of the empire re-established by Charlemagne in the west, however, a West Franconian Carolingian of the 9th century - Charles II the Bald - briefly wore the Roman imperial crown and later French kings such as Franz I , the long-time opponent of the Habsburg Charles V in 16th century, toying with the acquisition of the imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1792, when the king was deposed in the French Revolution , the French monarchy ended.

In 1804, the then military dictator Napoleon Bonaparte , who had been the first consul of the French Republic since his coup in 1799 , established a new monarchical tradition. Just as the consul title referred to ancient traditions of the Roman Republic, the imperial title (empereur) adopted by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1804 also referred to the ancient Roman tradition of military empire. By interlocking this post-revolutionary French empire with the newly created royal crown of Italy (in fact northern and central Italy) in 1805, Napoleon also tied in with Carolingian traditions, especially since the Italian royal crown was the old Lombard crown that Charlemagne had already worn.

During his coronation as emperor , Napoleon I received the crown on December 2, 1804 in the Notre Dame church in Paris from the hands of Pope Pius VII , who, however, did not participate in the actual coronation act, and crowned himself "Emperor of the French" with his own hand. . The aim was obviously a combination of sacred legitimation and individual achievement legitimation, although the latter in the form of a “coronation from one's own strength” predominated. In addition, the title "Emperor of the French" meant that he ultimately saw himself as the emperor of a people and not of an empire. Napoleon saw himself as sovereign of the people and not, like all Roman emperors before, as an emperor crowned by God ( divine right ). The coronation was preceded by the appointment of Napoleon as emperor by the Senate in August 1804 and a referendum on it.

The Napoleonic Empire influenced the imperial ambitions of local rulers in the former French colony of Haiti . After Napoleon's proclamation as emperor in August 1804, Haiti's rulers also made himself emperor in October 1804, which in turn eclipsed Napoleon with the ceremonial coronation in December.

This Napoleonic empire also became a model for other post-revolutionary military empires of the subsequent period (e.g. Mexico , much later Central Africa , to a certain extent also Brazil ).

The empire of Napoleon I was based on the nimbus of the victorious, ingenious general. As soon as Napoleon could no longer guarantee these victories, the legitimacy of his rule eroded, which collapsed twice against a pan-European coalition in 1814/15. Napoleon's nephew Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, who later became Napoleon III. named, was able to be elected President of the Second French Republic after the revolution of 1848, which had abolished the “bourgeois kingdom” of the Orléans, drawing on the glory of his deceased uncle. In 1851 he made himself president for life by means of a putsch, in 1852 he proclaimed the restoration of the Bonapartist empire on Napoleon I's coronation day. This so-called “2. Kaiserreich “was based on the generous support of bourgeois capitalism, with the simultaneous plebiscitary involvement of Catholic-rural classes, but it was also based, similar to the first empire, very much on military success. Logically, this military empire of the less military Napoleon III also ended. with a military catastrophe - France's defeat at Sedan in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, which resulted in the immediate overthrow of the captured emperor.

The empire in Austria

To prevent Napoleon I used to his coronation as Emperor of the French (1804 in the presence of the Pope) the imperial insignia and can stand so in the time-honored imperial tradition, the Habsburgs had Francis II. The crown jewels of Nuremberg to Vienna convict where they - apart from an interruption during the time of the Hitler dictatorship when they briefly returned to Nuremberg - are kept in the treasury of the Hofburg to this day. Since the Habsburg Franz II did not want to stand behind the "upstart" Napoleon and the Russian tsar in terms of protocol, he accepted the title " Emperor of Austria " without a coronation act and united all Habsburg countries under the " Empire of Austria ". In 1806 he laid down the German imperial crown and at the same time declared the German Empire to be dissolved. A possible election of Napoleon as his successor was excluded.

For a century, the Austrian empire formed the symbolic bracket for the Habsburg multi-ethnic empire, from 1867 Austria-Hungary ; in particular the long reigning Franz Joseph I (1848–1916) became the personification of the “emperor”.

