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Romulus Augustulus

The Western Roman Empire had disintegrated by the time of the rise of its last emperor, Romulus Augustulus, who was the son of Orestes, a Roman general of Pannonian descent, and the daughter of a Count Romulus of Petovio. His father first served Attila the Hun as a secretary and later, as his an ambassador to Constantinople in his youth. Orestes later entered into the service of the Italian army when Attila died where he had a successful military career. This did not escape the notice of the then-emperor Julius Nepos, and general Orestes was elevated to patricius, as well as magister militum, in 475 AD which is where Romulus Augustulus is recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History.

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Julius Nepos would regret his decision as in the same year; Orestes promised to allot lands for the barbarian troops to settle in if they supported the coup he had planned. The Heruli, Scirian, and Torcilingi tribes joined the rebellion after they received the tempting offer. Together, they besieged the capital of Ravenna to get rid of Julius Nepos. The emperor fled to Dalmatia where he sought refuge with his uncle which left the imperial throne vacant, but surprisingly, Orestes declined when he was offered the position of the emperor. Instead, he elevated his 12-year old son, Romulus Augustulus, to the position on October 31, 475 AD.

“Romulus Augustus resigns the crown”

The young emperor was nothing more than a figurehead for his father, and he was not even recognized by the Eastern emperors Zeno and Basiculus (who were busy in a civil war against each other). It was just as well as the Western Roman Empire was not as it once was after barbarians gradually chipped away large parts of its territory until only Italy and a small part of Gaul remained.

Several months later, the barbarian troops who supported Orestes rebelled against him when he failed to provide the land that he promised them. They switched sides to Odoacer, another barbarian general, and Orestes was captured in the city of Piacenza where he was executed. Romulus Augustulus was deposed on September 4, 476 and Emperor Zeno of the Eastern Empire reluctantly proclaimed Odoacer as the west’s new ruler. Odoacer spared the young Romulus Augustulus, who was sent to live in the castle of Lucullus in Campania region and there, the last of the Western Roman Emperors disappeared from the pages of history.

Gibbon, Edward, and D. M. Low. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960.
Kleinhenz, Christopher. Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge, 2004.
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