Europe 392: Arbogast and Eugenius
When the young Western Roman emperor Valentinian II was found dead in May 392, suspicions immediately fell on his guardian, the magister militum Arbogast. Unable to placate the Eastern (and senior) emperor Theodosius I, Arbogast appointed his own candidate Eugenius as Western emperor in Valentinian’s place.
23 Feb 391 Edict against Paganism▲
In February 391, in a law addressed to Ceionius Albinus, prefect of Rome, the Roman emperor Theodosius I ordered the closure of all pagan temples and the banning of sacrifices. Later that year, the law was extended to include private households by announcing penalties for those who still honored household gods. Just months after the initial edict, rioting broke out in Alexandria between pagan supporters of the Imperial Prefect and Christian supporters of the city’s Patriarch, Theophilus. Theodosius favored the Christians and, when order was restored, the enormous, six-hundred-year-old Temple of Serapis (the Serapeum) was demolished in reprisal.
391 Hebrus campaign▲
After the death of Butheric in early 390, the Goths and associated renegade troops he had defeated in 388 emerged from the marshes of Macedonia to plunder the countryside. While returning to the East in the summer of 391, Theodosius I narrowly escaped an ambush by a party of these bandits—Alaric later claimed responsibility for this small victory—but reinforcements under his general Promotus soon dealt with the situation.
15 May 392 Death of Valentinian II▲
Resident in Vienne, Gaul, the token Western emperor Valentinian II—by now about 20—hated being subordinate to his magister militum Arbogast, a Frank. After complaining bitterly to Theodosius I and Ambrose about his situation, attempted to formally dismiss the magister in the early 390s but Arbogast simply tore up the order and told the emperor that he could not dismiss someone he had not appointed. When Valentinian II was later found hanged in his palace (15 May 392), Arbogast claimed the death was suicide, although suspicions were immediately aroused.
392–393 Stilicho’s first Balkan campaign▲
In late 391 the magister militum Promotus was killed by a force of Bastarnae in an ambush allegedly instigated by his court rival, the magister officiorum Rufinus. In Promotus’ place, Theodosius I appointed Stilicho—the emperor’s son-in-law and a general of Vandal descent—and dispatched him to restore order in the Balkans. After crushing the Bastarnae, Stilicho cornered a mixed force of Alans, Huns, Geloni, Goths, and Sarmatians and, under the emperor’s orders, persuaded them to become Roman auxiliaries.
22 Aug 392 Elevation of Eugenius▲
After the death of Valentinian II in May 392, Arbogast sent the late emperor’s body to the bishop Ambrose in Mediolanum (Milan) for burial and offered to take Theodosius I’s eldest son Arcadius under his care. When Thedosius rejected this offer, Arbogast appointed Eugenius, a teacher of rhetoric at court, as Western emperor instead. Still apparently hoping for a peaceful resolution, he minted coins in the name of the three augusti (Theodosius, Arcadius, and Eugenius) and asked Ambrose to mediate between the regimes.