Ricimer

Ricimer

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Flavius Ricimer was a Germanic
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 general who achieved effective control of the remaining parts of 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....

, during the middle of the 5th century. His power was based on his military strength as 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...

or Master of the Soldiers, and he exercised political control through a series of "puppet emperors", whom he enthroned and eliminated. In the words of J. B. Bury
J. B. Bury
John Bagnell Bury , known as J. B. Bury, was an Irish historian, classical scholar, Byzantinist and philologist.-Biography:...

, "Ricimer was the first German who had become a virtual king of Italy; he is the link between Stilicho
Stilicho
Flavius Stilicho was a high-ranking general , Patrician and Consul of the Western Roman Empire, notably of Vandal birth. Despised by the Roman population for his Germanic ancestry and Arian beliefs, Stilicho was in 408 executed along with his wife and son...

 and Odovacar."

Biography


Ricimer was of a royal lineage, an Arian Christian
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

, the son of Rechila
Rechila
Rechila was the Suevic King of Galicia from 438 until his death. There are few primary sources for his life, but Hydatius was a contemporary Christian chronicler in Galicia....

, Suevic King of Galicia; his mother was the sister or daughter of Wallia
Wallia
Wallia was king of the Visigoths from 415 to 419, earning a reputation as a great warrior and prudent ruler. He was elected to the throne after Athaulf and then Sigeric were assassinated in 415....

, king of the Visigoths. Andrew Gillett has argued that the context for such an alliance would have been before Wallia's death in 418. After that event, "the daughter and grandson of Vallia ... may have found themselves unsafe under the new regime. Imperial service was always an option for the losers of struggles for leadership among the barbarians." According to a passing statement by 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 serving under the 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...

of the western portion of the Roman Empire, Flavius Aëtius
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...

, Ricimer became friends with Majorian
Majorian
Majorian , was the Western Roman Emperor from 457 to 461.A prominent general of the Late Roman army, Majorian deposed Emperor Avitus in 457 and succeeded him. Majorian was one of the last emperors to make a concerted effort to restore the Western Roman Empire...

, the future emperor.

The deaths of Valentinian
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....

 and Aëtius in 454–55 created a power vacuum
Power vacuum
A power vacuum is, in its broadest sense, an expression for a condition that exists when someone has lost control of something and no one has replaced them. It is usually used to refer to a political situation that can occur when a government has no identifiable central authority...

 in the West. At first, 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...

 attempted to seize control of the Imperial throne, but he was killed when 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 Geiseric sacked 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....

 in May of 455. 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 then made Emperor by the Visigoths. Following his arrival in 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...

, Avitus appointed Ricimer as commander of the stricken Western Empire (by then reduced to Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and a part of southern 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...

). He raised a new army and navy from among the Germanic mercenaries available to him.

Ricimer achieved his first important victory in 456, when he defeated the Vandals in a naval battle. Although 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...

 writes that Avitus had sent him to Sicily to engage the Vandals, 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...

 states he defeated the Vandals near Corsica. Backed by the popularity thus acquired, Ricimer gained the consent of 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...

 for an expedition against the emperor Avitus, whom he defeated in a bloody battle at 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...

 on October 16, 456. Avitus was taken prisoner, forcibly made bishop of Piacenza, and shortly afterwards sentenced to death. Ricimer then obtained from Leo I, the Eastern Emperor at Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, the title of patrician.

Ricimer spent the rest of his life as the de facto ruler of what was left of the Western Empire. However, the way in which he exercised power made him one of the most controversial figures of his time. As a Germanic tribesman, he could not assume the title of Augustus
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...

 (Emperor) himself; on the other hand, power over the Augustus in Rome gave him prestige and offered him some influence over the other Germanic peoples occupying 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...

, Hispania
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, and Northern Africa. This left him with two options — dissolve the Western Imperial court and rule officially as a dux
Dux
Dux is Latin for leader and later for Duke and its variant forms ....

, or governor, of a single Emperor in Constantinople, or set up his own figurehead emperors and rule through them. He chose to do the latter, even going so far as to have his name inscribed on the coinage along with the Emperor.

Shortly after Avitus' death, Ricimer made his acquaintance Majorian emperor in the West and induced Leo to give his consent. However, Majorian proved to be a capable ruler and soon became uncomfortably independent. Majorian was defeated (possibly by treachery) by Geiseric near the modern city of Valencia, Spain, while trying to organize an expedition against him, in 461. Ricimer then forced him to abdicate and caused his assassination on August 7, 461. The successor whom Ricimer placed upon the throne was 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...

, who proved to be more docile than Majorian, but had to face the disapproval of Leo in the East and rivalry of 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. Upon Libius Severus' death in 465 — rumored, according to Cassiodorus
Cassiodorus
Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator , commonly known as Cassiodorus, was a Roman statesman and writer, serving in the administration of Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths. Senator was part of his surname, not his rank.- Life :Cassiodorus was born at Scylletium, near Catanzaro in...

, to have been poisoned by Ricimer — this emperor-maker ruled the West for eighteen months without an Emperor.

