Imperium Romanum: Empire and the Language of Power

by J. S. Richardson
Imperium Romanum: Empire and the Language of Power
J. S. Richardson
The Journal of Roman Studies
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The vocabulary of empire, as it has developed in European contexts since the period of the Roman empire, reveals clearly enough the significance of the inheritance of Rome for the regimes which have followed it. From Charlemagne to the Tsars, from British imperialism to Italian Fascism, the language and symbols of the Roman republic and the Roman emperors have been essential elements in the self-expression of imperial powers. Such communality of language, by creating a sense of familiarity in the mind of a modern observer of the Roman empire, may hinder a proper understanding of antiquity, because the importance of the after- life of these words and symbols tends to obscure the nature of the contexts from which they originated. An obvious parallel instance can be seen in the case of the word 'democracy', where the adoption of the Athenian term to describe a series of political developments in the modern world which claim some connection with the Greek notion of demokratia has tended to make more difficult the modern understanding of what happened at Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries B.c.'

To establish and illustrate this point, the best term to examine is the crucial one, from which indeed the basic vocabulary of empire and imperialism has been developed, the word imperium. During the period of the growth and establishment of the Roman empire, from the third century B.C. to the early decades of the first century A.D., the meaning of the word seems to have undergone a shift, or more precisely an extension, of meaning. The earlier significance, the right of command within the Roman state, vested in the magistrates and pro-magistrates who were responsible for the official activity of the Roman people, was never lost, but in addition the meaning 'empire', in an increasingly concrete, territorial sense came to be a normal usage, so that, at least from the second half of the first century A.D., imperium Romanum is used as we would use 'Roman em~ire'.~

Given the concurrent use of these two significances of the word, and assuming at least a continuum of meaning (which is probable if the second, as will be suggested below,j develops chronologically after the first is firmly established), it should be possible to discover more about each concept by examining ways in which the two relate to one another. It would be interesting to attempt to account for the change, even if it were no more than a movement in linguistic usage; but the importance of the concept of impem'um in its original significance for the understanding of the political ideas of the Romans and the importance of the process which produced the impem'um Romanum in its extended sense suggest that a fresh look at imperium may help to clarify the nature of Roman imperialism.

The secular activity of the Roman state (as a modern constitutional analyst might describe it) in the period of the republic may be summarized in two words: war and law. In the ancient world, of course, the distinction between sacred and secular did not divide the activity of the state in this fashion: the relations of a community with the gods was, as Aristotle observed in the case of the Greekpolis, the prerequisite for all the other^.^ It is also true, of course, that Romans of all classes were interested in matters. other than the military and the legal: all were involved in some fashion or other with activity which we would call economic, and a few were interested in matters of literature and art; but these were not areas which concerned the

* Earlier versions of this paper were read to meetings of Smith, Mussolini's Roman Empire (1976). On ancient and the Classical Association of Scotland and the Leicesterl modern democracy, see for instance M. I. Finley, Nottingham Seminar on War and Society. I take this Democracy, Ancient and Modern (1973)~esp ch. I. opportunity to thank those who discussed this topic with Thus, for instance, Pliny, NH ~1.26.120:'durant, ut me then, and also many other colleagues who have done so fuere, Thebata et, ductu Pompei Magni terminus Romani since, especially Michael Crawford, John North, and imperi, Oruros, a Zeugmate L.CC.'; Tac., Gem. 29.I : Andrew Wallace-Hadrill. '(Batavi) Chattorum quondam populus et seditione

' For the use of Roman imperial imagery in late domestica in eas sedes transgressus in quibus pars Romani antiquity and the early middle ages, see M. McCormick, im erii fierent.' Eternal Victory (1986); for the Renaissance period, F. A. see below, III. Yates, Astraea (1975); and in modern times, D. Mack Aristotle, Politics 1382b I 1-13.


Roman state as such. To put the point in terms which might have meant something to Romans of the period of the republic, these were not in the public domain, not part of the respublica, the business of thepopulus Romanu~.~

The work of the officials of the city of Rome and of its senate and popular assemblies was taken up with legislation and jurisdiction (that is to say, with leges or their equivalent, and with iura) ;or with the declaration, prosecution and ending of wars, and the various processes which led up to war or its avoidance, in other words, what we now call foreign policy.

