The Imperator reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Technically, the Latin word imperator was the title given to some Roman generals in the period of the Roman Republic.

Imperator is not synonymous of emperor, although is the root of it. Through the history of Rome, the title evolved to the meaning of a general, especially able, who had won an enormous victory. Traditionally it was the troops in the field that proclaimed a man imperator, an acclamation necessary for a general to apply to the senate for a triumph. Imperatrix was the title of the wife an Imperator.

Since a triumph is the ambition of every Roman politician, history is full of cases where legions were bribed to call someone imperator.

After Octavian, later called Augustus established the hereditary, one-man rule in Rome that we refer to as the Roman Empire, the title imperator was restricted to the emperor and members of his immediate family. When a general who was not part of the imperial family was acclaimed by his troops as imperator, it was tantamount to a declaration of rebellion against the ruling emperor.

The title augustus is probably the closest Latin equivalent to the English word emperor; however, because of the close association between the term imperator and the emperor and the imperial family, it became the root of the English word. It is also the root of the Albanian term for king, mbret.

See also: imperium

Imperator is also a title used in occult societies. For example see AMORC, Confraternity of the Rose Cross, FUDOSI.