Flavius Odoacer (/ˌoʊdoʊˈeɪsər/;[1] c. 433[2] – 493 AD), also known as Flavius Odovacer or Odovacar[3] (Latin: Odoacer, Odoacar, Odovacar, Odovacris),[2] was a barbarian statesman who in 476 became the first King of Italy (476–493). His reign is commonly seen as marking the end of the Western Roman Empire.[4] Odoacer is the earliest ruler of Italy for whom an autograph of any of his legal acts has survived to the current day.

Though the real power in Italy was in his hands, he represented himself as the client of the emperor in Constantinople. Odoacer generally used the Roman honorific patrician, granted by the emperor Zeno, but is referred to as a king (Latin: rex) in many documents. He himself used it in the only surviving official document that emanated from his chancery, and it was also used by the consul Basilius.[2][5] Odoacer introduced few important changes into the administrative system of Italy. He had the support of the Roman Senate and was able to distribute land to his followers without much opposition. Unrest among his warriors led to violence in 477–478, but no such disturbances occurred during the later period of his reign. Although Odoacer was an Arian Christian, he rarely intervened in the affairs of Trinitarian state church of the Roman Empire.

Of East Germanic descent, according to most opinions, Odoacer was a military leader in Italy who led the revolt of Herulian, Rugian, and Scirian soldiers that deposed Romulus Augustulus on 4 September AD 476. Augustulus had been declared Western Roman Emperor by his father, the rebellious general of the army in Italy, less than a year before, but had been unable to gain allegiance or recognition beyond central Italy. With the backing of the Roman Senate, Odoacer thenceforth ruled Italy autonomously, paying lip service to the authority of Julius Nepos, the previous Western emperor, and Zeno, the emperor of the East. Upon Nepos's murder in 480 Odoacer invaded Dalmatia, to punish the murderers. He did so, executing the conspirators, but within two years also conquered the region and incorporated it into his domain.

When Illus, master of soldiers of the Eastern Empire, asked for Odoacer's help in 484 in his struggle to depose Zeno, Odoacer invaded Zeno's westernmost provinces. The emperor responded first by inciting the Rugii of present-day Austria to attack Italy. During the winter of 487–488 Odoacer crossed the Danube and defeated the Rugii in their own territory. Zeno also appointed the Ostrogoth Theoderic the Great who was menacing the borders of the Eastern Empire, to be king of Italy, turning one troublesome, nominal vassal against another. Theoderic invaded Italy in 489 and by August 490 had captured almost the entire peninsula, forcing Odoacer to take refuge in Ravenna. The city surrendered on 5 March 493; Theoderic invited Odoacer to a banquet of reconciliation and there killed him.

Flavius Odoacer
Rex Italiae
Odovacar Ravenna 477
Coin of Odoacer, Ravenna, 477, with Odoacer in profile, depicted with a "barbarian" moustache.
King of Italy
PredecessorNone (Title created after abolition of Western Roman Empire)
SuccessorTheoderic the Great
Bornc. 433
Pannonia, Western Roman Empire
Died15 March 493 (age 60)
Ravenna, Kingdom of Italy


Except for the fact that he was not considered Roman, Odoacer's precise ethnic origins are not known.[6] Most opinions consider him to be of Germanic descent, from one of several East Germanic tribes such as the Turcilingi, Scirii, Heruli, Rugii and Gothi, or possibly also of partial Thuringii descent; while a minority opinion holds that he was a Hun.

Both the Anonymus Valesianus and John of Antioch state his father's name was Edeko (Edika). However, it is unclear whether this Edeko is identical to one—or both—men of the same name who lived at this time: one was an ambassador of Attila to the court in Constantinople, and escorted Priscus and other Imperial dignitaries back to Attila's camp; the other, according to Jordanes, is mentioned with Hunulfus as chieftains of the Scirii, who were soundly defeated by the Ostrogoths at the Battle of Bolia in Pannonia about 469.[7][8] Since Sebastian Tillemont in the 17th century, all three have been considered to be the same person. In his Getica, Jordanes describes Odoacer as king of the Turcilingi (Turc-ilingi or Torcilingorum rex).[9] However, in his Romana, the same author defines him as a member of the Rugii (Odoacer genere Rogus).[10] The Consularia Italica calls him king of the Heruli, while Theophanes appears to be guessing when he calls him a Goth.[11] The sixth-century chronicler, Marcellinus Comes, calls him "the king of the Goths" (Odoacer rex Gothorum).[12]

Reynolds and Lopez explored the possibility that Odoacer was not Germanic in their 1946 paper published by The American Historical Review, making several arguments that his ethnic background might lie elsewhere. One of these is that his name, "Odoacer", for which an etymology in Germanic languages had not been convincingly found, could be a form of the Turkish "Ot-toghar" ("grass-born" or "fire-born"), or the shorter form "Ot-ghar" ("herder").[13] Other sources believe the name Odoacer is derived from the Germanic Audawakrs, from aud- "wealth" and wakr- "vigilant".[14] This form finds a cognate in another Germanic language, the titular Eadwacer of the Old English poem Wulf and Eadwacer (where Old English renders the earlier Germanic sound au- as ea-).[15]

Odoacer's identity as a Hun was then accepted by a number of authorities, such as E. A. Thompson and J. M. Wallace-Hadrill—despite Otto J. Maenchen-Helfen's objection that personal names were not an infallible guide to ethnicity.[16] Subsequently, while reviewing the primary sources in 1983, Bruce Macbain proposed that while his mother might have been Scirian and his father Thuringian, in any case he was not a Hun.[17]

Before Italy

Possibly the earliest recorded incident involving Odoacer is from a fragment of a chronicle preserved in the Decem Libri Historiarum of Gregory of Tours. Two chapters of his work recount, in a confused or confusing manner, a number of battles fought by King Childeric I of the Franks, Aegidius, Count Paul, and one "Adovacrius" or "Odovacrius". If this is an account of Aegidius' victory over the Visigoths, otherwise known from the Chronicle of Hydatius, then this occurred in 463. Reynolds and Lopez, in their article mentioned above, suggested that this "Adovacrius" or "Odovacrius" may be the same person as the future king of Italy.[13] This suggestion has been accepted by some scholars; it appears to explain why Lewis Thorpe named this person "Odoacer" in his translation of Gregory's work.[18]

The first certain act recorded for Odoacer was shortly before he arrived in Italy. Eugippius, in his Life of Saint Severinus, records how a group of barbarians on their way to Italy had stopped to pay their respects to the holy man. Odoacer, at the time "a young man, of tall figure, clad in poor clothes", learned from Severinus that he would one day become famous. When Odoacer took his leave, Severinus made one final comment which proved prophetic: "Go to Italy, go, now covered with mean hides; soon you will make rich gifts to many."[19]

Leader of the foederati

By 470, Odoacer had become an officer in what remained of the Roman Army. Although Jordanes writes of Odoacer as invading Italy "as leader of the Sciri, the Heruli and allies of various races",[9] modern writers describe him as being part of the Roman military establishment, based on John of Antioch's statement that Odoacer was on the side of Ricimer at the beginning of his battle with the emperor Anthemius in 472.[20] Procopius goes as far as describing him as one of the Emperor's bodyguards.[21]

Romulus Augustulus and Odoacer
Romulus Augustus resigns the Crown (from a 19th-century illustration).

