Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Nepos: Last 'Legitimate' Western Emperor

    Julius Nepos, Western Roman Empire (First Reign, AD 474-475). AV solidus (21mm, 4.35 gm, 7h). NGC AU 4/5 - 3/5, scuff. Arles. D N IVL NE-POS P F AVG, pearl-diademed, helmeted, cuirassed bust of Julius Nepos three-quarters facing, spear in right hand over shoulder, shield in left decorated with horseman motif / VICTORI-A AVGGG, Victory standing facing, head left, supporting long jeweled cross in right hand; A-R in fields, COMOB in exergue. RIC X 3223. Depeyrot 29/1. Lacam 8 (this coin).

    From the Morris Collection. Ex Numismatica Ars Classica 33 (6 April 2006), lot 632 ( hammer of 22,000 CHF); Leu 25 (23 April 1980), lot 461; Hess-Leu 28 (5 May 1965), lot 546.

    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.

    View all of [The Morris Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2019
    6th-7th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 346

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $19) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2020 April 22 - 27 Central States World Coins Signature Auction - Chicago.

    Learn about consigning with us

    The sale of some of my collection was an easy process, especially with your help. Heritage Auctions provides collectors a reliable service and is a useful way to manage their collections.
    David J. ,
    New Bern, NC
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 December 5-7 US Coins Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 December 5-7 US Coins Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $9,490,536
    2019 December 5 - 6 HKINF World & Ancient Coins Signature Auction - Hong Kong
    2019 December 5 - 6 HKINF World & Ancient Coins Signature Auction - Hong Kong
    REALIZED SO FAR $3,848,341
    2019 December 4 - 6 HKINF World Paper Money Signature Auction - Hong Kong
    2019 December 4 - 6 HKINF World Paper Money Signature Auction - Hong Kong
    REALIZED SO FAR $1,667,605