Author: Flavius Julius Nepos Augustus
Original Thread: A Look in the Politics of the Western Roman Empire (454-480)

A Look in the Politics of the Western Roman Empire (454-480)

The late Roman Empire is a very interesting and vivid period. In this thread I want to give the reader a look into the events happening in the high politics of the dying Western court with a focus on Marcellinus and Julius Nepos. To understand the rise of these two men and the downfall of Rome we need to go back to atleast 21st of september 454..
At the end of this article I will put my explanation, based on the events happening after 454, for the rapid decline of the Western Roman Empire and the abolishment of the post of emperor.

End of a dynasty, the beginning of the dead end (454-467):
When Flavius Aetius, the general who drived the Huns back at the Catalaunian Fields, delivered a financial account to the court of Valentinian III on 21 September 454 disaster was about to happen. The Roman senator Petronius Maximus and the chamberlain Heraclius convinced emperor Valentinian III that the famous general Aetius, Scythian from birth, was planning to claim the throne for his son Gaudentius, who was already married to Placidia the daughter of Valentinian. While the financial account was being discussed Valentinian leaped from his seat and accused Aetius that he was responsible for the empires troubles and that he wanted to claim the throne for himself. While Aetius was trying to defend himself from these charges Valentinian and Heralius killed the weaponless general with some swordblows on the head. Later when Valentinian talked about “his good action” a counselor replied “Whether well or not (it was a good action), I do not know. But I know that you have cut off your right hand with your left.”

Petronius Maximus assumed he would be proclaimed the new Patricius, the most important Magister Militum, but Heralius and Valentinian III refused to give someone again so much power in one single position. This refusal and the fact that the emperor once raped his wife Lucina after a lost gamble between the senator and the emperor gave him enough reasons to kill the emperor. He chose as accomplices Optilia and Thraustila, two Scythians who had fought under the command of Aetius and who, after the death of their general, had been appointed as Valentinian’s escort. A foolish decision! Maximus falsely convinced Optilia and Thraustila that Valentinian III was the sole man responsible for the killing of their previous commander Aetius. The assassination occurred as Valentinian rode his horse on the Campus Martius on 16 march 455. As the emperor dismounted to practice archery, the conspirators attacked. Optelas struck Valentinian III on the side of the head, and when he turned to see who had hit him, Optelas delivered the death-blow. Meanwhile, Thraustelas slew chamberlain Heraclius. Most of the soldiers standing close by had been faithful followers of Aetius and none lifted a hand to save the emperor. Priscus reports: as the emperor lay dead, a swarm of bees appeared and sucked up his blood. Between 16 and 17 march three parties made an attempt to claim power. Maximianus, the former domesticus ("bodyguard") of Aëtius, who was the son of an Egyptian merchant named Domninus who had become rich in Italy; the future emperor Majorian, who commanded the army after the death of Aetius and who had the backing of the Empress Licinia Eudoxia; and Petronius Maximus himself, who had the support of the Roman Senate. Maximus seized power and immediately married Licinia Eudoxia the widow of Valentinian III (deserting Lucinia). She only married him reluctantly, suspecting that in fact he had been involved in the murder of her late husband. All in all she had no other choice than to marry the new emperor. The eastern court at Constantinople refused to recognise his accession, so to further secure his position, Maximus quickly appointed Avitus as Master of Soldiers, and sent him on a mission to Toulouse to gain the support of the Visigoth king Theodoric II. He canceled the betrothal of Licinia’s daughter, Eudocia, to Huneric, the son of the Vandal king Geiseric. This move provoked Geiseric, the Vandal King, and gave him a legimite reason to sail to Rome. In May word reached Rome that Geiseric was coming, panic ruled the streets because the sack by Alaric, in 410 AD, was not yet forgotten. Avitus didn't return yet with help from the Visigoths so the emperor was aware that Rome was indefensible. He planned to flee with the senate to Ravenna but he was abandoned by his bodyguards and entourage in the panicking Rome. When he tried to flee the city on 31 May 355 he encountered a mob who stoned him to dead, his body was mutilated and thrown in the Tiber. Petronius Maximus had reigned for only seventy-eight days. On the second of June, three days after Maximus’ death, Geiseric captured the city of Rome and thoroughly sacked it for two weeks. Pope Leo I could prevent the normal procedure of sacking: arson and murder. Nevertheless Geiseric eventually carried away a great amount of loot as well as the empress Licinia Eudoxia and her daughters Placidia and Eudocia. That way Eudocia married Huneric in 456 as had been originally intended. They had a son, Hilderic, who reigned as king of the Vandals, from 523-530.

