Majorian

Majorian

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Majorian was the Western Roman Emperor from 457 to 461.

A prominent general of the Late Roman army
Late Roman army
The Late Roman army is the term used to denote the military forces of the Roman Empire from the accession of Emperor Diocletian in 284 until the Empire's definitive division into Eastern and Western halves in 395. A few decades afterwards, the Western army disintegrated as the Western empire...

, Majorian deposed Emperor Avitus
Avitus
Eparchius Avitus was Western Roman Emperor from July 8 or July 9, 455 to October 17, 456. A Gallic-Roman aristocrat, he was a senator and a high-ranking officer both in the civil and military administration, as well as Bishop of Piacenza.A representative of the Gallic-Roman aristocracy, he...

 in 457 and succeeded him. Majorian was one of the last emperors to make a concerted effort to restore the Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

. Possessing little more than Italy, Dalmatia
Dalmatia
Dalmatia is a historical region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It stretches from the island of Rab in the northwest to the Bay of Kotor in the southeast. The hinterland, the Dalmatian Zagora, ranges from fifty kilometers in width in the north to just a few kilometers in the south....

, and some territory in northern Gaul
Roman Gaul
Roman Gaul consisted of an area of provincial rule in the Roman Empire, in modern day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and western Germany. Roman control of the area lasted for less than 500 years....

, Majorian campaigned rigorously for three years against the Empire's enemies. After defeating a Vandal attack on Italy, Majorian launched a campaign against the Visigothic Kingdom
Visigothic Kingdom
The Visigothic Kingdom was a kingdom which occupied southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula from the 5th to 8th century AD. One of the Germanic successor states to the Western Roman Empire, it was originally created by the settlement of the Visigoths under King Wallia in the province of...

 in southern Gaul. Defeating king Theodoric II
Theodoric II
Theodoric II was King of Visigoths from 453 to 466.Theoderic II, son of Theodoric I, obtained the throne by killing his elder brother Thorismund...

 at the Battle of Arelate
Battle of Arelate
The Battle of Arelate was fought in late 458 near Arelate between Western Roman Emperor Majorian and Visigothic king Theodoric II. After the assassination of Flavius Aetius in 454, the Visigoths began to expand their kingdom at the expense of the crumbling Roman administration in Gaul and Hispania...

, Majorian forced the Goths to abandon their possessions in Septimania
Septimania
Septimania was the western region of the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis that passed under the control of the Visigoths in 462, when Septimania was ceded to their king, Theodoric II. Under the Visigoths it was known as simply Gallia or Narbonensis. It corresponded roughly with the modern...

 and Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

 and return to federate
Foederati
Foederatus is a Latin term whose definition and usage drifted in the time between the early Roman Republic and the end of the Western Roman Empire...

 status immediately. Majorian then attacked the Burgundian Kingdom, defeating them at the Siege of Lugdunum, expelling them from the Rhone
Rhône
Rhone can refer to:* Rhone, one of the major rivers of Europe, running through Switzerland and France* Rhône Glacier, the source of the Rhone River and one of the primary contributors to Lake Geneva in the far eastern end of the canton of Valais in Switzerland...

 valley and reducing them to federate status.

In 460, Majorian left Gaul to consolidate his hold on Hispania. His generals launched a campaign against the Suebic Kingdom in northwest Hispania, defeating them at the battles of Lucus Augusti and Scallabis and reducing them to federate status as well. However, his fleet for his campaign to restore Africa to the empire from the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 was destroyed due to treachery. Majorian sought to reform the Imperial administration in order to make it more efficient and just. Unfortunately, the powerful general Ricimer
Ricimer
Flavius Ricimer was a Germanic general who achieved effective control of the remaining parts of the Western Roman Empire, during the middle of the 5th century...

 deposed and killed Majorian, who had become unpopular with the senatorial aristocracy because of his reforms.

According to historian Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon was an English historian and Member of Parliament...

, Majorian "presents the welcome discovery of a great and heroic character, such as sometimes arise, in a degenerate age, to vindicate the honor of the human species".

Biography


The life of Majorian and his reign are better known than those of the other Western Emperors of the same period. The most important sources are the chronicles that cover the second half of the 5th century — those of Hydatius
Hydatius
Hydatius or Idacius , bishop of Aquae Flaviae in the Roman province of Gallaecia was the author of a chronicle of his own times that provides us with our best evidence for the history of the Iberian Peninsula in the 5th century.-Life:Hydatius was born around the year 400 in the...

 and Marcellinus Comes
Marcellinus Comes
Marcellinus Comes was a Latin chronicler of the Eastern Roman Empire. An Illyrian by birth, he spent most of his life at the court of Constantinople, which is the focus of his surviving work.-Works:...

, as well as the fragments of Priscus
Priscus
Priscus of Panium was a late Roman diplomat, sophist and historian from Rumelifeneri living in the Roman Empire during the 5th century. He accompanied Maximinus, the ambassador of Theodosius II, to the court of Attila in 448...

 and John of Antioch
John of Antioch (chronicler)
John of Antioch was chronicler in the 7th century. He was a monk, apparently contemporary with Emperor Heraclius . Gelzer identifies the author with the Monophysite Patriarch John of Antioch, who ruled from 630 to 648.John of Antioch's chronicle, Historia chronike, is a universal history...

.

But besides these sources, which are useful also for the biographies of the other emperors, some peculiar sources are available that allow to know in some detail Majorian's life, both before and after his rise to the throne. The Gallo-Roman aristocrat and poet Sidonius Apollinaris
Sidonius Apollinaris
Gaius Sollius Apollinaris Sidonius or Saint Sidonius Apollinaris was a poet, diplomat, and bishop. Sidonius is "the single most important surviving author from fifth-century Gaul" according to Eric Goldberg...

 was an acquaintance of the Emperor and composed a panegyric
Panegyric
A panegyric is a formal public speech, or written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or thing, a generally highly studied and discriminating eulogy, not expected to be critical. It is derived from the Greek πανηγυρικός meaning "a speech fit for a general assembly"...

 that is the major source for Majorian's life up to 459. As regards his policy, twelve laws of his have been preserved: the so-called Novellae Maioriani were included in the Breviarium that was compiled for the Visigothic king Alaric II
Alaric II
Alaric II, also known as Alarik, Alarich, and Alarico in Spanish and Portuguese or Alaricus in Latin succeeded his father Euric on December 28, 484, in Toulouse. He established his capital at Aire-sur-l'Adour in Aquitaine...

 in 506, and help to understand the problems that pressed Majorian's government.

Early life


Majorian was born after 420 ca., as in 458 he is defined a iuvenis, a "young man". He belonged to the military aristocracy of the Roman Empire. His grandfather of the same name reached the rank of magister militum
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

under Emperor Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 and, as commander-in-chief of the Illyrian army, he was present at his coronation at Sirmium
Sirmium
Sirmium was a city in ancient Roman Pannonia. Firstly mentioned in the 4th century BC and originally inhabited by the Illyrians and Celts, it was conquered by the Romans in the 1st century BC and subsequently became the capital of the Roman province of Lower Pannonia. In 294 AD, Sirmium was...

, in 379. The daughter of the magister militum then married an officer, probably called Donninus, who administered the finances of Aetius
Flavius Aëtius
Flavius Aëtius , dux et patricius, was a Roman general of the closing period of the Western Roman Empire. He was an able military commander and the most influential man in the Western Roman Empire for two decades . He managed policy in regard to the attacks of barbarian peoples pressing on the Empire...

