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Battle of Frigidus (394 AD)

By Chris Jones

In 392 AD, the young Emperor of the Western Roman Emperor, Valentinian II, quarreled with his generalissimo Arbogast. When the Emperor handed him a letter of dismissal, Arbogast threw it down and walked proudly out, saying "I did not get my command from you and so you cannot take it away." Later he had the Emperor murdered and placed the puppet Eugenius on the Imperial throne.

Both Arbogast and Eugenius were pagans unlike the Christian Eastern Emperor, Theodosius, who had earlier aided Valentinian against the attempted usurpation of Magnus Maximus, the Count of Britain. Unable to countenance this threat both to Christianity and the rightful house of Valentinian, Theodosius felt obliged to march west with his army to face the forces of Arbogast and Eugenius.

A seasoned military commander, Arbogast took up a strong position on the road over the Alps into Italy. He built a laagered camp and marshalled his forces outside it to face Valentinian as he marched over the pass to face him. The nature of the ground did not allow full deployment of the battle line or much manoeuvre so Theodosius was forced to attack the enemy positions full on. He had 20,00 Visigothic Foederatae in his army who led the attack on Arbogastıs forces and were repelled with over 10,000 casualties on the first day.

Eugenius spent that night celebrating his "victory." However, Theodosius was not finished yet and began the next day by again attacking the lines of the Western Romans frontally. This took his enemy somewhat by surprise, but they buckled to and the battle swung first one way and then the other all day. Many men fell on both sides but neither army would yield. Finally, when the battle still hung in the balance, a fierce wind drove down the pass into the faces of Eugenius' and Arbogast's men, which demoralized the troops and finally decided the battle. Not surprisingly, this intervention was attributed by Theodosiusı Christian army as a divine intervention against their pagan foes.

Simulating Frigidus in DBA

This battle will be an interesting toe-to-toe fight where the various possible match ups become very important. No room to turn flanks or hit the enemy from the side or rear here - just organise your forces for greatest efficiency.

Order of Battle

  • Late Roman (West) -- 1xKn, 3xCv, 1xLh, 5xBd, 4xAx, 1xPs

  • Late Roman (East) -- 2xKn, 2xCv, 2xLh, 2xBd, 2xAx, 2xPs plus Goth Foederatae: 1xKn, 2xWb


In the center of the board, there should be a pass of between four and five elements wide running from one base edge to the other surrounded by impassable ridges.


The Army of Theodosius should deploy first, followed by the Western Romans who can forward deploy as far as the pass.

Special Rules

After 15 moves of fighting, if either player throws a 6 for PIPıs followed by a 5 or 6, the Western Romans should suffer a -1 from their combat rolls for the rest of the game. This represents the divine "frigid" wind.

Victory Conditions

Normal DBA eacept that each side breaks after 5 elements are lost. In addition, Theodosius can ignore the first Goth element lost to represent the relative expendibility of these troops.

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Last Update: Feb. 2, 2000

My thanks to Chris Jones for this scenario. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.