Central to all this activity was, of course, the impem'um of the magistrates and pro- magistrates. Only magistrates proposed leges and were responsible for juri~diction;~

only magistrates and pro-magistrates were able, through their impedum, to command. The very word implies such command: imperium is to imperare as desiderium is to desiderare.' The nature of impedum is controversial and mysterious, and it may well be that any attempt to import exactitude into a discussion of its origins and development before the third century B.C. is fruitless and wrong-headed;8 but the reports which later authors give of those origins are certainly an important indicator of the attitudes of the time at which they wrote. Even in the period of the late republic and early empire, with which this article is concerned, at least a certain element of the mysterious is to be expected: in part impeAum belongs not to the precise complexities of constitutional law but to the proper obscurities of religi~n.~

Although closely associated with the elected magistrates, it was not election by the comitia centuriata which gave the consul or the praetor his imperium. Election had to be followed by the curious formality of the lex curiata, passed in the late republic by a vestigial assembly consisting of thirty lictors, as a result of which the magistrate was given the right to take the auspices.1° Once he had been voted the lex curiata, the magistrate elect proceeded to take the auspices to confirm the acceptance by Jupiter of his holding of the imperium.ll It was not only the people who decided, but also the god. This is particularly clear in the case of the dictator, who was not of course elected, but who, having been nominated by the consul, was appointed by the rite of the auspices -'is ave sinistra dictus populi magister esto', as Cicero describes the process in his ideal constitution in the de legibus.12 For the tenure of the imperium, election could be avoided, but the acquisition of the auspicia and the lex curiata could not.

By the late republic, the precise significance of the detail of the auspicia had to a considerable degree been lost, and both Cicero and Dionysius of Halicarnassus lament the tendency to ignore the proper ritual connected with the impem'um and the magistracies.13 The basis of the earlier understanding had, however, left its mark on the practice of the state. According to Dionysius, the magistrates down to his own time went through the ceremony early in the morning of the day of their entry to office, and a favourable omen was announced, even if none was seen.14 Although Ap. Claudius Pulcher as consul in 54 argued that he did not need a lex curiata to hold impem'um in his provincia of Cilicia, nonetheless he attempted to provide himself with one, even though this involved bribing the augurs.'' Similarly the importance of Jupiter and the particular relationship of the god to the holder of imperium remained a fundamental aspect of the celebration of the triumph by a successful imperator on his return to Rome.

On the meaning of res publica as res populi, see Cic., rijmischen Republik (~ggo), 40636, at 428f See the de rep. 1.25.39~27.43, 32.48; P. A. Brunt, The Fallof the commentary on the latter by E. Badian, ibid. 462-75, Roman Republic (1988), z and 299. esp. 4683.

Though, as Kunkel has pointed out, others who were lo Cic.,deleg.agr.11.10.27, 11.12.31. not magistrates were also involved in jurisdiction (W. " Dion. Hal. 11.5-6; cf. Mommsen, StR r3.81 and 609, Kunkel, 'Magistratische Gewalt und Senatsherrschaft', A. Magdelain, Recherches sur l'imperium (1968), 3640. ANRW 1.2 (1972), 3-23, at 12-13). Versnel, op. cit. (n. 8), 313-55 gives a useful account of

' U. Coli, 'Sur la notion d'imperium en droit public various views on the lex curiata as well as his own, but he romain', RIDA 7 (1960), 361-87, at 361. had not read Magdelain. For the importance of Jupiter in

On problems of interpretation of imperium, see the connection with impenum and auspicia, see J. R. Fears, comments of H. S. Versnel, Triumphus (197o), 313-19; 'Jupiter and Roman imperial ideology', AVRW 2.17.1 and most recently, A. Drummond, CAH v11.22 (1989), (1981)~3-14'? at9-5s. 188-9. l2 de leg. 111.3.9; cf. Magdelain, op. cit. (n. I I), 28-9.

contra A. Heuss, 'Gedanken und Vermutungen zur l3 Cic., ND 11.3.9,de div. 11.36.76; Dion. Hal. 11.6; cf. friihen romischen Regierungsgewalt', Nachr. Akad. Wiss. Ma delain, op. cit. (n. II), 16.

kDion. Hal. 11.6. J. Linderski, 'The augural law',

Gttingen. Phil.-Hist. M.(1982), 377-454, at 433, who argues, correctly, that this notion is at the root of mRWz.16.3 (1986), 2146312, at 2293-4, suggests that Mommsen's understanding of imperium, though not assistance may have been given to the god by the use of explicitly stated; A. Giovannini, 'Magistratur und Volk: ca ed birds. ein Beitrag zur Entstehungsgeschichte des Staatrechts', in Cic., adiltt. 1v.18.4;adfam. 1.9.25; adQ.f.111.z.3.

W. Eder (ed.), Staat und Staatlichkeit in der friihen

This multi-strandedness of the power of the Roman magistrate, by which the magistracy itself and the imperiumlauspicium complex are seen as, at least in principle, separable, provided great strength and flexibility when it became necessary to adapt the institution to meet new needs. The obvious case, of course, is that of non-magistrates (i.e. private citizens16) with the impem'um of magistratespro consule orpropraetore, created either by prorogation of an already existing command; or (as in the case of the men sent to Spain in the last years of the third and first years of the second century B.c.) by vote of one or other of the popular assemblies ; or, and perhaps most remarkably, by means of the creation of impem'um holders by thepraetorurbanus on the order of the senate.17 None of these held a magistracy, but each held the imperium and used it outside the city, that is to say held impemturn militiae as opposed to domi. This distinction between the two areas in which imperium could be exercised, domi and militiae, also seems to have originated in the localization of the auspices,18 and thus to have become linked to the different activities, military and judicial, which took place both inside and outside the city. If this is correct, it suggests that the growth of the notion of a multiplicity of impem'um holders, operating outside the city, and not restricted numerically by the number of magistracies, developed from an understanding of the power and position of the imperium holder in which the auspicia were of significance.

