Romulus Augustulus

The last Roman Emperor

(475 - 476 A.D.)

It seems fitting that the last Roman Emperor to rule over the crumbling Western Roman Empire was a fifteen-year old boy. That fifteen-year old boy was Romulus Augustus, but he is known by his nickname, Romulus Augustulus, which means "the Little Augustus".


By 475 the Roman Empire was just barely holding on to its last breath. The Empire’s geographical occupation had been whittled down to include only Italy, and a small portion of Gaul, and the reigning Emperor, Julius Nepos, had little support from either the west or the east.

Julius Nepos set out to make dramatic changes within the military and replaced the Patrician and Master of Soldiers in the west with Orestes, a primarily unknown man whose only bit of importance was being a secretary to Attila the Hun. But when Nepos placed the power of the military into the hands of Orestes, he had made a very large mistake, as Orestes decided to rally his troops and over throw Emperor Nepos.

When Nepos was tipped off to the plan that would overthrow him he fled to Ravenna, where he boarded a ship away from Italy, towards Salona. Once Nepos was gone Orestes wasted no time in appointing his son, Romulus Augustulus, as the new emperor.


Although Romulus was the official Emperor, and was even recognized as so, Orestes was pulling all of the strings, and took care of all external affairs.

Those external affairs were extremely limited, as the largest problem faced during the year was figuring out how to pay barbarian troops. Orestes decided upon minting a new coin, with the image of his sons face and name on it. But this also devised a subsidiary problem, as it was nearly impossible to fit all of "Romulus Augustulus" on a small coin. These coins that were made have been found in Rome, Milan, and Ravenna, and are usually made out of silver or gold.

Unfortunately for Orestes these coins were not enough to appease the barbarian forces. In 476 the soldiers revolted against their current leader, and appointed a new one, Odoacer. Odoacer promised his troops that he would overtake Orestes, become the new king, and then grant them whatever they wanted.

On 28 August 476, Odoacer capture and killed Orestes, with the help of his troops. Odoacer took great pity on Romulus, however, and did not kill him. Instead he sent him away to live with his relatives in Campania, where he lived off a pension from Odoacer until his death.


Romulus was the last official Roman Emperor, but after his demise Julius Nepos regain his power as "Emperor". Nepos had high hopes of once again sitting down on his throne in Rome, but he never did, as he ruled the falling Empire from a seat in Dalmatia.


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