Byzantine Alternate History Series: Chapter II- Preventing the Fall of the Western Roman Empire 4 Years in Advance

Posted by Powee Celdran

Disclaimer: Although this is a work of fiction, it is largely based on true events and characters. It seeks to alter the course of actual events that transpired in the 5th century AD.

This story is a tale between two empires, the Eastern and Western Roman Empires under two different emperors but facing the same struggles.

Previous Story: Byzantine Alternate History Chapter I- 4th Century

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Welcome to the second chapter of the Byzantine Alternate History series by the Byzantium Blogger! Last time, in the first chapter of my alternate history series, I discussed what could have happened if the armies of the combined eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire worked together and won the critical Battle of Adrianople in 378, where in real history the Romans lost thus marking the beginning of their end. In the previous story, I also discussed possible scenarios that could have happened but never happened in history such as if the western emperor Valentinian I the Great- who died in 375- lived a bit longer in time to help his brother the eastern emperor Valens in the fight against the invading Gothic tribes at the Battle of Adrianople itself as well as a possible scenario of the future Roman emperor Theodosius I taking sides with the Goths, then eventually becoming their ruler and one day take the Roman Empire for himself and unite it with the Goths ruling a super-empire. However, in this new alternate history story I am writing, despite it being the second chapter of the series, it will have no continuity to the previous story. As I mentioned it previously, all 12 articles will be stand-alone pieces, and this one will have a totally different what if scenario beginning with real history, but with a twist at the end that none of us had ever seen happening. Since this series will feature one what if per century of the 1,100 years of the Byzantine Empire’s existence, I will write some of them together with other Byzantine history enthusiasts such as myself. This is my 5th century AD fan fiction and just like the first chapter, it is just myself writing it. This article will be not just the story of one empire, but two- the Eastern and Western Roman Empires and the climax will be a particular event taking place in the year 472, 4 years before the actual fall of the Western Roman Empire (476) and here a very much unknown scenario that could have prevented the eventual fall of the west involving the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Emperor Leo I and a secret order, the Western Roman Emperor Procopius Anthemius and an assassination attempt on him, and an insignificant battle in Rome took place. The fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 happens to be so romanticized especially in the western context when in reality, it was nothing more but humiliating rather than dramatic as all that happened was that a puppet boy emperor Romulus Augustus was simply overthrown by his barbarian general Odoacer who decided to just abolish the title of emperor thus putting an end to the western empire making everyone later on believe this event marked the end of the Roman Empire. This event in 476 personally makes me cringe a lot as Rome did not really fall here, its still lived on in the east as Byzantium, though I believe this fall in 476 could have easily been stopped. One scenario that could have prevented Western Rome from falling in 476 was something that took place 4 years prior to it where the western emperor Anthemius, who was actually an Eastern Roman (Byzantine) and one of the very few competent emperors in the 80-year history of the failed state of the Western Roman Empire would have not been in killed 472 at the Battle of Rome, whereas in real history he fell out with his powerful barbarian general Ricimer who later defeated him and had him killed. Though Anthemius ruled the west for only 5 years (467-472) being a puppet of the Western Empire’s army general Ricimer, he was a still a strong and competent emperor who clearly did not want to be a puppet and even though ruling an empire that was falling apart, he was still motivated to restore it and fight back the barbarian tribes that had been taking over it as well as establishing a dynasty to make sure the empire would still last, but sadly he did not achieve his dream. Anthemius was killed by the orders of his puppet master Ricimer who only out of chance intercepted a letter made by the eastern emperor Leo I to kill Ricimer, which he used instead as an order to kill Anthemius. After the death of Anthemius, disorder and anarchy reigned in the Western Roman Empire for 4 more years with 4 more weaker emperors following him and a lack of central authority eventually culminating in the abolition of the western empire in 476, leaving the west to completely fall to barbarian rule and the Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople to be the only Roman Empire left around. Now, if Anthemius still stayed alive by receiving the letter ordering Ricimer’s death before Ricimer got his hands on it, would the Western Roman Empire still have many more years left to live or not?  

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Note: Since the story is set in the 5th century, Byzantine characters will be referred to as Romans not Byzantines.

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Map of all Barbarian invasions into the Roman Empire, 100-500AD

The previous article discussed the Gothic War from 376-382 with a Roman victory, but in real history the defeat of the Romans to the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople in 378 was the beginning of the end, for the western half of the empire at least, as the east though being devastated, was in the perfect geographical position to remain standing as the western half was more exposed to frequent barbarian invasions through the Rhine and Danube river borders. In only less than a hundred years after the catastrophic Battle of Adrianople, the Western Roman Empire ceased to exist in 476 but in that 98 years between 378 and 476, a roller coaster of events has happened for the Romans, both east and west. Following the Gothic War’s conclusion in 382, peace was settled and the enemy being the Goths were settled into the Roman Empire as allied soldiers under their own leaders known as Foederati by the new eastern emperor Theodosius I, however in the years to come, these barbarians would prove to be terrible and rebellious allies. In 395, the Roman Empire would be permanently split in half when Theodosius I died passing the eastern half which would be the Byzantine Empire to his older son Arcadius and the western half to his younger son Honorius and in the years that followed, disaster after disaster occurred in the western half including a massive barbarian invasion into the empire crossing the frozen Rhine in 406, the loss of Roman Britain, 2 sackings of Rome, the Eternal City (410 by the Visigoths and 455 by the Vandals), the birth of new barbarian kingdoms within the empire, a series of invasions by the world’s enemy being the Huns, and an epic battle worth talking about thousands of years later which was the Battle of Chalons in Gaul in 451 wherein the Western Romans with their barbarian Visigoth, Frankish, and Burgundians allies proved successful in defeating the world’s enemy, Attila the Hun. Though the Huns were eventually defeated after 451, the Western Roman Empire was beyond repair, as in the past few years, barbarian tribes that had recently invaded such as the Visigoths, Franks, Vandals, Suebi, and Ostrogoths already took over Roman lands and began becoming a constant headache for both the western and empires while the western empire’s government and succession system remained unstable especially due to having a series of incompetent emperors whether from an imperial bloodline or just usurpers wanting to take power for themselves or worse, puppet emperors controlled by barbarian puppet masters. The western half of the Roman Empire based in Ravenna though was only more or less a satellite state of the eastern half or Byzantine Empire which stood stronger as it held the richer provinces of the Roman Empire including Syria and Egypt as well as several important cities including Antioch and Alexandria and at the same time having mostly competent emperors and a more stable system. As for the west being the east’s satellite state, basically its emperor to be considered legitimate had to be appointed or have the consent of the eastern emperor for sitting in the western throne, or he’d be considered a usurper. Now in the entire 80-year history of the western empire, it turns out only 5 out of the 13 western emperors were considered legitimate as they were recognized by the eastern emperor and only 2 of these 5 were competent ones which was Majorian (r. 457-461) the ambitious soldier emperor who still had a vision to restore his empire but met a tragic end, and Procopius Anthemius (r. 467-472) who is the central character of this story, a Greek in blood and a native of Constantinople who had a vision to restore the dying western half that had been overrun by barbarians but was betrayed and killed by those who feared his growing independence, particularly his puppet master general Ricimer. Since only 4 other western emperors ruled the west after Anthemius and neither of them were strong ones, Anthemius has the legacy of being perhaps the last capable Western Roman emperor and even in his short 5-year reign, he had a pretty good start in saving the western empire from total extinction.

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Flag of the Western (red) and Eastern (purple) Roman Empires combined
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Roman Empire 5th century map, dissolution of the west (red). Cover photo of the blog as this story focuses on the western empire’s dissolution
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Guide to the late Roman army’s structure (by Powee Celdran); this article contains a lot of terms of late Roman army units.

Related Articles from The Byzantium Blogger:

The Art of War in the Byzantine World

12 Turning Points in Byzantine History

Around the World in the Byzantine Era Part I (330-1000)

Lesser Known and Would be Roman and Byzantine emperors (27BC-695AD)

The Fall of Western and Eastern Rome Compared

Fall of Western Rome Related Videos:

Unbiased History: Rome XIX- The Fall of Rome (Dovahhatty)

Unbiased History: Byzantium I- The Eastern Empire (Dovahhatty)

Ranking the Byzantine Emperors: The Leonid Dynasty (Eastern Roman History)

Fall of the Roman Empire, 337-486 timelapse (TominusMaximus)


The 5th century was one epic story for the Roman Empire especially being the western empire’s last century and the steady rise of the eastern empire or Byzantine Empire. Now, there happens to be so many crucial events in the 5th century history of Rome that could create many what if scenarios such as what if the general Stilicho was not executed in 408, what if Attila defeated the Romans in 451, what if the Vandals never sacked Rome in 455, or what if the western emperor Majorian was not killed in 461, but out of all the events that happened in this century, I chose to go for one particularly obscure scenario which is one that involves the western emperor Anthemius and his death and what if it did not happen, which I believe would be something that could at least save the western empire for some more years. Just recently, a video by the Youtube channel Eastern Roman History came out which had been ranking the Byzantine emperors of the Leonid Dynasty starting with its founder Leo I who will be a central character of this story and this video made quite a theory saying that if the eastern emperor Zeno in 476 who was overthrown here stayed in power instead, the west would have been saved and another one being that if Zeno’s son the short reigning emperor Leo II (r. 474) did not die after only 9 months in power as child history may have turned out to be different, though for me I would go for the option of saving the west from falling back in 472 with Anthemius but after watching this recent video as well and hearing of the theory of Leo II living long enough, I decided to put this theory of Leo II here. Basically, I wanted to do an article covering a lesser-known part of Roman-Byzantine history and a character in this period which happens to be a very interesting figure and in this case is the Constantinople-born Western Roman emperor Procopius Anthemius, another forgotten but able ruler in history and only recently I have been fascinated with him and his story. On the other hand, the Western Roman Empire from 395 to 455 had undergone such epic events but the few years between the Vandals’ sack of Rome in 455 and the final end of the Western Roman Empire in 476 are not very much remembered so what I am doing here in this article is to bring some light into this mysterious 20-year period of history set in the middle of important and well-remembered events. It was only recently when I got to know about the emperor Anthemius and what he did which was last December when I wrote an the article of comparing the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century to the fall of Byzantium in the 15th century and here I discovered something interesting which was not only Anthemius but a particular mystery that involved a secret letter sent by the eastern emperor Leo I and again I should mention that it was my through favorite history related Youtube channel Dovahhatty in this final episode of his Unbiased History of Rome series, Chapter XIX: The Fall of Rome where I first came across this particular story and Anthemius himself. Strangely, I have already grown very familiar with the Eastern Roman characters of this part of the 5th century such as Emperor Leo I, his successor Zeno, Basiliscus, Aspar, and many others, but not with Anthemius who in fact was a Byzantine too. In the past I have also included these characters previously mentioned in my articles but not Anthemius, so now I will do my best to blend Anthemius into the story making him a leading character together with the eastern emperors Leo I, Basiliscus, and Zeno. Since in this series I will be experimenting by playing around on some historical characters and their back stories, in this case I will do it with Anthemius who has not so much written about him by historians of his time despite being one of the most documented of the unknown western Roman emperors, so here I will do my best to create his character’s traits and motives. In addition, I will do the same as last time in blending in a fictional character into the historical setting to add some more plot twists to the story and in this case, it will be however a real character which was the Eastern Roman soldier sent by Leo I with secret orders to kill Ricimer which was for Anthemius’ eyes only, though this soldier was never named and his story never told, so in this story I will give a bit of a story to this particular soldier named Cyriacus and in addition, I also decided to include a side story of Emperor Leo I no one has heard of which was his discovery of a miracle making spring in Constantinople. Now in real history, the Western Roman Empire ever since 456 was basically under the control of a powerful Germanic barbarian general in their army named Flavius Ricimer and under his manipulation were the puppet emperors Majorian (r. 457-461), Severus III (r. 461-465), and Anthemius (r. 467-472) and all these emperors met their ends by Ricimer who fell out with all three. In 472, which is where this story will take place, it happened in real history that the eastern emperor was pressured by the Vandal king of Carthage Genseric to make Olybrius the western emperor who would be Genseric’s puppet but Leo being a friend of Anthemius who worked well with him as a co-emperors came up with a smart trick which was to pretend to agreeing to kill Anthemius to please Genseric but secretly he planted a letter with this soldier Cyriacus escorting Olybrius to Italy but when arriving in Italy, Ricimer intercepted the letter which had orders to kill him as well as Olybrius to break Anthemius out of his control. Being shocked when seeing this letter, Ricimer decided to turn on Anthemius, proclaimed Olybrius his new puppet emperor and besieged Rome where Anthemius held himself in and after 5 months, Anthemius was defeated and beheaded by Ricimer’s orders but shortly after, both Ricimer and his new puppet Olybrius died of natural causes, and just 4 years later with instability in the west growing more and more, the western empire was finally abolished in 476. However, I believe that if Anthemius got the letter ahead of Ricimer, he would have ruled himself independently, establish a dynasty, and keep the empire alive for much longer while at the same time closely cooperating with his eastern co-emperor Leo I. In this story, the main antagonists will be Ricimer and the eastern empire’s puppet master Aspar who will be depicted as those who seek to destroy civilization itself from within which will be a more fictional element as real history does not really say what their true intentions were except that they were clearly power-hungry leaders. Though even if the western empire would still survive after 476, there would still be a possibility of the whole known world eventually starting what would be the first world war thousands of years before World War I happened and here I could imagine the Eastern and Western Empires allying with the Franks, Suebi, and Sassanid Empire against a large coalition of barbarians including the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Burgundians, Saxons, Suebi, and Huns fighting wars all across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. At the same time, with the Western Roman Empire still surviving after 476, this could also mean that the epic reconquests of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine emperor Justinian I in the 6th centuries would not really come to happen anymore. This story here will be much longer than the previous one because of its variety of character as well as the geography it focuses on and it will not only tell the story of one character or one empire but both Eastern and Western Roman empires, a number of emperors, and other nations including the Vandals, Visigoths, and Ostrogoths and several ongoing conflicts between them in a setting of such a large world over the span of not just many years but decades. 


The Leading Characters:

Procopius Anthemius- Western Roman emperor

Leo I (Leo Marcellus)- Eastern Roman emperor

Flavius Ricimer- Magister Militum of the West

Anicius Olybrius- Rival of Anthemius

Flavius Zeno- Eastern Roman general, later emperor

*Cyriacus- Eastern Roman Palatini soldier (real character but unnamed, therefore I gave his name)

Genseric- King of the Vandals of North Africa

Odoacer- Commander of the Ostrogoth Foederati

Gundobad- Burgundian leader and Ricimer’s 2nd in command

Bilimer- Western Roman general

Aspar- Magister Militum of the East

Basiliscus- Eastern Roman commander

Julius Nepos- Eastern Roman general

Theodoric Strabo- Rogue Ostrogoth mercenary

Marcian- Son of Anthemius

Alypia- Daughter of Anthemius 

Ariadne- Daughter of Leo I

Daniel the Stylite- Eastern Roman prophet

Leo II- Eventual Eastern Roman emperor, son of Zeno 

Not to mention, the story’s lead character Emperor Procopius Anthemius has his own Instagram! Follow @the_anthemius

Character Images Below of Selected Characters from this Story

Background Guide: Western Roman characters (red, although Anthemius was a western emperor his yellow background is because he is from the east), Eastern Roman characters (yellow), Ostrogoths (green), Vandals (blue)


The Background (The Real History)       

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In 378, the Roman army faced a catastrophic defeat to the invading Gothic army at the Battle of Adrianople where the eastern Roman emperor Valens was killed and following this was a great crisis. Without an emperor, a young general, Theodosius the Younger was appointed as the east’s emperor based in Constantinople- the new capital of the Roman Empire founded by Emperor Constantine I the Great in 330- by the reigning western emperor Gratian and in 382, the crisis was solved when peace was settled with the Goths allowing them to settle in Roman lands so long as they provide military assistance for the Romans becoming a unit in the Roman army known as the Foederati as the Goths could no longer return to their homeland which had been taken over by the world’s enemy, the Huns. The following year, civil war broke out in the west when Magnus Maximus, a Roman general in Britain pulled out his troops there, marched into Gaul and usurped power after hunting down and killing Gratian. Magnus Maximus however wanted to share power with his friend, the eastern emperor Theodosius I but Theodosius disagreed as the west already had a legitimate emperor, Gratian’s younger half-brother Valentinian II so a civil war was fought between Theodosius and Magnus Maximus in which Theodosius won in 388 with the help of his new Gothic allies while Magnus Maximus was then executed.

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Emperor Theodosius I (r. 379-395)

Theodosius I as emperor had the legacy of not only settling the barbarian enemies of Rome into the empire but making Nicene Christianity the empire’s official religion as well thus marking a major turning point in history that had put an end to the centuries old Pagan traditions of Rome including the Vestal Virgins, several holidays, and the Olympic games. In 392, another civil war broke out when the western emperor Valentinian II killed himself when his protector general Arbogast turned against him proclaiming a scholar in Gaul named Eugenius as his puppet emperor but in 394 as Theodosius marched to the west again from Constantinople, he won a decisive victory against Arbogast and Eugenius at the Battle of Frigidus, again with the help of his Gothic allies, particularly a warrior named Alaric while Arbogast killed himself and Eugenius was executed. With Theodosius winning the civil war again, he ruled as the last emperor of a united empire west to east from Portugal to Syria and north to south from Britain to Egypt for only 4 months as he died in early 395 leaving the empire to his underage sons Arcadius and Honorius. The Roman Empire was now permanently split in half with the division in the Balkans down to Libya, with the older son, the 18-year-old Arcadius inheriting the richer eastern empire based in Constantinople while the younger 10-year-old Honorius inherited the weaker western half based in Milan which was to be a satellite state of Constantinople meaning the western emperor had to answer to the east which was his superior, though Honorius was under the regency of his father’s general, the brilliant and heroic Flavius Stilicho who despite being half-barbarian with a Vandal father was a true Roman at heart who would do anything he could to make sure Rome which was on the verge of collapsing would not fall.

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Flavius Stilicho, Magister Militum of the Western Roman Empire

Though the empire was divided east and west, they still had the same government system, same senate, and same military structure and one could go between east and west without being stopped. As the 5th century began, things were more or less much stable in the eastern empire despite the incompetence and uselessness of its emperor Arcadius as he had able generals and ministers but for the western half, disaster would soon enough come one after the other. First of all, in the east, the Gothic Foederati’s leader, Alaric a descendant of the Thervingi Gothic tribe that invaded the empire in 370s went rogue for being denied a promotion to Magister Militum or commanding general of the eastern legions as a reward for his victory at the Battle of Frigidus in 394 making him declare himself king of his own people, the Visigoths who would pillage through Greece and the Balkans. Instead of continuing reigning terror in the eastern empire, Alaric turned west to become their problem but never really succeeded at first but if it was not Alaric that troubled the west, it was a new Gothic invasion into Italy in 405 that troubled the west but in no time, Stilciho was able to crush this Gothic invasion. In the meantime, the western emperor Honorius chose the swamp city of Ravenna as his new capital for more protection but the true catastrophe though came on the last day of 406 when thousands of Germanic barbarian people including the Vandals, Suebi, and Alans crossed the frozen Rhine River into Gaul wherein the defense of the Roman border legions or Limitanei proved useless to control it so from here on, these barbarians were free to roam the empire or be incorporated as Foederati troops. Following the massive invasion of the Rhine, a low-ranking officer in Britain usurped power in 407 against Honorius declaring himself Emperor Constantine III pulling his troops out of Britain and taking Gaul and later Hispania as his own. Arcadius meanwhile died in 408 and was succeeded by his 7-year-old son Theodosius II as the eastern emperor under the regency of the city prefect Flavius Anthemius while the western empire’s regent general Stilicho was executed by Honorius’ orders being blamed for being the cause of the west’s defeats as well as being accused of trying to usurp power. The execution of Stilicho though only made things worse as Alaric began attacking Italy again and Honorius realizing he had no more support just decided to make the usurper in Gaul Constantine III his co-emperor.

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Alaric I, King of the Visigoths (r. 395-410)

The real death blow to Rome though came in 410 when Alaric and his rebellious Visigoth troops sacked Rome- which was although not the capital anymore but still considered highly valuable- while Honorius over in Ravenna did not even seem to care about it and worse, while Britain was already falling into disorder after the Roman legions pulled out, Honorius just decided to abandon Britain telling the people there it was no longer his problem and it was up to them to defend themselves. Before Alaric and his army could sail to Carthage across the Mediterranean and invade it, he died also in 410 shortly after his sack of Rome and was succeeded by his brother-in-law Athaulf who decided to head north instead and settle in Gaul wherein the Visigoths were transformed from a tribal state to a kingdom during his reign. In 411 meanwhile, the usurper Constantine III was deposed and executed by an army sent by Honorius who could no longer trust him, the Burgundians from Germania invaded Gaul settling there as Foederati in exchange for supporting a Roman usurper there who was defeated by Athaulf in 413 in Honorius’ name while at the same time parts of Hispania were given to the unruly Suebi and Alans that crossed the Rhine back in 406 to make them at least settle somewhere. Honorius eventually died in 423 and at his death, there was at least some stability in the empire as the Visigoths, Burgundians, and Franks in Gaul as well as the Suebi, and Alans in Hispania were at least settled as Foederati or allied states and not their own independent kingdoms which was however the case of the Vandals here in Southern Hispania at this point.

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Defeat of the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople, 378
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The Roman Empire permanently divided between east (Byzantium) and west, 395
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Constantinople, Byzantine imperial capital
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Battle of the Frigidus, 394- victory of Theodosius I and Gothic allies against Arbogast
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Barbarian tribes of the Vandals, Alans, and Suebi cross the frozen Rhine, 406
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Alaric I and his Visigoths sack Rome, 410

Over in the eastern empire, a short war was fought between the Eastern Romans and their traditional enemy, the Sassanid Persian Empire with not much conclusions but in the west with Honorius dead, there was a power vacuum so without a candidate to the throne, a nobleman of Ravenna named Joannes was elevated to the position of Augustus or literally the western emperor but lacked legitimacy as he was not recognized by the eastern emperor Theodosius II who instead backed his cousin, Honorius’ 6-year-old nephew Valentinian III as the western emperor.