The distinction between domi and militiae continues to be found in the late republic, particularly in contexts in which the operation of imperium is linked to the possession of the auspicia.19 It was not true by the late republic that Romans lived only within thepomerium (the original definition of domi) nor even within one mile of the walls of Rome (the definition which replaced it for many purposes during the republic) ;20 and by the time of Cicero, of course, a proconsul, who had ex hypothesi no possibility of exercising his imperium in Rome, was able to hear cases under the ius ~ivile.~'

The mere fact that the domilmilitiae distinction continues to be found widely in descriptions of imperium shows the continuing importance of the link with au~picia.~~

This understanding of what imperium was helps to clarify the attitudes of the ruling Clite to the growth of empire, and the relationship between individual careers and the activity of the respublica. First, given that the passages in which the domilmilitiae distinction is used appear to include all uses of imperium under this double description, all the activity of a holder of imperium outside the category of actions domi belongs to the category of actions militiae : that is to say, whatever is not part of the 'domestic' activity of the holders of consular and praetorian imperium in Rome is part of their military activity.

Second, as already mentioned, the whole activity of the Roman state was divisible into the two categories of war and law, which find their parallel in the two fields of exercise of the imperium. This suggests that the activity of Rome qua state was carried out by these men. It should be noted further that the power that they exercised in order to carry out this role was given to each of them as individuals following (normally) their election, but by means of the lex curiata and the auspices. The people might choose which individual was to hold the imperium, but it was the individual who, through the use of the auspices, received it from, or at least with the active connivance of, the god. However much one might wish to play down Mommsen's belief that the impen'um of the magistrates was in principle absolute,23 and emphasize instead the power of the oligarchy (after the manner of Syme or K~nkel~~)

or even of the people (following Fergus Millar, and, in modified fashion, John North25), it remains the case that the executive of the Roman state was a group of magistrates, susceptible to influence and to advice which, when it came from the senate, could rarely be ignored, and who were in power for only brief periods; but nonetheless not capable of being stopped within their own sphere of action except by the intervention of another magistrate (an event which occurred

l6 On the status of pro-magistrates during the republic l9 Cic.,deleg. 11.12,3;dediv. 1.2.3. as privati, see Livy xxxv111.42.10; Mommsen, StR Mommsen, StR 1~.61-70. 1~.642. 21 Mommsen, StR z3. 102-3.

I' Livy xx111.34 , xxv111.46, xxxv.23, ~~11.35;cf. 22 Thus esp. Cic., de div. 1.2.3 ; Sallust, Cat. 29.2-3, Mommsen, StR 1~.681 53.2; Livy 1.36.6.

n. 6.

lR E. Meyer, Romisrher Staat und Staatsgedanke' 23 SO Heuss (n. 9). (1961), 119-21; Magdelain, op. cit. (n. II), 72-3;contra '4 Kunkel, op. cit. (n. 6),,3;22.

A. Giovannini, Consulare imperium (1983), *IS. The " Fergus Millar, 'The pol~t~cal

character of the classical most telling evidence for this is the significance of the Roman republic', JRS 74 (1984), 1-19; John North, auspices which the imperium holder takes before leaving 'Democratic politics in Republican Rome', Past @' thepomerium (Magdelain, op. cit. (n. I I), 40-5). Present 126 (February ~ggo), 3-21.

4 J. S. RICHARDSON with great rarity).26 The magistrates were indeed members of the senatorial Clite and were elected to their magistracies by the people, but the imperium which gave them power was a gift from Jupiter. Each individual member of the Clite class depends directly on the people to gain election to the magistracies of the city, and thus to the imperium which provides him with the power to act on behalf of the city and thus to advance his own standing. The position is beautifully presented in a quotation preserved from a speech of Scipio Aemilianus: 'ex innocentia nascitur dignitas, ex dignitate honor, ex honore imperium, ex imperio liberta~.'~' Here personal virtue (innocentia), once recognized (dignitas), leads, by way of the magistracy voted to the individual by the people (honor), to the acquisition of power in the state by the individual (imperium); and thus to the culmination of the list with the freedom which guarantees not only the position of the state with regard to other states, but also the position of the individual within it. The crucial link in the ascending sequence is that between the individual and the state, and that is represented by honor and impem'um, magistracy and power. For the purposes of the present investigation, it is important to note that the two are not identical, for, as we have seen, impem'um is separable from the magistracies (as the very designationpro consule indicates), and hence occupy two steps on the ascending ladder of Scipio's sentence;28 and that whereas the magistracy was essentially collegial, and, as deriving from the people, was part of the corporate nature of the respublica, the imperium, at least as the Romans of the late republic and early principate saw it, was handed on directly from the kings, and always contained within itself the possibility of tyrannical power.29