, the powerful magister militum of the West. The couple gave the name Maiorianus to their child in honour of his influential grandfather.
It was under the same Aetius that Majorian started his military career. He followed Aetius in Gallia, where he met under Aetius' command two officers of barbarian origin who would have played an important role in Majorian's life: the Suevic-Visigoth
Visigoth
The Visigoths were one of two main branches of the Goths, the Ostrogoths being the other. These tribes were among the Germans who spread through the late Roman Empire during the Migration Period...

 Ricimer
Ricimer
Flavius Ricimer was a Germanic general who achieved effective control of the remaining parts of the Western Roman Empire, during the middle of the 5th century...

 and the Gaul Aegidius
Aegidius
Aegidius was a Gallo-Roman warlord of northern Gaul. He had been promoted as magister militum in Gaul under Aëtius around 450. An ardent supporter of Majorian, Aegidius rebelled when Ricimer deposed Majorian, engaging in several campaigns against the Visigoths and creating a Roman rump state that...

. Majorian distinguished himself in the defence of the city of Turonensis (modern Tours
Tours
Tours is a city in central France, the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department.It is located on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast. Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its wines, the alleged perfection of its local spoken French, and for the...

) and in a battle against the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 of king Clodio
Clodio
Chlodio was a king of the Salian Franks from the Merovingian dynasty. He was known as the Long-Haired King and lived in Thuringian territory at the castle of Duisburg. He became chief of the Thérouanne area in 414 AD...

, near Vicus Helena (447 or 448). In the latter, Majorian fought at the head of his cavalry on a bridge, while Aetius controlled the roads leading to the battlefield:
Around 450, Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III
Valentinian III
-Family:Valentinian was born in the western capital of Ravenna, the only son of Galla Placidia and Flavius Constantius. The former was the younger half-sister of the western emperor Honorius, and the latter was at the time Patrician and the power behind the throne....

 considered the possibility of having his daughter Placidia
Placidia
Placidia was the wife of Olybrius, Western Roman Emperor. Her full name is uncertain. The Chronicle of the Roman Emperors: The reign by reign record of the rulers of Imperial Rome by Chris Scarre gives her name as Galla Placidia Valentiniana or Galla Placidia the Younger, based on Roman naming...

 marry Majorian. Valentinian had two daughters and no sons, and therefore no heir to the throne. Having Majorian as son-in-law would have strengthened Valentinian in the face of other powerful generals and would have solved the problem of the succession. Furthermore, as Emperor, Majorian could have led the army by himself, thus freeing him from the dangerous bond with a powerful general, as Valentinian had been obliged to contract with Aetius. This plan was to avoid the possible succession of barbarian generals such as Huneric
Huneric
Huneric or Honeric was King of the Vandals and the oldest son of Genseric. He dropped the imperial politics of his father and concentrated mainly on internal affairs. He was married to Eudocia, daughter of western Roman Emperor Valentinian III and Licinia Eudoxia. She left him, probably in 472...

 of Attila to Aetius, but contrasted with the plans of Aetius himself. The Roman general, in fact, planned to marry his own son Gaudentius
Gaudentius (son of Aëtius)
Gaudentius was the son of Flavius Aetius. F.M. Clover has persuasively argued that his mother was Pelagia, a Gothic noblewoman and the widow of Bonifacius....

 to Placidia. He therefore opposed Valentinian's plan, and put an end to Majorian's military career, expelling him from his staff and sending him to his country estate. According to the poet Sidonius Apollinaris
Sidonius Apollinaris
Gaius Sollius Apollinaris Sidonius or Saint Sidonius Apollinaris was a poet, diplomat, and bishop. Sidonius is "the single most important surviving author from fifth-century Gaul" according to Eric Goldberg...

, the cause of the fall of Majorian was the jealousy of Aetius' wife, who feared that Majorian could overshadow Aetius' prestige.

Only in 454 Majorian could return to public life. In that year, in fact, Valentinian III killed Aetius with his own hands, but, fearing a revolt in Aetius' troops, he called Majorian back in office to quell them. The following year, however, Valentinian III was killed by two former officers of Aetius' staff. A fight for the succession started, as no heir existed. Majorian played the role of the candidate for the throne of Licinia Eudoxia
Licinia Eudoxia
Licinia Eudoxia was a Roman Empress, daughter of Eastern Emperor Theodosius II and wife of the Western Emperors Valentinian III and Petronius Maximus.- Family :...

, Valentinian's widow, and of Ricimer
Ricimer
Flavius Ricimer was a Germanic general who achieved effective control of the remaining parts of the Western Roman Empire, during the middle of the 5th century...

, who reserved for himself a role similar to Aetius'. In the end, the new Emperor was Petronius Maximus
Petronius Maximus
Flavius Petronius Maximus was Western Roman Emperor for two and a half months in 455. A wealthy senator and a prominent aristocrat, he was instrumental in the murders of the Western Roman magister militum, Flavius Aëtius, and the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III...

, a senator somehow involved in Valentinian's murder, who outmanoeuvred the other candidates. To strengthen his position, he obliged Licinia to marry him and promoted Majorian to the rank of comes domesticorum (commander-in-chief of the imperial guard).

Petronius, however, ruled for just a few weeks, as he was killed during the Vandal
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 sack of Rome
Sack of Rome (455)
The sack of 455 was the second of three barbarian sacks of Rome; it was executed by the Vandals, who were then at war with the usurping Western Roman Emperor Petronius Maximus....

 (May 455). It is not known if Majorian expected to succeed him; the new Emperor was, in fact, the Gallic-Roman noble Avitus
Avitus
Eparchius Avitus was Western Roman Emperor from July 8 or July 9, 455 to October 17, 456. A Gallic-Roman aristocrat, he was a senator and a high-ranking officer both in the civil and military administration, as well as Bishop of Piacenza.A representative of the Gallic-Roman aristocracy, he...

, who had the support of the Visigoths. Both Majorian, comes domesticorum, and Ricimer, comes, initially supported Avitus, but when the Emperor lost the loyalty of the Italian aristocracy, the two generals revolted against him. First Majorian and Ricimer killed Remistus
Remistus
Remistus was a general of the Western Roman Empire, commander-in-chief of the army under Emperor Avitus.- Life :Remistus was a Visigoth, as shown by his Germanic name...

, the magister militum entrusted by Avitus with the defence of the capital, Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

. Then Ricimer defeated Avitus' troops near Placentia
Piacenza
Piacenza is a city and comune in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Piacenza...

, taking prisoner the Emperor himself, who was obliged to abdicate. Finally, Majorian caused Avitus' death, possibly starving him, in early 457.

Rise to the throne


Avitus
Avitus
Eparchius Avitus was Western Roman Emperor from July 8 or July 9, 455 to October 17, 456. A Gallic-Roman aristocrat, he was a senator and a high-ranking officer both in the civil and military administration, as well as Bishop of Piacenza.A representative of the Gallic-Roman aristocracy, he...

 was dead and the Western throne without a pretender; the Eastern Roman Emperor was to choose the successor, but Marcian
Marcian
Marcian was Byzantine Emperor from 450 to 457. Marcian's rule marked a recovery of the Eastern Empire, which the Emperor protected from external menaces and reformed economically and financially...

 could not do anything, as he died on January 27, 457. His successor on the Eastern throne was the general Leo I
Leo I (emperor)
Leo I was Byzantine Emperor from 457 to 474. A native of Dacia Aureliana near historic Thrace, he was known as Leo the Thracian ....

