Contents - Previous Article - Next Article

Minor 5th Century Western Emperors

Reigned from A. D. 461 - 480

This image is of the reverse of a gold solidus struck by the Eastern emperor Theodosius II. This reverse image showing two emperors seated side by side was used after A.D. 425, when Valentinian III ascended the throne in the West.

These rulers include:

Severus III Reigned A.D. 461 - 465
Anthemius Reigned A.D. 467 - 472
Olybrius Reigned A.D. 472
Glycerius Reigned A.D. 473 - 474
Julius Nepos Reigned A.D. 474 - 475

These emperors were emperors in name only. They were either sent by the more powerful Eastern emperor to occupy the throne in the West, or puppets of barbarian generals who had assumed the title of Magister Militum, or Master General in the West. By now the West was only a shell, a remnant, a caricature of the once mighty Roman Empire. It consisted of only a portion of Italy and was later reduced to only the territory around the cuty of Rome itself. The stories of these men are almost all ones of pathetic mediocrities and weaklings, the stooges of other men only slightly more powerful than themselves. The Catholic Church had become quite powerful by now, and we are fortunate that we have several written records penned by educated churchmen like Salvian, a bishop in the West.

Severus III was so unremarkable a man that Gibbon tells us that "History has scarcely deigned to notice his birth, his elevation, his character, or his death." He was the puppet of the powerful Count Ricimer. All of his coins are extremely rare.

Anthemius was sent by the Eastern emperor Leo to govern the West. He married his daughter to Ricimer. Despite the fact that they were now relaties by marriage, Anthemius and Ricimer had a falling out and Ricimer laid siege to Rome and the emperor. The city soon fell and Anthemius disguised himself as a beggar and hid in a church. "No Dice," Said Ricimer's nephew Gundobad when he recognized the former emperor, and immediately dragged Anthemius out of church and beheaded him. All of his coins are extremely rare.

Olybrius was descended from an old Roman senatorial family. He was made emperor by Ricimer in 472 but died of dropsy (congestive heart failure, an ailment common to the familu of Theodosius I and their descendants) four months later. All of his coins are extremely rare.

Glycerius was made emperor by Gundobad but this appointment did not please the Eastern emperor Leo. Leo sent Julius nepos to depose Glycerius and take the throne in the name of the Eastern government. Gundobad either could not or did not want to support Glycerius who was soon defeated and running, trying to escape his fate. He was caught near the mouth of the Tiber and forced to accept appoinment as Bishop of Salona. All of his coins are extremely rare.

Julius Nepos was sent out by the Eastern emperor Leo in A.D. 474 to take the Western throne away from Glycerius, which he succeeded in doing. In 475, barbarian troops under Orestes, Master General and father of the barbarian king Odovacer rebelled and drove Nepos out of Italy. Julius Nepos remained in exile in Dalmatia until his death in A.D. 480. All of his coins are extremely rare.


Go to next article on Romulus Augustus
Go back to previous article on Majorian


Return to Roman Emperors Table of Contents
Return to History and Technology Back Pages - The home page for this entire site.