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In 425, Joannes was defeated and killed by the forces of Valentinian III’s mother Galla Placidia, the sister of Honorius and Theodosius II’s barbarian general Aspar, though Joannes was already supported by the western empire’s best general, Flavius Aetius who went beyond the empire to get the support of the world’s enemy, the Huns but arrived too late to save Joannes, instead he sent his Hunnish mercenary army away and swore loyalty to Galla Placidia and Valentinian III.

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Western Roman emperor Valentinian III (r. 425-455)

In the following years, the Foederati Visigoths, Franks, Burgundians, Alans, and Suebi would go back and forth either being allies or enemies of Rome making Aetius, who was assigned as the Magister Militum of Gaul constantly have to keep these barbarian settlers under control in which he was successful at. In the meantime, Aetius built up his own faction or club consisting of Rome’s best military officers of the 5th century which included the likes of the Roman patrician Majorian, Aegidius of Gaul, Marcellinus of Illyria, Avitus of Gaul, and Flavius Ricimer, a son of the ruling families of the Suebi (father’s side) and Visigoths (mother’s side) who enlisted in the Western Roman army at a young age who in this story’s case did this having the intention to rise up the ranks to rule to empire and destroy it from within. Aetius meanwhile was not overall trusted by the west’s regent empress Galla Placidia who preferred the general Count Bonifacius more thus firing Aetius leading to a civil war between Aetius and Bonifacius in which Aetius lost in 432 despite Bonifacius being mortally wounded and dying from his wounds, though Aetius not accepting defeat travelled again beyond the empire’s borders to the Huns’ new homeland in the plains of Central Europe (Hungary) to get their help again which he was once again successful at and using the Huns to intimidate Galla Placidia, Aetius regained his position as the western empire’s Magister Militum. Aetius meanwhile being a hostage in the court of the Huns at a young age was educated in the fighting styles and culture of the Huns so when being a general of the western empire, Aetius used Hunnish mercenaries in his service which in one case he heavily relied on when fighting a war against the Burgundians in 436 wherein the Huns totally decimated the Burgundian people in Gaul.

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Flavius Aetius, Western Roman Magister Militum under Valentinian III

The Vandals on the other hand that had settled in Hispania led by their ruler Genseric joined forces with the Alans that settled in Hispania too and ended up crossing the Strait of Gibraltar invading Bonifacius’ territory which was North Africa after previously betraying Bonifacius who asked for their assistance against Aetius and in 439 took over its capital, Carthage founding the Vandal Kingdom there in 442 thus the Western Empire lost a valuable asset, which was Carthage’s wheat fields. Over in the eastern empire, the Huns finally arrived in Roman territory for the first time passing through the Danube into Thrace in 434- the same route the Goths passed back in the 370s as mentioned in the previous story- under their new ruler Attila, and again in 440, except the eastern emperor Theodosius II decided to keep Attila away by constantly paying him off bribes which were doubled each year and it was no problem as the eastern half he ruled was richer in resources compared to the west but by increasing his pay for Attila, this only made Attila’s army more powerful.

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Attila the Hun, ruler of the Huns (434-453)

In 447, Attila invaded the eastern empire again, won a major victory against the Eastern Romans in the Balkans, and attempted to besiege Constantinople in 448 but luckily, Constantinople ever since Theodosius II’s early reign was already protected by massive 3-layered walls built by his regent back then Flavius Anthemius, who in this case was a veteran of the Gothic War in the 370s as mentioned in the previous story and could already foresee that not only the Goths but the Huns would one day invade the empire which is why he decided to build this particular wall, the “Theodosian Walls” named after Theodosius II. Since the Huns’ army mostly consisted of cavalry, there was no way they could breach the walls, so Attila decided to leave for good as long as Theodosius II continued paying him off. At the same time in the west, the Suebi in Hispania renounced their status as Foederati subjects and declared themselves an independent kingdom while in Northern Gaul in 449, Aetius and Majorian repelled a Frankish invasion and made their king’s son Merovech their puppet ruler for their Frankish Foederati subjects.

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Eastern Roman emperor Theodosius II (r. 408-450)

Theodosius II meanwhile died in 450 after a horse-riding accident in a hunt and without having sons, his older sister Pulcheria married Marcian, a commander of the imperial guard force or Palatini who became the new emperor and as emperor, he reversed Theodosius II’s policy of paying off the Huns and decided to show aggression to Attila and his Huns instead. As for Attila, he had no reason for invading the western empire but when the emperor Valentinian III’s sister out of the blue decided on a marriage alliance with Attila, Attila demanded half of the western empire but when refused by Aetius, Attila declared war and invaded Gaul through the Rhine. In so little time, Aetius travelled across lands still under the western empire including Gaul, Hispania, Italy, and Illyria to recruit men which he was successful at and he had personally trained these recruits too at what would be like his dojo. Aetius too convinced the Visigoths of Gaul under their king Theodoric I who despite being a thorn for the empire all those years to join forces with the Romans as the Huns were a common enemy seeking to wipe out everyone in their path whether Roman or barbarian. Theodoric eventually agreed and joined forces with Aetius’ legions together with other barbarian Foederati allies including the Franks and Burgundians against Attila. In 451, the allied forces of the Romans, Visigoths, Franks, and Burgundians met with the forces of the Huns led by Attila with their subjugated Ostrogoth and other barbarian allies at the Battle of Chalons or the Catalaunian Plains which despite countless of casualties on both sides was a decisive victory for the Romans and their allies while Attila was defeated for the first time, and this battle would be remembered throughout the ages for it.

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Huns at the Battle of Chalons, 451

The alliance with Visigoths and other barbarians though only lasted very short and the Visigoth king Theodoric was killed in that battle, except he proved that he and the Visigoths were able to redeem themselves for their crimes against Rome such as Alaric’s sacking of Rome in 410, and true enough Theodoric was Alaric’s son. Attila meanwhile was still out there and constantly waiting for Attila to invade Gaul again, Aetius got word that Attila instead invaded Italy from the north in 452 razing the city of Aquileia to the ground, though some of its citizens at least managed to escape and establish a new community in the nearby lagoon. Before Attila could proceed further south to destroy Rome, the pope Leo I, a diplomatic genius met with Attila in person and successfully persuaded Attila to leave Italy. At the same time, the eastern emperor Marcian sent legions across the Danube to Attila’s base forcing Attila to retreat and defend it, thus the empire was spared from the Huns’ threat. Attila then died in 453 after heavy drinking and with his death, his Ostrogoth and other Germanic subjects rebelled later defeating and dispersing the Huns in 454 forcing them to flee back east to their original homeland in the Central Asian steppes.     

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The Theodosian Walls of Constantinople, built by Theodosius II’s protector Flavius Anthemius
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Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, Aetius’ forces vs Attila the Hun, 451
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Huns clash with the forces of the Romans and barbarian alliance at Chalons
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Pope Leo I prevents Attila from marching to Rome, 452

Thanks to the efforts of Aetius who knew the fighting style of the Huns in order to beat them and Pope Leo I who was a master of diplomacy, the western empire was saved from ultimate destruction, but not entirely as the damage caused by the Huns and all the barbarians that settled and invaded it was beyond repair. Aetius and his officers following their victory discussed strategies on how to restore the ruined western empire but one day in 454, Aetius while at a meeting with his top officers in Ravenna was assassinated in front of all of them by the emperor Valentinian III who grew paranoid of Aetius’ popularity being the hero of the war against the Huns. Valentinian III though was convinced by a senator named Petronius Maximus that he would soon be deposed by Aetius and believing this lie immediately, Valentinian III quickly used this as the right opportunity to backstab and kill Aetius. Valentinian III however would soon enough pay the price for killing the empire’s hero as he in fact did not kill his master but the empire’s savior. With Aetius dead, his officer Marcellinus rebelled taking the whole province of Illyria, his homeland for himself refusing to answer to the emperor and in early 455, Petronius himself had Valentinian III assassinated in Rome after Petronius who was denied being given Aetius’ position in which he wanted to take making him trick Aetius’ bodyguards to killing the emperor as a way to avenge their master.

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Petronius Maximus, Western emperor (r. 455)

Petronius Maximus then bribed the senate to have him declared emperor and for legitimacy, he married Valentinian’s wife Licinia Eudoxia, the daughter of the former eastern emperor Theodosius II while Valentinian III and Eudoxia’s daughter Eudocia was married to Petronius’ son and the other daughter Placidia was married to Petronius’ friend and fellow senator Anicius Olybrius, a patrician of Rome and though Petronius was made the western emperor, the eastern emperor Marcian did not approve of his rule, therefore Petronius was a usurper. Eudocia though was previously arranged to marry Huneric, son of the Vandal king Gaiseric and finding out the marriage was cancelled as Eudocia was instead married to Petronius’ son, Genseric used this as an excuse to set sail from Carthage and invade Rome. When hearing news that Genseric and his Vandal fleet were headed towards Italy, Petronius ordered the people to run for their lives and in the process, Petronius and his son were hacked by the mob while a few days later, Genseric and his Vandals arrived in Rome and sacked it for days although Pope Leo I again came into the picture and persuaded the Vandals to spare the people but still loot anything they could find. Genseric true enough agreed to Pope Leo’s terms but took the empress Licinia Eudoxia, both her daughters, and Olybrius as hostages to Carthage. The Vandals meanwhile ever since taking over Carthage in 439 as well as the Roman fleet, became masters of the sea and the toughest pirates of the Mediterranean even if just a few decades ago they were just a small Germanic tribe without any naval experience, and already being highly skilled sailors by 455, the Vandals at the same time as their attack on Rome took over the island of Sardinia west of Italy.

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Vandals arrive in Roman North Africa, 420s

Over in Gaul, Petronius after becoming emperor sent Avitus, a former veteran and diplomat of Aetius to the court of the Visigoth king there Theodoric II, son of Theodoric I to get his approval of Petronius as emperor, however with Petronius dead, Theodoric II instead proclaimed Avitus as western emperor who again was not recognized by Marican. In his short reign as the western emperor, Avitus was however not very popular though during his reign, the Visigoths of Gaul that supported his claim returned to Foederati status but in late 456, Avitus was deposed by Aetius’ veteran generals Majorian and Ricimer who made spares Avitus as he was their friend before and made him a bishop in Italy; though for the meantime there was no emperor in the west as neither of the generals accepted the position.

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Western Roman emperor Avitus (r. 455-456)

Ricimer being a full-blooded barbarian knew he could not be emperor but had all the skills needed to rule as one so to make himself be in power, he chose to have Majorian as his puppet, for Majorian as a Roman patrician was a likeable person. In early 457, the eastern emperor Marcian died and without any heir although shortly before his death, he considered his son-in-law Procopius Anthemius who was married to his daughter from a previous marriage to be his successor but Marcian died before naming Anthemius his successor. With Marcian dead and not naming an heir, Aspar who was basically his and before him Theodosius II’s puppet master general as well, who like Ricimer due to being of full barbarian blood and in Aspar’s case an Arian Christian could not be emperor, instead Aspar randomly chose his friend, the low-ranking officer of low birth the Thracian Leo Marcellus as his new puppet emperor as Aspar saw that Leo being more or less uneducated and already old- 55 at this time- could be easily be manipulated. As Leo I (ironically having the same title as his contemporary Pope Leo I) was proclaimed as the new eastern emperor, he immediately recognized Majorian as his western co-emperor thus making Majorian legitimate while Marcellinus over in Illyria together with his nephew Julius Nepos renounced their rebellion against the western empire and swore loyalty to Majorian who they could both trust.

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Western Roman emperor Majorian (r. 457-461)

Seeing that the western empire was left in ruin, Majorian launched an ambitious campaign to restore it, thus leaving Ricimer behind in Italy as its Magister Militum in charge of it while appointing his fellow officer and veteran of Aetius which was Aegidius as Magister Militum of Gaul while Majorian focused on passing new laws and reforms and campaigning against the unruly barbarian settlers in Gaul and Hispania. In 458, as the Vandals proceeded to conquer Corsica, the Visigoths broke free of their federate status and conquered Arles but were soon defeated by Majorian who returned them to federate status while in 459 the Burgundians took over Lyon but were beaten back by Majorian who took back the city as well. In 460, the Suebi broke free again in Hispania but Majorian quickly rushed there and easily beat them making them again return to federate status and after their defeat, Majorian had a large fleet built at the Mediterranean coast of Hispania intended to be used in taking back Carthage from the Vandals but the Vandal king Genseric knowing he could not face the might of Majorian in battle bribed disloyal western soldiers to betray Majorian and burn the fleet before it was even finished. The invasion thus never happened and Majorian was forced to conclude peace with the Vandals then afterwards returned to Italy wherein he discovered that Ricimer had betrayed him. While Majorian was away, Ricimer feared Majorian was growing to independent therefore making Ricimer lose his power so conspiring with the senators that opposed Majorian, Ricimer hatched his plot to depose and kill Majorian who Ricimer could see could now be easily deposed due to his losing popularity ever since his defeat to the Vandals and here in 461, when Majorian returned to Italy, he was arrested and tortured dying at age 40 after 5 days of extreme torture.

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Ricimer, Magister Militum of the Western empire since 456

Following Majorian’s death in 461, chaos began to reign in the western empire as in Eastern Gaul, the Alemanni tribes formed their own kingdom and later on in 462, the Visigoths again broke free and established their own kingdom consisting of Southern Gaul and most of Hispania while the Ostrogoths who were previously subjugated by the Huns invaded Western Roman Pannonia. The Vandal king Genseric meanwhile seeing a vacant western empire supported his friend Olybrius’ claim to the western throne as Olybrius had ties to the previous Theodosian Dynasty as he was married to Valentinian III’s daughter Placidia making Genseric somewhat related to Olybrius too as Genseric’s son was married to the other daughter of Valentinian III, though Ricimer as the one basically in control of the west did not agree with it since Olybrius would be Genseric’s puppet anyway so instead Ricimer chose Libius Severus, a weak-minded senator as his own puppet emperor as he was easy to manipulate, and true enough hardly anyone recognized Severus III’s reign including Leo I, Genseric, and the generals Marcellinus and Aegidius. Marcellinus again revolted after Majorian’s death in honor of his friend making Illyria once again independent and Aegidius did the same in Northern Gaul declaring it independent in rebellion against Ricimer for killing Majorian, however Aegidius took it even further by declaring the birth of his own kingdom in Northern Gaul known as the “Kingdom of Soissons” though he together with Marcellinus in Illyria still swore loyalty to Leo I who they still saw as the true emperor. Ruling his own kingdom, Aegidius at least managed to defeat the invading Visigoths that attacked Orleans though Lyon again this time permanently fell to the Burgundians, while in 465 Aegidius died passing his Kingdom of Soissons to his son Syagrius. Meanwhile, Severus III too died in 465 in this story’s case poisoned by Ricimer who felt he had no more use since Severus was not really recognized by anyone thus leaving the west in another power vacuum whereas in real history, Severus III possibly died from natural causes. Genseric again saw the death of Severus III as the right moment to put his claim on the western empire by again using Olybrius, who was in Constantinople at this time as his puppet though the eastern emperor Leo had his own plans, which was making his friend Procopius Anthemius the western emperor. Ricimer though was confused but this is what he had wanted anyway, the western empire broken apart to the point of being dissolved wherein Ricimer thought it would be best to just let the west slip out of control leaving most of it to fall under the now independent barbarians that had settled in it such as the Vandals, Burgundians, Visigoths, Suebi, Alemanni, and Alans while the eastern parts of it would cede to the eastern empire.

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Valentinian III kills Aetius, 454
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Genseric, King of the Vandals (r. 428-477)
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King Gaiseric and his Vandal army sack Rome, 455
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Western Roman Empire restored by Majorian (purple), Eastern Empire of Leo I (pink)
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Aegidius’ Kingdom of Soissons, Independent Roman state in Northern Gaul, founded in 461

The Reigns of Leo I and Anthemius           

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Procopius Anthemius was born in Constantinople in 420 during the reign of Theodosius II, and was from prominent families in both father’s and mother’s side. Anthemius was an only child and on his mother’s side was the grandson of the same general Flavius Anthemius, former regent of Theodosius II in his early reign and the architect of Constantinople’s massive walls who however disappeared from the scene in 415 while Procopius Anthemius’ father Procopius was also a general in the Eastern Roman army and a descendant of the usurping emperor Procopius (r. 365-366), the cousin of the last Constantinian Dynasty emperor Julian (r. 361-363) and the same one that rebelled against the eastern emperor Valens (r. 364-378) but was executed.

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Emperor Procopius Anthemius of the west (r. 467-472), born in Constantinople, 420

Since he came from the eastern empire and was a Greek in blood, Anthemius’ first language was Greek but still knew Latin very well too and at a young age, Anthemius was sent over from Constantinople to Alexandria in Egypt to be educated by one of the best scholars of the time, the Neoplatonist philosopher Proculus and among Anthemius’ classmates and friends he met in Alexandria included the same Marcellinus of Illyria who was in fact a devout Pagan. Anthemius though was still a Nicene Christian in faith but due to his education, he was also sympathetic to the Pagans and their beliefs which led many later to suspect Anthemius himself was a Pagan. Like the usual rich aristocrats of his time, Anthemius was no exception being a lover of food, wine, and sports such as the Persian influenced polo (Tzykanion in Greek) but was still a person of great intelligence including military knowledge which was one of his natural abilities, considering the men in both his mother’s and father’s side were generals, and in appearance Anthemius was short and stocky with thick wavy hair and a short beard.

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Tzykanion, Byzantine polo (from Byzantine Tales)

Since a young age, Anthemius too had some kind of ambition in wanting to rise up and becoming an emperor of either the eastern or western empire as he also saw that it was a possibility, especially since there was no law that a Roman emperor had to be succeeded by his son and knowing that the succession was never stable in both east and west, Anthemius knew he would have his chance one day to not only rule as emperor but bring stability by establishing a dynasty. In 453, the reigning emperor of the east here was Marcian- who back in 451 famously led the Council of Chalcedon that condemned the new heresy of the Monophysites, and here in 453, his wife Pulcheria, the sister of the late emperor Theodosius II died though Marcian before his marriage to Pulcheria when still an unknown soldier was already married to an unknown woman and exactly here in 453, Marcia Euphemia who was Marcian’s daughter with his first wife was married to the 33-year-old Anthemius. Following his marriage, Anthemius and Marcia had their daughter Alypia– who’s birthdate is not mentioned but here I would place it in late 453- but at the same time after his marriage, Anthemius was promoted by Marcian to the high ranking military position of Comes rei Militaris and sent to the Danube frontier up north which in the past years was heavily devastated by Attila’s invasions and Anthemius was put in charge of rebuilding the defenses as well as recruiting and stationing new Limitanei border guard legions there.

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Eastern Roman emperor Marcian (r. 450-457)

In 455, Anthemius and Marcia’s twin sons Anthemiolus and Marcian (named after his grandfather) were born, though it is not recorded when they were born or if they were twins, but in my case, I would place their birth at 455 and make them twins. Not to mention, also in 455 Anthemius served as consul in the eastern empire’s senate together with the western emperor Valentinian III who served as consul in the west, yet Valentinian III was also killed in this year by Petronius Maximus’ orders. The eastern emperor Marcian then died in early 457 from natural causes but before his death, Marican was about to name his son-in-law Anthemius as his successor but died before he could do it. Instead, to fill in the power vacuum in the east, Marcian’s powerful puppet master general, the barbarian Alan Aspar knowing he could not take the throne due to his barbarian blood and Arian Christian faith did as he did before when naming Marcian his puppet emperor in 450 with his friend, a random low-ranking officer Thracian named Leo Marcellus as his puppet emperor who Aspar believed could be easily manipulated the way Marcian was.

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Emperor Marcian at the Council of Chalcedon, 451

           

The new eastern emperor in 457 Leo I or Leo Marcellus meanwhile had a different backstory compared to that of his contender to the throne Anthemius who was an aristocrat and highly educated whereas Leo was a provincial of low birth and a native of Thrace though a Roman citizen although like Anthemius, Leo was also an only child. Nothing much is known about Leo’s early life except that he was born in 401 in Thrace and was of Thracian and Dacian origins and was a Nicene (or rather after 451 Chalcedonian) Orthodox Christian and since he came from the rural parts of the empire, he was hardly educated but possessed a good amount of commonsense. In appearance, Leo was tall with a big stature and had big curly hair and his primary language was Greek knowing very little of Latin making him the first primarily Greek speaking Roman emperor.

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Emperor Leo I (Leo Marcellus) of the Eastern Roman Empire (r. 457-474)

At an early age, Leo joined the army in Constantinople but in all those years he was in the army, he never really rose up the ranks as he displayed very little ambition and only in his 50s did he become an officer with the rank of Comes though back in 450, Leo as just an ordinary soldier according to some legend- in which would be true in this story’s case- accidentally discovered a hidden spring in Constantinople that did create miracles and here Leo made a random blind man he encountered see again by dunking his head in the water. Leo however by the time he suddenly was appointed emperor by Aspar in 457 was already married to Verina, an Illyrian woman from somewhere in the Balkans and a daughter of a military officer who definitely showed more ambition than him and it was her that became more driven when Leo was emperor. The powerful eastern Magister Militum Aspar meanwhile despite unable to make himself emperor surely had his own ambitions in ruling the empire thinking Leo due to his old age and lack of ambition and education made Aspar think he could easily be manipulated as at the same, Aspar too saw that with his age, Leo would be nothing more but a placeholder who would die soon enough. Aspar had also thought that since Leo had no sons, rather only two daughters, Leo could marry off his older daughter Ariadne to Aspar’s son Patricius, therefore Aspar will have his way fully ruling the empire the moment his son becomes emperor.