German hereditary empire in the Paulskirche constitution 1849

Political cartoon by Isidor Popper on the rejection of the hereditary emperor by Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, 1849

The German Revolution of 1848/1849 , which aimed for bourgeois - democratic reforms and the goal of a German nation state, led to the constitution of a national assembly in Frankfurt on May 18, 1848 , where the elected representatives worked out the so-called Paulskirche constitution by spring 1849 . In this constitution, a constitutional hereditary emperor was envisaged for the role of the German head of state , which proposed a so-called imperial deputation to the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV in April 1849 . However, the latter rejected the offer of the National Assembly because his monarchical self-image was based on the Christian tradition of divine grace and rejected the idea of popular sovereignty . The concern of establishing a German hereditary empire went down shortly afterwards, because Prussian and Austrian troops violently suppressed the democratic forces by July 1849.

German Kaiser (holder of the Federal Presidium)

The imperial crown of the German Empire from 1871, which never really existed, on the towers of the Reichstag building

From 1871 German Kaiser was the name for the holder of the Federal Presidium in the federally organized hereditary monarchy of the newly created German Empire (see also the list of heads of state of the German Empire ). The Federal Presidium belonged to the King of Prussia. Title holders were the three Hohenzollern emperors Wilhelm I , Friedrich III. and Wilhelm II. The title expired with the proclamation of the Weimar Republic on November 9, 1918 by Philipp Scheidemann .

After the victory of Prussia and its German allies over France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, the King of Prussia Wilhelm I was proclaimed German Emperor on January 18, 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles . This happened against his original will, because immediately before that there had been a serious argument between Wilhelm I and his Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck about the exact title. Since the king saw himself less as a German than as a Prussian, he had originally wanted to reject the imperial title, but preferred the title “Kaiser von Deutschland” if accepted. However, this could have been interpreted as a claim to German-speaking areas that did not belong to the empire - for example Austria, Switzerland and areas in northern Italy - but could also have been interpreted as a far-reaching claim to rule over the other German federal princes . In addition, this title would have indicated that Germany was owned by the emperor. In order to eliminate this potential for conflict from the outset, Bismarck insisted on the title "German Emperor and King of Prussia" and finally prevailed. From the outset, the title of the Kaiserdeputation of the Revolution of 1848 , Kaiser of the Germans , was ruled out, as this would have emphasized the aspect of popular sovereignty too much .

At the imperial high of the German sovereigns present at the Palace of Versailles - who thus perceived the approval of a constituent party - their spokesman, the Grand Duke of Baden , found himself in a constitutional and personal dilemma at the proclamation . Presumably advised by Bismarck, he solved it by raising the general cheers for the "Kaiser Wilhelm".

Since 1871 is essentially the constitution of the North German Confederation as a constitution was adopted, the German emperor had constitutionally only the position of the local Bundespräsidialen, so it was not "Emperor of Germany", which with the partially retained sovereignty of individual states (as with that of the kingdoms Bavaria , Saxony and Württemberg and the free cities of Bremen , Lübeck and Hamburg ) would collide.

The German imperial title was constitutionally just a resounding name for the rather sober function of the Prussian king as President of the Federal Council of German Princes and the Free Cities, formally the highest constitutional body, initially from 1867 of the North German Confederation and from 1871 of the German Empire, which was expanded to include southern Germany. Nonetheless, this imperial title represented an increase in rank for the Prussian monarch compared to the inner-German kings of Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg and led to an alignment of the Prussian-German monarch's rank with the emperors of Austria and Russia on an international level . This title was supplemented in the Manifesto for the imperial proclamation designed by Bismarck by a reference to the medieval form of Semper Augustus . The new emperor was described as an all-time multiplier of the German Empire, not in terms of military conquests, but in the goods and gifts of peace in the field of national welfare, freedom and morality .

The title soon gained public importance due to the "imperial romanticism " associated with it since the wars of freedom against Napoleon Bonaparte . Under the last German Kaiser Wilhelm II (1888–1918), who was gifted as a propagandist , the imperial title gained the upper hand over the Prussian royal title and became a symbol of the unity of the nation.