When Orestes was in 475 appointed Magister militum and patrician by the Western Roman Emperor Julius Nepos, he became head of the Germanic foederati of Italy (the Scirian—Herulic foederati). However, Orestes proved to be ambitious, and before the end of that year Orestes had driven Nepos from Italy. Orestes then proclaimed his young son Romulus the new emperor as Romulus Augustus, called "Augustulus" (31 October).[22] However, Nepos reorganized his court in Salona, Dalmatia and received homage and affirmation from the remaining fragments of the Western Empire beyond Italy and, most importantly, from Constantinople, which refused to accept Augustulus and branded him and his father as traitors and usurpers.

About this time the foederati, who had been quartered in Italy all of these years, had grown weary of this arrangement. In the words of J. B. Bury, "They desired to have roof-trees and lands of their own, and they petitioned Orestes to reward them for their services, by granting them lands and settling them permanently in Italy".[23] Orestes refused their petition, and they turned to Odoacer to lead their revolt against Orestes. Orestes was killed at Placentia and his brother Paulus outside Ravenna. The Germanic foederati, the Scirians and the Heruli, as well as a large segment of the Italic Roman army, then proclaimed Odoacer rex Italiae ("king of Italy").[23] In 476 Odoacer advanced to Ravenna and captured the city, compelling the young emperor Romulus to abdicate on September 4. According to the Anonymus Valesianus, Odoacer was moved by Romulus's youth and his beauty to not only spare his life but give him a pension of 6,000 solidi and sent him to Campania to live with his relatives.[24]

Solidus-Odoacer-ZenoRIC 3657cf
Odoacer solidus struck in the name of Emperor Zeno, testifying to the formal submission of Odoacer to Zeno.

Following Romulus Augustus's deposition, according to the historian Malchus, upon hearing of the accession of Zeno to the throne, the Senate in Rome sent an embassy to the Eastern Emperor and bestowed upon him the Western imperial insignia. The message was clear: the West no longer required a separate Emperor, for "one monarch sufficed [to rule] the world". In response, Zeno accepted their gifts observing "the Western Romans had received two men from the Eastern Empire and had driven out one and killed the other, Anthemius." The Eastern Emperor conferred upon Odoacer the title of Patrician and granted him legal authority to govern Italy in the name of Rome. Zeno also suggested that Odoacer should receive Nepos back as Emperor in the West "if he truly wished to act with justice."[25] Although he accepted the title of Patrician, Odoacer did not invite Julius Nepos to return to Rome, and the latter remained in Dalmatia until his death. Odoacer was careful to observe form, however, and made a pretence of acting on Nepos's authority, even issuing coins with his image. Following Nepos's murder in 480, Zeno legally abolished the co-emperorship and ruled as sole Emperor.

Bury, however, disagrees that Odoacer's assumption of power marked the fall of the Roman Empire:

It stands out prominently as an important stage in the process of the dismemberment of the Empire. It belongs to the same catalogue of chronological dates which includes A.D. 418, when Honorius settled the Goths in Aquitaine, and A.D. 435, when Valentinian ceded African lands to the Vandals. In A.D. 476 the same principle of disintegration was first applied to Italy. The settlement of Odovacar's East Germans, with Zeno's acquiescence, began the process by which Italian soil was to pass into the hands of Ostrogoths and Lombards, Franks and Normans. And Odovacar's title of king emphasised the significance of the change.[26]

King of Italy

Kingdom of Italy

Regnum Italicum
The Kingdom of Italy (under Odoacer) in 480 AD.
The Kingdom of Italy (under Odoacer) in 480 AD.
StatusVassal state of the Eastern Roman Empire
Common languagesLatin
Vulgar Latin
Chalcedonian Christianity
• 476–493 AD
LegislatureRoman Senate
Historical eraLate Antiquity and Early Middle Ages
2 September 476
• Romulus Augustulus abdicates
4 September 476
• Theodoric the Great assassinates Odoacer
2 February 493
ISO 3166 codeIT
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Ostrogothic Kingdom

In 476, the barbarian warlord Odoacer founded the Kingdom of Italy as the first King of Italy, initiating a new era over Roman lands. Unlike most of the last emperors, he acted decisively. According to Jordanes, at the beginning of his reign he "slew Count Bracila at Ravenna that he might inspire a fear of himself among the Romans."[27] He took many military actions to strengthen his control over Italy and its neighboring areas. He achieved a solid diplomatic coup by inducing the Vandal king Gaiseric to cede to him Sicily. Noting that "Odovacar seized power in August of 476, Gaiseric died in January 477, and the sea usually became closed to navigation around the beginning of November", F.M. Clover dates this cession to September or October 476.[28] When Julius Nepos was murdered by two of his retainers in his country house near Salona (May 480), Odoacer assumed the duty of pursuing and executing the assassins, and at the same time established his own rule in Dalmatia.[29]

As Bury points out, "It is highly important to observe that Odovacar established his political power with the co-operation of the Roman Senate, and this body seems to have given him their loyal support throughout his reign, so far as our meagre sources permit us to draw inferences." He regularly nominated members of the Senate to the Consulate and other prestigious offices: "Basilius, Decius, Venantius, and Manlius Boethius held the consulship and were either Prefects of Rome or Praetorian Prefects; Symmachus and Sividius were consuls and Prefects of Rome; another senator of old family, Cassiodorus, was appointed a minister of finance."[26] A. H. M. Jones also notes that under Odoacer the Senate acquired "enhanced prestige and influence" in order to counter any desires for restoration of Imperial rule. As the most tangible example of this renewed prestige, for the first time since the mid-3rd century copper coins were issued with the legend S(enatus) C(onsulto). Jones describes these coins as "fine big copper pieces", which were "a great improvement on the miserable little nummi hitherto current", and not only were they copied by the Vandals in Africa, but they formed the basis of the currency reform by Anastasius in the Eastern Empire.[30]

Although Odoacer was an Arian Christian, his relations with the Chalcedonian church hierarchy were remarkably good. As G.M. Cook notes in her introduction to Magnus Felix Ennodius' Life of Saint Epiphanius, he showed great esteem for Bishop Epiphanius: in response to the bishop's petition, Odoacer granted the inhabitants of Liguria a five-year immunity from taxes, and again granted his requests for relief from abuses by the praetorian prefect. "One wonders at [Ennodius'] brevity," observes Cook. "To the thirteen years of Odovacar's mastery of Italy... a period which embraced nearly half the episcopate of Epiphanius—Ennodius devotes but eight sections of the vita (101–107), five of which are taken up with the restoration of the churches." Cook uses Ennodius' brevity as an argumentum ex silentio to prove that Odoacer was very supportive of the Church. "Ennodius was a loyal supporter of Theoderic. Any oppression, therefore, on the part of Odovacar would not be passed over in silence." She concludes that Ennodius' silence "may be construed as an unintentional tribute to the moderation and tolerance of the barbarian king."[31] The biography of Pope Felix III in the Liber Pontificalis openly states that the pontiff's tenure fell during Odoacer's reign without any complaints about the king.[32]

In 487, Odoacer led his army to victory against the Rugians in Noricum, taking their king Feletheus into captivity; when word that Feletheus' son, Fredericus, had returned to his people, Odoacer sent his brother Onoulphus with an army back to Noricum against him. Onoulphus found it necessary to evacuate the remaining Romans and resettled them in Italy.[33] The remaining Rugians fled and took refuge with the Ostrogoths; the abandoned province was settled by the Lombards by 493.[34]

