Imperium

Imperium

Overview
Imperium is a Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word which, in a broad sense, translates roughly as 'power to command'. In ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, different kinds of power or authority
Authority
The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

 were distinguished by different terms. Imperium, referred to the sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 of the state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

 over the individual
Individual
An individual is a person or any specific object or thing in a collection. Individuality is the state or quality of being an individual; a person separate from other persons and possessing his or her own needs, goals, and desires. Being self expressive...

. It is not to be confused with auctoritas
Auctoritas
Auctoritas is a Latin word and is the origin of English "authority." While historically its use in English was restricted to discussions of the political history of Rome, the beginning of phenomenological philosophy in the twentieth century expanded the use of the word.In ancient Rome, Auctoritas...

or potestas
Potestas
Potestas is a Latin word meaning power or faculty. It is an important concept in Roman Law.-Origin of the concept:The idea of potestas originally referred to the power, through coercion, of a Roman magistrate to promulgate edicts, give action to litigants, etc. This power, in Roman political and...

, different and generally inferior types of power in the Roman republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 and empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. Primarily used to refer to the power that is wielded, in greater or lesser degree, by an individual to whom it is delegated, the term could also be used with a geographical connotation, designating the territorial limits of that imperium.

In ancient Rome, imperium could be used as a term indicating a characteristic of people, the wealth held in items, or the measure of formal power they had.
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Encyclopedia
Imperium is a Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word which, in a broad sense, translates roughly as 'power to command'. In ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, different kinds of power or authority
Authority
The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

 were distinguished by different terms. Imperium, referred to the sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 of the state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

 over the individual
Individual
An individual is a person or any specific object or thing in a collection. Individuality is the state or quality of being an individual; a person separate from other persons and possessing his or her own needs, goals, and desires. Being self expressive...

. It is not to be confused with auctoritas
Auctoritas
Auctoritas is a Latin word and is the origin of English "authority." While historically its use in English was restricted to discussions of the political history of Rome, the beginning of phenomenological philosophy in the twentieth century expanded the use of the word.In ancient Rome, Auctoritas...

or potestas
Potestas
Potestas is a Latin word meaning power or faculty. It is an important concept in Roman Law.-Origin of the concept:The idea of potestas originally referred to the power, through coercion, of a Roman magistrate to promulgate edicts, give action to litigants, etc. This power, in Roman political and...

, different and generally inferior types of power in the Roman republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 and empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. Primarily used to refer to the power that is wielded, in greater or lesser degree, by an individual to whom it is delegated, the term could also be used with a geographical connotation, designating the territorial limits of that imperium.

Personal characteristic


In ancient Rome, imperium could be used as a term indicating a characteristic of people, the wealth held in items, or the measure of formal power they had. This qualification could be used in a rather loose context (for example, poets used it, not necessarily writing about state officials). However, in Roman society it was also a more formal concept of legal authority. A man with imperium ("imperator
Imperator
The Latin word Imperator was originally a title roughly equivalent to commander under the Roman Republic. Later it became a part of the titulature of the Roman Emperors as part of their cognomen. The English word emperor derives from imperator via Old French Empreur...

") had in principle absolute authority to apply the law within the scope of his magistracy or promagistracy, but could be vetoed or overruled by a magistrate or promagistrate having imperium maius (a higher degree of imperium) or, as most republican magistratures were multiple (though not quite collegial since each could act on his own), by the equal power of his colleague (e.g., the other consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

). Some modern scholars, such as A.H.M. Jones have defined it as "the power vested by the state in a person to do what he considers to be in the best interests of the state".

Imperium can be distinguished from regnum
Regnum
Regnum may refer to:* The inheritable power to govern in Ancient Rome * Kingdom * Regnum news agency, a Russian news agency* Regnum Online, a computer game...

, or royal power, which was inherited. Imperium was originally a military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 concept, the power of the imperator
Imperator
The Latin word Imperator was originally a title roughly equivalent to commander under the Roman Republic. Later it became a part of the titulature of the Roman Emperors as part of their cognomen. The English word emperor derives from imperator via Old French Empreur...

 (general in the army) to command. The word derives from the Latin verb, imperare (to command). The title imperator was applied to the emperor, who was the commander of the armed forces. In fact, the Latin word, imperator, gives us the English word emperor.

Imperium was indicated in two prominent ways. A curule magistrate or promagistrate carried an ivory baton surmounted by an eagle as his personal symbol of office (compare the field marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

's baton). Any such magistrate was also escorted by lictor
Lictor
The lictor was a member of a special class of Roman civil servant, with special tasks of attending and guarding magistrates of the Roman Republic and Empire who held imperium, the right and power to command; essentially, a bodyguard...

s bearing the fasces
Fasces
Fasces are a bundle of wooden sticks with an axe blade emerging from the center, which is an image that traditionally symbolizes summary power and jurisdiction, and/or "strength through unity"...

