Glycerius (c. 420 - after 480) was one of the last of the Western Roman Emperors (reigned 473-474) and later served as a bishop in the early Catholic Church.
Glycerius held the rank of Count of the Domestics at the Imperial court in Ravenna
when he was raised to the Imperial purple by the western empire's new Magister militum
(or Master of Soldiers), the Burgundian Gundobad
, on or around March 3
. As a puppet of Gundobad who had succeeded the legitimately chosen emperor Anthemius
, who had been murdered, he received no recognition from the Eastern Roman
court of Emperor Leo I
Glycerius may have delayed the final end of the Western Roman Empire for a few years. During his brief reign, the Apennine Peninsula was threatened by both the Visigoths, living in southern Gaul and Spain at the time, and the Ostrogoths, living in Dalmatia. When the Ostrogoths moved into Gaul in 473, Glycerius sent Roman troops to the area, preventing the armies of the two branches of Goths from joining forces against Rome.
However, Leo was unwilling to tolerate his presence on the western throne, and appointed his relative Julius Nepos to that position. Nepos, with a powerful force given to him by Leo, sailed from Dalmatia to the port city of Ostia, near Rome, in June 474. For whatever reason, Glycerius was there instead of at the capital of Ravenna, and he surrendered forthwith to Nepos.
Perhaps as a reward for his cooperation, Nepos granted the deposed emperor the bishopric of Salona, in Nepos' homeland of Dalmatia. Ironically, the two men crossed paths again only two years later, when Nepos was deposed by his own master of soldiers and forced to flee to Dalmatia, where he reigned as emperor-in-exile until 480.
A contemporary account by the historian Malchus states that Glycerius was involved in a plot that resulted in Nepos' murder in either April or May of 480, most likely with the cooperation of Odoacer, the barbarian King of Italy. Another account states that after Nepos' death, Glycerius was appointed by Odoacer to be bishop of Mediolanum (modern Milan), then as now one of the largest cities in Europe. However, the surviving historical evidence to confirm either account is meagre, and even the date of Glycerius' death is unknown.
Geoffrey Ashe theorizes that he may have been the basis for the Lucius Hiberius that King Arthur (who Ashe equates with Riothamus) fought against.
Rise to power
Following the death of Olybrius there was a period of about four months during which there was no Emperor in the West, sole rule therefore falling to Leo, Emperor of the East.
Leo struggled to find a suitable candidate. Hence in AD 473 Gundobad, who held the powerful position of 'Master of the Soldiers' in Italy, simply appointed an emperor himself.
Naturally Gundobad chose one of his own military men, namely Glycerius, who was the commander of the imperial bodyguard (comes domesticorum).
In March AD 473 he was proclaimed emperor in Ravenna.
Meanwhile, the Ostrogoths
were on the move in the Danube region and showed intent on moving into Italy
. Glycerius though managed to persuade them by use of diplomacy rather than force, to move into Gaul instead. But now Leo, unwilling to accept Glycerius, whom he saw as a usurper on the western throne, sent forward Julius Nepos
with a fleet in order to overthrow him. Nepos landed at Portus Augusti and there, as agreed with Leo, declared himself western emperor. At the key moment when Glycerius needed Gundobad
, his powerful 'Master of Soldiers
', Gundobad left Italy. Gundobad fought and killed his three brothers, Godegisel
, Chilperic II
, and Gundomar
, to become his father's sole heir to the Kingdom of Burgundy
. With Gundobad gone, and no other obvious support, Glycerius simply surrendered to Julius Nepos without a fight.
Glycerius resigned his title and, instead, accepted the ordination as Bishop of Salona (Solin) in Dalmatia.
Accounts on his later life are mixed, some claiming that he died before he could even begin his new role as bishop.
Though one intriguing account (by the historian Malchus) claims that Glycerius indeed did become bishop of Salonae, from where he in AD 480 then masterminded the assassination of Julius Nepos.