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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 ?
He pledged to continue to promote democracy and protect it from threats from any reincarnating dictatorial forces.
Human rights organizations and politicians have repeatedly called on the EU and the US government to expand targeted sanctions against the dictatorial regime in Belarus and ban trading with the state-owned companies that generate hard currency for President Lukashenko.
The United States and certain other western countries have adopted a double-standard approach towards the popular protests against the dictatorial regimes in the region.
It's time to stop favoring the stability of dictatorial government over sincere dialogue on important values," Frattini said at a meeting organized by the Sant'Egidio religious aid group in Rome, ANSA news agency reported.
We are looking forward towards an Arab Homeland, free from dictatorial regimes.
So his entire life is now Forest Ridge Mall, where he is the dictatorial head of security.
Answering how the EU will react to the country's focusing on dictatorial countries, Bakiu explains that "the EU does not tolerate non-fulfillment of reforms and orientation towards dictatorial countries because such recognitions do not influence the country's integration in the EU and NATO".
Always a controversial figure, he was known for his close links to the Franco regime, his dictatorial style and the IOC's involvement in the Salt Lake City corruption scandal.
The Attorney-general, it could be said, has dictatorial powers and is also accountable to nobody.
Free Elections, Freedom for Iran, No to the Dictatorial Regime
YouTube, Twitter and social networking sites are often derided as a frivolous waste of time - but they have also proved they can be the nemesis of dictatorial regimes.
You never criticized the dictatorial PMs Trudeau, and Chretien but you criticize Harper for being dictatorial?