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The title of Patricius was made a high honorary title by Constantine the Great in the late Roman Empire , which was only bestowed on the emperor's closest confidants . These were symbolically equated with the emperor's relatives. The title was later often given to high military officials such as the magister militum ; the circle of people to whom the title was awarded changed, however. In Westrom the title patricius marked at least since Constantius III. the most powerful magister militum , which in the 5th century usually determined the fate of the West. Against this background, it is understandable that even after the empire fall of the Western Roman 476 Heermeister as Odoacer and Theodoric the Great strove for the title, which in the West in combination with the army championship de facto gave an almost imperial same power: The Master of the Soldiers et patricius was actual head of government. In addition, high civil officials could also be patricii .

In Ostrom , the title had no corresponding meaning, but was nevertheless very exclusive: in the fifth and sixth centuries a patricius here had to be consul , magister militum , magister officiorum , Praefectus praetorio or city ​​prefect of Rome or Constantinople - so the title came only possible for a very small group of incumbent or former dignitaries. The title was supposed to remind of the patrician senatorial families of the republic and the early imperial period, who had enormous social prestige. Associated with this, however, was not belonging to a particular noble class, because the title was not hereditary; so it was also awarded to "barbarians" who had proven themselves as soldiers. After the end of the western empire, even barbaric rulers were honored with it by the eastern emperor, including, as mentioned, Theodoric the Great and in 508 possibly also the Frankish rex Clovis I. Thanks to this title, they were able to act like vice emperors in their territories. Patricius was a common title in the Eastern Roman Empire until the end of late antiquity and then remained so (as Patrikios ) in the Middle Byzantine period until the 12th century. In post-ancient Byzantium, the title was also given to the commanders of certain subjects and soon also often to senators , and it lost its exclusivity.

In 754 Pope Stephan II awarded the Frankish King Pippin and his sons Karl and Karlmann the title of Patricius Romanus on the occasion of their anointing . In the Holy Roman Empire (there up to Henry V ) patricius - in imitation of Byzantium - was temporarily a high honorary title.


  • Wilhelm Heil: The Constantine patriciate (= Basel studies of law. H. 78, ZDB -ID 503673-2 ). Helbing & Lichtenhahn, Basel et al. 1966, (at the same time: Basel, university, dissertation, 1964).
  • Patricius . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 6, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1993, ISBN 3-7608-8906-9 , Sp. 1789–1791.