 (traditional symbols of imperium and authority); when outside the pomerium
Pomerium
The pomerium or pomoerium , was the sacred boundary of the city of Rome. In legal terms, Rome existed only within the pomerium; everything beyond it was simply territory belonging to Rome.-Location and extensions:Tradition maintained that it was the original line ploughed by Romulus around the...

, axes were added to the fasces to indicate an imperial magistrate's power to enact capital punishment outside Rome (the axes were removed within the pomerium). The number of lictors in attendance upon a magistrate was an overt indication of the degree of imperium. When in the field, a curule magistrate possessing an imperium greater or equal to praetor
Praetor
Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army, usually in the field, or the named commander before mustering the army; and an elected magistratus assigned varied duties...

ian imperium wore a sash ritually knotted on the front of his cuirass
Cuirass
A cuirass is a piece of armour, formed of a single or multiple pieces of metal or other rigid material, which covers the front of the torso...

. Further, any man executing imperium within his sphere of influence was entitled to the curule chair
Curule chair
In the Roman Republic, and later the Empire, the curule seat was the chair upon which senior magistrates or promagistrates owning imperium were entitled to sit, including dictators, masters of the horse, consuls, praetors, censors, and the curule aediles...

.
  • Curule Aedile
    Aedile
    Aedile was an office of the Roman Republic. Based in Rome, the aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings and regulation of public festivals. They also had powers to enforce public order. There were two pairs of aediles. Two aediles were from the ranks of plebeians and the other...

     (aedilis curulis) – 2 lictors
    • Since a plebeian aedile (aedilis plebis) did not own imperium, he was not escorted by lictors.
  • Magister equitum (the dictator
    Roman dictator
    In the Roman Republic, the dictator , was an extraordinary magistrate with the absolute authority to perform tasks beyond the authority of the ordinary magistrate . The office of dictator was a legal innovation originally named Magister Populi , i.e...

    's deputy) – 6 lictors
  • Praetor
    Praetor
    Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army, usually in the field, or the named commander before mustering the army; and an elected magistratus assigned varied duties...

     – 6 lictors (2 lictors within the pomerium)
  • Consul
    Roman consul
    A consul served in the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic.Each year, two consuls were elected together, to serve for a one-year term. Each consul was given veto power over his colleague and the officials would alternate each month...

     – 12 lictors each
  • Dictator
    Roman dictator
    In the Roman Republic, the dictator , was an extraordinary magistrate with the absolute authority to perform tasks beyond the authority of the ordinary magistrate . The office of dictator was a legal innovation originally named Magister Populi , i.e...

     – 24 lictors outside the Pomerium and 12 inside; starting from the dictatorate of Lucius Sulla
    Lucius Cornelius Sulla
    Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix , known commonly as Sulla, was a Roman general and statesman. He had the rare distinction of holding the office of consul twice, as well as that of dictator...

     the latter rule was ignored.
    • Because the dictator could enact capital punishment within Rome as well as without, his lictors did not remove the axes from their fasces within the pomerium.


As can be seen, dictatorial imperium was superior to consular, consular to praetorian, and praetorian to aedilician; there is some historical dispute as to whether or not praetorian imperium was superior to "equine-magisterial" imperium. A promagistrate
Promagistrate
A promagistrate is a person who acts in and with the authority and capacity of a magistrate, but without holding a magisterial office. A legal innovation of the Roman Republic, the promagistracy was invented in order to provide Rome with governors of overseas territories instead of having to elect...

, or a man executing a curule office without actually holding that office, also owned imperium in the same degree as the actual incumbents (i.e., proconsular imperium being more or less equal to consular imperium, propraetorian imperium to praetorian) and was attended by an equal number of lictors.

Certain extraordinary commissions, such as Pompey's famous command against the pirates
Piracy
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

, were invested with imperium maius, meaning they outranked all other owners of imperium (in Pompey's case, even the consuls) within their sphere of command (his being "ultimate on the seas, and within 50 miles inland"). Imperium maius later became a hallmark of the Roman emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

.

