Arbogast and Eugenius, Revolt of (392–394)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Rome vs. Arbogast and Eugenius
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Northern Italy
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: A pagan general in the
Roman army and his protégé attempted to take over the
OUTCOME: Arbogast and Eugenius were defeated by
Theodosius I, and Rome, East and West, was reunited
for the remainder of Theodosius’s life.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
In the general disorder of the Western Empire during the
late fourth century, the emperor of the East, Theodosius I
the Great (347–395), commissioned Arbogast (d. 394), a
Frankish general in the Roman service, to pacify the always
rebellious Gaul. Having accomplished this, Arbogast now
turned against Valentinian II (371–392), the emperor of the
West, whose attempts to limit his authority in Gaul outraged
him. It is likely that Arbogast instigated Valentinian’s
assassination in 392 so that he could appoint his own protégé,
Eugenius (d. 394), as compliant emperor of the West.
With Eugenius installed, Arbogast conducted a pair of
effective campaigns in Gaul, driving out Frankish invaders
along the Rhine. Even with this victory, however, Theodosius
refused to accept Arbogast and Eugenius as legitimate
rulers of the West, and he led an army composed chiefly
of Goths against the usurpers. They met in northeastern
Italy at the Battle of Aquileia (also called the Battle of the
Frigidus) on September 5–6, 394. Theodosius attempted
to seize the initiative with a reckless attack against a position
the more highly skilled Arbogast had carefully prepared.
Theodosius was repulsed on the 5th, incurring
To his credit as a commander, Theodosius was able to
regroup and rally his troops, and he renewed the attack on
September 6. A violent windstorm seems to have aided his
efforts, and this time he also made effective use of the brilliant
Vandal general Flavius Stilicho (365–408), who
achieved an overwhelming victory against Arbogast.
Eugenius fell in battle, and Arbogast committed suicide
two days later.
Further reading: J. B. Bury and F. J. C. Hearnshaw,
Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians (New York: W. W.
Norton, 2000); Michael Whitby, Rome at War 229–696 AD
(London: Osprey, 2002); Stephen Williams and Gerard
Friell, Theodosius: The Empire at Bay (New Haven, Conn.:
Yale University Press, 1998).