What then of the promised link between Roman notions of power and the nature of the Roman empire? In the context of this article, it should be noticed that, in contrast to many more recent empires, the Roman empire was from the beginning organized by the political executive of the city of Rome. In this respect Rome, like all other empires before the early modern period, did not develop mercantile structures which undertook the process of imperialist expansion, as did, for example, the British and the Dutch in the sixteenth and seventeenth ~enturies.~'

This observation has recently been confirmed by analyses, inspired by the work of Immanuel Wallerstein, of the structures of 'world-systems', both political and economic.31 Even in terms of the primarily economic analysis adopted by such approaches, it is clear that in empires such as that of Rome, economic interests, though always significant, were secondary to political and military interests. Under such circumstances, the way in which the military and political executive of such a state regarded itself is likely to have important consequences for the empire which emerged from their activities. In many cases the empires of the pre-early modern period reflect directly the aspirations of the emperors who created them.

In the Roman case, there does not appear to have been an economic drive, of the sort which was to lead to the British and Dutch territorial empires. This is not to say that the Romans were not keen to profit from the growth of Roman power and influence throughout the Mediterranean, nor even (a far more debatable proposition) that such desires may not have contributed to the development of imperialism; but certainly the agencies which were used to produce the empire, as we see it in the late first century B.C. and early first century A.D., were not commercial. Under these circumstances it is highly significant that military power, imperium, was entrusted to individual members of the Roman Clite in the way it was. The imperium of the Roman magistrate and pro-magistrate was not a distributed portion of the

26 Mommsen, StR 3.1088, n.3 records only three See C. R. Boxer, The Dutch Seabonze Empire cases: M. Furius Crassipes, praet. 187 in Gaul (Livy (1965); B. Gardner, The East India Company (1971); xxx1x.3.1-3); M. Aemilius Lepidus, procos. 136 in Jean Sutton, Lords of the East: the East India Company Nearer Spain (App., Ib. 83.358); and L. Hortensius, and its Ships (1981); for a comparison of the two, see praet. 170 during the war against Perseus (Livy ~~111.4.8). C. D. Cowan, New Cambridge Modern History 5 (1961),

27 Isid.,etym.11.21.4=ORFI~.21fr.32. 29, esp. 419--20. Isidore in fact cites this sentence as an instance of a 41z-cf. G. Woolf, 'World-systems analysis and the climax. Roman empire', JRA 3 (~ggo), 44-58. 29 Cic., de rep. 11.32.56; Livy 11. I .7. See Brunt, op. cit.

(n. s), 15-17and331.

total power of the Roman state, issued from a finite pool (so to speak), but could be multiplied through the issuing, with the co-operation of the god, of identical imperia to a potentially infinite number of persons. On occasion, indeed, those who had already held such power could be recomissioned en bloc to fulfil the needs of the state. In 21 I, when Hannibal was camped outside the city and there was fear of disruption within, the senate decreed that all those who had been dictators, consuls or censors in the past should be cum imperio until such time as the enemy departed from the walls.32 Even in less abnormal times, it was possible to create additional individuals with the imperium required. Moreover, because what they were given was impem'um, they were in principle capable of undertaking any of the tasks for which imperium was necessary. It is remarkable, for instance, that, when in the third century B.C. additional commanders were needed, firstly in the context of the First Punic War, and then in 227 to command in Sicily and Sardinia, the men to be sent were not designated as consuls, but as praetors, a magistracy apparently devised (or perhaps revived) in 366 for judicial not military purposes (that is for service domi not militiae). The ancient sources make no comment on this surprising change of direction in the magistracy. This is surely because what mattered about these people was not that they had been elected by the people to a particular magistracy, but that they had been given their allocation of that strange but essential substance, imperium .

If theimpem'um by which the members of the senatorial Clite in Rome waged war on behalf of the state was a power, almost a substance, affirmed by the gods to particular individuals, the question remains as to how this affected the way in which warfare itself was seen, and also that ultimate outcome of warfare, the Roman control of the world, the imperium Romanum. In part, as suggested above,33 this is a question of linguistic usage: why did the expression imperium Romanum come to be used to express 'empire' rather than the power of a magistrate or pro-magistrate? It is worth noticing at this point that this second meaning is different in two important respects from what has been discussed hitherto: it is about only one of the two spheres of application of the imperium of a magistrate, militiae but not domi; and it is not individual but corporate, relating to the powerlempire of thepopulus Romanus rather than of any particular Roman. It was, of course, always true that in some sense the power of the magistrate was that of thepopulus Romanus, in that wherever the imperium holder was, there the power of thepopulus Romanus was to be found. In the case of the imperium Romanum, in the sense of 'empire', however, the identification with the respublica is much stronger and the central importance of the imperium holder seems to have disappeared almost entirely.

