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The Fuehrer of the Dance
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Jul 11, 2001
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Table of Contents


Chapter I - Eagles

I - The Empire in the West, 476 - Remus Macrinus
II - Governance in the West, January to June, 476 - Remus and the Deserters
III - Odoacer and the Fall of the Empire in the West, July to September, 476 - Remus hears of Augustulus’ Deposition
IV - Odoacer Establishes His Rule, September to December, 476 - The Flight of Remus
V - Odoacer Versus the Goths I, December 476 to April 477 - Remus meets Selenus
VI - Odoacer Versus the Goths II, April to August, 477 - Remus at Vesuvius
VII - Odoacer Versus the Goths III - the Death of Geiseric, August 477 to February 478 - The Ambush
VIII - Odoacer Versus the Goths IV - Julius Nepos and Glycerius, March to September 478 - “Ego pater sum, et tu filius es”
IX - Odoacer Versus the Goths V, November 478 to March 479 - Nepos in Italia
X - Julius Nepos Gives Battle - Banditry in the South - Odoacer Treats with the Goths, March to July 479 - Remus in Winter
XI - Odoacer Reforms the Army - Nepos Repositions, July to November, 479 - Remus Crosses the Hadriaticum
XII - Nepos is Stalled - Diplomacy, December 479 to March 480 - Remus and the ‘Emperor’
XIII - Nepos Enters the North - and Meets His Fate - Banditry in the South II, April to August, 480 - Remus in Peril
XIV - Odoacer Versus the Burgundians I - Dalmatia Presses On - Banditry in the South III, August to December, 480 - Remus has a Friend
XV - The Glycerian Conspiracy, January to May, 481 - Varic and Markus
- Odoacer Versus the Burgundians II - The Soldiers Revolt, April to December, 481 - Remus, Markus and Selenus journey to the Lucullanum
XVII - Remus and the ‘Emperor’ II
XVIII - Odoacer Treats with the Burgundians - The Revolt of Remus Macrinus, January to April 482
IXX - The Lady Barbaria
XX - Remus Prepares
XXI - Remus Deals with Claudius’ Advance Party
XXII - October 482 - The Battle of the River Calor I
XXIII - October 482 - The Battle of the River Calor II
XXIV - Peace with Ovida - Odoacer’s Difficulties - The Henotikon, October 482 to March 483 - Remus Grows in Strength
XXV - Remus and Tarentum
XXVI - Selenus and Barbaria I
XXVII - August 483 - The Battle of Tusculum I
XXVIII - August 483 - The Battle of Tusculum II
XXIX - August 483 - The Battle of Tusculum III
XXX - The Fall of Rome, August 483 - Remus and Roma
XXXI - The Re-emergence of the West, September to November 483 - The Curia Julia
XXXII - The Domus Augustiana
XXXIII - The Advance of the West, October 483 to January 484 - Loyalty in Winter
XXXIV - Constantinople
XXXV - An Audience in Constantinople
XXXVI - The Battle for the North, January to February, 484 - Remus at Mediolanum
XXXVII - Selenus and Annaeus
XXXVIII - Dealings with the East, March to September, 484 - The Convalescent
XXXIX - The Acacian Schism
XL - Selenus at Ancona
XLI - Claudius ‘Bos’ at Ravenna


