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government, announced, in prophetic strains, the restoration of the public felicity.* Their hopes (if such hopes had been entertained) were confounded within the term of a single year; and the treaty of peace, which ceded Auvergne to the Visigoths, is the only event of his short and inglorious reign. The most faithful subjects of Gaul were sacrificed by the Italian emperor, to the hope of domestic security;+ but his repose was soon invaded by a furious sedition of the barbarian confederates, who, under the command of Orestes, their general, were in full march from Bome to Ravenna. Nepos trembled at their approach; and, instead of placing a just confidence in the strength of Kavenna, he hastily escaped to his ships, and retired to his Dalmatian principality, on the opposite coast of the Hadriatic. By this shameful abdication, he protracted his life about five years, in a very ambiguous state, between an emperor and an exile, till he was assassinated at Salona by the ungrateful Glycerius, who was translated, perhaps as the reward of his crime, to the archbishopric of Milan.J
The nations who had asserted their independence after the death of Attila, were established, by the right of possession or conquest, in the boundless countries to the north of the Danube; or in the Roman provinces between the river and the Alps. But the bravest of their youth enlisted in the army of confederates, who formed the defence and the terror of Italy ;§ and in this promiscuous multitude, the
by their discord. * Julius Nepos armis pariter summus
Augustus ac moribus. Sidonius, 1. 5, ep. 16, p. 146, Nepos had given to Ecdicius the title of patrician, which Anthemius had promised, decessoris Anthemii fidem absolvit. See 1 . 8, ep. 7, p. 224.
+ Epiphanius was sent ambassador from Nepos to the Visigoths, for the purpose of ascertaining the fines Imperii Italici. (Ennodius in Sirmond. tom, i, p. 1665—1669.) His pathetic discourse concealed the disgraceful secret, which soon excited the just and bitter complaints of the bishop of Clermont , J Malchus, apud Phot, p. 172. Ennod. Epigram. 1. 82, in Sirmond Oper. tom, i, p. 1879. Some doubt may however be raised on the identity of the emperor and the archbishop. [According to Zedler, who may be trusted, because his authorities are always good, the ex-emperor Glycerius died bishop of Salona, in the year 480. (Lexicon, 10. 1729.) But (lb. 23. 1750) he instigated the murder of Julius Nepos. Marcellinus (Chron. ad cons. Basilii) says that this deed was perpetrated by two of his comita, Viator and Ovida. The latter is named Odiva by Cassiodorus.—Ed.]
§ Our knowledge of these mercenaries, who subverted the Western empire, is derived from Procopiug (De Boll. Gothico, 1 . 1, c. 1, p. 308).
names of the Heruli, the Scyrri, the Alani,'the Turcih'ngi, and the Eugians, appear to have predominated. The example of these warriors was imitated by Orestes,* the son of Tatullus, and the father of the last Roman emperor of the West. Orestes, who has been already mentioned in this history, had never deserted his country. His birth and fortunes rendered him one of the most illustrious subjects of Pannonia. When that province was ceded to the Huns, he . entered into the service of Attila, his lawful sovereign, obtained the office of his secretary, and was repeatedly sent ambassador to Constantinople, to represent the person, and signify the commands, of the imperious monarch. The
Orestes might honourably refuse either to follow the sons of Attila into the Scythian desert, or to obey the Ostrogoths, who had usurped the dominion of Pannonia. He preferred the service of the Italian princes, the successors of Valentinian; and, as he possessed the qualifications of courage, industry, and experience, he advanced with rapid steps in the military profession, till he was elevated, by the favour of Nepos himself, to the dignities of patrician, and mastergeneral of the troops. These troops had been long accustomed to reverence the character and authority of Orestes, who affected their manners, conversed with them in their own language, and was intimately connected with their national chieftains, by long habits of familiarity and friendship. At his solicitation they rose in arms against the obscure Greek, who presumed to claim their obedience; and when Orestes, from some secret motive, declined the purple, they consented, with the same facility, to acknowledge his son Augustulus, as the emperor of the West. By the abdi
The popular opinion, and the recent historians, represent Odoacer in the false light of a stranger and a king, who invaded Italy with an army of foreigners, his native subjects. [Gibbon's subsequent sketch of the early life and rise of Odoacer, explains this note. The origin of the popular error which made him a king of the Heruli, will be shown at ch. 39. In this stage of history, it is desirable to observe, as closely as possible, every ascertained bearing on the minds that rode aloft in the whirlwind of change and directed the storm.—Ed.]
* Orestes, qui eo tempore quando Attila ad Italiam venit, se illi junxit, et ejus notarius factus fuerat. Anonym. Vales, p. 716. He is mistaken in the date; but we may credit his assertion, that the secretary of Attila was the father of Augustulus.
death of that conqueror
96 AUGrSTULUS, LAST WESTEEX EMPEEOE. [OH. XXXVI.
cation of Nepos, Orestes had now attained the summit of his ambitious hopes; but he soon discovered, before the end of the first year, that the lessons of perjury and ingratitude, which a rebel must inculcate, will be retorted against himself; and that the precarious sovereign of Italy was only permitted to choose, whether he would be the slave, or the victim, of his barbarian mercenaries. The dangerous alliance of these strangers had oppressed and insulted the last remains of Roman freedom and dignity. At each revolution, their pay and privileges were augmented; but their insolence increased in a still more extravagant degree; they envied the fortune of their brethren in Gaul, Spain, and Africa, whose victorious arms had acquired an independent and perpetual inheritance; and they insisted on their peremptory demand, that a third part of the lands of Italy should be immediately divided among them. Orestes, with a spirit which, in another situation, might be entitled to our esteem, chose rather to encounter the rage of an armed multitude, than to subscribe the ruin of an innocent people. He rejected the audacious demand; and his refusal was favourable to the ambition of Odoaeer; a bold barbarian, who assured his fellow-soldiers, that, if they dared to associate under his command, they might soon extort the justice which had been denied to their dutiful petitions. From all the camps and garrisons of Italy, the confederates, actuated by the same resentment and the same hopes, impatiently flocked to the standard of this popular leader; and the unfortunate patrician, overwhelmed by the torrent, hastily retreated to the strong city of Pavia, the episcopal seat of the holy Epiphanius. Pavia was immediately besieged, the fortifications were stormed, the town was pil'lagod; and although the bishop might labour with much zeal and some success, to save the property of the church, and the chastity of female captives, the tumult could only be appeased by the execution of Orestes.* His brother Paul was slain in an action near Ravenna; and the helpless Augustulus, who could no longer command the respect, was reduced to implore the clemency, of Odoaeer.