The sack of Rome in 410AD

Between 9 July 455 and 17 October 456 Avitus sat on the western throne as pupet emperor of the Germanian general Ricimer. As a Gallo-Roman he wanted to keep Gaul as a Roman territory at all cost. This was helped by his very good relations with the Visigoths. Avitus was the man who convinsed the Visigoths to help Aetius in Battle of the Catalaunian Fields on 20 june 451. When Petronius Maximus was lynched he was negotiating with Theodric II about sending foederatii against the Vandals. Both men seized this opportunity and Avitus was proclaimed emperor. Avitus appointed Gallic senators to the Imperial administration in order to close the ties between the Gaul and Italia even more. The Italian senators were outraged by this because their position became even more threatened. Above internal disunity the powergrab of the high classes of Gaul wasn't recieved well in the Eastern Roman empire. Avitus could sign a truce for the first winter with the Vandals but the next year Capua was sacked. Ricimer, the new magister militum, was sent to Sicily to deal with those raiders. He defeated them in a land and naval battle in 456 giving him great status. Meanwhile a war started in Hispania between the Suebi and the Visigoths (as a proxy for the western roman empire). Also the Vandals seized some lands here. With no money in the treasure, Rome was just raided, and great internal unrest Avitus reign wasn't going to last. The generals Majorian and Ricimer rebelled and Avitus had to flee to Gaul where he had a lot of support. He returned with an army but the Italian army was stronger and defeated him near Piacenza. Avitus was downgraded to Bishop of this city. He died not much later in unclear circumstances. Maybe his supporters from Gaul tried the reinstall him as emperor and was murdered by the Italians to run no risk. The civil war had ended.

Marcelinus a great man
This was the political context that gave birth to a new period. After the assassination of Flavius Aetius on 21 September 454 a friend of him, named Marcellinus, rebelled against emperor Valentinian III. Marcellinus, probably born around 420AD, was the Comes rei militaris at that time in Illyria. This commander was well placed to carve out a territory of his own. Dalmatia is not easy to invade by land because of the mountainous terrain. Furthermore he had control of a strong fleet and a well-equipped army consisting of mainly Hunnic mercenaries. Another factor that played a role was the weak position of the western emperors as described above.

Marcellinus was said to have been of high bird and was featured by good character. He studied in the school of the neoplatonic philosopher Proclus (412-485). He was a pagan and knew the pagan philosopher Sallustius. He is alleged to have been a skilled soothsayer. His rebellion can not be considered a traitor to Rome because when Majorian, the next emperor, took over the purple he pledged allegiance to him. Marcellinus was one of the men that still had pietas as a value. This is illustrated with his participation in the campaign against the Vandals in Sicily and Africa. He, probably under the title of magister militium, was sent to Sicily to guard it against the Vandals and later to join the attack on Africa coming from freshly reconquered Hispania. (see below)

Majorian rule

Ricimer as a barbarian couldn't claim the purple for himself. Therefore his colleague Majorian, 37, became the new emperor. First things first he had to (temporary) end the Vandal raids on Italy. His war on terror lasted three years. In 458 he defeated then near Sinuessa in Campania after they looted the area. He issued a new law: Novella Maioriani 8 this gave the Romans the right to bare arms in order to defend themselfs. *Rome was once again the land of the free*. Then he focused on Gaul that was in a bad position after the dead of Avitius. As you can see on the two maps below the Romans had lost control of the Languedoc, the Provence and Auvergne and so lost the conection between what is now northern France and Italy. Majorian marched into Gaul and defeated the Visigoths under Theodoric II in the Battle of Arelate, at the mouth of the Rhône (near modern day Arles). The Goths were totaly defeated in this strategic area. The following peace treaty forced the Goths to give all of Hispania and most of southern Gaul back to Rome and return to the status of foederatii. After this event the opposition in Gaul against Majorian being named emperor was quelled. But at the start of this uprising against Majorian the people of Lugundum opened the gates of the city to the Burgundians ! Priscus writes that Majorian conquered the area by the sword and by diplomacy. After besieging Lugundum he showed mercy to the rebels and gave them the wanted tax reduction. Note that the rebels broke away from the empire for tax reduction...
The Burgundians became foederatii again. In 460 general Nepotianus defeated the Suebi in northwestern Hispania, the battle was near modern Lugo, at that time named Lucus Augusti, and reduced them to foederatii.