Fall and death

As Odoacer's position improved, Zeno, the Eastern Emperor, increasingly saw him as a rival. According to John of Antioch, Odoacer exchanged messages with Illus, who had been in revolt against Zeno since 484.[35] Thus Zeno sought to destroy Odoacer and promised Theoderic the Great and his Ostrogoths the Italian peninsula if they were to defeat and remove Odoacer. As both Herwig Wolfram and Peter Heather point out, Theoderic had his own reasons to agree to this offer: "Theoderic had enough experience to know (or at least suspect) that Zeno would not, in the long term, tolerate his independent power. When Theoderic rebelled in 485, we are told, he had in mind Zeno's treatment of Armatus. Armatus defected from Basilicus to Zeno in 476, and was made senior imperial general for life. Within a year, Zeno had him assassinated."[36]

In 489, Theoderic led the Ostrogoths across the Julian Alps and into Italy. On 28 August, Odoacer met him at the Isonzo, only to be defeated. He withdrew to Verona, reaching its outskirts on 27 September, where he immediately set up a fortified camp. Theoderic followed him and three days later defeated him again.[37] While Odoacer took refuge in Ravenna, Theoderic continued across Italy to Mediolanum, where the majority of Odoacer's army, including his chief general Tufa, surrendered to the Ostrogothic king.[38] Theoderic had no reason to doubt Tufa's loyalty and dispatched his new general to Ravenna with a band of elite soldiers. Herwig Wolfram observes, "[b]ut Tufa changed sides, the Gothic elite force entrusted to his command was destroyed, and Theoderic suffered his first serious defeat on Italian soil."[39] Theoderic recoiled by seeking safety in Ticinum. Odoacer emerged from Ravenna and started to besiege his rival. While both were fully engaged, the Burgundians seized the opportunity to plunder and devastated Liguria. Many Romans were taken into captivity, and did not regain their freedom until Theoderic ransomed them three years later.[39]

The following summer, the Visigothic king Alaric II demonstrated what Wolfram calls "one of the rare displays of Gothic solidarity" and sent military aid to help his kinsman, forcing Odoacer to raise his siege. Theoderic emerged from Ticinum, and on 11 August 490, the armies of the two kings clashed on the Adda River. Odoacer again was defeated and forced back into Ravenna, where Theoderic besieged him. Ravenna proved to be invulnerable, surrounded by marshes and estuaries and easily supplied by small boats from its hinterlands, as Procopius later pointed out in his History.[40] Further, Tufa remained at large in the strategic valley of the Adige near Trent, and received unexpected reinforcements when dissent amongst Theoderic's ranks led to sizable desertions.[41] That same year, the Vandals took their turn to strike while both sides were fully engaged and invaded Sicily. While Theoderic was engaged with them, his ally Fredericus, king of the Rugians, began to oppress the inhabitants of Pavia, whom the latter's forces had been garrisoned to protect. Once Theoderic intervened in person in late August, 491, his punitive acts drove Fredericus to desert with his followers to Tufa. Eventually the two quarreled and fought a battle which led to both being killed.[42]

By this time, however, Odoacer had to have lost all hope of victory. A large-scale sortie out of Ravenna on the night of 9/10 July 491 ended in failure with the death of his commander-in-chief Livilia along with the best of his Herulian soldiers. On 29 August 492, the Goths were about to assemble enough ships at Rimini to set up an effective blockade of Ravenna. Despite these decisive losses, the war dragged on until 25 February 493 when John, bishop of Ravenna, was able to negotiate a treaty between Theoderic and Odoacer to occupy Ravenna together and share joint rule. After a three-year siege, Theoderic entered the city on 5 March; Odoacer was dead ten days later, slain by Theoderic while they shared a meal.[43] Theoderic had plotted to have a group of his followers kill him while the two kings were feasting together in the imperial palace of Honorius "Ad Laurentum" ("At the Laurel Grove"); when this plan went astray, Theoderic drew his sword and struck him on the collarbone. In response to Odoacer's dying question, "Where is God?" Theoderic cried, "This is what you did to my friends." Theoderic was said to have stood over the body of his dead rival and exclaimed, "There certainly wasn't a bone in this wretched fellow."[44]

According to one account, "That same day, all of Odoacer's army who could be found anywhere were killed by order of Theoderic, as well as all of his family."[45] Odoacer's wife Sunigilda was stoned to death, and his brother Onoulphus was killed by archers while seeking refuge in a church. Theoderic exiled Odoacer's son Thela to Gaul, but when he attempted to return to Italy Theoderic had him killed.[46]

Document of Odoacer’s donation to Pierius

Odoacer is the first ruler of Italy for whom the original text of any of his legal acts has survived. This is a grant by Odoacer to Pierius of properties in Sicily near Syracuse and on the island of Melita in Dalmatia, worth in total 690 solidi. The grant itself was made on 18 March 488, but this document, which is on papyrus, was written shortly afterwards. The opening section is missing and the text is in two parts, one now in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples and the other in the Austrian National Library in Vienna, but the bulk of the act itself and the subscriptions by witnesses and officials survive.[47]

Pierius, comes domesticorum, was given these properties as a reward for his achievements in the war against Theoderic.[48]

Pierius' grant is the lone surviving document which has survived from the civic scriptorium of Syracuse prior to the Byzantine reconquest.[49] Scipione Maffei made the unconfirmed assertion that both pieces were owned by the poet Giovanni Gioviano Pontano; it had already lost the beginning by then. The second part is known to have been in the possession of Cardinal Pasquale de Aragon during the 1660s, but Tjäder notes the two parts were reunited at the library of the Monastery of San Paolo in Naples in 1702. In 1718, the second part was presented to Emperor Charles VI through whom that fragment found its way to Vienna.

