), King of Italy, from A. D. 476-493.
He was the son of one Edeco, who was undoubtedly the same Edecon who was minister of Attila and his ambassador at Constantinople. Odoacer had a brother, Onulf, who likewise became conspicuous.
It appears that Odoacer was by origin a Scyrrus, and that after the dispersion of the Scyrri by the East Goths, he was chosen the chief of the remnants of that broken tribe, but he is also called a Rugian, an Herulian, and a king of the Turcilingi, perhaps because he was in after years at the head of an army composed of those nations. IIis father Edecon having been slain in the battle with the East Goths, where the power of the Scyrri was broken (about 463), Odoacer, now at the head of the reduced tribe, led the life of a robber in Pannonia and Noricum, but finally entered the imperial guard at Rome and rose to eminence. In 475 Orestes had his son Romulus Augustulus chosen emperor of Rome.
The countless bands of barbarians of all nations, with the aid of which Orestes had accomplished his object, demand in reward one third of the soil of Italy to be divided among them. When Orestes declined to comply with their wishes, Odoacer turned the discontent of the mercenaries to his own profit, and promised to allot them the desired portion of Italy, if they would assist him to wrest the whole from the nominal emperor Romulus Augustulus and his father Orestes, a condition which the majority of those reckless warriors readily accepted. Thus arose a war between Odoacer and Orestes.
The latter, after suffering some defeats, retired within the walls of Pavia; but Odoacer took the town by assault, made Orestes prisoner, and put him to death. St. Epiphanius, bishop of Pavia, was present at the siege, whence his life by Ennodius becomes an important source for the history of these times. Paul, the brother of Orestes, was slain at Ravenna. Romulus Augustulus was now deposed and banished by the victor, who henceforth reigned over Italy with the title of king, for he never assumed that of emperor (476).
With the deposition of Romulus Augustulus, tHe Roman empire in the West came to an end. [AUGUSTULUS.]
In order to establish himself the better on the throne, Odoacer sent ambassadors to the emperor Zeno, requesting tHe latter to grant him the title of patrician, and acknowledge him as regent of the diocese of Italy. Pleased with the seeming submissiveness of the conqueror of that country, Zeno granted the request, though after some hesitation. Odoacer took up his residence at Ravenna, and, according to his promise, divided one third of the soil of Italy among his barbarian followers, a measure which was perhaps less cruel towards the Italians than it would appear, since the country was depopulated, and many estates without an owner and lying waste. On the whole, Odoacer, who was the first barbarian that sat on the throne of Italy, was a wise, well-disposed, and energetic ruler, and knew how to establish order within and peace without his dominions, as far as the miserable moral condition of the Romans, the reckless spirit of their barbarian masters, and the daring rapacity of their neighbours were compatible with a settled state of things. Among his measures at home we may mention the re-establishment of the consulate as a proof of his wisdom, as his intention was to reconcile the remains of the old Romans to the new government. Odoacer reunited Dalmatia with the kingdom of Italy after a sharp contest, in which he employed both a fleet and an army.
He also made a successful campaign in 487 against the Rugians, who endeavoured to make themselves independent in Noricum : their king Feletheus (Pheba or Fava) and many of their nobles were taken prisoners, and the rest yielded to his rule. Unfortunately for him there rose among the barbarians beyond the Alps a man still greater than Odoacer, Theodoric, king of the East Goths, who, secretly, and perhaps openly, supported by the emperor Zeno, resolved to wrest Italy from him, and establish the Gothic power at Rome. Theodoric opened his first campaign in 489, and in a bloody battle foiled his rival on the banks of the Isontius (Isonzo) not far from Aquileia (28th of August, 489). Odoacer, retreating, offered a second battle at Verona, and again lost the day, whereupon he hastened to Rome in order to persuade its inhabitants to rise for his defence.
But the Romans, preferring to stand their own chance in the conflict, shut the gates of the city at his approach, and Odoacer consequently retraced his steps into Northern Italy, and threw himself into Ravenna. Thence he sallied out, defeated the van of the Gothic army, and compelled Theodoric to seek refuge within the walls of Pavia, but the Gothic king soon succeeded in rallying his forces, and vanquished Odoacer a third time in a decisive battle on the river Adda (490). Odoacer again took refuge in Ravenna, and Theodoric laid siege to that city, while his lieutenants gradually reduced the whole kingdom of Italy.
After an obstinate defence of nearly three years Odoacer at last capitulated on condition that in future he and Theodoric should be joint kings of Italy : the treaty was confirmed by oaths taken by both parties (27th of February, 493). Theodoric, however, soon broke his oath; and on the 5th of March following, Odoacer was murdered by the hand, or command, of his more fortunate rival. Theodoric succeeded him as sole king of Italy. (Jornandes, De Regnor. Success.
p. 59, 60, De Reb. Goth.
p. 128, 129, 140, 141; Paul. Diacon. De Gest. Longob.
1.19; Greg. Turon. Hist. Franc.
2.18, &c. ; Procop. Bell. Goth.
1.1, 2.6; Ennodius, Vita Epiphan.,
especially pp. 386-389; Cassiodor. Chron.
ad an. 376, &c., Epist.
1.18; Evagrius, 2.16.)