Chapter II - The Gallic Campaign

I - Gallia Romanum
II - Journey to Gaul, December, 486 - Remus and the Burgundians I
III - Remus and the Burgundians II
IV - The Walls of Ravenna, February, 487
V - West of Gratianopolis
VI - Remus and the Burgundians III, April, 487
VII - Lugdunum, April, 487 - Remus and the Burgundians IV
VIII - The Sicilian Expedition, April to June, 487 - Selenus and Barbaria II
IX - Escape to Gallia I
X - Escape to Gallia II
XI - The Fall of Ravenna, July, 487
XII - Suomar and Selenus I, July, 487
XIII - August 487 - The Battle for Laudunum
XIV - Remus and Syagrius
XVI - A Letter for Selenus
XVII - Remus in Gaul I, October, 488
XVIII - Remus in Gaul II
XIX - Selenus and the Sicilians I, November, 488
XX - The Goths invade Italy, January, 488
XXI - Remus in Gaul III, February, 489
XXII - Remus Aquila
XXIII – Remus in Gaul IV, March, 489
XXIV - Selenus and the Sicilians II, March, 489
XXV – Claudius faces the Goths, April, 489
XXVI – The Death of Markus
XXVII – Remus in Gaul V
XXIX – Remus at Burdigala, April, 489
XXX – Tarquinius and Avitus I*
XXXI - House Procovinii Tiberianii*
XXXII – The Death of Lucius and it’s aftermath; Saturnius Procovinus*
XXXIII – Suomar and Selenus II, April, 489
XXXIV – Romulus’ Carriage
XXXV – Regulus enters the Senate*
XXXVI – Remus in Gaul VI, May, 489
XXXVII – Romulus greets the Embassy
XXXVIII – Tarquinius and Avitus II*
XXXIX – June to September, 489 - The Assault on Soissons
XL – Remus versus Clovis
XLI – Selenus versues the Vandals I
XLII - Selenus versus the Vandals II
XLIII – Selenus turns to Syracuse, October, 489
XLIV – Selenus prepares for the siege, October, 489
XLV – Genucius Dives
XLVI – Claudius ‘Bos’ and the Goths in Italy, June to December, 489
XLVII – Winter in Rome*
XLVIII – Gaul - The Battle of Soissons I
IL – April 490 – The Battle of Soissons II
L – Reman Legions and Warfare
LI – Regulus and the Barbarian*
LII – Syracuse Under Threat, November, 489 to November, 490
LIII – Suomar arrives at Claudius’ camp
LIV – Romulus is angry
LV – The Burgundians are troublesome
LVI – Titus Orachus*
LVII - Remus and Gundobad
LVIII – Remus and the Burgundians – Bibracte and after, August, 490
LIX – Selenus is Exhausted – Syracuse is Relieved
LX – Summer in Campania*
LXI – Claudius is Dismissed; Suomar is Delighted
LXI – The Lady Barbaria and Genucius Dives
LXII - Gaul, Sicily and Italia, 491
LXIII - Outside the Senate House*
LXIV – Romulus is Piqued – Remus is Cautious
LXV – Remus at Mediolanum
LXVI – Decius is Delighted - Hesta Urges Restraint*
LXVII – Remus and Varic
LVIII – Word Reaches Rome; Hesta is Annoyed*
LXIX – Aquilinus Imperator – Selenus Ponders His Future
LXX – Remus, Suomar and Theodoric in Italia, April to May, 492
LXXI - Remus, Suomar and Theodoric in Italia II, April to May, 492
LXXII – Selenus Reaches Suomar’s Camp
LXXIII – Selenus Faces Down Suomar; the Army is United
LXXIV – Remus Camps Outside Rome; The Senate is manoeuvring
LXXV - Saturnius and the Intruder*
LXXVI - Claudius at Ostia; Encounter with Annaeus
LXXVII - The Uprising at Rome*
LXXVIII - Remus and Hesta Meet; His Army Enters Rome
LXXIX - Regulus and Hesta Discuss Opportunities*
LXXX - Remus Macrinus Enters Rome


Chapter III - Imperator

I - Homecoming
II - Revival in the West - 493
III - The Bishop and the Prefect
IV - Solace and an Encounter
V - Regulus Ponders*
VI - The Rhenus Frontier
VII - Camp Life/The New Empress Dallies*
VIII - Selenus Returns to the Lucallanum
IX - The Danube Frontier
X - Briefings in Mediolanum
XI - A City's Fate/Senator and Priest

Sections in normal type are narrative;
Sections which are italicised are historical;
Sections which are italicised and bold are historical battles;
Sections which are bold and in normal type are narrative battles.
*Authored by Vincent Julien, currently hosted at alternate-history.com. Will require registration to view​


Fields of Cunetio, 1266 AUC

”Woe to the Imperator should he take his legions there…” Annaeus, The Lay of Remus

The rains were falling steadily now, the distant rumbles of thunder masking the cacophany of battle – screams drowned by raindrops hitting the ground, turning the fields to mud. Percival wiped his forehead, struggling to see what was happening around him. The visibility was worsening and he could scarcely make out what lay in front of him, rings of bodies circling him, some armored house-guards, some Roman comites, their mounts dying beside them. A soldier coughed to his left, hacking away what little life was left to him. Another begged for a mercy that would not come. And beside him, lying stricken on the softening earth, Percival’s commander, an enemy spear protruding from his thigh.

