Northern Africa 395: Division of the Roman Empire
Theodosius I defeated the usurper Magnus Maximus in 388, but four years later faced a new usurpation—this time by Arbogast and Eugenius. After defeating these challengers in turn in 394, Theodosius briefly reunited the Roman Empire one last time before dying on 17 January 395. The empire fell to his two young sons Arcadius and Honorius, although real power resided in the hands of their guardians, the Eastern prefect Rufinus and the Western general Stilicho. This effectively split the empire into two halves, even though officially unity would continue.
387 Peace of Acilisene▲
In c. 384, shortly after the accession of Shah Shapur III, Rome and Persia began negotiations over Armenia—a cause of tension ever since its acknowledgement as an independent Persian vassal in 363. By a treaty concluded in 387, Shapur and the Roman emperor Theodosius I agreed to divide the country between them, with the Romans accepting the western fifth and the Persians taking the rest. At the same time, Theodosius recognized Persian influence over the Kingdom of Iberia and agreed to a payment of gold at irregular intervals. The treaty marked the beginning of over a century of relative peace between the two powers, interrupted only by two brief wars (in 421–2 and 440).
Jul 388 Battle of the Save▲
After suppressing some barbarian troops who had conspired with Magnus Maximus in Macedonia in early 388, Theodosius and his army—by now largely made up of Gothic troops and Hunnic auxiliaries—marched into the Diocese of Illyricum to confront Maximus himself. Pushing through Upper Pannonia, the four senior Theodosian generals—Timasius, Promotus, Arbogast, and Richomeres—crossed the Save (Sava) river near its junction with the Kupa at Siscia (Sisak, Croatia) in the face of heavy enemy opposition. Defeated, Maximus and his forces fled west to Aquileia and Poetovio.
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.
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.
392?–394? Kalabsha War▲
In around 392 war broke out between the Blemmyes and Nobatia to the south of Roman Egypt. The Blemmyes eventually prevailed, capturing at least five towns, including the important Nile post of Kalabsha. With control of Kalabsha, which they established as their new capital, the Blemmyes secured the local emerald mines and blocked trade between Nobatia and the Roman Empire.
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.
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.
17 Jan 395 Division of the Roman Empire▲
Possibly because of the strains of the war with Arbogast and Eugenius, Theodosius I fell ill towards the end of 394, dying in Mediolanum (Milan) on 17 January 395. He was succeeded in the West by his ten-year-old son Honorius and in the East by his teenage son Arcadius, at that time in Constantinople and under the influence of the prefect Rufinus. However, the most powerful person in the Empire was now Honorius’ guardian Stilicho, who had not only been Theodosius’ magister militum praesentalis, but was married to the late emperor’s niece Serena and currently held command over both the Western and Eastern armies in Italy. Stilicho claimed that he had also been given guardianship of Arcadius, but this was rejected in the East, causing tension between the two regimes.