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Orestes[1] (died 28 August AD 476) was a Roman general and politician, who was briefly in control of the Western Roman Empire in 475–6.

Contents

Early life

Born an aristocrat of Pannonia Savia, Orestes was probably at least partly of Germanic descent. He was son of Tatulus, a pagan, and son-in-law to Romulus who served as comes in the Western Roman Empire. After Pannonia was ceded to Attila the Hun, Orestes joined Attila's court, reaching high position as a secretary (notarius) in 449 and 452. In 449 Orestes was sent by Attila twice to Constantinople as envoy to Emperor Valentinian III.

In 475, Orestes was appointed magister militum and patricius by Western Roman Emperor Julius Nepos. This proved to be a mistake on the part of Nepos. By August 28, 475, Orestes, at the head of the foederati, managed to take control of the government in Ravenna, which had acted as the capital of the Western Roman Empire since 402. Julius Nepos fled without a fight to Dalmatia, where he would continue to reign until his assassination in 480. With the emperor far away, Orestes elevated his son Romulus to the rank of Augustus, so that the last Western Roman emperor is known as Romulus Augustulus meaning "little Augustus" as the emperor was only a 12 year old boy.

Short reign

The new administration was not recognized by the rival Eastern Roman Emperors Zeno and Basiliscus, who still considered Julius Nepos to be their legitimate partner in the administration of the Empire. But as they were engaged in a civil war with each other, neither emperor was about to oppose Orestes in battle.

Orestes was free to issue new solidi in the mints of Arles, Milan, Ravenna and Rome, enabling him to pay the barbarian mercenaries who constituted most of the contemporary Roman Army.

However Orestes denied the demands of Heruli, Scirian and Torcilingi mercenaries to be granted Italian lands in which to settle. The dissatisfied mercenaries revolted under the Germanic chieftain Odoacer, whom they declared to be their king on August 23, 476. Odoacer led them against their former employer. Orestes was captured near Piacenza on August 28 and was swiftly executed. Within weeks, Ravenna was captured and Romulus Augustus was deposed, the event that has been traditionally considered the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

The last emperor: Romulus Augustus or Julius Nepos?

Because Augustus was an usurper, Julius Nepos legally held the title of emperor when Odoacer took power. Some have argued that Nepos, who ruled in Dalmatia until his murder in 480, should be recognized as the last Western Roman Emperor, noting that Odoacer struck coins in Nepos' name and did not take the imperial title for himself. But few of Nepos' contemporaries in Italy (Dalmatia and Gaul had been always loyal to Nepos) were willing to support his cause after he fled this province. Following Odoacer's coup, the Roman Senate sent a letter to Zeno, saying that "the majesty of a sole monarch is sufficient to pervade and protect, at the same time, both the East and the West."[8] While Zeno told the Senate that Nepos was their lawful sovereign, he did not press the point. Upon Odoacer's demand to become Patrician of Italy, the eastern emperor answered that he (Odoacer) had been made Patrician by Nepos, and that this was still valid. When Odoacer sent the Imperial insignia to Constantinople, Zeno accepted them gratefully.

See also

References

  1. ^ No other names are known, according to J.R. Martindale The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire vol.II p.811-812. Cambridge University Press, 1980

External links

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Flavius Orestes (died August 28, 476) was a Roman politician, who was briefly in control of the Western Roman Empire in 475–6.

Contents

Early life

Born an aristocrat of Pannonia Savia, Orestes was probably at least partly of Germanic descent. He was son of Tatulus, a Pagan, and son-in-law to Romulus who served as comes in the Western Roman Empire. After Pannonia was ceded to Attila the Hun, Orestes joined Attila's court, reaching high position as a secretary (notarius) in 449 and 452. In 449 Orestes was sent by Attila twice to Constantinople as envoy to Emperor Valentinian III.

In 475, Orestes was appointed magister militum and patricius by Western Roman Emperor Julius Nepos. This proved to be a mistake on the part of Nepos. By August 28, 475, Orestes, at the head of the foederati, managed to take control of the government in Ravenna, which had acted as the capital of the Western Roman Empire since 402. Julius Nepos fled without a fight to Dalmatia, where he would continue to reign until his assassination in 480. With the emperor far away, Orestes elevated his son Romulus to the rank of Augustus, so that the last Western Roman emperor is known as Romulus Augustilus.meaning "little Augustus" as the emperor was only a 12 year old boy.

Short reign

The new administration was not recognized by the rival Eastern Roman Emperors Zeno and Basiliscus, who still considered Julius Nepos to be their legitimate partner in the administration of the Empire. But as they were engaged in a civil war with each other, neither emperor was about to oppose Orestes in battle.

Orestes was free to issue new solidi in the mints of Arles, Milan, Ravenna and Rome, enabling him to pay the barbarian mercenaries who constituted most of the contemporary Roman Army.

However Orestes denied the demands of Heruli, Scirian and Torcilingi mercenaries to be granted Italian lands in which to settle. The dissatisfied mercenaries revolted under the Germanic chieftain Odoacer, whom they declared to be their king on August 23, 476. Odoacer led them against their former employer. Orestes was captured near Piacenza on August 28 and was swiftly executed. Within weeks, Ravenna was captured and Romulus Augustus was deposed, the event that has been traditionally considered the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

The last emperor: Romulus Augustus or Julius Nepos?

Because Augustus was an usurper, Julius Nepos legally held the title of emperor when Odoacer took power. Some have argued that Nepos, who ruled in Dalmatia until his murder in 480, should be recognized as the last Western Roman Emperor, noting that Odoacer struck coins in Nepos' name and did not take the imperial title for himself. But few of Nepos' contemporaries in Italy (Dalmatia and Gaul had been always loyal to Nepos) were willing to support his cause after he fled this province. Following Odoacer's coup, the Roman Senate sent a letter to Zeno, saying that "the majesty of a sole monarch is sufficient to pervade and protect, at the same time, both the East and the West."[8] While Zeno told the Senate that Nepos was their lawful sovereign, he did not press the point. Upon Odoacer's demand to become Patrician of Italy, the eastern emperor answered that he (Odoacer) had been made Patrician by Nepos, and that this was still valid. When Odoacer sent the Imperial insignia to Constantinople, Zeno accepted them gratefully.

See also

External links


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