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In
ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who stud ...
, ''imperium'' was a form of authority held by a
citizen Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Each state determines the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its citizens, and t ...
to control a military or governmental entity. It is distinct from ''
auctoritas 300px, Representation of a sitting of the Roman Senate: Cicero attacks Catilina, Catiline, from a 19th-century fresco ''Auctoritas'' is a Latin word which is the origin of English "authority". While historically its use in English was restricted ...
'' and ''
potestas ''Potestas'' is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in r ...
'', different and generally inferior types of power in the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an indiv ...
and
Empire An empire is a "political unit" made up of several territories and peoples, "usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant center and subordinate peripheries". Narrowly defined, an empire is a sovereign state called an empire and ...

Empire
. One's ''imperium'' could be over a specific
military unit Military organization or military organisation is the structuring of the armed force A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an int ...

military unit
, or it could be over a province or territory. Individuals given such power were referred to as curule
magistrates The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– ...
or
promagistrate In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian i ...
s. These included the curule
aedile Aedile ( ; la, aedīlis , from , "temple edifice") was an elected office of the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of the . Beginning with the of the (traditionally dated to ...
, the
praetor Praetor ( , ), also pretor, was the granted by the government of to a man acting in one of two official capacities: (i) the commander of an , and (ii) as an elected ' (magistrate), assigned to discharge various duties. The functions of the magi ...
, the
consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
, the
magister equitum The , in English Master of the Horse or Master of the Cavalry, was a Roman magistrate appointed as lieutenant to a Roman dictator, dictator. His nominal function was to serve as commander of the Roman cavalry in time of war, but just as a dictato ...
, and the
dictator A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. A dictatorship A dictatorship is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the ...
. In a general sense, ''imperium'' was the scope of someone's power, and could include anything, such as public office, commerce, political influence, or wealth.


Ancient Rome

''Imperium'' originally meant absolute or kingly power—the word being derived from the Latin verb ''imperare'' (to command)—which became somewhat limited under the republic by the collegiality of the republican magistrates and the right of appeal, or ''
provocatio The Valerian and Porcian laws were Ancient Rome, Roman Roman law, laws passed between 509 BC and 184 BC. They exempted Roman citizens from degrading and shameful forms of punishment, such as Flagellation, whipping, scourging, or crucifixion. They ...
'', on the part of citizens. ''Imperium'' remained absolute in the army, and the power of the ''
imperator The Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with" ...

imperator
'' (army commander) to punish remained uncurtailed. The title ''imperator'' later was exclusively held by the emperor, as the commander of the armed forces. In fact, the Latin word ''imperator'' is the root of the English word ''emperor''. In ancient Rome, ''imperium'' could be used as a term indicating a characteristic of people, their wealth in property, or the measure of formal power they had. This qualification could be used in a rather loose context (for example, poets used it, not necessarily writing about state officials). However, in Roman society, it was also a more formal concept of
legal authority Rational-legal authority (also known as rational authority, legal authority, rational domination, legal domination, or bureaucratic authority) is a form of leadership Leadership, both as a research area and as a practical skill, encompasses th ...
. A man with ''imperium'' (an ''imperator'') had, in principle, absolute authority to apply the law within the scope of his
magistracy #REDIRECT Magistrates' court#REDIRECT Magistrates' court A magistrates' court is a lower court where, in several jurisdictions Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch o ...
or promagistracy. He could be
veto A veto (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relatio ...
ed or overruled either by a magistrate or promagistrate who was a colleague with equal power (e.g. a fellow
consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
), by one whose ''imperium'' outranked his – that is, one of ''imperium maius'' (greater ''imperium''), or by a
tribune of the plebs #REDIRECT Tribune of the plebs #REDIRECT Tribune of the plebs#REDIRECT Tribune of the plebs Tribune of the plebs, tribune of the people or plebeian tribune ( la, tribunus plebis) was the first office of the Roman state that was open to the plebeia ...
. Some modern
scholar A scholar is a person who pursues academic and intellectual activities, particularly academics who apply their intellectualismImage:Socrates Louvre.jpg, 165px, The Life of the Mind: the philosophic pioneer, Socrates (ca.469–399 B.C.) Intellect ...

scholar
s such as A. H. M. Jones have defined ''imperium'' as "the power vested by the state in a person to do what he considers to be in the best interests of the state". ''Imperium'' was indicated in two prominent ways: a ''
curule A curule seat is a design of a (usually) foldable and transportable chair One of the basic pieces of furniture Furniture refers to movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating (e.g., chairs, stools, and s ...
'' magistrate or promagistrate carried an ivory baton surmounted by an eagle as his personal symbol of office (compare the
field marshal Field marshal (or field-marshal, abbreviated as FM) is the most senior military rank, ordinarily senior to the general officer A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space force ...

