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"Legislators and leaders of men, such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making a new law they transgressed the ancient one, handed down from their ancestors and held sacred by the people, and they did not stop short at bloodshed either, if that bloodshed often of innocent persons fighting bravely in defence of ancient law were of use to their cause." -- Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment tr. Constance Garnett

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Potentate (from the Latin potens, 'powerful') is a term for a person with potent, sometimes supreme, power. In modern English the term is used to describe people with much political or business power.


The term is used by some translations of the Bible to describe Jesus, it can be found in the King James Version translation of Timothy 6:15. One example of this use is in the hymn "Crown him with many crowns" in which Jesus is described as "potentate of time"

Originally, it designated the absolute monarch (synonymous with autocrat, which was also used as a title) of a great state. From the negative connotations of such rule, mainly in the Orient, derives its generalized use for the head of any totalitarian and/or abusive regime, as a synonym for despot, dictator, or tyrant (all three in the modern, derogatory sense, contrary to a rather lofty historical origin), also at a sub-state level, or even a big boss in private life.

It is the title used by the A.A.O.N.M.S. (Shriners) for the head of a local Shrine chapter. The head of the Shriners of North America is titled the Imperial Potentate. The staff and volunteers of the ISA (International Instrumentation Symposium) are also called potentates.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Potentate" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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