Table of contents
1 Ancient Rome
2 Strategy Game

Ancient Rome

Imperium was a Roman concept of legal authority. A man owning imperium had absolute authority within the scope of his magistracy or promagistracy (see below), but could be vetoed or overruled by a magistrate or promagistrate owning a higher degree of imperium.

Imperium was indicated in two prominent ways. An "imperial" magistrate or promagistrate carried an ivory baton surmounted by an eagle as his personal symbol of office (cf. field marshal's baton). Any such magistrate was also escorted by lictors bearing the fasces (traditional symbols of imperium and authority); when outside the pomerium, axes were added to the fasces to indicate an "imperial" magistrate's power to enact capital punishment outside of 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:

  • Dictator - originally 12 lictors, 24 lictors after the dictatorate of Lucius Cornelius Sulla
    • 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
  • Consul - 12 lictors
  • Praetor - 6 lictors, 2 lictors within Rome
  • Master of the Horse (magister equitum) - 6 lictors
  • Curule Aedile (aedilis curulis) - 2 lictors
    • Because a plebeian aedile (aedilis plebis) did not own imperium, he was not escorted by lictors

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, or a man executing a magisterial 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 the Great's famous command against pirates, 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. Imperium maius later became a hallmark of the Roman "emperors".

See also: cursus honorum, curule dignity

Strategy Game

Imperium is a
strategic play-by-email wargame run by E-Mail Games. The game is set in the future, has a science-fiction theme, and the goal is to become the Galactic Emperor via interstellar warfare.

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