Not another useless Roman Emperor?

Glycerius had a relatively brief, inglorious 'reign' as Roman Emperor of the West between March 473 and June 474. The 'Roman West' as it was titled, was now down to Marseilles, Provence, the coast of Dalmatia and Italy (except Sicily - the Vandals had that). In addition, Glyerius also had to put up with an invasion by the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths in short succession. By more luck than military skill, he survived that and stay with the living without offending his boss and new patrician Gundobad.


Glycerius came from Dalmatia. This territory had remained part of the Roman World but had been in practice independent since 455 when the Vandals had sacked Rome. As for Glycerius, nothing else is known about him. Not even the name of his parents can be certain though apparently his mother had been 'violated' (quaint expression for a brutal rape) by soldiers in the pay of the empire. Glycerius had joined the army and had become 'Commander of the Domestics' under the authority of his boss Emperor Olybrius. He had been in charge of the cleaners and kitchen staff in the imperial palce. When Olybrius suddenly died, Glycerius applied for the job.

However Gundobad, who had succeeded his uncle Ricimer as the official 'Strong Man' was in no hurry to find a successor. In that Gundobad had the support of the Roman Senate who were considering doing away with the imperial post and be instead ruled from Constantinople under Emperor [Leo I]].



Emperor! Woo!!

In March 473 Gundobad had a change of heart. Glycerius was summoned to Ravenna and invested with all the regalia, nick-nacks and clothes that went with becoming a Roman Emperor. The actual imperial clobber were quite battered and some items looked like they had blood stains. Glycerius took the post anyway and issued coinage with the title 'Flavius Glycerius Pius'.

Since there is no mention of a wife, Glycerius was either gay or a celibate. Or he just kept his family hidden away. Glycerius and Gundobad got along well enough but had to steer clear talking about religion. Glycerius was a Catholic Christian whereas Gundobad was an Arian Christian, someone who believed God and Jesus were separate people.

Losses and DepositionEdit


Gundobad points the way back to Burgundy.

What was left of 'Roman Gaul' that actually recognised Glycerius as emperor were finally stripped away by King Euric of the Visigoths. This growing of Visigothic power worried Gundobad about the fate of his homeland.

In addition, Emperor Leo in the East had refused to recognise Glycerius and instead looked for a new candidate to take the job in Rome. Since Leo's last appointment Anthemius had ended up as a bloody mess in Rome, there were distinctly a limited field of volunteers but eventually Julius Nepos said he would take it, receiving Verina's nameless niece Jane Doe as his wife.

Glycerius and Julius Nepos had plenty of 'beef' with each other. Both came from Dalmatia and whether the arguments were about wine, women or a karaoke night in Athens, the result was the same. Each wanted the other dead.

Aware of the invasion plans by Leo, Glycerius tried every form of flattery he could remember. He was expecting Gundobad would 'stand up for Rome' but when visiting him in his own grand palace, discovered the place empty and shuttered. Gundobad had skipped town and returned home[1].

Glycerius scrabbled around for allies, even writing to the Vandals and Visigoths for help but got no change from them. Instead he retreated to Ravenna in the hope something would turn up, like Nepos dying or being murdered. Instead Julius Nepos walked in with his army. Glycercius troops waved the white flag and another Roman Emperor had been deposed.

Terms and ConditionsEdit

Considering his situation, Glycerius got off relatively lightly. Julius Nepos decided to be lenient with his predecessor and made him Bishop of Salona in Dalmatia. Since this was also Nepos's home town (and perhaps Glycerius's as well), it seemed a generous offer. Though the fate of Emperor Avitus 20 years earlier who had also been forced to abdicate and become a man of the cloth (and a man in a funeral shroud) was well known, Glycerius took off his purple pants and started to wear holy underwear.

On the RunEdit


Glycerius had been 'bishoped'.

Glycerius's duties as bishop meant he had to pray for Julius Nepos's soul and salvation. The situation however then radically changed a year later. The army in Italy rebelled under the leadership of Orestes, forcing Nepos to leave the country and return to Dalmatia.

The new emperor in Rome was Orestes's own son Romulus Augustulus but in the Eastern Roman Empire, this office change wasn't recognised. Emperor Leo I had died as had his grandson Leo II in fairly quick succession, leaving Zeno as emperor. Glycerius was still safe in his bishop's place in Salona in Dalmatia but was becoming bored with his spiritual duties. A bit of intrigue was called for.

Since the deposition and removal of Romulus Augustulus in 476, there was no longer an emperor in Rome. The new boss there was another German military commander called Odoacer. He still viewed Nepos as a possible threat and didn't trust Emperor Zeno to support him. Odoacer needed allies or spies in Dalmatia...Glycerius.

Murder He WroteEdit

At some point in around 479-480 Julius Nepos felt confident enough to return to Rome with his own army. Glycerius relayed this information back to Odoacer. He didn't want to become emperor again but did fancy the post of archbishop of Milan instead. Everything was fixed. In 480 Julius Nepos was attacked and killed by assassins as he went to a pre-arranged meeting with Glycerius about a church funding campaign. Nepos certainly died there and then but..frustratingly...Glycerius's own fate isn't recorded.

Did Glycerius get the job promised by Odoacer? Or was Glycerius in turned killed because despite his protestations about not wanting to become emperor again, he had already lied before?? The temptation for Odoacer to get rid of two rivals for the price of one was too easy. The German ruler 'avenged' the death of Nepos by killing his successors. How much trouble would it have cost Odoacer to finish off Glycerius.

Regretfully, the last page (and indeed most of the book) of Glycerius's life fades out of view now. Shit! We don't know what happened to this particular imperial shyster.

References Edit

  1. Gundobad became King of Burgundy. He killed all his brothers to make himself safe and died in his bed in 516.

Preceded by:
Roman Emperor
Succeeded by:
Julius Nepos (in the West)