Politically, however, the German Kaiser, as king of the by far largest federal state of Prussia, was always more powerful than anchored in constitutional law. However, this power eroded under the long reign of Wilhelm II (1888-1918), which in 1917 was de facto, if not de jure, replaced by the military government of the Supreme Army Command (OHL) under Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff .

European empire outside Europe

Outside of Europe, there were a number of newly created empires in the 19th century, often based on modern European traditions. All of these new creations were in the context of European imperialism and colonialism .


In the Caribbean and Latin America, the mostly short-lived empires created in the 19th century emerged on the one hand from an anti-colonialist attitude, on the other hand based on the post-revolutionary military empire of Napoleon I in France. This ambivalent context can first be observed in Haiti , the previous French colony of Saint Domingue, which attempted to free itself from white supremacy in the 1790s through a bloody uprising by the previous black slaves. After revolutionary France tried to maintain colonialism and slavery by force, Napoleon's expeditionary forces were ultimately forced to surrender in 1804. The last leader of the black struggle for independence, Jean-Jacques Dessalines , proclaimed himself - just like his previous enemy Napoleon I - as Empereur Jacques I in 1804 , but was overthrown and murdered in 1806. Haiti then split into a northern and southern state by 1820, with the ruler of northern Haiti , Henri Christophe , ruling as King Henri I between 1811 and 1820.

In the Republic of Haiti, which was united in 1820, one of its presidents, Faustin Soulouque , who had ruled since 1847, assumed the title of emperor and ruled as Faustin I between 1849 and 1859 before he was driven into exile in 1859. Since then, Haiti has been a (still very unstable) republic.


Similar anti-colonialist Bonapartist ambivalences are shown by the establishment of an empire in Mexico , which after a long civil war had fought for its independence from Spain in 1821 . As early as 1815, the Iguala plan had envisaged the creation of an empire formally independent of Spain with a Spanish Bourbon prince at its head. Since the plan was not accepted by Spain, is proclaimed 1822 General Agustín de Iturbide , who had switched to the side of the rebels only in 1820 that he had fought as a Spanish officer, Agustín I as Emperor ( Emperador ). This monarchy was ended in 1823 after just ten months. When the abdicated and exiled Iturbide returned to Mexico in 1824, he was shot by Republican troops.

The Second Mexican Empire (1863-1867) was the result of a civil war between liberals and conservatives and the alliance of the latter with a foreign imperialism. In May 1863, the French Emperor Napoleon III. Occupy Mexico by his troops, in July 1863 the republican form of government was replaced by an empire by French grace. The Mexican Conservatives elected the Austrian Archduke Maximilian , a brother of Franz Joseph I , as the new emperor in 1864, with Napoleon's approval , which was intended to increase the international legitimacy of the new state and at the same time to remind of the earlier (Spanish) Habsburg rule in Mexico (until 1700). Since the new emperor was childless, he adopted the descendants of Iturbides in 1865 and declared his grandson Augustín as heir to the throne. The social basis of this empire was still far too weak: When the French expeditionary corps withdrew in 1867, Maximilian's rule collapsed, the republic was restored under Benito Juárez , the captured Habsburg and Iturbide were shot dead. The adopted heir to the throne, Prince Agustín de Itúrbide y Green , was arrested and dispossessed by President Porfirio Díaz in 1890 and died in exile in the United States in 1925. With him the male line of this imperial Habsburg-Iturbide family died out.


Another case of a non-European empire is the Brazilian Empire. The previous Portuguese colony, in contrast to the Spanish neighboring colonies in Latin America, had its own development in the age of Napoleon I: Similar to Spain, Napoleon had also invaded Portugal and had shaken the political system of colonial power there, but different from the Spanish royal family the Portuguese court (with British help) managed to escape to the overseas colony of Brazil in 1808.

