The Historia

Seeking Veracity

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



"Though Arbogast was already virtual ruler of the West, and though the death of the young Emperor in no way shook his hold upon the army or the civil functionaries, who obsequiously obeyed him, it was necessary that some one should be found to wear the purple and sign the Imperial decrees, some one also who might demand from Theodosius recognition as his colleague.  The remembrance of Arbogast's barbarian extraction was too vivid to make it politic for him to assume the semblance as well as the substance of Imperial power.  Since the days of Maximin the Thracian, the murderer of the young Severus Alexander, no full-blooded barbarian had been hailed as Imperator by the troops, and the precedent afforded by the wild tyranny of that savage Thracian was not encouraging.  In these circumstances the choice made by Arbogast of an Imperial cipher was a singular one.  There was a certain rhetorician named Eugenius who, having once 'occupied,' as a historian says, 'the sophistical throne and being of much account for his eloquence,' in other words being a professor of some eminence, had attracted the notice of Count Richomer, had been by him recommended to his nephew Arbogast as a dexterous and supple subordinate, had been introduced into the civil service, and was now holding a 'respectable' but not illustrious place in the official hierarchy.  This is thought to mean that he was one of the four Magistri Scriniorum (which we may perhaps translate Clerks of the Closet): only a 'spectabilis' therefore, not an 'illustris.'  This man, who seems to have borne an unblemished character, besides possessing a fair amount of literary ability, and was just the sort of person who, if he had never donned the fatal Nessus-garment of the purple, might have glided happily enough through life to and undistinguished grave, had been already assailed by Arbogast with the tempting offer of the diadem.  Eugenius however refused to accept the dangerous gift, and apparently, so long as Valentinian lived, he persisted in this refusal.  After the tragedy in the palace at Vienne he consented, as his tempter expressed it, 'no longer to throw away the gifts of Fortune.'  The usual donative was no doubt given to the army, the acclamations of the soldiers were ready for any one whom their adored general should present to them as his choice, and the clever professor, hailed by the troops as Imperator and Augustus, found himself promoted almost at a bound from 'the sophistical throne' to the throne of the universe, -- a strange revolution indeed which, in the scarcely exaggerated language of the poet Claudian, 'Made the barbarian's lackey lord of all.' Note:" - 14,  p.  555

'If I rightly understand the evidently corrupted entry in 'Cuspiniani Chronicon,' the elevation of Eugenius did not take place till the 22nd of August, more than three months after the death of Valentinan.  This looks like prolonged resistance on the part of Eugenius to the schemes of his patron.'

"His (Valentinian's) death, it must be admitted, did not find Arbogast unprepared.  He could not declare himself Emperor, for Christian hatred, Roman pride, and Frankish jealousy barred the way; thus he became the first of a long line of barbarian king-makers: he overcame the reluctance of Eugenius and placed him on the throne." - 18,  p.  246

"The first sovereign to be at once the nominee and puppet of a barbarian general was a man of good family; formerly a teacher of rhetoric and later a high-placed secretary in the imperial service, the friend of Richomer and Symmachus and a peace-loving civilian -- he would not endanger Arbogast's authority.  Himself a Christian, although an associate of the Pagan aristocrats in Rome, he was unwilling to alienate the sympathies of either party, and adopted an attitude of impartial tolerance; he hoped to find safety in half measures." - 18,  p.  246

Indeed, he (Arbogast) did not promote his own candidate for the empire until several months had passed, and it had become clear that he was not going to escape Theodosius' retribution.  During the period after Valentinian's death, Arbogastes may have continued to issue coinage in the names of Theodosius and Arcadius.  But even if Arbogastes was by intention a loyal supporter of Theodosius, compromised and embarrassed by Valentinian's death, the distinction between suicide and murder eventually appeared a very fine one to the eastern government; and so Arbogastes was forced to commit himself to open rebellion.  He had Eugenius proclaimed emperor at Lugudunum on 22 August 392." - 8,  p.  239

"Eugenius was to all appearances harmless enough, and a strange candidate for empire.  He was by profession a teacher of rhetoric.  He had been passed into Arbogastes' patronage by the latter's uncle and colleague, Ricomer -- two letters, of the middle and later 380's associating Eugenius with Ricomer, still stand in the correspondence of Symmachus." - 8,  p.  240

Immediately after, Arbogast seems to have issued silver from the mint at Trier in the name of Theodosius' son Arcadius, deeming him to be the likely successor to Valentinian.  Soon, however -- perhaps fearing he would be held responsible for Valentinian's death -- he elevated the puppet emperor Eugenius to the throne, and all gold coinage issued from Trier at this time is in his name."              - 9,  p. 68

"The Frankish general, who durst not shock the prejudices of the Roman world by himself assuming the purple, hung that dishonoured robe upon the shoulders of a rhetorician, a confidant, and almost a dependent of his own, named Eugenius.  This man, like most of the scholars and rhetoricians of the day, had not abjured the old faith of Hellas.  As Arbogast also was a heathen, though worshipping Teutonic rather than Olympian gods, this last revolution looked like a recurrence to the days of Julian, and threatened the hardly-won supremacy of Christianity." -19,  p.  130


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