A horse neighed far to his left, and a muffled shout was heard. His hand instinctively gripped his sword. ”Franks, milord.” He moved to stand, but a strong hand gripped his arm, pulling him back down.

”No….don’t trouble yourself. They’re regrouping…though…they’ll be back.” The voice labored for breath, the man behind it dark with dust and blood. His brown hair was grimy and tattered, mirroring his broken body. He spasmed, and jerked up, Percival struggling to hold him down.

”We have to get you out of here!” he begged, his hands grasping the man’s torso, attempting to pry it from the deepening muck. Again the man shook his head. Lightning crashed, and the rains deepened in earnest. All around them, they heard shouts of men searching for them, mixed in with the cries of melee and screams of the wounded.




Swords clanged and crashed in the distance, and he could swear the sounds were nearing. Or was it his nerves?

The commander coughed, and Percival could see the blood. He felt the heaviness in his own chest, and could sense what was to come. Suddenly the man’s hand came up and gripped Percival’s tunic, yanking him downward. ”He’s pressing the center….Claudius…Percival…you must….go…go!” The words dissolved in a fit of coughing. Raindrops splattered over the man’s forehead.

With a furious shake, Percival refused, again trying to pull the man off the ground. ”No…I can’t.” He looked around in vain, trying to find a guardsman or some survivor to help.. ”Gawaine, please…I can’t leave you to…”

The hand smacked his cheek, and he jerked back, shocked at the strength of the blow. His cheek flushed, he turned back to his commander. Gawaine’s eyes were flashing now, and a measure of his old resolve was back. ”I do not command fools! The army….save”. The commander leaned back, his eyes losing their focus, his head slowly drooping back to the ground. With a final inhale, the once proud knight fell into the mud…one last time.

”T-tell Arthur…” The voice was so soft and raspy. Percival leaned down to hear.

”T-tell….the legions…” Percival heard no more.

* * *


They identified him by his tunic, the yellow eagle barely showing under a cake of dirt. The skies had cleared, leaving only a gray blanket of clouds. Bare strands of grass were the only reminders of the once-green fields, which were now covered with the debris of war. Claudius approached, scrutinizing the field around him with their blanket of bodies.

”Mud’s too thick for cavalry, Praefectus,” his aide remarked. Claudius nodded absently at the comment. The Britons were too far away anyways for pursuit. He had an army to pull together. He sighed and studied the area. The highest point on the rise…right where I would be if it were I leading.

”Send for the medicus. See that he’s handled with honors,” he said, gesturing to the body of the enemy commander. As his aide saluted and rode off, Claudius stared into the lifeless eyes of the man, this Gawaine, and held them for a moment. What manner of man were you, he wondered idly. It was a question he had asked many times of late, and it never ceased to trouble him. As if becoming aware of his surroundings, Claudius scowled and kicked his horse, his cloak flapping in the wind.

- Title picture 'Roman Solider' by Daniel Zollinger at www.danzollinger.com
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Ah. 476 scenario? Looks good, will follow it. :cool:
Starts drooling in anticipation.

By 476, the Italian peninsula and nearby provinces were home to three western emperors, some in the ascendant, others in exile, and none of them having fully relinquished their claims. Glycerius, who with Gundobad’s help had taken the throne in 473, was by the next year deposed and made Bishop of Salona. His successor and the man sent by Zeno to depose him, Julius Nepos, was himself cast out in 475 and had likewise made his exile in Dalmatia. He continued to lay claim to the western throne – backed by Zeno – in defiance of his usurper, Orestes. It was Orestes, who, as Patrician, had placed his young son, Romulus Augustulus on the throne. Nepos was said to be plotting against Augustulus, and Glycerius against Nepos. Such was the Western Roman Empire, one thousand one hundred and twenty nine years after the founding of that city which bore its name.


