THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

A DICTIONARY OF ARTS, SCIENCES, LITERATURE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

ELEVENTH EDITION 1911

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ARBOGAST (d. 394), a barbarian officer in the Roman army, at the end of the 4th century. His nationality is uncertain, but Zosimus, Eunapius and Sulpicius Alexander (a Gallo-Roman historian quoted by Gregory of Tours) all refer to him as a Frank. Having served with distinction against the Goths in Thrace, he was sent by Theodosius in 388 against Maximus, who had usurped the empire of the west and had murdered Gratian. His complete success, which resulted in the destruction of Maximus and his sons and the pacification of Gaul, led Theodosius to appoint him chief minister for his young brother-in-law 337 Valentinian II. His rule was most energetic; but while he favoured the barbarians in the imperial service, and appointed them to high office, Valentinian, openly jealous of his minister, sought to surround himself with Romans. As an offset to this, Arbogast allied himself with the pagan element in Rome, while Valentinian was strictly orthodox. In 392 Valentinian was secretly put to death at Vienne (in Gaul), and Arbogast, naming as his successor Eugenius, a rhetorician, descended into Italy to meet the expedition which Theodosius was heading against him. He proclaimed himself the champion of the old Roman gods, and as a response to the appeal of Ambrose, is said to have threatened to stable his horses in the cathedral of Milan, and to force the monks to fight in his army. His defeat in the hard-fought battle of the Frigidus saved Italy from these dangers. Theodosius, after a two days’ fight, gained the victory by the treachery of one of Arbogast’s generals, sent to cut off his retreat. Eugenius was captured and executed, but Arbogast escaped to the mountains, where however he slew himself three days afterwards (8th of September 394). Although we have only most distorted narratives upon which to rely—pagan eulogy and Christian denunciation—Arbogast appears to have been one of the greatest soldiers of the later empire, and a statesman of no mean rank. His energy, and his apparent disdain for the effete civilization which he protected, but which did not affect his character, make his personality one of the most interesting of the 4th century.

See T. Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders (1880), vol. i. chap. ii.


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