This second point can be seen clearly even in those rare passages in the literature of the late republic and early empire in which impen'um populi Romani, used in a wider sense than simply 'power of the magistrate', includes the notion of domi as well as that of militiae. For instance, Livy can make the tribune C. Canuleius ask, when contending with patrician opponents about his bill on conubium, 'denique utrum tandem populi Romani an vestrum summum imperium est? regibus exactis utrum vobis dominatio an omnibus aequa libertas parta e~t?'~~

In this context, the form of imperium, in so far as it is relevant to the argument Livy is presenting, is both domi and militiae, since Canuleius suggests the consul will call up the army to threaten theplebs and their tribune. Yet even in this deliberately heightened and paradoxical passage (Mommsen described it as 'politische Speculation, nicht technische Rede'3s), the question at issue is precisely who it was that held the impen'um, whether it was to the magistrates or to the people that the army owed its allegiance.

When we come to examine the use of the word used in this larger sense and in a militiae context, it is immediately apparent that there is a whole gamut of meanings from the most abstract (that is 'power' with little or no territorial implication) to the most concrete ('empire'

32 Livy xxv1.10.9. expulsion of the kings -domination by you or equal

33 Abovep. I. liberty for all?'.

" Livy 1v.5.1; 'And finally, is the highest imperium 35 Mommsen, StR I~.ZZn. z. yours or the Roman people's? What was gained by the


in the sense of a sharply delimited area). When the author of ad Herennium uses the phrase 'imperium orbis terrae',36 his context suggests he is describing something abstract rather than concrete: he states that this impen'um is something to which 'omnes gentes, reges, nationes, partim vi partim voluntate consensuerunt'. Similarly, when subject peoples even under the republic are described in official documents as being sub imperio (as in the foedus Callatin~m~~),

it is probable that here the meaning is abstract rather than concrete. When Horace talks of 'adiectis Britannis imperi~',~~

or Augustus asserts 'Aegyptum imperio populi Romani adie~i',~~

the impen'um in question could be taken as either 'power' or 'empire'. At the other end of the scale, St Augustine, in reviewing the disasters which afflicted the world before the coming of Christ, delimits the area with which he proposes to deal in the following words: 'quod ad Romam pertinet Romanumque imperium tantum loquar, id est, ad ipsam proprie civitatem, et quaecumque illi terrarum, vel societate coniunctae, vel condicione subiectae sunt, quae sint perpessae ante adventum Christi, cum iam ad eius quasi corpus rei publicae ~ertinerent.'~'This is clearly an imperium which comprises a territorial area (and, inci- dentally, does not include the whole of the orbis terrae). It is apparent that we are not dealing with two alternative and incompatible meanings, but with the co-existence of a pair of meanings, of which in any particular case one is likely to be more dominant than the other.

A systematic investigation of the word imperlum confirms that, of course, its use to refer to something more wide-ranging than the power of the Roman magistrate does not begin with the late republic or early empire.41 A fragment of the tragedian Accius, from the mid-second century B.c., refers to the 'Argivum imperium', meaning the kingdom of Argo~;~~

and Cicero frequently associates impen'um with urbs, civitas, and res publica in contexts which suggest that it is almost a svnonvm for these words:43 while Varro describes the socio-~olitical arrangements of the bees is being like those in human civitates, having a rex, imperikm, and societates.* For Cicero imperium in this sense can also have abstract qualities, such as dignitas, glon'a, and n~men,~~

but can also be treated almost as an abstract, listed along with dignitas and the others as an attribute of the state? It also has a temporal extension (though admittedly the time-span is usually external),47 and a spatial extension (often, though not invariablv. world-wide) .48

~hls'farit might Appear that there is good reason to assume that there was already in the last century of the republic a use of the word impen'um which coincides with the English 'empire'. A comparison with the usage of the early imperial period, however, suggests that, although the territorial connotations of imperium were undoubtedly present at an early stage, the full development had not taken place. First, and most obviously, the use of the phrase imperium Romanum does not occur until after Cicero's death. The first occurrence is in Sallust, who, in a retrospective passage in the Catiline, describes Carthage as. having been 'aemula imperi R~mani'.~~

This new usage coincides with a more territorial notion of the impen'um Romanum. Although Livy refers to boundaries of imperium, he is describin situations in the past, in which even Cicero was prepared to allow that there had been limits, .8

36 adHer. 1v.13. World-wide: Cic., Cat. 111.11.26, Sest. 31.67; slightly

37 ILLRP 516, line 12; though not, interestingly, in the less so: Cic., Bulb. 17.39, and, of an earlier period,pmv. lex repetundarum, FItW 1'.7, line I. The usage sub cons., 12.31. On the more modest side, cf. Caes., BG imoerio continues in the texts of the iurists (cf. Paulus 1v.16.4. On conceptions of empire in the Ciceronian ~kxv1.1.2~; period, see P. A. Brunt, 'Laus imperii', in P. D. A.