By 476, the Western Roman Empire was decrepit and decaying

The Western Empire was a shell of its former glory. Bankrupt, with weak armies beholden more to generals than politicians, and with territory that existed more on maps than in reality, it was a rotting shell. Britannia was lost, the former subjects there contending with repeated raids by the Picts and Saxons. Gaul had long since been ground under by the invading Franks, Alemanni, Burgundians, and Visigoths. Only in Provence, more through diplomacy than military success, did any semblance of western rule remain. Iberia was dominated by the Visigoths along with territories owned by the Suebi and the Vandals, who themselves had conquered Africa, Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. Dalmatia gave lip service to Rome, Nepos using it more as a base to regain his power than as a province to govern. In theory, the West still owned provinces in Rhaetia and Noricum, yet it had been years since the deserting garrisons of limitanei had been paid. Northern Italia had been ravaged by barbarian invasion – the Goths in the early century, then Attila, who had destroyed Aquilea, and then the Vandals in the 450s, who had furthered the sack of Rome. Vandals continued to raid the southern portions of the peninsula. Though much of Italia, its population, its settlements, its institutions, were very much still Roman, it was a Rome at bay.


Barbarians such as the Goths and the Vandals had laid low the city of Rome

The great city itself was a reflection of the poor fortunes of the western Empire. The Goths and Vandals had stolen much of its treasures and had breached its tall Aurelian walls. Many of the aqueducts had been cut during earlier attacks though some, such as the Aqua Traiana, still brought precious water to the population. Since its imperial height of one million inhabitants, Rome was now home to less than one hundred thousand. Much of the true apparatus of government had long since shifted to Ravenna in the north, which was well-defended behind swamps and fortifications. The Senate still sat in the city itself, bloated to two thousand members since the reign of Constantine II, and retaining some civil and administrative powers. Significant authority in the city was shifting towards the Christian Bishop Simplicius, said to be the forty-seventh in a line of ‘popes’ stemming from the Apostle Peter himself. Contending with Monophysite and Nestorian heresies which had not been completely silenced at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, Simplicius was head of a church still struggling with its identity, and which had to face the bitter reality that many of the strong rulers of the barbarian states in the West – Euric of the Visigoths, Geiseric of the Vandals, and Chilperic of the Burgundians, were Arian. The Alemanni were Arian in sentiment as well, while the Franks, under their chieftain Clovis, were decidedly pagan. This was the Rome of 476, the Rome where our story begins.


”Our pay’s been cut again.”

Remus shook his head in frustration, but said nothing. He kept his eyes on the thin line of traffic moving in and out of the Porta Praenestina, which formed the easternmost of Rome’s gates. It was hardly a gate anymore. The Goths had torn down one of its strong timber supports years before, and a smaller, less imposing gate had been installed in its place. Indeed, why bother, Remus thought sometimes. The walls themselves still had deep holes in them, long since neglected. In many places, the fortifications were abandoned, the remains of the old Servian walls being used for defense – and efficiency, he thought grimly. That he, a veteran comite, was being used for gate duty, was sign enough of imperial cost-cutting.

”Ite!” He waved through a pair of burly farmers attempting to lug their cart into the city. Likely headed for market, Remus thought, giving the contents a cursory glance and then moving them along. If they meant any harm, there were easier ways to get into the city than its gates.

At last he gave his attention to Modestus, his relief and friend. ”By whose authority this time?”

Modestus, a tall blonde man, clearly of some Frankish or other tribal blood, shook his head wryly. ”Why Orestes himself, of course, lord noble Patrician..”

”Another palace to line?” His question was met with a laugh.

