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Odoacer abolished the Roman Empire sitting down.

Odoacer is traditionally the hairy arsed barbarian who called time on the Roman Empire on the 4th September 476. He forced Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus to step aside and became the ruler of Italy for the next 15 years until he was beaten by the Goths.

That is at least the traditional picture. In fact Odoacer was a seasoned soldier in Roman Army who had in the past shared drinking contests with Attila the Hun and had previously worked with various Roman Emperors. Seeing how it was done (or not done), he lost patience and got rid of the puppets. No more back stage politics as exercised by Ricimer previously. The Roman buck would stop with Odoacer.

BackgroundEdit

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Barbaria in her steel bra phase.

Odoacer was born in an area that is now part of Austria but was then known as Noricum. His father Edeco had got a job working for Attila the Hun when the latter was camped out in Pannonia (Hungary. Odoacer's father was a German speaker with a Hunnish name and had married into the local tribe known as the 'Scruffi' or 'Sciri'. Edeco was obliged to job share with Orestes, a Roman with a Greek name. Orestes was married to the vulgar, brash Barbaria. Her prized possession was a customised steel bra. Barbaria's body ironmongery got the attention of Odoacer who wanted it for himself.

When the Hun empire fell apart, Odoacer gained his own troop and made himself a nuisance in Noricum. This got him into trouble with a resident holy man called Severinus, later St. Severinus. When he saw Odoacer wearing the bra, he offered to re-clothe the semi-civilised Odoacer. In exchange Severinus said he saw a very bright future for the well toned German. He predicted Odoacer would conquer Italy but only enjoy this position for 15 years. The German accepted the clothing and donated the bra to Severinus.

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Odoacer (wearing Barbaria's bra) is called out by St. Severinus.

Finding the right bossEdit

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Odoacer accepts St. Severinus's offer of a free massage.

Early on Odoacer made a wise choice for a military patron. He fell the Western Roman Empire's resident Strong Man (Manilus Manli in Latin) Ricimer. Like Odoacer he was of German descent and so they two could converse in guttural Teutonic and share sausage jokes. Ricimer encouraged Odoacer to become a bodyguard to Emperor Anthemius and was with his 'boss' until deserting him and telling Ricimer where Anthemius was hiding out in.

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The Mini Fuehrer or 'Kleiner Kaiser' Romulus Augustulus.

It was probably around this time that Odoacer became re-acquainted with Orestes and Barbaria. Odoacer assured Barbaria that her bra was now in the safe keeping of a saint. Satisfied with this explanation, Barbaria became a supporter of Odoacer and recommended they stay 'best buds' for now. This was just as well in the musical chair nonsense of the 470s when Roman Emperors were acclaimed, deposed and killed in rapid succession.

In another spin of the wheel, Orestes became a military commander and deposed Emperor Julius Nepos in 475, placing his own son on the Western Imperial throne as [{Romulus Augustulus]]. Orestes took over the 'Manilus Manli' role but in practice delegated control over what was left of the Roman Army to Odoacer. After all, most of the 'Soldiers of Trajan' were also German mercenaries.

The OverthrowEdit

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A gross Odoacer takes the surrender of Romulus Augustulus. Across the street are the bodies of the boy emperor's dad and uncle. Nice.

As ever with these rebellions, it boiled down to money - or at least something with a value attached to it like property. Odoacer's army was more or less what was left of the Roman imperial forces in the West. True there was a Roman in Gaul called Syragrius who had his Roman troops but he was far away. The only other Roman army was led by the exiled Julius Nepos in Dalmatia. Neither were in a position to intervene or interfere.

Odoacer also had an added advantage that the East Roman Empire was currently busy with a civil war between rival claimants Zeno and Basiliscus and so couldn't stick their nose in either. Starting the rebellion in August 476 when Orestes refused the army's demand for 'lolly or loot', Odoacer led the rebels against Orestes. The latter's soldiers deserted and he was killed. A few days later in early September, Odoacer gained entry into Ravenna where Romulus Augustulus was hiding out with his mother. He killed Orestes's brother Paul and found the emperor hiding under his throne.

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Senator Mitchimus M.C. Connellus celebrates.

The expectation had been that Odoacer was going to produce his own tame poodle emperor but instead he said 'the farce is over. No more emperors here or in Rome'. With the emperor and his mother at his mercy, Odoacer came up with a second surprise: He was going to spare them. Just as long as Romulus wrote a long apology to him and send a letter to whoever was emperor in Constantinople proclaiming the end of the Western Roman Empire. Romulus and Barbaria complied and were sent to a spare Roman villa near Naples to contemplate a long retirement.

The end of Romulus Augustulus's reign and the de facto abolition of the Western Roman Empire was popular in the Roman Senate. This ancient political body had been sidelined as the true power of Rome since the days of emperors Augustus and Diocletian. One of the Roman Senators applauding Odoacer's actions was the young Mitchimus M.C. Connellus.