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Relief depicting Aspar (left) and son Ardabur (right)

Now the reason why Aspar’s son could become emperor and not him was because his son had a Roman citizen mother which was Aspar’s unnamed wife while Aspar himself was of both Gothic and Alan origins. At the beginning of his reign, Leo was all fine being under the control of his puppet master Aspar but over time, Leo would start developing some kind of independent streak especially due to the advises given to him by his ambitious wife who believed Leo did not need Aspar around though Leo’s first acts only had to do with religious matter wherein he simply just agreed to continue his predecessor Marcian’s policies at the Council of Chalcedon despite Leo not knowing too much about religious policy. Leo’s first years as emperor happened while Majorian in the west- who like Leo also came to power in 457- was ambitiously restoring the ruined empire but in the east, Leo’s first years in power was rather uneventful except that in his early years ruling, he built a church over the miracle making spring he discovered years ago which attracted pilgrims later on. Not to mention though, Leo I’s coronation in 457 marked one milestone in the Eastern Roman Empire’s history as he was the first emperor to be crowned by the Patriarch of Constantinople and not just in the traditional way of standing on a shield lifted by the soldiers. Now one proof of Leo’s lack of ambition in his early reign was seen when he did not bother to do anything with Anthemius who was a potential rival to his power as he had more connections to the previous emperor Marcian being his son-in-law, however Anthemius too did not bother much about the fact that Leo was the eastern emperor, as Anthemius knew he too had the chance of ruling the west. Anthemius now had also received a prophecy (which is in this case is fictional) from an odd hermit in Constantinople named Daniel the Stylite who lived above a column refusing to go down claiming it would help him more spiritually but also because he sought to imitate someone who lived this way as well which was the stylite hermit Symeon who in Syria who became famous for living this way almost his entire life.

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St. Daniel the Stylite on the column, Emperor Leo I (right)

Daniel told Anthemius by shouting from high above that it was evident that the west will slip into chaos especially with the barbarian Ricimer in control of it and barbarian tribes taking over large parts of it and so that the task was left to Anthemius to restore the west before it would be ultimately destroyed, in which Anthemius took this prophecy to heart. Other than Anthemius, the senator Anicius Olybrius of Rome who had been taken as a hostage to Vandal Carthage back in 455 came to Constantinople in around 459 and had also met with Daniel the Stylite who foretold to Olybrius that the Vandal king Genseric will release Olybrius’ wife Placidia as well as her mother Licinia Eudoxia and return them to Constantinople. In 461, the prophecy proved to be true as after the western emperor Majorian was killed by Ricimer’s orders, Genseric demanded that Olybrius be his puppet western emperor and in the process, he released both Licinia Eudoxia and Placidia to be with Olybrius in Constantinople thus Licinia Eudoxia returned once again to her birthplace, though Genseric still continued to pressure Italy by raiding its coasts with his fleet. As for Ricimer, he fought back by having the weak senator Severus III used as his puppet emperor but due to Severus’ lack of skill, he was not recognized by anyone else, not even by Leo I who at this point still showed a lack of ambition. Anthemius meanwhile despite being Leo’s rival was appointed as Magister Militum in the east and in 460 he led an army against and defeated the Ostrogoths that were raiding into Illyria.  

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The Life Giving Spring of Constantinople, discovered by Leo I; Leo I and Empress Verina (left)

Watch this to learn more about Emperor Leo I (from Thersites the Historian). 

          

In 465, two important events happened which was that Severus III died over in Italy beginning a 2-year power vacuum for the west and in Constantinople, a large fire broke out in the city arsenal along the Marmara Sea. First of all, with the western throne vacant, Genseric again pressured both Ricimer and Leo I to make Olybrius the western emperor again but both refused although here Ricimer felt that there was no more need for an emperor to run the western empire anymore as he could just manage things alone together with the guidance of Leo I and Aspar in the east but Genseric would not accept a vacant throne which he thought was something he could use as an opportunity in ruling the west. Now back to the great fire in Constantinople, it had such great intensity that it lasted for 3 days and the ones that happened to play an active part in rallying the people and fighting the fire were Aspar and Anthemius and not Leo who instead relocated across the northern harbor of the city or the Golden Horn as the Imperial Palace got a lot of damage from the fire. Aspar was then hailed as a hero by the people and so was Anthemius for putting down the fire and here was when Leo’s envy and mistrust for his puppet master Aspar began. Leo though knew he could not take down Aspar alone and immediately since Aspar was very powerful and had the entire army backing him so Leo’s solution was to create a new army consisting not anymore of Germanic barbarian men in which mostly made up Aspar’s army but instead an army of warlike natives of the Eastern Roman Empire coming from the mountainous wild region of Isauria in Southern Asia Minor, a people he had recently heard about. Now the Isaurians were a tough and warlike tribe and though they were Roman citizens within the empire, they still remained neither Hellenized nor Romanized as their location high up in the mountains made it impossible for them to adapt to it, rather they remained independent following their own tribal government system led by a war chief and did not dress up like Greeks or Romans but rather in more primitive clothing with messy hair and beards, but Leo could see they would be fierce and loyal warriors so he considered asking them to come over to Constantinople and join the army.

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Isaurian tribesmen

466 then was a major year for both eastern and western empires as here, the Huns although no longer led by Attila invaded the eastern empire for the 4th time but still never got anywhere as Anthemius beat them back before they could fully cross the Danube, while in the west a new Germanic tribe which was the Rugii invaded the Western Roman province of Noricum (today’s Austria) and settled there, while the west still had no emperor. It also happened in 466 that Genseric pressured Leo to make Olybrius the western emperor and to do this, Genseric sent his Vandal fleet all the way to Greece which was under the eastern empire to raid the Peloponnese. The Vandals continued sacking the western coast of Greece for months all the way to the spring of 467 and here Leo having enough of the Vandals decided to decline Genseric’s request and here fulfilled the prophecy of Anthemius making Anthemius the western emperor sending him over to Italy. Leo meanwhile had every reason to appoint Anthemius as his western co-emperor as first of all this was to get Anthemius who was still a potential rival of his far away but at least still not only keep him alive but make him still have some authority but other than that, Leo knew Anthemius was a capable general and having him as the western emperor could prove useful in finally defeating the menace of Genseric and his Vandals. Despite Anthemius and Leo being imperial rivals, they both grew to become close friends ever since Leo became emperor in 457 that Anthemius (well in this story’s case rather) was the one that introduced the sophisticated lifestyle to the unrefined and provincial Leo and thanks to Anthemius, Leo became more cultured and seen more and more as a real emperor despite retaining his tough provincial personality within. Now since Anthemius had helped Leo in many ways, Leo felt that he could not get rid of Anthemius even if he was a rival for having familial relations to the previous emperor so the best thing he could do was to make Anthemius fill in the power vacuum in the west as this could at least still make Anthemius an emperor and as for Anthemius he was fine with ruling the west as he wanted to at least rule the empire no matter what half anyway. Back in Constantinople in 467 as well, the Isaurian tribesmen had arrived led by their chief Tarasicodissa, a tough and impulsive warrior who met up with Leo and these tribesmen were soon enough incorporated to the army made as the emperor’s loyal bodyguards or Excubitors with Tarasicodissa made its commander and to make him integrate into Constantinople’s society, his name was forever changed to the Greek Zeno.

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Eastern Roman Excubitor (elite palace guard)

In addition, the 42-year-old Zeno was married to Leo’s 17-year-old daughter Ariadne who was previously arranged to marry Aspar’s son Patricius and this here was a major blow to Aspar who now felt Leo betrayed his word. The Isaurians then would start occupying the eastern empire’s army more and more though soon enough, the highly sophisticated people would start having no tolerance for these new Isaurian men in the city guard and army for their thuggish behavior especially since these Isaurian men lacking education looted homes and beat-up people as they pleased, though the rich people of the capital would soon start having these Isaurians as their bodyguards.  

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Great Fire of Constantinople, 465
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Location of Isauria in Asia Minor (red)

           

Before Anthemius arrived in Italy, Leo too had gotten the consent of Ricimer to appoint Anthemius as the western emperor though Ricimer only agreed to it if Anthemius was again to be his puppet but secretly Anthemius had his own intentions which Leo knew as well. Anthemius arrived in Italy with his old friend and fellow classmate back in Alexandria, the independent ruling Magister Militum of Illyria Marcellinus who upon Anthemius’ coming into power again renounced his rebellion against the western empire and swore loyalty to Anthemius since both were friends. Anthemius was then proclaimed the western emperor some 12 miles outside of Rome on April of 467 and in Constantinople, Anthemius’ coming into power was celebrated in public with a speech praising him as the man who will finally crush the Vandals. As the new western emperor, Anthemius remained in good terms with Leo I of the east and at the end of 467, Anthemius now getting well acquainted with Ricimer agreed to a marriage alliance between his daughter and eldest child Alypia and Ricimer, who had been single all his life. The wedding took place in Rome and was attended by all levels of society and present too was the Roman poet from Gaul Sidonius Apollinaris who could tell there was something off about the couple especially since Alypia was only 14 and her husband Ricimer was 49 and a barbarian.

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Sidonius Apollinaris, Western Roman poet (430-489)

True enough Alypia detested her marriage to Ricimer especially since he was way older than her and a barbarian, although Ricimer was in fact a sophisticated person but Alypia was only a young girl who wanted to be left alone. On the other hand, ever since Genseric had been raiding the Greek coast in late 466, Leo together with Anthemius and Marcellinus hatched a plan to finish what Majorian failed to do in 460 and construct a massive fleet in the Marmara Sea intended to sail to Carthage and finally punish the Vandal Kingdom for their sack of Rome in 455 and raiding the Greek coast by literally invading their kingdom. Also, taking back Carthage would again resume the grain supply for the west and stabilize their weakened economy once again whereas the east still had the rich grain source of Egypt. Leo knew that the Vandals were strong and skilled sailors but would be no match to a massive Roman fleet of 1,000 large ships and in 468, the fleet was fully constructed consisting of 1,000 ships with a total of 100,000 soldiers sent on this daring mission to take back Carthage and North Africa for the Roman Empire.

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Eastern Roman ship, 468

Before launching the mission, Leo now slowly putting Aspar aside did not appoint Aspar to lead it, instead Leo appointed his brother-in-law Basiliscus, Verina’s younger brother to be in full command of the fleet although behind Leo’s back, Aspar talked Basiliscus into betraying Leo by sabotaging the mission by any means possible. Basiliscus was first unsure why he had to do this but Aspar simply paid him off making Basiliscus agree to the plan while Aspar on the other hand did not care if the Vandals win, so long as Leo loses which is a sure way of putting the blame on Leo making the people turn on him as Aspar was feeling more and more that Leo was planning to get rid of him. Now the mission to retake Carthage was divided into 3 groups, first was Basiliscus who was to sail directly from Constantinople to Carthage, Heraclius who was stationed in the eastern provinces to sail to Libya and attack the Vandals by land, and Marcellinus with his western army who was to take back the islands of Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicily that had just fallen to the Vandals while Anthemius was to remain in Italy to defend it in case the Vandals or other enemies invade it. Both Marcellinus and Heraclius succeeded in their tasks and Libya, Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica were retaken for the Romans but for Basiliscus on the other hand, things went the other way around.

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Vandals in North Africa

When the massive fleet of Basiliscus arrived in Cape Bon in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Carthage, he accepted a 5-day truce with envoys sent by Genseric when in fact Genseric proposed this to buy time for him to set up a trap. Basiliscus agreeing to Aspar’s terms on betraying Leo for money ordered the fleet to dock for 5 days and when the 5 days were over, Genseric’s trap was finally set as he launched hundreds of unmanned fireships to attack the Roman fleet and even worse, the winds were on the side of the Vandals’ fireships which at the end resulted in the complete destruction of half the fleet Leo worked so hard in building. Half of the fleet including Basiliscus fled the from the battle the moment the fireships destroyed the Roman ships but half of the Roman fleet remained despite the other half leaving and in charge of the remaining fleet was Basiliscus’ brave commander Joannes who made a heroic last stand against the Vandals jumping from ship to ship killing as many Vandals as he could but at the end, he saw that his ship was captured by the Vandals and not wanting to accept defeat, Joannes who was dressed in heavy armor jumped into the sea drowning himself to death shouting out loud that he “would never come under the hands of dogs” referring to the Vandals.

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Vandals on stolen Roman ships

Basiliscus meanwhile retreated back to Sicily to meet up with Marcellinus before heading back to Constantinople while Marcellinus was found in some shipyard in Sicily where Ricimer met up with him in person wherein he had Marcellinus assassinated by Ricimer’s own nephew and protégé, the Burgundian Gundobad who decapitated Marcellinus while Heraclius disappeared into the Libyan desert. With Marcellinus dead, his nephew Julius Nepos inherited command over Illyria but still stayed loyal to Anthemius while Basiliscus when returning to Constantinople wanted to avoid the wrath of the people and the emperor for causing their defeat by hiding inside the cathedral of the Hagia Sophia. Leo soon enough found Basiliscus hiding there and threatened to kill him but his wife and Basiliscus’ sister Verina convinced Leo to spare him, so instead Basiliscus was fired from command and sent to retirement in an insignificant town in Thrace. The whole expedition that Leo and Anthemius worked so hard on thus failed forcing Leo to conclude a humiliating peace with Genseric but both were still not yet over in their quest to punish the Vandals.

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Leo I constructs his fleet in Constantinople to invade Vandal North Africa, 468 (by Dovahhatty)
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Vandals destroy the Eastern Roman fleet at the Battle of Cape Bon, 468
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Genseric’s Fireships

With the North African campaign ruined, Anthemius turned to face the ongoing problems in Gaul in which the instability of Roman rule there caused the Visigoths’ new ambitious king Euric, the son of Theodoric I who died back in 451who came to power in 466 to exploit the weak Roman rule by expanding his territory although Northern Gaul or Soissons still remained under the Roman rule of Syagrius who however still remained independent even with Anthemius as emperor.

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King Euric of the Visigoths (r. 466-484)

Anthemius then decided to do all he could to save what was left of Roman Gaul even if he lacked an army especially since most together with the fleet were decimated at the Battle of Cape Bon against the Vandals the previous year so Anthemius turned to ask for the help of Syiagrus who agreed to it after receiving Anthemius’ letter despite not surrendering his kingdom back to the western empire. In the east, Leo I and Zeno’s bond grew stronger and seeing more potential in the Isaurian Zeno, Leo appointed him as Magister Militum in command of the armies in Thrace which again fueled Aspar’s anger and envy. In 469, Zeno was in command of several missions which were mostly successful including one to suppress a rebellion in his native land of Isauria but it also happened in this year too that when Zeno was in Thrace, Aspar sent an assassin to kill Zeno but Zeno quickly evaded the assassination attempt and killed the assassin himself and here he now knew Aspar was up to no good. Back in Constantinople, Leo and Aspar confronted each other over Aspar’s son Patricius’ elevation as Leo’s new junior emperor or Caesar though Leo angrily accepted Aspar’s offer which was to also marry Patricius to Leo’s younger daughter Leontia but when the people found out that Patricius was to be Leo’s heir, they rioted under the leadership of some monks as they could not accept an Arian Christian as their new emperor but Leo persuaded them saying Patricius will eventually become Orthodox which at least put down the riots. In the meantime, the Vandals in 469 took back Sardinia and Corsica while the Ostrogoths completely took over Roman Pannonia establishing their own kingdom there and in 470 back to Anthemius, he heard of a mysterious civilized king in Britain named Riothamus although Britain had long been abandoned by the Romans. Riothamus read Anthemius’ letter asking for assistance against the Visigoths and immediately crossed the channel from Britain to Gaul and with the help of Syagrius’ army and the Burgundians who were at this point Roman Foederati allies attacked the Visigoths and at first won a major victory and took back the city of Bourges from the Visigoths but when Riothamus pushed deep into Visigoth territory in Western Gaul, he was completely crushed by Euric’s army forcing Riothamus to flee east to Burgundian territory where he completely disappeared, never to be mentioned again.

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King Riothamus of the Britons

Anthemius meanwhile like all western emperors resided in Ravenna but soon enough, he started growing more and more unpopular more because the people he ruled over did not understand him and his lifestyle. The people of the western empire were more conservative and were not open to Anthemius’ liberal philosophy due to his education in Alexandria which made them suspect he was a Pagan but this was also due to Anthemius being Greek whereas the Western Romans did not trust the Greeks too much especially their more liberal way of thinking. It also happened in 470 that Anthemius mysteriously fell ill and many suspected his illness was due to sorcery and believing Anthemius was going to die, a senator in Ravenna named Romanus who was a close friend of Ricimer used Anthemius’ illness as an opportunity to usurp power, thus Romanus declared himself emperor and was actually backed by Ricimer who at this point started distrusting Anthemius feeling the same way he felt with Majorian before as again Ricimer saw that Anthemius was becoming too independent especially when taking matters into his own hands in the campaign against the Visigoths as well as seeing that Anthemius was planning to make his own dynasty using his sons. Anthemius eventually recovered and soon enough discovered Romanus’ treachery so he had Romanus executed which however further strained his relationship with Ricimer who seeing Romanus’ execution made him feel Anthemius was true enough out of control as this execution did not have any approval by Ricimer. Again, taking matters to his own hands, Anthemius launched a second attack on the Visigoths in Gaul led by his 16-year-old son Anthemiolus with 3 other Western Roman generals to assist and train him but the moment they crossed the Rhone River, Euric leading his army intercepted them killing Anthemiolus in battle and routing the generals making them pillage the Gallic countryside in a rampage and later disappear and become bandits there.

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Ravenna, capital of the Western Roman Empire since 402

Back in Ravenna, Anthemius and Ricimer grew more and more bitter with each other and this had to do a lot with the unhappy marriage between Alypia and Ricimer in which they constantly fought each other every day so Alypia complained to her father about Ricimer and when Anthemius confronted Ricimer about how Ricimer treated Alypia, Ricimer declared he and Anthemius were now enemies just as how Leo and Aspar did and not trusting each other anymore, Ricimer led his own army of 6,000 without even asking Anthemius again attempting to fight the Vandals of North Africa. Anthemius was of course enraged that Ricimer took matters to his own hands to attack the Vandals so Anthemius fought back by organizing mobs in Rome and Ravenna to fight Ricimer’s supporters in the streets which forced Ricimer to abandon his campaingns as he had to deal with the rebellious Anthemius first, however in late 471 the bishop of Pavia Epiphanius intervened and forced Anthemius and Ricimer to sign a one-year truce.

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The world of 472, Eastern Roman Empire (purple), Western Roman territories (dark pink)

The Battle of Rome, 472 (The Climax)          

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In the eastern empire, Zeno had been away from Constantinople for almost 2 years now and while he was gone, Aspar using the absence of Zeno again started increasing his influence over the now old Leo I, except this time Leo was more impatient with Aspar making him want Zeno to return. The 70-year-old Leo now was no longer the same man he was when he became emperor back in 457, no longer a relaxed and unambitious person but a strong emperor with an independent mind yet somewhat a bully who now wanted to not at all be a puppet but instead making his own decisions and policies such as forbidding any non-religious celebrations and even playing music on Sundays but his main objective was to establish a new dynasty making his son-in-law Zeno his successor. Now in 471, the 71-year-old Aspar now together with his older son Ardabur hatched a plot late at night to kill Leo although Leo one day was informed by the same stylite hermit Daniel that Aspar was up to conspiracy as Daniel had perfected the skill of reading people’s minds after years of meditation above his column- though this part is entirely fictional- and when hearing about this from Daniel, Leo thought it was now the right time to kill off Aspar and finally remove him from this world. Leo organized a plot together with his Isaurian bodyguards although not Zeno who was still away from Constantinople at this point but to hide his true intention, Leo invited Aspar and his sons Ardabur and Patricius for lunch at the newly renovated Imperial Palace that was damaged by the fire back in 465. Aspar thinking Leo was going to finally settle peace with him went to the palace with his sons and for lunch they were served a large variety of grilled meats and wine but when Aspar took his first bite, Leo ordered his new Isaurian Excubitor guards to corner him while one particular young Isaurian Excubitor named Cyriacus (made up in name for this story) strangled Aspar himself from behind, thus killing Aspar. Both of Aspar’s sons however tried to attack the Excubitors but with their large size, the Excubitors knocked them out while one of them killed Ardabur by decapitating him with his axe. Patricius meanwhile tried to escape but when ending up running deep into the palace, he was confronted by Leo’s daughter Ariadne who he was arranged to marry at the very beginning. Ariadne kicked Patricius to the ground, knocked him out and brought him before her father who sat still the whole time and Leo ordered that Ariadne finish him off, thus Ariadne grabbed a knife and slit Patricius’ throat killing him.

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Ariadne, daughter of Leo I and wife of Zeno, later empress

Meanwhile, in real history it was Leo I’s court eunuchs ordered by Zeno and Basiliscus who returned to his commanding position who although were not in Constantinople at this time that assassinated Aspar and Ardabur while Patricius was only wounded and expelled from Constantinople while Ariadne had no part in their murder as she was with her husband Zeno the whole time, though Ariadne was in fact actually a tough woman inheriting these traits from both her parents. Either way in reality and in this story’s case, Leo earned the nickname of “the butcher” for his murder of Aspar wherein some might think Leo did this as he was a cold-hearted tyrant but I would say Leo did this to save the eastern empire from falling under the control of the power-hungry barbarian Aspar. In this story’s case, Zeno and Basiliscus like in real history also remained somewhere outside Constantinople while in the capital, Leo promoted Cyriacus to become an officer and allowed Basiliscus to return to his position commanding the armies since Leo here only came to realize that the failed invasion of Vandal Carthage in 468 was in fact part of Aspar’s scheme wherein Basiliscus was just used. In the meantime, Leo felt that Genseric was up again to attacking the eastern empire and pressure him to once again make Olybrius, who was still in Constantinople at this time the western emperor replacing Anthemius but Leo still did not agree to it as Anthemius was still his most trusted friend in the west who despite his failures, Leo still believed still had the chance to restore order to the broken western half. Fearing that Genseric would declare war again, Leo after taking some time contemplating back in the same spring he discovered many years ago finally gave in and had Olybrius go over to Italy to be proclaimed emperor although Leo was actually only pretending to let this happen as deep inside he was actually planning to get rid of both Olybrius who he saw as a thorn on his side as the Vandal king Genseric kept pressuring Leo to make Olybrius his puppet western emperor and Ricimer who Leo felt was exercising his power too much over Anthemius and Leo now ruling independently with Aspar gone wanted Anthemius to do the same in getting rid of Ricimer. Leo here knew that Ricimer and Anthemius had been quarrelling with each other for a year now so in early 472, Leo pretended to send Olybrius over to Italy to mediate between Anthemius and Ricimer and once this was done, he was to go to Carthage to again settle peace with Genseric. This story now will go with the Byzantine historian John Malalas’ (491-578) version wherein Leo I sent Olybrius over to Italy to negotiate peace between Ricimer and Anthemius as already earlier on in 472, the conflict between them resumed to the point that Anthemius had to barricade himself in Rome which was put under siege by Ricimer. Olybrius then left Constantinople as well as his wife Placidia and daughter Anicia Juliana for a 3-week journey by sea to Ostia, the port of Rome and accompanying him was the Excubitor Cyriacus who was given a secret letter for Anthemius’ eyes only written by Leo which said:

I have removed Aspar and Ardabur from this world, so that no one who might oppose me would survive. But you also must kill your son-in-law Ricimer, lest there be anyone who might betray you. Moreover, I also have sent the patrician Olybrius to you; I wish you to kill him, so that you might reign, ruling rather than serving others. -Leo I          

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Illustration of Anicia Juliana, daughter of Olybrius

This letter now happens to be a very crucial piece as if it was actually read by Anthemius only, then the course of Western Roman history would have been very different as Anthemius could have had both Olybrius and Ricimer killed, therefore the west like the east would have been saved from the rule of a barbarian warlord. In real history however, the moment Olybrius arrived in Italy, a guard assigned by Ricimer to watch out for Olybrius’ arrival intercepted the letter the moment Olybrius arrived, showed the letter to Ricimer who panicked and made Olybrius his new emperor turning against Anthemius who held himself in Rome for the next 3 months until he lost the battle to Ricimer’s forces and was beheaded when found in the disguise of a beggar, thus Olybrius became Ricimer’s new puppet.