”Of course not, my friend! Rome is no longer a place for palaces. Any of those, he gives to the bishops for churches. Makes the holy one happy. Non! He needs to pay his own troops, from what I hear. Fifteen hundred bucellarii, his very own army. His son won’t mind, of course. He owes his backside to his father’s whim. Non, why pay Rome’s regular troops when you can buy your own?”

Remus snorted, though the truth of it was obvious enough to hurt. ”Who’s he going to fight this time? Some damnable farmer in Mediolanum?”

Modestus shrugged. ”Does it matter? Maybe he wants to fight barbarians. Goths, Heruli, who knows? And why care? Tonight, my friend, we get drunk, on less pay of course, find a good woman to bed, and think little of such thoughts. That is the lot of a Roman soldier these days.”

With a grim laugh, Remus handed off the post and walked back to the barracks, not sure why the situation even bothered him. His pay had been cut three times in the past year. Soon the army would exist on nothing at all. Then what?

- Title picture 'Roman Solider' by Daniel Zollinger at www.danzollinger.com
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Judas Maccabeus said:
Ooh, another Roman AAR... but at least this one has Rome where it should be, in the 5th century. Can't wait to see where this goes.

Yeah! It's a lot better than that freak who moved Rome into the early 15th century! I mean...

oh...wait..uhm...hi Judas! :rofl:
CatKnight said:
Yeah! It's a lot better than that freak who moved Rome into the early 15th century! I mean...

oh...wait..uhm...hi Judas! :rofl:

*reminds self to play Great Britain the next time he's in the 1773 scenario. :D *

Looks like you're in a bit of a tough spot there... but I'm sure you can pull something off.
Cool, looks like the upcoming expansion "Barabarian invasion" to Rome Total War :)

January - June, 476

Officially titled Romulus Augustus, the new emperor of the Western Empire, placed on the throne by his father Orestes, was rapidly becoming known as the more diminutive ‘Augustulus’ (or Little Augustus), little in stature and little in power. Having appointed his father magister militum, or Master of Soldiers, the young emperor was then content to accept the role of reigning figurehead, while it was Orestes, a Noricum aristocrat of Germanic descent, who actually ruled.

Orestes faced several immediate dangers above and beyond the relative weakness of the state. First was the opposition of the Emperor in Constantinople, who still backed the exiled Nepos in Dalmatia. Fortunately for Orestes, Zeno, who had ascended to the imperial dignity in 475, was then in exile in Isauria, contending against his mother-in-law’s brother, Basicilus. The civil conflict had temporarily weakened the attentions of the Eastern Empire, giving Orestes the breathing spell he needed to deal with other problems in Italia.


To strengthen his rule and that of his son, Orestes turned to the economic power of the Imperial mints

These were, most importantly, satisfying the mercenary armies which now formed the bulk of the western military. In early 476, Orestes began to issue coins – solidi – from Imperial mints in Arles, Mediolanum, Ravenna, and Rome. Important not only as a symbol of solidifying the rule of his son, the filling coffers could be used to pay off disgruntled barbarians which had fought for Rome in the past and now wanted payment.


The barbarian mercenaries were not easily satisfied

Unfortunately for Orestes and Augustulus, money was no longer enough for the Heruli, Scirian, and Torcilingi barbarians. Rejecting the proffered payments, they now demanded additional compensation in the form of lands in northern Italia, lands which had been heavily depopulated by the invasions of the Goths and Huns earlier in the 5th century. Defiantly, Orestes refused and began to use imperial funds to raise another army, one more loyal to his ends. As the year progressed into July, it appeared that the Western Empire was awaiting renewed civil strife.


”Celerior! Head them off!” Remus shouted, his mount galloping at full strength. They had emerged from a rocky gully up into a small field of ripening wheat. The lack of rains had made the ground dry, and their quarry gave off an easily spotted dust cloud. A hot June sun was taxing them as they pushed the pursuit hard.

