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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 ?
The nation fought back during the People Power movement believing that a dictatorial style of governance is not the solution for one to have a sufficient livelihood, quality education, and security that all Filipino families aspire for," the senator said in the vernacular.
Sarr analyzes Alain Mabanckou's 2010 novel, Broken Glass, in terms of its use of the grotesque, suggesting that it represents the dictatorial state as a place of despair, cynicism, and vulgarity.
This fight against democracy has not ended as dictatorial forces always impose themselves in different camouflages to deceive the masses, he added.
I resigned from the BJP because of Bedi's dictatorial attitude.
Romney said that the current administration was behaving in a dictatorial manner toward its allies and warning that if Israel and the U.
Preventing and restricting freedom of communication of a news agency is a fascist and dictatorial attitude.
They are wrong because the opposition's deep-seated refusal to accept his dictatorial rule has been further strengthened by the two and half years of fighting.
who helped oust the former dictatorial regime of Muammar Gaddafi from power after 42 years of power, under its command, Omar al-Khadrawi, deputy interior minister, said.
Rajeh Khoury, a political analyst with the opposition newspaper AN NAHAR, blamed dictatorial regimes in Arab world for the emergence of Islamist groups as a result of the "Arab Spring" revolutions currently sweeping the region.
Summary: TEHRAN (FNA)- Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Saeed Jalili lashed out at the western states, the US in particular, for their all-out support for dictatorial regimes in the world.
Media reports in the Islamic Republic have said a top Iranian military officer May 7 denounced what he called an "Arab dictatorial front" and claimed that the "Persian Gulf has belonged to Iran for ever".
ROME: The revolts rocking the Arab world show the international community should favor freedom and democracy over dictatorial stability, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Tuesday.