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In the Roman republic, a temporary magistrate with extraordinary powers. Nominated in times of crisis by a consul, recommended by the Senate, and confirmed by the Comitia Curiata, the dictator's term was six months or the duration of the crisis, and he had authority over all other magistrates. By 300 BC his powers were limited; no dictators were chosen after 202. The dictatorships of Sulla and Julius Caesar were a new form with almost unlimited powers. Caesar became dictator for life just before his assassination; afterward the office was abolished.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on dictator, visit Britannica.com.