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Petronius Maximus

Western Roman emperor A. D. 455

Petronius Maximus was a powerful Roman senator who ascended the throne after the murder of Valentinian III. There is some evidence to support the accusation that he had a hand in Valentinian's murder. He forced Valentinian's widow, Licinia Eudoxia, to marry him. Legend holds that she appealed for help to Gaiseric, the Vandal strongman who ruled the former Roman province of Africa. Whether this was in fact true, we may never know. However, it didn't seem that Gaiseric needed much of an excuse to chase after plunder. Shortly thereafter, Gaiseric invaded Italy with a fleet, coming up the Tiber and laying siege to Rome. Rome soon fell, leaving Gaiseric to rape, pillage, and murder for two weeks.

Petronius Maximus might have been able to bully the imperial ladies, but he wasn't very courageous when it came to facing a strong, well armed horde of Vandals. He attempted to flee the doomed city, but the enraged and frightened citizens of Rome murdered him as he tried to escape.


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