the last emperor but one of the Western Empire, A. D. 474-475.
He was the son of Nepotianus, by a sister of that Marcellinus who established a temporary independent principality in Illyricum, about the middle of the fifth century. [MARCELLINUS.] A law of the Codex of Justinian mentions a Nepotianus as general of the army in Dalmatia in A. D. 471, but it is doubtful whether this was the emperor's father or the emperor himself, as it is not clear whether the true reading of the Codex is Nepotianus or Nepos, and even the determination of the reading would not settle the point, as Theophanes (Chronographia,
ad A. M. 5965) gives to the emperor himself the name of Nepotianus, and adds that he was a native of Dalmatia.
It is not improbable that the family of Marcellinus preserved, after his death in A. D. 468, a portion of the power which he had possessed in Illyricum, and that this was the motive which induced the Eastern emperor Leo [LEO I.] to give to Nepos his niece (or, more accurately, the niece of his wife the empress Verina) in marriage, and to declare him, by his officer Domitianus, at Ravenna, Augustus (Jornandes incorrectly says Caesar) of the Western empire. (Jornand. de Regnor. Success.
) The actual emperor, at the time when Nepos was thus exalted, was Glycerius [GLYCERIUS], who was regarded at Constantinople as an usurper. Nepos marched against his competitor, took him prisoner at Portus at the mouth of the Tiber, and obliged him to become a priest.
These events took place, according to the more numerous and better authorities, in A. D. 474, but Theophanes, by contracting the reign of Glycerius to five months [GLYCERIUS], brings his deposition within the year 473.
The elevation of Nepos is placed by the Chronicon
of an anonymous author, published by Caspinianus (No. viii. in the Vetustior. Latinor. Chronica
of Roncallius), on the 24th of June, which date, if correct, must refer to his victory over Glycerius, for his proclamation as emperor at Ravenna must have been antecedent to the death of Leo (which occurred in January 474), at least antecedent to the intelligence of Leo's death reaching Ravenna. If we suppose the proclamation of Nepos as emperor to have occurred in August 473, a supposition to which we see no objection, the date given by Theophanes, who, as a Byzantine, would compute the reign of Nepos from his accession de jure,
may be reconciled with that of the Latin chroniclers, who date from the time of his becoming emperor de facto,
and on this supposition the interval from August 473 to June 474 must have been occupied in preparing his armament or executing his march against Glycerius.
From hints in the letters of Sidonius Apollinaris (Sid. Ep. 5.16
, ed. Sirmond) it may be gathered that Nepos had, before his accession, acquired some reputation both for warlike ability and for general goodness of character, and that during his brief reign his conduct was answerable to his previous character.
But the condition of the empire was past remedy. The Visigoths, settled in Aquitania, were eagerly striving, under their king Euric, to expel the Romans from the territories of the Arverni, the modern Auvergne, the last part of the province which remained to its ancient masters, and which was bravely defended by its inhabitants under the conduct of Ecdicius (Jornandes calls him Decius), brother-in-law of Sidonius Apollinaris. The Goths besieged the town of Arverni or Clermont, in the summer of 474, but Epiphanius, bishop of Ticinum (Pavia), being sent by Nepos, concluded a peace (Ennod. Vita Epiphan.
), which, however, Euric soon broke, and Nepos was obliged, in a second treaty, in which the quaestor Licinianus was his negotiator, to cede the disputed territory to its assailants. (Sirmond, Not. ad Sidon. Ep.
3.1.) Tillemont makes the embassy of Licinianus unavailing, and considers that of Epiphanius to have been consequent on its failure; but we think Sirmond's view of the matter more consistent with the account of Ennodius.
These transactions with the Visigoths constitute almost the whole that is known of the reign of Nepos.
He had recalled Ecdicius from Gaul, and had appointed Orestes to be magister militum of that diocese in his place. Orestes, assuming the command of the troops assembled at Rome, and, marching as if towards Gaul, came to Ravenna, where Nepos appears to have been, raised there the standard of revolt, and proclaimed his son Augustulus emperor. [AUGUSTULUS, ROMULUS.] Nepos fled into Dalmatia. His expulsion is fixed by the anonymous Chronicon
already cited for the date of his accession, on the 28th of August 475, so that his actual reign was about fourteen months.
After his expulsion from Italy, he appears to have retained the Dalmatian territory, which he, or some of his family, had inherited from Marcellinus, and was still recognised at Constantinople and in the East as emperor of the West. Meanwhile, Orestes was defeated and killed, and Augustulus deposed, by Odoacer the Herulian [AUGUSTULUS; ORESTES ; ODOACER], who sought the patronage of the Eastern emperor Zeno; but Zeno persisted in recognising the title of Nepos. (Malchus, apud Collectan. de Legation.
) In A. D. 480 Nepos was killed near Salona, where he appears to have resided, by Viator and Ovida or Odiva, two of his own officers (Marcellin. Chrmoicon
), probably at the instigation of his deposed predecessor Glycerius [GLYCERIUS], who held the bishopric of Salona. (Malchus, apud Phot. Bibl.
Cod. 78.) Odiva or Ovida was vanquished and killed the next year, 481, by Odoacer who had invaded Dalmatia. (Cassiodor. Chron.
) Tillemont thinks that the title of Nepos, till his death, was recognised by some of the cities of Gaul.
The accounts of the life and reign of Nepos are brief and fragmentary. To the authorities cited in the course of the article may be added Marius Aventic. Chronicon; Chronici Prosperiani Auctarium,
No. iv. apud Roncallium; Catalogus Imperatorum,
No. xi. apud eundem; Jornandes, de Rebus Geticis;
subjoined by Valesius to Amm. Marc.; Evagrius, H. E.
2.16; Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs,
vol. vi. pp. 424-434, 440-443 ; Gibbon, Decline and Fall,
ch. xxxvi; Eckhel, vol. viii. p. 202.