Orestes (father of Romulus Augustulus)
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Born to a Roman aristocratic family from Pannonia Savia, Orestes was son of Tatulus, a pagan, and son-in-law to Romulus, who served as comes in the Western Roman Empire. After Pannonia was ceded to Attila the Hun, Orestes joined Attila's court, reaching high position as a secretary (notarius) in 449 and 452.
In 475, Orestes was appointed magister militum and patricius by Western Roman Emperor Julius Nepos. This proved to be a mistake on the part of Nepos. By August 28, 475, Orestes, at the head of the foederati levies, managed to take control of the government in Ravenna, which had been the de facto capital of the Western Roman Empire since 402. Julius Nepos fled without a fight to Dalmatia, where he would continue to reign until his assassination in 480. With the emperor far away, Orestes elevated his son Romulus to the rank of Augustus, so that the last Western Roman emperor is known as Romulus Augustulus meaning "little Augustus" as the emperor was only a child, somewhere between 12 and 15 years old, at the time he became emperor in 475.
In popular culture
- Orestes was played by Andrew Pleavin in the 2001 miniseries Attila, which depicts his time in service of the Hunnic king.
- The character of Orestes was played by Iain Glen in the 2007 historical-fiction film The Last Legion, which shows the character during his period of rule in Rome, although the film deviates significantly from the historical record of these events.
- Orestes is portrayed as the primary villain in Michael Curtis Ford's novel The Fall of Rome.
- No other names are known, according to J.R. Martindale The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire vol.II p.811-812. Cambridge University Press, 1980
- Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire part v, chapter xxxvi