The Latin term of imperium (“command”) indicates under the ancient Rome the supreme capacity held by the king then allotted to some Magistrat S.
The Imperium Romanum is probably the Latin expression most known where the word imperium is used in the direction of a territory , the Roman Empire, a part of the world on which Rome reigned.
Under the Roman MonarchyThe imperium is the capacity of command of the king under Etruscan monarchy (namely of 650 av. J. - C. until 509 av. J. - C.). According to the historian Pierre Grimal, the base of imperium is the right and the capacity to consult the gods, by the right of Auspice S, form of divination by observation and interpretation of the favorable or unfavourable signs expressing the will of the gods: flights of birds, thunder or the lightning, etc. Of this faculty crowned to know if a public act can be undertaken with good lucks of success rises a capacity without restriction, under two aspects:
the imperium militae : to be able to convene the people and of raising the armies, ordering for the defense and of the safety of the city.
the imperium domi : civil capacity, its holder states the right, orders and punishes any refusal to obey, organizes the political life of the city and is guaranteeing of the law and order as well as public safety. It designates its members of its council, the Senate, convenes and chairs its meetings.
The emblems associated with royal imperium are the following: the toga crimson, the curule Chair, the Beam X of rods and the axe carried by the Lictor S, translating his right of life and of died on any Romain. These emblems were according to the Romans of Etruscan origin, opinion admitted by the modern historians.
Under the Roman RepublicThe Consul S or the Praetor S, magistrates who replace the kings hold imperium, but for one limited time at one year. The imperium becomes thus a capacity which one is transmitted of a mandate to the following, of a consul to his successor, who is either the appointed consul, or a dictator. This continuity is necessary, because a holder of imperium must obligatorily be present to organize the designation of his successor: convocation of the Comices centuriates, taken Omens, supervision of the vote, proclamation of the results and transmission of imperium.
In the first times of the Republic, when there is no more no magistrate in exercise holder of imperium, by disappearance of the consuls or expiry of their mandate, the imperium returned to the Roman Senate, which indicated among his a Interroi. This temporary, new king titular of imperium, could organize the elections, or after five days of interregnum, indicate another interroi. This process continued until the election of the new consuls.
During Ve and IVe front century J. - C., the exercise of imperium by two magistrates only proved increasingly difficult to face the slow expansion of Rome, with the simultaneous wars on several faces, the management of a city and a more population. In addition, the will of the plebeian to reach the supreme offices brought according to the modern historians to decrease the wide capacities of the consuls. The functions attached to imperium last being divided into 367 av. J. - C. on several magistrates: Consul S, Praetor S, holders of imperium, critics deprived of imperium.
The territorial extension of the Roman domination induced a new attribution of imperium, by prolongation of imperium of a consul or a praetor, for one duration of one year and a given territory: this prolongation granted by the Senate created promagistrats holders of imperium: proconsul and Propréteur.
See also: Institutions of the Roman Republic
Under the Roman Empire
Under the Empire, the Roman Sénat has the role to decree this function with the first, or Princeps , which becomes by extension the Empereur.
The imperium is redécouvert under the Renaissance for better defining the place of the King vis-a-vis the princes.
By extension, in modern right, the imperium is the executory force of a jurisdiction.
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