The Historia

Seeking Veracity

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



"Thus freed from anxiety in the West, Arbogast and Eugenius left with large reinforcements for Italy, where it seems that the new Emperor had been acknowledged from the time of his accession (spring 393?)." - 18,  p.  246

"Was it caution, was it indolence, was it reluctance to array one half of the Empire in battle against the other half which again, as in the war against Maximus, caused such inexplicable delay in the movements of Theodosius?  Certainly he had some excuse for hesitation, for Arbogast, the 'flame-like' Frank, was, as he well knew, no mere intriguer like Maximus, but a brave and well-tried soldier, probably now the best general in the Empire, for the veteran Richomer (his kinsman according to the historian, Johannes Antiochenus) died at Constantinople shortly before the commencement of the war.  But whatever the cause, it is clear that more than two years elapsed after the death of Valentinian II before his brother-in-law stood with an avenging army on the soil of Italy." - 14,  p.  559

"In the following year Theodosius marched from Constantinople (end of May 394); Honorius, who had been created Augustus in January 393, was left behind with Arcadius in the capital.  The Emperor appointed Timasius as general-in-chief with Stilicho for his subordinate; immense preparations had been made for the campaign -- of the Goths alone some 20,000 under the leadership of Saul, Ga´nas, and Bacurius had been enlisted in the army.  Arbogast, either through the claim of kinship or as virtual ruler of the West, could bring into the field large forces of both Franks and Gauls, but he was outnumbered by the troops of Theodosius." - 18,  p.  246

"Eugenius did not leave Milan till 1 August.  Flavianus, as augur, declared that victory was assured; he had himself undertaken the defense of the passes of the Julian Alps, where he placed gilded statues of Jupiter to declare his devotion to Paganism.  Theodosius overcame all resistance with ease and Flavianus, discouraged and ashamed, committed suicide." - 18,  p.  247

"Thus not only the sad voice of his wife Galla pleading for vengeance on her brother's murderers, but, even more, the pious exhortations of all Christian bishops called on Theodosius to rescue the Western Empire from the hands of the sophist and the barbarian.  Yet his preparations had to be long and careful, for he was aware that in Arbogast he would meet a general who knew as much of the art of war as himself, perhaps we might say that he should meet the greatest captain of the age.  He left not Thrace till June, 394, nearly two years after the death of Valentinian, and meanwhile, on the very eve of his departure his young wife Galla died, leaving a little daughter, whose name afterwards was famous in the story of the Empire, Galla Placidia." - 19,  p.  130

"Though he felt that the war was inevitable, Theodosius had a strange reluctance to commence it.  Ill-health was perhaps already depressing his spirits and making him shrink from the labours and dangers of a campaign.  By his own experience of Arbogast as a subordinate he knew how formidable he would be as an antagonist, far more formidable than that mere camp-demagogue and trader in mutiny, Maximus.  The road over the Julian Alps as he well knew, would not be traversed so easily as it had been in 388, for now Arbogast, forewarned of the danger, had stationed some of his best troops to dispute the passage.  With an anxious desire to read what Providence might have written on the yet unturned page of his fortunes, Theodosius sent a member of his household, the Eunuch Eutropius, to a cave in the Egyptian Thebaid to consult the holy hermit John, a man who had the reputation of performing miraculous cures and foretelling future events.  The hermit steadfastly declined an invitation to quit his cell for the palace at Constantinople, but sent back by the Eunuch this oracular response. 'The war will be bloody, more bloody than that against Maximus.  Theodosius will conquer, but he will not long survive his victory.  In Italy will he draw his last breath.' - 14,  p.  568

"The relations between the upstart Emperor and the self-exiled Bishop grew doubtless more hostile all through the year 393, and when at length in the summer of 394 Arbogast set forth to war with Theodosius, he and the Prefect Flavianus said in the haughtiness of their hearts as they passed out from the gates of Milan: 'When we come back we will stable our horses in the great Basilica, and all these sleek churchmen shall be drilled to arms by our centurions.'  And yet even Arbogast might have learned how mighty and all-pervading was the power which he had thus arrayed against himself and his Imperial puppet.  For in the campaign against the Franks of the Rhine, which probably filled up the summer 393, he had met one of the many kings of that fierce tribe, who asked him 'Dost thou know Amorose?'  "Yes," said Arbogast, 'I know him and he loves me well, and I have often dined with him.'  'Then that is the cause, Sir Count, why you have conquered me, because you are loved by that man who says to the Sun "Stand still," and it stands.'  Already the fame of a great saint had learned to travel over mountains and rivers: already superstitious fears were creeping behind the mail of barbarian kings and making them feel that it was dangerous to war against the God of the Christians." - 14,  p.  566

Note:  'We derive these two stories from the interesting but marvel-loving life of Ambrose written by his notary, Paulinus.  He says that the second story was told him by a very religious young man, who was cup-bearer to Arbogast in his Frankish campaign.'