See also


  1. ^ "Odoacer". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ a b c Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, Vol. 2, s.v. Odovacer, pp. 791–793
  3. ^ Campbell, Mike. "Meaning, origin and history of the name Odovacar". Behind the Name. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Odoacer was the first barbarian who reigned over Italy, over a people who had once asserted their just superiority above the rest of mankind." Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XXXVI
  5. ^ Marcellinus, Cassiodorus, and some Papal documents, which come the closest to implying official use of the title, all refer to him as rex (or one of its declensions). Jordanes at one point refers to him as Gothorum Romanorumque regnator: ruler of the Goths and the Romans. He is called an autokrator (autocrat) and a tyrannos (usurper, tyrant) in Procopius' Bellum Gothicum. The only reference to Odoacer as "King of Italy" is in Victor Vitensis: Odouacro Italiae regi.
  6. ^ A more recent discussion of this question is part of Stefan Krautschick, "Zwei Aspekte des Jahres 476", Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 35 (1986), pp. 344–371
  7. ^ Priscus, fragments 7 and 8, translated by C.D. Gordon, The Age of Attila: Fifth Century Byzantium and the Barbarians (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1966), pp. 70–93
  8. ^ Jordanes, Getica, ch. 277
  9. ^ a b Jordanes, Getica 242
  10. ^ Jordanes, Romana 344
  11. ^ McGeorge, Penny (2002). Late Roman warlords. Oxford University Press. p. 284. ISBN 978-0-19-925244-2.
  12. ^ Marcellinus Comes, Chronicon, s. a. 476
  13. ^ a b Reynolds, Robert L.; Lopez, Robert S. (1946). "Odoacer: German or Hun?". The American Historical Review. 52 (1): 36–53, page 45. doi:10.1086/ahr/52.1.36. JSTOR 1845067.
  14. ^ Encyclopedia of European Peoples – Carl Waldman, Catherine Mason – Google Břger. Books.google.dk. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  15. ^ Voyles, Joseph (1992). Early Germanic Grammar: pre-, proto-, and post-Germanic Languages. Academic Press. p. 141. ISBN 0-12-728270-X.
  16. ^ "Communications", American Historical Review, 53 (1947), p. 836. Reynolds and Lopez in the same issue point out Maenchen-Helfen restated "so patently the position of the unflinching Germanizer, to whom it appears self-evident that every barbarian who distinguished himself must have been a German in his inner being, no matter how deeply influenced by Huns or Alans as to children's heads and weapon" (p. 841), then carefully respond to his other objections.
  17. ^ Macbain, Bruce (1983). "Odovacer the Hun?" (PDF). Classical Philology. 78 (1): 323–327. JSTOR 269961. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 July 2018.
  18. ^ Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks, translated by Lewis Thorpe (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), p. 174
  19. ^ Eugippius, Commemoratorium Severinus, chapter 6. Translated by Ludwig Bieler, Eugippius, The Life of Saint Severin (Washington: Catholic University, 1965), pp. 64f. Bieler explains in a footnote that "make rich gifts to many" refers to the custom of Germanic war leaders giving lavishly to their followers, because "generosity was one of the virtues which a king was supposed to have."
  20. ^ John of Antioch, fragment 209; translated by C. D. Gordon, Age of Attila, p. 122
  21. ^ History of the Wars, 5.1.6. Text and translation in H.B. Dewing, Procopius (London: Heinemann, 1968), vol. 3 p. 5.
  22. ^ J.B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire (New York: Macmillan, 1923), vol. 1 p. 405
  23. ^ a b Bury, History, vol. 1 p. 406
  24. ^ Anonymus Valesianus, 8.38. Text and English translation of this document is in J.C. Rolfe (trans.), Ammianus Marcellinus (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972), vol. 3 pp. 531ff
  25. ^ Malchus, fragment 10, translated in C. D. Gordon, The Age of Attila, pp. 127–129
  26. ^ a b Bury, History, vol. 1 p. 409f
  27. ^ Jordanes, Getica 243
  28. ^ Clover, "A Game of Bluff: The Fate of Sicily after A.D. 476", Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 48 (1999), p. 237
  29. ^ Bury, History, vol. 1 p. 410
  30. ^ Jones, The Later Roman Empire: 284–602 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1986), pp. 254f
  31. ^ Sr. Genevieve Marie Cook, The Life of Saint Epiphanius by Ennodius: A translation with an introduction and commentary (Washington: Catholic University of America, 1942), pp. 12f
  32. ^ Translated in Raymond Davis, The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis) (Liverpool: University Press, 1989), pp. 41f
  33. ^ Eugippius, Commemoratorium Severinus, chapter 44
  34. ^ Paul the Deacon, Historia Langobardorum, 1.19. Translated by William Dudley Foulke, History of the Lombards, 1904 (Philadelphia: University Press, 1974), p. 31-33
  35. ^ John of Antioch, fragment 214; translated by C. D. Gordon, Age of Attila, p. 152
  36. ^ Peter Heather, The Goths (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), p. 217
  37. ^ Anonymus Valesianus, 11.50f. This follows how Thomas Hodgkins explains this confusing chronology of the Anonymus Valesianus; Italy and her Invaders (Oxford, 1885), vol. 4 p. 214
  38. ^ Anonymus Valesianus, 11.52
  39. ^ a b Wolfram, History of the Goths, translated by Thomas J. Dunlap (Berkeley: University of California, 1988), p. 281
  40. ^ History of the Wars, 5.1.18–23
  41. ^ Heather, The Goths, p. 219
  42. ^ Wolfram, History of the Goths, p. 282
  43. ^ Wolfram, History of the Goths, p. 283
  44. ^ John of Antioch, fragment 214a; translated by C. D. Gordon, Age of Attila, pp. 182f. Both the Anonymus Valesianus (11.55) and Andreas Agnellus (Liber pontificalis ecclesiae Ravennatis, ch. 39) place the murder in Ad Laurentum. Herwig Wolfram explains Theoderic's claim of avenging his "friends" as revenge for the death of the Rugian royal couple—"it apparently did not matter that their son was at that very moment in open rebellion against Theoderic" (Wolfram, History of the Goths, p. 283)
  45. ^ Anonymus Valesianus 11.56
  46. ^ John of Antioch, fragment 214a. However Wolfram writes that Sunigilda was starved to death. (History of the Goths, p. 283)
  47. ^ Unless otherwise stated, this section is based on Jan-Olof Tjäder, Die Nichtliterarischen Lateinischen Papyri Italiens aus der Zeit (Lund: Gleerup, 1955), vol. 1 pp. 279–293. An English translation of this document is in Thomas Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders (Oxford, 1880–1899), vol. 3 pp. 150–154.
  48. ^ Anonymus Valesianus, 11.53
  49. ^ Tjäder, Nichtliterarischen Lateinischen Papyri, vol. 1 p. 35


Further reading

  • Thompson, E. A. Romans and Barbarians: The Decline of the Western Empire. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982. ISBN 0-299-08700-X.

External links

Preceded by
Romulus Augustus
as Western Roman Emperor
Julius Nepos
as Western Roman Emperor
King of Italy
Succeeded by
Theoderic the Great

The 470s decade ran from January 1, 470, to December 31, 479.

== Events ==

=== 470 ===

==== By place ====

====== Roman Empire ======

Emperor Anthemius appeals to the Britons for military help against the Visigoths. A Breton force (12,000 men) under the Celtic leader Riothamus lands in Gaul, but is defeated by King Euric. He expands the Visigothic Kingdom further north, possibly as far as the Somme River.

The Santo Stefano Rotondo at Rome is consecrated (approximate date).

====== Europe ======

Odoacer becomes the leader of the Germanic tribes (Herulic – Scirian foederati) in Northern Italy (approximate date).

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

Mamertus, bishop of Vienne, introduces the Rogation days (a three days' procession involving prayer to invoke God's mercy).

=== 471 ===

==== By place ====

====== Roman Empire ======

Basiliscus, brother-in-law of Emperor Leo I, returns from exile (see 468) and leads an imperial conspiracy against Aspar (magister militum), helping in his murder at Constantinople.

====== Britannia ======

The army of King Ceretic of Strathclyde raids the Irish coast, carries off some of Saint Patrick's followers, and sells them into slavery (approximate date).

====== Europe ======

The Visigoths under Euric conquer a large part of the Provence (Southern Gaul). The city of Clermont-Ferrand in Auvergne is besieged.

The Goths, led by Theodoric Strabo, revolt in Thrace after the assassination of Aspar. Leo I sends Basiliscus to suppress the uprising.

Theodoric the Great, age 17, succeeds his father Theodemir as king of the Ostrogoths, settling his people in lower Moesia (Balkans).

====== Asia ======

The ruler of the nomadic Tuoba tribal state in Northern China adopts a Chinese surname, and will rule Northern Wei as Xiao Wen Di, until his death in 499.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

Acacius becomes patriarch of Constantinople, succeeding Gennadius I.

=== 472 ===

==== By place ====

====== Roman Empire ======

The Western Roman Empire enters a period of unrest. Relations between Ricimer, de facto ruler, and Emperor Anthemius deteriorate completely. Epiphanius, bishop of Pavia, negotiates a peace agreement.

July 11 – Anthemius, besieged in the part of Rome he controls until his troops are defeated, is caught while fleeing the city disguised as a supplicant in the Old St. Peter's Basilica (or at the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere), and later beheaded by Gundobad or Ricimer. Ricimer proclaims Olybrius emperor. Ricimer's nephew, the Burgundian general Gundobad, assumes command of the Western army and holds de facto power in the Empire.

August 18 – Ricimer dies at his palace of malignant fever, vomiting blood.