Again, he pointed ahead, giving signals to confirm his orders. The officer, off to his left and likewise galloping at best speed, nodded curtly and turned away with his small troop. Like the rest of his men, he wore a loose wool tunic, with only a bright tan band around the arms and neck denoting his status, as well as the small plume in his helmet. Some, the veterans and officers, had a light scale shirt over the tunic which served as armor. Their leather breeches were weathered from months on campaign, and each man carried a long sword or spatha and a hasta spear. Each gripped a large shield, perhaps the most intricately decorated piece of equipment, some painted with the purple and black eagle of their unit, the Comite Vexillum.


Typical trooper of the Comite Vexillum

Similarly dressed were the men they were pursuing, a pair of cavalry troopers who had abandoned their posts two days ago. Dispatched to track them down, it had taken Remus’ troop the better part of a day to find them, fair weather and the haste of these men contributing to an early success. They were now well into the Apennine foothills, having abandoned the Via Cassia near Arretium.

Remus held up his right hand and urged his men forward. The steep hillside beyond the field prevented a direct escape, he realized. It was far too steep for a direct ascent. If he could just get between them and the roadway…but it was not to be. Off to his left, he saw that the officer he had dispatched would not get there in time. The sun was coming in from the west now, and it was clearly getting late. The horses were tiring, on both sides. How much longer could this go on, he wondered?

This was not the first such chase. Ever since Orestes had decided not to pay the regular garrisons, many such soldiers were attempting to desert. Rumors said bands of them were joining up in the north, beyond Mediolanum. Only the previous week, he’d been forced to kill two soldiers, who looked much as if their sires had served with Attila. But they had been soldiers, and deserters. Pay or not, it was not in Remus to abide disloyalty or dishonor. There were other ways he thought, willing the men in front to stop. But they did not, and the chase continued.

The field gave way to a shallow gulley and then it gradually ascended over the hillside, where a neatly marked farmer’s trail reached up and over. And that was where the deserters went, still harried by Remus’ troop. They disappeared over the ridge, only the dust marking where they had been, and now he saw the lead group of riders follow….and suddenly rein in. Horses neighed in confusion and three or four troopers clumsily halted in turn, milling about awkwardly, and staring beyond.

”Why are you stopping?” he shouted, willing his mount faster in pursuit. There was no sign of answer, however, and Remus galloped to the top, halting next to the officer with trained precision.

”Why have you stopped?!?” he demanded, pointing in the direction of the fleeing deserters but looking at his subordinate in frustration.

The officer regarded him blandly and then waved ahead of him. ”That is why, Decurio.”

Remus turned, but to his credit did not blink. The ridge gave way to a series of larger fields, and beyond he could make out a large villa. In the midst of this, however, was a band of forty to fifty horsemen, trotting loosely towards the pair of deserters, who themselves had reined in. He could not make out what was being said, yet it was clear that they were on some form of amicable terms. The pair turned their horses and blended in with the group.

”More of them,” Remus said coldly, mentally adding up his own strength. His bandon was down to eight effectives, many of them recruits. Hardly a force to take into combat against this lot. He sighed, his chest heaving with exasperation.

”I suspect these will only get larger the further north we ride.”

”Your orders?”

Remus said nothing for a moment. He wiped his forehead, dirt mixing with sweat as he did so. ”Keep our distance. They’ll want to slip away as soon as possible, so we need to report.in,” he said, the words tasting bitter on his tongue. ”Come. Back to camp. I have little doubt we’ll meet again.”

- Title picture 'Roman Solider' by Daniel Zollinger at www.danzollinger.com
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Ah, Mettermck. Your AAR makes me wish I knew how to install this scenario.
Yet another display of Mett's outstanding writing ability. Glad to see this AAR get an update.

I take it, Mett, that you have decided to pursue this AAR over your others?
Excellent writing as always Mettermrck. :cool: Looking forward to more.


July - September 476

By August of 476, events in the Western Empire were coming to a head. Continuing to defy his mercenaries’ demands, Orestes was openly preparing for war, raising a loyal army of bucellarii. Against him was arrayed a myriad of Germanic and Eastern tribesmen who, on the 23rd of August, organized themselves and proclaimed a leader. This was Odoacer, the half-Hunnish, half-Scirian chieftain of the Germanic Heruli. A former mercenary himself who had led his tribe in service under past emperors, including Avitus and Majorian, this barbarian chieftain represented less a tribal threat against a ‘roman’ empire, rather a dispute of barbarian versus barbarian, one of whom acted in the official name of Rome itself.


