Europe 390: Massacre of Thessalonica
The defeat of Magnus Maximus in 388 reunited the Roman Empire under Theodosius I. In 390, during this period of relative peace, Theodosius ordered a brutal reprisal against rioters in Thessalonica, prompting the influential bishop Ambrose to admonish the emperor by temporarily barring him from the churches of Mediolanum (Milan).
388 Battle of Poetovio▲
After the Theodosian victory at Siscia on the Save (July 388), Theodosius I’s generals Timasius, Promotus, Arbogast, and Richomeres advanced to Poetovio (Ptuj, Slovenia), where they decisively defeated the remnants of Magnus Maximus’ army. The battle saw the death of Maximus’ brother Marcellinus, although Maximus himself escaped to Aquileia.
Aug 388–?? 389 Marcomer▲
Taking advantage of the civil war between Magnus Maximus and Theodosius I, Franks led by Marcomer, Sunno, and Genobaud crossed into the Roman Empire in late 388 and plundered the area around Colonia Agrippina (Cologne). Maximus’ generals Nannius and Quintinus defeated the raiders near the Silva Carbonaria, but were later ambushed when they attempted a counterattack across the Rhine. However, Maximus’ death in August changed the situation and that winter Theodosius’ general Arbogast arrived, compelling the Franks to make peace.
28 Aug 388 Death of Magnus Maximus▲
With his army defeated, Magnus Maximus took refuge in Aquileia but was desperately outnumbered. In late August 388 he was surrendered to Theodosius’ general Arbogast and, after being reproached for his crimes, put to death.
388–389? Campaign against Victor▲
After executing Magnus Maximus (August 388), Theodosius I’s general Arbogast invaded Gaul and had Maximus’ five-year-old son Victor strangled to death. Following this, at least according to legend, Maximus’ remaining supporters fled to Armorica (Brittany), where they would form the basis for the Celtic population there. With Gaul now pacified, Theodosius sent his teenage co-emperor Valentinian II there, to rule from Vienne under the supervision of Arbogast.
Apr 390 Massacre of Thessalonica▲
In spring 390 rioters in Thessalonica lynched the magister militum per Illyricum Flavius Buthericus (Butheric) and many of his troops after the general refused to release a charioteer who had been imprisoned for attempted rape. Enraged, Theodosius I ordered his troops to punish the perpetrators and, in the ensuing carnage, as many as 7,000 civilians were killed in the city’s hippodrome. In response to this massacre, the bishop Ambrose rebuked Theodosius, denying him entry to the churches of Mediolanum (Milan), where the emperor was based. A chastised Thedosius spent eight months in penance, until Christmas Day 390, when he was formally accepted back into the church by Ambrose.