Severus III Last Coin     Olybrius

Western Roman Empire

Ruler: Anthemius
Reigned: Western Emperor, 467 - 472 A.D.
Denomination: AV Solidus
Mint: Rome
Date of Issue: 468 AD
Obverse: Pearl-diademed, helmeted, and cuirassed bust facing slightly right, holding spear and shield;"D.N. ANTHEMI-VS P.F. AVG."
Reverse: Anthemius and Leo I standing facing, each holding a spear and holding between them a globus cruciger; "SALVS RE-IPV-BLICAE"
Mint marks:
Reference: RIC X 2811 (pg 412); Lacam 59; Depeyrot 69/1 var. (obv. legend break); RCVM21609
Weight: 4.42 gms
Nominal Weight: 4.5 gms
Diameter: 20.8 mm
Comment: From the Bramhall Collection, a gift from Robert Bridge.

ANTHEMIUS (Procopius Anthemius)

Anthemius belonged to a noble family, the gens Procopia, of the Eastern Roman Empire. His father was Procopius, magister militum per Orientem from 422 to 424, who was descended from the Procopius who had been a nephew of Emperor Constantine I and a usurper against the Eastern Emperor Valens (365-366).

In 453 he married Marcia Euphemia, daughter of the Eastern Emperor Marcian (450-457). After the marriage he was elevated to the rank of comes and sent to the Danubian frontier to rebuild the border defences, left in bad condition after Attila's death in 453. In 455 he was consul with the Western Emperor Valentinian III.

In October 456, the Western Emperor Avitus was deposed and in January 457, Marcian the Eastern Emperor, died. Both empires had no Emperor, and the power was in the hands of the Western generals, Ricimer and Majorian, and of the Eastern Magister militum, the Alan Aspar. Leo I the Thracian was chosen for the East and Majorian for the West.

Anthemius stayed in service under the new Emperor; as magister militum, his task was to defend the Empire from the barbarian populations pressing on its border. Around 460, he defeated the Ostrogoths of Valamir in Illyricum. During the winter of 466/467 he defeated a group of Huns, led by Hormidac, who had crossed the frozen Danube and were pillaging Dacia.

Majorian died in August 461. He was succeeded by Libius Severus III. He was an ineffectual emperor, the puppet of Ricimer. He died in 465. There was a year and a half gap until the next Western Emperor succeeded.

The Vandals, under King Geiseric continued raids on the Italian coast after their sack of Rome in 455. Geiseric would have liked his nomination, Olybrius, to whom he was related, to ascend the Western throne. He was thwarted when on 25 March 467, Leo I, with the consent of Ricimer, designated Anthemius Western Emperor as Caesar and sent him to Italy with an army led by the Magister militum per Illyricum Marcellinus.

The reign of Anthemius was characterised by a good diplomatic relationship with the Eastern Empire; for example, Anthemius is the last Western Emperor to be recorded in an Eastern law. He married his only daughter, Alypia, to Ricimer.

In late 467, Anthemius organised a campaign against the Vandals, probably under the command of Marcellinus, but bad weather resulted in failure. In 468, Leo I, the Eastern Emperor, Anthemius and Marcellinus organised a major operation against the Vandal kingdom in Africa. The leader of the operation was Leo's brother-in-law Basiliscus (who would become Eastern emperor seven years later). A fleet consisting of upwards of one thousand vessels was collected to transport the combined Eastern-Western-Illyric army, most of the expenses being paid by the Eastern Empire. The fleet was defeated in the Battle of Cape Bon, and Marcellinus killed.

Leo signed a separate peace with Gaiseric and Anthemius was left without any allies.

After the disastrous campaign in Africa, Anthemius turned to the re-conquest of Gaul, occupied by Visigoths under King Euric who had exploited the weak Roman control caused by political instability. In 470, Anthemius recruited the Bretons living in Armorica to fight Euricus. The Bretons, under King Riothamus, were initially successful and occupied Bourges with twelve thousand men. However, when they entered the core of Visigoth territory, trying to conquer Déols, they were outnumbered and defeated by a Visigoth army, and Riothamus was forced to flee to the Burgundians, who were Roman allies.

