Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Romulus Augustus (#113)

Early Life and Rise to Power

Romulus Augustus was born in the Roman Empire around the year 460 A.D. He was the son of Orestes, who served as a diplomat for Attila the Hun and later as a leader in the Western Roman Army. In 475, Orestes was appointed the Magister militum by current Emperor, Julius Nepos. This basically meant that Orestes controlled the army. In August of that year, Orestes started a rebellion, overthrowing Nepos and placing Romulus on the throne on October 31st, 475. Augustus now ruled the Western Roman Empire, but during his time, that wasn't saying much. The Western Empire had shrunken significantly since the Pax Romana, and imperial authority only had influence over Italy and parts of Southern Gaul. The Eastern Roman Empire, who had previously appointed Nepos to the throne, did not even recognize Romulus Augustus as ruler. 

Life as Emperor and the Fall from Power

Though Augustus was emperor and coins were minted with his face and name, the real power still belonged to Romulus's father, Orestes. Orestes soon ran into trouble with barbarians, though. As Roman power had fallen, Western Rome had begun to hire barbarians as mercenaries rather instead of training Romans. When Orestes took power, several tribes serving as mercenaries demanded a third of the land in Italy from Orestes. When Orestes refused, the Heruli, Scirian, and Turcilingi mercenaries revolted under the chieftain Odoacer. Orestes was captured in August of 476 near Piacenza, where he was executed. Odoacer then attacked Ravenna, which was the current capitol of the Western Empire. In September 4th, 476, the city was captured and Romulus was captured. This is widely accepted as the ended of the Western Roman Empire, and is sometimes even accepted as the end of the entire Roman Empire (The Eastern Empire became known as the Byzantine Empire). 

The End

After his abdication, Romulus Augustus all but disappeared. Odoacer became the ruler of Italy until Byzantine Emperor Justinian I reconquered it in the 540s. Until then, the remnants of Western Rome were under Germanic rule. That ends the story, and Augustus disappears. Most sources agree that he survived and lived in the castle of Lucullan Villa in Campania. The castle was, however, converted into a monastery by the year 500, so most historians suspect that he died around the that time. Augustus makes that list not because he did anything, but because he did nothing and stuff happened around him. He was put in the throne by his father. He was thrown out of the throne by Odoacer. He didn't initiate the historical events, but he found himself caught in the middle of it all. He watched the fall of the Western Roman Empire.