Roman Empire, Anthemius - The Last Capable Western Emperor

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Anthemius has been described as the last capable Western Roman emperor; in his five year reign he attempted to restore the failing empire by challenging the resurgent Visigothic domain in Gaul and Spain, and by launching a campaign to reclaim North Africa from the Vandals.

A competent general, Anthemius was appointed by the Eastern emperor Leo to the vacant throne of the West with the consent of Ricimer, the powerful magister militum who had already done away with the three previous emperors. Anthemius was despatched with a large and well-equipped army led by the competent and respected Marcellinus, the military ruler of the region of Dalmatia. Leo thus obtained for himself an able and independent colleague in the West who could potentially reverse the disturbing trend of barbarian warlords ruling through weak puppet emperors.

Despite being promoted by Anthemius to act as a counterbalance to Ricimer, Marcellinus was prevented from participating in the campaign of 468 against the Vandals in Africa. This campaign was to be one of the greatest military undertakings of all time, a combined amphibious operation of over a thousand ships and one hundred thousand soldiers. With the removal of this experienced commander, and the ineffective leadership of Basiliscus which resulted in a catastrophic loss at Cape Bon, in which some seventy percent of the Roman force was lost, the West lost its last best chance to regain Africa from the Vandals, and perhaps prevent its demise. Marcellinus himself was murdered in Sicily soon after, probably at Ricimer's instigation. Two years later a similarly fated attempt was made to reclaim Gaul from the Visigoths which resulted in the loss of Anthemius' son and three other Roman generals.

Despite having married his daughter to Ricimer in 467, the relationship between the magister militum and the emperor had always been one doomed to enmity, and by 472 this had deteriorated into open war. Anthemius, blockaded in Rome for five months, eventually saw his last remaining loyal army defeated while attempting to break through and relieve his position. He fled to St. Peter's basilica where he was captured and beheaded.

Geiseric, the king of the Vandals, once expressed his surprise and satisfaction that the Romans would themselves remove from the world all of his most formidable antagonists.

Anthemius AV Tremissis. Uncertain mint, AD 468. DN ANTHEMIVS PF AVG, rosette-diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right / Cross within wreath; COMOB in exergue. RIC 2841; Depeyrot 71/5. 1.44g, 13mm, 5h.

Fleur De Coin. Very Rare, and exceptional for the issue.