Romulus Augustus

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Romulus Augustus (fl. 461/463 – after 476, before 488), was the last Western Roman Emperor, reigning from 31 October 475 until 4 September 476. His deposition by Odoacer traditionally marks the end of the Western Roman Empire, the fall of ancient Rome, and the beginning of the Middle Ages in Western Europe.

He is also known by his nickname "Romulus Augustulus", though he ruled officially as Romulus Augustus. The Latin suffix -ulus is a diminutive; hence, Augustulus effectively means "Little Augustus". Some Greek writers even went so far as to corrupt his name sarcastically into "Momylos", or "little disgrace".[1]

The historical record contains few details of Romulus' life. He was installed as emperor by his father Orestes, the Magister militum (master of soldiers) of the Roman army after deposing the previous emperor Julius Nepos. Romulus, little more than a child, acted as a figurehead for his father's rule. Reigning for only ten months, Romulus was then deposed by the Germanic chieftain Odoacer and sent to live in the Castellum Lucullanum in Campania; afterwards he disappears from the historical record.

Contents

Life

Romulus' father Orestes was a Roman citizen, originally from Pannonia, who had served as a secretary and diplomat for Attila the Hun and later rose through the ranks of the Roman army.[2] The future emperor was named Romulus after his maternal grandfather, a nobleman from Poetovio in Noricum. Many historians have noted the coincidence that the last western emperor bore the names of both Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, and Augustus, its first emperor.[3]

Orestes was appointed Magister militum by Julius Nepos in 475. Shortly after his appointment, Orestes launched a rebellion and captured Ravenna, the capital of the Western Roman Empire since 402, on 28 August 475. Nepos fled to Dalmatia, where his uncle had ruled a semi-autonomous state in the 460s.[4] Orestes, however, refused to become emperor, "from some secret motive", according to historian Edward Gibbon.[5] Instead, he installed his son on the throne on 31 October 475.

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