Roman Empire

Avitus, Western Roman Emperor AD 455-456

RIC 2401; cf. Lacam 7-9. Depeyrot 24/1, Extremely Fine

Arelate. D N AVITVS PERP AVG, diademed, draped and cuirassed bust of Avitus right. Reverse: VICTORI-A AVGGG, emperor standing facing, head right, holding long cross and Victory on globe, foot on bound captive; A-R//COMOB.

Ex Barry Feirstein Collection, pt II (NAC 42, 20 November 2007), 253; Anton C. R. Dreesmann Collection, pt. I (Spink London, 13 July 2000), 344; Bank Leu 36 (7 May 1985), 357; Hess-Leu (27 March 1956), 445; Henry Platt Hall Collection (Glendining, 16 November 1950), 2098; L. Vierordt Collection, pt. I (J. Schulman, 5 March 1923), 2914; Sir Hyman Montagu (Rollin & Feuardent, 20 April 1896), 1006

The Gallo-Roman noble M. Maecilius Flavius Eparchius Avitus served as magister militum under Petronius Maximus and attempted to gain the support of the Visigothic king Theodoric II against Geiseric and the Vandals in AD 455. However, once the news of Maximus’ death reached the court of Theodoric II, he proclaimed Avitus and the new Emperor in the West. Although Avitus and his Visigothic troops won several battles against the Vandals and Suebi in AD 456, the cost of paying the army was devastating for a Rome still reeling from the Vandal sack. The general discontent provided the opportunity for the Germanic general Ricimer and the comes domesticorum Majorian to revolt and have Avitus deposed by the Roman Senate. Avitus was defeated in battle and forced to lay down his imperial authority (minimal as it was) and become Bishop of Piacenza. He may have been condemned to death after a failed attempt to bring him back to power in Gaul in AD 457.