Today in World History: September 4th

The end of the Western Roman Empire came about on this day in 476 when Emperor Romulus Augustulus was deposed and Odoacer, a Roman soldier, was crowned as King of Italy. The Western Empire had been in a steady state of decline for more than a century, quite unlike its counterpart, the Eastern Empire, or the Byzantine Empire. Following devastating attacks and raids from Germanic tribes and rebellions from the outer provinces, the Roman Empire began losing major territories as early as 300 A.D. and had shrunk significantly by the time of the separation of East and West. By the time Odoacer proclaimed himself King of Italy, the Western Empire was in no shape to defend or administrate its other provinces, and so was divided into many successor states, some of which would go on to become major nations such as France and the Holy Roman Empire. Upon the end of Augustulus’s reign, the emperor of the Eastern Empire, Zeno, ordered the barbarian King Odoacer to pay tribute to the new Western Emperor. Odoacer agreed, but never returned control to the Western Empire or demilitarized. When the new emperor, Julius Nepos was assassinated, Odoacer expanded his kingdom to Dalmatia, with the rest of the Western Empire falling apart. By 488 A.D. the Eastern Empire ordered a Goth warrior named Theoderic to take over Italy. After several rounds of negotiations, Odoacer and Theoderic agreed to rule jointly. In a feast celebrating the decision, Theoderic’s men killed Odoacer’s and Odoacer was slain personally by Theoderic, establishing the Ostrogothic Kingdom in 493.


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