November 2 – Olybrius dies of dropsy. During his four months' rule he has been mainly interested in religion.

Mount Vesuvius erupts. During the volcanic eruption the whole of southern Europe is blanketed by ash.

=== 473 ===

==== By place ====

====== Roman Empire ======

March 3 – Gundobad (nephew of Ricimer) nominates Glycerius as emperor of the Western Roman Empire. Emperor Leo I refuses to recognize him, and chooses Julius Nepos as candidate to the Western throne.

October 25 – Leo I grants his grandson Leo II, age 6, the title of Caesar (approximate date).

====== Balkans ======

Theodoric Strabo signs a peace treaty with Leo I, and according to the terms the Goths are paid with an annual tribute of 2,000 pounds of gold. Leo gives him an independent state in Thrace and he obtains the rank of magister militum.

The Ostrogoths leave Pannonia, and migrate to Macedonia and Moesia, from whence they ravage the Balkans.

====== Europe ======

King Euric orders the invasion of Italy, but is defeated by Glycerius. The Visigoths withdraw to Gaul, and conquer the cities of Arles and Marseille.

Gundobad returns to Burgundy, where his father Gondioc has died, and becomes king of the Burgundians.

=== 474 ===

==== By place ====

====== Roman Empire ======

January 18 – Emperor Leo I dies of dysentery at Constantinople, after a 17-year reign. He is succeeded by his grandson Leo II, who briefly becomes ruler of the Byzantine Empire.

February 9 – Zeno, father of Leo II, is crowned as co-emperor (Augustus). He rules the empire together with his son and stabilises the Eastern frontier.

June 24 – Julius Nepos arrives at Portus and marches on Ravenna. He forces Glycerius to abdicate the throne, and proclaims himself emperor of the Western Roman Empire.

Glycerius is exiled to Dalmatia (Balkans) and becomes bishop of Salona. Neither the Senate nor the Gallo-Roman aristocracy decide to resist, and Nepos accepts the imperial purple.

November 17 – Leo II dies of an unknown disease (possibly poisoned by his mother Ariadne) after a reign of 10 months. Zeno becomes sole emperor of the Eastern Empire.

Winter – Zeno sends an embassy to conclude a peace with King Genseric. He succeeds in an agreement with the Vandals to secure the commercial routes in the Mediterranean.

==== By topic ====

====== Art ======

A statue of a Standing Buddha from Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, (during the Gupta period) is made. It is now kept at the Sarnath Museum (India).

=== 475 ===

==== By place ====

====== Roman Empire ======

January 9 – Emperor Zeno abdicates under pressure, as his wife's uncle Basiliscus stages a coup d'état at Constantinople, with support from Zeno's trusted adviser and fellow Isaurian Illus. Basiliscus usurps the throne and is proclaimed new emperor (Augustus) of the Eastern Roman Empire. He begins a 20-month reign; Zeno and his supporters flee to Isauria.

April 9 – Basiliscus issues a circular letter (Enkyklikon) to the bishops of his empire, promoting the Miaphysite christological position. These religious views will make him highly unpopular.

Summer – Emperor Julius Nepos grants the Visigoth king Euric legal tenure of his conquests, which include Provence (region of Gaul), in exchange for full independence.

August 28 – Magister Militum Orestes takes control of the government in Ravenna and forces Julius Nepos to flee to Dalmatia.

October 31 – Romulus Augustus is installed as emperor by his father Orestes, who becomes regent in effect of the Western Roman Empire. Augustus would ultimately rule for 9 months as the last emperor of the Western Empire.

====== Asia ======

Bodhidharma, Buddhist monk, travels to China and begins teachings of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra (approximate date).

Gongju becomes the capital of Baekje, and is threatened by Goguryeo who conquers the Han River valley (Korea).

Munju becomes king of Baekje.

==== By topic ====

====== Art ======

A Bodhisattva (detail of a wall painting in the Ajanta Caves) in Maharashtra (India) of the Gupta period) is made (approximate date).

====== Religion ======

The compilation of the Babylonian Talmud, the source of the majority of Jewish Halakha, is completed.

Church of Saint Simeon Stylites consecrated in Syria.

=== 476 ===

==== By place ====

====== Roman Empire ======

Summer – Odoacer, chieftain of the Germanic tribes (Herulic - Scirian foederati), visits the imperial palace at Ravenna. He petitions Orestes (magister militum) to reward his mercenaries for their services and their support of his rebellion a year earlier, by making good on his promise to grant them lands to settle permanently in Italy. Orestes refuses this proposal and Odoacer leads his tribesmen in a revolt.

August – Basiliscus, Roman usurper, is deposed and Zeno is restored as emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire. With the support of his adviser Illus, he besieges Constantinople, but the Senate opens the gates, allowing him to resume the throne. Basiliscus flees to sanctuary in a church, but surrenders himself and his family after extracting a solemn promise from Zeno not to shed their blood. Basiliscus is sent to a fortress in Cappadocia, where he later dies from starvation.

August 23 – Odoacer, age 43, is proclaimed rex Italiae ("king of Italy") by his troops. He leads his Ostrogoth army into the Po Valley, and advances to Ravenna while plundering the countryside.

September 4 – Romulus Augustulus, Roman usurper of the Western Roman Empire, is deposed by Odoacer at Ravenna. Odoacer spares the boy's life and gives him a pension of 6,000 solidi, but exiles him to the "Castellum Lucullanum" (Castel dell'Ovo), on the island of Megaride in the Gulf of Naples. His father Orestes had been arrested a week earlier near Piacenza, and swiftly executed. This event will later be romanticized in Western literature and history as the Fall of Rome, and is traditionally used by historians to mark the beginning of the European Middle Ages.

Julius Nepos, de jure ruler, becomes legally the last "Western Roman Emperor." He governs Dalmatia (Balkans), Morocco, and Northwest Gaul until his death in 480, but has no effective power on the Italian Peninsula.

Odoacer crosses the Maritime Alps with a Gothic army and invades Provence (Southern Gaul). He conquers the cities of Arles and Marseilles, after a victorious battle against the Burgundians.

The Visigoths under King Euric march into Italy, and suffer defeat against the forces of Odoacer. Emperor Zeno concludes a peace treaty between the Goths and Odoacer surrenders the newly conquered territory in Gaul. Euric pledges himself to undertake no further hostilities.

The Roman Senate petitions Zeno to recognize Nepos as deposed and take the sole emperorship himself, abolishing the 91 year east/west division of the empire and recognizing Odoacer's authority in Italy. Zeno declines the first request, but names Odoacer Patricius, investing his rule with Imperial legitimacy.

Winter – Zeno recognizes the full extent of the Vandal Kingdom, including all of western Africa, the Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. King Gaiseric gives Sicily, with the exception of the city of Lilybaeum, to Odoacer in return for tribute.

====== India ======

The birth of Aryabhata is traditionally regarded as the beginning of the classical period of Indian mathematics and astronomy.

====== China ======

Xian Wen Di, Retired Emperor of Northern Wei, is murdered by Empress Feng. She assumes regency over the young Xiao Wen Di.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

Peter the Fuller is restored as patriarch of Antioch.

=== 477 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

January 25 – King Genseric dies a natural death at Carthage, and is succeeded by his eldest son Huneric. He maintains control with his Vandal fleet over the islands in the western Mediterranean Sea, and rescinds his father's policy of persecuting the Roman Catholics in Africa.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Aelle, first king of the South Saxons, lands on the Sussex coast (England), with his three sons, near Cymenshore. The Britons engage him upon landing, but his superior force besieges them at Pevensey and drives them into the Weald. Over the next nine years, Saxon coastal holdings are gradually expanded.

