Constantine was a common soldier, who was proclaimed emperor by the legions in Britain in 407A.D. He immediately crossed over to Gaul where he established himself alongside the barbarian invaders of the province. The following year he added Spain to his conquests, but in 409 this province was overrun by the Vandals, Alani, and Suevi, due to treachery on the part of Gerontius, one of the Constantine's generals. Constantine was eventually captured by Constantius, the general of Honorius, and was sent to Italy for execution (411 A.D.).
Constans was the son of Constantine III, and was raised to the rank of Augustus by his father in 408 A.D. and led the invasion of Spain later the same year. In 411 he was besieged in Vienne by Gerontius who later put him to death.
A man of obscure origin, Maximus was proclaimed emperor in Spain in 409 A.D. by the general Gerontius, who had rebelled against Constantine III and Constans. After the death of Gerontius in 411, Maximus was pardoned by Honorius and permitted to retire into private life.
Attalus was a Roman nobleman and Prefect of Rome at the time of Alaric's second siege of the city, in 409 A.D. By threatening to destroy the granaries at Ostia, Alaric forced the Senate to raise Attalus to the rank of Augustus, who being grateful for his elevation, was content to act as a puppet of the barbarian king. The following year (410 A.D.) he was deposed because of his incompetence, but he remained with the Goths and four years later was again proclaimed emperor, by Ataulf, Alaric's successor. He was finally deposed in 415 and shortly afterwards was delivered into the hands of Honorius, who banished him to Lipara.
Jovinus was a Gaulish noble and was proclaimed emperor at Mainz in 411 A.D. by Guntiarius,. king of the Burgundians, and Goar, king of the Alani. He ruled in Gaul for about two years, but was eventually captured by Ataulf the Visigoth, who was in alliance with Honorius. He was taken to Narbonne where he was executed by the order of Dardanus, the Praefect of the Gauls.
Sebastianus was the brother of Jovinus, who raised him to the rank of Augustus in 412 A.D. The following year, however, he was defeated and killed by Ataulf.
Born of low rank at Naissus in Dacia, Flavius Constantius followed a military career and soon proved himself to be a soldier of outstanding ability. In the reign of Honorius, he became the foremost general of the Western division of the Empire, and achieved considerable success against both usurpers and barbarians. His authority was so great that he became the effective ruler of the Western provinces, and in 417 A.D. he married Galla Placidia, the half-sister of Honorius. On February 8th, 421, he was raised to the rank of Augustus, but the government at Constantinople refused to recognize the new emperor, and civil war was only averted by the premature death of Constantius, less than seven months after his elevation.
Galla Placidia was born about 388 A.D., the daughter of Theodosius I and Galla and the half-sister of Arcadius and Honorius. Taken prisoner by Alaric during the sack of Rome in 410, she was eventually married to his successor, Ataulf, in 414. On the death of Ataulf she was returned to the Romans in exchange for 600,000 measures of corn, and in January, 417, she was married to the general Constantius. During the first twelve years of the reign of her son, Valentinian III, she acted as his regent for the Western provinces, but her last years were devoted to the building of churches and other sacred buildings at Ravenna. She died at Rome in 450.
The daughter of Constantius III and Galla Placidia, Justa Grata Honoria was born in 417 A.D. and was probably created Augusta in 425, soon after the elevation of her brother, Valentinian III, to the Western throne. She died in 454.
Johannes was born about 380 A.D. and entered the civil service, and becoming principal secretary to Honorius. On the death of the emperor, in August, 423, he immediately assumed the purple, but Theodosius II refused to recognize his elevation and sent an army to Italy to instate the rightful heir to the Western throne, the infant Placidius Valentinianus. Johannes had very few troops at his disposal and was finally captured at Ravenna in the early summer of 425. He was then taken to Aquileia where he was first mutilated, exhibited in the circus mounted on an ass, and finally executed.
Placidius Valentinianus was born in 419 A.D., the son of Constantius III and Galla Placidia. Some time after the death of Constantius, Placidia quarrelled with Honorius, and the empress and her children fled from Ravenna to Constantinople to seek refuge with their family (423 A.D.). Two years later, however, they returned to Italy, and after the death of the usurper Johannes they travelled to Rome where Valentinian was proclaimed Augustus (October 23rd, 425). For the first twelve years of the reign Placidia acted as regent, but the control of the government then passed into the hands of the great general Aetius, and he maintained his supremacy until his assassination in 454. The decline of the Western division of the Empire continued steadily throughout the long reign of Valentinian, the greatest disaster of the period being the loss of Africa to the Vandals. In 451 Attila the Hun invaded Gaul, but the immediate danger was averted by the victory of Aetius and his Visigothic allies over the Huns at the famous battle of Mauriacus. Valentinian III was assassinated in March, 455, the victim of a plot hatched by the senator Petronius Maximus.
The daughter of Theodosius II and Eudocia, Licinia Eudoxia was born in 422 A.D. and married Valentinian III on October 29th, 437. After her husband's death, in 455, she was forced to marry his murderer and successor, Petronius Maximus, but later the same year Rome was sacked by the Vandals and Eudoxia was carried off as a captive to Carthage. In 462 she was released by Gaiseric, the Vandal king, and travelled to Constantinople where she spent the remainder of her life.