field marshal
's baton); any such magistrate was also escorted by ''
lictor A lictor (possibly from la, ligare, "to bind") was a Ancient Rome, Roman civil servant who was an attendant and bodyguard to a Roman magistrate, magistrate who held ''imperium''. Lictors are documented since the Roman Kingdom, and may have origi ...

lictor
s'' bearing the ''
fasces Fasces ( ; ; a ''plurale tantum A ''plurale tantum'' (Latin for "plural only"; ) is a noun that appears only in the plural The plural (sometimes abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a ...

fasces
'' (traditional symbols of imperium and authority), when outside the ''
pomerium The pomerium or pomoerium was a religious boundary around the city of Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan ...

pomerium
'', axes being added to the ''fasces'' to indicate an imperial magistrate's power to inflict capital punishment outside Rome (the axes being removed within the ''pomerium''). The number of lictors in
attendance Attendance is the concept of people, individually or as a group, appearing at a location for a previously scheduled event. Measuring attendance is a significant concern for many organizations, which can use such information to gauge the effective ...
upon a magistrate was an overt indication of the degree of ''imperium''. When in the field, a ''curule'' magistrate possessing an ''imperium'' greater or equal to that of a
praetor Praetor ( , ), also pretor, was the granted by the government of to a man acting in one of two official capacities: (i) the commander of an , and (ii) as an elected ' (magistrate), assigned to discharge various duties. The functions of the magi ...
wore a sash ritually knotted on the front of his
cuirass A cuirass (; french: cuirasse, la, coriaceus) is a piece of armour that is formed of a single or multiple pieces of metal or other rigid material which covers the torso. The word originates from the original material; leather, from the French ' ...
. Furthermore, any man executing ''imperium'' within his sphere of influence was entitled to the
curule chair A curule seat is a design of a (usually) foldable and transportable chair One of the basic pieces of furniture Furniture refers to movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating (e.g., chairs, stools, and s ...
. * Curule
aedile Aedile ( ; la, aedīlis , from , "temple edifice") was an elected office of the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of the . Beginning with the of the (traditionally dated to ...
(''aedilis curulis'') – 2 lictors ** Since a plebeian aedile (aedilis plebis) was not vested with imperium, he was not escorted by lictors. *
Magister equitum The , in English Master of the Horse or Master of the Cavalry, was a Roman magistrate appointed as lieutenant to a Roman dictator, dictator. His nominal function was to serve as commander of the Roman cavalry in time of war, but just as a dictato ...
(the
dictator A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. A dictatorship A dictatorship is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the ...
's deputy) – 6 lictors *
Praetor Praetor ( , ), also pretor, was the granted by the government of to a man acting in one of two official capacities: (i) the commander of an , and (ii) as an elected ' (magistrate), assigned to discharge various duties. The functions of the magi ...
– 6 lictors (2 lictors within the pomerium) *
Consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
– 12 lictors each *
Dictator A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. A dictatorship A dictatorship is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the ...
– 24 lictors outside the pomerium and 12 inside; starting from the dictatorship of
Lucius Sulla Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (; 138–78 BC), commonly known as Sulla, was a Ancient Romans, Roman List of Roman generals, general and Politician, statesman. He won the first large-scale civil war in Roman history, and became the first man of Ro ...
the latter rule was ignored. ** To symbolize that 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. 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 In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian i ...
, or a man executing a ''curule'' office without actually holding that office, also possessed ''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 Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (; 29 September 106 BC – 28 September 48 BC), known in English as Pompey or Pompey the Great, was a leading Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization f ...
's famous command against the
pirates Piracy is an act of robbery Robbery is the crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted ...

pirates
, were invested with ''imperium maius'', meaning they outranked all other holders of ''imperium'' of the same type or rank (in Pompey's case, even the consuls) within their sphere of command (his being "ultimate on the seas, and within 50 miles inland"). ''Imperium maius'' later became a hallmark of the
Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Politica ...
. Another technical use of the term in
Roman law Roman law is the law, legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables (c. 449 BC), to the ''Corpus Juris Civilis'' (AD 529) ordered by Eastern Roman emperor J ...
was for the power to extend the
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its bounda ...
beyond its mere interpretation, extending ''imperium'' from formal legislators under the ever-republican constitution: popular assemblies, senate, magistrates, emperor and their delegates to the
jurisprudence Jurisprudence, or legal theory, is the theoretical study of the propriety of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whol ...
of
jurisconsult A jurist is a person with expert knowledge of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and inf ...
s.