====== Byzantine Empire ======

Armatus, Byzantine military commander (magister militum), is killed by order of emperor Zeno. He is murdered by his own friend Onoulphus after supporting the rebellion of his uncle Basiliscus (see 475).

====== China ======

Shun Di, age 10, becomes emperor of the Liu Song Dynasty, after his brother Houfei Di is assassinated by general Xiao Daocheng. He installs him as puppet ruler and sets himself up as regent. Xiao receives near-imperial powers and establishes Buddhism as the state religion.

Shaolin Monastery is founded (according to the Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks (645) by Daoxuan; the monastery is built on the north side of Shaoshi Mountain, the western peak of Mount Song, one of the four Sacred Mountains of China, by emperor Xiao Wen Di of the Northern Wei Dynasty in 477. Yang Xuanzhi, in the Record of the Buddhist Monasteries of Luoyang (547), and Li Xian, in the Ming Yitongzhi (1461), concur with Daoxuan's location and attribution. For alternate founding date, see 495 or 497).

Xiao Wen Di sets up the "Three Leaders" system, under which native hamlet, village and district officers are responsible for taxation and conscription.

This year is the earliest date for the oldest known painted depiction of a horse collar, on a cave mural of Dunhuang, during the Northern Wei Dynasty.

====== Asia ======

Samgeun becomes king of the Korean kingdom of Baekje.

=== 478 ===

==== By place ====

====== Byzantine Empire ======

Verina, mother-in-law of Emperor Zeno, attempts to kill Isaurian general Illus for turning against her brother Basiliscus. A major revolt is led by her son-in-law Marcian and the Ostrogoth warlord Theodoric Strabo, but Illus again proves his loyalty to Zeno by quashing the revolt in 479.

====== Asia ======

The first Shinto shrines are built in Japan.

The Liu Song dynasty ends in China.

Chinese chronicles record a memorial sent by the "King of Japan" (possibly Yūryaku), who describes himself as "Supreme Director of Military Affairs in Japan and Korea" to the Court of the Northern Wei Dynasty. The Chinese emperor responds by confirming the Japanese dynasty in those titles. This is the earliest verifiable date in Japanese history.

=== 479 ===

==== By place ====

====== Britannia ======

Ambrosius Aurelianus, war leader of the Romano-British, is proclaimed king of the Britons (according to Historia Regum Britanniae). He rules probably in the south of Britain, and continues the war against the Anglo-Saxons.

====== Europe ======

King Theodoric the Great starts a 4-year campaign against the Byzantine Empire. The Ostrogoths ravage the Roman provinces (Moesia and Thrace), and threaten the capital of Constantinople itself.

Julius Nepos, former emperor of the Western Roman Empire, plots military plans in Dalmatia against Odoacer, hoping to regain control of Italy himself.

====== Asia ======

Summer – The Song Dynasty ends and the Southern Qi Dynasty begins in southern China. Emperor Shun Di is forced to abandon the throne and Qi Gao Di becomes the first ruler of Southern Qi. Later former Emperor Shun and empress Wang Zhenfeng are killed by the imperial guard, near the vicinity of the capital Jiankang.

Dongseong becomes king of the Korean kingdom of Baekje.

Soji becomes king of the Korean kingdom of Silla.


Year 476 (CDLXXVI) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Basiliscus and Armatus (or, less frequently, year 1229 Ab urbe condita). The denomination 476 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Because the fall of the Western Roman Empire occurred in 476, many historians consider it the last year of ancient history and the first year of the Middle Ages in Europe.

Battle of Isonzo (489)

The Battle of the Isonzo, the Battle of the Aesontius, or the Battle of the Isontius is the name given to the battle fought on August 28, 489 on the banks of the Isontius River, not far away from Aquileia. This river is now known as the Isonzo in Italian, and Soča in Slovene. This battle should not be confused with the 12 Battles of the Isonzo during World War I.

Theoderic the Great, king of the Ostrogoths, in 489 opened his first campaign against Odoacer to wrest Italy from him. On 28 August, the two armies met on the banks of the Isontius. Theoderic defeated Odoacer, who retreated. A second battle was fought at Verona.

Battle of Pavia (476)

The Battle of Pavia was fought between the Western Roman Empire under Orestes and the Germanic warrior Odoacer. Odoacer was the leader of a group of Herulian and Scirian mercenaries serving in the Roman army. Leading a mutiny of these troops, Odoacer defeated the Roman general Orestes near Pavia, executing Orestes. Odoacer thereafter marched on Ravenna, capturing the city and executing Orestes' son Paul. Odoacer overthrew the Roman emperor Romulus Augustus, also a son of Orestes, which marked the effective fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Battle of Verona (489)

The Battle of Verona was fought on 30 September 489 between the Ostrogothic leader Theoderic the Great and the Germanic King of Italy Odoacer. Theoderic personally led his troops in battle, and achieved a decisive victory. Odoacer was subsequently forced to flee to Ravenna, and Theoderic was free to capture Pavia and Milan.

Deposition of Romulus Augustulus

Odoacer's deposition of Romulus Augustulus, occurring in 476 AD, marked the end of the period during which Western Roman Emperors exercised sovereignty, although Julius Nepos exercised control over Dalmatia until 480. Romulus Augustulus was a 16-year-old minor at the time.


A diadem is a type of crown, specifically an ornamental headband worn by monarchs and others as a badge of royalty. The word derives from the Greek διάδημα diádēma, "band" or "fillet", from διαδέω diadéō, "I bind round", or "I fasten".The term originally referred to the embroidered white silk ribbon, ending in a knot and two fringed strips often draped over the shoulders, that surrounded the head of the king to denote his authority. Such ribbons were also used to crown victorious athletes in important sports games in antiquity. It was later applied to a metal crown, generally in a circular or "fillet" shape. For example, the crown worn by Queen Juliana of the Netherlands was a diadem, as was that of a baron later (in some countries surmounted by three globes). The ancient Celts were believed to have used a thin, semioval gold plate called a mind (Old Irish) as a diadem. Some of the earliest examples of these types of crowns can be found in ancient Egypt, from the simple fabric type to the more elaborate metallic type, and in the Aegean world.A diadem is also a jewelled ornament in the shape of a half crown, worn by women and placed over the forehead (in this sense, also called tiara). In some societies, it may be a wreath worn around the head. The ancient Persians wore a high and erect royal tiara encircled with a diadem. Hera, queen of the Greek gods, wore a golden crown called the diadem.

The Priest king of the Indus Valley Civilization wore what is probably the oldest example of a Diadem approx. 3000BC.

By extension, "diadem" can be used generally for an emblem of regal power or dignity. The head regalia worn by Roman Emperors, from the time of Diocletian onwards, is described as a diadem in the original sources. It was this object that the Foederatus general Odoacer returned to Emperor Zeno (the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire) after his expulsion of the usurper Romulus Augustus from Rome in 476 AD.

Fall of Ravenna

The Fall of Ravenna, capital of the Western Roman Empire, occurred in early September 476 after a minor confrontation between the Heruli under their King Odoacer and the remnants of the Western Roman Army in Italy. The Roman Empire had been in relative decline since the beginning of the barbarian invasions and Rome, the symbolical heart and largest city of the Western Empire, was sacked in 410 by the Visigoths and in 455 by the Vandals. By 476 the Roman Emperor was little more than a warlord having very little de facto control of any territory outside of Italy. The last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was not even recognized as a legitimate ruler outside of Italy; the Eastern Roman Empire recognized Julius Nepos as the true Western Roman Emperor.