, who, however, did not select a colleague for the West, possibly because he intended to reign alone. On the other hand, Leo rewarded both Majorian and Ricimer: the former was appointed magister militum
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

, the latter patricius and magister militum (February 28, 457).

While the situation was in a precarious equilibrium, 900 Alemanni invaded Italy. They moved from Raetia
Raetia
Raetia was a province of the Roman Empire, named after the Rhaetian people. It was bounded on the west by the country of the Helvetii, on the east by Noricum, on the north by Vindelicia, on the west by Cisalpine Gaul and on south by Venetia et Histria...

 and penetrated the Italian territory down to Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore is a large lake located on the south side of the Alps. It is the second largest of Italy and largest of southern Switzerland. Lake Maggiore is the most westerly of the three great prealpine lakes of Italy, it extends for about 70 km between Locarno and Arona.The climate is mild...

. Here they were intercepted by the troops of comes Burco, sent by Majorian to stop the invaders, and were defeated:

This victory was celebrated as Majorian's own, and the magister militum was acclaimed Emperor by the army on April 1, six miles outside Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

, in a place called ad Columellas, "at the Little Columns". There were actually two magistri militum to choose between, Majorian and Ricimer, but the barbarian origin of the latter barred him from the throne. However, Ricimer could expect to exert a great influence on the new Western Emperor, because of their relationship, dating back to the time of their service under Aetius
Flavius Aëtius
Flavius Aëtius , dux et patricius, was a Roman general of the closing period of the Western Roman Empire. He was an able military commander and the most influential man in the Western Roman Empire for two decades . He managed policy in regard to the attacks of barbarian peoples pressing on the Empire...

, and of his control on the army as magister militum.

In his panegyric
Panegyric
A panegyric is a formal public speech, or written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or thing, a generally highly studied and discriminating eulogy, not expected to be critical. It is derived from the Greek πανηγυρικός meaning "a speech fit for a general assembly"...

 to Majorian, the poet Sidonius Apollinaris
Sidonius Apollinaris
Gaius Sollius Apollinaris Sidonius or Saint Sidonius Apollinaris was a poet, diplomat, and bishop. Sidonius is "the single most important surviving author from fifth-century Gaul" according to Eric Goldberg...

 tells that Majorian initially refused the election:

However, modern historians think that it was Leo I who initially refused to recognise Majorian as his colleague. But the general chosen by the army was the only viable candidate to the throne: the Eastern court was not displeased with the deposition of Avitus
Avitus
Eparchius Avitus was Western Roman Emperor from July 8 or July 9, 455 to October 17, 456. A Gallic-Roman aristocrat, he was a senator and a high-ranking officer both in the civil and military administration, as well as Bishop of Piacenza.A representative of the Gallic-Roman aristocracy, he...

, an Emperor chosen by the Visigoths; on the other side, the only other candidate, Olybrius
Olybrius
Anicius Olybrius was Western Roman Emperor from April or May 472 to his death. He was in reality a puppet ruler, put on the throne by the Roman general of Germanic descent Ricimer, and was mainly interested in religion, while the actual power was held by Ricimer and his nephew Gundobad.-Family and...

, had a politically difficult relationship with the Vandal
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 king Genseric
Genseric
Genseric , also spelled as Geiseric or Gaiseric, was King of the Vandals and Alans and was one of the key players in the troubles of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century...

, and no influence on the army. Despite this, the approval of the Eastern court to Majorian's election came late, as the new Emperor was actually crowned only on December 28. Leo I and Majorian jointly assumed the consulate for the year 458; it was customary that a new Emperor took this magistracy on the first year started as Emperor.

Defence of Italy


The first problems Majorian was to handle were the consolidation of his rule over Italy and the recovery of Gaul
Roman Gaul
Roman Gaul consisted of an area of provincial rule in the Roman Empire, in modern day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and western Germany. Roman control of the area lasted for less than 500 years....

, after this province had rebelled to the deposition of the Gaul-Roman emperor Avitus
Avitus
Eparchius Avitus was Western Roman Emperor from July 8 or July 9, 455 to October 17, 456. A Gallic-Roman aristocrat, he was a senator and a high-ranking officer both in the civil and military administration, as well as Bishop of Piacenza.A representative of the Gallic-Roman aristocracy, he...

. The recovery of the lost provinces of Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

 and Africa was a project that Majorian had to leave for later.

In Summer 458, a group of Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

, led by the brother-in-law of Genseric
Genseric
Genseric , also spelled as Geiseric or Gaiseric, was King of the Vandals and Alans and was one of the key players in the troubles of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century...

, landed in Campania, at the mouth of the Liri
Liri
The Liri is one of the principal rivers of central Italy, flowing into the Tyrrhenian Sea a little below Minturno under the name Garigliano....

 or the Garigliano river, and started devastating and sacking the region. Majorian personally led the Roman army
Late Roman army
The Late Roman army is the term used to denote the military forces of the Roman Empire from the accession of Emperor Diocletian in 284 until the Empire's definitive division into Eastern and Western halves in 395. A few decades afterwards, the Western army disintegrated as the Western empire...

 to a victory over the invaders near Sinuessa
Sinuessa
Sinuessa was a city of Latium, in the more extended sense of the name, situated on the Tyrrhenian Sea, about 10 km north of the mouth of the Volturno River . It was on the line of the Via Appia, and was the last place where that great highroad touched on the sea-coast...

 and followed the defeated Vandals, loaded by their booty, as far as their own ships, killing many of them including their commander.

After this event, Majorian understood that he was to take the initiative, if he wanted to defend the hearth of his Empire, the only territory he actually controlled, and so he decided to strengthen its defences. First, he issued a law, the Novella Maioriani 8 known as De reddito iure armorum ("On the Return of the Right to Bear Arms"), about the personal right to bear arms; in 440 Valentinian III
Valentinian III
-Family:Valentinian was born in the western capital of Ravenna, the only son of Galla Placidia and Flavius Constantius. The former was the younger half-sister of the western emperor Honorius, and the latter was at the time Patrician and the power behind the throne....

 had already promulgated a law with the same name, Novella Valentiniani 9, after another attack of the Vandals. It is probably to this time that another law is to be dated, the Novella Maioriani 12 known as De aurigis et seditiosis ("Concerning Charioteers and Seditious Persons"), to quell the disorders that sprang up during the chariot races. Both these laws are now lost. Then he strengthened the army, recruiting a large number of barbarian mercenaries, among whom Gepids, Ostrogoths, Rugii, Burgundians
Burgundians
The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe which may have emigrated from mainland Scandinavia to the island of Bornholm, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr , and from there to mainland Europe...

, Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

, Bastarnae
Bastarnae
The Bastarnae or Basternae were an ancient Germanic tribe,, who between 200 BC and 300 AD inhabited the region between the eastern Carpathian mountains and the Dnieper river...

, Suebi
Suebi
The Suebi or Suevi were a group of Germanic peoples who were first mentioned by Julius Caesar in connection with Ariovistus' campaign, c...

, Scythians and Alans
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

. Finally, he rebuilt two fleets, probably those of Miseno and Ravenna, since the Vandals had a strong navy:

Re-conquest of Gaul



After consolidating his position in Italy, Majorian concentrated on the recovery of Gaul
Roman Gaul
Roman Gaul consisted of an area of provincial rule in the Roman Empire, in modern day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and western Germany. Roman control of the area lasted for less than 500 years....

