The Last Emperor of Rome,
The traditional date for the fall of the Western Roman Empire is set at 476 AD. Other dates can be arguably used, but 476 is a good date to use when looking at Roman history from a simple viewpoint. The last Roman Emperor was Romulus Augustus, ironically named after Romulus, the founder of Rome, and Augustus the first Roman Emperor. The interesting thing about the story of the last Roman Emperor was that it had little to with Romulus Augustus. Rather, the de facto last Roman ruler was his father, a military man named Orestes.
By 475 AD the Western Roman Empire had almost crumbled away to dust. The empire consisted of little more than Italy, with some isolated territories in northwestern Gaul which had declared independence decades before, and some territories in North Africa which again were so far out of reach from the Imperial court that by that point they were managing their own affairs.
The Roman Army was barely Roman, mostly being made up of Germanic mercenaries which the empire could barely afford to pay. The capital of the empire wasn’t even Rome,having been moved to Ravenna in the year 402 because it was a more defensible location. The Roman Emperor ruled over nothing, rather being a puppet of Germanic rulers such as Ricimer and Gundobad. Orestes was the Roman magister militum appointed by the Empror Julius Nepos, basically the chief general of the army. Orestes date of birth is unknown but he had a long military career, at one point being ambassador to and secretary of Attila the Hun, then working his way up the ranks until he became a Roman general. Orestes wanted to restore the glory of Rome, to bring Rome back to the good old days when emperors were gods, the empire stretched across Europe and Africa, and no one dared mess with the legions.
On the 31st of October, 475 AD Orestes orchestrated a coup resulting in the overthrow of Nepos. Orestes had cultivated the loyalty of the mercenaries which made up the Roman Army, but also added some important incentives such as cash bonuses and Italian land. Orestes sent Nepos packing to Dalmatia, where Nepos would carve out a small rump state in exile until his death in 480 AD. Rather than naming himself emperor, Orestes chose his 16 year old son Romulus as emperor. Orestes was half German and believed the Roman people would be more accepting of a new emperor who had more Roman blood. However, the Roman people didn’t really take the young Romulus Augustus seriously, nicknaming him “Momyllus Augustulus”, Momyllus meaning “little disgrace” and Augustulus meaning “little Augustus”. While Orestes looked to restore the Roman Empire, the truth of the matter was that most Roman commoners were sick and tired of Imperial rule and all the bullshit that went with it such as overbearing taxes, rampant corruption, civil war, idiotic leaders, and a stagnant economy. In addition, the Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno also refused to recognize Romulus Augustus as a legitimate emperor, the blessings of the east being necessary for a stable reign.
Neither Orestes nor the “emperor” could really get anything done during their short reign, by that point the Imperial government was so powerless and crippled by lack of funds and corruption it might as well have not existed at all. Worse yet, the Germanic mercenaries who made up the ranks of the Roman Army were beginning to complain that Orestes wasn’t living up to his promises. Unfortunately for Orestes, the empire had no cash to spare and no patricians were willing to give up their lands for a bunch of barbarians. In anger, the mercenaries revolted against Orestes, naming an officer among their ranks named Odoacer to be their leader. Orestes gathered what few Italian troops he could that were still loyal to him and fled to Piacenza. However, Orestes small army was no match against Odoacer and his army. The last loyal Roman forces were easily crushed. Orestes was quickly captured and executed on the 28th of August. On the 4th of September, 476 Odoacer marched on Revenna and took the city without resistance. Romulus Augustus also abdicated without a fight.
Odoacer chose not to name another emperor, instead naming himself King of Italy and dispensing with the old Imperial system entirely. As for Romulus Augustus, the remainder of his life is unknown to history, but it is rumored that he was granted a state pension by Odoacer and lived out the rest of his life in peace. The Eastern Emperor Zeno gave Odoacer the title of Patrician and demanded that he recognize the rule of Julius Nepos. Odoacer refused to allow Nepos to return to Italy, and the Eastern Romans were to occupied dealing with the Ostrogoths to do anything about it. Thus, the Western Roman Empire came to an end.