The Meaning of <i>imperium</i> in the Last Century BC and the First AD

John Richardson

in The Roman Foundations of the Law of Nations

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780199599875
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595813 | DOI:
The Meaning of imperium in the Last Century BC and the First AD

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This chapter discusses the meaning of the word imperium and presents some reflections on it to provide a background to the sources on which Gentili drew for his own formulations. In the 2nd and 1st centuries bc, which were fundamental in the formation of the Roman empire, the Romans saw their empire and their imperialism in terms of the extension of their power over others, an extension which might or might not involve the sending of troops and commanders to the lands in which those peoples lived, on a long-lasting or a temporary basis. That power, that imperium, was exerted when necessary by the magistrates and promagistrates, elected by the people and allocated their roles (provinciae), usually by the senate. It was through the imperium of these men, and through the actions of the senate and people to control them, that the imperial structures emerged, structures which the inhabitants of the provinces were able to use to mitigate the drawbacks of being sub imperio, and which in time were to provide the legal and psychological means whereby large numbers of them became Roman. Even in the changed world of Augustus and his successors, the imperium of the individual, now the emperor and his officials, and the checks and balances put in place to control those who exerted control, remained at the heart of Roman understanding of their empire. It was this understanding, interpreted afresh by Alberico Gentili, which provides a large part of the matter of this volume.

Keywords: Roman empire; imperium; imperialism; power; Alberico Gentili; provinciae

Chapter.  5067 words. 

Subjects: History of Law

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