. When the news of the deposition of the Gallic-Roman emperor Avitus
Avitus
Eparchius Avitus was Western Roman Emperor from July 8 or July 9, 455 to October 17, 456. A Gallic-Roman aristocrat, he was a senator and a high-ranking officer both in the civil and military administration, as well as Bishop of Piacenza.A representative of the Gallic-Roman aristocracy, he...

 arrived in Gaul, the province refused to recognise Majorian as his successor. A clue is an inscription found in Lugdunum
Lugdunum
Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum was an important Roman city in Gaul. The city was founded in 43 BC by Lucius Munatius Plancus. It served as the capital of the Roman province Gallia Lugdunensis. To 300 years after its foundation Lugdunum was the most important city to the west part of Roman...

 (modern Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

) and dating to 458: according to Roman custom, the inscriptions were dated reporting the name of the consuls in office, who that year were Leo I
Leo I (emperor)
Leo I was Byzantine Emperor from 457 to 474. A native of Dacia Aureliana near historic Thrace, he was known as Leo the Thracian ....

 and Majorian; this inscription, instead, records only the name of Eastern Emperor, showing that Majorian was not recognised as lawful Emperor. Another clue is the fact that at the death of Avitus, the citizens of Lugdunum had allowed the Burgundians
Burgundians
The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe which may have emigrated from mainland Scandinavia to the island of Bornholm, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr , and from there to mainland Europe...

 of king Gondioc
Gondioc
Gondioc , also called Gundioc, Condiaco, Candiacus and Gundowech, was king of Burgundy following the destruction of Worms by the Huns in 436, succeeding Gundahar. Gondiocs sister married Ricimer Gondioc , also called Gundioc, Condiaco, Candiacus and Gundowech, was king of Burgundy following the...

 to occupy the city, and that they sent an envoy to Leo, and not to Majorian, to ask for a reduction of the taxation. Finally, there is a record of a failed usurpation in Gaul, around this time.

In late 458 Majorian entered in Gaul, with an army strengthened by the barbarian units. The Emperor personally led the army, leaving Ricimer
Ricimer
Flavius Ricimer was a Germanic general who achieved effective control of the remaining parts of the Western Roman Empire, during the middle of the 5th century...

 in Italy and choosing Aegidius
Aegidius
Aegidius was a Gallo-Roman warlord of northern Gaul. He had been promoted as magister militum in Gaul under Aëtius around 450. An ardent supporter of Majorian, Aegidius rebelled when Ricimer deposed Majorian, engaging in several campaigns against the Visigoths and creating a Roman rump state that...

 and the magister militiae Nepotianus
Nepotianus (magister militiae)
- Life :Nepotianus married the sister of Marcellinus, the semi-independent ruler of Dalmatia; the couple had a son, Julius Nepos, last Western Roman Emperor....

 as collaborators. The imperial army defeated the Visigoths under king Theodoric II
Theodoric II
Theodoric II was King of Visigoths from 453 to 466.Theoderic II, son of Theodoric I, obtained the throne by killing his elder brother Thorismund...

 at the Battle of Arelate
Battle of Arelate
The Battle of Arelate was fought in late 458 near Arelate between Western Roman Emperor Majorian and Visigothic king Theodoric II. After the assassination of Flavius Aetius in 454, the Visigoths began to expand their kingdom at the expense of the crumbling Roman administration in Gaul and Hispania...

, forcing the Visigoths to abandon Septimania
Septimania
Septimania was the western region of the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis that passed under the control of the Visigoths in 462, when Septimania was ceded to their king, Theodoric II. Under the Visigoths it was known as simply Gallia or Narbonensis. It corresponded roughly with the modern...

 and withdraw west to Aquitania
Aquitania
Aquitania may refer to:* the territory of the Aquitani, a people living in Roman times in what is now Aquitaine, France* Aquitaine, a region of France roughly between the Pyrenees, the Atlantic ocean and the Garonne, also a former kingdom and duchy...

. The Roman victory was decisive: under the new treaty the Visigoths were to relinquish their vast conquests in Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

 and return to federate
Foederati
Foederatus is a Latin term whose definition and usage drifted in the time between the early Roman Republic and the end of the Western Roman Empire...

 status. Majorian chose his trusted general Aegidius as the new magister militum
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

 per Gallias
(military commander of Gaul) and sent an envoy in Hispania, to report the victory over the Visigoths and the new treaty with Theodoric II.

With the help of his new foederati, Majorian entered in the Rhone Valley, conquering its populations "some by arms and some by diplomacy". He defeated the Burgundians
Burgundians
The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe which may have emigrated from mainland Scandinavia to the island of Bornholm, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr , and from there to mainland Europe...

 and besieged and conquered the city of Lugdunum
Lugdunum
Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum was an important Roman city in Gaul. The city was founded in 43 BC by Lucius Munatius Plancus. It served as the capital of the Roman province Gallia Lugdunensis. To 300 years after its foundation Lugdunum was the most important city to the west part of Roman...

: the rebel city was heavily fined, while the Bagaudae
Bagaudae
In the time of the later Roman Empire bagaudae were groups of peasant insurgents who emerged during the "Crisis of the Third Century", and persisted particularly in the less-Romanised areas of Gallia and Hispania, where they were "exposed to the depredations of the late Roman state, and the great...

 were forced to join the Empire. Despite the fact that the Gallic-Roman aristocracy had sided with Avitus, however, Majorian wanted a reconciliation, not a punishment. With the intercession of Majorian' magister epistolarum Petrus, Sidonius Apollinaris
Sidonius Apollinaris
Gaius Sollius Apollinaris Sidonius or Saint Sidonius Apollinaris was a poet, diplomat, and bishop. Sidonius is "the single most important surviving author from fifth-century Gaul" according to Eric Goldberg...

, the son-in-law of Avitus, was allowed to deliver a panegyric in honour of the Emperor (early January 459), receiving in reward the appointment to the rank of comes spectabilis. Much more effective was, however, the granting of the tax remission that the citizen of Lyon had requested from Leo I.

Campaign of Hispania


In the wake of the Vandal
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 sack of Rome (455)
Sack of Rome (455)
The sack of 455 was the second of three barbarian sacks of Rome; it was executed by the Vandals, who were then at war with the usurping Western Roman Emperor Petronius Maximus....

, the Visigoths had conquered Hispania, formally in the name of the new Western Emperor Avitus
Avitus
Eparchius Avitus was Western Roman Emperor from July 8 or July 9, 455 to October 17, 456. A Gallic-Roman aristocrat, he was a senator and a high-ranking officer both in the civil and military administration, as well as Bishop of Piacenza.A representative of the Gallic-Roman aristocracy, he...

, actually controlling the territory themselves. Majorian planned to reconquer Hispania and use it as the basis for the conquest of Africa: the richest province of the Western Empire, which provided for the very important grain supply to the city of Rome
Grain supply to the city of Rome
In classical antiquity, the grain supply to the city of Rome could not be met entirely from the surrounding countryside, which was taken up by the villas and parks of the aristocracy and which produced mainly fruit, vegetables and other perishable goods...

, was in fact under Vandal control.

