Europe 394: Battle of the Frigidus
Theodosius I rejected Arbogast’s elevation of Eugenius to Western emperor in 392 and instead proclaimed his younger son Honorius as augustus. Marching west in 394, the Eastern emperor met his opponents on the Frigidus river and decisively defeated them both in a two-day battle.
8 Nov 392 Theodosius I’s proscription of paganism▲
In November 392 the Roman emperor Theodosius I extended his edicts of 391 by completely proscribing the worship of pagan gods and authorizing the destruction of many temples throughout the empire. Two years later he cemented his victory over the more pagan-friendly regime of Eugenius in the West by extinguishing the eternal fire in the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum and disbanding the Vestal Virgins. Theodosius’ measures also led to the suppression of the ancient Olympic Games, which were last recorded as being held in 393.
23 Jan 393 Elevation of Honorius▲
In late 392 ambassadors from Gaul arrived in Constantinople, requesting that Theodosius I acknowledge Eugenius as augustus in the West in the place of Valentinian II. Although he received the envoys courteously, Theodosius instead appointed his eight-year-old son Honorius as augustus in January 393, ending any hopes of compromise between the Western and Eastern regimes.
Apr 393 Virius Nicomachus Flavianus▲
In April 393 Eugenius and Arbogast marched into Italy, where they were welcomed by the Roman Senate and the pagan praetorian prefect Virius Nicomachus Flavianus. To thank Flavianus and the pagans of the Senate, Eugenius restored the Altar of Victory—removed by Gratian in 382—but did not go so far as to either fully restore paganism or revoke the status of Christianity. However, this action, and Flavianus’ encouragement of a pagan revival, allowed Theodosius I and Christian opponents of Eugenius to paint his regime as apostate.
393 Fravitta vs Eriulf▲
In early 393 Theodosius I invited the leaders of the Goths to dine with him as part of a recruitment drive for the war with Arbogast and Eugenius. During the banquet, rival factions were revealed among the Goths when a drunken quarrel broke out between the pro-Roman Fravitta and the anti-Roman Eriulf. As they left, Fravitta killed Eriulf and was immediately protected from his rival’s supporters by the intervention of the imperial guard. More Gothic infighting seems to have followed, but Fravitta prevailed and by 394 was able to provide Theodosius with as many as 20,000 men.
30 Dec 393 Gildo and Eugenius▲
In early 393 the Diocese of Africa was placed under the jurisdiction of the praetorian prefect of Illyricum. At the end of the same year, in an attempt to secure the favor of the diocese, the usurper Eugenius appointed the Comes Africae Gildo as magister militum, an act which Eugenius’ rival Theodosius I quickly countered by confirming the promotion. However, neither side was able to get Gildo to act militarily in the upcoming war and African grain supplies continued to be shipped to Rome.
? May–5 Sep 394 March on the Frigidus▲
In May 394, shortly after mourning the death of his wife Galla in child-birth, Theodosius I marched west to confront Eugenius and Arbogast, leaving behind his eldest son Arcadius, to rule the East under the guardianship of the praetorian prefect Rufinus. Traveling with his younger son Honorius, Theodosius passed without opposition through the diocese of Illyricum, which Arbogast had decided not to defend in favor of concentrating his forces in the Julian Alps near Aquileia.
5–6 Sep 394 Battle of the Frigidus▲
In early September 394 Theodosius I led his army across the Julian Alps, encountering the forces of Arbogast and Eugenius in the valley of the Frigidus (possibly on or near the Vipava). In a bid to break through the pass, Theodosius sent his Gothic troops into a frontal assault but by dusk had been heavily repulsed, with the Goths suffering as many as 10,000 casualties. That night a triumphant Arbogast dispatched some units to outflank Theodosius, but fortuitously for the emperor these defected to his cause. Encouraged, Theodosius attacked again at dawn and, with the great wind of the Bora suddenly appearing to drive dust into the faces of his enemies and render their missiles useless, overran the usurper’s camp. Eugenius was quickly found, captured, and executed, while Arbogast fled into the mountains.