Finally, after a lengthy debate in which he and Geiseric, now working together, tried to force their own candidate as Emperor upon Leo, Ricimer accepted Leo's candidate Anthemius
Anthemius
Procopius Anthemius was Western Roman Emperor from 467 to 472. Perhaps the last capable Western Roman Emperor, Anthemius attempted to solve the two primary military challenges facing the remains of the Western Roman Empire: the resurgent Visigoths, under Euric, whose domain straddled the Pyrenees;...

. He diplomatically married Anthemius' daughter Alypia
Alypia (daughter of Anthemius)
Alypia was a noblewoman of the Western Roman Empire, daughter of the Western Roman Emperor Anthemius.- Life :Alypia was the only daughter of Anthemius and Aelia Marcia Euphemia, and grand-daughter of the Eastern Roman Emperor Marcian....

, and for some time lived in peace with him. They had a son, 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" +...

Aunemundus, born c. 470, who married and had a son Ansemund, born c. 505, vir illustris, advisor to King Sigismund of Burgundy
Sigismund of Burgundy
Sigismund was king of the Burgundians from 516 to his death. He was the son of king Gundobad, whom he succeeded in 516. Sigismund and his brother Godomar were defeated in battle by Clovis' sons and Godomar fled. Sigismund was taken by Chlodomer, King of Orléans, where he was kept as a prisoner. He...

, who married and had a daughter, born c. 540, who married and had Sigonius (c. 570 – aft. 620), Praefectus Gallia
Gallia
Gallia may refer to:*Gaul , the region of Western Europe occupied by present-day France, Belgium and other neighbouring countries...

e c. 610, who married and had issue, later Counts of Razès
County of Razès
The County of Razès was a feudal jurisdiction in Occitania, south to Carcassonne, in what is now southern France. It was founded in 781, after the creation of the Kingdom of Aquitania, when Septimania was separated from that state.-History:...

.

Ricimer commanded a large portion of the Roman forces in an expedition mounted by Leo against Geiseric in 468. His behavior raised suspicions that Ricimer secretly wanted the expedition to fail, which it ultimately did.

Four years later, Ricimer moved to Mediolanum
Mediolanum
Mediolanum, the ancient Milan, was an important Celtic and then Roman centre of northern Italy. This article charts the history of the city from its settlement by the Insubres around 600 BC, through its conquest by the Romans and its development into a key centre of Western Christianity and capital...

 (Milan); relations between him and the Emperor Anthemius had deteriorated to the point that Epiphanius of Pavia
Epiphanius of Pavia
Epiphanius of Pavia , later venerated as Saint Epiphanius of Pavia, was Bishop of Pavia from 466 until his death in 496. Epiphanius additionally held the offices of lector, subdeacon and deacon....

, bishop of Milan
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milan
The Archdiocese of Milan is a metropolitan see of the Catholic Church in Italy. It has long maintained its own rite: the Ambrosian rite. It is led by the Archbishop of Milan who serves as metropolitan to the dioceses of Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Crema, Cremona, Lodi, Mantova, Pavia, and Vigevano.The...

, was asked to negotiate peace between them. According to Ennodius
Magnus Felix Ennodius
Magnus Felix Ennodius was Bishop of Pavia in 514, and a Latin rhetorician and poet.He was one of four fifth to sixth-century Gallo-Roman aristocrats whose letters survive in quantity: the others are Sidonius Apollinaris, prefect of Rome in 468 and bishop of Clermont , Ruricius bishop of Limoges ...

, Epiphanius' mission had ended by Easter of 472, when he was back in Pavia. Despite the bishop's efforts, open warfare broke out between Ricimer and Anthemius, and Anthemius was besieged in the part of Rome he controlled until his supporters deserted him, and he was caught attempting to flee the city disguised as a supplicant at the church of Santa Maria in Trastavere, where he was beheaded. Ricimer then proclaimed 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...

 as Emperor, who was the candidate for Emperor that he and Geiseric had once favored. After a three months' siege, he took the city, on July 1, 472. Anthemius was killed. Ricimer died less than two months later of the plague. Some sources assert that he died in his palace, alone, in malignant fever, vomiting blood.

Ricimer's "rule" lasted until his death. After this, the Western Roman Empire experienced an even more rapid succession of emperors, none of whom was able to effectively consolidate power. The line of Western Roman Emperors ended (arguably in either 476 or 480), leaving the Eastern Roman Emperors, based in Constantinople, with tenuous claims of reign over the western parts of a "re-united" Empire.

His title of Patricius was assumed by his nephew Gundobad
Gundobad
Gundobad was King of the Burgundians , succeeding his father Gundioc of Burgundy. Previous to this, he had been a Patrician of the Western Roman Empire in 472–473, succeeding his uncle Ricimer.- Early life :...

.

Achievements


Ricimer defended the provinces against the Ostrogoths and the Alani
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 —...

, and decorated the Arian
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

 church of Sant'Agata dei Goti
Sant'Agata dei Goti
Sant'Agata dei Goti is a church in Rome, Italy, dedicated to the martyr Saint Agatha. It is currently the titular church assigned to Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, currently Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.-History:...

in Rome.