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Olybrius, Western emperor (r. 472)

Now in this story’s case, when Olybrius arrived at the harbor of Ostia, Cyriacus meanwhile hid the letter deep inside his armor wherein no one would notice it and when getting off the ship, they were met by Ricimer’s unknown guard who asked why a small task force of Eastern Romans arrived but Olybrius simply said they were there to assist Ricimer although Olybrius was still thinking he actually came to kill Anthemius and be made the new emperor. The guard then brought over Olybrius, Cyriacus, and their team of 15 other Excubitors to Ricimer who was just nearby still besieging Rome with only a few hundred men. Olybrius then met up with Ricimer who was at his camp outside Rome’s Aurelian Walls and here Olybrius talked Ricimer into another negotiation with Anthemius although Ricimer only agreed to it if Anthemius was to be finally killed if the negotiation failed, which Olybrius agreed to as well. Ricimer then ordered his soldiers mostly consisting of barbarian Foederati to lift the siege and together with Olybrius, Cyriacus, and the Excubitors they entered Rome to meet up with Anthemius who was hiding in a church in what is now St. Peter’s Basilica and it turned out Anthemius faked an illness so that he didn’t have to fight against Ricimer as the truth was that he was tired of all the fighting. Olybrius when meeting Anthemius spoke up saying that he intends to again settle peace again between both of them but Anthemius did not believe it knowing that Olybrius surely meant trouble. Cyriacus who joined them meanwhile remembered that Leo told him to show Anthemius the letter but he didn’t know that he was to show it in private, instead he reached his hand deep inside his shirt beneath his armor and pulled out the letter which he showed to Anthemius who then read it. Anthemius now learned that Leo killed Aspar and was being asked to do the same too by killing his overly ambitious puppet master Ricimer though at first Anthemius was hesitant but still did not tell anyone around him what the letter said but soon enough, he started hearing voices inside his head which included the voices of both Leo and Daniel the Stylite who reminded him that he was meant to save the west and be a great emperor but also being reminded of how Ricimer was abusive to his wife which was Anthemius’ daughter, Anthemius had enough thus he gave in to his anger by ripping the letter, throwing it right at Ricimer, and pulled out his sword immediately slashing Olybrius who fell to the ground and the moment Olybrius fell, Anthemius stabbed and killed him telling everyone else this was Leo’s message. Ricimer meanwhile could not believe what happened and now seeing for himself that Anthemius was totally out of control, Ricimer shouted to Anthemius “no mercy” beginning a one-on-one duel between Ricimer and Anthemius right inside old St. Peter’s Basilica. The duel went on for quite some time with the Excubitors including Cyriacus in attendance and it went on with no results to the point that both Anthemius and Ricimer bloodied each other with their blades, fists, and kicks though Ricimer managed to headbutt Anthemius with his helmet knocking Anthemius to the ground and with Anthemius down, Ricimer told Anthemius that he will suffer Majorian’s fate of being killed a slow way for refusing to be Ricimer’s puppet but Anthemius angrily answered back reminding Ricimer that he was a loyal soldier of Rome that served Aetius, the best general of their time therefore he had shamed Anthemius and all the work they’ve done for Rome but Ricimer here told Anthemius his true intention of actually destroying the empire from within by joining the army and getting promoted to let anarchy rule so that his people, the barbarian tribes will soon enough take over.

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Western Roman emperor Procopius Anthemius

Anthemius however managed to get up, disarm Ricimer and grab Ricimer’s sword using it to slash Ricimer helmet, and finally pinning Ricimer down to ground and slashing his face thus weakening him, but Ricimer still remained alive. With Ricimer down, Anthemius went to his seat to grab his scepter which he then used to continuously club Ricimer’s face to a pulp but before Ricimer could die from the beating, Anthemius’ son Marican, the twin of Anthemioulus and daughter and Ricimer’s wife Alypia came in convincing their father not kill Ricimer himself but to simply have him executed in an honorable way. Anthemius then gave up beating Ricimer and instead asked Cyriacus who gave him the letter to give Ricimer the killing blow. Cyriacus then pulled Ricimer up by his hair, pulled out his sword and decapitated the 54-year-old Ricimer after 3 blows. Now history is totally altered now that it was Ricimer beheaded at St. Peter’s rather than Anthemius and with Ricimer’s head chopped off, Cyriacus went up the Aurelian Walls of Rome and proclaimed to Ricimer’s men that their Magister Militum was dead showing them the severed head. However, the commanders of Ricimer’s army which was his Burgundian nephew Gundobadand the Ostrogoth warrior Odoacer, once a loyal officer of Attila the Hun took this the wrong way and angrily resumed fighting positions again resuming the Siege of Rome. Now in the 5th century, Rome was attacked 3 times first by Alaric and his Visigoths in 410, by Genseric and his Vandals in 455, and now in 472 by Ricimer’s men in a small civil war but this battle though was much smaller in real history but in this case, with Ricimer dead, his soldiers lost their mind and, in a frenzy, began attacking without thinking.

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Ricimer’s barbarian Foederati soldiers

Gundobad and Odoacer knew they could not besiege the walls themselves so Gundobad resorted to asking for Burgundian reinforcements from Gaul from his father Gondioc who ruled as its king. Cyriacus returned to Anthemius inside Rome telling him that Ricimer’s men lost control and began attacking again with full force and Anthemius was shocked especially since he did not have enough men, therefore he ordered that the civilians of Rome pick up whatever weapons they can and defend the city. Anthemius too sent a letter to the last remaining Western Roman general in Gaul, the Frankish-Roman Bilimer as well as the King of Soissons Syagrius and his own army to assist them. At the same time, he also thought of asking reinforcements again from the east; now even if the 472 Siege of Rome continued, at least the 52-year-old Anthemius now at least lived.

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Aurelian Walls, Rome
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Old St. Peter’s Basilica, Anthemius’ hiding place, 472

          

Back in Constantinople, following Olybrius’ departure for Italy, unrest broke out when supporters of Aspar rebelled avenging his death as it also did in real history. Aspar though despite being an Arian and of barbarian origin had happened to be popular among some especially those who served under him and one of them was an old commander who now went rogue named Count Ostrys who gathered a mob and stormed the Imperial Palace in which Leo was inside but Zeno and the Excubitors defeated the angry mob then dispersed them sending them away to Thrace. Count Ostrys then fled to the base of the now rogue Ostrogoth Foederati leader Theodoric Strabo who had lost one eye in battle before, somewhere in Thrace and together they joined forces against Leo to avenge Aspar unaware that there was this kind of war being fought in Italy. Theodoric Strabo meanwhile wanted to avenge Aspar since they were relatives as it turned out Theodoric Strabo’s sister was Aspar’s first wife and with Aspar dead, Strabo believed he could succeed him as Magister Militum so with Count Ostrys and their forces consisting of Ostrogoths and the same mob, they marched to Constantinople.

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Ostrogoth warrior of Theodoric Strabo

However, before they could reach the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople, they were met by the city’s armies including the Isaurian Excubitors led by the generals Zeno and Basiliscus who however did not trust each other much as the arrogant Basiliscus did not want to take orders from the Isaurian Zeno while Zeno felt that Basiliscus would just screw up again like he did at Cape Bon in 468 making them both as hot-headed military men come into brawls with each other in front of their troops. This event of Zeno and Basiliscus teaming up against Theodoric Strabo which was in 472 was actually real and this was something that actually happened but never saw happening considering that in 475 with Zeno now becoming emperor, Basiliscus revolted against him and took the throne. Though Zeno and Basiliscus distrusted each other, they still managed to end up working together when the Ostrogoth mercenaries and mob attacked them and they succeeded in defeating the army of Theodoric Strabo killing Ostrys too, although history does not mention whatever happened to Ostrys afterwards. As Strabo’s forces were defeated, Strabo agreed to surrender only if he was to receive Aspar’s properties, that his Goths were to be formally allowed to settle in Thrace, and if he were to be promoted to the Aspar’s position of Magister Militum so Zeno and Basiliscus went back to Constantinople to ask Leo for his approval of Strabo’s demands but Leo tired of having to deal with barbarians refused all of them except for making Strabo Magister Militum as long as he swore an oath of loyalty. Strabo then was unhappy that Leo refused his demands making him start a pillaging spree across Thrace making Leo put Basiliscus in charge of putting Strabo under control while Zeno was to be sent over to Italy as again Leo consulted Daniel the Stylite who could sense Anthemius was in danger therefore he needed help. In addition, Leo also had word sent to his other ally, the Magister Militum of Illyria Julius Nepos, the late Marcellinus’ nephew who was at this point residing in the old palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305) in Dalmatia. Zeno meanwhile set sail on again another almost 1-month journey by sea from Constantinople to Ostia this time with a larger army while Nepos was also headed that way except due to Dalmatia being closer to Rome, he would arrive quicker and here would be an entirely fictional story of Zeno coming to the west.

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Diocletian’s Palace in Dalmatia, base of governor Julius Nepos

           

The siege of Rome meanwhile was on-and-off for the next months though the people constantly defended it day and night but the attackers were soon enough getting tired and at the same time running out of spears and arrows. The Burgundian Gundobad seeing the reinforcements from his father not yet arriving thought of giving up the fight but his co-commander Odoacer answered back saying that they as Germanic barbarians should never give up which is a sign of weakness.

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Odoacer, Ostrogoth Foederati warrior

Now just as the attackers were about to give up, the Burgundian reinforcements sent by their king Gondioc finally made it outside Rome right in time to reinforce the attackers and now Anthemius inside was ever more terrified but the next day, the reinforcement Roman army from Gaul actually did arrive led by Bilimer except that they only numbered up to 800 men so Anthemius seeing it was still unsure if it was enough although his remaining children Marcian and Alypia told him that there was still hope. Zeno meanwhile was sailing with an army of 2,000 men from the east in what was left of Leo’s fleet which had survived the disastrous Battle of Cape Bon against the Vandals in 468 and luckily the winds were on their side, thus they were able to arrive in Italy in only 3 weeks now in July of 472, in which in real history was when the siege ended with Anthemius killed. Outside Rome on the other hand, the reinforcement army led by Bilimer proved to be no match to the Burgundians and in the fighting Odoacer on his horse charged directly at Bilimer killing him by knocking him off his horse and just like in real history, Bilimer did die in this battle. With Bilimer dead, Odoacer proclaimed that he was to take over Ricimer’s position as Magister Militum but Gundobad being furious fought back by punching Odoacer’s face as Gundobad claimed that he should be Ricimer’s successor as they were related with Gundobad being the son of Ricimer’s sister with Gondioc.

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Gundobad, Burgundian Foederati warrior and nephew of Ricimer

Odoacer meanwhile was in this story’s case an Ostrogoth warrior- though his ethnicity remains debated- that served under Attila Hun fighting the Romans, Burgundians, Franks, and Visigoths at the Battle of Chalons back in 451 but with Attila dying in 453, Odoacer had no more master serve making him a rogue but luckily in 470 while Anthemius was the western emperor, he met Ricimer becoming a commander of the western empire’s Foederati forces. Before both Odoacer and Gundobad began fighting each other in duel, they heard the horns of what was the legions led by Zeno coming from Ostia as well as the legions of Julius Nepos joining forces with Zeno heading their way. Odoacer then ordered their remaining men including the Burgundians to lift their siege of Rome and attack the legions of Zeno and Nepos that were headed towards them with their dragon banners waving in the air. Standing at the walls of Rome, Anthemius was relieved that Leo did indeed send some reinforcement making him decide to head out to battle himself with Cyriacus while the Eastern Roman Cataphract cavalry charged right into the Burgundian army. Soon enough, Zeno and Nepos’ infantry Comitatenses soldiers with their shields clashed directly on the Burgundian infantry and with their more superior spears they were able to crush the Burgundians routing a large number of them but it was not over yet as the large sized Odoacer headed towards Zeno who although was a big man was not as big as Odoacer who was around 6ft and 5 inches while Nepos headed towards Gundobad.

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Late Roman Comitatus (plural: Comitatenses) soldier in full armor

Odoacer with his large 2-handed sword and Zeno with a one-handed longsword or Spatha duelled each other in which Odoacer seemed to be having the upper hand while Zeno began fighting in fear but as Odoacer struck his sword towards Zeno, Zeno dodged the attack and stabbed Odoacer from behind making Odoacer fall to the ground. Odoacer was furious at is defeat saying out loud that he was destined to take over the western empire and attack the east but Zeno not wanting to hear anything anymore after being so tired from battle slashed Odoacer so hard that Odoacer was almost cut in half as Zeno’s sword cut Odoacer from his shoulder down to his hip, ironically the same way Odoacer was actually killed in 493 by the Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Great, who will be mentioned later. Nepos meanwhile struggled in his duel against Gundobad although luckily a spear thrown by one of Zeno’s cavalrymen threw Gundobad to the ground but Gundobad still got up and this time pinned Nepos to the ground though Nepos acted quick, grabbed his sword, and stabbed Gundobad in the eye killing him. Anthemius meanwhile joined up with Zeno’s cavalry and continued routing the rest of the Burgundians and Ricimer’s army.

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Late Roman Cataphract cavalry soldier

At the end of this day in July, the battle was over and Anthemius won it thanks to Zeno and Julius Nepos coming in time. The deaths of both Gundobad and Odoacer too would actually be useful in preventing the eventual fall of the west as Gundobad in reality took Ricimer’s place as Magister Militum following Ricimer’s death from natural causes later on in 472 which was the same time Olybrius died as well and just a year later Gundobad would abandon the empire in order to be king of the Burgundians as his father Gondioc died in 473 while Odoacer was the exact same person that abolished the western empire itself by deposing the last emperor in 476. Now with both barbarian warriors dead and Anthemius still alive, the western empire at least would still have a chance of surviving. In this battle, Anthemius proved that he did not only have the dream to restore the western empire but proved that he actually could as he helped win it and in the aftermath of the battle, Anthemius asked both his children to come out while he also congratulated and thanked both Zeno and Nepos for saving him at the last minute when he saw all hope was lost. Both Nepos and Zeno then told Anthemius that are happy to be his ally and as Anthemius’ children came out, Anthemius here at the moment announced to the surviving members of the eastern and western armies that he now does plan to establish a dynasty naming Marcian here his co-emperor and Caesar right at the moment while the Isaurian Cyriacus was named by Anthemius as his new Magister Militum in Italy taking Ricimer’s place.

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Coin of Emperor Anthemius

To further seal his alliance with Illyria’s Magister Militum Julius Nepos, Anthemius had Alypia marry Nepos although unlike Ricimer who Alypia detested for being a barbarian, she was better off with Julius Nepos despite him still being a lot older than her as he was 42 here and she was 19 but at least he was not a barbarian and would prove to be more respectful towards her, though in real history Nepos was instead here married to a niece of Leo I’s wife Verina. Zeno then returned to Constantinople following their victory while Nepos with Alypia returned to Diocletian’s Palace in Dalmatia while Anthemius returned back to the west’s capital Ravenna where his wife Marcia was all this time and with the conflict all over, even better news arrived when got back which was that the king of the independent Soissons Syagrius who did not make it to help Anthemius in battle due to having his own problems with the Visigoths renounced his rebellion and surrendered his kingdom back to the western empire despite it being cut off by land from Italy by the Visigoth and Burgundian Kingdoms of Gaul though Syagrius thought of surrendering to the empire as a way for him and Anthemius to help each other fight off the Burgundians and Visigoths since here Syagrius came to realize that Anthemius was indeed a capable ruler. In the east however, it was Zeno that now fully took Aspar’s place as Leo’s new Magister Militum and in 473, Theodoric Strabo after being defeated by Basiliscus finally surrendered to Leo I after running out of supplies when pillaging Thrace although only on the condition that Strabo was made Magister Militum of Thrace in which he was while Leo still had the headache of paying him an annual tribute of 2000 pounds of gold. Anthemius and Leo though would continue working together despite being apart from each other to continue fixing all the damage done in the past years as even though Anthemius was saved from being killed, the enemies such as the Visigoths, Burgundians, Suebi, Vandals, and now the Ostrogoths were still at large but the most important lesson both Eastern and Western Romans learned here- just as it was in the previous story set in the 4th century- was to cooperate with each other as they were still the same empire despite having different emperors.    

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Western Roman reinforcement Comitatenses legion of Bilimer
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Late Roman Comitatenses soldiers with their dragon banner

The Roman World, Post 472 and a Possible World War? (Conclusion)         

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In the case of real history, the capture and execution of Anthemius in 472 in many ways sped up the fall of the Western Empire 4 years later as its new emperor Olybrius was again a powerless puppet while also later on in 472, Ricimer died of natural causes and was succeeded in his position by his nephew Gundobad although Olybrius also died before 472 ended as well, again leaving no emperor in the west for the next few months until Gundobad elevated one of the Palatini Guard commanders in Ravenna named Glycerius as the new western emperor. Gundobad meanwhile had to leave Ravenna as also in 473, his father the Burgundian king Gondioc died making him have to return to the Burgundian Kingdom in Gaul and rule as its king leaving Glycerius alone.

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Glycerius, Western Roman emperor (r. 473-474)

With Anthemius dead however, the eastern emperor Leo I had another candidate for the western throne which was the same Julius Nepos in this story, the nephew of the late Magister Militum Marcellinus and a relative of Leo’s wife Verina as well and Leo did have some hopes again that Nepos would rule long and well in which Anthemius failed to do before him. Nepos arrived in Italy in 474 with his army from Illyria and Glycerius who was now powerless at this point surrendered to Nepos without a fight thus Glycerius was exiled to Nepos’ own base becoming the Bishop of Salona based in Diocletian’s old palace. Nepos’ reign though was somewhat successful in almost retaking Southern Gaul from the Visigoths but out of the blue in 475, his own Magister Militum Orestes, who had served Attila the Hun as his secretary before rebelled against and drove Nepos away from Ravenna sending him back across the Adriatic Sea to Dalmatia joining Glycerius.

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Julius Nepos, Western Roman emperor (r. 474-475)

Orestes though did not proclaim himself emperor, instead he named his 15-year-old son Romulus Augustus as his own puppet emperor which was more like Orestes’ way of exposing the humiliating state of the Western Roman Empire that anyone, including a young boy without much knowledge can become an emperor. Odoacer who previously served the deceased Ricimer though was still around and still a commander of the barbarian Foederati troops in Italy and with Orestes basically running the empire for his son, Odoacer demanded that Orestes give him a third of Italy but Orestes refused thus Odoacer rebelled. In August of 476, Orestes fled from Odoacer hiding himself in the city of Pavia though Odoacer’s men tracked him there forcing Orestes to flee again wherein he was captured and executed in Piacenza. The victorious Odoacer then marched into Ravenna on September 4, 476 and after a minor battle, he took over the city and peacefully deposed the 16-year-old Romulus Augustus rather than executing him as Romulus being a powerless puppet had no need to be executed.

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Odoacer dethrones Romulus Augustus, 476

Romulus instead was sent to live out the rest of his life in Southern Italy while Odoacer decided to abolish the western empire by no longer proclaiming himself emperor as he certainly could not due to his barbarian origin, so instead he proclaimed himself “King of Italy” refusing to take Romulus’ crown and imperial insignia which he instead sent to Constantinople in which at this point, the eastern emperor was already Zeno who succeeded Leo I. Zeno thus became the first emperor to rule the Roman empire alone with no more western co-emperor as he accepted the western emperor’s imperial insignia and acknowledged Odoacer only as King of Italy and nothing else, though both Zeno and Odoacer would remain in good terms. As emperor though, Zeno turned out to be very much unpopular not only because of his Isaurian ethnicity which made the more civilized Greek people of Constantinople see him as an outsider and barbarian but also because he allowed the west to fall but true enough, there was no need for the west to have an emperor anymore as over the years, their empire broke apart anyway. By the time Odoacer abolished the western empire in 476, the main empire itself basically just consisted of Italy and parts of today’s Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia although parts of Illyria still remained under Roman rule under Julius Nepos who still had a claim to the western throne and Northern Gaul still being the Kingdom of Soissons was still a Roman state though under Syagrius who was an independent ruler. In 480 however, Julius Nepos was assassinated and his death prompted Odoacer to annex all of Nepos’ territory in Illyria to his kingdom which he did though in Gaul, the Kingdom of Soissons lasted only until 486 when the Franks rose up under their king Clovis I wherein he defeated Syagrius in battle here and the defeated Syagrius surrended his entire kingdom to the Franks. As for Odoacer, he continued ruling his own Kingdom of Italy plus parts of Illyria until the Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Great persuaded by Zeno who was constantly troubled by invaded Italy in 488, though Odoacer proposed an alliance with Theodoric to rule Italy together but in 493, Theodoric had enough and murdered Odoacer himself, thus taking over Italy establishing his own Ostrogothic Kingdom.

