Placidia IPA: [pɫa'kɪdɪa] was the wife of Olybrius,
Unrecognized Western Roman Emperor. Her full name is uncertain. The
Chronicle of the Roman Emperors: The reign by reign record of the
rulers of Imperial
Rome (1995) by
Chris Scarre gives her name as Galla
Placidia Valentiniana or
Galla Placidia the Younger, based on naming
conventions for women in ancient Rome.
3 Vandal captivity
8 External links
Placidia was the second daughter of
Valentinian III and Licinia
Eudoxia, younger sister of Eudocia, who became the wife of Huneric,
son of Gaiseric, king of the Vandals. Both were named for their
grandmothers: Eudocia for the maternal, Aelia Eudocia, and Placidia
for the paternal, Galla Placidia.
Placidia is estimated to have
been born between 439 and 443.
In 454 or 455,
Placidia married Anicius Olybrius, a member of the
Anicii family., a prominent family with known members active in
both Italia and Gaul. The exact relation of
Olybrius to other members
of the family is not known as his parents are not named in primary
sources. Several theories exist as to their identity.
Originally Emperor Valentinian intended to marry
Placidia to a young
Majorian (the future emperor), whom Oost describes as having
"distinguished himself in a subaltern capacity fighting in Gaul
against the Franks under Aëtius' own command." Doing so, according
to Roman customs, would instantly link
Majorian to the Imperial family
and put him in line to succeed Valentinian. Once Flavius Aetius
learned of this plan, he rusticated
Majorian to his estates at some
date before 451, and he was recalled to
Rome only after Aetius' death.
Aetius also attempted to consolidate his position "by compelling the
Emperor to swear to friendship with him and to agree to betroth
Placidia to his own younger son Gaudentius."
Mommaerts and Kelley have proposed a theory that Petronius Maximus,
the successor of
Valentinian III on the Western Roman throne in 455,
was behind the marriage of
Placidia to Olybrius. They argue that
Olybrius was likely a son of
Petronius Maximus himself, reasoning that
Petronius, once on the throne, would be unlikely to promote distant
relatives as potential successors. According to Hydatius, Petronius
arranged the marriage of his eldest stepdaughter Eudocia to Palladius,
his eldest son and Caesar. They suggest that he followed suit in
arranging the marriage of
Placidia to one of his own younger sons,
thus making the marriage of
Olybrius the third marriage
between a member of the
Theodosian dynasty and a member of the
extended Anicii family within the same year.
According to the chronicler Malchus, "Around this time, the empress
Eudoxia, the widow of the emperor Valentinian and the daughter of the
emperor Theodosius and Eudocia, remained unhappily at
enraged at the tyrant Maximus because of the murder of her spouse, she
summoned the Vandal Gaiseric, king of Africa, against Maximus, who was
ruling Rome. He came suddenly to
Rome with his forces and captured the
city, and having destroyed Maximus and all his forces, he took
everything from the palace, even the bronze statues. He even led away
as captives surviving senators, accompanied by their wives; along with
them he also carried off to
Carthage in Africa the empress Eudoxia,
who had summoned him; her daughter Placidia, the wife of the patrician
Olybrius, who then was staying at Constantinople; and even the maiden
Eudocia. After he had returned,
Gaiseric gave the younger Eudocia, a
maiden, the daughter of the empress Eudoxia, to his son
marriage, and he held them both, the mother and the daughter, in great
Eudoxia was presumably following the example of her sister-in-law
Justa Grata Honoria
Justa Grata Honoria who had summoned
Attila the Hun
Attila the Hun for help against
an unwanted marriage. According to the chronicler Prosper of
Aquitaine, Maximus was in
Rome when the
Vandals arrived. He gave
anyone who could permission to flee the city. He attempted to flee
himself but was assassinated by the imperial slaves. He had reigned
for seventy-seven days. His body was thrown into the
Tiber and never
Victor of Tonnena agrees, adding that
Pope Leo I
Pope Leo I negotiated
Gaiseric for the security of the city's population.
Hydatius attributes the assassination to revolting troops of the Roman
army, enraged at Maximus' attempted flight. The Chronica Gallica of
511 attributes the assassination to a rioting crowd. Jordanes
identifies a single assassin as "Ursus, a Roman soldier". Sidonius
Apollinaris makes a cryptic comment about a Burgundian whose
"traitorous leadership" led the crowd to panic and to the slaughter of
the Emperor. His identity is unknown, presumably a general who failed
to face the
Vandals for one reason or the other. Later historians have
suggested two high-ranking
Burgundians as possible candidates, Gondioc
and his brother Chilperic. Both joined Theodoric II in invading
Hispania later in 455.
Olybrius was in
Constantinople at the time of the siege of
noted by John Malalas. He was separated from his wife for the duration
of her captivity. He reportedly visited
Daniel the Stylite
Daniel the Stylite who
predicted that Eudoxia and
Placidia would return.
Priscus and John of Antioch report that
Gaiseric entertained the idea
Olybrius on the throne of the Western Roman Empire, at
least as early as the death of
Majorian in 461. Due to his marriage to
Olybrius could be considered both an heir to Theodosian
dynasty and a member of the Vandal royal family through marriage. In
Libius Severus died and
Gaiseric again promoted
Olybrius as his
candidate for the Western throne.
