Anonym[o]us Valesianus, Pars Posterior: “On Romulus Augustulus” (6th century)

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Anonym[o]us Valesianus, Pars Posterior: “On Romulus Augustulus” (6th century)


[36] Now during the reign of Zeno Augustus at Constantinople, the patrician Nepos came to the Port of the city of Rome, deposed Glycerius, who was made a bishop, while Nepos himself became emperor at Rome. Presently Nepos came to Ravenna; he was followed by the patrician Orestes with an army, and in fear of his coming Nepos embarked on board a ship and fled to Salona, where he remained for five years; but later he was slain by his own men. Soon after Nepos left Rome Augustulus was made emperor and ruled for ten years.

[37] Augustulus, who was called Romulus by his parents before he mounted the throne, was made emperor by his father, the patrician Orestes. Then Odoacar made his appearance with a force of Sciri and killed the patrician Orestes at Placentia, and his brother Paulus at the Pine Grove, outside the Classis at Ravenna.

[38] Then he entered Ravenna, deposed Augustulus from his throne, but in pity for his tender years, granted him his life; and because of his beauty he also gave him an income of six thousand gold-pieces and sent him to Campania, to live there a free man with his relatives. Now his father Orestes was a Pannonian, who joined with Attila at the time when he came to Rome, and was made his secretary, a position from which he had advanced to the rank of patrician.


This source, the Anonymous Valesianus, most certainly influenced the plot of The Last Legion, although there are distinct differences between the events described in this text and how they are depicted onscreen. The Anonymous Valesianus provides context for the brief rule of Romulus Augustulus, describing how he came to be the emperor and the events surrounding his deposition. Unfortunately, the origins of the text remain mysterious, so an analysis of the author’s background can be challenging.

Orestes, in the source, is said to have been killed by Odoacer at Placentia, and his brother outside Ravenna, where Augustulus ruled—at this point, it was the capital of the Roman Empire in the West. The film combines these instances, likely for the sake of drama and a streamlined plot, placing the death of Orestes in Ravenna for Augustulus to watch. 

When Augustulus meets Odoacer in the film, he is very nearly killed. However, Odoacer is convinced to spare him; as a child, Augustulus is little threat to his power. While the events end up playing out the same in both the text and the film, the source implies that Odoacer spared Augustulus out of his own sense of pity for the young figurehead. He gives Augustulus an income and sends him to live in Campania “as a free man with his relatives.” InThe Last Legion, Augustulus is indeed sent to Campania after his life is spared. He is sent to Capri to live in a villa built several centuries earlier by the Emperor Tiberius (although not mentioned in any sources in relation to Augustulus, these villas did indeed exist). The Last Legion, however,specifies that the villa is to serve as a prison, contradicting the source’s declaration that Augustulus should remain free.

There are also a number of aspects of the film that were entirely fabricated. The film mentions that the Eastern Emperor, Zeno, had sent word that he would not give refuge to Romulus Augustulus. This is likely a reflection of what had really occurred; Zeno did not recognize Augustulus’s rule. While it is considered to be a betrayal in the film, as Augustulus is said to be Julius Caesar’s descendant in the film’s prologue, the real Augustulus took the throne after his father staged a coup.

It is likely that this source was consulted when The Last Legion was written as it is one of the few contemporary sources discussing precisely what happened to Augustulus.


Henricus Valesius (1603–76), ed.


Ammianus Marcellinus, and John Carew Rolfe. History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015.


Harvard University Press


Early Middle Ages (. 500-1000)
Mid-6th century


Eleanor Vaughan




Primary Source Text


Henricus Valesius (1603–76), ed. , “Anonym[o]us Valesianus, Pars Posterior: “On Romulus Augustulus” (6th century),” Medieval Hollywood, accessed February 27, 2024,

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