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Theodoric the Great, King of the Ostrogoths kills Odoacer, 493

Now this is the real story of the fall of the Western Roman Empire which is rather a very humiliating end as it just ended in such an anti-climactic way wherein its last emperor simply surrendered to the warlord Odoacer who simply decided to abolish the empire as compared to the highly climactic and dramatic end of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire in 1453 wherein it fell with one big battle as the armies of the Ottomans besieged Constantinople wherein the Byzantine emperor Constantine XI dramatically died in battle. However, even if the Western Roman Empire fell, the Roman senate still remained in Ravenna under Odoacer and Theodoric the Great after him and though many may think that Roman civilization ended in 476, it did not as the eastern empire still stood strong even though political instability was so frequent in the reign of Zeno but at least by the time Zeno died in 491, the eastern empire finally not only stabilized but became more powerful than ever.          

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The Western Roman Empire (light blue) and its territories including independent Illyria and Soissons before September 4, 476
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The world after 476, Odoacer’s new kingdom in Italy (brown)
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Romulus Augustus, the last Western Roman emperor (r. 475-476)
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End of the Western Roman Empire, Romulus Augustus surrenders to Odoacer in Ravenna, 476
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Zeno in Constantinople receives the crown of the last western emperor Romulus Augustus, 476

Now if this story wherein Procopius Anthemius survived 472 with Ricimer and his allies Gundobad and Odoacer dead was the reality, then pretty much things would have been different in many ways for the Western Roman Empire at least though nothing spectacular too would happen at the same time. If Anthemius had lived beyond his actual death on July 11, 472, then he would have surely established his own dynasty first by naming his eldest surviving son Marcian his co-emperor and with a dynasty in place, there would surely be some stability for the already ruined west. After recovering from the battle of Rome in 472, Anthemius would settle down in Ravenna and begin planning his new campaigns to restore the empire picking up where Majorian left off at his death in 461 and in the meantime, Anthemius would train his son Marcian into becoming a capable emperor. With Ricimer still alive, there would have been no chance for Anthemius to make any of his sons emperors as Ricimer would only choose one candidate of his own that could be easily manipulated but with Ricimer dead, Anthemius was now free to act on his own as emperor but in this story’s case his major challenge was his son Marcian who he saw as not very responsible to be running the empire compared to his late son Anthemiolus who was previously killed in battle in 471 but here since all Anthemius had was Marcian, he had to take it to himself to train the rather irresponsible and pleasure loving Marcian into a strong ruler like him; although in this story like in real history too, Anthemius had two younger sons Flavius and Romulus but both were still way too young. With Anthemius still alive, the same unstable events in the next 4 years with Olybrius, Glycerius, Nepos, and finally Romulus Augustus becoming emperor one after other would surely not happen and with Odoacer dead as well, there would be no one to later cause trouble and topple over the western empire especially since no child ruler will be sitting on the throne in Ravenna. In this case, Anthemius’ successor Olybrius would already be dead and so would be Ricimer’s successor as the puppet master which was his nephew Gundobad and without Gundobad around in the empire, the Palatini commander Glycerius would have no chance at all in becoming emperor as Anthemius was still alive, therefore there would be no one to elevate him, instead Glycerius would remain as just a palace guard commander in Ravenna. Julius Nepos who in real history was named by Leo I as the new western emperor as a replacement for the deceased Anthemius making Nepos the last one to be recognized by the east, but in this case with Anthemius still alive, Nepos would remain in Illyria remaining a strong ally to both Anthemius and Leo I continuing where his uncle Marcellinus left off. Now without Nepos becoming emperor, what would be very much different is that Orestes his Magister Militum would in no way try to usurp power as he would not even be in the position of Magister Militum as Nepos not being made emperor still stayed as Magister Militum, therefore Orestes would still remain an officer of Nepos while Orestes’ son Romulus would in this case be totally insignificant.

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Orestes, Magister Militum and father of Romulus Augustus

In this story’s case however, I would come up with the possibility that Orestes by around 475 like in real history would now rebel against Nepos wanting to take over as Illyria’s Magister Militum but Nepos would soon enough find out about this and after finding out the whole truth that Orestes once served their ultimate enemy Attila the Hun before together with Odoacer- who would be in this case be damned in memory as an enemy of Rome- he would have Orestes executed and his son Romulus sent into exile in Southern Italy as what really happened after 476. As for Anthemius, his mission of restoring the empire would still be far from over as the Visigoths in Gaul still led by their troublesome king Euric were still at large and in this case, they would ally themselves with the Burgundians. For the Burgundian king Gondioc, the same would happen here in this story as it did in real history wherein he died in 473 but in reality with his death, his son Gundobad resigned as the western empire’s Magister Militum returning to Gaul to rule the Burgundians, though with Gundobad dead nothing would change much for the Burgundians as in reality not only Gundobad succeeded his father but his 3 other brothers Chilperic II, Godomar, and Godegisel and the only difference would be that the Burgundians would just have 3 different rulers instead of 4.

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Kingdom of the Burgundians seal

The death of Ricimer meanwhile would not contribute much except that Anthemius would be free from being under an ambitious puppet master who constantly gave him headachaes but this also meant that the west just like east after Aspar’s death in 471 was finally free from the reality that their emperor and empire was under the control of a barbarian warlord, but it was really killing off Odoacer in 472 that was the main factor of saving the west from falling 4 years earlier as Odoacer was the one that put an end to the western empire himself. In the following year (473), Anthemius with his new Magister Militum Cyriacus and now joining forces with Syagrius in Northern Gaul who surrendered back to the western empire would launch their ultimate campaign against the allied Visigoths and Burgundians with Anthemius having a more personal motivation for this campaigns which was to avenge the death of his son Anthemiolus 2 years earlier although the forces of the western empire would end up again having an inconclusive war against the Burgundians and Visigoths of Euric but soon enough the Western Romans would have the upper hand.

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Barbarian Kingdoms after 476

In the east meanwhile, the same events in real history would happen except that since Anthemius who was Leo’s ally was still power, Leo would here have no reason to appoint Anthemius as western emperor as what really happened but what would be the same is that in early 474, Leo I would meet his end and, in this story, like in reality, he would also die from fatal dysentery but at least he already named Zeno his successor. Leo I too after his death became venerated as an Orthodox saint, and the same will be said in this story. In real history however, Leo I named his grandson Leo II, the son of Zeno and Leo I’s daughter Ariadne as his heir but in this case it would be Zeno since Leo II was only 7 at this time, therefore it was totally unnecessary for him to be the Augustus of the east as he had literally no experience although in real history, Leo II immediately after becoming emperor already had his father Zeno become his co-emperor and it was Zeno that basically ruled for him as young Leo II could not even sign documents himself.

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Byzantine emperor Leo II (r. 474), son of Zeno and Ariadne

In this case however, Zeno instead would be the senior emperor himself but to secure his son’s legitimacy, Leo II would this time be made his father’s co-emperor and only Caesar, not Augustus and in Zeno’s coronation in early 474, Anthemius himself would travel from Ravenna back to Constantinople and attend it congratulating Zeno while Nepos will do the same as well coming over to Constantinople from his base in Dalmatia (Croatia). Again, another what if in history is if Leo II actually lived longer enough to rule as emperor himself as in reality Leo II did not last long dying 9 months after he became emperor in November of 474 due to an outbreak of some kind of epidemic in Constantinople and considering that the child mortality rate was very high back then even for imperial children, it was sure the 7-year-old Leo II would die but here in this story, the moment this plague broke out in Constantinople, Leo II’s parents would get him away from Constantinople to the Asian side as they could not afford to lose him as he is the one to continue Leo I’s bloodline being directly related. Now Zeno as the ruling emperor would do the same as he did in real history at the very start of his reign which was that he successfully concluded peace through envoys with the Vandal king Genseric who was in fact still alive but being in his 80s already here by late 474, Genseric did not have much energy anymore to plan new raids into Roman territory, instead he agreed to Zeno’s terms and would never pose a threat to at least the Eastern Roman Empire again though not to the west since in this story’s case, Olybrius’ murder made Genseric more furious with the western empire and Anthemius for killing Genseric’s intended puppet but again due to his age, Genseric would not have the energy to plan another massive campaign. As for Zeno, he like in real history would still be unpopular among the majority of Constantinople’s snobbish population due to him being an Isaurian and the people looking down on them still seeing them as the primitive thugs from the mountains of Asia Minor. With Zeno’s unpopularity, like in real history, in this story’s case he would also be overthrown in early 475 by no other than Basiliscus- who really hated Zeno ever since- coming out of the blue bribing the people to turn against Zeno and make him emperor, although Basiliscus’ revolt was more due to Zeno’s mother-in-law and Leo I’s wife Verina who since the start already hated him basically because she saw him as an outsider.

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Emperor Basiliscus of Byzantium (left, r. 475-476)

However, with Leo II still alive in this story, his uncle Basiliscus will still choose to spare him and keep him as co-emperor as Leo II was directly related to Leo I but Zeno would still be driven out of Constantinople with his Isaurian warriors and his wife Ariadne as well leaving their son behind as they flee to Isauria. The same events too would happen in this story that took place in Basiliscus’ short reign (475-476) which included another great fire in Constantinople and a massacre of the remaining Isaurians in the capital orchestrated by Basiliscus, however Basiliscus here just like in real history would turn out to be even more unpopular than Zeno as not only did he commit such a vile act in the massacre, but he was also a Monophysite and when Basiliscus sent the general Illus like in reality as well who was actually an Isaurian over to Asia Minor to hunt down Zeno, Illus being an Isaurian and also a friend of Zeno would do the same in real history defecting Zeno and together marching into Constantinople to dethrone Basiliscus. In this story’s case, Basiliscus when defeated would do the same as in real history by hiding once again in the Hagia Sophia but would eventually be found by Zeno though in real history, Zeno at least spared Basiliscus but banished him to Cappadocia with his wife and son where died the following year of starvation being locked up in a cistern.

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Emperor Zeno of Byzantium (r. 474-475/ 476-491)

In real history however, the moment Zeno returned to Constantinople to take back the throne was the same time he received envoys from Odoacer declaring that the western empire had already fallen but in this case with the west still around and Anthemius still as emperor, Zeno will choose to spare Basilscus as Zeno would need him again one day to assist Anthemius whenever he would be in danger. Basiliscus meanwhile would come to regret unnecessarily revolting against Zeno though both would still distrust each other to some extent but at least they soon start getting along more. Though Basiliscus had revolted, here he would tell Zeno to pardon him saying that his revolt was not so much his doing but Verina’s and Zeno now knowing his mother-in-law meant trouble, Zeno would banish her but his wife Ariadne would object as that was her mother but would eventually agree for Zeno to do it for the good of the empire. Now Zeno would still remain unpopular back in power as first, he was an Isaurian, second as emperor he was more of a thug than a gentleman compared to Leo I’s predecessors the Theodosian emperors Theodosius II and Marcian, and third was because Zeno sympathized with the Monophysite heretics of the east despite being Orthodox but this still made Constantinople’s mostly Orthodox people see him as enemy, but in this case due to the west not falling in 476, Zeno would not be as unpopular to the point that literally everyone sought to overthrow him as it was in real history as the fact that the west fell during his reign made him ever more unpopular causing political instability to reign that every week there was a riot in Constantinople. Zeno too would seek the advice of Daniel the Stylite who was actually alive after 476 and with Daniel’s guidance, Zeno would also possibly change his ways becoming more reasonable and not always wanting to pick a fight with everyone like he always did. In addition, with Anthemius’ son Marcian already in the west and named his father’s successor, he would not rebel against Zeno in 479 as he did in reality as Marcian being related to 2 emperors, Anthemius in the west and his maternal grandfather Marcian in the east, he felt that he had every reason to take the eastern throne but at the end his rebellion failed which forced Marcian to become a monk but here he would instead remain in the west as his father’s co-emperor. Not to mention in 479, a massive earthquake hit Constantinople causing heavy damage and, in this story, this would still happen as it was a natural event and although this did not do any harm to Zeno’s reputation, it was just one of the disasters that kept on multiplying during his reign. However, the important part here is that 476 had already passed and for the west it was just another normal year except for the conflict with the Visigoths in Gaul still continuing without much conclusion and what was Syagrius’ Kingdom of Soissons in Northern Gaul still disconnected from the main empire, except now back under the control of the western emperor who now was in no way a puppet.

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Eastern Roman (Byzantine Empire) under Zeno, 476
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Map of the Vandal Kingdom of North Africa

Watch this to learn more about Emperor Basiliscus (from Thersites the Historian).

Watch this to learn more about Emperor Zeno (from Thersites the Historian).

Without the event of the west falling in 476 with Odoacer already dead since 472, the Western Roman Empire though being spared was still highly at risk as in this story’s case by 476, the Visigoths of Gaul had already moved south and taken over all of Roman Hispania since 472 while only the northwest corner of Hispania (today’s region of Galicia in Spain) was under the Kingdom of the Suebi ever since the early 5th century. Central Gaul meanwhile remained under the Burgundians and to the north of them was the smaller Alemanni Kingdom, and north of it was the now growing Frankish Kingdom (in today’s Belgium). Over in Illyria, Julius Nepos would still be in charge as its Magister Militum serving the western emperor Anthemius, now his father-in-law but the major problem for Nepos was his neighbor to the northeast, the new Ostrogoth Kingdom of Theodoric the Amal, better known as “the Great” who just became its king in 475, although at this point in 476 Theodoric would not yet pose a problem. The Vandal Kingdom that now took over almost the entire Northwest Africa based in Carthage- except for smaller territories in the dessert ruled independently by the native Moors ever since the area slipped out of Roman control in the 430s- would continue to live on though in 477 like in real history, the 87-year-old king Genseric after such a long and eventful life would finally die. Genseric meanwhile had seen all these crucial events take place throughout his entire lifetime being alive ever since the reign of Theodosius I (379-395) if you would believe it!

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Vandal Kingdom of North Africa seal

Genseric had been alive ever since his people crossed the Rhine into the Western Roman Empire in 406, he’d seen his people cross over from Gaul to Hispania and into North Africa, it was under him that his people took over Carthage and suddenly became a naval power, it was under him that his people attacked Rome in 475, and it was under him that they once again obliterated the Romans in battle in 468 and in the case of real history, Genseric even lived long enough to see the western empire over. The Vandals then had made themselves the story of 5th century going from a small woodland tribal state in Germany to becoming the feared naval power of the Mediterranean, all under the rule of their king Genseric. With Genseric dead, his son Huneric married to the former western emperor Valentinian III’s daughter Eudocia would now become the new Vandal king in 477 and would begin his reign continuing his father’s expansionist policies and shortly after becoming king, he would declare war on Anthemius’ western empire as well as the east, thus breaking his father’s peace agreement with Zeno. Now the eastern and western empires again learned the ultimate lesson which was to cooperate together and when the renewed war between the two empires and the Vandals would begin, which in this story’s case would be 479, both Zeno and Anthemius would imitate Leo I back in 468 by reconstructing the fleet they lost and this time even larger as both Zeno and Anthemius each construct 1,000 ships and together would launch an invasion on Vandal Carthage in 480 with 2,000 ships carrying a total of 200,000 men and in command of the western forces would be the Magister Militum Cyriacus and of the east would again be Basiliscus who now in this case made peace with Zeno agreeing to serve him for the good of the empire and this time, Basiliscus would not repeat the same mistake of agreeing to a fake truce with the Vandals, instead this time both fleets will battle their way till they reach Carthage by sea, although what would follow would be a prolonged naval siege of Carthage and here in 480 the great war would begin as the Vandal king Huneric would start looking for allies.

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Huneric, King of the Vandals (r. 477-484)

The Visigoths and Burgundians of Gaul still posing a threat to the western empire would again join forces not only with each other but with the Vandals finding a common cause in destroying Roman rule and establishing a “Barbarian Alliance” to rule Europe. In 481, the same event in real history would happen wherein the eastern emperor Zeno asked for assistance from the Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Amal to help him defeat the same troublesome mercenary in Thrace Theodoric Strabo and the same events in real history would happen wherein Theodoric the Amal would fail to help Zeno and Theodoric Strabo would instead march to Constantinople but would die falling off his horse into a spear while his men would join forces with Theodoric the Amal, although a new enemy being the Nomadic Bulgar people would appear in Europe for the first time migrating from the steppes of Central Asia and before fighting against Theodoric Strabo, Zeno would ally with them but with their common enemy dead, the Bulgars will instead turn on Zeno and join forces too with Theodoric the Amal.

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Bulgar hordes

Now that the Ostrogoth Theodoric the Amal had joined forces with the Bulgars and Strabo’s men, he would also get word from the Visigoths, Burgundians, and Vandals asking to join him to form the barbarian alliance and from 481 onwards, Theodoric the Amal would form this “Barbarian Alliance” himself with him as its leader, thus the conflict had now escalated into what would be a “world war” almost 1,500 years before the actual First World War broke out in 1914, although if I would explain in detail how this war would be fought, this article would go on forever so its best I just summarize how I see this great war play out. This would be somewhat a world war because the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Burgundians, Alemanni, and the peasant insurgents of Gaul and Hispania known as the Bagaudae would join forces against the combined forces of the Eastern and Western Roman Empires in which in 482, the Frankish Kingdom of Northern Gaul under their new king Clovis I would take sides with them and later on, the new Germanic tribe that settled north of Italy known as the Rugii would take sides with the Romans too as Foederati allies.

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Bagaudae insurgents of Gaul and Hispania

I would say that this great’s wars course would go first by the eastern and western forces both finally storming into Carthage in 482 finally retaking it forcing the Vandal king Huneric and his Vandals to flee deeper into North Africa and later back into Hispania. Anthemius meanwhile will focus on fighting the Visigoths in Gaul attacking from the east coming from Italy, while Syagrius while still in Soissons cut off from the main empire would attack from the north. In Illyria, Julius Nepos would have to focus now fighting the forces of his neighbor, the Ostrogoth Kingdom of Theodoric the Amal who will also be Zeno’s problem due to their proximity. Anthemius and Syagrius meanwhile would be in trouble battling the Visigoth forces of Euric as they joined forces with the large force of the Burgundians under their king Chilperic II and Godegisel as their other brother Godomar like in real history too died in around 476 as well as the Suebi of Hispania and the Bagaudae rebels of the hinterlands. Since the combined forces of the Visigoths and their allies were too large, both Anthemius and Syagrius here in 482 would ask for assistance from the Franks and though the Franks were Germanic barbarians too, they happened to be the most Romanized out of them while their king Clovis I was leaning towards converting to Orthodox-Catholic Christianity unlike all other barbarian kings who converted to Arian Christianity.

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Clovis I, King of the Franks (r. 481-511)

Gaul and Hispania would soon enough turn into a major warzone between 482 and 486 when the tide of war would change thanks to the Franks who would storm deep into Gaul although for the Visigoths, their kingdom was still at large extending all the way down to Southern Hispania though their King Euric like in real history would also die in 484 from natural causes and would be succeeded also by his son Alaric II. The war here would still continue when Alaric II would submit to Theodoric the Amal as his vassal thus making the Visigoths and Ostrogoths one kingdom and to counter the now growing power of Clovis I’s Franks, they would ask the Saxon pirates of the North Sea to join forces with them to attack the Romans and Franks in Gaul by sea although the Saxons would still be no match for the combined forces of the Romans and Franks. At the same time, the Huns would resume and continue posing as a threat for both the Eastern Romans at the Danube border and for the Sassanid Persian Empire attacking their northeast borders as in 484, their shah Peroz was killed in battle against the Hephthalites or “White Huns” and his successor Balash would have to continue fighting them and it would turn out that the eastern emperor Zeno who was his neighbor was also facing the enemy so both would join forces against the Huns and would easily drive them away by 485 but since Theodoric the Amal would continue posing a problem to Zeno in the Balkans, Zeno would even have some Sassanid forces cross over to Europe and help him against the Ostrogoths.

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Sassanid Empire flag

The Romans and Sassanids on the other hand had been enemies for the longest time but when finally joining forces in this fictitious war, both Romans and Sassanid Persians would find common ground especially since they were both highly civilized powers at a war against barbarians and although both Romans and Sassanids were so different culturally especially in religion with the Romans here being Christians and the Sassanids being Zoroastrian, they would soon enough realize the barbarians or the less civilized people was their common enemy. The final phase of the war would take place in 487 and here, the Franks already took over all of Gaul, destroying the Burgundian and Alemanni Kingdoms, and pushing the Visigoths all the way down to Hispania long before Clovis did it in real history as in reality it was only in 507 when Clovis conquered all of Gaul from the Visigoths. The Visigoths here still a vassal of the Ostrogoths would still be under Alaric II but in this part of the war in Hispania they would fight together with the Suebi and the exiled Vandals against the Romans and Franks and by 488, the Romans and Franks would come out victorious but still suffering many losses.

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Seal of the Visigoth Kingdom of Gaul and Hispania

It would then be in 489 when this world war would come to an end and here the Visigoths and their allies would be completely defeated in Hispania while in Illyria, Nepos with the forces of Zeno as well as the generals Illus and the now very old Basiliscus and their Sassanid and Rugii allies would fight the last battle, this time against the Ostrogoths of Theodoric the Amal. Since the Eastern Roman forces and their allies were more in number, they would end up victorious against Theodoric and the now defeated Theodoric would be brought over to Constantinople to be executed. With the great war now over, the defeated barbarian alliance would have to sign a humiliating peace treaty with both Zeno and Anthemius and with this treaty, all of Northern Gaul would fall under the rule of Clovis I’s Frankish kingdom who would now be a permanent ally to the Western Romans while the entire Hispania would completely return to the rule of the Western Roman Empire and so would North Africa while the Visigoths, Burgundians, Alemanni, Suebi, and Vandals following this treaty would all be banished back to Germania while the Bagaudae would end up becoming subjects to the Franks.

