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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The empire from Constantine the Great to Justinian

Zeno (474-491), Odovacar and Theodoric the Ostrogoth 


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After the death of Leo I (474) the throne passed to his six-year-old grandson, Leo, who died in the same year, after conferring the imperial rank upon his father, Zeno. Following the death of his son, Zeno became sole emperor (474-91). His accession to the throne marks the supplanting of the former Germanic influence at the court by a new barbarian influence, that of the Isaurians, a savage race of which he was a member. The Isaurians now occupied the best positions and most responsible posts in the capital. Very soon Zeno became aware that even among his own people men were plotting against him, and he showed much determination in quelling the revolt in mountainous Isauria, ordering the inhabitants to pull down the greater part of their fortifications. The dominance of Isaurians in the Empire continued, however, throughout Zeno's lifetime.

During the period of Zeno's reign very significant events took place in Italy. In the second half of the fifth century the importance of the leaders of German troops increased very greatly until their will was almost decisive in making and deposing Roman emperors in the West. In the year 476 one of these barbarian chiefs; Odovacar, deposed the last western emperor, the young Romulus Augustulus, and himself became the ruler of Italy. In order to make his rule in Italy more secure, he sent ambassadors to Zeno from the Roman Senate with the assurance that Italy needed no separate emperor and that Zeno might be the ruler of the entire Empire. At the same time Odovacar asked Zeno to confer upon him the rank of Roman patrician and to entrust to him the administration of Italy. This request was granted and Odovacar became the legally appointed ruler of Italy. The year 476 formerly was considered the year of the fall of the Western Roman Empire, but this is not correct, because in the fifth century there was still no separate Western Roman Empire. There was, as before, one Roman Empire ruled by two emperors, one in the eastern, the other in the western, part. In the year 476 there was again only one emperor in the Empire, namely Zeno, the ruler of the eastern part.

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