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First King of Italy

CNG 111, Lot: 838. Estimate $3000.
Sold for $4750. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Odovacar. King, AD 476-493. AV Tremissis (13mm, 1.44 g, 6h). In the name of Zeno. Mediolanum (Milan) mint. Struck AD 476-491. D N ZENO P ERP (AV)G, pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right / Cross potent within wreath; COMOB. RIC X 3614; Toffanin 545/6; Lacam 159; Depeyrot 43/8; DOCLR 681; MEC 1, 58-60. EF. Rare.

From the Ealing Collection. Ex Triton IV (5 December 2000), lot 755.

Traditionally, the reign of Flavius Odovacar (AD 476-493) has been seen as the end of the Western Roman Empire and the beginning of the Middle Ages in the West. A member of the foederati – allied Germanic tribes who served in the Roman army in return for land – Odovacar was appointed their leader in Italy in AD 475 by the magister militum Orestes, who promised in return a third of the Italian peninsula if Odovacar and his Germans would assist Orestes' revolt against the western emperor, Julius Nepos. Following the defeat of Nepos, Orestes elevated his son, Romulus, to the rank of Augustus, and immediately set about revoking his earlier arrangement with the foederati. Now, Odovacar revolted against Orestes, who was defeated, captured, and executed. Subsequently, Odovacar was proclaimed rex Italiae and, on 4 September AD 476, he compelled the young Romulus to abdicate, sending the imperial insignia to Constantinople, and thus ending Roman imperial rule in the West. During his reign, he provided his foederati with lands in Italy and made them beneficiaries of a special tax. He retained the Roman administration, senate, legal institutions, and tax system – all of which gained him the support of the senate and people. This popularity, along with Odovacar's military successes against the Vandals and his alliances with the Visigoths and Franks, prompted Zeno, the Roman emperor in the East, to remove Odovacar from power. In AD 488, Zeno called on the Ostrogothic king, Theoderic, to overthrow Odovacar. Over the next five years, Theoderic slowly pushed Odovacar back to the old Roman capital at Ravenna where, after a protracted siege, in AD 493, Odovacar surrendered. Under the terms of the peace, Theoderic and Odovacer would share the rule of Italy. At the banquet arranged to celebrate this treaty, however, Theoderic killed Odovacar with his own hands.