Gaius 1.53).

Hor., cam. 111.5.4. Garnsey and C. R. Whittaker (eds), Imperialism in the 39 RGzj.1. Ancient World (1978), 159-9 1 =Roman Imperial Themes 40 Augustine, de civ. Dei 3. I. (~ggo),288-323 (with further discussion at ib~d. 433-80). 41 For this purpose, a data-base was constructed "Sall., Cat. 10.1. The only other possible caseof such containing the passages listed in the Thesaurus Linguae a use before this is a quotation by Valerius Maximus of Latinae, v11.1, 578-81 s.v. 'imperium' IIIA ('metonymice, Scipio Nasica Serapio, complaining in 133 B.C. about the ad quod potestas pertinet'); supplemented by a search of consul of that year, P. Mucius Scaevola, that 'dum iuris the PHI disk, using the Ibycus system. ordinem sequitur, id agit ut cum omnibus legibus 42 Accius, 231-2 (Ribbeck). imperium Romanum corruat' (Val. Max. 111.2.1 j = ORF 43 Cic., ROSC. Am. 18.50; div. in Caec. 69, 2 Verr. 1'.38 fr.4). Given Valerius Maximus' tendency not to 11.34.85,Rab.perd. 12.33,Cat. 1.13.33,n.9.19,111.8.1? quote accurately (there is, after all, no reason why he zo,Arch. 10.28,Sest. 8.19,9.20,24.53, Vatin. 6.14,Balb. should) and the interval of ninety years before the next 8.22, de orat. 1.46.201 ;cf Caes., BG 1.33.2. occurrence, it is probably safe to assume that this was not

Varro, RR 111.16.6. precisely what Serapio said.

45 Cic., 2 Verr. IV. I I .z5, filanil. 4. I I. 50 Livy xx1.2.7, xxv11.8.17, xxxv11.35.5, xxxv11.54.23;

" Cic., Phil. 111.5.13, de orat. 1.44.196. cf. Cic., pmv. cons. I 2.3 I.

" Cic., Rab.perd. 12.33.

and Vergil could still describe Caesar's imperium as bounded only by Ocean~s.~~

It is more significant that the new imperium has not only extension but parts, so that Velleius can write of events 'in hac parte im~erii','~ and Tacitus of Agricola's desire to make Ireland 'valentissimam imperii arte ern'.'^ Cicero's only use of such an expression was to express his disgust when Verres yielded the control of his naval squadron to the Syracusan Cleomene~.'~ Here Cicero surely means 'a part of our power', not 'a section of our empire'. Another instance of the same phenomenon, and an explanation of it, has recently been given by Dietmar Kiena~t,'~

who observes that when Cicero stated that after Sulla a change had come about in the nature of Roman control of the world, so that what had previously been virtually a patrocinium orbis terrae was now in reality impen'um, he was referring to mastery of the world rather than an empire;"j and that the notion of the empire as a coherent unit, expressed by the phrase corpus impen'i, first appears in Ovid, and thereafter becomes an imperial clichC.

The sense of 'empire' as a territorial entity which these changes suggest indicates that when Cicero, his contemporaries, and predecessors used impen'um to describe a national or political structure, they had in mind something less well-defined. A similar usage might be found in the English word 'power', which since the eighteenth century has also had the meaning, 'a state or nation from the point of view of its having international authority or infl~ence'.'~It is not, of course, possible to be precise about the exact significance of so wide- ranging and elusive a word, but the pattern of usage to which I have drawn attention supports the view of Lewis and Short that the transferred, concrete meaning 'dominion', 'realm', 'empire' becomes especially frequent during and after the Augustan period.58 If this is correct, the reasons for the shift are not hard to surmise. The already existing senses of imperium meaning a 'power' as well as the power of the magistrate, combined with the concentration of impen'um in the hands of a single individual, will have made the use of impen'um to describe the corporate power of the Roman state increasingly natural. It was, after all, in this period that those areas of the world which were defined as under the impen'um of the emperor were seen to coincide in effect with the extent of the influence of Rome as a world 'power'. The shift thereafter to such expressions as those of Tacitus, who describes the Egyptian towns of Elephantine and Syene as 'claustra olim Romani imperii', or the empire as a whole as 'immensum imperii corpus' then becomes almost inevitable."

This brief examination of the nature and the semantics of the Roman zmperium suggests a number of conclusions. First, there does appear to be a shift in the usages of the word imperium in its wider sense of the empire of the Roman people, from a concept which, in the period after Sulla, already included some notion of concrete shape and size, to one referring to a more precisely determined physical entity. This extension of meaning coincides with the first appearances of the term impen'um Romanum, and with the emergence of those supremely powerful holders of imperium, Julius Caesar and then Augustus.

