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An article from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, now in the public domain.
Any color photos are mine, © William P. Thayer.


Ricimer (d. 472), master of the Roman Empire in the West during part of the 5th century, was the son of a prince of the Suebi and the daughter of Wallia, king of the Visigoths. His youth was spent at the court of Valentinian III, and he won distinction under Aetius. In 456 he defeated the Vandals in a sea-fight near Corsica, and on land near Agrigentum in Sicily, and backed by the popularity thus acquired, Ricimer then gained the consent of the Roman senate to an expedition against the emperor Avitus, whom he defeated in a bloody battle at Piacenza on the 16th of October 456. Avitus was taken prisoner and made bishop of Piacenza, and shortly afterwards sentenced to death. Ricimer then obtained from Leo I, emperor at Constantinople, the title patrician, but in 457 set up Majorianus as his own emperor in the West, and induced Leo to give his consent. When, however, Majorianus tried to rule by himself, Ricimer forced him to abdicate and caused his assassination on the 7th of August 461. The successor whom Ricimer placed upon the throne was Libius Severus, who proved to be more docile than Majorianus, but had to face the rivalry of Leo in the East and Aegidius in Gaul. Upon his death in 465 — said to be due to the poison of Ricimer — this emperor-maker ruled the West for eighteen months without an emperor, and then accepted Leo's candidate Anthemius, diplomatically married his daughter, and for some time lived in peace with him. Before long, however, Ricimer moved to Milan, ready to declare war upon Anthemius. St. Epiphanius, bishop of Milan, patched up a truce, but in 472 Ricimer was again before Rome with an army of Germans, proclaimed as emperor Olybrius, whom Leo had sent to pacify the two enemies, and after three months' siege took the city, on the 1st of July 472. Anthemius was massacred and Rome was a prey to Ricimer's soldiers. He himself, however, died on the 18th of August 472, of malignant fever.

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