Born in 395 A.D., Petronius Maximus was a member of the senatorial family of the Anicii, and later in the reign of Honorius he became one of the most prominent senators at Rome. He held a succession of important offices under Honorius and Valentinian III, and in 455 his ambition drove him to make a bid for the throne itself. He arranged for the assassination of Valentinian III, after which he was proclaimed emperor (March 17th). His position was soon threatened, however, by the Vandal king, Gaiseric, who sailed from Carthage with a large fleet towards Rome. Maximus was panic-stricken and fled from the city, but as he was riding through the streets he was attacked and killed by the mob (May 31st).
Marcus Maecilius Flavius Eparchius Avitus was descended from one of the noble families of Gaul. He was the commander of the troops in his native province at the time of the death of Petronius Maximus. The Visigothic king, Theodoric II, persuaded him to claim the vacant throne of the West, and on July 10th, 455, he was proclaimed emperor at Toulouse by the Goths. Although he was popular in Gaul, the new emperor was unpopular at Rome, and when he stripped the bronze from the roofs of public buildings in order to pay his Gothic allies, the Romans finally revolted and Avitus fled the city. He was later defeated at Placentia by the general Ricimer and then deposed from the throne (October 17th, 456). The bishopric of Placentia was immediately bestowed upon him, but he died soon afterwards.
Following the deposition of Avitus in October, 456, there was an interval of nearly six months before the next emperor, Julius Valerianus Majorianus, came to the throne. Descended from an old Roman family, Majorian had served with distinction under Aetius, and he soon proved himself to be a much worthier emperor than any of his immediate predecessors. He entered Gaul late in 458 and defeated the Visigoths near Arelate, and then prepared for an attack on the Vandals in Africa. A great fleet was assembled in the Spanish port of Alicante, but the Vandals succeeded in destroying most of the Roman ships before the expedition had even set out (460 A.D.). Majorian returned to Italy the following year, but at Tortona he was arrested, deposed and executed by the order of the general Ricimer.
Of Lucanian origin, Libius Severus was proclaimed emperor at Ravenna on November 19th, 461 A.D., nearly four months after the death of Majorian. He was, however, a mere puppet-emperor and left the administration of the State to the general Ricimer, who had secured his elevation. He died after an insignificant reign of four years.
For about a year and a half following the death of Severus III the Western throne remained vacant, but in 467 A.D., Leo selected the patrician Procopius Anthemius to be his colleague in the government of the Empire. Anthemius, who was the son-in-law of the emperor Marcian, immediately went to Italy and was proclaimed emperor near Rome on April 12th. His daughter Alypia and the general Ricimer were married soon afterwards, but despite this, relations between the emperor and his general became increasingly strained. Finally, in 472, Ricimer set up a rival emperor, Anicius Olybrius, and Anthemius was besieged in Rome. After a long siege the city finally fell, and Anthemius, disguised as a beggar, sought refuge in one of the churches. He was soon recognized however, by Ricimer's nephew, Gundobad, and immediately beheaded (July 11th, 472).
Aelia Marcia Euphemia was the daughter of Marcian and the wife of Anthemius.
Anicius Olybrius was descended from the great senatorial family of the Anicii. He was a senator at Rome at the time of the sack of the city by the Vandals in 455 A.D. He succeeded in escaping to Constantinople where, in 462, he married Placidia, daughter of Valentine III. Early in 472 he returned to Italy and was proclaimed emperor by the general Ricimer soon after his arrival, but died of dropsy on November 2nd, after a reign of a little more than six months.
The throne of the Western division of the Empire remained vacant for over four months following the death of Olybrius in November, 472. A successor was eventually found in the person of Glycerius, Count of the Domestics, who was proclaimed emperor at Ravenna by Gundobad, the Master of Soldiers. The government of Constantinople, however, refused to recognize his elevation and Julius Nepos, the military governor of Dalmatia and a relative by marriage of the Imperial Family, was sent to Italy to depose the usurper and to ascend the Western throne as the successor of the last legitimate emperor, Anthemius. Glycerius, having been deserted by Gundobad, was unable to stop Julius Nepos, and at Portus, near the mouth of the Tiber, he was dethroned and forcibly consecrated bishop of Salona (June 24th, 474).
Following the dethronement of Glycerius in June, 474, Julius Nepos was proclaimed emperor and once more two Augusti reigned together. In the summer of 475, however, the barbarian troops in Italy were incited to rebellion by Orestes, the Master of Soldiers, and Nepos fled from Rome to Ravenna. On August 28th the he left Italy for Dalmatia where he remained as an emperor in exile until his death five years later.
Romulus Augustus, nicknamed Augustulus, was the infant son of the general Orestes who proclaimed him emperor at the end of October, 475, two months after the flight of Nepos. Orestes administered Italy in the name of his son until late August, 476, when his barbarian mercenaries mutinied and proclaimed Odovacar king. Orestes was captured and beheaded at Placentia, and the helpless Augustulus was deposed at Ravenna and permitted by Odovacar to retire to a Campanian villa.
To the emperor Zeno at Constantinople, Odovacar sent the Imperial insignia which Augustulus had worn, together with a deputation of Roman senators who declared that the West no longer required a separate emperor. Zeno conferred upon Odovacar the title of Patrician and the rank of Master of Soldiers, and the whole Empire was once more united under the rule of one Augustus, though most of the Western provinces had now been conquered by Germanic invaders and had become Teutonic kingdoms.