Herulians were foederati of the Western Roman Empire; they were mercenary troops of the Roman Army of Italy. They envied the fortune of their brethren in Gaul, Spain, and Africa, whose victorious arms had acquired an independent and perpetual inheritance; and they insisted that a third part of the lands of Italy should be immediately divided among them. Orestes, the father of Emperor Romulus Augustus, rejected their demand - causing their revolt. From all the camps and garrisons of Italy the confederates flocked to the standard of Odoacer, their leader; Orestes later retreated to Pavia. Pavia was subsequently pillaged and Orestes was executed.The decisive battle was fought on September 2, 476 near Ravenna, the capital of the Western Roman Empire: it saw the Foederati defeat the largely depleted Roman garrison. The city, defended by Paulus (the brother of Orestes) was captured swiftly and easily. Two days later, the sixteen year old Emperor Romulus Augustulus was forced to abdicate by Odoacer, ending twelve-hundred years of Roman rule in Italy beginning with the Roman Kingdom in 753 BC. Romulus was sent into retirement in Campania.


The Herules (or Heruli) were an East Germanic tribe who lived north of the Black Sea apparently near the Sea of Azov, in the third century AD, and later moved (either wholly or partly) to the Roman frontier on the central European Danube, at the same time as many eastern barbarians during late antiquity, such as the Goths, Huns, Scirii, Rugii and Alans.

In the third century, they were named along with Goths as one of the most important "Scythian" groups who attacked Greece from the Black Sea by sea, and marauded around the Balkans for several years. In the fourth century, they were subjugated by the empires of Ermanaric the Ostrogoth, and later Attila the Hun; they are not mentioned in the written record again until after the death of Attila.

Along with many other people they reappear in the written records as one of many groups from the east who were struggling for supremacy on the left bank of the middle Danube after the death of Attila, in the area stretching from modern Bavaria to modern Hungary. They established their own kingdom and many joined Odoacer, who deposed the last Western Roman Emperor Romulus Augustus in 476 AD. They became well known both as soldiers in various Roman armies, in the Italian kingdom of Odoacer, and as sea raiders on the Atlantic coast, before fading out of history. The Danubian kingdom broke up and remnants settled in the Balkans and other places. The last known political entity which was described as Herulian seem to have been in the area of modern Belgrade in the 550s, as a settlement within the Roman Empire and under Roman control.

The details of their history are difficult to reconstruct. Like the Goths and some other Germanic peoples who entered the Roman Empire, there was an origin myth for the Herules wherein they had come from the far north of Europe, and been ejected after fighting with a neighbouring people, in this case named as the Dani.

Julius Nepos

Julius Nepos (Latin: Flavius Julius Nepos Augustus; c. 430 – 480) was Western Roman Emperor de facto from 474 to 475 and de jure until his death in 480. He was also the ruler of Roman Dalmatia from 468 to 480. Some historians consider Nepos to be the last Western Roman Emperor, while others consider the western line to have ended with Romulus Augustulus in 476. In contrast, the Eastern Roman Empire and its line of emperors survived this period of history essentially intact.

Nepos was elevated to Western Roman Emperor in 474 by the Eastern Roman Emperor Leo I in order to replace the usurper Glycerius. Nepos was then deposed by Orestes, who took control of the government at Ravenna on August 28, 475, forcing Nepos to flee by ship to Dalmatia. Orestes crowned his son, Romulus Augustulus, as emperor but they were soon deposed by Odoacer.

Nepos continued to reign from Dalmatia as the "Emperor of the West" recognized by Constantinople, but in practical terms his power did not extend beyond Dalmatia. Nepos was assassinated in 480, and Eastern Emperor Zeno formally abolished the Western division of the Empire.

King of Italy

King of Italy (Latin: Rex Italiae; Italian: Re d'Italia) was the title given to the ruler of the Kingdom of Italy after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The first to take the title was Odoacer, a "barbarian" military leader, in the late 5th century, followed by the Ostrogothic kings up to the mid-6th century. With the Frankish conquest of Italy in the 8th century, the Carolingians assumed the title, which was maintained by subsequent Holy Roman Emperors throughout the Middle Ages. The last Emperor to claim the title was Charles V in the 16th century. During this period, the holders of the title were crowned with the Iron Crown of Lombardy.

A Kingdom of Italy was restored from 1805 to 1814 with Napoleon as its only king, centered in Northern Italy. It was not until the Italian unification in the 1860s that a Kingdom of Italy covering the entire peninsula was restored. From 1861 the House of Savoy held the title of King of Italy until the last king, Umberto II, was exiled in 1946 when Italy became a republic.


Onoulphus, also Onoulf, Unulf and Hunulf (died 493) was a general of the late fifth century of Scirian origin. He served as magister militum per Illyricum from 477 to 479 as a general of the Eastern Roman Empire, then afterwards was a general for his brother Odoacer, king of Italy, until their death.

Ostrogothic Kingdom

The Ostrogothic Kingdom, officially the Kingdom of Italy (Latin: Regnum Italiae), was established by the Ostrogoths in Italy and neighbouring areas from 493 to 553.

In Italy the Ostrogoths, led by Theoderic the Great, killed and replaced Odoacer, a Germanic soldier, erstwhile-leader of the foederati in Northern Italy, and the de facto ruler of Italy, who had deposed the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Romulus Augustulus, in 476. Under Theoderic, its first king, the Ostrogothic kingdom reached its zenith, stretching from modern France in the west into modern Serbia in the southeast. Most of the social institutions of the late Western Roman Empire were preserved during his rule. Theodoric called himself Gothorum Romanorumque rex ("King of the Goths and Romans"), demonstrating his desire to be a leader for both peoples.

Starting in 535, the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire invaded Italy under Justinian I. The Ostrogothic ruler at that time, Witiges, could not defend the kingdom successfully and was finally captured when the capital Ravenna fell. The Ostrogoths rallied around a new leader, Totila, and largely managed to reverse the conquest, but were eventually defeated. The last king of the Ostrogothic Kingdom was Teia.

Romulus Augustulus

Flavius Romulus Augustus (c. AD 460 – after AD 476; possibly still alive as late as AD 507), known derisively and historiographically as Romulus Augustulus, was the Roman emperor who ruled the Western Roman Empire from 31 October 475 until 4 September 476. He is often described as the "last Western Roman emperor", though some historians consider this to be Julius Nepos. His deposition by Odoacer traditionally marks the end of the Roman Empire in the West, the end of Ancient Rome, and the beginning of the Middle Ages in Western Europe.

Although he, as all other emperors, adopted the name Augustus upon his accession, he is better remembered by his derisive nickname Augustulus. The Latin suffix -ulus is a diminutive; hence Augustulus effectively means "Little Augustus". The name Romulus was also changed derisively to Momyllus meaning "little disgrace".The historical record contains few details of Romulus' life. He was the son of Orestes, a Roman who once served as a secretary in the court of Attila the Hun before coming into the service of Julius Nepos in AD 475. In the same year he was promoted to the rank of magister militum, but then led a military revolt that forced Nepos to flee into exile. With the capital of Ravenna under his control, Orestes appointed his son Romulus to the throne despite the lack of support from the eastern court in Constantinople. Romulus, however, was little more than a child and figurehead for his father's rule. After ten months in power, during which time his authority and legitimacy were disputed beyond Italy, Romulus was forced to abdicate by Odoacer, a Germanic foederatus officer who defeated and executed Orestes. After seizing control of Ravenna, Odoacer sent the former emperor to live in the Castellum Lucullanum in Campania, after which he disappears from the historical record.


