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Libius Severus

(c. 420 - 15 August 465 CE)

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Libius Severus

Flavius Libius Severus Serpentius


19 November 461 – 15 August 465 CE


c. 420 CE


15 August 465 CE

Coin of Libius Severus

Libius Severus was born around 420 CE in Lucania (Lucania), a historic land in the south of ancient Italy, between the Gulf of Taranto and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Libius was one of the last emperors of the Western Roman Empire, exercising power from November 19, 461 to his death on August 15, 465 CE.
Although he officially held the highest office, he was in fact heavily influenced by the commander-in-chief of the Roman field army (magister militum) – Ricimer. Libius was unable to implement effective reforms. Ancient sources mention Libius as a pious and religious person.


On August 7, 461 CE magister militum Ricimer killed Emperor Majorian and thus placed a vacancy on the throne of Rome. The struggle for power in the capital of the Western Empire was to take place between Ricimer, the Eastern Roman Emperor Leo I and Genseric, the king of the Vandals, who had Northern Africa and Sardinia and Corsica. Leo naturally had the right to accept a new “colleague” in accordance with the official political situation that the Empire was still united.

Ricimer needed a weak ruler on the throne so that he could control him freely. Sam could not reach for purple due to his barbaric roots.
The competition for the throne was extremely fierce. In 455 CE Genseric kidnapped the wife and two daughters of the Western Emperor Valentinian III – Licinia Eudoxia, Eudocia and Placidia, during the conquest of Rome by the Vandals. Through the marriage of his son Huneric to Eudokia, he managed to enter the imperial family. He himself proposed as the heir to the throne of Ravenna (official capital from 402 CE; previously Milan) Olibrius, who married Valentinian’s second daughter – Placidia, and also became a member of the imperial family.

Genseric, wanting to “push” his candidate, decided to put pressure on Ravenna and launched a series of attacks along the coasts of Italy and Sicily, stressing that the peace made with Majorian was no longer in force. Ricimer decided to intervene. He sent an emissary to Genseric to plead for the observance of the peace treaty, when another envoy went to the Eastern Emperor, asking him to stop the invasions and to release Valentinian III’s wife and daughters.

As by Rycimer and Libius Sever.
Author: Panairjdde | Under Creative Commons Attribution license - On the same terms 3.0.

Despite the pressure exerted by the Vandals on the Western Roman Empire, Ricimer ignored Olibrius and appointed his own candidateLibius Sever, senator from Lucania, as the West Roman Emperor. The Roman Senate officially announced the new emperor on November 19, 461 CE. in Ravenna.


The choice of Libius was probably due to the desire to please the Knight of the Italian aristocracy. When Severus took up his position, he had to deal with many problems of the state in a situation when he himself was strongly influenced by Knight and many provinces in the west did not recognize his authority.

Emperor Leo I Makelles tried to maintain his influence on the affairs of the Western Roman Empire. After ascending to the throne, he recognized the emperor Majorian, and after his removal and killing, after returning from an unsuccessful expedition against the Vandals, by Rycemer, the de facto ruler of the West, he refused to recognize the puppet of the Germanic leader, Libius Severus.
Creative Commons Attribution license - On the same terms 3.0.

In the early 60’s of the 5th century CE the Western Roman Empire no longer included Britain (it was abandoned), Africa (conquered by the Vandals) and Spain (occupied by the Suebi and Visigoths who were foederati – allies). In addition, Aegidius ruled in Gaul itself, and Marcellinus ruled in Illyricum, who supported the murdered Majorian and thus did not support the rule of Libius. Even East Emperor Leo I himself did not recognize Libius, and some Byzantine sources mention the Western Emperor as a usurper.

Libius Severus was afraid that Marcellinus, who had great forces under his command, together with Leon’s support, would want to take the throne from the hands of Ricimer and Libius. In order to counteract the threats, Libius established his own magister militum per Gallias – Agrippinus, giving him official authority over Aegidius. It is worth mentioning that during the rule of Majorianus Agrippinus was accused of treason, found guilty and sentenced to death. He was probably only pardoned because of Rycimer, who wanted to keep balance in Galli. Agrippinus, wanting to repay Aegidius, made an alliance with the Franks, led by Childeric I. In return for help, in 462 CE Libius handed over Narbona to the Visigoths, thereby giving them access to the Mediterranean Sea and separating the rebellious Aegidius from the empire.
It is worth mentioning one state act, among the few issued, in which Libius sentenced to death the prefect of praetorians in Gaul – Arvandus, after he was accused of treason and a desire to seize power.

During his reign, Libius practically ruled only Italy. In 465 CE, after the death of Aegidius, Gaul returned to the emperor’s sphere of influence for a short time.


The details of Libius’ death are unclear. Most modern historians agree that he died of natural causes on August 15, 465 CE. His reign was another step towards the final collapse of the Western Roman Empire.

  • Krawczuk Aleksander, Poczet cesarzy rzymskich, Warszawa 2004

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