The Historia

Seeking Veracity

Historical Excerpts on the 4th & 5th Century  Arbogast  Family Origins



From the first Valentinian's authority was flouted: his legislative power was allowed to rust unused, his orders were disobeyed and his palace became his prison: not even the imperial purple could protect Harmonius, who was slain by Arbogast's orders at the Emperor's very feet.  Valentinian implored support from Theodosius and contemplated seeking refuge in the East; he solemnly handed the haughty Count his dismissal, but Arbogast tore the paper in pieces with the retort that he would only receive his discharge from the Emperor who had appointed him.  A letter was despatched by Valentinian urgining Ambrose to come to him with all speed to administer the sacrament of baptism; clearly he thought his life was threatened.  He hailed the pretext of barbarian disturbances about the Alpine passes and himself prepared to leave for Italy, but mortification and pride kept him still in Vienne. - 18,  p.  245

At length Valentinian, unable to bear the barbarian's insolence any longer, one day when he was sitting on his imperial throne, sommoning up as much sternness as he could into his boyish countenance, presented Arbogast with a written dismissal from his command as Magister Equitum.  With calm contempt Arbogast tore the paper in peices.  'You never gave me this command,' said he, 'nor will you be able to take it from me.'  Valentinian drew a sword against the general as he turned to depart, but the attendant to whom it belonged checked him from using it.  Hearing the struggle Arbogast returned and asked what the Emperor had been trying to do.  'To slay myself,' moaned the miserable Valentinian, 'because although Emperor I have no power.'" - 19,  p.  129

"When he says 'regales' or royal leaders, it is not clear if they were kings or if they merely exercised a kingly function.  When he is recording the straits to which the Emperor Valentinian was reduced, he says:" - 21,  p.  122

'When these events were taking place in the East in Thrace, the government was in great difficulty in Gaul.  The Emperor Valentinian was shut in the palace in Vienne and reduced almost to the status of a private citizen.  The control of the army was handed over to Frankish mercenaries and the civil administration was in the control of Arbogast's accomplices.  There was not one among all those who were bound by their military oath of obedience to him who dared to obey the private orders let alone the public commands of the Emperor.'

"Arbogast, we are told (by Antiochenus) laid violent hands on many of the Emperor's chosen councillors, yet none dared hinder him on account of his renown in war.  Probably if we had his version of the story we should learn that these were corrupt and avaricious men, who had abused the opportunities afforded them by the long minority of the Sovereign.  One of these intimate counsellors, who had at least been accused of receiving bribes, was a certain Harmonius, who had the misfortune to offend the all-powerful Frank.  Arbogast drew his sword and Harmonius fled for refuge to the secretum of the Emperor.  Even thither the angry barbarian pursued him, and while he was actually covered with the purple of the sovereign the avenging sword was driven through his heart.  From that day there was suspicion and scarcely veiled hostility between Valentinian and his too powerful servant." - 14,  p.  551

 " . . . even when not fortified by the presence of Ambrose, Valentinian could, in religious matters, hold his own against the terrible Arbogast." - 14,  p.  560

"The health and the sprits of Valentinian were failing: he probably believed his life to be in danger, and since Theodosius was slow to help, he begged his old antagonist, but now dearly loved and honoured friend, Ambrose, to cross the Alps without delay and administer to him the rite of baptism.  Besides his fear of dying unbaptized, there was probably working in Valentinian's mind some secret hope that this marvellous prelate, who had obtained an ascendancy over Justina, over Maximus, even over Theodosius himself, might be able to deliver him from the rage of the terrible Arbogast.  In fact he added to the petition for baptism a request that Ambrose would be a pledge for his friendly intentions towards 'his Count', in other words would mediate between the sovereign and his minister." - 14,  p.  554

"The young Emperor sent secret messages to his colleague, Theodosius, informing him that he could no longer endure the insolence of Arbogast and praying for assistance against him.  Possibly the reply was less speedy or less favourable than Valentinian expected, for he determined to try what that 'mastership of the world' which State-papers attributed to him was worth, and to see if he could not by his own power rid himself of his tyrannical minister.  One day, when he was seated on his throne in full consistory, he put as much severity as he could muster into his boyish features and handed to Arbogast a writing which relieved him from his office of Master of the Soldiery.  When the barbarian had spelled through the wordy document, he tore it in pieces with his nails, trampled the fragments under foot, drew his sword, and, with a voice like the roar of a lion, said, 'Thou neither gavest me this office, nor shalt thou succeed in taking it from me.'  With that he turned on his heel and left the consistory." - 14,  p.  552

"This scene occurred at Vienne by the Rhone, whither Valentinian had gone in the train of the all-powerful Master of the Soldiery to assist in providing for the defence of Gaul from the barbarians.  But while the inroads of hostile barbarians might be repelled, their peaceful invasion went successfully forward.  After this failure to dislodge Arbogast, the palace of Valentinian was almost deserted, and he lived with little more pomp than a private citizen.  Commands in the army, dignities in the state, were freely bestowed on the client, and especially the Frankish clients, of Arbogast, while the entreaties and commands of the young Roman Augustus fell on unheeding ears." - 14,  p.  553

"To a young and high-spirited monarch, mocked with the shadow of power and denied the reality, the situation was rapidly becoming intolerable.  One day, when Arbogast appeared before him in the palace, roused by some insulting speech, Valentinian drew his sword and seemed about to attack him.  A servant who stood by held his arm, and then when Arbogast -- perhaps with a sneer -- asked what he had meant to do with his unsheathed sword, 'I meant it for myself,' said the over-wrought lad, 'because though I am Emperor I am not allowed to do what I will.'" - 14,  p.  553


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