Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Steven Sargent




imperium, imperial, power, roman, chapter


The paper examines the changing concept of the Roman Imperium from the time of the emperor Theodosius in the late fourth century to the German writer Alexander von Roes in the thirteenth century. The purpose is to determine at what point the concept of the Imperium no longer resembled that of the Roman world. Some especially important periods are addressed: Justinian’s reconquests, the rise of the Frankish monarch to the imperial title under Charlemagne, the division of the Carolingian Empire under Louis the Pious, the ascension of Otto I and the German kings to imperial office, the decline of Imperial influence following the death of Otto III, and the Interregnum of the thirteenth century. Some general sources establish the basic progression of the Imperium, including Ostrogorsky’s History of the Byzantine State, Folz’s The Coronation of Charlemagne, and Barraclough’s The Origins of Modern Germany. For primary sources I used Justinian’s Digesta, Justinian’s Institutes, the Chronicon of Theitmar of Marseburg, and the Memoriale de Prerogativa Imperii Romani of Alexander von Roes. The sources justify the identification of possession of both temporal and religious power as the defining concept of the Imperium. The first chapter establishes the characteristics of the Roman Imperium in the context of Late Antiquity beginning with Theodosius, the last emperor to rule over a completely unified Roman Empire, and ending with the attempts by Justinian to reestablish this rule over the Western provinces. Chapter two addresses the revival of the Western imperial throne under Charlemagne in 800 and under the German kings in 963. Chapter three outlines the decline of German imperial power from the death of Otto III in 1002 to the Interregnum between 1250 and 1272. Chapter four examines the Memoriale de Perogativa Imperii Romani of Alexander von Roes in detail to understand the differences between his concept of Imperium and that of Late Antiquity. Challenges to the temporal and religious influence of the Imperium resulted in limitations on imperial power. These limitations were then followed by the removal of the theoretical powers which had defined the Roman Imperium as a universal power in Antiquity. The most significant challenges came with the division of the Carolingian Empire, the death of Otto III in 1002, and the Investiture Contest in the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries. The territorial divisions severely limited the political influence of the imperial crown and the Investiture Contest stripped away the last vestiges of the Imperium’s power over the clergy.