PowerEdit

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Being your own man gets you a coin and a pudding basin haircut.

Odoacer proclaimed himself as 'King of Italy' but waited to see what the Eastern Romans would do. His delegation from Constantinople returned with a nice purple toga from Zeno (the winner of the civil war). He granted Odoacer the tile of 'Patrician' but with a reminder that Julius Nepos was still the legal emperor. Odoacer naturally saw this as a threat but complied with Zeno's request. When Nepos asked to return to Italy from Dalmatia, Odoacer gave no guarantees on safety or receiving anything like a welcome. Nepos stayed where he was.

Considering all the recent upheavals, the Romans got used to the surprise of not having a new emperor every year. Odoacer also corresponded with his fellow Barbarian rulers in Visigothic Spain and Vandalic North Africa and talked about them being natural allies. That the Visigoths and Vandals hated each other (some earlier nasty business involving a mutilated bride and the failure to pay for 'vandalism' fines) put pay to that. Instead Odoacer gave away what was left of Roman Gaul he controlled (namely Marseilles and a few nudist resorts in Provence) and concentrated instead on the danger from Nepos and Zeno.

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Barbaria gets a bra back for entombing a saint but was it the original one?

In 480 Odoacer had the satisfaction of seeing Nepos murdered by his own troops in Dalmatia. Claiming he had nothing to do with it, Odoacer invaded Dalmatia and executed the killers. That the crime had been put together by an ex-Roman emperor called Glycerius who was working there as bishop under the impression he was 'doing Odoacer' a favour, was glossed over. Odoacer took the opportunity of bringing back Glycerius and then quietly disposing him in a refuse bin in Ravenna.

In 482 Odoacer's old friend St. Severinus died. He left the bra to Odoacer who then handed it over to Barbaria. She wore it and then said she wanted to honour the old holy man by turning her villa in Naples into a monastery. Odoacer paid for the removal of the Severinus from his crude brick tomb in Austria to the warmer climes of Italy. Remembering how fond the saint had been about her bra, it was deposited on the tomb as a holy relic.

GothsEdit

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New best buds? Odoacer and Theodoric the Ostrogoth share the same space.

In the 480s it appeared Odoacer was well on his way to become an established King. Odoacer wasn't a Catholic Christian, though being responsible for Severinius's move from a sparsely inhabited frontier to a busy metropolis (all those lovely pilgrims with their gifts) did mean he was quite 'redeemable' to the [Vatican]].

Odoacer still hadn't forgiven Zeno for what he saw as a 'double dealing'. Also he was well aware that Zeno was still beset with enemies, mainly his own family relatives. This encouraged Odoacer to dabble with the opposition to Zeno, offering support and advice. He probably hoped that Zeno would be killed and perhaps give him a chance to expand his dominions eastwards. If so that failed when the rebellion against Zeno was crushed in 488.

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'Never trust a Goth!' Odoacer's dying words.

Now it was Zeno's turn to stir it up for Odoacer. He also happened to have people he wanted rid of out of the Eastern Roman Empire: The Ostrogoths. These cousin goths to the Visigoths had been acting like major barbarian nuisances for sometime. Zeno gave them a simple choice. Face a major campaign against them in the Balkans or...did they fancy permanently visiting Italy? Their leader Theodoric the Great took the offer and invaded Odoacer's kingdom.

The war between Odoacer and Theodoric lasted from 489 to 493. Odoacer was no pushover and showed his military skills. But he was eventually overwhelmed by Theodoric and the Visigoths offering a hairy hand of help (so much for Odoacer's earlier bribe). The two rivals agreed to a truce in Ravenna. Somehow the Mixed bag Germans and others under Odoacer would share Italy with the Ostrogoths. Theodoric agreed and said they should celebrate this amicable dividing up of Italy (except the Italians had no say) with a big feast in Ravenna's imperial palace, the site of so many past intrigues, hens running around and murder.

Odoacer and his men agreed and turned up for dinner. It seems the agreement was 'no weapons' but the Ostrogoths had hidden theirs under the tables. Before anyone could dip their dirty fingers into the nibbles, Theodoric made a signal and the massacre began. The first to go was Odoacer, cut in two by Theodoric. Once the one-sided murder spree was over, servants brought in wooden covers to sit on top of the dying followers of Odoacer and commenced with the meal.

The man who had overthrown the Western Roman Empire was fed to the dogs.

AftermathEdit

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Barbaria's St. Severinus's missing bra.

Theodoric went on to kill Odoacer's wife, brother and son. Zeno didn't live to see his revenge against Odoacer succeed. Severinius remained in his monastery until it was later destroyed. His bones eventually ended up in the corner of a chapel in Naples.

Severinus's bra disappeared. Indiana Jones is still looking for it but may require a franchise re-boot to accomplish it.

References Edit