By August, discontented mercenaries had rallied behind the barbarian chieftain Odoacer

Having enjoyed the steady rise of discontent amongst Rome’s foedarii armies, Odoacer soon gathered enough deserters and supporters to his cause to rival the size and strength of Orestes’ forces. Marching towards Ravenna from the north, the two armies came to grips at Piacenza, south of Mediolanum. Here, in a confused melee of mercenaries and native auxilia, Odoacer prevailed, capturing his enemy and summarily executing him. Rome’s army in the field disintegrated, and now nothing stood between Odoacer and Ravenna.


Orestes’ army was decisively defeated by Odoacer at Piacenza

Despite Ravenna’s formidable defenses, Odoacer marched quickly and entered the city without major opposition. In less than a few month’s span, Rome’s armies were broken and a barbarian army had once again entered its capital city. His father dead, Romulus Augustulus was helpless against the conquering army. On the 4th of September, the young Emperor was compelled to abdicate his throne. Perhaps due to his youth and deemed ineffective, young Augustulus’ life was spared, and he was relegated to what appeared to be a comfortable exile at the villa of Lucullus in Campania.


Odoacer had a major decision to make about the fate of the West

Odoacer now faced the choice of appointing a new figurehead to rule the West, remaining the power behind the throne (thus emulating the example of Ricimer and Orestes), or ruling as an agent of the East. Favoring the latter, Odoacer sent the imperial regalia – the diadem, scepter, orb, and other accoutrements of imperial rule – to Zeno in Constantinople. Having finally put down his rival, Basicilus, Zeno was disposed to be generous and consented to receive the regalia. Also, per Odoacer’s request to be named dux of Italia, Zeno appointed him Patrician and thus de facto ruler of the peninsula, though Odoacer was encouraged to recognize the rule of the ‘legitimate’ Western emperor, Julius Nepos, still in exile in Dalmatia.


Odoacer now ruled a state in Italy that was more Roman in name than fact

Within nine months, 476 had seen the apparent end to the pretense of a western empire. Though Odoacer was officially bound to Roman rule from the East, the arrangement was also an acknowledgment that there was little that Zeno, let alone Nepos, could do to enforce their will in Italia. The fall of Augustulus did not necessarily mean an end to Roman administration, as Odoacer was careful to maintain the forms and customs of Empire, including the election of magistrates such as the consuls, as well as maintaining the Senate in Rome. Just what precisely had happened with the fall of Augustulus was not yet apparent to the world at large, and months, perhaps years, would be required to shed some light on this.


”Imperator mortuus est!” The rider shouted as he galloped into camp. Groggy, still rubbing their eyes and stretching aching muscles, the soldiers were still lumbering in front of their tents, watching suspiciously as the horseman, who looked less of a soldier than some native brigand, rode past. The words hadn’t truly sunk in and after the gate sentry, no one thought to challenge him. His hair was tied back and his tunic was of unremarkable brown leather. Surely not an officer, or even a courier, Remus thought with a good Roman sniff. Much had changed, he thought wearily, and then realized what the man had said.

”The Emperor is dead?” He turned warily to his tent mates.

Gaius shook his head with a scoff. ”That lad? I think he means Orestes, the fool. Thinks himself a general. I’ve heard some nasty stuff from up there. I don’t expect His Pomposity got the triumph he was looking for. And it sounds like he paid for it…with his life.” He winked, showing that he had little love for their erstwhile Patrician.

Remus shook his head and turned back to his tent. ”Well, there’s nothing for bandying about rumors. Let’s get everything broken down and the men ready to mount. It’ll distract them from whatever’s going on.” Ruefully, they dug into the work, breaking down their tent, packing up gear, and inspecting every inch of their mounts, as any cavalryman worth his salt would do.