"Giving but one day to sorrow and the next to vengeance, Theodosius marched north-westwards, as before, up the valley of the Save, and to the city of Aemona.  Not there did he meet his foes, but at a place about thirty miles off, half-way between Aemona and Aquileia, where the Julian Alps are crossed, and where a little stream called the Frigidus (now the Wipbach) bursts suddenly from a limestone hill.  Here, then, the battle was joined between Eugenius with his Frankish patron and Theodosius with his 20,000 Gothic foederati  and the rest of the army of the East.  Gainas, Saul, Bacurius, Alaric were the chief leaders of the Teutonic troops." - 19,  p.  130

"The beautiful Empress Galla died, May 394 having given birth to a little daughter, who was one day to rule the Empire of the West under the title of Galla Placidia Augusta.  Theodosius, as a historian says, was mindful of the Homeric maxim -- 'In war, with stern hearts we entomb our dead, And but for one day must our tears be shed,' and, though with an aching heart, set forth from Constantinpole, only pausing to pay his devotions in the Church which he had reared in the suburb of the Hebdomon in honour of John the Baptist." - 14,  p.  569

"As before, he moved his troops along the highway that connected Sirmium with Aquileia.  By this road as has been before hinted, the Alps may be said to be turned rather than crossed.  At one point indeed, between Laybach and Gorizia, a shoulder of the Julian Alps has to be surmounted, but as the highest point of the pass is less than 2000 feet above the level of the sea, it must not be associated in our minds with those ideas of Alpine hardship which suggest themselves in connection with the St. Bernard, the Splugen, or even the Brenner.  On the summit of the pass there grew, at the time of the Roman road-makers, a pear-tree, conspicuous, we must suppose, from afar by its cloud of white blossoms.  This tree gave to the neighbouring station the name of Ad Pirum, and the memory of it has now for many centuries been preserved, in another tongue, by the appellation of the Brinbaumer Wald, given to the whole of the high plateau which the road once traversed.  Standing on the crest of this pass, in the place where probably 2000 years ago the pear-tree was blooming, the spectator beholds spread out before him a landscape with some very distinctive features, which the imagination can easily convert into a battlefield.  To his right, all along the northern horizon, soars the bare and lofty ridge of the Tarnovaner Wald, about 4000 feet high.  None but a very adventurous or a badly beaten army would seek a passage there.  Opposite, to the south and west runs a range of gently swelling hills, somewhat resembling our own Sussex downs, the last outliers in this direction of the Julian Alps.  On the left hand, to the south-east, the Brinbaumer Wald rises towards the abrupt cliff of the Nanos Berg, a mountain as high as the Tarnovaner Wald, which, conspicuous from afar, seems by its singular shape to proclaim itself to travellers, both from Italy and from Austria, as the end of the Alps.  Set in this framework of hills lies a fruitful and well-cultured valley, 'The Paradise of Carniola,' deriving its name from its river, which, burrowing its way between hayfields and orchards, seems disinclined to claim the visitor's notice, though entitled to it for more reasons than one.  For this river, the Wipbach of our own day, the Frigidus Fluvius of the age of Theodosius, has not only historic fame, but is a phenomenon full in interest to the physical geographer.  Close to the little town of Wipbach it bursts forth from the foot of the cliffs of the Birnbaumer Wald; no little rivulet such as one spring might nourish, but  'a full-fed river,' as deep and strong as the Aar at Thun, or the Reuss at Lucerne, like also to both those streams in the colour of its pale-blue waters, and, even in the hottest days of summer, unconquerably cool. - 14,  p.  569

Note:  The Wipbach has seven large sources, besides numberless small ones, all at the foot of the same cliffs.  The largest and most picturesque of the sources is behind the palace and in the garden of Count Lantieri.  

Many a Roman legionary, marching along the great height road from Aquileia to Sirmium, has had reason to bless the refreshing waters of the mountain-born Frigidus.  We know somewhat more than the philosophers of the camp could tell him of the causes of this welcome phenomenon.  The fact is that in the Wipbach Thal we are in the heart of one of those limestone regions where Nature so often amuses us with her wild vagaries.  Only half a day's march distant lies the entrance to those vast chambers of imagery, the caverns of Adelsberg.  The river Poik which rushes roaring through those caverns for two or three miles, emerges thence into the open country, disappears, reappears, again disappears, again reappears, and thus bears three different names in the course of its short history.  A little further from  Wipbach lies that other wonder of Carniola, the Zirknitzer See, where fishing in spring, harvesting in summer, and skating in winter, all take place over the same ground.  The chilly Wipbach bursting suddenly forth from its seven sources in the Birnbaumer Wald is, it will be seen, but one of a whole family of similar marvels."

"Leaving the blue waters of the Frigidus we remount the hills, and stand with Theodosius by the pear-tree on the crest of the pass.  By his unexpected energy he has gained the heights, before the enemy could anticipate him,  but that is all.  Far away below him stretch the tents of the army of Eugenius; they line the sides of the river and fill all the valley.  The regular troops of Theodosius, the so-called Roman legionaries, are commanded by the veteran Timasius and under him by the Emperor's kinsman Stilicho.  But true to his constant policy, Theodosius has surrounded himself with a strong band of barbarian auxiliaries, and the commanders of these skin-clothed Teutons are some of the most influential men in his army.  There is Gainas the Goth, the same man who, six years hence, being general-in-chief of all the forces of the Eastern Empire, will rebel against Arcadius, son of Theodosius, and will all but succeed in capturing Constantinople.  Gainas is an Arian Christian, as are most of his countrymen by this time; but by his side, with perhaps equal dignity, rides the Alan Saul, a heathen yet, notwithstanding his Biblical name.  There too is the Catholic Bacurius, general of the household troops, who fought under Valens at Hadrianople, a man of Armenian origin, and of royal birth, who is 'destitute of all evil inclinations and perfectly versed in the art of war.'  - 14,  p.  572

  Note:  Bacurius, as we learn from the Church historian Rufinus, was originally King of the Iberi.  He was a fervent Christian, and Rufinius had made his acquaintance when he was Dux Palastinae.  There also, carfully noticing the lie of these mountain passes, and veiling his eagerness for the first sight of Italy, is a young Visigothic Chieftain named Alaric."


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