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Theodoric the Amal “the Great”, King of the Ostrogoths (r. 475-526)

In the east meanwhile, the Huns would no longer pose a problem and so would the Ostrogoths and with Theodoric the Amal executed, his kingdom in Pannonia would be taken back for the eastern empire while the Sassanids now being a permanent ally to the Eastern Romans would return to their empire and no longer pose a problem anymore. Theodoric’s execution would then change a lot for history, as in reality it was Theodoric who established his own Ostrogoth Kingdom in Italy in 493 and made it a dominant power. Anthemius on the other hand would finally die here in 489 at age 69 and would now be immediately succeeded by his son Marcian and in the east, Zeno like in real history would also die in 491 at age 66 and by the time of his death, despite facing so much devastation from the war that just happened would at least see some political stability in his empire due to rivals uniting to fight a common enemy. Zeno here would die no longer hated as he was during his reign for being an Isaurian as his victory in the war made the people now see him as a hero that saved them from ultimate destruction. Now since Leo II would be alive in this story’s case, he would succeed his father Zeno at age 24 and as Augustus, Leo II would prove to be somewhat a smart ruler despite his young age as living through the war helped shape him to be a stronger person but would still retain having a thuggish way of ruling inherited from his father Zeno and grandfather Leo I. With Leo II in this case living long enough to become emperor, there event in which Zeno’s wife Ariadne would marry the finance minister Anastasius Dicorus would not happen as in real history since Zeno died without any children as his only son with Ariadne Leo II died back in 474, Ariadne had to marry someone who would be their new emperor and the people demanded that they have an “Orthodox” and “Roman” emperor unlike Zeno who was not Hellenized nor Romanized being an Isaurian and sympathetic to the Monophysite heretics and true enough, the Eastern Romans in 491 did get an “Orthodox” and “Roman” emperor with Anastasius- who although was also sympathetic to the Monophysites- and unlike Leo I, Basiliscus, and Zeno who displayed violent and thuggish streaks when ruling, Anastasius made a difference being once again another cultured and reasonable emperor, although Anastasius was still not what the people wanted as he was in fact also sympathetic to the Monophysites, though his reign would be a story for another time.

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Anastasius I Dicorus, Eastern Roman emperor (r. 491-518)

In 491, with Leo II as the eastern emperor and Marcian as the western emperor, the geography of the known world would be that Italy together with Southern Gaul, all of Hispania, and North Africa would again be under the western empire, Northern Gaul under the Franks, Britain still remaining abandoned with the Romans or Franks never bothering to recover it as it had already been ravaged by the Saxons while the eastern empire would not really change its borders except adding Pannonia back after defeating the Ostrogoths while everything else including Egypt and Syria would still be under them. Now, the case of Leo II actually becoming emperor would do a lot of changes, and personally I would think that if Leo II lived long enough to become emperor, then Anastasius I would never come to power, therefore his successors Justin I and Justinian I the Great would never rule as well since it was Justin I, an imperial Excubitor bodyguard commander that was named as Anastasius I’s successor and Justinian as Justin’s nephew as his successor and with Leo II remaining in power, he would soon enough marry and have sons thus continuing the Leonid Dynasty but I would not go that far anymore explaining what more will happen during the fictional reigns of Leo II and Marcian as it would be too long put to put it short, it safe to say that both east and west will never reunite under one emperor as for the longest time, the east and west were already divided with their own emperors as the empire from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Syria had proved to be far too difficult for one emperor to manage especially since there were external enemies everywhere but even though there were two different empires with two different emperors, they would still definitely cooperate with each other as if they ruled one empire.  

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The Alignment of the Fictitious Great War between the Roman Alliance and the Barbarian Alliance with the characters and nations involved
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Eastern Roman legions in the fictitious “Great War”, 481-489
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The west (Italy, North Africa, and Southern Spain) regained by the Romans; Byzantium at its greatest extent in Justinian I’s reign, 555

And now, I’ve reached the very end of the 2nd chapter of my Byzantine history fan fiction series and I have to admit that when writing this, I didn’t know where this story would go as first I thought it would just be a very simple story focusing on the Battle of Rome in 472 wherein history would change if the emperor Anthemius was not executed, but as I was in the process of writing it, more and more ideas kept coming into my head especially since this era of the late 5th century was a very crucial time for Eastern Roman history as this was the time when the barbarian tribes that invaded the Roman Empire began forming into kingdoms that would later become medieval kingdoms such as France and a lot more. This article too was a long one because it was not just the story of one empire but two- western and eastern- and the story of two emperors, Anthemius and Leo I and the story as well of many characters from the Isaurian Zeno to the generals Aspar, Basiliscus, and Ricimer, to the Vandals of North Africa and the Visigoths of Gaul. Overall it was only when I completed it that I realized this story I wrote was again a full scale empire-wide action epic involving a large variety of characters like the previous one, yet I have to say that this one is in fact even more epic than the last one as chapter I only covered the Roman-Gothic War between 376 and 382 and was limited only to characters involved in it while this one had turned out to be one involving the story of 2 empires that were supposed to be one, the story of enemy kings, and not only epic battles but treachery, politics, family drama, and even a bit of the supernatural as with the case of the prophecies of Daniel the Stylite and the legend of Leo I’s discovery of Constantinople’s hidden spring which I only discovered last minute and decided to add it in as well. On the other hand, ever since I have been so fully passionate about Byzantium 2 years ago, the stories of these 5th century emperors like Leo I and Zeno fascinated me a lot but only recently did I discover Anthemius who at first thought was just a useless puppet emperor of the west but true enough he was one of if not the last competent Western Roman emperor who deserves more attention to and just recently I came to think that since Anthemius was still at it to restore the dying western empire but was killed off by Ricimer before he could achieve his dream, but if he weren’t then there would still some possibility that the western empire would still live on and now that wrote this alternate history, I just showed that if Anthemius killed Ricimer instead and continued ruling by establishing his own dynasty, then the western empire would still live on. However, I did not want to end this story with a happy-ever-after ending wherein Anthemius wins and rules at peace, so instead I decided to go with the possible scenario of an ultimate great war between the Eastern and Western Romans and their allies against an entire barbarian alliance if the west survived 476, which would already be like a world war more than a thousand years before both world wars happened, though I mentioned here that at the end the Romans thanks to support from the Franks would win the war and in this alternate reality, Anthemius’ western empire would take back most of Gaul and all of Hispania and North Africa that were previously lost while the east would still remain at the same level of power as it always did since the full division between east and west in 395. The very end of this story however remains unresolved but it is still clear that both eastern and western empires survived having their own emperors with Marcian in the west and Leo II in the east- and again having the young boy Leo II who died as a child survive to becoming the sole ruler is another twist I wanted to add here but still, the question is up to you readers, whether the east and west will remain two different empires for centuries or if the west would be dissolved and fully cede to the east? Now again, we go back to the question of 476 being what everyone calls the fall of the Roman Empire and whether it did or did not happen due to this event in 472 taking place, remember that the Roman Empire did not fall here because the east being the Byzantine Empire definitely survived. However, if the west did not fall in 476 and still lived on to the next century and even if the west was just Italy and Carthage remaining under Roman rule, then the well-known Roman reconquests of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I in the 6th century would not have taken place but this would be a story for another time. Well, I hope this was a very interesting and intriguing fan fiction being the second part and up next in my Byzantine alternate history series, this story will not continue to next once as the next one will be on Justinian I’s reign (527-565) which in this story’s case would’ve not happened especially since the western empire still survived. The next article will explore many possibilities that could have happened in his reign yet never did and the what if there will be if Justinian actually managed to contain the plague, now would he be able to maintain the western parts of the empire he reconquered instead of the empire soon enough losing it after his death? Well, this is all for chapter II of Byzantine Alternate History, this is Powee Celdran, the Byzantine Time Traveller… thank you for your time!

The Ethnic Origins of the Byzantine Emperors

Posted by Powee Celdran

Surprising Facts on the Mixed DNA of all the Byzantine Emperors

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WARNING: THIS IS A VERY LONG ARTICLE 

Welcome back to another Byzantium Blogger article! It’s been a long time since I last wrote about and posted something, and now I’m back with my first article for this year 2020. Now I have finished off 2019 with an article of who I think are the best and worst Byzantine emperors, and now I will begin 2020 with another article on all the Byzantine emperors, but not on their lives, stories, achievements, failures, and personalities but on their ethnic origins that a lot of don’t know of. It is quite interesting to know the Byzantine emperors over 1,100 years from 330-1453 had a lot of mixed DNA especially since throughout Byzantine history, the imperial families had married many times into various royal families across Europe and the Near East making the emperors of the Byzantine Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire) a large mix of races. First of all, the Byzantine Empire itself was the Roman Empire continued in name and in origin but as its capital moved east to Constantinople, many of its people became Greek and spoke Greek and over the years eastern cultures influenced the empire’s culture itself but the ethnicities of not only its emperors but its people were mixed as the empire consisted of Greeks, Illyrians, Thracians, Slavs, Armenians, Isaurians, Bulgars, and more. Now in this article I will categorize it per dynasty of the emperors and discuss what ethnicities the emperors had based on where their parents came from and in some cases, where the emperors who started the dynasty came from. This article will then go through all the emperors of Byzantium from tis founder Constantine I the Great in the 4th century to the last emperor Constantine XI in the 15th century and as the history progresses, you will notice that the emperors of Byzantium’s later years have more mixed blood than those of the ones in the earlier years, this is also because as Byzantium’s history progressed, more kingdoms and empires had formed all over Europe compared to the earlier centuries when Byzantium as the Eastern Roman Empire was the world power. Many Byzantine emperors though were of Greek ethnicity as the Greeks were the majority race of the empire but many were not Greeks too despite being inhabitants of the empire but they found their way to becoming emperors mostly by being in the army, and here you will also come to notice that many of Byzantium’s emperors were military men and from military families too. Here in this article, you will be surprised to find out that some Byzantine emperors came from a mountain tribe race, which were the emperors of Isaurian ethnicity and you will also be surprised to see that one of the emperors came all the way from Spain in the far west, that one was of German descent, that one was of Arab descent, that many were Armenians, that the most influential emperor of Byzantium originated from an Illyrian peasant family, that the emperors of the last dynasty or the Palaiologos Dynasty had a mix of Greek, Hungarian, Armenian, Bulgarian, Italian, and Serbian blood, and the biggest mystery of all that the renowned Macedonian Dynasty of Byzantium may not have existed if not for 2 of its emperors if the rumours were true that its second emperor was the illegitimate son of the last emperor of the previous dynasty. Also, in this article I will give a quick introduction to the places some emperors originated in and its people, particularly the Illyrians, Thracians, Isaurians, Iberians, Ghassanids, Bulgarians, and Serbians; though the introduction to each race will only be mentioned once and another emperor of the same race as the previous will no longer have the ethnic introduction as it had already been mentioned. On the other hand, I have also made articles in the past that relate to this including the one of the genealogy of the Byzantine emperors which will help you understand the lineages and ethnicities of the different emperors as well as the other articles I’ve made too on foreign lands and people in the Byzantine times. Before starting off, this article may be a bit long as it covers all the emperors but not too long and also it will be an easy read as it only covers the ethnic origins and nothing more about their stories except only if their reputation as emperor had to do with their races. Now, let us begin!

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Byzantine Imperial flag and symbols

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Byzantine Emperors variants

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Different looks of the Byzantine rulers

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The Complete Genealogy of Byzantine Emperors

Other Related Byzantine Articles by The Byzantium Blogger:

The Complete Genealogy of the Byzantine Emperors

Greatest and Worst Byzantine Emperors

12 Turning Points in Byzantine History

The Byzantine Emperors and their Personalities Part1

The Byzantine Emperors and their Personalities Part2

The Byzantine Emperors and their Personalities Part3

A Guide to the Byzantine Empire’s Themes

15 Related States Outside Byzantium Part 1 (1-7)

15 Related States Outside Byzantium Part2 (8-15)

Foreign Lands and People According to the Byzantines Part1

Foreign Lands and People According to the Byzantines Part2

The 94 Emperors

7 Reasons to be Interested in Byzantium

Related Videos:

The Roman Imperial Family Tree (by Useful Charts)

The Byzantine Imperial Family Tree (by Useful Charts)

Note: Names of Byzantine Emperors will be in BOLD letters

 

The Constantinian Dynasty (305-363) 

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The first dynasty to rule the Byzantine Empire was the Constantinian Dynasty, which was also one of the many dynasties that ruled the Roman Empire but was a short-lived one too. Its founder was not Constantine I the Great, the founder of the Byzantine Empire but his father Constantius I Chlorus, a Roman emperor of the Roman Tetrarchy ruling the western half of the empire as Caesar or junior emperor from 293-305 with Maximian as the Augustus or senior emperor, and from 305 to his death in 306, Constantius I was the Augustus of the western half of the Roman Empire. Constantius I though a Roman emperor was ethnically an Illyrian but considered Roman as he lived within the empire and was a citizen. Now the Illyrians were the people that lived in the Balkans or Southeastern Europe- particularly Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Croatia in the ancient days of the Greeks and Romans, being the northwestern neighbors of the Greeks before the Slavs arrived in the 7th century; the people here though not entirely Greek in ethnicity were civilized and not barbarians, had been both Hellenized and Romanized by Greek and Roman culture and many of its people in the age of the Roman Empire rose up to become successful generals in the Roman army especially against the Goths in the northern borders as the Illyrian people knew the borders of the Roman Empire in that part well and were needed to protect it from Goth invasions. Constantius I was born in the province of Dardania (today’s Southern Serbia), which was part of the region known as Illyria said to be born to a Roman noble family there of its local Illyrian ethnicity. When still a general before becoming ruler of the western part of the empire, Constantius I married Helena, a Greek woman from the province of Bithynia in northwestern Asia Minor making their son, the first Byzantine Emperor Constantine I the Great (r. 306-337) half-Greek, half-Illyrian but since living in the Roman Empire, a Roman whose real name was Gaius Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus but born in today’s Niš, Serbia in 272. Constantine I succeeded his father as emperor of the west after his father’s death in 306, in 312 he became sole ruler of the western empire after defeating all rivals, and in 324 gained control of the whole Roman Empire both east and west, and in 330 he established Constantinople, a new city in the narrow Bosporus sea between Thrace and Asia Minor as the new capital of the Roman Empire, now the Byzantine Empire. Constantine I’s 3 sons and successors Constantine II (r. 337-340) who ruled the westernmost third, Constans I (r. 337-350) who ruled the central third, and Constantius II (r. 337-361) who ruled the eastern third including Constantinople were his sons with his 2nd wife Fausta, the daughter of Constantine I’s former rival emperor in the west Maximian (r. 285-310) and his wife Eutropia. Fausta’s father Maximian was one of the 4 original Tetrarch rulers of the empire aside from Diocletian, Galerius, and Constantius I but he stayed in power on and off after he retired in 305 as he never wanted to retire but stay as emperor until he forced to commit suicide by his son-in-law Constantine I in 310. Like Constantius I, Maximian too was an Illyrian, born in Sirmium in today’s Serbia and rose up to power by being in the Roman army being a close friend and ruling partner of the Tetrarchy’s founder Diocletian (r. 284-305), another Roman Illyrian too who was born in today’s Croatia; however Maximian’s wife Eutropia’s ethnic origins are unknown, but their daughter Fausta and son Emperor Maxentius (r. 306-312)- another western rival of Constantine I- had Illyrian blood and Fausta’s 3 sons with Constantine I who all became emperors had a mix of Illyrian and Greek blood. The 3 sons of Constantine I though never succeeded in ruling as the eldest one Constantine II (real name: Flavius Claudius Constantinus Augustus) was ambushed in battle by his youngest brother Constans I (real name: Flavius Julius Constans) in 340 for trying to invade Italy which Constans I held and Constans I was assassinated by one of his generals who had plotted to take over, and in 350 the middle son Constantius II (real name: Flavius Julius Constantius) was the sole ruler of the empire until his death in 361 leaving behind no heirs, instead he was succeeded by Julian (r. 361-363) his first cousin also from Constantine’s family. Julian known as “the Apostate” for renouncing Christianity was the son of Constantine I’s half-brother Julius Constantius and his wife Basilina a Greek woman in ethnicity but the daughter of Julius Julianus, the Roman governor of Egypt who was ethnically Greek. Julius Constantius was the son of Constantine the Great’s father Constantius I with his 2nd wife Flavia Maximiana Theodora whose ethnicity is unknown as well as her parentage as she could either be the emperor Maximian’s daughter with his first wife of the daughter of Maximian’s 2nd wife Eutropia with her first husband. Anyway the emperor Julian (real name: Flavius Claudius Julianus) had a mix of Illyrian blood from his father’s side and Greek blood from his mother’s side but his Greek blood could be seen more in his philosophical and intellectual personality; although he was one person of a tragic story since his mother died after giving birth to him and his father was murdered when he was only 5 in 337 being falsely accused by Constantine the Great’s sons the 3 emperors for poisoning their father. Julian grew up an orphan hating his cousins especially Constantius II, although he also married Constantius II’s sister Helena who died in 360 and Julian ruled alone as emperor until his death in 363 in battle against Sassanid Persia; he then died as the last male member of the Constantinian Dynasty and last grandson of Constantius I Chlorus at only 31, he was then succeeded by his bodyguard commander Flavius Jovianus Augustus who became Emperor Jovian (r. 363-364) after being elected by the army. The new emperor Jovian who was a military man of no dynasty was also another Roman Illyrian, born in 331 in today’s Belgrade, Serbia, which was then Singidunum, although on the return trip from Persia to Constantinople, Jovian died in February of 364 before in Asia Minor before reaching the capital at only 33.

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Constantinian Dynasty family tree

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The original Roman Tetrarchy- Maximian, Diocletian, Constantius I Chlorus, and Galerius

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Map of the Illyrian lands in the Balkans

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The Roman Empire divided among Constantine I’s sons Constantine II, Constans I, and Constantius II

 

The Valentinian Dynasty (364-379)

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After Jovian mysteriously died in his tent in 364 before arriving back in the capital at only 33, the army elected another of their commanders to be emperor, and the person they elected was Flavius Valentinianus Augustus or Valentinian I (r. 364-375), also another Roman Illyrian. In this age of the Roman Empire, it turns out many of its emperors were no longer from the ancient patrician families of Rome like the Julio-Claudians of the 1st century where the emperors Augustus (r. 27BC-14AD) and Claudius (r. 41-54AD) came from but were from military families from the provinces, particularly Illyrians as many army men of the Roman Empire came from this part. Valentinian I’s family too were Roman citizens of Illyria coming from a prominent military family there although his father Gratian the Elder was an Illyrian of humble origins who gained wealth from years of serving in the Roman army and rising up the ranks. Valentinian I born in 321 and his brother Valens born in 328 were born rich in their family estate in today’s northern Croatia near the town of Vinkovci today and growing up they were well educated and not only trained in war but in painting and sculpture, later on both brothers became commanders in the army under the emperors Constantius II, Julian, and Jovian. From February to March of 364, Valentinian I ruled the whole Roman Empire from Constantinople but by the end of March of 364 he decided to rule the western half from Milan leaving his younger brother Valens (real name: Flavius Julius Valens Augustus) as emperor of the east based in Constantinople. Valentinian I’s first wife was Marina Severa, who’s ethnicity is not clear but is possibly Illyrian too like him and their son together was Gratian born in 359 in Sirmium in what is today Serbia. Gratian became co-emperor with his father in the west in 367 and became senior emperor after his father’s death from a stroke caused by his own anger due to annoyance from barbarian tribes negotiating with him in 375. Valens meanwhile ruled the east till his death in 378 being killed in battle against the Goths in Adrianople wherein his body was never found and from his death in August of 378 Gratian was sole ruler of both east west until January of the next year when he appointed the general Theodosius from Spain as ruler of the east who will be discussed later. Gratian ruled as senior emperor of the west with his younger half-brother Valentinian II born in 371, son of Valentinian I and his 2nd wife Justina, whose ethnic origin is unknown too except that she was the daughter of Justus, the Roman governor of Picenum in Italy which makes him probably a Roman Italian, so Valentinian II and his sister Flavia Galla the children of Valentinian I could have had Italian blood mixed with Illyrian. Valentinian I’s elder son Gratian however was assassinated in 383 and Valentinian II ruled as sole ruler of the west with Theodosius I as ruler of the east until Valentinian II mysteriously died in 392 leaving Theodosius I as sole ruler of the empire till his death in 395.

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Emperor Valentinian I (left) and wife Empress Marina Severa (right), Roman-Illyrians

 

The Theodosian Dynasty (379-457)  

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In the eastern part of the Roman Empire, the Valentinian Dynasty ruled for only 15 years as a new person from a different family was put in charge of the east in 379 and he ruled successfully, this person was Theodosius I the Great (real name: Flavius Theodosius Augustus), a Roman of Iberian Spanish descent ruling the empire miles away from his native land from 379 to his death in 395. Theodosius I was a Roman of Iberian ethnicity, a native of Roman Spain born in 347 in Coca in what is today Segovia in Central Spain, his father the successful general Theodosius the Elder who was executed in 376 and mother Thermantia too were Roman Iberians, and in his father’s side the emperor Theodosius I though being mostly of Iberian descent, traces his ancestry to Sextus Julius Caesar, a Roman general based in Spain in the last days of the Roman Republic, a relative of Julius Caesar and possibly even his brother. Before going onto Theodosius I and his family, the Iberian people were what can be called the native inhabitants of Spain and Portugal in Roman times and earlier which were people descended from both Celts that settled in the Iberian Peninsula and Phoenicians or Carthaginian people from North Africa and when settled in the Iberian Peninsula mostly became agricultural people and not so much of warriors, at the same time many historians and writers all the way back to Herodotus from Ancient Greece to the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII in 10th century who will be discusses later document about the Iberian people and their native land, which is today’s Spain as well as Portugal. Meanwhile, the family of Theodosius I was a rich and powerful military family in the Iberian Peninsula being mostly of Iberian descent but Roman citizens too who lived in a large estate which happens to be in the farthest reaches of Spain which is in today’s Galicia, located in north-west Spain north of Portugal and along the Atlantic Ocean. Theodosius I was already a successful commander at a young age serving under his father but when his father was executed in 376, he retired at a young age to manage his family’s large estate in the far reaches of Spain, at this point he had married Aelia Flaccilla, also an Roman Iberian woman and in 377 they had their first child who would be the future emperor Arcadius.

