Today, dictator is usually understood to mean a person who controls or governs a totalitarian or authoritarian regime, and usually carries a connotation of brutality and oppression.
See also: Dictatorship, Dictatorship of the proletariat, autocrat, monarch, military dictatorship.
Dictators of Ancient Rome
In its original sense, dictator meant a political office of the Roman Republic. Indeed, dictator is a Latin word that means (roughly) "one who commands". A dictator was elected in times of military emergency to take command of the state and its armies for a term of 6 months. Unlike ordinary Roman govenment officials, dictators were elected without colleagues and had no limits on their authority, military or civil. A dictator was chosen by the Senate and confirmed by a vote of the people. The dictator, once confirmed, chose his own Magister Equitum or "Commander of the Cavalry" to help him in his administration.
The best known of the Roman dictators of the regular type were Cincinnatus and Fabius Maximus (see Second Punic War). Julius Caesar was named dictator for a 10 year term in 46 BC and "dictator for life" in 45, both irregular appointments.
A benevolent dictator is an undemocratic or authoritarian leader who uses his powers for the good of his people, and not just his own self interest.
Napoleon Bonaparte of France, Anwar Sadat of Egypt, Fidel Castro of Cuba, and Francisco Franco of Spain are examples of dictators whom some consider to have led largely benevolent regimes.
The problem is however that probably every dictator creates a group of people around him that can profit heavily from him being in reign. This group will of course hold that the dictator is benevolent. Even in recent times dictators have been generously supported by western states. This includes weapon deals and big loans.
Many dictators attempt to create an image for themselves as being benevolent dictators, usually by creating a personality cult.
Some more dictators
- Idi Amin in Uganda
- François Duvalier, Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti
- Adolf Hitler in Germany, until 1945
- Enver Hoxha in Albania until 1985
- Saddam Hussein in Iraq, until 2003
- Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala
- Augusto Pinochet in Chile
- Joseph Stalin in USSR, until 1953
- Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il in North Korea
- Adapted from the Wikipedia article, "Dictator" August 2,