Olybrius – 472 AD

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472 AD

Installed as Emperor by Ricimer
Husband of Placidia, Daughter of Valentinian III

Anicius Olybrius was descended from the great senatorial family of the Anicii. Quintus Olybrius, one of his ancestors, had been Governor of Campania and then Africa followed by holding the Praetorian Prefect between 378-379 AD. Olybrius himself was a Senator in Rome at the time of its sacking by the Vandals in 455 AD. He succeeded in escaping to Constantinople where, in 462 AD, he married Placidia, the daughter of the murdered Emperor Valentinian IlI. It was this honorable heritage which qualified him for such a marriage. Placidia’s sister, Eudocia, had married the Vandal King Geiseric and therefore Olybrius became well connected into the royalty of the Vandals.

The Emperor of the East, Leo I, did not trust Olybrius due primarily to his Vandal connections. Consequently, Leo I sent Olybrius to Rome where the Western Emperor Anthemius was feuding with the ambitious general Ricimer. According to accounts by John Malalas, Leo wrote to Anthemius ordering him to murder Olybrius in 472 AD while he was in Rome. Shortly after his arrival, Ricimer learned of Leo’s plot and immediately embraced Olybrius and proclaimed him as Emperor of the West. Anthemius was beheaded in July 472 AD. Leo took no immediate action and this proved to be the wise move at the time since Ricimer died shortly thereafter and Olybrius reportedly died of dropsy in November that same year. Thereafter, the throne of the West remained vacant for four months until a new candidate could be found – Glycerius.

Monetary System

Mints: Milan, Rome

Obverse Legends:



AU Solidus (4.50 grams)
AU Tremissis (1.45 grams)

The Monetary History of the World
© Martin A. Armstrong