Anthemius decided to attack the Visigoths directly. He collected an army under the nominal leadership of his own son, Anthemiolus, but actually commanded by the generals Torisarius, Everdingus, and Hermianus. Anthemiolus moved from Arelate and crossed the Rhone river, but he was intercepted by Euric, who defeated and killed the Roman generals.

Anthemius' power over Italy was threatened by internal opposition; he was of Greek origin, had been chosen by the Eastern Emperor from among members of the Eastern court, and was suspected of being a pagan. In order to obtain the support of the senatorial aristocracy, Anthemius conferred the rank of patricius on members of the Italian and Gallic governing class.

The most important figure at the Western court was Ricimer. The new Emperor, however, had been chosen by the Eastern court, and, despite the bond of the marriage between Ricimer and Anthemius' daughter, Alypia, they were not on good terms. A disagreement started with the trial of Romanus, an Italian senator and patricius supported by Ricimer; Anthemius accused Romanus of treachery and condemned him to death in 470.

Ricimer had gathered 6,000 men for the war against the Vandals, and after the death of Romanus he moved with his men to the north, leaving Anthemius in Rome. Supporters of the two parties fought several brawls, but Ricimer and the emperor signed a one-year truce after the mediation of Epiphanius, the Bishop of Pavia.

At the beginning of 472, the struggle between them renewed. The Eastern Roman Emperor, Leo, sent Olybrius to mediate between Ricimer and Anthemius but, so it is said, had sent a secret letter to Anthemius, urging him to kill Olybrius. Ricimer intercepted the letter, showed it to Olybrius, and had him proclaimed Emperor.

The struggle became an open war. Anthemius, with the aristocracy and the people of the city, faced the Gothic magister militum and the barbarian units of the army, which included Odoacer's men. Ricimer blockaded Anthemius in Rome; five months of fighting followed. Ricimer entered the city and succeeded in separating the port on the Tiber from the Palatine, starving the supporters of the Emperor.

Both sides appealed to the army in Gaul, but the Burgundian, Gundobad, supported his uncle Ricimer. Anthemius elevated Bilimer to the rank of Rector Galliarum and had him enter Italy with the loyal army. Bilimer arrived in Rome but died trying to prevent Ricimer entering the city.

Without help and with food running out, Anthemius tried to rally his men, but they were defeated and killed in great numbers. The emperor fled for the second time to St. Peter's (or, Santa Maria in Trastevere), where he was captured and beheaded by Gundobad or by Ricimer on 11 July 472.

Robert Bridge

Robert Bridge (1904-1997) was a gifted linguist - fluent in German, Italian, and French - who found application for his talents in Britain's secret intelligence service. He spent WWII in military intelligence and after the war became Berlin station chief for MI6. Among his more interesting assignments can be mentioned his interrogation of the infamous Gestapo chief of Rome, Herbert Kappler, who was captured by the British while unsuccessfully trying to seek refuge in the Vatican. Berlin in the immediate post war period was a focal point for espionage, and in much later years Bridge would privately describe experiences that seem straight out of John le Carré - the secret station office entered through what appeared to be an ordinary shop, late night meetings in a cemetery with an eastern source, and his abiding anger toward one of the "Cambridge Spies" with whom he had worked and whom he blamed for many deaths.

Bridge was also one of the most prominent 20th century English collectors of Byzantine coins, and began collecting in earnest around the 1960s. Many coins from his collection are cited in MIB 1 and 2, and 18 of his coins are illustrated on the plates. In 1990, he donated to the British Museum 274 Byzantine coins previously unrepresented in the national collection (including a solidus of the revolt of Heraclius). Much of his remaining collection was sold in a 1990 Glendining's sale (catalogued by Baldwin's), Byzantine Coins from the R.N. Bridge Collection.

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