According to the historian Procopius
Procopius
Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

, Majorian, "who surpassed in every virtue all who have ever been emperors of the Romans", wanted to know personally the military readiness of the Vandals and how the local populations would have reacted to the Roman invasion. He dyed black his fair hair, for which he was famous, and went to Genseric
Genseric
Genseric , also spelled as Geiseric or Gaiseric, was King of the Vandals and Alans and was one of the key players in the troubles of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century...

 claiming to be an envoy of the Western Emperor; Genseric tried to impress the enemy ambassador showing him the arms collected in the warehouses and sent him back. This story is probably only a legend of the Italian folklore, but it is a clue of the carefulness of the preparation of the expedition: Majorian collected informations on the enemy and gathered a fleet of three hundred ships to support the army in the reconquest of Hispania and in the invasion of Africa.

It was probably during the preparation of this operation that Majorian sent the comes
Comes
Comes , plural comites , is the Latin word for companion, either individually or as a member of a collective known as comitatus, especially the suite of a magnate, in some cases large and/or formal enough to have a specific name, such as a cohors amicorum. The word comes derives from com- "with" +...

and patricius Occidentis Marcellinus
Marcellinus (magister militum)
Marcellinus was a Roman general and patrician who ruled over the region of Dalmatia in the Western Roman Empire and held sway with the army there from 454 until his death.-Origins:...

 to Sicily with an army of Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

, to take back the island from the Vandals. Marcellinus was the comes rei militaris (governor) of Illyricum
Illyricum (Roman province)
The Roman province of Illyricum or Illyris Romana or Illyris Barbara or Illyria Barbara replaced most of the region of Illyria. It stretched from the Drilon river in modern north Albania to Istria in the west and to the Sava river in the north. Salona functioned as its capital...

, but he had become practically independent since the death of Aetius
Flavius Aëtius
Flavius Aëtius , dux et patricius, was a Roman general of the closing period of the Western Roman Empire. He was an able military commander and the most influential man in the Western Roman Empire for two decades . He managed policy in regard to the attacks of barbarian peoples pressing on the Empire...

, non recognising the imperial authority; Majorian had convinced him to accept him as Emperor and even to collaborate with his troops with the military recovery of the Empire.

The campaign started with an operation against the Suebi
Suebi
The Suebi or Suevi were a group of Germanic peoples who were first mentioned by Julius Caesar in connection with Ariovistus' campaign, c...

 in North-Western Spain, lasted along the whole 459 and led by the magister militiae Nepotianus
Nepotianus (magister militiae)
- Life :Nepotianus married the sister of Marcellinus, the semi-independent ruler of Dalmatia; the couple had a son, Julius Nepos, last Western Roman Emperor....

 and the Gothic comes Sunieric
Sunieric
Sunieric was a Visigoth general, who collaborated with the Roman army in the re-conquest of Spain on behalf of Emperor Majorian.- Life :...

. Majorian gathered the main part of the army in Liguria
Liguria
Liguria is a coastal region of north-western Italy, the third smallest of the Italian regions. Its capital is Genoa. It is a popular region with tourists for its beautiful beaches, picturesque little towns, and good food.-Geography:...

, then he entered in Aquitaine
Aquitaine
Aquitaine , archaic Guyenne/Guienne , is one of the 27 regions of France, in the south-western part of metropolitan France, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees mountain range on the border with Spain. It comprises the 5 departments of Dordogne, :Lot et Garonne, :Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes...

 and Novempopulania
Novempopulania
Novempopulania was one of the provinces created by Diocletian out of Gallia Aquitania, being also called Aquitania Tertia. The area of Novempopulania was historically the first one to receive the name of Aquitania, as it was here where the original Aquitani dwelt primarily...

coming from Theodoric's court in Toulouse
Toulouse
Toulouse is a city in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern FranceIt lies on the banks of the River Garonne, 590 km away from Paris and half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea...

 (May 460). Genseric
Genseric
Genseric , also spelled as Geiseric or Gaiseric, was King of the Vandals and Alans and was one of the key players in the troubles of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century...

, fearing the Roman invasion, tried to negotiate a peace with Majorian, who rejected the proposal. The Vandal king then decided to devastate Mauretania
Mauretania
Mauretania is a part of the historical Ancient Libyan land in North Africa. It corresponds to present day Morocco and a part of western Algeria...

, his own territory, because he thought that the Roman army would land there; moreover, he ordered his navy to prepare incursions in the waters near the probable invasion area. In the meantime, Majorian was conquering Hispania: while Nepotianus and Sunieric defeated the Suebi at Lucus Augusti (modern Lugo
Lugo
Lugo is a city in northwestern Spain, in the autonomous community of Galicia. It is the capital of the province of Lugo. The municipality had a population of 97,635 in 2010, which makes is the fourth most populated city in Galicia.-Population:...

) and conquered Scallabis in Lusitania
Lusitania
Lusitania or Hispania Lusitania was an ancient Roman province including approximately all of modern Portugal south of the Douro river and part of modern Spain . It was named after the Lusitani or Lusitanian people...

 (modern Santarém, Portugal
Santarém, Portugal
Santarém is a city in the Santarém Municipality in Portugal. The city itself has a population of 28,760 and the entire municipality has 64,124 inhabitants.It is the capital of Santarém District....

), the Emperor passed through Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza
Zaragoza
Zaragoza , also called Saragossa in English, is the capital city of the Zaragoza Province and of the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain...

), where he performed a formal imperial adventus
Adventus (ceremony)
The adventus was a ceremony in ancient Rome, in which an emperor was formally welcomed into a city either during a progress or after a military campaign, often Rome. The term is also used to refer to artistic depicitions of such ceremonies. Its 'opposite' is the profectio.-External links:*...

. Finally he reached Carthaginiensis, when his fleet, docked at Portus Illicitanus (near Elche), was destroyed by traitors paid for by the Vandals:
Majorian, deprived of the fleet that was necessary for the invasion, cancelled the attack on the Vandals. He received the ambassadors of Genseric, with whom he agreed to conclude peace, which probably included the recognition of the de facto occupation of Mauretania by the Vandals. On his way back to Italy, the Emperor stopped at Arelate.

Domestic policy


Majorian's domestic policy is known thanks to some of the laws he issued, the so-called Novellae Maioriani, that were included in a collection of Roman law entitled Breviarium, requested by the 6th-century Visigothic king Alaric II
Alaric II
Alaric II, also known as Alarik, Alarich, and Alarico in Spanish and Portuguese or Alaricus in Latin succeeded his father Euric on December 28, 484, in Toulouse. He established his capital at Aire-sur-l'Adour in Aquitaine...

 to some Gallic-Roman jurists in 506.

The preserved laws are:
  • Novella Maioriani 1, De ortu imperii domini Majoriani Augusti, "The Beginning of the Reign of Our Lord Majorian Augustus", opening speech of his reign, addressed to the Roman Senate
    Roman Senate
    The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

     (given in Ravenna
    Ravenna
    Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

    , on January 11, 458);
  • Novella Maioriani 2, De indulgentiis reliquorum, "On the Remission of Past-Due Accounts" (given in Ravenna, on March 11, 458, to Basilius
    Caecina Decius Basilius
    Flavius Caecina Decius Basilius was a politician of the Western Roman Empire, Consul and twice Praetorian prefect of Italy.- Biography :Basilius belonged to the Italian nobility, and was member of the influential gens Caecina....