* / That successful barbarian was the son of Edecon; who,
* See Ennodiua (in Vit . Epiphan. Sirmond, tom, i, p. 1669, 1670.> He adds weight to the narrative of Procopius, though we may douot whether the devil actually contrived the siege of Pavia, to distress the
in some remarkable transactions, particularly described in a preceding chapter, had been the colleague of Orestes himself. The honour of an ambassador should be exempt from suspicion; and Edecon had listened to a conspiracy against the life of his sovereign. But this apparent guilt was expiated by his merit or repentance; his rank was eminent and conspicuous; he enjoyed the favour of Attila; and the troops under his command, who guarded, in their turn, the royal village, consisted of a tribe of Scyrri, his immediate and hereditary subjects. In the revolt of the nations, they still adhered to the Huns; and, more than twelve years afterwards, the name of Edecon is honourably mentioned, in their unequal contest with the Ostrogoths; which was terminated, after two bloody battles, by the defeat and dispersion of the Scyrri.* Their gallant leader, who did not survive this national calamity, left two sons, Onulf and Odoacer, to struggle with adversity, and to maintain as they might, by rapine or service, the faithful followers of their exde. Onulf directed his steps towards Constantinople, where he sullied, by the assassination of a generous benefactor, the fame which he had acquired in arms. His brother Odoacer led a wandering life among the barbarians of Noricum, with a mind and a fortune suited to the most desperate adventures; and when he had fixed his choice, he piously visited the cell of Severinus, the popular saint of the country, to solicit his approbation and blessing. The lowness of the door would not admit the lofty stature of Odoacer: he was obliged to stoop; but in that humble attitude the saint could discern the symptoms of his future greatness ; and addressing him in a prophetic tone, "Pursue," said he, "your design; proceed to Italy; you will soon cast away this coarse garment of skins; and your . \ wealth will be adequate to the liberality of your mind."t Tho barbarian, whose daring spirit accepted and ratified the
bishop and his flock. * Jornandes, o. 53, 54, p. 692—695.
M. de Buat (Hist, des Peuples de l'Europe, tom. viii, p. 221—228) has clearly explained the origin and adventures of Odoacer. I am almost inclined to believe that he was the same who pillaged Angers, and commanded a fleet of Saxon pirates on the ocean. Greg. Turon. 1. 2, c. 18, in tom. ii, p. 170. + Vade ad Italiam, vade vilissimis
nunc pellibus coopertis: sed multis cito plurima largiturus. Anonym. Vales. p. 717. He quotes the life of St. Severinus, which is extant, and contains much unknown and valuable history; it was composed VOL, IV. H
prediction, was admitted into the service of the Western empire, and soon obtained an honourable rank in the guards. His manners were gradually polished, his military skill was improved, and the confederates of Italy would not have elected him for their general, unless the exploits of Odoacer had established a high opinion of his courage and capacity.* Their military acclamations saluted him with the title of King: but he abstained, during his whole reign, from the use of the purple and diadem,f lest he should offend those princes, whose subjects, by their accidental mixture, had formed the victorious army which time and policy might insensibly unite into a great nation.
Royalty was familiar to the barbarians, and the submissive people of Italy was prepared to obey, without a murmur, the authority which he should condescend to exercise as the vicegerent of the emperor of the West. But Odoacer had resolved to abolish that useless and expensive office: and such is the weight of antique prejudice, that it required some boldness and penetration to discover the extreme facility of the enterprise. The unfortunate Augustulus was made the instrument of his own disgrace; he signified his resignation to the senate; and that assembly, in their last act of obedience to a Soman prince, still affected the spirit of freedom, and the forms of the constitution. An epistle was addressed, by their unanimous decree, to the emperor Zeno, the son-in-law and successor of Leo; who had lately been restored, after a short rebellion, to the Byzantine throne. They solemnly "disclaim the necessity, or even the wish, of continuing any longer the imperial succession
by hia disciple Eugippiua (a.d. 511), thirty years after his death. See Tillemont, Mem. Eccl<5s. tom, xvi, p. 168—181.
* Theophanes, who calls him a Goth, affirms, that he was educated and nursed (rpaiptvroi) in Italy (p. 102); and as this strong expression will not bear a literal interpretation, it must be explained by long service in the imperial guards. + Nomen regis Odoacer
assumpsit, cum tamen neque purpura nec regalibus uteretur insignibus. Cassiodor. in Chron. A.D. 476. He seems to have assumed the abstract title of a king, without applying it to any particular nation or country. [It has been said that Odoacer never exercised the prerogative of coining money. One of his silver pieces exists, however, in the imperial cabinet at Vienna. It was among the numismatic treasures discovered in Hungary in the years 1797 and 1805, of which M. Steinbuchel, the successor of Eckhel, published an account in 1826. See the Notes of Eckhel's Editor, Num. Vet. vol. viii, p. 82. 203.—Ed.]