This guy was appointed consul in the Eastern Roman Empire in 491 when he was 10 (ten) years old. As far as I know this was a rather irregular proceeding - I don't recall other cases where children were appointed consuls (the only thing that comes to mind is a certain horse but he didn't get the job in the end).

Presumably this was done because the boy belonged to an important family of the military aristocracy and the emperor wanted to show a token of appreciation for their support. But the question still remains - why in this particular way? It has a very un-Roman feel about it. It would have made more sense to make the boy's father consul, wouldn't it? But perhaps the emperor didn't want to raise this man too high so he gave the plum title to his son instead?

And of course, I looked up the date - 491. It's just when Zeno died and Anastasius succedded him, so there is a good chance the weird proceedings had something to do with the change of regime - but how exactly?

Or, perhaps I am wrong, and it was a Late Roman custom after all to appoint children to the position of consul?

  • 6
    Downvoter, care to explain? Jul 10, 2013 at 18:00
  • 1
    @coleopterist This sounds quite convincing, you might want to make an answer out of the comment. But I'd still like to know if this was some sort of custom or a one-off. Jul 11, 2013 at 8:38
  • 5
    "prosopography" ... if ever there was a tag wiki needed ... Jul 12, 2013 at 11:47
  • It's less unusual than appointing a horse as Consul, as Caligula did. Dec 22, 2013 at 18:54

2 Answers 2


As Olybrius' wiki notes, he was the grandson and great-grandson of emperors and a member of the Anicia bloodline. Perhaps this was done for the same reason Olybrius was married to his niece:

Anastasius wanted to strengthen his rule through a bond with the House of Theodosius through this marriage.

(Furthermore, in 512, the citizens of Constantinople openly wanted Olybrius' father, Aerobindus, to be their emperor (thanks to Anastasius' religious muddling). This goes to show what a distinguished family he belonged to.)

Considering that consuls are appointed for a one-year term, presumably it was easier to control a ten-year old than an adult in the first year of Anastasius' reign. It is telling that no second consul was appointed and that Anastasius himself became consul the next year.

(Incidentally, his grandfather, Ancius Olybrius, was also chosen as a puppet ruler. This might also have been a favourable trait.)

As for whether this was a custom or a one-off, it was very likely the latter. As mentioned above, Anastasius himself was consul the next year and, at the age of 62, he was no spring chicken. Looking at the biographies of other consuls of the time cements this view.

  • It wasn't a "one-off". The Senator & philosopher Boethius enjoyed the honor of seeing both his young sons serve as ordinary consuls in 522. It is likely there are other examples.
    – llywrch
    Nov 4, 2021 at 15:49

By this time, consul is more a status title than any position giving political authority. So it likely is just that the emperor wanted to reward that family with a plum and for whatever reason this child was selected rather than someone more mature. Perhaps the father had already been consul.

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