    , Praetorian prefect of Italy);
  • Novella Maioriani 3, De defensoribus civitatum, "The Defenders of the Municipalities", on the office of defensor civitatum (given in Ravenna, on May 8, 458, also in the name of Leo I
    Leo I (emperor)
    Leo I was Byzantine Emperor from 457 to 474. A native of Dacia Aureliana near historic Thrace, he was known as Leo the Thracian ....

    );
  • Novella Maioriani 4, De aedificiis pubblicis, "Public Buildings", on the preservation of the monuments of Rome (given in Ravenna, on July 11, 458, to Aemilianus, praefectus urbi
    Praefectus urbi
    The praefectus urbanus or praefectus urbi, in English the urban prefect, was prefect of the city of Rome, and later also of Constantinople. The office originated under the Roman kings, continued during the Republic and Empire, and held high importance in late Antiquity...

    of Rome, also in the name of Leo I);
  • Novella Maioriani 5, De bonis caducis sive proscriptorum, "On Abandoned Property and That of Proscribed Persons" (given in Ravenna, on September 4, 458, to Ennodius, comes privatae largitionis, also in the name of Leo I);
  • Novella Maioriani 6, De sanctimonialibus vel viduis et de successionibus earum, "Holy Maidens, Widows, and Their Succession" (given in Ravenna, on October 26, 458, to Basilius, Praetorian prefect of Italy, also in the name of Leo I);
  • Novella Maioriani 7, De curialibus et de agnatione vel distractione praediorum et de ceteris negotiis, "Decurions, Their Children and The Sale of Their Landed Estates" (given in Ravenna, on November 6, 458, to Basilius, Praetorian prefect of Italy, also in the name of Leo I);
  • Novella Maioriani 8, De reddito iure armorum, "On the Return of the Right to Bear Arms", whose text is lost;
  • Novella Maioriani 9, De adulteriis, "Adultery", confirming that the adulterers are to be put to death (given in Arelate, on April 17, 459, to Rogatianus, governor of Suburbicarian Tuscany, also in the name of Leo I);
  • Novella Maioriani 10, about the right of the Roman senators and of the Church to keep the goods received in a will, whose text is lost;
  • Novella Maioriani 11, De episcopali iudicio et ne quis invitus clericus ordinetur vel de ceteris negotiis, "Episcopal Courts; No Person Shall Be Ordained A Cleric Against His Will; Various Matters", (given in Arelate, on March 28, 460, to Ricimer
    Ricimer
    Flavius Ricimer was a Germanic general who achieved effective control of the remaining parts of the Western Roman Empire, during the middle of the 5th century...

    , also in the name of Leo I);
  • Novella Maioriani 12, De aurigis et seditiosis, "Charioteers and Seditious Persons", whose text is lost.

Fiscal policy and coinage


Majorian understood that he could reign effectively only with the support of the senatorial aristocracy, whom he wanted to return to its pristine political prominence. At the same time, he planned to reduce the abuses perpetrated by the senators, many of whom cultivated their local interests disregarding the imperial policies, even refusing paying taxes and keeping for themselves the taxes they had exacted. This fiscal evasion had a cascade effect that affected the small landowners, the citizens and the local civil magistrates. For example, the decurions
Decurion (administrative)
A decurion was a member of a city senate in the Roman Empire. Decurions were drawn from the curiales class, which was made up of the wealthy middle class citizens of a town society....

 were to personally compensate the imperial treasury of all the taxes not exacted; sometimes, oppressed by the debts collected in this way, the decurions abandoned their status, a problem already addressed by Emperor Julian (361–363). Majorian also cancelled the tax arrears, knowing that a rigorous fiscal policy could not be effective if the taxpayers were to pay also the great arrears accumulated.

On March 11, 458, Majorian issued a law entitled De indulgentiis reliquorum, "On the Remission of Past-Due Accounts" (Novella Maioriani 2). This law remitted all the tax arrears of the landowners. This same law explicitly prohibited public administrators, who had a record of keeping the collected money for themselves, to collect taxes; this task was to be reserved to the governors alone. Another law issued to reorganise the tax system was issued on September 4 of the same year, and was entitled De bonis caducis sive proscriptorum, "On Abandoned Property and That of Proscribed Persons" (Novella Maioriani 5): the comes
Comes
Comes , plural comites , is the Latin word for companion, either individually or as a member of a collective known as comitatus, especially the suite of a magnate, in some cases large and/or formal enough to have a specific name, such as a cohors amicorum. The word comes derives from com- "with" +...

 privatae largitionis
Ennodius was to admonish the provincial judges against defrauding the imperial treasure, keeping for themselves a part of the money collected.

The Emperor was also interested in repairing the backbone of the imperial administration. On May 8, 458, Majorian issued a law entitled De defensoribus civitatum, "The Defenders of the Municipalities" (Novella Maioriani 3), to re-establish the office of the defensor civitatis. This city magistrate represented the interests of the citizens in trials against the public administration, particularly in fiscal matters; this magistracy was still existent, but actually ineffective, since it was often held by the same officials who vexed the population. Another law was issued on November 6 to strengthen the magistracy of the decurion
Decurion (administrative)
A decurion was a member of a city senate in the Roman Empire. Decurions were drawn from the curiales class, which was made up of the wealthy middle class citizens of a town society....

s. De curialibus et de agnatione vel distractione praediorum et de ceteris negotiis, "Decurions, Their Children and The Sale of Their Landed Estates" (Novella Maioriani 7), was issued to forgive past abuses perpetrated by the decurions, but forbade them to leave their status, either going into hiding or marrying slave or tenant farmers, and to alienate their own properties.

Majorian minted coins in gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

, silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 and bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

. Gold coinage was minted in great quantities. On these coins the Emperor is depicted, with few exceptions, with an combat helmet
Combat helmet
A combat helmet or battle helmet is a type of personal armor designed specifically to protect the head during combat. Helmets are among the oldest forms of personal protective equipment and are known to have been worn by the Akkadians/Sumerians in the 23rd century BC, Mycenaean Greeks since 17th...

, a spear, a shield and a chi-rho, looking towards right; this typology was derived by a rare type minted in Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

 for Honorius
Honorius (emperor)
Honorius , was Western Roman Emperor from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the eastern emperor Arcadius....

 and used in great quantities only by Majorian, while it was dropped by his successors. The first series of solidi
Solidus (coin)
The solidus was originally a gold coin issued by the Romans, and a weight measure for gold more generally, corresponding to 4.5 grams.-Roman and Byzantine coinage:...

 were minted probably in Ravenna, and bear at the obverse the joint portrait of Majorian and Leo I
Leo I (emperor)
Leo I was Byzantine Emperor from 457 to 474. A native of Dacia Aureliana near historic Thrace, he was known as Leo the Thracian ....

, thus celebrating the mutual recognition of the two Roman emperors. The mints
Mint (coin)
A mint is an industrial facility which manufactures coins for currency.The history of mints correlates closely with the history of coins. One difference is that the history of the mint is usually closely tied to the political situation of an era...

 of Ravenna and Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 issued both solidi and tremisses
Tremissis
Tremissis was a currency of the Late Ancient Rome, equal to one-third of a solidus. Tremissis coins continued to be minted by descendants of the Roman Empire, such as Anglo-Saxon Britain or the Eastern Roman Empire.-External links:*...

 since the beginning of Majorian's reign. No series of semisses are attested for these two mints, probably because the semisses were typically minted by the mint of Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 and this mint was not active under Majorian, who never visited the ancient capital of his Empire during his four years of rule. The minting of solidi is attested for the mint of Arelate in 458, a fact compatible with the presence of Majorian in Gaul in that year. This mint was again active in 460, when the Emperor returned from his campaign in Spain. The Visigoths minted some reproductions of his solidi, modelled after the issues of the Arelate mint: as Arelate issued only solidi, the Visigoths used those designs also for the tremissis.

