|Table of contents|
2 Strategy Game
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:
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