Romulus Augustulus

Romulus Augustus (c. 465 – after 511?), commonly known by the nickname Augustulus, was Roman emperor of the West from 31 October 475 until 4 September 476. Romulus was placed on the imperial throne by his father, the magister militum Orestes, and, at that time still a minor, was little more than a figurehead for his father. After Romulus ruled for just ten months, the barbarian general Odoacer defeated and killed Orestes and deposed Romulus. As Odoacer did not proclaim any successor, Romulus is typically regarded as the last western Roman emperor, his deposition marking the end of the Western Roman Empire as a political entity. The deposition of Romulus Augustulus is also sometimes used by historians to mark the transition from antiquity to the medieval period.

Romulus Augustus
Solidus of Romulus Augustus, marked:
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Roman emperor of the West

(unrecognised in the East)
Reign31 October 475 – 4 September 476
PredecessorJulius Nepos[lower-alpha 1]
Bornc. 465
Pannonia (?)
DiedAfter 511 (?)
Castellum Lucullanum (?)
FatherOrestes
MotherBarbaria (?)

Very few records survive of Romulus' reign. There are no known policies, laws or inscriptions of significance of the emperor, which leaves the impression that he was a shadowy and relatively inconsequential figure. The nickname 'Augustulus' means "little Augustus" and was a derisive nickname referencing his young age. Romulus' immediate family, including his father and possibly his mother, and maybe both his paternal and maternal grandparents, were from the Roman province of Pannonia, and many of his family members had military backgrounds.

Romulus came to power through usurpation of his predecessor, Julius Nepos (r. 474–475 in Italy) in 475. Nepos fled to Dalmatia and continued to claim the imperial title in exile, which hampered Romulus' legitimacy and ensured that he was never recognised by the eastern Roman emperor Zeno. In 476, the barbarian foederati (ally troops) in Italy demanded Italian lands to settle on, which was refused by Orestes. Under their leader Odoacer, the foederati defeated and killed Orestes and deposed Romulus, whereafter Odoacer became the first king of Italy and accepted emperor Zeno as his nominal suzerain.

Romulus's life was spared by Odoacer, and he was allowed to retire to the castellum Lucullanum, a great fortress in Campania, near Naples. Little certain information is known concerning Romulus's life in exile. He might have played a role in founding a monastery at castellum Lucullanum in the 480s or 490s, dedicated to Saint Severinus of Noricum. Romulus could have been alive as late as 507 or 511, when Theodoric the Great, Odoacer's successor, wrote a letter to a "Romulus" concerning a pension. Romulus was likely dead before the mid-530s, as accounts of the eastern Roman invasion of Italy at that time do not mention him.