Majorian Last Coin ------------------ Next Coin Anthemius

Western Roman Empire

Ruler: Libius Severus (Severus III) minted by Ricimer
Reigned: Western Emperor, 19th Nov 461 - 25 Sept 465 A.D.
Denomination: Bronze half Centenionalis or Nummus
Mint: Uncertain military mint
Date of Issue: possibly up to 472 A.D.
Obverse: Pearl-diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right. [* "D.N.LIBIVS SEVERVS P.F. AVG."] *varies
Reverse: Monogram of Ricimer (Patrician and Master of Soldiers).
Reference: RIC X 2716, RCVM 21607
Weight: 1 gms
Nominal Weight: ?
Diameter: 9 mm
Comment: It was quite unprecedented for anyone apart from the emperor to be identified on a coin. Ricimer had aspirations to emperorship but was unable to be emperor because of his barbarian background. Thus he ruled through puppet emperors.

LIBIUS SEVERUS (Flavius Libius Severus Serpentius Augustus)

Libius Severus was born in Lucania, c. 420 and was Western Roman Emperor from November 19th, 461 until his death, 15th August 465.

He was a Roman senator from Lucania and had little effective power (the real power was in the hands of the powerful magister militum Ricimer). The sources describe him as a pious and religious man.

On August 7th, 461, the magister militum (Commander in Chief) of the Western Roman army, Ricimer, had Emperor Majorian (who he himself had put in place) killed, thus leaving the western throne empty.

Ricimer needed a weak Emperor on the throne, in order to control him: his barbaric descent barred him from taking the throne for himself. Gaiseric, the Vandal king, had captured the wife and the two daughters of the previous Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III - Licinia Eudoxia, Placidia and Eudocia - during the sack of Rome (455), and, through the marriage of one of them, Eudocia, with his son Huneric, he had entered the imperial family. Gaiseric's candidate to the Western throne was Olybrius, who had married Placidia and was thus a member of his family.

In order to push for Olybrius' election, Gaiseric put pressure on the Empire with several raids on the coasts of Italy and Sicily, maintaining that the peace treaty he had signed with Majorian was no longer valid. Ricimer reacted by sending an embassy to Gaiseric and asking him to respect the treaty, while a second embassy was sent by the Eastern Emperor Leo I asking for the end of the raids and the release of the wife and daughters of Valentinian.

Despite the pressure of the Vandal raids, Ricimer ignored Olybrius and put the senator Libius Severus on the Western throne; he was probably chosen in order to please the Italian aristocracy. Severus was elected Emperor by the Roman Senate on November 19th, 461, in Ravenna. Even the Eastern Emperor Leo I did not recognise Libius Severus.

In Belgica Aëgidius, a comrade of Majorian and Magister Militum per Galliae revolted and made common cause with Gaiseric with the view to invading Italia. Aëgidius' plans came to nought, as he was attacked by the Visigoths over a border dispute and was killed some time after 464. His son Syagrius adopted his father's title, thereafter enlarging his kingdom at the expense of the Visigoths. In 486 he was defeated in the battle of Soissons by the Salian Frankish king, Clovis, and later executed.

Marcellinus, who ruled semi-autonomously over Illyricum, had been a supporter of Majorian and thus did not accept Libius' election. Libius Severus feared that Marcellinus, who commanded a powerful army, could descend upon Italy, and asked for Leo's help; the Eastern Emperor sent Philarcus as envoy to Marcellinus and dissuaded him from attacking. Thus Illyricum passed from the Western to the Eastern sphere of influence.

These events meant that Severus actually ruled only over Italy, even if in 465, with the death of Aëgidius, Gaul returned to his sphere of influence for a short time.

The details of Severus' death are obscure, but the majority of the modern scholars agree that he died of a natural cause on 15th August 465, although Cassiodorus, in the 6th century, maintained that Severus was treacherously poisoned by Ricimer in his own palace. Ricimer proceeded to rule the West for eighteen months without an emperor as he waited for Leo to name Severus' successor, who was to be Anthemius (12th April 467).