Silver coinage was issued almost exclusively by the Gallic mints; it has been suggested that these series were not issued by Majorian, but by Aegidius
Aegidius
Aegidius was a Gallo-Roman warlord of northern Gaul. He had been promoted as magister militum in Gaul under Aëtius around 450. An ardent supporter of Majorian, Aegidius rebelled when Ricimer deposed Majorian, engaging in several campaigns against the Visigoths and creating a Roman rump state that...

 after the Emperor's death, to mark the fact that he did not recognise his successor, Libius Severus
Libius Severus
Flavius Libius Severus Serpentius was Western Roman Emperor from November 19, 461 to his death.A Roman senator from Lucania Severus was one of the last Western Emperors, emptied of any effective power , and unable to solve the many problems affecting the Empire; the sources...

. Majorian also produced great quantities of nummi
Nummus
Nummus , plural nummi is a Latin term meaning "coin", but used technically for a range of low-value copper coins issued by the Roman and Byzantine empires during late Antiquity....

 of great weight, mostly minted at Ravenna and Milan, and some contorniate
Contorniate
A contorniate, or contourniate, is a species of medal or medallion of bronze, having a deep furrow on the contour or edge, as if the object had been turned in the lathe. Contourniated medallions were supposed to have been struck in the days of Constantine and his successors.All we have remaining of...

s, mostly in Rome, but probably also in Ravenna.

Social policies


The diffusion of Christianity in the Empire caused some social changes within the aristocrat families. In several wealthy families, daughters were obliged to take religious vows and never marry, so that the family wealth would not be dispersed in dowries. Majorian thought that this behaviour hurt the State, both because it reduced the number of Roman children, and because he believed that this prohibition caused the girls to start illicit affairs. On October 26, 458, the Emperor addressed a law, the Novella Maioriani 6, to the Praetorian prefect of Italy, Caecina Decius Basilius
Caecina Decius Basilius
Flavius Caecina Decius Basilius was a politician of the Western Roman Empire, Consul and twice Praetorian prefect of Italy.- Biography :Basilius belonged to the Italian nobility, and was member of the influential gens Caecina....

. This law, entitled De sanctimonialibus vel viduis et de successionibus earum ("Holy Maidens, Widows, and Their Succession"), imposed a minimum age to take vows of 40 years, considering that at this age the sexual drives of the initiated would be dormant; the law also granted to women who had been forced to take religious vows, and were subsequently disinherited, the same rights on the legacy of parents as their brothers and sisters. In order to solve this same problem of the decline of the Roman population, in particular compared with the growth of the barbarians allocated within the imperial boundaries, Majorian addressed the problem of young women widowed and without children who never married because of the influence of religious clergy, to whom they destined their goods in their will: so the young widows were prohibited to take religious vows.

By the same measure, departing in this from the policy of the Eastern Empire, Majorian insisted that a marriage without dowry and pre-wedding gifts trade (the first from the bride's family to the groom, the latter in the opposite direction) was invalid; simultaneously ended the practice of requesting pre-wedding gifts of a value considerably higher than the dowry.

Relationship with the senatorial aristocracy


When Majorian took the power deposing Avitus
Avitus
Eparchius Avitus was Western Roman Emperor from July 8 or July 9, 455 to October 17, 456. A Gallic-Roman aristocrat, he was a senator and a high-ranking officer both in the civil and military administration, as well as Bishop of Piacenza.A representative of the Gallic-Roman aristocracy, he...

, the province of Gaul, where Avitus' power was based, did not recognise the new Emperor. When, however, Majorian re-conquered the province, he chose to forgive this rebellion. The reason was that Majorian understood that one of the mistakes of his predecessor was to promote and trust only the senatorial aristocracy of Gaul, the region he come from, favouring it over the senatorial aristocracy of Italy. Majorian, instead, decided to gain the favour of the wealthy and noble families of the recovered province involving them in the administration of the power, together with the Italian aristocracy that, on the other side, had supported him since the beginning. A clue of this policy is the origin of the high civil servants of his administration, in particular of the consuls
Roman consul
A consul served in the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic.Each year, two consuls were elected together, to serve for a one-year term. Each consul was given veto power over his colleague and the officials would alternate each month...

, whom the Emperor appointed jointly with his Eastern colleague. In first year (458) Majorian reserved the honour for himself, as the Emperors usually did in the first year they started as augusti
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

, while in the second year he appointed his former colleague and powerful magister militum
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

, Ricimer
Ricimer
Flavius Ricimer was a Germanic general who achieved effective control of the remaining parts of the Western Roman Empire, during the middle of the 5th century...

; then, for the year 460, he choose the Gallic senator Magnus, and for the next year the Italian senator Severinus
Severinus (consul 461)
Flavius Severinus was a Senator and a politician of the Western Roman Empire.- Life :He probably was of Italian origin, as attested by an inscription, and held a noteworthy position during the 450s....

. Magnus had been appointed Praetorian prefect of Gaul in 458, while the Praetorian prefect of Italy was Caecina Decius Basilius
Caecina Decius Basilius
Flavius Caecina Decius Basilius was a politician of the Western Roman Empire, Consul and twice Praetorian prefect of Italy.- Biography :Basilius belonged to the Italian nobility, and was member of the influential gens Caecina....

, who was the patron of the Gallic senator (and poet) Sidonius Apollinaris
Sidonius Apollinaris
Gaius Sollius Apollinaris Sidonius or Saint Sidonius Apollinaris was a poet, diplomat, and bishop. Sidonius is "the single most important surviving author from fifth-century Gaul" according to Eric Goldberg...

, while the comes privatae largitionis, Ennodius, was related to a family with interests in Arelate.

He also showed great respect towards the Roman senate, as suggested by the message he addressed it on the eve of his crowning: he promised the senators he would not take into account the accusations of the informers, who were very feared as they were often instruments in the hands of the Emperors, used to cause the fall of influential figures. And the promises were followed by facts, as told by Sidonius Apollinaris, who had been anonymously accused of the authorship of a pamphlet against some influential figures: during a dinner together, Majorian defused the risky situation with a witticism.

Conservation of the monuments of Rome


Since the beginning of the 4th century, the monuments of Rome, and more generally all those buildings of some value that were in a state of neglect for various reasons, were increasingly used as quarries for valuable building materials. This practice, in fact, was cheaper and more convenient than the import from remote locations, sometimes rendered difficult or impossible by the control of the sea by the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

. Roman officials conceded upon petition the use for construction of marble, stone and brick recovered from demolition of ancient monuments:
To cope with this phenomenon, Majorian promulgated a law Novella Maioriani 4, De aedificiis pubblicis ("Public Buildings"), promulgated in Ravenna on July 11, 459, and addressed to Aemilianus, praefectus urbi
Praefectus urbi
The praefectus urbanus or praefectus urbi, in English the urban prefect, was prefect of the city of Rome, and later also of Constantinople. The office originated under the Roman kings, continued during the Republic and Empire, and held high importance in late Antiquity...

of Rome. The punishment for judges who had allowed the destruction of ancient public buildings was 50 pounds of gold, while their subordinates were whipped and would have had both hands amputated. Those who had removed materials from public buildings were to return it. The Senate had the power to decide whether there were extreme conditions that justified the demolition of an old building, and in the case it decided for the demolition, the Emperor had still the right to order that the resulting materials should be used to decorate other public buildings.