Another technical use of the term in Roman law
Roman law
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, and the legal developments which occurred before the 7th century AD — when the Roman–Byzantine state adopted Greek as the language of government. The development of Roman law comprises more than a thousand years of jurisprudence — from the Twelve...

 was for the power to extend the law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, beyond its mere interpretation, extending imperium from formal legislators under the ever-republican constitution: popular assemblies, senate, magistrates, emperor and their delegate
Delegate
A delegate is a person who speaks or acts on behalf of an organization at a meeting or conference between organizations of the same level A delegate is a person who speaks or acts on behalf of an organization (e.g., a government, a charity, an NGO, or a trade union) at a meeting or conference...

s to the jurisprudence
Jurisprudence
Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal theorists , hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions...

 of jurisconsults.

Divine and earthly imperium


In some monotheistic religions such as Christianity (the Catholic Church where the official language, Latin, used terms as Imperium Dei/Domini) the Divine is held to have a superior imperium, as ultimate King of Kings
King of Kings
King of Kings is a title that has been used by several monarchies and empires throughout history. The title originates in the Ancient Near East. It is broadly the equivalent of the later title Emperor....

, above all earthly powers. Whenever a society accepts this Divine will to be expressed on earth, as by a religious authority, that opens the way for a theocratic legitimation. If however a secular ruler controls the religious hierarchy, he can use it to legitimate his own authority.

Thus absolute, universal power was vested under early Islam in the original Caliphate
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

 (before it became the political toy of worldly powers 'behind the throne' and was even politically discarded by essentially secular princes), and later again claimed by Mahdi
Mahdi
In Islamic eschatology, the Mahdi is the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will stay on Earth for seven, nine or nineteen years- before the Day of Judgment and, alongside Jesus, will rid the world of wrongdoing, injustice and tyranny.In Shia Islam, the belief in the Mahdi is a "central religious...

s.

While the Byzantine Eastern Roman Emperors retained full Roman imperium and made the episcopate subservient, in the feudal West a long rivalry would oppose the claims to supremacy within post-Roman Christianity between sacerdotium (the 'priesthood', i.e. the clergy ministering the word and will of God) in the person of the Pope and the secular imperium of the revived Western Roman Emperor since Charlemagne. Both would refer to the heritage of Roman law by their titular link with the very city Rome: the Pope, Bishop of Rome, versus the Holy Roman Emperor (even though his seat of power was north of the Alps).

The Donatio Constantini, by which the Papacy had allegedly been granted the territorial Patrimonium Petri in Central Italy, became a weapon against the Emperor. The first pope who used it in an official act and relied upon, Leo IX, cites the "Donatio" in a letter of 1054 to Michael Cærularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, to show that the Holy See possessed both an earthly and a heavenly imperium, the royal priesthood. Thenceforth the "Donatio" acquires more importance and is more frequently used as evidence in the ecclesiastical and political conflicts between the papacy and the secular power: Anselm of Lucca
Anselm of Lucca
Saint Anselm of Lucca , called the Younger or Anselm II to distinguish him from his uncle, was an Italian bishop, a prominent figure in the Investiture Controversy and in the fighting in Central Italy between the forces of Countess Matilda of Tuscany, the papal champion, and those of Henry IV,...

 and Cardinal Deusdedit
Cardinal Deusdedit
Cardinal Deusdedit was Cardinal-priest of St. Peter ad Vincula.He was a friend of Pope Saint Gregory VII and defender of his reformation measures. Deusdedit joined the Benedictine Order and became a zealous promoter of ecclesiastical reforms in the latter half of the eleventh century.-References:...

 inserted it in their collections of canons; Gratian
Gratian
Gratian was Roman Emperor from 375 to 383.The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian's brother Valentinian II was declared emperor by his father's soldiers...

 excluded it from his Decretum, but it was soon added to it as Palea; the ecclesiastical writers in defence of the papacy during the conflicts of the early part of the twelfth century quoted it as authoritative.

In one bitter episode, pope Gregory IX who had several times mediated between the Lombards and the Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 Frederick II
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II , was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily and stretching through Italy to Germany, and even to Jerusalem, were enormous...

 reasserted his right to arbitrate between the contending parties. In the numerous manifestos of the pope and the emperor the antagonism of Church and State becomes daily more evident: the pope claimed for himself the imperium animarum 'command of the souls' (i.e. voicing Gods will to the faithful) and the principatus rerum et corporum in universo mundo 'princedom over all things and bodies in the whole world', while the emperor wished to restore the imperium mundi, imperium (as under Roman Law) over the (now Christian) world — Rome was again to be the capital of the world and Frederick was to become the real emperor of the Romans, so he energetically protested against the world-empire of the pope. The emperor's successes, especially his victory over the Lombards at the battle of Cortenuova
Battle of Cortenuova
The Battle of Cortenuova was fought on 27 November 1237 in the course of the Guelphs and Ghibellines Wars: in it, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II defeated the Second Lombard League.-Background:...