Roman empire in 454, see the independent Illyria and lost connection between Gaul and Italia

Roman empire after the conquest

Map of the conquests

But, the empire could not be saved, The new Roman fleet, docked at Portus Illicitanus (near Elche) for the African campaign against the Vandals was destroyed by paid traitors. Majorian was forced to a peace treaty and returned to Italy. Majorian who wanted to carry out more necessary reforms (previous ones had shocked some parts of the aristocracy) was met by Ricimer. The barbarian patricius et magister militum, was furious because Majorian was proven to be a capable emperor and not a weak puppet of the Italian mercenary army. Ricimer had gathered around himself the aristocratic opposition while Majorian was on campaign. The Emperor was deprived of his dress and diadem, beaten and tortured. After five long days, Majorian was beheaded near the river Iria on the 7th of August, 461: He was about forty years old and had reigned for four. If Majorian had a stronger control of the Italian army he could probably have lived on for more decades and change the course of history. After this execution Ricimer took three months to choose a new puppet emperor.

The new puppet emperor, Libius Severus, was not recognized by the Eastern Roman emperor Leo I nor by any of the generals who had served under Majorian; not by Aegidius in Gaul, not by Marcellinus in Sicily and Illyria and not by Nepotianus in Hispania. Nepotianus, who had just finished his campaign against the Suebi with the help of the foederatii under command of Theodoric, was deposed by the Goth. Ricimer tried unsuccessfully to bribe the Hunnic forces of Marcellinus. Still alive but in danger this event forced him to sail back to Dalmatia. The execution of Majorian was a very important change in the political landscape. Before the Eastern Roman emperor Marcian (died in 457) tried to use Ricimer as a client ruler but Ricimer at the same time had to use a puppet emperor to keep the support of the Roman aristocracy in the west. Now it was clear that Ricimer wanted to have the power all for himself without interference of the East. Above this the Theodosian dynasty in the east was replaced by the Leonid dynasty. Marcellinus, back in Dalmatia, made contact with the new eastern court. In 464 or 465 Marcellinus returned to Sicily because his pietas (or to show off his power) told him that it had to be defended against the raiding Vandals. This was a blow in the face to the powerful Ricimer. In 465 the puppet emperor Libius Severus was probably poisoned because Ricimer needed support from the east to stop the continuous Vandal raids on Italy. Negotiations between Ricimer, Marcellinus and Leo I resulted in an independent Dalmatia but Marcellinus didn’t receive the purple of the western throne. I suspect that Marcellinus his Pagan ways wouldn't be accepted by the majority of the aristocracy. Leo I took 18 months to name a successor for Severus. In the meantime the Vandals supported Olbrius because both Olbrius and Huneric were married to a daughter of Valentinian III (see above). With Olbrius in the purple, Geiseric would become the real power behind the throne in the West, replacing Ricimer. To put Leo I under pressure, the Vandals extended their attacks on Sicily and Italy to the territories of the Eastern Empire, sacking cities and enslaving people living in Illyricum, the Peloponnese and other parts of Achaea. This was a crossroad in the history of the empire. Would the Vandals become the leading faction behind the Western Roman Empire? Would Ricimer keep naming puppet emperors or would the east help its counterpart with its own named emperor? If this last possibility would have happened the general public would name 467 instead of 476 as the end of the Roman Empire in the west.

A new hope Anthemius

On 26 march 467 Procopius Anthemius, a competent general who also had a claim on the eastern throne, was proclaimed Western Emperor as Caesar and marched with an army led by Marcellinus, his childhood friend, to Rome. On 12 April, just outside Rome, he was proclaimed emperor. By choosing Anthemius, Leo I obtained three results: he sent a possible candidate to the Eastern throne far away; he repulsed Gaiseric's attempt to put a puppet of his own on the Western throne; and he put a capable and proven general with a trained army in Italy, ready to fight the Vandals. Anthemius reign was offcourse marked by good relations with the eastern court. In 471 Marcian, the son of Anthemius married Leontia, the daughter of Leo I. Would a new dynasty bring the two Roman empires closer again and strengthen it from total collapse? Futhermore Alypia, the daughter of Anthemius, married against her will the Gothic power behind the throne Ricimer.

