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Romulus Augustulus

(463 - after 507 CE)

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Romulus Augustulus
Name

Romulus

Ruled as

Romulus Augustus

Reign

31 October 475 – 4 September 476 n.e.

Born

463 n.e

Died

after 507 n.e.

Coin of Romulus Augustulus

Romulus Augustus, later called Augustulus, was born around 463 CE under the name of Flavius ​​Romulus Augustus (Flavius ​​Romulus Augustus). The name Romulus was given to him after his grandfather, who came from Noricum. He was the last West Roman emperor.

Romulus was the son of Orestes, who came from Pannonia and was his secretary during Attila’s lifetime. Thanks to promotions in the Roman army, he became the head of troops (magister militium) in 475 CE, during the reign of Julius Nepos.

Eventually, Orestes revolted, seized the capital of the Western Roman Empire, Ravenna, and forced Nepos to flee to Dalmatia. Then he brought his 12-year-old son to power, in practice exercising it personally. We do not know why the chief of the army did not take power into his own hands.

Romulus ruled from October 31, 475 to September 4, 476. Romulus Augustulus’ state included only Italy and part of Gallia Narbonensis. The empire in the west was considered subordinate to the Eastern Roman Empire, and the election of a new ruler was originally not recognized at all.

After a few months of reign, the mercenary armies of the Heruli and Scirian, led by Odoacer, demanded a third part of Italy, to which Orestes did not agree. After a short fight, Orestes was captured and killed on August 28, 476 CE. Then Odoacer went to Ravenna, where, after a short fight, he captured Romulus and on September 4, 476 CE. forced him to abdicate. From our perspective, this event is symbolic, but at that time it did not cause much shock among the inhabitants of Italy. The barbarians at that time were the decisive force that influenced the fate of the emperors and the Empire itself.

Following Romulus’ abdication, the Senate sent a delegation to Constantinople – on behalf of Odoacer – to unite the two Empires, with Odoacer remaining governor of the western part. Emperor Zeno demanded that Julius Nepos be restored to the throne, for what he himself did not agree to. Ultimately, Zeno wanted Odoaker to receive official approval from Nepos to officially manage the Empire in the west. Moreover, he bestowed on him the title of patrician. In the meantime, Zeno informed Nepos himself that the empire in the west had ceased to exist, which was largely due to the fact that the emperor had no money and no desire to deal with matters in Italy.

Finally, Romulus was deprived of power by Odoacer, who, however, kept the outgoing emperor alive, endowed him with land north of today’s Naples in Campania, and ordered an annual annuity of 6,000 solidi (this amount is approximately the annual income of a Roman senator). He lived in the villa Castellum Lucullanum.

Odoacer made himself king and assumed the title of rex, officially assuming command of the troops in the region. He ruled officially under the sovereignty of Constantinople. Julius Nepos, at the turn of 479 and 480, planned an expedition with the support of the Ostrogoths to regain the throne in the west, but his murder thwarted his ambitious plans.

The fate of Romulus

The end of his reign and the return of the imperial insignia to Constantinople by Odoacer is considered the end of the Western Roman Empire. The further fate of Romulus is unknown. He probably lived a long time and received a pension from both Odoacro and his successors, including Theodoric the Great. Cassiodorus in 507 or 511 CE he wrote on behalf of this ruler a letter to Romulus confirming the payment of his pension. Most historians identify this Romulus with the former emperor. Romulus Augustulus is believed to have died before the restoration of Byzantine power in Italy in 536 CE.

His official surname was Romulus Augustus. A nickname – Augustulus was given to him because of his youthful age. It means in Latin “little August”. It could have emphasized that the Emperor was an irrelevant and insignificant ruler. The Greeks, however, sarcastically distorted his name on Momylos (“small disgrace”).

Sources
  • Krawczuk Aleksander, Poczet cesarzy rzymskich, Warszawa 2004
  • Photo: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. http://www.cngcoins.com | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
  • Aleksander Krawczuk, Poczet cesarzy rzymskich, Warszawa 2004
  • Photo: NumisBids, LLC

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