Procopius report that Olybrius
maintained a decent relationship with his Vandal supporter.
According to the accounts of Priscus, Procopius, John Malalas,
Theodorus Lector, Evagrius Scholasticus, Theophanes the Confessor,
Joannes Zonaras and Cedrenus,
Placidia can be estimated to have stayed
a prisoner in
Carthage for six to seven years. In 461 or 462, Leo I,
Eastern Roman Emperor, paid a large ransom for Eudoxia and Placidia.
Placidia seems to have spent the rest of her life in
In 472, the Western Roman Emperor
Anthemius was involved in a civil
war with his magister militum and son-in-law Ricimer. According to
John Malalas, Leo decided to intervene and send
Olybrius to quell the
Olybrius had also been instructed to offer a peace treaty
to Geiseric on his behalf. However, Leo had also send Modestus,
another messenger, to
Anthemius asking him to arrange the deaths of
Ricimer and Olybrius. But
Ricimer had placed
Goths loyal to him
at the ports of
Ostia Antica and they intercepted Modestus,
delivering him and his message to
the contents of the message to
Olybrius and the two men formed a new
alliance against their former masters.
In April or May 472,
Olybrius was proclaimed emperor  and the civil
war proper begun. John of Antioch claims that
Anthemius was supported
by most of the Romans while Ricimer, by the barbarian mercenaries.
Odoacer, leader of the foederati, joined the cause of Ricimer, and
also Gundobad, his nephew of Ricimer. According to
John Malalas and
John of Antioch,
Gundobad managed to slay
Anthemius and end the
conflict. They claim that
Anthemius had been abandoned by his last
followers and sought refuge in a church, but
Gundobad killed him
anyway. But the two chroniclers differ on the location of the event.
Malalas places it in the
Old St. Peter's Basilica
Old St. Peter's Basilica while the Antiochean
places it in Santa Maria in Trastevere. However Cassiodorus,
Marcellinus Comes and
Procopius report that
Anthemius was killed by
Ricimer himself. The
Chronica Gallica of 511 mentions both theories,
uncertain of which of the two men had done the deed.
Olybrius became the sole Western Roman Emperor by
Placidia became his Empress without actually leaving
Constantinople, remaining there with their daughter. On 18 August,
Ricimer died of a "malignant fever".
Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon reports that
Olybrius next appointed
Gundobad as his Patrician.
On 22 October or 2 November, 472,
Olybrius himself died. John of
Antioch attributes his death to dropsy.
Cassiodorus and Magnus Felix
Ennodius report the death without noting a cause. All report on how
brief the reign was.
In 478, Malchus reported that "ambassadors came to Byzantium from
Carthage, under the leadership of Alexander, the guardian of Olybrius'
wife [sc. Placidia]. He formerly had been sent there by Zeno with the
Placidia herself. The ambassadors said that
honestly set himself up as a friend of the emperor, and so loved all
things Roman that he renounced everything that he had formerly claimed
from the public revenues and also the other moneys that Leo had
earlier seized from his wife [sc. Eudocia]... He gave thanks that the
emperor had honored the wife of Olybrius..."
Placidia is last
mentioned c. 484.
Placidia was probably the last Western
Roman Empress whose name is
Romulus Augustus are not known to have been
Julius Nepos had married a niece of
Verina and Leo I, whose
name is not mentioned in surviving records.
Her only known daughter was Anicia Juliana, born c. 462, who spent her
life at the pre-
Justinian court of Constantinople. Juliana was
considered "both the most aristocratic and the wealthiest
inhabitant". Oost comments that "through her the descendants of
Galla Placidia [Placidia's grandmother] were among the nobility of the
Ancestors of Placidia
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Roman Empress consort
Wife of Julius Nepos
^ R. B. Stewart, "My Lines:
Galla Placidia Valentiniana the younger"
^ Stewart I. Oost,
Galla Placidia Augusta: A biographical essay
(Chicago: University Press, 1968), p. 247
^ a b c d Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, vol. 2
^ a b T.S. Mommaerts and D.H. Kelley, "The Anicii of
Gaul and Rome,"
in John Drinkwater and Hugh Elton, Fifth-century Gaul: A Crisis of
Identity? (Cambridge: University Press, 1992), p. 119
Galla Placidia Augusta, pp. 286f
Galla Placidia Augusta, p. 287
^ a b c Ralph W. Mathisen,
Petronius Maximus (17 March 455 - 22 May
^ a b c d e Ralph W. Mathisen, Anicius
Olybrius (April/May 472 -- [11
July 472] -- 22 October or 2 November 472)
^ a b Ralph W. Mathisen, "
Anthemius (12 April 467 - 11 July 472 A.D.)"
^ Malchus, fr. 13; translated by C.D. Gordon, Age of Attila: Fifth
Century Byzantium and the Barbarians (Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan, 1966), p. 125)
^ Ralph W. Mathisen,
Julius Nepos (19/24 June 474 - [28 August 475] -
25 April/9 May/22 June 480)
^ Maas, Michael. The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian.
Cambridge University Press, 2005. Page 439.
Galla Placidia Augusta, p. 307
Her profile in the Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire
Cawley, Charles, Her profile, Medieval Lands database, Foundation for
Petronius Maximus and his relations in "F