Flavius Ricimer
(c. 405 - August 18th, 472) was a Romanized Germanic general who effectively ruled the remaining territory of the Western Roman Empire from 456 until his death in 472. Deriving his power from his position as magister militum of the Western Empire, Ricimer exercised political control through a series of puppet emperors.

Ricimer was the son of Rechila, the Suevic King of Galicia. His mother was the daughter of Wallia, King of the Visigoths. Ricimer himself later married the sister of Gondioc, the King of the Burgundians.

Ricimer joined the Roman army and served under the magister militum Flavius Aetius alongside the comes domesticorum Majorian, whom he befriended. A power vacuum was created in the Western Empire after the events of 454 and 455, which saw the consecutive murders of Aetius and of the Western Emperor
Valentinian III, who had been responsible for the magister militum's assassination. After the assassinations, the Roman Senator Petronius Maximus proclaimed himself emperor. Petronius, however, was killed by a Roman mob immediately prior to the Vandal sacking of the city in 455. After the sack, the Visigothic King Theodoric II proclaimed as Emperor Avitus, the Roman military commander in Gaul.

Following the arrival of Avitus in Rome, Majorian gave his reluctant support to the new emperor. Avitus subsequently appointed Ricimer as a comes, or count of the empire, a prominent military position. By this point, however, the Western Empire encompassed the Italian Peninsula and portions of southern Gaul, which were mere fractions of the territory held by Rome in previous centuries.

Ricimer raised an army and navy from Germanic mercenaries, and commenced campaigns directed against "barbarian" tribes in conflict with the empire. Ricimer achieved his first important victory in 456, when he defeated the Vandals in a naval battle, after which he was appointed by Avitus as magister militum praesentalis, the commander of the Western Empire's field army in Italy and effectively the second-highest ranking general in the West.

Ricimer used his new position to assist his colleague Majorian in plotting against Avitus, who had not yet been recognized as Emperor of the West by Marcian, the Eastern Emperor. Ricimer and Majorian convinced the Roman Senate to authorize a military expedition against Avitus, who had established himself at the imperial capital of Ravenna. The army of Avitus was defeated it at Piacenza on October 16th, 456, and Avitus was besieged in Ravenna. Avitus was captured, forced to assume the bishopric of Piacenza, and finally executed. With the Western throne vacant, the new Eastern Emperor, Leo I, granted Ricimer the title of patrician and the rank of magister militum on February 28, 457. Leo appointed Majorian to replace Ricimer in his Italian command.

As a Germanic tribesman, Ricimer could not assume the imperial throne himself, but as magister militum but he hoped to become a viceroy for Leo. However, when the Alamanni invaded Italy, Majorian led his army north and defeated them. Majorian was proclaimed emperor by his troops on April 1st, 457. Ricimer induced Leo to give his consent to this arrangement.

Although Ricimer hoped to control the new emperor, Majorian proved to be a capable and independent ruler. He demonstrated his military skill through his re-conquest of Gaul and his campaigns in Hispania. But when he was defeated by the Vandal, Gaiseric, Ricimer managed to turn the senate against him and had him arrested (August 3rd, 461) and executed (August 7th).

Ricimer then arranged for Libius Severus to be his puppet emperor (see above).

Upon Severus' death in 465, Ricimer proceeded to rule the West for eighteen months without an emperor as he waited for Leo to name Severus' successor. Eventually Anthemius filled that position.

Ricimer and Anthemius were not on good terms even though Ricimer had married Anthemius' daughter Alypia. Relations between the two eventually deteriorated to the point that Epiphanius of Pavia, bishop of Milan, was asked to negotiate peace between them. Despite the bishop's efforts, open warfare broke out between Ricimer and Anthemius again in 472. Besieged, Anthemius took refuge in St. Peter's Basilica. Ricimer finally entered Rome. Anthemius was beheaded on July 11th, 472 and Olybrius was proclaimed emperor.

Ricimer's rule lasted until his death from a haemorrhage on August 18th, 472, six weeks after deposing Anthemius. His title of patrician and position as supreme commander were assumed by his nephew Gundobad.

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