Leo I and Anthemius side by side, holding between them a globe inscribed PAX and surmounted by a cross

So lets consider the situation in the spring of the year 467. The new dynasty of the eastern court had again a greater influence in the western roman empire with the newly installed emperor. Ricimer is still around leading the Italian army, who consists mainly of Germanic mercinaries like himself. The Vandals have a very strong position in Africa, the most important area for grain at that time, and apart from raiding the shores of their enemies they have a claim on the western throne thanks to marrying (or kidnapping ) the daughters of Valentinian III. Above this great danger the Germanians in Hispania and Gaul are rebuilding their strength and need to be defeated again. A great task faces the new emperor!

Late in 467 a campaign was launched by Marcellinus against the Vandals. But if you know the waters around Sicily you can understand that the fleet had to return without succes due to bad weather. In 468 they tried again but this time better prepared. A combined effort of the Illyrian, Eastern and Western army under command of the general Basiliscus, who would become emperor of the East 7 years later, had the mission to reclaim Africa and punish Geisaric. The force consisted of 110.000 men and 1113 ships costing 64,000 pounds of gold and 700,000 pounds of silver. Marcellinus conquered Sardinia and the general Heraclius of Edessa conquered Libya. Marcellinus acted quickly and had the posibility to also assault Carthage in combination with Basliscus. but he wasn't allowed maybe because of a veto from Ricimer hindering him becoming the most prominent general of he west.
Basliscus left Sicily and made camp in Cape Bon

Cape Bon. The Italian navy would be ambushed here in 1941...

Gaiseric said he wanted five days to make a peace treaty. Meanwhile he gathered his ships, many of wich were stacked with combustible materials. In the night the Vandal fleeth attacked. The Romans were taken by suprise. Basliscus could flee with half of his fleeth. A lieutenant named Johannes took out many Vandal ships but at the end his ship was captured. Instead of surendering to Genso, the son of Geiseric he jumped in the Mare Nostrum with the words: "I would never come under the hands of dogs". Heraclius held Libya for two years before returning to Constantinople. Marcellinus returned to Sicily where he was murdered the same year by one of his own captains by order of Ricimer (paid?!). Geiseric himself was suprised that the Romans themselfs removed his greatest antagonist...
Atleast the most Western Roman troops were still in Sicily and could be used against the Visigoths. Anthemius had a lot of internal opposition because he was a Greek installed by the Eastern court and outsider so to say. Above this it was said that he was Pagan as opposed to the growing christian population. But I am not convinced of this and the evidence seems unlikely to me. All I can say that he had Pagan friends.

The Visigoths started their offensive on the cities of Gaul that were still in Roman hands: Marseille, Auvergne, Arles, Clermont-Ferrand. Anthemius responded by hiring the Briton Riothamus, maybe the source of the king Arthur legend. He probably ruled over Cornwall and Brittany. He supported the Romans by sending 12.000 soldiers across the channel to Avaricum in central Gaul. Euric, king of the Visigoths, came with an innumerable amount of soldiers and defeated the Brittons. Riothamus fled towards Burgundian territory, allies to Rome. Meanwhile Arvandus, praetorian prefect of Gaul, tried to persuade the Visigoths to divide Gaul between them and the Burgundians. The message was interecepted and Arvandus was brought in chains to Rome were he later was sent into excile. Possibly the Brittons tried to link up with the more powerfull force of Anthemiolus, the son of the emperor. But the troops were interecepted when crossing the Rhône river killing most including the heir. Meanwhile a fast but very small cavalry party of Ecdicius Avistus, a very rich Gaul, defeated multiple sieges of the Visigoths. The Romans had lost control of southern Gaul but somehow could save most northern territories. Note that in 451 the Romans under Aetius could, with the help of the Visigoths stop the Hunic advance in Gaul. 19 years later the emperor could almost not defend his outer possessions. Why would Romans still want to pay very high taxes to an emperor who can't defend them in return? Western Europe didn't need emperors anymore: kings who could guarantee safety in return for (lower) taxes would be accepted. The next list of emperors couldn't prove this otherwise.

