The General Who Became the Power Behind Rome’s Imperial Throne
Flavius Ricimer (died 472) was a Romanized German general who wielded significant power behind the throne in the Roman Empire. From 456 until his death in 472, he effectively ruled the western half of the Empire. He was born into Germanic tribal royalty, his father a king of the Suebi tribe, while his mother was a daughter of the king of the Visigoths. Ricimer joined the Roman military, and served under Flavius Aetius, the Western Roman Empire’s last great general, who saved Western Europe from Attila the Hun. After Aetius’ murder in 454 by an ungrateful Emperor Valentinian III, a period of chaos followed.
Valentinian was murdered in turn, his successor was torn to pieces by a street mob, and Rome was sacked by Vandals in 455. A Visigothic king then proclaimed the Roman military commander in Gaul, Avitus, emperor. The newly enthroned Avitus promoted Ricimer to a high military rank. When he demonstrated his ability with a victory over the Vandals in 456, Avitus promoted Ricimer to the empire’s second highest military rank. Ricimer however used his new power to plot with a friend, Marjorian, to depose Avitus in 457.