Romolo Augustolo, the last Roman Emperor who lived at the Castel dell'Ovo

by Francesco Li Volti

The one of Romolo Augustolo it's a sad story, because his deposition marks the end of the glorious Western Roman Empire. Flavio Romolo Augusto, remembered with the diminutive of "Augustolo" or "little Augustus“, He was Emperor of Rome for only 10 months. His removal as Emperor of the Romans marks the epilogue of the ancient era and the period in which the Middle Ages began.

From Giulio Nepote to Romolo Augustolo

Romolo Augustolo was the son of Flavio Oreste, a Roman general (magister militum) very important that he served in Gaul and who was the former notary of the Hun king Attila. Having obtained the consent of his army, Orestes arrived with his troops as far as Rome on August 28, 475, attacking the Emperor Giulio Nepote, forcing him to flee first to Ravenna and then to Dalmatia. Nepote was appointed Emperor the year before, by the will of the Eastern emperors Zeno and Leo I. Flavio Oreste, loyal to the Roman cause, asked the emperor of the East, Zeno, appoints her as manager, on her behalf, of the Western Roman Empire, but without receiving any response. Orestes could not personally obtain the appointment because he was of barbarian origin, while the son, having his mother from a Roman patrician family, was considered a citizen of Rome. So, wanting to lay the foundations for a strong and enduring Empire, he appointed his 14-year-old son Romulus as the new emperor. To Nepote, emperor de iure, Romolo Augustolo succeeded, but in reality to command Rome was his father Oreste, emperor de facto.
The face of Romolo Augustolo (indeed, his profile) was coined a RomeMilan, Ravenna and even to Arles, on Roman coins, i solid (hence the term money).

Romolo Augustolo, l'ultimo Imperatore Romano che visse al Castel dell'Ovo
The solid with the profile of the Emperor Romulus Augustulus

But the Roman Empire was in a phase of serious and profound economic crisis. The state coffers were no longer sufficient to pay the Germanic troops in the pay of the Roman army, located on the border of the Empire. No longer receiving the money he was entitled to, in 476 the barbarian mercenaries of the Heruli, of the Sciuri and the Turcilingi they appointed the barbarian leader Odoacer as his own king, rebelling against the western empire. In the same year Odoacer arrived in Italy and killed Oreste and his brother Paolo near Piacenza, occupied Ravenna and deposed the emperor Romulus Augustulus, who was spared his life due to his young age. In reality it would seem that Romulus Augustulus was allowed to live as he was forced by Odoacer himself to send a letter to Zeno of the East, in which he stated that only the barbarian could be the only king between the two. The year of the deposition of Romulus Augustulus, 476, is considered as the starting date of the Middle Ages.

The exile at the Castel dell'Ovo

L'"Anonymous Valesiano“, A collection of books written anonymously between 390 and 550, indicates the Castrum Lucullanum, or today's Castel dell'Ovo, the place of exile of the young Romolo Augustolo. Odoacer sent him to Naples, together with his family still alive, granting him an annuity of six thousand solids per year (the income of a wealthy senator). We are aware of this annuity due to Cassiodorus, secretary of the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great, who wrote a letter to a certain "Romulus" in 507, confirming an enviable pension. A golden exile therefore, given that the ancient villa of the general Lucullus it was famous throughout the kingdom for its opulence and riches. But it is from this moment that traces of Romolo Augustolo are lost. Edward Gibbon, in one of his books, it is certain that the disciples of San Severino were invited in 488 by a "Neapolitan lady" (perhaps the mother of the ex-emperor) to take the saint's body to Castel dell'Ovo.
The last Emperor of Rome, Romolo Augustolo, lived practically all his life within the walls of Castellum Lucullanum, admiring until his death from the islet of Megaride, the breathtaking beauty that only the panorama of Naples can offer. So, the next time you walk near the Borgo Marinari, or inside the Castel dell'Ovo, open your lungs well and breathe the air that the last Roman emperor left us.

After all, it didn't go badly for the "poor" Romolo Augustolo. No?

Romolo Augustolo, l'ultimo Imperatore Romano che visse al Castel dell'Ovo
Photo by Federico Quagliuolo


Romulus Augustus. The last Caesar (Historia Romana Vol. 2), Patrizio Corda

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