The Kingdom of the Rugii or Rugiland was established by the Germanic Rugii in present-day Austria in the 5th century.


The Scirii (also Sciri, Scirians, Skirii, Skiri or Skirians) were an East Germanic tribe of Eastern Europe, attested in historical works between the 2nd century BC and 5th century AD.

Siege of Rome (472)

The Siege of Rome was fought between supporters of the Suebian warrior Ricimer and the Western Roman emperor Anthemius. Ricimer had previously established Anthemius as emperor, but later fell out with his nominee and attacked Rome. With the help of his Burgundian allies and the Germanic warrior Odoacer, Ricimer laid siege to Rome. After a five months siege and the defeat of a relief army from Gaul commanded by Bilimer, the city fell to Ricimer. Anthemius was killed, but Ricimer himself died shortly afterwards. A couple of years later Odoacer established himself as King of Italy.

Theoderic the Great

Theoderic the Great (454 – 30 August 526), often referred to as Theodoric (; Gothic: *𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰𐍂𐌴𐌹𐌺𐍃, *Þiudareiks, Latin: Flāvius Theodericus, Italian: Teodorico, Greek: Θευδέριχος, Theuderikhos, Old English: Þēodrīc, Old Norse: Þjōðrēkr, German: Theoderich), was king of the Ostrogoths (475–526), ruler of Italy (493–526), regent of the Visigoths (511–526), and a patrician of the Roman Empire. As ruler of the combined Gothic realms, Theoderic controlled an empire stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Adriatic Sea. He kept good relations between Ostrogoths and Romans, maintained a Roman legal administration and oversaw a flourishing scholarly culture and the largest building program in Italy in 100 years.Theoderic was born in Pannonia in 454 as the son of king Theodemir, a Germanic Amali nobleman, and his concubine Ereleuva. From 461 to 471, Theoderic grew up as a hostage in Constantinople, received a privileged education under imperial direction, and succeeded his father as leader of the Pannonian Ostrogoths in 473. Settling his people in lower Moesia, Theoderic came into conflict with Thracian Ostrogoths led by Theodoric Strabo, whom he eventually supplanted, uniting the peoples in 484. Emperor Zeno subsequently gave him the title of Patrician, Vir gloriosus, and the office of magister militum (master of the soldiers), and even appointed him as consul. Seeking further gains, Theoderic frequently ravaged the provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire, eventually threatening Constantinople itself. In 488, Emperor Zeno ordered Theoderic to overthrow the Germanic foederatus and King of Italy, Odoacer. After a victorious four-year war, Theoderic killed Odoacer with his own hands while they shared a meal, settled his 200,000 to 250,000 people in Italy, and founded an Ostrogothic Kingdom based in Ravenna. Theoderic extended his hegemony over the Burgundian and Vandal Kingdoms through marriage alliances. In 511, the Visigothic Kingdom was brought under Theoderic's direct control, forming a Gothic empire that extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the Adriatic Sea.

Theoderic's achievements began to unravel in his later years. The Burgundians and Vandals threw off Ostrogothic hegemony by 523, and Theoderic's presumptive heir to both Gothic realms and son-in-law Eutharic died in 522, throwing his succession into doubt. Theoderic's good relations with the Roman Senate deteriorated due to a presumed senatorial conspiracy in 522, and, in 523, Theoderic had the philosopher and court official Boethius and Boethius' father-in-law Symmachus executed on charges of treason related to the alleged plot. Theoderic died in Ravenna on 30 August 526, and was succeeded by his grandson Athalaric, with Theoderic's daughter Amalasuntha serving as regent. The Visigothic Kingdom re-acquired its independence on Theoderic's death.

Seeking to restore the glory of ancient Rome, he ruled Italy in its most peaceful and prosperous period since Valentinian I. Memories of his reign made him a hero of German legends, as Dietrich von Bern.

Western Roman Empire

In historiography, the Western Roman Empire refers to the western provinces of the Roman Empire at any time during which they were administered by a separate independent Imperial court; in particular, this term is used to describe the period from 395 to 476, where there were separate coequal courts dividing the governance of the empire in the Western and the Eastern provinces, with a distinct imperial succession in the separate courts. The terms Western Roman Empire and Eastern Roman Empire are modern descriptions that describe political entities that were de facto independent; contemporary Romans did not consider the Empire to have been split into two separate empires but viewed it as a single polity governed by two separate imperial courts as an administrative expediency. The Western Roman Empire collapsed in 476, and the Western imperial court was formally dissolved in 480. The Eastern imperial court survived until 1453.

Though the Empire had seen periods with more than one Emperor ruling jointly before, the view that it was impossible for a single emperor to govern the entire Empire was institutionalised to reforms to Roman law by emperor Diocletian following the disastrous civil wars and disintegrations of the Crisis of the Third Century. He introduced the system of the tetrarchy in 286, with two separate senior emperors titled Augustus, one in the East and one in the West, each with an appointed Caesar (junior emperor and designated successor). Though the tetrarchic system would collapse in a matter of years, the East–West administrative division would endure in one form or another over the coming centuries. As such, the Western Roman Empire would exist intermittently in several periods between the 3rd and 5th centuries. Some emperors, such as Constantine I and Theodosius I, governed as the sole Augustus across the Roman Empire. On the death of Theodosius I in 395, he divided the empire between his two sons, with Honorius as his successor in the West, governing from Mediolanum, and Arcadius as his successor in the East, governing from Constantinople.

In 476, after the Battle of Ravenna, the Roman Army in the West suffered defeat at the hands of Odoacer and his Germanic foederati. Odoacer forced the deposition of emperor Romulus Augustulus and became the first King of Italy. In 480, following the assassination of the previous Western emperor Julius Nepos, the Eastern emperor Zeno dissolved the Western court and proclaimed himself the sole emperor of the Roman Empire. The date of 476 was popularized by the 18th century British historian Edward Gibbon as a demarcating event for the end of the Western Empire and is sometimes used to mark the transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Odoacer's Italy, and other barbarian kingdoms, would maintain a pretence of Roman continuity through the continued use of the old Roman administrative systems and nominal subservience to the Eastern Roman court.

In the 6th century, emperor Justinian I re-imposed direct Imperial rule on large parts of the former Western Roman Empire, including the prosperous regions of North Africa, the ancient Roman heartland of Italy and parts of Hispania. Political instability in the Eastern heartlands, combined with foreign invasions and religious differences, made efforts to retain control of these territories difficult and they were gradually lost for good. Though the Eastern Empire retained territories in the south of Italy until the eleventh century, the influence that the Empire had over Western Europe had diminished significantly. The papal coronation of the Frankish King Charlemagne as Roman Emperor in 800 marked a new imperial line that would evolve into the Holy Roman Empire, which presented a revival of the Imperial title in Western Europe but was in no meaningful sense an extension of Roman traditions or institutions. The Great Schism of 1054 between the churches of Rome and Constantinople further diminished any authority the Emperor in Constantinople could hope to exert in the west.

Barbarian kingdoms established around the Migration Period
Hunnic kingdoms
Turkic kingdoms
Iranian kingdoms
Celtic kingdoms
Slavic kingdoms
Berber kingdoms
See also
Etruscan civilization
Ancient Rome
Early Modern
French Revolutionary
and Napoleonic eras
History of the Germanic peoples
Pagan society
(until about
Early Middle Ages)
Kings of Italy between 476 and 1556
(title disputed 887–933)
Kingdom of Italy within
the Holy Roman Empire

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