In 379, Theodosius was invited to be emperor of the east by Gratian, who ruled at the west and was a close friend but he couldn’t rule the empire alone so Theodosius travelled thousands of kilometers across the empire from his native Spain to Constantinople where he would rule for the next 16 years and during this time in 384, his 2nd son Honorius was born also to him and Aelia Flaccilla though she would eventually die and Theodosius would be married again to Valentinian I and Justina’s daughter Flavia Galla making Theodosius part of the Valentinian Dynasty as well. After the death of Theodosius I’s brother-in-law Valentinian II in 392, he became the sole ruler of the whole Roman Empire but the last one to do it too as he died in 395, permanently dividing the empire between his 2 sons with Aelia Flaccilla, Arcadius (r. 395-408) who would rule the east from Constantinople and Honorius (r. 395-423) would rule the west from Milan later moving the capital to Ravenna in 402. From what I read in the History of the Byzantine Empire by Radi Dikici, Arcadius’ (real name: Flavius Arcadius Augustus) physical appearance was described as being short, dark-skinned, and curly haired before the arrival of the Visigoths and Moors in Spain must have looked like, which means his younger brother Honorius (real name: Flavius Honorius Augustus) who was also of Iberian descent must have looked like this as well and so was their mother and father; anyway, other than Arcadius’ and Honorius’ unique physical appearance and distinct Iberian genes, they were overall ineffective rulers who almost led both eastern and western empires to collapse due to the start of the barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire particularly, the Visigoths who would eventually settle into Spain, where their family came from. Honorius’ half sister on the other hand was the empress Galla Placidia of the Western Roman Empire, the daughter of Theodosius I and Flavia Galla, the daughter of Valentinian I and Justina making the empress Galla Placidia a mix of Illyrian blood from her maternal grandfather, Italian blood from her maternal grandmother, and Iberian blood from her father’s family; Galla Placidia was then first married to Ataulf the king of the Visigoths and later to the Roman Illyrian general Constantius III (r. 421) as Honorius’ co-emperor, and with Constantius III, Galla Placidia’s son was Emperor Valentinian III (r. 423-455) as the last ruler of the Theodosian Dynasty in the Western Roman Empire, though he was a mix of Illyrian blood from his father’s side and Illyrian, Italian, and Iberian blood from his mother’s side.

In the east on the other hand, the emperor Arcadius was married to Aelia Eudoxia, a woman who was half-Roman and half-barbarian as her father was a Romanized Frank named Flavius Bauto who was by blood from the Germanic tribe of the Franks east of the Roman borders in Germany and her mother was a Roman woman probably an Italian, however Aelia Eudoxia died in 404 before her husband Arcadius died in 408. Arcadius was succeeded by his 7-year-old son Theodosius II (r. 408-450), who would rule the eastern empire successfully for a long time until his death in 450; Theodosius II was married to Aelia Eudocia who was a Greek while Theodosius II and his influential sister Pulcheria were of Iberian descent from their father’s side and Frankish and Roman descent from their mother’s side giving them quite an interesting mix of genes, however Theodosius II died without an heir so his older sister Pulcheria ruled as empress for a short time in 450 until marrying the military officer Marcian (real name: Flavius Marcianus Augustus), another Roman Illyrian and military man born in 392 most likely in Illyria. Marcian (r. 450-457) however was more or less a puppet emperor to Aspar, a powerful Goth general and when Marcian died in 457 4 years after Pulcheria, Aspar placed the Thracian officer Leo as emperor.

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Emperor Theodosius I (center) with Arcadius (left) and Honorius (right)

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Roman Hispania (Iberia/ Spain), homeland of Theodosius I’ family

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Emperor Theodosius I (left) and wife Empress Aelia Flaccilla (right), both of Roman Iberian descent

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Division of the Roman Empire at the death of Theodosius I in 395 between his sons Arcadius (east) and Honorius (west)

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Family tree of the Valentinian and Theodosian Dynasties

 

The Leonid Dynasty (457-518)

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Following the death of Marcian in 457, the Eastern Roman Empire now becoming the Byzantine Empire independent and stronger than the Western Roman Empire would be ruled by another dynasty founded by Leo I the Thracian, which would become a very ethnically diverse dynasty. The dynasty’s founder Leo Marcellus was a Roman citizen of Thrace, the land northeast of Greece where Constantinople is located, although Leo’s family was said to be of Dacian origin coming from the people of Dacia, the barbarians tribes of today’s Romania the Romans conquered centuries before, though it is more believed that Leo was of Bessian stock, coming from the Bessi people, which were the Thracian tribes that lived in the Rhodope mountains that border today’s Bulgaria and Greece. Leo though being a successful commander grew up uneducated but as emperor reigning Byzantium from 457 to his death in 474 was a successful emperor, meanwhile his wife Verina and her brother Basiliscus who would later become emperor (475-476) have unclear origins but have most likely come from the Balkans and are either ethnically Thracian or Illyrian. Leo I as emperor got the title Leo I the Thracian form his Thracian origins; the Thracians on the other hand were the people who lived in today’s Bulgaria, northeast Greece and European Turkey and although they were neighbors with the Greeks, the Greeks and later the Romans saw them as barbarians due to their more unsophisticated clothing, fighting styles, and living conditions but these people over the years adopted Greek culture and language and even intermarried with the Greeks making many Thracians have Greek ancestry as well. Under the Romans, many Thracians had become gladiators but some had also become powerful soldiers and even emperors like Leo I and in the next centuries, these Thracian people would evolve to become Greek speaking as many Greeks of Thracian origins would become Byzantine emperors. By the late 7th century however, Bulgaria, which was back, then Thrace would be settled by the Asiatic Bulgar people who would also intermarry with the native Thracians. On the other hand, Leo I did not want to be controlled by powerful Goths like Aspar who made him emperor and instead he got rid of the Goths, had Aspar assassinated, and replaced the Goths with the Isaurian mountain tribes as his trusted warriors and his and Verina’s daughter Ariadne who was mostly of Thracian descent would be married to the Isaurian tribal chief and general Zeno who would take Aspar’s place in controlling the army.

Now with Isaurians coming in, Leo’s dynasty became more ethnically diverse as these Isaurian people were totally foreign and backward mountain people from the wild region of Isauria in the Taurus Mountains of Southern Asia Minor, in today’s border of Turkey and Syria. The Isaurian tribes of the Tuarus Mountains were described by many historians as rough, uncivilized, and barbaric marauders, living in backwards unsophisticated mountain ways having unsophisticated and crude clothing and weapons but were skilled and vicious warriors known for banditry that it was said that in history they had attacked many Romans that had passed their region by surprise which gave the Isaurians a bad name by the Romans throughout history. Leo I died in 474 succeeded by his grandson Leo II, the son of his daughter Ariadne and the Isaurian Zeno but by the end of the year, 7-year-old Leo II died and his father Zeno succeeded him beginning his reign already unpopular because of his Isaurian ethnicity. Though being seen by everyone especially Greeks and Roman of Byzantium as a savage, Zeno whose extremely long real name Tarasis Kodisa Rousombladadiotes was already the chief of the Isaurian mountain tribe when he came to Constantinople and married Ariadne and he was of royal birth being the son of the former tribal leader Kodisa, except that when he went to Constantinople to serve under Leo I he changed his name to the Greek Zeno to make him more acceptable to the population, but even when changing his name, the Byzantine people who were mostly Greek at this point could not accept being ruled by someone of the savage people they have hated over history, also at the same time, Zeno’s Isaurian tribesmen who came to serve the empire to became very arrogant. Only a few months into Zeno’s reign, he was banished from power early in 475 and fled to his native Isauria while Basiliscus, brother of Leo I’s wife Verina took over the empire allowing the people to kill any Isaurian they see, though later on in 476 Zeno returned to power and banished the incompetent Basiliscus. Zeno in his 2nd reign from 476-491 still remained highly unpopular not only because of his race but because in 476 the Western Roman Empire was completely dissolved but Zeno fought hard to stay in power and make the eastern empire stable even though by violent means and when he died in 491 of epilepsy, the Isaurian Zeno actually managed to remain in power without being overthrown again. With Zeno dead, the people now wanted a real Roman emperor and not an uneducated barbarian foreigner like Zeno but also the people were tired of violent men like Leo I, Basiliscus, and Zeno running their empire, also tired of massacres and barbaric Isaurians running the state, so the people demanded for someone more civilized and educated to be emperor, which then made Zeno’s widow Ariadne marry the finance minister Flavius Anastasius who then became Emperor Anastasius I Dicorus (r. 491-518), an old man who was not a soldier but a rich Roman Illyrian as well born in Dyrrhachium in today’s Albania; the Illyrian Anastasius I was known for his mismatched eyes where one pupil was black and the other blue giving him the nickname Dicorus but he was a successful economist emperor who made the empire rich and avoided violent conflicts as much as possible, he had also outlived his wife Ariadne by 3 years dying in 518 without an heir.

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476- Western Empire (purple), Eastern Empire (red) right before the fall of the west

 

The Justinian Dynasty (518-602)

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The 6th century be a golden age for the Byzantine Empire after the emperors Zeno and Anastasius I left the empire stable and rich, though after old Anastasius I died in 518, he did not exactly have any heir but he couldn’t decide on which nephew would succeed him, so instead the army elected Justin, an illiterate man of low birth as emperor, although Justin had also bribed his colleagues, the palace guards to elect him as emperor. Justin I (r. 518-527) was born to peasant family in Dardania in around 450, which is today’s North Macedonia and Southern Serbia back then under the Eastern Roman Empire; Justin I (real name: Flavius Iustinus Augustus) was of Illyrian and Thracian descent but grew up poor despite speaking Latin as his first language and knowing very little Greek, and to escape poverty in his native Illyria, he travelled to Constantinople to find work eventually become part of the army under Emperor Anastasius I and later on becoming a member of the emperor’s palace guard or Excubitors and eventually becoming its captain, and basically out of luck he became emperor after Anastasius I died. Justin I though was old and had no sons, so instead he adopted his nephew Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus as his heir and when Justin I died in 518, his nephew succeeded him as Emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565), being Byzantium’s most influential ruler. Flavius Petrus Sabbatius was the son of Justin I’s sister Vigilantia and a former Byzantine soldier named Sabbatius, born in around 482 during the reign of Zeno in the same area in Dardania where his uncle was born and like his uncle he was of low birth as well but at an early age, he already left his native homeland for Constantinople where he grew up well educated as his uncle now in the palace guard paid for his education. By the time Justin I died in 518 and his nephew succeeded him as Justinian I, the nephew was already a genius at many subjects, fluent in both Latin Greek, and a critical thinker. Like his uncle, Justinian I was also a native of the Balkans and of Thracian and Illyrian Roman descent but despite coming from humble origins, he had great dreams for his empire, probably since childhood he already had these dreams and particularly his mission was to rebuild the power of the Roman Empire again by the re-conquest of Italy from the Ostrogoths, North Africa from the Vandals, and Spain from the Visigoths as well as codifying the laws, reforming the finance system, and having great construction projects including the great church of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. At the end Justinian I achieved these dreams of his but it was difficult as his empire which was on its way to success faced a deadly plague in 542 but Justinian I still managed to put everything back together and when he died in 565, the Byzantine Empire was at its greatest territorial extent stretching west to east from Spain to Syria, north to south from Ukraine to Egypt.

The influential person too behind the spectacular reign of Justinian I was his wife Theodora, a woman of Greek Cypriot descent born in 500 in Cyprus, although her Cypriot origins had made her unpopular as Cyprus was a far away land seen as backwards by the Greeks of Constantinople, but also she had been unpopular for coming from a poor background beginning as a circus performer. Theodora and Justinian I however had no children and Theodora died in 548, 17 years before Justinian I died, and Justinian never remarried afterwards, and when he died at 83 in 565 he was succeeded by his nephew Justin II (r. 565-578), born in 520 also in their family’s home in Dardania, he was the son of Justinian I’s sister also named Vigilantia and Dulcidio. Justin II or Iustinus Iunior together with uncle Justinian I and grand-uncle Justin I were the last of the Latin speaking Roman emperors and like the rest of his family was also of Illyrian and Thracian Roman descent, although like his uncle Justin II and his wife Empress Sophia had no sons and some years into his reign, Justin II descended into madness becoming unfit to run the large empire his uncle left behind so in 574, Justin II retired and adopted his friend and palace guard commander Tiberius Constantinus who was the same age as him as his heir. From 574-578, Justin II though insane and retired still held the title of emperor but Tiberius actually ran the empire as Caesar, Tiberius on the other hand was Thracian Roman born in Thrace in 520 and was the first of the Byzantine emperors to speak Greek as his native language instead of Latin. Tiberius II Constantine ruled as Augustus or sole emperor from 578 to his sudden death in 582 and having no sons, he was succeeded by his son in law, the Cappadocian Greek Maurice who would marry Tiberius II’s daughter Constantia. With Tiberius II Constantine as emperor, the bloodline of Justin I may have disappeared but it remained in name, as Tiberius II was adopted; on the other hand his wife, the empress Ino Anastasia was a Greek from a Black Sea island in Bithynia, the region of Northwest Asia Minor across the Bosporus from Constantinople and their daughter, the next empress Constantia was of Greek and Thracian descent. Tiberius II’s successor Maurice (r. 582-602) was a Greek from Cappadocia in inland Asia Minor born there in 539, though a provincial, he came from an important family as his father named Paul was the head of the Byzantine senate for a time and when Maurice became emperor in 582, his brother Peter was in charge of managing the palace. With Constantia, Maurice had 6 sons and 4 daughters, he too was a successful military emperor but ended tragically all because the army ran out of funds and he could no longer pay his soldiers in the Balkan frontiers, so these soldiers rebelled, deposed him in 602 making a low birth centurion named Flavius Phocas as emperor. Maurice and his 6 sons were executed by Phocas’ orders in 582, Peter too was executed later on and the empress Constantia and daughters too were executed in 605. The Justinian Dynasty by name ends with death of Maurice in 602 and he was succeeded by the sadistic emperor Phocas (r. 602-610), who only originated as a Centurion or low-ranking army officer of low birth, who by origin was most likely Thracian, though he was born in 547, his place of birth is unknown.

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Family Tree of the Justinian Dynasty

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Byzantine Empire at its height (555) under Emperor Justinian I

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Byzantine Empire in 602 (green) after Maurice’s death

 

The Heraclian Dynasty (610-711)

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The usurping emperor Phocas could have started a new dynasty but in 610, several rebellions raised up against him, especially the one in North Africa by the Exarch Heraclius the Elder. In October of 610, Heraclius the Elder’s son also named Heraclius sailed to Constantinople and overthrew Phocas executing him and was proclaimed Emperor Heraclius (r. 610-641), the emperor who turned Roman Byzantium into a Greek speaking empire. Flavius Heraclius was also born in Cappadocia in 575, his father Heraclius the Elder was a Byzantine of Armenian origin while his mother Epiphania was of Cappadocian Greek origin like Maurice making the emperor Heraclius considered half-Greek half-Armenian, it was also described that Heraclius at the time he became emperor in 610 as tall and muscular with curly light colored hair. Heraclius ruled long defeating the Persians and ending the Byzantine-Sassanid Persian war in 628 but ruled long enough to see the rise of Islam and the Arabs start raiding into Byzantine territory in the Middle East, but Heraclius had also left behind a large family being married twice first to Fabia Eudokia, a Byzantine Greek woman from Carthage where Heraclius grew up in and together they had two children one of which was Constantine III (r. 641) also known as Heraclius Constantine born in around 612, Heraclius’ successor who was mostly of Greek blood and 25% Armenian from his paternal grandfather Heraclius the Elder. Fabia Eudokia died too early also in 612 possibly from epilepsy, so Heraclius married again but out of everyone he married his niece Martina, the daughter of his sister Maria and marrying his niece, Heraclius had 9 children, one of which was Constantine III’s half brother and successor Heraklonas also known as Constantine Heraclius or Heraclius II (r. 641) who ruled with his mother Martina as his regent for a few months after allegedly poisoning Constantine III but in September of 641, Heraklonas and Martina were removed from power by Constantine III’s supporters putting Constantine III’s young son Constans II as emperor.

Constans II (r. 641-668) also known, as Heraclius Constantinus was the son of Heraclius’ first son Constantine III and Gregoria who was also a Byzantine Greek with Armenian ancestry and was the daughter of Niketas, a first cousin of Heraclius. Constans II was mostly of Byzantine Greek blood with Armenian ancestry as well from his great-grandfathers in his mother and father’s sides; Constans II on the other hand was born in 630 and surprisingly he had a twin brother named Theodosius, though at 11-years-old Constans II was appointed emperor by his father’s supporters and not his twin brother, though his twin brother would plot against him later on but would end up being sent to a monastery and executed. Constans II’s reign was faced with advancing armies of the Arabs quickly downsizing the Byzantine Empire forcing Constans II to reorganize the imperial governing system into Themes and to flee Constantinople in 663 in fear attempting to make Syracuse in Sicily as the new Byzantine capital but before that could happen, he was assassinated in his bath in 668 by a slave wielding a soap dish by orders of a rival general named Mizizios, described as a handsome man of Armenian origin who usurped the empire 668-669 until Constans II’s 16-year-old son Constantine IV (r. 668-641) overthrew Mizizios in 669 becoming the rightful emperor. Constantine IV was born in 652 in Constantinople as the eldest son of Constans II and his wife Fausta, the daughter of the general Valentinus who was mostly of Armenian origins, making Constantine IV and his 2 brothers Tiberius and Heraclius have strong Byzantine Greek and Armenian blood as well. From an early age, Constantine IV was already skilled at governing the empire as he was left in charge of Constantinople when his father fled in 663 and in his years as emperor, Constantine IV successfully defended Constantinople from an Arab siege with the use of Greek Fire for the first time, managed to negotiate with the Bulgarian invaders from Central Asia resulting in the establishment of the 1st Bulgarian Empire in 681, and resolve doctrinal conflict, but he died at only 33 in 685 from dysentery; meanwhile the image of the successful emperor Constantine IV can be seen at a church in Ravenna next to his co-emperor brothers Tiberius and Heraclius and his co-emperor son and successor Justinian II. After Constantine IV died young in 685, he was succeeded by his eldest son Justinian II (r. 685-695), born in 669 to Constantine IV and his wife Anastasia whose origins are unknown but most likely she was Byzantine Greek too making Justinian II have more Byzantine Greek than Armenian blood. Due to his tyrannical rule and delusions in conquests against the Arabs and Bulgars, Justinian II was overthrown by the people, senate, army, and Church in 695, his nose was cut off and he was exiled to Cherson where he would marry a Khazar or semi-Nomadic Turkic princess who he renamed Theodora as Justinian II saw himself as the new Justinian the Great but failed to be.

While Justinian II was in exile, these 10 years from 695 to 705 witnessed 3 changes of emperor, first the Isaurian descended general Leontios took over from Justinian II in 695 and he was the next Isaurian to rule Byzantium since Zeno but 3 years later in 698, Leontios was overthrown and replaced by Tiberius III Apsimar (r. 698-705), who was an unusual character as he was blond and of Germanic descent having strong German blood, most probably his family were Germanic mercenaries in the Byzantine army. However in 705, Justinian II returned from Cherson in today’s Ukraine coast of the Black Sea with his new Khazar wife and already with their newborn son and heir Tiberius who was half-Greek, half-Khazar, although Justinian II now known as Rhinotmetos in his 2nd reign for having his nose cut off became more brutal than ever executing anyone who wronged him in the past leading to more uprisings against him and in 711, he was overthrown again and this time executed by the rebel general, the Armenian Bardanes who first had Justinian II’s young son and co-emperor Tiberius killed before killing the emperor, and as emperor Bardanes or Vardan in Armenian changed his name to the Greek Philippikos and only reigned for 2 years from 711-713 as he was overthrown and replaced with his secretary, a Byzantine Greek named Artemios who as emperor became Anastasius II (r. 713-715) but was overthrown in 715 and replaced by a random tax collector of Byzantine Greek origin as well who as emperor became Theodosius III (r. 715-717) but had no interest in ruling so rebellion rose up against him by the general Konon in which Theodosius III abdicated in favor of.