The aspirations for independence that were also budding there for a time corresponded to the monarchy's willingness to reform: in 1815 the Portuguese Prince Regent (from 1816: King John VI. ) Proclaimed Brazil to be part of a “United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarve” with equal rights. This construction, which is reminiscent of the British (among its parts also by no means equal) "United Kingdom", lasted as long as the royal court resided in Rio de Janeiro .

But when King John and his court had to return to Portugal in 1821 (where they had long been required), the only choice left by the Portuguese-Brazilian Crown Prince Peter, who remained in Rio as Prince Regent, was either to be overthrown by the Brazilian independence movement or to lead it to deliver. The European prince, clearly influenced by the South American caudillismo of his neighboring states, chose the second way and declared himself as Peter I as "Emperor of Brazil" by removing his father and breaking all ties with Portugal . In this respect, the new empire was a unique mixture of Bonapartist illegitimacy and dynastic continuity, especially since Peter married an archduchess of the ultra-legitimist House of Habsburg.

Even more remarkable was that the Brazilian Empire even survived the fall of its founder in 1831. Peter I abdicated in favor of his underage son and heir to the throne Peter II , and the forces that forced this change of power also opted for the new child emperor, born in Brazil, as the best symbol of state unity and as a means of avoiding civil war . In 1840 Peter II personally took over the government, and only because he knew how to lead it wisely in the style of a constitutional-liberal mayor, the Brazilian Empire lasted for another half century.

The personally highly respected emperor grew old, his daughter and his French son-in-law were not very popular, and the continued existence of the dynasty after the death of the reigning emperor became questionable. In the end, the Brazilian empire was gripped by the escalating conflicts between republicans and indomitable conservatives when, in 1888, Crown Princess Isabella, acting on behalf of the absent emperor, ordered the abolition of slavery for reasons of conscience, thus driving a wedge between the dynasty and conservative slave owners. A military coup forced Peter II to abdicate as early as 1889 and the whole dynasty to leave the country.

The ex-emperor died in French exile in 1891, and the line of the imperial Brazilian princes of Orléans-Bragança, descended from his son-in-law, still exists today.


The connection with European colonial rule is particularly important for the newly founded Empire of India, which was founded by the ruling British in 1876/77 on the soil of the superseded Mughal Empire, although it also takes up the tradition of the Great Mughals . The respective king (or the ruling queen) of Great Britain and Ireland carried the title of emperor (or empress) of India in personal union , often also in Persian (the court language of the Mughals) as Kaisar-i-Hind . This imperial title had a double function: in terms of domestic politics, it was intended to symbolically brace the inconsistent (partly direct, partly indirect) British rule in India, and in terms of foreign policy it was to demonstrate the equality of rank of the British world empire vis-à-vis the empires of Russia , Austria and Germany . In the course of India's independence in the form of the two republics of India and Pakistan , the British king renounced this imperial title in 1948.

Non-European imperial titles

Since early modern times it has become common practice in Europe to refer to the rulers of important non-European empires as "emperors". These were primarily rulers who were considered to be world rulers ( China ) or of divine descent (China, Japan ) or whose native title was to be translated as “King of Kings” ( Shah-in-Shah in Persia , Negus Negesti in Ethiopia ).


China has always regarded itself as the Middle Kingdom , hence the heartland of the world. This corresponded to the universal claim to rule of its rulers. It was also adopted by conquerors from neighboring countries as soon as they had seized China, in the Middle Ages by the Mongols , and most recently by the Manchu . Outwardly, visitors from Western countries submitted to this claim and corresponding manners even in the phase of the actual division of China into European areas of interest.

The title of the Chinese ruler was 帝 ( Pinyin : ) or 皇帝 ( Huángdì ). In German-language research it is usually translated as "Kaiser"; In English-language research, in addition to “Emperor”, “Thearch” has recently been used as a translation of huangdi . The title Di has a strong sacred component, also means “supreme being”, while the aspect of military efficiency, which was central to the European empire, only played a subordinate role in legitimizing rule in China.

