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    Nepos: Last 'Legitimate' Western Emperor

    Julius Nepos, Western Roman Emperor (second reign, AD 477-480). AV solidus (20mm, 4.24 gm, 6h). Seemingly an Visigothic or Germanic issue, 'Ravenna mint.' D N IVL NE-POS PF AVG, pearl-diademed, helmeted, and cuirassed bust facing slightly right, holding spear over shoulder and shield decorated with horseman spearing soldier / VICTORI-A AVGGG, Victory standing left, holding long cross; R-V across field, COMOB in exergue. Cf. RIC 3243 (style). Very rare. NGC Choice XF? 5/5 - 3/5, clipped.

    The last "legitimate" Roman emperor of the West, Julius Nepos was the nephew of the patrician Marcellinus, virtual ruler of Dalmatia in the fragmented West Roman Empire of the later fifth century AD. The family also had close ties with the East Roman regime, and Nepos married a niece of the East Roman Emperor Leo (AD 457-474). When the Western Roman throne became vacant in AD 473, Leo contemplated ruling the whole empire himself. But when the Western Master of Soldiers Gundobad raised a minor nobleman named Glycerius to the purple, Leo decided the affront could not be tolerated and appointed Nepos in his stead. Nepos arrived in Italy with a small coterie of soldiers in the spring of AD 474 and marched on Ravenna, where Glycerius surrendered without a fight. Glycerius was packed off to Dalmatia to serve as bishop of Salonae, while Nepos took charge of the state and tried to arrest the Western Empire's terminal decline. The Roman peoples of Gaul initially supported Nepos (the poet Sidonius praises him as a "true emperor in character no less than prowess"), but lost enthusiasm when his ambitious plans came to nothing. The Roman Senate also resented him as a foreigner imposed by the East Roman regime. In the summer of AD 474, his master of soldiers Orestes rebelled and led an army to Ravenna, where Nepos was holed up. His support having evaporated, Nepos took ship for his homeland of Dalmatia on August 28, AD 475. Orestes had his young son Romulus Augustus acclaimed emperor, but he "reigned" only 10 months before being deposed by the warlord Odovacer in mid AD 476. Meanwhile, Nepos continued to claim the title Emperor of the West and ran a court in exile in Dalmatia. Coinage continued to be minted in his name during this "second reign," including this piece, likely struck at an Italian or Gallic mint under German or Visigothic control. Nepos was still plotting his return to power when he was murdered in AD 480 by agents of Glycerius, the man he had deposed six years earlier.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2014
    10th-16th Thursday-Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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