 (1237), only embittered the opposition between Church and State. The pope again excommunicated the "self-confessed heretic", the "blasphemous beast of the Apocalypse" (20 March 1239) who now attempted to conquer the rest of Italy, i.e. the papal states
Papal States
The Papal State, State of the Church, or Pontifical States were among the major historical states of Italy from roughly the 6th century until the Italian peninsula was unified in 1861 by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia .The Papal States comprised territories under...

, etcetera.

The chief minister of Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

, the Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

 Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build a favourable case for Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the separation of the English Church from...

 suggested removal of the Roman Catholic papacy's imperium in imperio (Latin equivalent of state in the state) by requesting that Parliament pass the Act in Restraint of Appeals (1533) specifying that England was an empire and that The Crown
The Crown
The Crown is a corporation sole that in the Commonwealth realms and any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof represents the legal embodiment of governance, whether executive, legislative, or judicial...

 was imperial, and a year later the Act of Supremacy proclaiming the Imperial Crown
Imperial crown
An Imperial Crown is a crown used for the coronation of emperors.- Imperial Crowns with Mitre :-Legal usage:Throughout the Commonwealth Realms, The Crown is an abstract concept which represents the legal authority for the existence of any government...

 Protector and Supreme Head of the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

.

In Orthodox Russia too, when Peter I the Great assumed the Byzantine imperial titles Imperator and Autokrator
Autokrator
Autokratōr is a Greek epithet applied to an individual who exercises absolute power, unrestrained by superiors. In a historical context, it has been applied to military commanders-in-chief, and to Roman and Byzantine emperors as the translation of the Latin title imperator. Its connection with...

, instead of the 'merely' royal Tsar, the idea in founding the Russian Holy Synod was to put an end to the old Imperium in imperio of the free Church, by substituting the synod for the all too independent Patriarch of Moscow, who had become almost a rival of the Tsars — Peter meant to unite all authority in himself, over Church as well as State: through his Ober-Procurator and synod, the Emperor ruled his Church as absolutely as his army and navy through their respective ministries; he appointed its members (mostly bishops) just as his generals; and the Russian Government continued his policy until the end of the empire in 1917.

Even in 19th century North America, when by the decree of the President of the United States, Brigham Young
Brigham Young
Brigham Young was an American leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and a settler of the Western United States. He was the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his death in 1877, he founded Salt Lake City, and he served as the first governor of the Utah...

, the Mormon
Mormon
The term Mormon most commonly denotes an adherent, practitioner, follower, or constituent of Mormonism, which is the largest branch of the Latter Day Saint movement in restorationist Christianity...

 hierarch and head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was appointed first Governor of the Utah Territory
Utah Territory
The Territory of Utah was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from September 9, 1850, until January 4, 1896, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Utah....

 on 28 September 1851, this was called (politically, not in law) establishing a semi-theocratic (theodemocratic
Theodemocracy
Theodemocracy is a political system that combines elements of theocracy and democracy.One concept of theodemocracy was theorized by Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saint movement...

) form of government there (until the Utah War
Utah War
The Utah War, also known as the Utah Expedition, Buchanan's Blunder, the Mormon War, or the Mormon Rebellion was an armed confrontation between LDS settlers in the Utah Territory and the armed forces of the United States government. The confrontation lasted from May 1857 until July 1858...

) as an imperium in imperio, within the limits of the republic.

See also

  • Imperator
    Imperator
    The Latin word Imperator was originally a title roughly equivalent to commander under the Roman Republic. Later it became a part of the titulature of the Roman Emperors as part of their cognomen. The English word emperor derives from imperator via Old French Empreur...

  • Constitution of the Roman Republic
    Constitution of the Roman Republic
    The Constitution of the Roman Republic was a set of guidelines and principles passed down mainly through precedent. The constitution was largely unwritten, uncodified, and constantly evolving...

  • Cursus honorum
    Cursus honorum
    The cursus honorum was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in both the Roman Republic and the early Empire. It was designed for men of senatorial rank. The cursus honorum comprised a mixture of military and political administration posts. Each office had a minimum...

  • Imperial cult
    Imperial cult
    An imperial cult is a form of state religion in which an emperor, or a dynasty of emperors , are worshipped as messiahs, demigods or deities. "Cult" here is used to mean "worship", not in the modern pejorative sense...

  • Translatio imperii
    Translatio imperii
    Translatio imperii, Latin for "transfer of rule", is a concept invented in the Middle Ages for describing history as a linear succession of transfers of imperium, that is of supreme power concentrated with a series of single rulers .-Origin:...