Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Deposed in the year 476, the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire. His reign was purely nominal. After the murder of Valentinian III (455) the Theodosian dynasty was extinct in Western Europe and the Suevian Ricimer, a grandson of Wallia, a king of the West Goths, governed the Western Empire for sixteen years as its real ruler. Like Stilicho and Aëtius he raised five shadowy emperors to the throne and then deposed them, partly in agreement with the Eastern Empire. After his death in 472 his nephew Gundobad succeeded. At Ravenna Gundobad appointed the soldier Glycerius as emperor, but Leo, the Eastern Roman Emperor, chose Julius Nepos, a relative of Empress Verina, who had succeeded his uncle Marcellinus as Governor of Dalmatia. Nepos advanced with the fleet to Ravenna and forced Glycerius to become Bishop of Salona. Leo's successor, Zeno the Isaurian, withdrew the fleet which Nepos had had, and thus the latter was forced to depend upon his own resources, while the turmoil in Rome and Gaul constantly increased. Nepos appointed Orestes "magister militum" and made him a patrician. Orestes had been minister of Attila, after whose death he had come to Rome. Nepos commissioned Orestes to advance into Gaul to restore order with the troops still available. Orestes however prevailed upon the mercenaries to march against Ravenna instead of going to Gaul. Nepos fled to Dalmatia while Orestes entered Ravenna on 28 August, 475.

Orestes allowed two months to pass without appointing a new emperor, and the troops growing impatient proclaimed his son. On account of the boy's youth (he was only thirteen years old) he was called Augustulus, the little emperor. The administration was carried on cautiously and shrewdly by Orestes. He obtained the recognition of his son by the emperor of the Eastern Empire, made treaties for the protection of Italy with the German princes in Africa, Gaul, and Spain, and thus gained a few years of peace for the country. However, the German warriors in his army, who had driven out the Emperor Nepos in the belief that they would receive grants of land, now demanded a third of the territory of Italy, according to the custom existing in the Roman army. When Orestes refused the troops mutinied under the leadership of the Skyrian Odoacer. Orestes advanced against them, but was obliged to fall back on Pavia, which city was stormed by Odoacer; Orestes was taken prisoner and beheaded at Piacenza in 476. Odoacer was proclaimed king by his troops and marched against Ravenna where Romulus waited in fear. Odoacer spared his life, gave him a year's income, and sent him with his relatives to Cape Misenum opposite Baia. Odoacer now reigned as first King of Italy, while three deposed emperors dragged out inglorious and powerless lives: Romulus Augustulus in private life on his estate in Campania, Glycerius as Bishop of Salona, and Julius Nepos as commander in Dalmatia. The Roman Empire of the West had ceased, and the conception of imperial power was henceforth exclusively connected with the person of the Eastern emperor.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 5:21-33
21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.22 ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
1 [Song of Ascents] How blessed are all who fear Yahweh, who walk in his ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:18-21
18 He went on to say, 'What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 25th, 2016 Image

St. Daria
October 25: There is very little known about them. ... Read More