The Chinese Empire has a mythological and a historical beginning: the mythological Five Emperors (五帝Wǔ Dì ) are said to have ruled before the first dynasty , three of them for a century each. The rulers of the first three dynasties called themselves kings (王Pinyin : Wáng ) and their empires had a feudal structure . The historical empire began with 嬴政 ( Yíng Zhèng ) from the Qin dynasty . He let himself be from 221 BC Called "First Emperor" (始 皇帝Shǐ Huángdì ) after he had reunited the Chinese states into one empire. 皇Huáng , "divine-sublime", was the name of the three divine primal rulers who - each for several thousand years - should have ruled before the mythological Five Emperors. In contrast to today's pronunciation, 皇帝 at the time of the Warring States was probably not yet homophonic with 黄帝 ( Huáng Dì "Yellow Di"), the name of the first of the five mythological emperors. With the reforms and the self-deification of Ying Zheng, the Chinese Empire began 194 years before the principle of "Augustus" Gaius Octavius in ancient Rome and was fundamentally different in structure from the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages.


The Japanese emperor only renounced his divinity with the Japanese surrender at the end of the Second World War . From 12./13. until the 19th century, the power of the Tennō was rather symbolic. The Shogun had the power to govern . Only Meiji- tennō regained actual power in 1869. After the centuries-long isolation of Japan from the outside world had formally ended in 1854, the imperialist expansion of the Japanese Empire and the rapid modernization of the country began under his rule , which made it one of the world's largest industrial powers in the 20th century.

Indian Mughal Empire

The splendor of the Mughals in India had already faded by the time of intensive contact with the Europeans. On the peak of their power had big moguls but almost dominated the entire subcontinent, d. H. more territory than the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire in Europe. For the British Empire in India, which was proclaimed years after the official end of the Mughals in 1858, see above .


The tradition of the title Shahanshah is old, but for the ancient rulers of Persia (especially for those who lived long before Julius Caesar) the translation "emperor" is perceived as anachronistic, one usually speaks of "great kings".

The title of Shahanshah continued throughout Persian history. The rulers of the Sassanids as well as the Safavids , the Qajars and the Pahlavi dynasty carried this title.


According to Ethiopian legends, the ruling house there is said to have been founded in 980 BC by the first Negus Negesti ("King of Kings") Menelik I , who is said to have been a scion from the union of King Solomon of Israel and the Queen of Sheba. However, reliable historical information is only available for the time of the empire of Aksum . Menelik II of the Abyssinian Empire was the only traditional ruler of Africa who successfully opposed the colonization of the continent. After the second Abyssinia campaign , which was then victorious for Italy , the country was briefly occupied by Italy, but restituted after the Second World War. The last Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie still played a significant role in the OAU . In 1974 he too was overthrown.

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Sultan ( Ottoman Empire ) was able to conquer the Byzantine Empire at the latest since the 15./16. Century not only claimed imperial power, but also the imperial rank. The sultan / caliph tradition, however, is completely different from the European imperial tradition. In the mixed Arab-Persian-Turkish-Mongolian tradition, the official title of the Ottoman rulers included the designations "Sultan" (also "Sultan of the Sultans"), "Padischah" (Great King) or "Khan" (also "Khan of the Khans") at the top. The title caliph was added from 1517, but only became more important from 1774. The Ottoman rulers also had the explicit title "Emperor of the three cities of Constantinople, Adrianople and Bursa". Accordingly, the Ottoman Sultan was later recognized by the European powers as "Imperial Majesty" in diplomatic dealings. The Ottoman Sultanate was dissolved in 1922 and the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924.


In Southeast Asia from 1806 the rulers of Annam in Vietnam, who had previously traded as kings, assumed the imperial title - with the approval of the great power China, which traditionally claimed sovereignty over the area. However, the French colonial rulers who invaded after 1860 translated the Vietnamese imperial title from 1884 onwards as “king” and thus refused to recognize it. In 1945 an " Empire of Vietnam " was briefly proclaimed in favor of the last Emperor King of Annam, Bảo Đại (1926–1945) , but the surrender of Japan led to the emperor's abdication after just a few months. Bảo Đại served as head of state of the autonomous state of Vietnam from 1949 to 1955 .


