Patricians and Emperors - the Last Rulers of the Western Roman Empire, Ian Hughes

Patricians and Emperors - the Last Rulers of the Western Roman Empire, Ian Hughes

The British historical tradition tends to date the fall of the West to the fifty years before the start of this study, partly because that included the sack of Rome of 410, but mainly because it included the recall of the remaining Legions from Britain. As the introduction makes clear, this isn’t entirely accurate - the only part of the western Empire that was acknowledged as lost was the part of North Africa around Carthage, held by the Vandals, while large parts of the western Empire remained untouched. Despite the sack of Rome even Italy hadn’t suffered much. By the end of the period studied here only Italy and parts of Dalmatia could even tenuously be claimed as Roman, there was no longer a Western Emperor, and even the last links with Constantinople were close to be being dissolved.

The dominant figures in studies of this period are normally the barbarian army commanders - Ricimer, Orestes and Odovacer - and in particular Ricimer, who was an important figure for nearly two decades. In this study the focus is on the Emperors instead. These men are normally dismissed as being puppets of their army commanders, but this study shows that the picture was far more complex. Many of these last Emperors had the support of the Eastern Emperor, who remained a powerful figure, more than capable of crushing any of the western warlords if he had chosen to. Majorian and Anthemius in particular had their own power base, and were still capable of fielding powerful armies that with more luck (and better naval forces) might have at least delayed the fall of Rome.

This is a fascinating study of a somewhat unfamiliar period, giving us a good idea of the problems faced by the last generation of western Roman leaders, from the lack of a legitimate Western dynasty to the growing power of the Senatorial aristocracy, whose behaviour suggests that they couldn’t imagine a world in which the Empire fell, along with a series of particularly able ‘barbarian’ leaders, in particular of the Gothic and Vandal kingdoms.

Part One: Prelude
1 - The Roman Empire, 395-455
2 - The Roman Army, 454

Part Two: Ricimer
3 - A Brief Prelude - Petronius Maximus - 17 March 455-22/31 May 455
4 - Eparchius Avitus - 9 July/ 5 August 455-October 456/ February 457
5 - Majorian - 1 April 457-August 461
6 - Majorian: Apotheoisis - 458
7 - Majorian: The Fall
8 - Libius Severus - 19 November 461-15 August/ post 25 September 465
9 - Anthemius: Hope Renewed - 12 April 467-11 July 472
10 - The African Campaign
11 - Anthemius: Disintegration and Civil War
12 - Olybrius - April/ May 472-22 October/ 2 November 472

Part Three: Dissolution of the Empire - Gundobad and Orestes
13 - Glycerius - 3 March 473-June 474
14 - Julius Nepos - June 474-28 August 475
15 - Romulus Augustulus - 31 October 475-4 September 476

Part Four: The End - Odovacer, Julius Nepos and Syagrius
16 - Odovacer, Julius Nepos and Syagrius
17 - Conclusion

Author: Ian Hughes
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 240
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2015

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