Europe at the Overthrow of the Last Western Emperor 476

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Map Code: Ax00632

The disintegration of Rome in the 5th century was epitomized by the exploits of Ricimer, a Sueve from northern Spain who gained command of the Roman armies in the 450s. He organized the assassination (usually in grisly fashion) of four successive Roman emperors, before expiring of a haemorrhage in 472. By this stage, Rome had already been sacked twice, by the Visigoth, Alaric (410), and the Vandal, Geiseric (455). Ricimer drove the Vandals back to North Africa, while the Visigoths built a kingdom in France and Spain.The last Western Roman Emperor was 15-year-old Romulus Augustulus, whose father overthrew Julius Nepos and installed his son as emperor. He gained power at a time when the Western Roman Empire was increasingly fragmented by incursions from Germanic tribes on the northern border, who were capitalizing on Rome’s weakness. When the Germanic chieftain Odoacer ended the Western Empire in 476, proclaiming himself king of Italy (sparing the callow last emperor’s life ‘out of pity’), it helped to restore a measure of order. Odoacer became the first king of Italy: ex-emperor Julius Nepos’s fiefdom around Salonae was annexed by Odoacer, while Syagrius in northern France was conquered by Clovis, the Salian Frankish Leader (484).

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