The acceptance of the imperial title by the King of Korea in 1897 is also in the imperialist-colonialist context , although this was intended to be anti-colonial. The Korean kings have traditionally been ruled by the emperors of China, but the outcome of the Sino-Japanese War forced China to recognize Korea's independence in 1895. From the Japanese point of view, however, this act was only intended to be the preliminary stage to Korea's own colonization, but Russia's imperialist interests temporarily formed a counterweight. Against this background, the acceptance of the imperial title by King Gojong , who had been ruling since 1864/73, symbolized the Korean striving for equality with the rulers of Japan and China and the will to preserve independence. When Russia was militarily defeated by Japan in 1904/05, however, the balance of power required for this collapsed. The Korean emperor had to accept the "protectorate" of the Japanese Tennō in 1905 and was forced to abdicate by the Japanese in 1907 - as too idiosyncratic - . In 1910 the Japanese also deposed his son and successor, Emperor Sunjong , and also formally put an end to the country's independence . The Japanese colonial rule in Korea was not until the defeat of Japan in World War II in 1945. The two ex-Emperor were taken in 1910 in the Japanese dynasty as kings, but without powers. They died in Korea in 1919 (Gojong) and 1926 (Sunjong), their descendants live in South Korea .


A Japanese colony was also created in 1932, but not internationally recognized ("puppet state") Manchukuo in the Japanese-occupied Chinese province of Manchuria . This state was proclaimed an empire by the Japanese in 1934. The imperial title of the head of state Puyi arose from his person, since he was the last emperor of China from 1908 to 1912 as a child. With the defeat of Japan in World War II in 1945, the state ended and Manchuria became part of the People's Republic of China .

Central African Empire

As a recourse to the Bonapartist imperial tradition of the 19th century, the short-lived post-colonial empire in today's Central African Republic appears . President Jean-Bédel Bokassa , a former sergeant in the French colonial forces, who had come to power there through a coup in 1966 , declared himself an empereur in 1977 and imitated Napoleon I's self-coronation with coronation insignia made in Paris. This empire only existed for two years, because Bokassa was overthrown in 1979 .

List of emperors

European emperors

Non-European emperors


Web links

Wiktionary: Kaiserin  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Kaiser  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Bernd Schneidmüller: The emperors of the Middle Ages. From Charlemagne to Maximilian I. Munich 2006, p. 7.
  2. ^ Günther Drosdowski: Duden Volume 7 - The dictionary of origin: Etymology of the German language. Dudenverlag, Mannheim / Leipzig / Vienna / Zurich 1989, ISBN 3-411-20907-0 .
  3. Egon Flaig, Challenging the Kaiser , 1992, chap. 4 ff.
  4. Antonia von Reiche: The way of Russian tsarism to recognition in the period from 1547 to 1722. Law, University of Hamburg, 2002, p. 26.
  5. Andreas Kappeler: From the Moscow Principality of the 15th to the Eurasian multi-ethnic empire Russia of the 17th century. In: Friedrich Edelmayer, Peter Feldbauer, Marija Wakounig (eds.): Globalgeschichte 1450-1629. Beginnings and Perspectives. Vienna 2002, pp. 157–178, here p. 157.
  6. ^ Arthur Kleinschmidt : Three centuries of Russian history. Overview of Russian history from the accession of the Romanovs to the present day (1598–1898). Elibron Classics, reprint 2006, p. 37 .
  7. See Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae Digital Collection.
  8. Hans van Ess: Chinese Empire . In: Hartmut Leppin , Bernd Schneidmüller , Stefan Weinfurter (eds.): Empire in the first millennium. Regensburg 2012, p. 173 ff.
  9. William Hubbard Baxter:
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on July 2, 2005 .