Second, the area of activity covered by the description militiae, which if it does not exactly mean 'war' certainly relates to matters military rather than civilian, was far larger than the practice of warfare as such. In the earlier stages of the growth of Roman power in the Mediterranean region, it will have applied to all the activity of a holder of impen'um outside the boundaries of the city itself, and thus all that work which we normally call 'provincial

" Verg., Aen. 1.2867. '* Lewis and Short s.v. imperium IIB(1)b; cf. also 52 Vell. Pat. 11.97.1. Rosenberg, RE IX.2 (1916), IPIC-11. The word pm- 53 Tac., Agr. 24. vincia shows a similar development through the first " Cic., 2 Verr. v.32.85: 'iis tu nostri imperii partem centuries~.~.

and^.^., duringwhichperiodthedominant dedidisti'. meaning shifts from 'task assigned to an imperium-holder'

55 D. Kienast, 'Corpus imperii', in G. Wirth et al. to 'area under Roman administration'. See A. W. Lintott, (eds), Romanitas-Chn'stianitas (Festschr. J. Straub) 'What was the imperium Romanum', Greece &Rome 28 (1982), 1-17. (1981),53-67;J. S. Richardson, Hispaniae (1986), 1-10;

Cic., de off: 11.8.27; Kienast, op. cit. (n. 55), 3. contra J.-M. Bertrand, 'A propos du mot pmvincia', 57 The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (revised ed., Journal des Savants (1989), I 91-215. 1973)~ 59 Tac.,Ann. 11.61;Hist.

S.V.powerII(b). 1.16.

administration'. War, that is to say, was the context not only of the acquisition but also of the establishment of what became the Roman territorial empire.

Third, the impen'um itself, the power through which the Roman state waged war, and from which the empire came, was distributed in a way which shows that, both in the theory and practice of the middle and late republic, it was separable from the magistracies and the responsibility of particular individuals, normally chosen by the people, hence making possible the multiplication of the number of imperium holders. Indeed I would suggest that it was the nature of that power -the libertas which depended on imperium in the formulation of Scipio Aemilianus -which gave room for the motivation of the long series of military commanders, culminating in the principes of the late republic, and which led to the emergence of the territorial empire.

It might at first sight seem odd that it was on imperium that this individual liberty of action depended. After all, Cicero believed, as he expounds at length in the second book of the de republics, that the imperium originated with the kings, and attributed to Numa the first use of the lex cun'ata de imperi~.~' He was probably wrong,61 but that is not the point. The oddity lies in the link between libertas and imperium, when the latter was believed to originate in a period when, inasmuch as they were ruled by a king, the Roman people did not possess the former.62 The problem is, of course, unreal, for it is not primarily the libertas of the people of which Scipio Aemilianus was speaking.63 Under a monarchy the one person who has libertas is the king, who is the only person (so Cicero and his contemporaries believed) to possess imperium. It is then no wonder that the holder of imperium under the republic was in a position to conduct himself with an almost regal independence.

Augustus in turn was well-placed to take every advantage of the inheritance provided for him by the republican understanding of imperium as a power fit for a king. He is said to have considered taking the name Romulus, which might have been appropriate for someone who, as a new founder of Rome, could be said, like his predecessor, to have been marked out for his task by Jupiter, but in the end to have preferred a name which was less reminiscent of kingship.64 There were, however, other ways to express predominance. Among them was inevitably the question of the impen'um of the pn'nceps. Although much remains debatable about this important topic, two matters which concern this paper may be noted. First, Augustus'imperium, as formulated after his illness in 23 B.c., was superior to that of the other magistrates and pro-magistrates, and was primarily seen as militiae rather than domi. This emerges from Dio Cassius' account of the new proposals of 23, in which he not only specifically states the superiority of Augustus' power, but also mentions that a special ruling was given that this power, unlike all other cases of imperium militiae, would not lapse when the holder crossed thep~me~um Second, though this is less clear, he seems to have

and entered the concentrated into his own hands the auspicia militiae. This seems the most obvious explana- tion for the means he used to ensure that M. Licinius Crassus was prevented from claiming the right to deposit in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius the spolia opima as a result of killing in battle Deldo, the chieftain of the Bastarnae, while proconsul in Macedonia in 29.(j6 The same explanation probably applies to the cessation of triumphs celebrated by those who were not members of the imperial family after 19B.C. Although Crassus was allowed, by whatever means, to celebrate a triumph in July ~ 7which would have required recognition in some , ~ ~ sense of the.validity of his auspicia, it may be that for Crassus, as for members of the emperor's family later, the holder of the auspicia was able to allow a delegation of his authority.68

