End of the Western Roman Empire

The last Western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, abdicates the crown in favor of the barbarian king Odoacer
The last Western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, abdicates the crown in favor of the barbarian king Odoacer

Historical Context

When Romulus Augustulus came to power as the Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, it was but a fraction of what it had once been. The empire in the East essentially treated its Western realm as a client state. Rome itself had been sacked by barbarians twice in the fifth century.

Odoacer was a Germanic mercenary soldier for the Roman army, who when refused estates that he demanded, marched into Italy with an enormous garrison of soldiers. The previous Emperor and father of Romulus fled and was later captured and executed. Romulus, then only 16, was forced to abdicate on September 4, 476, and Odoacer became King of Italy. This would not last long however, as Odoacer was soon killed by rival barbarian factions.

Although this event is considered generally to be the end of the Western Roman Empire, at the time the event received little attention, and Rome had been subjected to control by Germanic kingdoms and barbarians for decades.

What became of Romulus Augustulus is not known. Odoacer spared him due to his young age, and it is believed he retired to a villa in southern Italy, and might possibly have lived into the early 6th century.

Drawing Info


Artist: Unknown
Location drawn: Rome, Western Roman Empire

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 0476-08-28 Orestes, father of Emperor Romulus Augustulus is captured and executed by Odoacer and his followers
  • 0476-09-04 Romulus Augustulus, last Western Roman Emperor, abdicates after forces led by Odoacer invade Rome. Traditional end of the Western Roman Empire

Historical Drawings