Odoacer (Odovacar; Audawakrs): (b. AD 435; d. AD 493). First barbarian king of Italy. The son of a Germanic Scirian chieftain named Edeko, he fought as a foederati (federate) for the Western Roman Empire. He arrived in Italy in 466 and, in 470, was appointed as the commander of the foederati forces there. In 475, he agreed to support the revolt of the Magister militum Orestes against Emperor Julius Nepos. In exchange for helping to raise Orestes son, Romulus Augustus (often called Romulus Augustulus), to the imperial throne, Odoacer was promised that his 30,000 followers would receive a third of Italy. Once Romulus had been crowned, however, Orestes withdrew his promise and Odoacer led a new revolt. He defeated and killed Orestes and, on September 4, AD 476, forced Romulus to abdicate, an act which is often cited as the end of the Western Roman Empire. Although proclaimed as “King of Italy” by his troops, Odoacer wisely chose not to declare himself as Emperor. In hope of avoiding retaliation from the still-powerful eastern Roman Empire, he sent the imperial trappings confiscated from Romulus to Emperor Zeno. In return for this, Zeno confirmed Odoacer as King of Italy (rex Italiae) late in AD 476.
Odoacer’s relations with the Eastern Empire were troubled largely by his support of Arian Christianity against Orthodoxy. He also continued build a strong autonomous state, combining the old Roman administration with an effective German army. In 477 he took Sicily from the Vandals, incorporating it into his kingdom, and, in AD 480, seized control of Dalmatia. He concluded treaties with other barbarian groups like the Visigoths and Franks. In AD 487, Odoacer destroyed the Rugian kingdom in Noricum but, instead of seizing this territory for himself, left it desolate, thus allowing the Lombards to settle there in AD 493. The action would later prove to have profound consequences for Italian history as it gave the Lombards a base from which to launch their own invasion of Italy.
In AD 488, the eastern Roman Emperor Zeno finally decided that Odoacer was too much of a threat to his own security. Contending that Odoacer had supported the rebel Illus against him in 484, he cut his ties with him. Zeno approached Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, promising that if he invaded Italy as the emperor’s agent, he could take take possession of Odoacer’s realm.
Odoacer attempted to defend his kingdom from the Ostrogoths but suffered defeats at Aquileia (489), Verona (489), and at the River Adda (490). Falling back to his capital at Ravenna, he was besieged there. After holding out for three years, Odoacer agreed to come to terms with Theodoric. On February 2, AD 493, the two leaders concluded a treaty in which it was agreed that they would share the rule of Italy. After the ceremony, a great banquet was thrown to celebrate the new peace. It was during this feast that Theodoric suddenly turned on Odoacer and assassinated him. Thus, Theodoric took possession of Italy and founded a new Ostrogothic kingdom.