Italy · Political

Roman emperor killed by his citizens after his decisions to keep his family in high standings results in angering the Vandals

May 31, 455
Rome, Italy
Emperor Petronius Maximus is assassinated two and a half months after assuming the throne

It was speculated that Petronius had a hand in the murder of the previous emperor, Valentinian III. One of those who suspected his involvement in the assassination was his widow, Licinia Eudoxia, whom Petronius married to strengthen his position on the throne. Licinia was forced into the marriage by high-ranking officials, bought by bribery, who instructed she marry Petronius or face execution. Petronius then canceled a betrothal between Licinia’s daughter to the son of a Vandal (an East Germanic tribe) king and arranged a marriage between his step-daughter to his own son in a bid to secure power to his lineage.

The Vandal king was enraged by the dissolution of the betrothal, and ships were sent to sack Rome. The resulting violence — including arson, torture, enslavement, and murder — at the hands of the Vandals is the origin of the modern word “vandalize.”

Petronius was encouraged by his guards to flee the city alone, though he was captured by a mob of his own citizens who stoned him to death. His body was then mutilated and thrown into the Tiber. Petronius served as emperor for only 75 days.

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