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originally a Roman magistrate appointed to rule the state in times of emergency; in modern usage, an absolutist or autocratic ruler who assumes extraconstitutional powers. From 501 B.C. until the abolition of the office in 44 B.C., Rome had 88 dictators. They were usually appointed by a consul and were invested with sweeping authority over the citizens, but they were limited to a term of six months and lacked power over the public finances. Dictators were held to strict account for their conduct in office. Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Julius Caesar abolished the limitations to dictatorship and governed unconstitutionally. The Romans abandoned the institution after Caesar's murder. Modern dictators have usually come to power in times of emergency. Frequently they have seized power by coup, but some, most notably Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany, achieved office by legal means and once in power overthrew constitutional restraints. In the USSR the "dictatorship of the proletariat" took the form of a concentration of power in the hands of the Communist party. Under Joseph Stalin it developed into a personal dictatorship, but after his death there emerged a system of collective leadership. Latin American nations have undergone many dictatorships, usually by military leaders at the head of a junta. See totalitarianismtotalitarianism
, a modern autocratic government in which the state involves itself in all facets of society, including the daily life of its citizens. A totalitarian government seeks to control not only all economic and political matters but the attitudes, values, and beliefs
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(1) In a number of Latin cities of ancient Italy an annually elected ruler who had unlimited power; also the head of the Latin League.

(2) In ancient Rome during the period of the Republic (fifth century B.C. to the second half of the first century B.C.) an official with extensive powers and responsibilities (magistrate). At times of extreme danger (internal disorders or threat of war), when it was deemed necessary to transfer power into the hands of one person, a dictator was appointed for a maximum of six months by the consuls upon resolution of the Senate. The dictator had absolute control over the entire state. An explanation for each dictator’s election was always added to his title (for example, a dictator who was elected in a time of military danger was called dictator rei gerundae causa, dictator to wage war).

Prior to the fourth century B.C., a dictator’s judicial decision could not be appealed to the popular assembly. Generally all officials, including the consuls, were subject to the rule of the dictator. Initially, the position of dictator was accessible only to patricians, but beginning in 356 B.C. plebeians could also be elected. Frequently a dictator was elected only for a brief term in order to carry out a single commission (for example, something of a religious nature). During the dictatorships of Sulla and Caesar, who were appointed without time limitations (dictator perpetuus), the position of dictator acquired a monarchical character. Dictatorship was abolished in 44 B.C. by Mark Antony.


a. a ruler who is not effectively restricted by a constitution, laws, recognized opposition, etc.
b. an absolute, esp tyrannical, ruler
2. (in ancient Rome) a person appointed during a crisis to exercise supreme authority
References in periodicals archive ?
This paper looks into whether external forces--concerns for the "outward man"--are needed to motivate dictator giving or whether internal mechanisms--concerns for the "inward man"--underly such behavior.
The model will demonstrate that while the dictator will prefer the lending regime without the doctrine, whether the public will benefit from the doctrine is unclear and depends on complex factors.
The dictator and his wife were caught on Friday in a car some 60 miles from Bucharest after the helicopter in which they had first fled was forced to land, according to Front member Captain Mihai Lupoi.
It was as if the Dominican dictator had picked up the old Cuban cry that "without sugar, there is no country
The US has said it has not yet decided what to do with the former dictator.
Mike Fletcher, the father of policewoman Yvonne Fletcher, who was shot dead by a gunman outside the Libyan Embassy during a demonstration in 1984, was reported as saying he was unhappy that a relative of the dictator should be treated in a British hospital.
ENI)-- Bishop Armando Roman Guerra, of the Anglican Church of Guatemala, said that an attempt to bring former Guatemalan dictator Rios Montt to trial in Spain has shaken the former dictator, keeping him pinned in Guatemala.
And even if he were never to be extradited to Spain, even if he were to return to my country and we did not find the strength and breathing space to hold him accountable, even so, the international resolve and courage of the Lincoln Brigade Veterans will have once again received vindication because it is that spirit of going beyond national boundaries to defend freedom that is alive in the attempt by Spanish justice to deny a dictator like Pinochet the right to impunity or immunity.
ROME--In late February, while the British House of Lords was ruling on whether former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was immune from extradition to Spain to face prosecution for the alleged crimes of his rule, the Vatican admitted it had communicated "in a confidential way"--and at the request of the Chilean government--its concerns regarding the arrest of Pinochet to the British government as early as last November.
A PIGLET called Dictator has gone to the dogs since he moved in with Ruth Richards and her cairn terrier Brandy.
The adventures of Constructivism were decried as being too wilful, not enough in touch with the real taste of the people (in fact perhaps not clearly expressive enough of the power of Moscow and the dictator over the vast territories).