Meanwhile Anithemus had problems at home. He became very sick in 470, some say due to magic, and Ricimer looked for a puppet replacement. Romanus, a senator, was the ideal man. Anithemus, however, recovered and accused Romanus and other of sorcery and treason. The usurper was beheaded not much later. Ricimer was outraged (his cover was also blown) and moved with several thousands of troops to Mediolanum. Epiphanus of Pavia, bishop of Milan, negotiated between the two leaders but war broke out in 472 despite his efforts. Anithemus was besieged in Rome that he held for some time. Leo I sent Olybrius, son of animportant Roman family that fled Rome in 455, to Rome where he was proclaimed emperor by Ricimer. The exact circumstances are nor decided on. I will restrain from guessing and stay with the facts. The civil war in Rome dragged on for five months. A force from Gaul tried to rescue the emperor but was defeated by Ricimer. Now with no hope to be rescued Anithemus entourage fled and Anithemus himself was arrested in St. Peters or St. Maria in Trastevere, this means he could first escape the siege dressed as a poor man, and on 11 july 472 decapitated. Ricimer died not much later from old age and his nephew, Gundobad became magister militum. Olybrius had a short reign. Being a very pious man he portrayed himself without weapons on coins. Not the man needed to save Rome... he died on 2 novermber due to edema.

The endgame

Leo I took to much time in chosing a succesor and the Germanic army proclaimed Glycerius as emperor on the 5 March. Previous he was commander of the imperial guard at Ravenna. This military man was needed desperatly. The Visigoths invaded Italy from the west and the Ostrogoths from the east. If both armies would merge Italy would be devastated! The Visigoth army under Vicentius was defeated and the Ostrogoths were bribed with 2000 solidi and the advise that they must settle in Gaul where their friends lived.

Family tree of Gundobad

But he was not yet safe. Leo I, suspecting that Glycerius was a puppet, proclaimed Julius Nepos, son of general Nepotianus and nepew of Marcellinus, emperor. Julius was in the independent strong Dalmatia. With Julius on the throne the two empires would have a stong alliance, Julius was married to the niece of Leo's wife earning him the nickname nephew/nepos. In the winter of 474 Julius couldn't cross the Adriatic sea due to the dangerous waters. Glycerius fled to Rome to resist the comming invasion. But in the next spring Julius sailed to the port of Rome and deposed Glycerius without a fight and made him bishop of Salona in Dalmatia. Glycerius probably didn't put up a fight because his main backer, Gundobad, went to the Bugundians to be proclaimed king there (but his three brothers already took over power). Julius Nepos had the backing of the senate, the possessions in Gaul and new the Eastern Roman emperor Leo II. On 28 august 475 the newly elected Orestes took over Ravenna with a force of foederatii. Julius, remembering what happened with Anthemius, fled with his fleet back to Dalmatia. Orestes was himself (partly) Germanian and wouldn't be proclaimed emperor by the senate. Instead he placed his 12 year old son Romulus Augustus on the throne. Meanwhile there was a civil war between Zeno and Baslisicus in the East so no help came to Julius Nepos. Some months after his reign started Orestes denied the demands, 1/3 of the lands of Italy, of Heruli, Scirian and Torcilingi mercenaries. This was against the interests of te Italian aristocracy and was so denied. The Scirian chieftan Odoacer then revolted and ravaged northern Italy. Orestes could assemble a small army and tried to defend Piacenza. His force was defeated by the experienced mercinaries. Orestes was executed on 28 August 476. Then the Roman senate, not impressed with Julius Nepos flight to Dalmatia and the rapid line of succesion between 454 and 476 asked Zeno and Leo II to accept Odoacer as client ruler for Italy. Zeno asked that Julius Nepos could still bear the title of Caesar of the West but Julius didn't return to Italy.He was still in name emperor of the areas outside Italy (Algeria and Soissons) In 479 he plotted to return to Italy and grab power. On 25 april 480 he was assasinated. It is unclear by who, there are three suspects: by his comes Ovida and Viator who then grabbed power, by soldiers who enjoyed the Dalmatian sun and didn't want to go on campaign or by Odoacer (with the help of bishop Glycerius ). The only one who benefited from the assassination was Odoacer who invaded Dalmatia and killed Ovida. Odoacer recognized Zeno as sole Emperor of the again unitary Empire, but increasingly started using the title Rex ("King") for himself. The cities in modern Algiers lived on independent and Syagrius led the Romans in Northern Gaul till 486 when it was annexed by the Franks.

Odoacer ruled in name of Zeno over the Western Roman Empire, now named the Regnum Italicum. But Zeno feared that Odoacer was becomming to popular, maybe he hoped at first that he would be overthrown by a Roman who would name himself emperor. When Zeno was besieged in Constantinople he made a deal with the Ostrogoths: they would be paid and Theodoric was allowed to remove Odoacer and become king of Italia himself. He did it. But soon he was not only king of his own men but also started to name himself king of all, even the Romans. So he did the same thing as Odoacer. The relations between east and west worsened and between 535 and 554 there was war in Italy. The Byzantines devastated Italia but it let them hold areas in the former western Roman Empire for ages to come.


