Bonjour, Mon Amis!! My name is Bishop Avitus. To be properly Roman, my full name is Marcus Maecilius Flavius Eparchius Avitus. I was born in Gaul, just around the time Emperor Theodosius the Great died. So, I have lived in very interesting times. I am a proud Gaul so if my Latin offended you because it was pure Italian, then I am sorry - for you. I am a Roman, a family loyal to Rome for the last 500 years.
I was Roman Emperor but I got a retirement package from that nice German barbarian from Burgundy 'Rici' Ricimer. He encouraged me give up the imperial office and become Bishop of Placentia instead. This wasn't a great problem. My father was a bishop and many of my family are in the church working to further Christianity in Gaul. It's a family business.
Where I was at
So you may wonder. Why am I so chipper? Well, let's be honest. Becoming a Roman Emperor is a lousy job if you're after employment security. My former boss Emperor Petronius Maximus was torn to bits by a mob and his predecessor Emperor Valentinian III got a spear in the back. So you can understand why I decided to get shot of this job the moment it was given to me.
Let me explain. I was visiting the Visigoths in Southern Gaul on a business trip on behalf of Petronius Maximus when I got word my boss was dead and the Vandals were busy sacking Rome. My host King Theodoric said to me
- Look Avitus, you fancy that job?.
- I said..well......
- Done deal!.
Theodoric rustled up a crown and I was proclaimed Roman Emperor in Toulouse. That was nice as I got my extended family invited to watch this. Theodoric wished me luck and invaded Spain 'on my behalf' to defeat other barbarians who were still running around looting. I was promised a lot of nice statues would be raised in my name.
My son-in-law Sidonius Apollinaris penned me a lovely manifesto for a New Roman Empire. We got our slaves to write out 1,000 copies of this and sent them everywhere. I was the new Constantine the Great. I said, 'that's a bit too much Sid' but it was a good line. The Roman Senate liked it and I was invited to Rome to take up the job officially.
I got to Rome, avoiding a Vandal fleet with my Visigothic friends. Man, the place was a wreck. Painted graffiti Vandals 10 - Rome 1 on public buildings. Some temples in the Forum were roofless shells. At least the dead had been cleared away. I had a quick shave and met Ricimer, a well spoken German soldier who had organised the clear-up after the departure of the Vandals. We got on well. I also got a letter from Roman Emperor Marcian in the East asking who the 'eff' I was. I sent a message back but got no answer as Marcian had died waiting to hear from me.
Naturally, I had to reward the Visigoths for bringing me to Rome. I gave the top military post to Remistus. He agreed to 'look less Goth' and had cut off his greasy ponytail and swopped his black boots for something more Roman like customised sandals. We made a convincing pair. The Visigoths are our new best friends. We had beaten Attila the Hun together and though we had that minor disagreement in 410 when the Goths had sacked Rome. Accidents like that can happen between friends.
Though Rome was all nice and that, Ravenna is where the Roman Empire is actually run from these days. There has been some developments there (a nice new palace to swank around in), it's frankly a bit of a cultural backwater. I got to see former Emperor Honorius's famous chicken farm. Liked the chickens, though I have no idea who was looking after them now.
Next step was to see how much money we had in the treasury. Ermm..it was empty. So I got my civil servants to melt down some statues to provide ready coinage. This upset my Goths who cleared off and returned back to Gaul. I did get some of my family to come visit but then my military advisor Remistus had his head removed by some peeved soldiers.
Round about then, Ricimer reappeared with his friend Majorian, a centurion hard man. I remember the conversation:
- Avitus, there is a job opening in Placentia. They need a bishop.
- Fine, I can do that too.
- You don't understand. Can't be both an emperor and a religious leader. "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" remember?
- Oh yes. Do I have a choice?
- No. You know what the alternative is.
I knew the score. Only Emperor Diocletian had got to retire and live unmolested but he was a monster. I said 'sure'. So I got to retire.
Placentia is a lovely place. Being bishop is an easy job. I look forward to writing my memoirs. Perhaps I could stage a comeback? Wait..I have visitors...Majorian??
The manuscript breaks off here. A number of theories suggest Avitus either died suddenly of old age or was pushed down the stairs on the orders of Ricimer. A character with the same name appears in the video game Dawn of War.
Majorian (in the West)