9 December

Flavius Odoacer (433–493), was a soldier, who in 476 became the first King of Italy (476–493). His reign is commonly seen as marking the end of the Western Roman Empire.

Though the real power in Italy was in his hands, he represented himself as the client of Julius Nepos and, after Nepos’ death in 480, of the Emperor in Constantinople. Odoacer generally used the Roman honorific patrician, granted by the Emperor Zeno, but is referred to as a king (Latin rex) in many documents and he himself used it at least once and on another occasion it was used by the consul Basilius. Odoacer introduced few important changes into the administrative system of Italy. He had the support of the Roman Senate and was able to distribute land to his followers without much opposition. Unrest among his warriors led to violence in 477–478, but no such disturbances occurred during the later period of his reign. Although Odoacer was an Arian Christian, he rarely intervened in the affairs of the orthodox and trinitarian state church of the Roman Empire.

Probably of Scirian descent, Odoacer was a military leader in Italy who led the revolt of Herulian, Rugian, and Scirian soldiers that deposed Romulus Augustulus on 4 September AD 476. Augustulus had been declared Western Roman Emperor by his father, the rebellious general of the army in Italy, less than a year before, but had been unable to gain allegiance or recognition beyond central Italy. With the backing of the Roman Senate, Odoacer thenceforth ruled Italy autonomously, paying lip service to the authority of Julius Nepos, the last Western emperor and Zeno the emperor of the East. Upon Nepos’ murder in 480 Odoacer invaded Dalmatia, to punish the murderers. He did so, executing the conspirators, but within two years also conquered the region and incorporated it into his domain.

Odoacer is the earliest ruler of Italy for whom an autograph of any of his legal acts has survived to the current day. The larger portion of a record of Odoacer granting properties in Sicily and the island of Melita on the Adriatic coast to Pierius and issued in 488, was written in his reign.