CHAPTER XLI. PERIOD OF MILITARY DESPOTISM. - DECLINE OF THE EMPIRE.
Honorius was succeeded, after one of the longest reigns of the imperial line, by VALENTINIAN III. (423-455). The Empire was but a relic of its former self. Gaul, Spain, and Britain were practically lost; Illyria and Pannonia were in the hands of the Goths; and Africa was soon after seized by the barbarians. Valentinian was fortunate in the possession of AETIUS, a Scythian by birth, who for a time upheld the Roman name, winning for himself the title of LAST OF THE ROMANS. He was assassinated by his ungrateful master. A few months later, in 455, the Emperor himself was killed by a Senator, MAXIMUS, who succeeded him, but for only three months, when AVÍTUS (455-456), a noble of Gaul, became Emperor. He was deposed by RICIMER (457-467), a Sueve, of considerable ability, who for some time managed the affairs of the Empire, making and unmaking its monarchs at pleasure. After the removal of Avítus, ten months were allowed to elapse before a successor was appointed; and then the crown was bestowed upon MAJORIAN (457-461). SEVÉRUS followed him, a man too weak to interfere with the plans of Ricimer.
After his death, Ricimer ruled under the title of PATRICIAN, until the people demanded an Emperor, and he appointed ANTHEMIUS (467-472), who attempted to strengthen his position by marrying a daughter of Ricimer; but jealousy soon sprang up between them. Ricimer invited a horde of barbarians from across the Alps, with whom he captured and sacked Rome, and killed Anthemius. Shortly after, Ricimer himself died.
Names which appear only as names now follow each other in rapid succession. Finally, in 476, ZENO, Emperor of the East, declared the office of EMPEROR OF THE WEST abolished, and gave the government of the DIOCESE OF ITALY to ODOÁCER, with the title of Patrician.