Glycerius (fl. 470s) was Roman emperor of the West from 473 to 474. He served as comes domesticorum (commander of the palace guard) during the reign of Olybrius, until Olybrius died in November 472. After a four-month interregnum, Glycerius was proclaimed Western Emperor in March 473 by the magister militum (master of soldiers) and power behind the throne Gundobad. Very few of the events of his reign are known other than that during his reign an attempted invasion of Italy by the Visigoths was repelled, diverting them to Gaul. Glycerius also prevented an invasion by the Ostrogoths through gifts.
|Roman emperor of the West |
(unrecognized in the East)
|Reign||3/5 March 473 – 24 June 474|
|Leo I (473–474)|
Leo II (474)
|Died||After 474 (possibly 480)|
Glycerius was not recognized by the Eastern Roman emperor Leo I, who instead nominated Julius Nepos as Emperor and sent him with an army to invade the Western Empire. Glycerius was without allies, because Gundobad had left to rule the Burgundians, and therefore was forced to abdicate on 24 June 474. He was appointed Bishop of Salona, which position he held until his death. He died some time after 474, possibly 480. He may have had a role in the assassination of Julius Nepos in 480.
Glycerius was born in Dalmatia. He rose to the rank of comes domesticorum during the reign of Western Roman emperor Olybrius, who was a puppet emperor controlled first by the magister militum Ricimer, and then by Ricimer's nephew, the magister militum Gundobad. After the death of Olybrius on 2 November 472 and an interregnum of nearly four months, Gundobad proclaimed Glycerius as Western Roman emperor at Ravenna on either 3 or 5 March 473; the Fasti vindobonenses states that it was on the 5th, however the Paschale campanum asserts it was on the 3rd.
Many events of Glycerius' reign are unknown. Under Glycerius, the invasion of both the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths were repelled, through a mixture of diplomatic and military acts. In 473, the Visigoth King Euric ordered an invasion of Italy, but his commander, Vincentius, was killed by the armies of the comites Alla and Sindila. After Vincentius was killed, Euric chose instead to invade Gaul, occupying both Arles and Marseilles. The Ostrogoth King Videmir proposed to invade Italy, but Glycerius was able to dissuade him through gifts, and divertied them from Italy to Gaul, where they were later attacked by surrounding groups. These actions to defend Rome may be the reason that Glycerius receives a generally favorable reception in Roman and Byzantine sources. Theophanes describes him only as a "not despicable man", but Ennodius, bishop of Pavia, describes him more thoroughly in his Vita St. Epiphanius:
After Olybrius, Glycerius ascended to the rule. With regard to whom I summarize, in my desire for brevity, the numerous things he did for the well being of many people. For, when the blessed man [Bishop Epiphanius of Pavia] interceded, he pardoned the injury done to his mother by some men under his authority.
It is believed that Glycerius primarily reigned from northern Italy, as all but one coin found from his reign were minted in either Ravenna or Milan. The only law created by Glycerius which has survived was dated 11 March 473, and issued to Himilco, the Praetorian Prefect of Italy, and later reissued to the Praetorian Prefects of Illyricum, the East, and Gaul, regarding simony. It was adopted not just by the Prefects of Italy and Gaul, who were a part of the Western Roman Empire, but also by the Prefects of Illyricum and the East, despite the fact that he did not actually have the authority to issue laws to them.
It is possible that Glycerius attempted reconciliation with the Eastern Roman Empire, evidenced by the fact that Glycerius did not nominate a consul for 474, and instead accepted the eastern consul. Despite this, the Eastern Roman Emperor, Leo I, refused to recognize Glycerius as Western Emperor because he was merely a puppet of Gundobad. Emperor Leo instead chose to recognize one of his own men, Julius Nepos, and sent him with a fleet to invade the Western Empire. Glycerius was without allies, as Gundobad had already left to become King of Burgundy, leaving him with no option but to surrender. After Nepos landed at Ostia in June 474, Glycerius abdicated on 24 June 474, in Ravenna. He was promptly ordained as Bishop of Salona, becoming Nepos' personal bishop. According to Malchus, Glycerius had some part in organizing the assassination of Julius Nepos in 480, after Nepos had been forced to flee Italy and was ruling in exile in Dalmatia, although the historical records for the assassination are muddled. Glycerius died some time after 474, possibly in 480. Some historians suggest he was made archbishop of Milan by Odoacer, but this was likely rumor rather than fact.