Most people say that the Western Roman empire ended with the 'barbarian' Odoacer on the throne. As we have seen in this article barbarian armies played a vital role in the late Roman army ever since the battle of Adrianople in 378. From then on the role of the chiefs was on the rise. Alaric showed of his power by sacking Rome in 410. The foederatii status was given to many groups like the Visigoths. The army of Majorian, that defeated the Visigoths, consisted of mercinaries of the whole European region for example. The lack of a homegrown army underminded the power of the emperors in favor of their chiefs. Roman emperors before the fifth century always relied on the loyalty of its legions to reign over the empire. When the legions were replaced by foederatii the emperor only lived at the hands of their commander (f.e. Ricimer).
As we have seen did the senate still play a role in the political landscape. If the emperor wasn't in favor of the aristocracy he was in danger of being backstapped (Patronius Maximus, Avistus, even the strong Majorian). In order to understand the power of the senate, and their role in the crumble of the empire, I quote this nice explanation:

Now one can understand why even the Roman elite wasn't trying to repair the dream of what once was Rome: The senators looked after themselfs. The ideal emperor was the man who could help them defend their latifundia but couldn't touch their privilege of not paying (or almost not) paying taxes.

Connected with this was wide corruption in the bureaucracy, the army and the general economy. Therefore the emperor wasn't able to raise an army to defend cities like Rome and Capua in times of crisis. Being unable to defend homes disintegrated the empire further 1) Economic colapse in this area 2) People don't feel connected with the authorities anymore. A king who could give the top class the privileges they wanted was better than the weak emperors. If you understand this one can comprehend why the Italian people weren't happy with the difficult 'liberation' of Italy by Belisarius between 535 and 554! The Roman Senate became more important under the leadership of Odoacer and the Visigoths but was destroyed by this war. A paradox like so many in history!

Another important player in the late Roman politics was the eastern court. The recognition by the eastern emperor was important to the western leader. Money, soldiers and legitimicy could come to the help of the Western Roman Empire if the leaders of the West had good relations with the eastern court. This is portayed in the rise to power by Majorian, Anthemius and the half succesfull Julius Nepos. Therefore I consider the fact that six out of nine emperors was not recognised by the Eastern Roman Empire as a catalyst for the downfall of the Western Roman Empire. Above this the emperors couldn't establish a strong dynasty that would stabilise the political landscape.

Despite all these factors Majorian proved with his campaign in Gaul and Hispania(458-460) and Avitus march through Noricum Mediterranum that in no time whole regions could switch back to the Western Roman Empire but also be lost in months.
A great paradox ruled Western Europe: most areas had Roman culture and a Christian population but they were divided by the rule of local chiefs who swore alliance to a higher leader (first the emperor later only their king). Above this most of the people only focused on themselfs and their local intrest rather than the dream of what once was Rome. The late Romans, from Brittania over the Alps to Sicily, had generaly the same culture but were more divided than the centuries before.

The Western Roman empire disapeared but lived on in some ways. For example 'the barbarians', especialy the Franks, adopted Roman institutions and barbarians maried with the Roman aristocracy in order to settle down and share power. Rome triumphied over the barbarians in its culture. Christian Roman culture florished way after the fall of Rome and spread all over Europe in the comming centuries. The reader can find consolation in this if he is sad that the political leadership of the emperor from Rome vanished. If Edward Gibbon argues that christianity is an important factor to the fall of Rome I would say that it later made Roman culture triumphant. On the political maps the Byzantines retained areas in the former Western Roman Empire till 1071AD when the Normans conquered the Catepanate of Italy. Lieutenant Johannes said that he didn't want to come in the hands of dogs: the west did quite willing the Byzantines resisted.

No nation, however small, can be completely destroyed by its enemies, unless it devours itself by its own feuding. -Vegetius

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Special thanks to BOZ who made the mod Ruins of Glory starting in 476AD to bring this period alive based on Riothamus and his team beautifull work !! check it out!

This article was written with the help of various wikipedia pages (some of the pages of this era should be improved), the interview on this page and various websites with translations of ancient authors.

If one search an explanation for the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the long term I advice this article.