Later Roman Empire

While the Byzantine
Eastern Roman Emperors This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse ...
retained full Roman imperium and made the episcopate subservient, in the feudal West a long rivalry would oppose the claims to supremacy within post-Roman Christianity between ''sacerdotium'' in the person of the Pope and the secular ''imperium'' of the Holy Roman Emperor, beginning with Charlemagne, whose title was claimed to have "restored" the office of Western Roman Emperor among the new kingdoms of Western Europe. Both would refer to the heritage of Roman law by their titular link with the very city of Rome: the Pope, Bishop ''of Rome'', versus the Holy ''Roman'' Emperor (even though his seat of power was north of the Alps). The Donatio Constantini, by which the Papacy had allegedly been granted the territorial
Patrimonium Petri The Patrimony of Saint Peter ( la, Patrimonium Sancti Petri) originally designated the landed possessions and revenues of various kinds that belonged to the apostolic Holy See (the Pope) i.e. the "Church of Saint Peter" in Rome, by virtue of the ap ...
in Central Italy, became a weapon against the Emperor. The first pope who used it in an official act and relied upon it,
Leo IX Pope Leo IX (21 June 1002 – 19 April 1054), born Bruno of Egisheim-Dagsburg, was the head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 12 February 1049 to his death in 1054. Leo IX is widely considered the most historically signifi ...

Leo IX
, cites the "Donatio" in a letter of 1054 to
Michael Cærularius Michael I Cerularius or Keroularios ( el, Μιχαήλ Α΄ Κηρουλάριος; 1000 – 21 January 1059 AD) was the Patriarch of Constantinople from 1043 to 1059 AD. He is most notable for his role in the events that led to the Great Schis ...
, Patriarch of Constantinople, to show that the Holy See possessed both an earthly and a heavenly ''imperium'', the royal priesthood. Thenceforth, the "Donatio" acquires more importance and is more frequently used as evidence in the ecclesiastical and political conflicts between the papacy and the secular power:
Anselm of Lucca Saint Anselm of Lucca ( la, Anselmus; it, Anselmo; 1036 – March 18, 1086), born Anselm of Baggio ('), was a medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, ...
and Cardinal Deusdedit inserted it in their collections of canons;
Gratian Gratian (; la, Flavius Gratianus; 18 April 359 – 25 August 383) was Roman emperor, emperor of the Western Roman Empire, western part of the Roman Empire from 367 to 383. The eldest son of Valentinian I, Gratian accompanied his father on severa ...

Gratian
excluded it from his ''Decretum'', but it was soon added to it as ''Palea''; the ecclesiastical writers in defence of the papacy during the conflicts of the early part of the 12th century quoted it as authoritative. In one bitter episode,
Pope Gregory IX Pope Gregory IX ( la, Gregorius IX; born Ugolino di Conti; c. 1145 or before 1170 – 22 August 1241) was head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the , with 1.3 billion Cathol ...

Pope Gregory IX
, who had several times mediated between the Lombards and the
Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans ( la, Imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as ...
Frederick II Frederick II, Frederik II or Friedrich II may refer to: * Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (1194–1250), King of Sicily from 1198; Holy Roman Emperor from 1220 * Frederick II of Denmark (1534–1588), king of Denmark and Norway 1559–1588 * Frede ...

Frederick II
, reasserted his right to arbitrate between the contending parties. In the numerous manifestos of the Pope and the Emperor the antagonism between Church and State became more evident: the Pope claimed for himself the ''imperium animarum'' ("command of the souls", i.e. voicing God's will to the faithful) and the ''principatus rerum et corporum in universo mundo'' ("primacy over all things and bodies in the whole world"), while the Emperor wished to restore the ''imperium mundi'', imperium (as under Roman Law) over the (now Christian) world. Rome was again to be the capital of the world and Frederick was to become the real emperor of the Romans, so he energetically protested against the authority of the Pope. The emperor's successes, especially his victory over the Lombards at the
battle of Cortenuova The Battle of Cortenuova (sometimes spelled Cortenova) was fought on 27 November 1237 in the course of the Guelphs and Ghibellines Wars: in it, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II defeated the Second Lombard League. ...
(1237), only aggravated tensions between Church and State. The pope again excommunicated the "self-confessed heretic", the "blasphemous beast of the Apocalypse" (20 March 1239) who now attempted to conquer the rest of Italy (i.e. the
papal states The Papal States ( ; it, Stato Pontificio), officially the State of the Church ( it, Stato della Chiesa, ; la, Status Ecclesiasticus; also '), were a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula The Italian Peninsula (Italian Ital ...
, et cetera).