Cic., de rep. 11.13.25. was not airtoxea.coe, which has usually been taken to 61 So Magdelain, op. cit. (n. II), 30-2, contra mean that he did not have full imperium (e.g. R. Syme, Mommsen, StR 1~.609n. 3. 'Livy and Augustus', HSCP 64 (1959)~ 27-87, at 43-6 = 62 cf. Cic., de rep. 1.32.48; Ch. Wirszubski, Libertasas Roman Papers I (1979), 400-54, at 417-21). However a Political Idea at Rome during the Late Republic and Livy's note about the spolia opima of A. Cornelius Cossus, Early Principate (1950)~7-30. On theconcept of libertas, which was, on Livy's account, a matter of interest to the see now P. A. Brunt, 'Libertas in the Republic', in The emperor, makes the question of whose auspicium was Fallof the Roman Republic (1988), ch. 6. involved central to the argument (contra R. Comb&,

63 See the comment of Brunt on Scipio's aphorism: 'In Imperator (1966), 162-5). other words a man was most free when he had the fullest 67 Inscr. It. 13. 87 and 571. right to enforce his own will' (op. cit. (n. 62), 312). cf. P. Catalano, Contributi a110 studio del diritto


Suet., Aug. 7.2; Dio Cassius ~111.16.7. On Julius augurale I (1960), 442-3; compare also the case of Q. Caesar's use of the Romulus motif, see St. Weinstock, Valerius Falto in 241 (Val. Max. 11.8.2; J. S. Richardson, Divus Julius (1971)~17599. 'The triumph, the praetor and the senate in the early

65 Dio Cass~us ~111.32.5. second century B.c.',JRS65 (1975), 5043, at 51-2).

Dio Cassius ~1.24.4 says this was because Crassus

The particular effect of Augustus' settlement of 23 upon the empire was to put into formal terms what had already been his position before that date, and indeed that of Julius Caesar before him. Although in strict legal terms there were of course other holders of imperium besides the pn'nceps, in practice he had concentrated the power into his own hands. The impen'um was effectively unified in a way that it had not been, as Cicero's contemporaries would have seen it, since the age of the kings. It is not surprising, then, that at this same time the notion of the empire, the imperium Romanum, as a unified corpus also emerged.69

The message was present clearly enough in the decoration of the Forum of Augustus. There stood, on the left of the temple of Mars Ultor, which formed the focal point of the end of the forum, the statues of Aeneas, his son Iulus and the members of the Juliangens, arranged in the niches of the portico which made up the left-hand side of the forum; and, on the other side, the statue of Romulus and the most important men of the republic, those who, in Suetonius' words, had made 'imperium populi Romani ex minimo maximum', wearing triumphal dress.70 The pens Iulia and the triumbhatores of the re~ublic formed a continuum. which had its origi& in the founder of the julii and in the kin'g, son of the god Mars, whb had first held imperium and (according to the Augustan Fasti Triumphales) first celebrated a triumph on the first dav of the first vear of the foundation of the ~itv.~'

In the midst of the forum stood a triumphal chariot, hinowing Augustus himself, voted, as he tells us in the final section of the Res Gestae, by the senate, and below which was placed the tablet recording the award to him of the title Pater Patriae.72 This was to be the set tin^ in which the senate would consider the award of triumphs, from here those who went withT;nperium to the provinces would set forth, and it was here that, if they were successful, they would come to be rewarded with omamenta tri~mphalia.~~

In such a context the commanders of the forces of the Roman people could not fail to realize that it was imperium militiae, passed down from the kings through the great individuals of the republic, that had made the impen'um Romanum ;nor indeed amid such surroundings did it need to be stated explicitly that it was from the exercise of imperium throughout the known world that monarchy had made its return to Rome.

University of Edinburgh

69 Compare theconclusions of C. Nicolet, L'lnoentaire period,.this would in turn coincide with the shift in the du monde (1988) that the Augustan period saw the dominant meaning of the word impen'um towards a appearance of a new spatial understanding of the Roman delimited area. world, though N. Purcell VRS 80 (~ggo), 178-82) 70 Suet.,Aug. 31.5; Ovid, Fasti v.563-6; Vell. 11.89.4; believes that this development had begun during the last Pliny, ,VH xx11.6.13; Gellius, NA 1x.11.10; F. Coarelli, century B.C. Purcell's suggestion that Roman conceptual Guida archeologica di Roma (1974)~ 107-1 I ;P. Zanker, geography was linear rather than spatial coincides with the AugustusunddieMach~ derBilder (1987), 213-17 (= The view presented here of impen'um being essentially seen as PowerofImages in theilp-e ofAugustus (1988), 21-15). the power held by particular magistrates and pro-" Inscr. It. 13.1.64-5 and 534: 'Romulus Martis f. magistrates, since in geographical terms this would appear rex ann. [I]f de Caeninensibus k. hfar[t.]'. as a network of lines of movement of imperium-holders, "RG35.1. spreading out from Rome. If, as I suspect, Nicolet is right '3 Suet.,Aug. 29.2; DioCassius~v.10.3-5. to see a more spatial view developing in the Augustan

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