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Augustus the Little, the boy-Caesar of expiring Rome, was hurried away to the castle

of Lucullus in Campania. Odoacer at once

made himself king of Italy. Rome was

down, and the residue was ground under the

heel of a German chieftain out of the North,

who, to the one-third of the lands of Italy

which had been demanded by his followers as

a recompense for their services, added the

remaining two-thirds to fill up the measure.

King Odoacer soon showed himself master

of the strange situation which had supervened

in Italy. He wisely adapted his methods of

government to the condition of the people.

Having himself been previously in the service

of the Empire, he was well acquainted with

the character and disposition of the Roman

race. He accepted the title of king, but refused the purple and the diadem, thus conciliating both the German princes and the

phantom nobility of Italy. The Senate was

allowed to remain and even to correspond in

the usual way with the authorities of the

Eastern Empire. The body went so far as to

make out a program, in accordance with

which the seat of empire was to be transferred

to Constantinople. Italy was to become a

diocese, and the senators respectfully asked

that this scheme be approved by the recognition of Odoacer as Patrician of the Italian


At this amusing by-play and nonsensical

assumption of an authority which no longer

existed, the king of Italy might well smile a

smile of condescension. In a prudent way he

deferred to the prejudices and political customs of his subjects. In the course of a few

years he reinstituted the consulship and continued to avoid the Imperial dignity. The

old laws were still enforced, and the old

executive officers, including the praetorian prefect and his subordinates, were retained in

their places. In a politic way, Odoacer devolved the unpleasant duties of administration, such as the collection of the public

revenue, upon native Roman magistrates; but

the execution of those measures which were

likely to produce a favorable impression upon

the people he reserved for himself.

On the north the old frontier of Italy was reestablished, and was recognized by the chief

tains of Gaul and Germany. Odoacer made

a successful campaign in Dalmatia, and regained possession of that province. He

crossed the Alps and made war upon the

king of the Rugii, whom he defeated and

made prisoner. So great was his success in

arms that the Roman Senate might well decree

an honor to their warlike king.

Miserable, however, was the social and

economic condition of Italy. Agriculture and

commerce had almost ceased. For their current supplies of provisions the Romans were

at the mercy of the winds and the seas. The

granaries of Egypt and Africa no longer sent

their abundance into the marts of the Eternal

City. War, famine, and pestilence had added

their horrors through generations of decay.

The tendency to depopulation was seen on

every hand. Prosperous districts were left

without inhabitants; for the breast of dishonored Nature yielded sustenance no longer

to a race of idlers and brigands. As to the

industrial and artistic aspect of life, that

was seen no more. The value of property

declined to a minimum; for the senators knew

not in what day or hour a new company of

barbarian chieftains must be supplied with

homes by the confiscation of estates. The

Roman nobility led a life of tremulous anxiety

humbly subservient to the master to whom

they owed their lives and the remnant of their

fortunes. Nor did the king fail in many instances to interpose between the rapacity of

his barbarians and the helplessness of his

Roman subjects. The demands of the German

chiefs were frequently resisted by the king,

and several of the more insolent were put to

death for the attempted robbery of native


In the pursuance of this difficult policy

Odoacer consumed the fourteen years of his

reign. With him rose and fell the Herulian

kingdom in Italy. His people were neither

strong enough nor sufficiently civilized to

found a permanent dominion. Already the

great nation of the Ostrogoths, under the

leadership of the justly celebrated Theodoric, whom the discriminating Gibbon has declared

to have been a hero alike excellent in the