Divine and earthly imperium

In some monotheistic religions such as Christianity (the Catholic Church where the official language, Latin, used terms as ''Imperium Dei/Domini'') the Divine is held to have a superior imperium, as ultimate
King of Kings King of Kings was a ruling title employed primarily by monarchs based in the Middle East. Though most commonly associated with History of Iran, Iran (historically known as name of Iran, Persia in Western world, the West), especially the Achae ...
, above all earthly powers. Whenever a society accepts this Divine will to be expressed on earth, as by a religious authority, this can lead to
theocratic Theocracy is a form of government in which one or more deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the . This term is attributed to , such as s, s, , and ...
legitimation. However, the Catholic Church and most other Christian groups acknowledge the authority of secular governments. If, however, a secular ruler controls the religious hierarchy, he can use it to legitimize his own authority. Thus absolute, universal power was vested under early Islam in the original
Caliphate A caliphate ( ar, خِلَافَة, ) is an Islamic state {{Infobox war faction , name = Islamic State , anthem = '' Dawlat al-Islam Qamat'' {{small, ("My Ummah ' ( ar, أمة ) is an Arabic Arabic (, ' ...
, and later again claimed by
Mahdi The Mahdi ( ar, ٱلْمَهْدِيّ, ISO 233: '')'', meaning "the Rightly Guided One", is an eschatological Messianic figure who, according to Islamic belief, will appear at the end of times to rid the world of evil and injustice. In M ...

Mahdi
. The chief minister of
Henry VIII Henry VIII (28 June 149128 January 1547) was King of England from 22 April 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry is best known for Wives of Henry VIII, his six marriages, including his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon ...
, the
Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Cat ...
Thomas Cranmer Thomas Cranmer (2 July 1489 – 21 March 1556) was a leader of the English Reformation The English Reformation took place in 16th-century England when the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic ...

Thomas Cranmer
, suggested removal of the Roman Catholic papacy's '' imperium in imperio'' (Latin for 'state within a state') by requesting that Parliament pass the
Act in Restraint of Appeals The Ecclesiastical Appeals Act 1532 (24 Hen 8 c 12), also called the Statute in Restraint of Appeals, the Act of Appeals and The Act of Restraints in Appeals, was an Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom, Act of the Parliament of England. It was ...
(1533) specifying that England was an empire and that
The Crown The Crown is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper i ...

The Crown
was imperial, and a year later the
Act of Supremacy The Acts of Supremacy are two acts passed by the Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliber ...
proclaiming the
Imperial Crown An Imperial Crown is a crown used for the coronation of emperor An emperor (from la, imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally emp ...

Imperial Crown
Protector and Supreme Head of the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
. In Orthodox Russia, too, when Peter I the Great assumed the Byzantine imperial titles ''Imperator'' and ''
Autokrator ''Autokratōr'' ( grc-gre, αὐτοκράτωρ, autokrátōr, self-ruler", "one who rules by himself, , ; grc, αὐτοκράτορες, autokrátores, label=none, from grc, αὐτός, autós, self, label=none + grc, κράτος, krátos ...
'', instead of the royal Tsar, the idea in founding the Russian Holy Synod was to put an end to the old ''imperium in imperio'' of the free Church, by substituting the synod for the all too independent
Patriarch of Moscow The Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' (russian: Патриарх Московский и всея Руси, translit=Patriarkh Moskovskij i vseja Rusi), also known as the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, is the official title of the Bishop A b ...
, which had become almost a rival of the Tsars – Peter meant to unite all authority in himself, over Church as well as State: through his Ober-Procurator and synod, the Emperor ruled his Church as absolutely as the military through their respective ministries; he appointed its members just as he did generals; and the Russian Government continued his policy until the end of the empire in 1917.


See also

*
Imperator The Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with" ...

Imperator
*
Constitution of the Roman Republic The constitution of the Roman Republic was a set of uncodified norms and customs which, together with various written laws, guided the procedural governance of the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a sta ...
*
Cursus honorum The ''cursus honorum'' (; , or more colloquially 'ladder of offices') was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the cla ...
*
Translatio imperii ''Translatio imperii'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power o ...

Translatio imperii


References


Further reading

* {{Catholic, wstitle=Donation of Constantine Ancient Roman government Philosophy of law Political philosophy
Roman law {{CatAutoTOC, numerals=no Law in ancient history Ancient Rome, Law Indo-European law, Roman Law by former country ...
Government of the Roman Empire