Fall and death


The fate of Avitus
Avitus
Eparchius Avitus was Western Roman Emperor from July 8 or July 9, 455 to October 17, 456. A Gallic-Roman aristocrat, he was a senator and a high-ranking officer both in the civil and military administration, as well as Bishop of Piacenza.A representative of the Gallic-Roman aristocracy, he...

 had been marked by the betrayal of Ricimer
Ricimer
Flavius Ricimer was a Germanic general who achieved effective control of the remaining parts of the Western Roman Empire, during the middle of the 5th century...

 and of Majorian and by the dismissal of his German guard, so the fate of Majorian himself was decided by the disbandment of his army and a plot organised by Ricimer. In fact, while the emperor was busy away from Italy, the barbarian patricius et magister militum
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

had clotted around himself the aristocratic opposition to his former comrade with, just a few years earlier, he had cultivated dreams of power. Majorian's legislation had shown that he had intention to intervene decisively on the issues that plagued the empire, even at the cost of hitting the interests of influential aristocrats.

After spending some time at Arelate, his base at the end of the operation against the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 in Spain, Majorian disbanded his barbarian mercenaries, and, accompanied by some guards, set off to Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, where he intended to carry out some reforms. Ricimer went to meet Majorian with a military detachment; the magister militum met the Emperor near Tortona
Tortona
Tortona is a comune of Piemonte, in the Province of Alessandria, Italy. Tortona is sited on the right bank of the Scrivia between the plain of Marengo and the foothills of the Ligurian Apennines.-History:...

 (not far from Piacenza
Piacenza
Piacenza is a city and comune in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Piacenza...

, where Avitus had been killed), and had him arrested and deposed (August 3). The Emperor was deprived of his dress and diadem, beaten and tortured; after five days, Majorian was beheaded near the river Iria
Staffora
The Staffora is a river of the Oltrepò Pavese in the Province of Pavia, north-west Italy and a right-side tributary of the Po. It is probably the river known to the Romans as the Iria.-Course:...

 (August 7, 461): he was about forty years old and had reigned for four. The city of Tortona now hosts, in the church of St. Matthew, a building traditionally identified as the "mausoleum of Majorian".

After the death of Majorian, Ricimer waited for three months before putting someone on the imperial throne he believed he could manipulate. He finally chose Libius Severus
Libius Severus
Flavius Libius Severus Serpentius was Western Roman Emperor from November 19, 461 to his death.A Roman senator from Lucania Severus was one of the last Western Emperors, emptied of any effective power , and unable to solve the many problems affecting the Empire; the sources...

, a senator of no political distinction but was probably selected to please the Italian senatorial aristocracy. The new emperor was not recognized by the Eastern Emperor Leo I
Leo I
- People :* Pope Leo I , also known as Pope Saint Leo the Great* Leo I the Thracian, 5th century Byzantine Emperor* Leo I, Prince of Armenia - People :* Pope Leo I (400–461), also known as Pope Saint Leo the Great* Leo I the Thracian, 5th century Byzantine Emperor* Leo I, Prince of Armenia -...

, nor by any of the generals who had served under Majorian; not by Aegidius
Aegidius
Aegidius was a Gallo-Roman warlord of northern Gaul. He had been promoted as magister militum in Gaul under Aëtius around 450. An ardent supporter of Majorian, Aegidius rebelled when Ricimer deposed Majorian, engaging in several campaigns against the Visigoths and creating a Roman rump state that...

 in Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

, not by Marcellinus
Marcellinus (magister militum)
Marcellinus was a Roman general and patrician who ruled over the region of Dalmatia in the Western Roman Empire and held sway with the army there from 454 until his death.-Origins:...

 in Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 and Illyria
Illyria
In classical antiquity, Illyria was a region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula inhabited by the Illyrians....

, and not by Nepotianus
Nepotianus (magister militiae)
- Life :Nepotianus married the sister of Marcellinus, the semi-independent ruler of Dalmatia; the couple had a son, Julius Nepos, last Western Roman Emperor....

 in Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

.

Primary sources

  • Hydatius
    Hydatius
    Hydatius or Idacius , bishop of Aquae Flaviae in the Roman province of Gallaecia was the author of a chronicle of his own times that provides us with our best evidence for the history of the Iberian Peninsula in the 5th century.-Life:Hydatius was born around the year 400 in the...

    , Chronicle
  • John of Antioch
    John of Antioch (chronicler)
    John of Antioch was chronicler in the 7th century. He was a monk, apparently contemporary with Emperor Heraclius . Gelzer identifies the author with the Monophysite Patriarch John of Antioch, who ruled from 630 to 648.John of Antioch's chronicle, Historia chronike, is a universal history...

    , Historia chronike
  • Jordanes
    Jordanes
    Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

    , Getica
  • Marcellinus Comes
    Marcellinus Comes
    Marcellinus Comes was a Latin chronicler of the Eastern Roman Empire. An Illyrian by birth, he spent most of his life at the court of Constantinople, which is the focus of his surviving work.-Works:...

    , Annales
  • Priscus
    Priscus
    Priscus of Panium was a late Roman diplomat, sophist and historian from Rumelifeneri living in the Roman Empire during the 5th century. He accompanied Maximinus, the ambassador of Theodosius II, to the court of Attila in 448...

    , History
  • Procopius
    Procopius
    Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

    , Vandal War
  • Sidonius Apollinaris
    Sidonius Apollinaris
    Gaius Sollius Apollinaris Sidonius or Saint Sidonius Apollinaris was a poet, diplomat, and bishop. Sidonius is "the single most important surviving author from fifth-century Gaul" according to Eric Goldberg...

    , Carmina; Letters. Translation: Anderson, W.B., Sidonius. Poems and Letters, 2 vols. (Loeb, 1936–1965).

Secondary sources

  • Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
    The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
    The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is a non-fiction history book written by English historian Edward Gibbon and published in six volumes. Volume I was published in 1776, and went through six printings. Volumes II and III were published in 1781; volumes IV, V, VI in 1788–89...

    , Chapter XXXVI "Total Extinction Of The Western Empire".
  • Judith Evans Grubbs, Women and the Law in the Roman Empire, Routledge, 2002, ISBN 0-415-15240-2.
  • Penny MacGeorge, Late Roman Warlords, Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-925244-0.
  • Ralph W. Mathisen, "Julius Valerius Maiorianus (18 February/28 December 457 – 2/7 August 461)", De Imperatoribus Romanis.
  • John Michael O'Flynn, Generalissimos of the Western Roman Empire, University of Alberta, 1983, ISBN 0-88864-031-5.

Further reading

  • Ralph W. Mathisen, "Resistance and Reconciliation: Majorian and the Gallic Aristocracy after the Fall of Avitus," Francia 7 (1979) pp. 597–627.
  • Gerald E. Max, "Political Intrigue during the Reigns of the Western Roman Emperors Avitus and Majorian," Historia 28 (1979) pp. 225–237.
  • Meyer, Helmut, "Der Regierungsantritt Kaiser Majorians," Byzantinische Zeitschrift 62 (1969) pp. 5–12.
  • Stewart I. Oost, "Aëtius and Majorian," Classical Philology 59 (1964) pp. 23–29.

External links