Two more riders had galloped into camp, though none had the foolish inclination to shout out any news. From time to time, Remus shot a glance to the general’s tent, where Pryopius no doubt knew far more than his men did. Whatever it meant, he could only demonstrate the patience of a soldier…and wait.


A bucellari, limitanei, and cataphract of Pryopius’ army in camp

The army, if it could be called that with only nine hundred men, was steadily making its way northward towards the capital at Ravenna, where they had expected to join with Orestes’ army and march against the deserters – or barbarii, or whatever names the men had for them. If the word was correct, however, it was far too late. Pryopius would have to double time back to Rome, if any defense was to be made.

To his surprise, however, there was no route march that day. No orders came down to prepare to move out, and to Remus’ chagrin, his men had broken down the very camp they might have to stay in for another night. It was good training, he thought calmly. Preparation was nine-tenths of campaigning. Now if only his superiors would prepare their own men!

Several hours after midday, having drilled his men for an hour, and most looking forward to retiring early, he spied the man emerging from the general’s tent and trotting towards him, a man bursting with official news who clearly wished to thunder it to the heavens. Fortunately, they were spared this, the officer calmly asking Remus to form up his men, mounted, in double line facing each other. A parade, he thought to himself? Knowing better than to question the man, he turned back to his unit and whipped them into shape. Soon the Via Principalis was lined with cavalry troopers, almost the entire force, ranging from Remus’ veteran comites to several detachments who looked as if the young boys were still new to horses. They did their best to keep their mounts steady, and Remus decided that, as a whole, the army looked fit and took some comfort from that.

It would not last long however, as Pryopius, looking less Roman than his name implied, rode into the center of the roadway, several officers flanking him. A jagged scar ran down his cheek, which tended to scare the recruits more than the sound of his own voice. His matted gray hair was testament to years spent in the imperial service. His expression was grim, his lips pursed. Remus knew the news was bad.

”Equites! Soldiers of Rome! God frowns on us this day.”

There was some murmuring in the ranks, quickly cut off by a shout from a grizzled centurion. ”Tace!”

Pryopius seemed not to notice. ”The news from the north is not good. Orestes, our great Patrician and militus, has fallen. Ravenna is taken.” He held up a short piece of vellum paper. ”I have here a missive from the capital. It is signed by our Emperor, Romulus Augustulus. It says that Fortune and God have turned against him. For the good of the Empire, he is relinquishing his throne. He expects us to behave as good disciplined soldiers and…” Pryopius looked as if he was choking on these last words, ”to follow and obey our new leader, the general Odoacer, who has been appointed by the Emperor and his government to preside over the West.”

He set down the paper, and absorbed the stunned silence of his soldiers. Remus was as shocked in thought was he was in words, and said and thought nothing for several moments. Only the birds seemed not to have noticed the turn of affairs, and brayed curiously at the gathering below them. Finally, Pryopius’ booming voice again broke the silence.

”Equites! I know you are all good soldiers and good Romans. We will have order in this army!” he shouted challengingly, though none of his men were in a condition to disagree. Satisfied, he looked around again. ”This army will return to Rome, where it will be absorbed as part of the garrison there. You will all remain in the service of our new commander where I know you will be a tribute to your discipline. May Fortune smile upon you all. Dismissed.” With that Pryopius turned and rode away, bound for his own future in Ravenna, Remus would later learn.

It took several minutes for the men to slowly dismount and return to their tents. Wordlessly, Remus could only stare as his men filed past, oddly wondering in his mind just what the definition of ‘Roman’ was anymore. It was all he could muster in the meantime, and he, like the rest of the soldiers, would fall into step for the return to Rome, perhaps surprised at how easy it was to shift loyalties from one ruler to another. Of all qualities, this was one most Roman, Remus would decide, though what if the ruler chose not to be Roman? It was a question for future days, he mused.

- Title picture 'Roman Solider' by Daniel Zollinger at www.danzollinger.com
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Interesting AAR. Especially taking the historical route and having Odoacer triumphing and basically ending the Western Roman Empire. Did you actually struggle to prevent him from triumphing and fail or did you let him succeed?