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Family Tree of the Heraclian Dynasty

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Remains of Byzantium by 717

 

The Isaurian Dynasty (717-802)

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In 717, the 22 years of anarchy Byzantium went through since the first overthrow of Justinian II in 695 had come to an end, and so did Byzantium’s first age, now Byzantium enters its second age where the empire has already become fully Greek and no longer Roman in language and identity, and only Roman in its imperial legacy. In 717, an Isaurian once again took the Byzantine throne, though it has been almost 300 years since the Isaurian Zeno had become emperor, so in the 8th century compared to the 5th, the Isaurians from the Taurus Mountains of Southern Asia Minor must have already become more civilized people. The new Isaurian who came to the Byzantine throne in 717 was Emperor Leo III the Isaurian or Syrian (r. 717-741), originally he was an Isaurian named Konon born in Isauria which was then Byzantine Syria in around 685 and at a young age his Isaurian family was relocated by Emperor Justinian II to Thrace where Konon lived his life as a shepherd without ever thinking he would be emperor one day. In 705, when Justinian II was on his way back to Constantinople passing through Thrace, he encountered the young shepherd Konon and noticed that Konon had a special gift which included speaking Arabic so Justinian II made Konon serve him as a spy and later he became the general or Strategos in charge of the Anatolian Theme in 715 under Anastasius II. In 717, Konon and his Theme’s army with the help of the Armenian Theme Strategos Artavasdos led a rebellion to take the throne and after forcing Theodosius III to abdicate, Konon became Emperor Leo III who ruled long and was best known for defending Constantinople for a second time against the Arab Umayyad Caliphate from 717-718, beginning the Iconoclast movement that shook the empire apart and led to Venice declaring independence from Byzantium, but was also know for once again reviving the power of Byzantium that had fallen over the years. Leo III’s wife Maria was probably a Thracian and with her his known children were his son and successor Constantine V (r. 741-775) and Anna who were half-Isaurian half-Thracian, although it is unclear if they were of Thracian descent too as it is not said where their mother came from. Leo III died in 741 and was succeeded by his son Constantine V nicknamed Kopronymos or shit-named and a year into his reign he was overthrown by his brother-in-law; the same Artavasdos who helped Leo III take the throne. Artavasdos (r. 742-743), was Armenian by origin with the Armenian name Artavazd and with Leo III as emperor, Artavasdos was his closest friend and advisor, was married to Leo III’s daughter Anna who he had children with, and was promised to succeed Leo when he died, however Leo III had a son so it was natural the son succeeded. In 743, however Constantine V returned to power after defeating and blinding Artavasdos and his sons sending them to a monastery and as emperor for the next many years Constantine V ruled successfully fighting off the Arab and Bulgar invaders but was a controversial figure for zealously leading the campaign against icons. Constantine V was first married at only 14 to the Khazar princess Tzitzak, daughter of the Khazar ruler Bihar who when married converted to Christianity and changed her name to Irene for an alliance with the Khazars. The Khazars meanwhile were a semi-nomadic but powerful Turkic tribe that converted to Judaism and formed their kingdom called Khazaria north of the Black Sea in what is today Southern Russia and Ukraine as well as parts of the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea area, they too were a powerful buffer state fro the Byzantines against the Huns and Arabs with a strong army of nomadic cavalry and Byzantium saw them as a powerful ally; the Khazar kingdom meanwhile existed from 650-969. With the Khazar Tzitzak renamed Irene, Constantine V had only one son named Leo after his grandfather who succeeded him after his death in 775 as Emperor Leo IV (r. 775-780) nicknamed “the Khazar” as he was half-Khazar from his mother while on his father’s side he had Isaurian and Thracian blood; the empress Tzitzak though was never recorded after giving birth to Leo IV as she probably died after giving birth to him in 750, although her name is the Greek translation of the Turkic word çiçek meaning flower. With his other wife Eudokia, a Byzantine Greek Constantine V had 5 sons named Christopher, Nikephoros, Niketas, Eudokimos, Anthimos and one daughter Anthousa, although it was still the eldest Leo IV that succeeded but he died 5 years into his reign in 780 from tuberculosis. Constantine V though had arranged for his son and successor Leo IV to be married to Irene Sarantapechaina, a Byzantine Greek noblewoman from Byzantine Athens born in 752 in the Athens that was no longer the powerful metropolis it was in Greek times but a quiet intellectual center; Irene though was orphaned but Irene was an ambitious one who plotted to make herself empress to end the Iconoclast movement. Leo IV and Irene’s son Constantine VI (r. 780-797) who by blood was Greek, Khazar, Thracian, and Isaurian became emperor in 780 at only 9-years-old so Irene was his regent for the longest time wherein she organized the council to end Iconoclasm but she and her son would constantly fight for power while Constantine VI’s half-uncles (Leo IV’s 5 half-brothers) plotted to take the throne as well. At the end however, the plot of the uncles was stopped and in 797 Irene took the throne as the first woman to be empress after blinding her son and exiling him but her actions had a lot of consequences and it had been a bad time for the empire. In the year 800, a Roman emperor returned to the west when the Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the pope, though Irene thought of making an alliance with him to unite their empires but once again the Byzantine people of Constantinople did not want another barbarian like Zeno to rule them so in 802, Irene was declared deposed and exiled replaced by a man again, the finance minister Nikephoros who founded a new dynasty.

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Genealogy of the Isaurian, Nikephorian, and Amorian Dynasties

Watch this to learn more about the Khazars (from Kings and Generals).

 

The Nikephorian Dynasty (802-813)

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Following the overthrow of Irene in 802, the Isaurian Dynasty ended and the Byzantine throne was passed into the hands of a man once again, this man was the finance minister Nikephoros I (r. 802-811), though his birthplace is unknown, he was born in around 750 and many sources which were Byzantine, Syrian, and Arabic say he is of Ghassanid Arab origin. It is not clear if Nikephoros I was fully ethnically Ghassanid or was had a small percentage of Ghassanid blood, but Nikephoros claimed not to be a mere Ghassanid descendant but a descendant of the last Ghassanid king Jabalah VI in the 7th century, though it is unclear how he was related to the last Ghassanid king. Now the Ghassanids have a very interesting story coming all the way as far south as Yemen and immigrating to the Levant region in today’s Jordan, which was Roman Empire’s eastern border sometime in the 3rd century and over the years they have settled down, became Christians, merged with Greek community, and formed a kingdom that would be a Roman and Byzantine vassal. These Ghassanids who had settled in the eastern Levant were pre-Islamic Christian Arabs that had formed their own client kingdom beginning in around 220 with Jafnah I Ibn ‘Amir as their first king and they have ruled the area paying tribute to Byzantium until the first Islamic Arab conquest of the 7th century. The Ghassanid kingdom fell in 638 with the first wave of Arab conquests by the Rashidun Caliphate, the first of the Islamic Caliphates forcing their last king Jabalah VI refusing to convert to Islam to flee into Byzantium to make a government in exile, which explains how Nikephoros I almost 2 centuries later could have been a descendant of the last Ghassanid king. It is believable that Nikephoros I is descended from the last Ghassanid king as the Ghassanids were still around only a bit more than a century before Nikephoros’ birth, meanwhile Nikephoros’ parents are unknown so it is unclear how much Ghassanid or Byzantine blood he had, his wife and her ethnicity too are unknown but with his wife Nikephoros I had at least 2 children, his son and successor Staurakios (r. 811) and daughter Prokopia. Nikephoros I ruling for 9 years tried to improve the weakened economy of the empire but had refused to accept Charlemagne’s position as emperor, also Nikephoros was determined to defeat the Bulgarians in battle but in 811 he was ambushed and killed by the Bulgarians in battle and his skull turned into the Bulgar khan Krum’s drinking cup, after his death he was succeeded by his son Staurakios who only ruled for 2 months as the injuries he got from that battle against the Bulgars left him paralyzed. Staurakios’ brother-in-law Michael Rangabe married to Staurakios’ sister Prokopia replaced him as emperor becoming Michael I (r. 811-813) and he was the first Byzantine emperor who’s last name was not Latin or Greek; Staurakios meanwhile retired to become a monk and died the next year. Michael I’s last name Rangabe was of Hebrew origin so that means in his father’s side he was of Jewish descent, though he was a Christian and it is not clear how much Jewish blood he had but it was known that Michael I’s father Theophylact Rangabe was a Byzantine admiral and Michael I was born in 770. With Prokopia, Michael I had 5 children but Michael I’s reign did not last long as 2 years later in 813 he had to abdicate in favor of the Armenian general Leo before Leo could overthrow him, Michael then retired as a monk and died 31 years later in 844. The next emperor was Leo V (r. 813-820), born in 775 known as “the Armenian” because of his Armenian descent as his father Bardas was an Armenian Byzantine, although Leo the Armenian was said to not only have Armenian blood but Syrian blood as well possibly from his mother, Leo’s wife Theodosia too was of Armenian origins. The Armenians meanwhile were one of the largest ethnic populations of the Byzantine Empire usually living in the eastern reaches of the empire in the east of Asia Minor where their homeland is. When Leo V took the Byzantine throne in 813, he was the general in charge of the Anatolic Theme and as emperor he ended the long war between Byzantium and the Bulgars, established the 2nd period of Iconoclasm that ended with Irene, but at the end despite having sons did not establish a dynasty as Leo V was assassinated in the Christmas Mass of 820 ordered by his trusted general Michael of Amorion who helped him gain power in 813.

 

The Amorian Dynasty (820-867)  

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In 820, the new but short-lived Amorian or Phrygian Dynasty started and was founded by Michael of Amorion, a Byzantine Greek of Asia Minor born in the city of Amorion in the region of Phrygia in 770 to a family of professional peasant-soldiers. Michael was Anatolian Greek by blood and his family belonged to the religious sect of the Athinganoi, Christians who followed Jewish rituals. Michael rose to power after helping his friend Leo V take the throne in 813 but both began to distrust each other and Leo V had Michael imprisoned before sentencing him to death, but before Michael could be executed, he set up the assassination of Leo V which was carried out in Christmas of 820 and right after Michael II was crowned emperor still wearing his prison chains. Michael II though only ruled for 9 years until his death in 829 and had only one son; Theophilos with his first Thekla who was of Armenian and Byzantine Greek origin, though Thekla had died in 823 and Michael II married again, this time to Euphrosyne, the daughter of the late emperor Constantine VI and his wife Maria of Amnia, Euphrosyne then was the granddaughter of Empress Irene, although they had no children together. Michael II’s only son Theophilos (r. 829-842) succeeded him at 24; he was born in around 805 when his father was still in the army and he was mix of Byzantine Greek and Armenian blood. The emperor Theophilos was married to the Paphlagonian Greek noblewoman Theodora and together they had 7 children and it was their youngest child Michael III that became emperor following Theophilos’ death in 842. Theodora on the other hand came from Paphlagonia, the northern region of Asia Minor along the Black Sea but her family in both her father Marinos and mother Theoktiste’s side were of Armenian origins, Theodora too had 2 brothers Bardas and Petronas who would be influential figures later during her son’s reign. Now Theodora and Theophilos’ son Michael III who was born in 840 was also of Byzantine Greek and Armenian origins and in 842 at only 2-years-old he became emperor following his father’s death though his mother was his regent for the longest time and as regent she finally put an end to Iconoclasm in 843 and restored icon veneration, however the power behind her rule as regent were her brothers the state minister Bardas and general Petronas. Theodora though would later on be exiled to a monastery and a new mysterious Macedonian-Armenian peasant named Basil would rise to power becoming a favorite of Michael III assassinating Bardas first in 866 then he would become co-emperor and assassinate Michael III himself in 867 and would become emperor himself starting the Macedonian Dynasty.

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The Byzantine Empire in the 9th century (yellow)

 

The Macedonian Dynasty (867-1057)

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Starting in 867, Byzantium would be ruled by its most glorious imperial dynasty, the Macedonians but this dynasty could have been only 2 emperors as the other members could have not been from the family of its founder, Basil I (r. 867-886). Basil I known as “the Macedonian” was born in 811 in the Byzantine Theme of Macedonia, west of Thrace near the city of Adrianople, although he was known as the Macedonian, his ethnic origins were a mix as in his father Bardas’ side, he had Armenian blood while in his mother’s side there was a mix of Thracian Greek and Slavic blood. Though both Basil’s parents were peasants of low birth, it is said that in his father’s side he is descended from the Arsacid kings that ruled Armenia from the 1st to 5th centuries, also Basil’s ancestry in his father’s side can also be possibly traced to Constantine the Great, the founder of Byzantium. Whatever the case of his ancestry is, Basil I was still born of Armenian, Greek, and Slavic origins in the Macedonian Theme which is why he is known as “the Macedonian” but even though he started out with nothing, he was destined by his mother to become emperor so at an older age he journeyed to Constantinople where his skill with horses got him a job as a horse tamer for the emperor Michael III himself which got Basil close to Michael III but Basil would stop at nothing to gain ultimate power and in 867 he assassinated Michael III and became emperor. Michael III on the other hand could not marry his lover Eudokia Ingerina as her family was Iconoclastic as Michael III’s family ended Iconoclasm and their marriage was a scandal so to keep her close, Michael III married her to Basil. It is then said that Basil’s first son with Eudokia Leo who would later succeed Basil as emperor was not actually Basil’s son but Michael and Eudokia’s illegitimate son as he was born in 866 when Michael was still alive while Basil’s other son Alexander who would also later become emperor is no doubt Basil and Eudokia’s son as he was born in 870 long after Michael’s death. Though born a peasant and illiterate, Basil I was a highly successful ruler who began a new golden age of conquest and the Renaissance of the arts for Byzantium. Eudokia Ingerina on the other hand was certified to be of noble ancestry as in her mother’s side she was a distant descendant of the imperial bloodline of the 7th century emperor Heraclius through Heraclius’ sister Maria while in Eudokia’s fahter’s side, she had a bit of Germanic ancestry as her father’s name Inger suggests some Germanic roots. On the other hand, it is still unclear if Basil I’s successor Leo VI (r. 886-912) was really his son but it was certain he was Eudokia’s son so that would mean Leo VI was mostly Byzantine Greek in blood with traces of Germanic DNA but if he were truly Basil’s son, he would have some Armenian and Slavic blood too; however the only proof there could be that Leo was not Basil’s true son was that Basil hated him and would beat up Leo while Leo also believed Michael III to be his father, meanwhile Leo’s younger brother Alexander was sure to be Basil’s son and his father had made him hate Leo believing Leo was not his brother which is why Alexander had hated Leo all his life. Eudokia however died in 882 before Basil who died in 886 said to be a conspiracy by Leo who had hated Basil too but whatever happened, Leo still became emperor becoming Leo the Wise for his great intellectual works and books he published but in his reign he had been married 4 times and 3 were unsuccessful to produce a male heir, it was only with his controversial marriage with his 4th wife Zoe Karbonopsina that Leo VI had a son, who would rule later as Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos born in 905. Leo VI suddenly died in 912 and was not succeeded by his young son but by his younger brother Alexander who has already been made co-emperor since their father Basil I’s reign, though Alexander ruled for only a year dying in 913 after a polo game passing the throne now to the young Constantine VII who ruled until 920 with the regency of his mother Zoe Karbonopsina until the Armenian admiral Romanos Lekapenos took over the regency in 920. Constantine VII meanwhile known as Porphyrogennetos or purple born was the only emperor to use this title even if many emperors were purple born but he had to be born in the purple room to legitimize his claim to the throne as he was born as Leo VI’s illegitimate son; his mother Zoe on the other hand was a Byzantine Greek and a relative of the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor, though if Leo VI were really Michael III’s son, Constantine VII would not be Basil I’s grandson and have none of Basil I’s blood and instead like his father he would have been of the Amorian bloodline (if the rumors were true) but Constantine VII though believed Basil I was his grandfather and not Michael III. Now again, if the rumors were true then only Basil I and Alexander were of the Macedonian bloodline and the rest from Leo VI and Constantine VII and their descendants would be of the Amorian bloodline that began with Michael II in 820.

In 920, Romanos I Lekapenos taking full control of the regency became emperor reigning from 920-944; he was born in 870 in the town of Lekape were his name comes from in Eastern Asia Minor to a family of Armenian peasants making him a Byzantine Armenian and like Basil I, Romanos I too was of Armenian origin and a born a peasant but his father saved Basil I in battle making him a member of the palace guard and young Romanos was educated in Constantinople and eventually joined the navy and became an admiral. Romanos I’s wife was Theodora but her origins were unknown, most likely she was of Byzantine Greek descent but she died in 922, 2 years after Romanos came to power but together they had 4 sons and 2 daughters who had both Armenian and Greek DNA; the 3 sons Christopher, Stephen, and Constantine would all be co-emperors with their father while the other son Theophylact would become Patriarch of Constantinople, and one daughter Helena was married to the real emperor Constantine VII to add her father into the imperial bloodline, meanwhile Romanos had an illegitimate son too named Basil Lekapenos who would later be the head court eunuch. Though Constantine VII was the real emperor, he was brought down to the lowest level of the empire’s rulers but soon enough the eldest son Christopher had died in 931 and in 944 the 2 sons Stephen and Constantine overthrew their father but early in 945 they too were overthrown and sent to the same monastery as their father allowing Constantine VII to return and rule in full power. Constantine VII was best known for being the erudite emperor who wrote many books on governing the complex Byzantine Empire and its people of different ethnicities but his books had also criticized the barbarians that lived outside the empire like the Franks, these books were made for his son and successor Romanos II (r. 959-963) born in 938 and for his successors too. Constantine VII died mysteriously in 959 and was succeeded by his son Romanos II who was of both the Macedonian bloodline from his father and Lekapenos bloodline from his mother, making him have Byzantine Greek, Armenian, Thracian Slavic, and very small hints of Germanic blood too from his great-grandmother but if the rumors were true, Romanos II would have not even been Basil I’s great-grandson and would still be an Amorian. By the time Romanos II became emperor, he was already married to Theophano, born in 941 who as a Byzantine Greek of Laconian origin from Southern Greece originating in what was before Sparta. Theophano was said to be of humble origins, an innkeeper named Craterus’ daughter born with the name Anastaso but she was the woman Romanos II wanted and they married but it is rumored she poisoned her father-in-law Constantine VII and later poisoned her husband Romanos II in 963 killing him. When Romanos II died he already had 3 children but they were all too young, first were his 2 sons Basil and Constantine who were already co-emperors and 2 days before he died his and Theophano’s daughter Anna was born, the first child was also named Basil after his great-great grandfather (supposedly) Basil I and was born in 958 before his grandfather Constantine VII died. Now when Romanos II died in 963 and the sons were too young, the successful general Nikephoros Phokas then stepped in to become emperor after marrying Theophano being the stepfather of her children. Nikephoros II Phokas (r. 963-969) was born to Byzantine nobility in Cappadocia in 912 to a family of Cappadocian Greeks, his younger brother Leo and father Bardas were successful generals too and so was Nikephoros II’s grandfather also named Nikephoros was a successful general; meanwhile Nikephoros II’s mother’s name is unknown but she was from the powerful Maleinoi family, another powerful Anatolian Greek family making Nikephoros II an Anatolian Greek Byzantine in heritage having a tall and thin appearance. Nikephoros II was a successful military emperor who’s greatest success was winning wars against the Arabs but was a disaster at diplomatic policies, at the end Nikephoros II was assassinated in his sleep in 969 as part of a conspiracy led by his wife Theophano and nephew the general John Tzimiskes. Once Nikephoros II was murdered in 969, his assassin and nephew John I Tzimiskes, son of Nikephoros’ older sister became emperor but Romanos II’s 2 sons were still the co-emperors while John I and Nikephoros II before him served as the acting senior emperors who had married into the Macedonian imperial family; Nikephoros II was married to Theophano but she took John Tzimiskes as her lover but at the end John banished Theophano and married Theodora, the sister of Romanos II and daughter of Constantine VII to join the family. John I Tzimiskes (r. 969-976) was born in 925 in Constantinople having both Anatolian Greek blood from his mother’s side and Armenian blood from his father’s; John Tzimiskes was born into the Kourkouas family, his father’s family who had Armenian origins and his nickname Tzimiskes is the Greek translation of the Armenian word Chmushkik either meaning “red boots” or “short stature” as John I was short in stature but big in brain, a successful general, and skilled diplomat. John I, who can be described ethnically as half-Greek half-Armenian, was also a social reformer emperor who swore to end corruption but at the end he died probably poisoned in 976 without any heir passing the throne to the rightful ruler Basil II (r. 976-1025) who was then old enough. Basil II, the son of Romanos II and Theophano was mostly Greek in blood with hints of Armenian from his ancestors Romanos I and Basil I or probably Michael III the Amorian if he was actually Basil II’s great-great grandfather, although strangely Basil II in appearance did not resemble the men of his family as instead of being tall and thin with a long bear, he was short and round with a short beard but with Basil II the bloodline of the Macedonians resumed after years of being ruled by outsiders first by Romanos I, then by Nikephoros II and John I consecutively and Basil II despite facing many challenges to his reign was a successful emperor who defeated the Bulgarian Empire in 1014 and incorporated the whole Balkans once again into Byzantium by 1018 but he was single all his life, never married, and never had children, instead his younger sister Anna was married to the Kievan Rus prince Vladimir I the Great thus converting the Rus people to Christianity, and without any heir Basil II was succeeded by his younger brother Constantine VIII (r. 1025-1028). Basil II known as “the Bulgar-Slayer” died in 1025 ruling for almost 50 years, being the longest reigning Byzantine emperor but spending his whole reign fighting wars and commanding his armies, he never had the time to have children but by his death the empire was at its peak again and the most powerful in Europe stretching west to east from Southern Italy to Armenia, north to south from Ukraine to Syria.

Basil II’s younger brother Constantine VIII meanwhile had been co-emperor for the longest time and only became sole emperor at 65; he was however a skilled administrator but not a tough and courageous ruler like his older brother; Constantine VIII unlike his brother was married to a Byzantine Greek noblewoman from Constantinople itself named Helena, the daughter of the Constantinople noble Alypius and together Constantine VIII and Helena had 3 daughters Eudokia, Zoe, and Theodora who were now mostly Byzantine Greek in blood. When Constantine VIII died in 1028 at 68, he had no sons to succeed him so he had his daughter Zoe who was already 50 marry the 60-year-old senator Romanos Argyros who succeeded as emperor. Romanos III Argyros (r. 1028-1034) was from the powerful Argyros family, a Byzantine Greek senatorial family based in Constantinople with Anatolian Greek origins from central Asia Minor, making his DNA Greek, however Zoe’s marriage to Romanos was not happy so with her new lover the young Paphlagonian Michael, they arranged to kill Romanos III in his bath in 1034. Michael IV was another emperor of peasant origins, born in 1010 in Paphlagonia to a Paphlagonian Greek peasant family but worked in Constantinople where he met Zoe and married her in 1034 becoming emperor until his death in 1041 from epilepsy, he however was quite successful but died too soon without an heir so he passed the throne to his nephew Michael V Kalaphates (r. 1041-1042), the son of Michael IV’s sister Maria and another Paphlagonian who originally a caulker became admiral; though the young Michael V, born in 1015 in Paphlagonia being the last emperor of humble origins was a weak-minded ruler who was easily overthrown in 1042 and throne was passed back to Zoe for a few months until she married again, this time to Constantine Monomachos, another Byzantine Greek noble from Constantinople belonging to a senatorial family. Constantine IX Monomachos (r. 1042-1055) was born in 1000 in Constantinople, his father Theodosius had already been an important politician under the emperors Basil II and Constantine VIII and all his life, Constantine IX knew nothing more except about the pleasures of living rich and as emperor, he never took his duties seriously seeing it only as a way to live in pleasure, he however died in 1055, 5 years after Zoe. With Zoe and Constantine IX dead, Zoe’s younger sister Theodora, born in 980 was the last of the Macedonians (or Amorians if the rumors were true), also the next female ruler after Irene and the last sole female ruler of Byzantium but she only ruled for a year from 1055 to her death in 1056 due to old age. With Theodora dead, the Macedonian Dynasty ended and the throne was passed on to the non-dynastic finance minister Michael VI Bringas (r. 1056-1057) who only stayed in power for a year barely able to hold it due to military revolts, his birth and ethnic origins too are unknown, although he is most likely a Byzantine Greek from Constantinople too.

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Family Tree of the Macedonian Dynasty (867-1056)

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Characters of 10th century Byzantium