- For other meanings see Jovian (disambiguation).
Flavius Iovianus, anglicized to Jovian, (331 - 17 February 364) was a soldier elected Roman Emperor by the army on 27 June 363 upon the death of Emperor Julian the Apostate during his Sassanid campaign. Jovian reestablished Christianity as the official religion of the Empire.
Rise to power
Jovian was born at Singidunum
) in 331, son of (Flavius?) Varronianus, the commander of Constantius II
's imperial bodyguards (comes domesticorum). He also joined the guards, and by 363 had risen to the same command that his father had once held. In this capacity, Jovian accompanied the Roman Emperor Julian
on the disastrous Mesopotamian campaign of the same year against Shapur II
, the Sassanid
king. After a small but decisive engagement the Roman army was forced to retreat from the numerically superior Persian force. Julian was mortally wounded during the retreat and died on 26 June 363. The next day, after the aged Saturninius Secundus Salutius, praetorian prefect
of the Orient, declined the purple, the choice of the army fell upon Jovian. His election caused considerable surprise, and it is suggested by Ammianus Marcellinus
that he was wrongly identified with another Jovianus, chief notary (primicerius notariorum), whose name also had been put forward, or that during the acclamations the soldiers mistook the name Jovianus for Julianus, and imagined that the latter had recovered from his illness.
Restoration of Christianity
Jovian, a Christian
, reestablished Christianity
as the official religion of the Roman Empire
ending the brief revival of paganism under his predecessor Julian. Upon arriving at Antioch, he revoked the edicts of Julian against the Christians. The Labarum
of Constantine the Great
again became the standard of the army. He issued an edict of toleration, to the effect that, while the exercise of magical rites would be severely punished, his subjects should enjoy full liberty of conscience. Jovian entertained a great regard for Athanasius
, whom he reinstated on the archiepiscopal throne, desiring him to draw up a statement of the Orthodox faith. In Syriac
literature Jovian became the hero of a Christian romance. From Jovian's reign until the 15th century Christianity remained the dominant religion of both the Western and Eastern Roman Empires, until the fall of Constantinople
to the Turks
Jovian continued the retreat begun by Julian, and, continually harassed by the Persians, succeeded in reaching the banks of the Tigris, where Jovian, deep inside Sassanid territory, was forced to sue for a peace treaty on humiliatingly unfavourable terms. In exchange for safety, he agreed to withdraw from the five Roman provinces
conquered by Galerius
in 298, east of the Tigris, that Diocletian
had annexed and allow the Persians to occupy the fortresses of Nisibis
, Castra Maurorum and Singara
. The Romans also surrendered their interests in the kingdom of Armenia
to the Persians and the Christian king of Armenia, Arshak II
, was to stay neutral in future conflicts between the two empires, and was forced to cede part of his kingdom to Shapur. The treaty was seen as a disgrace and Jovian rapidly lost popularity.
After arriving at Antioch Jovian decided to hurry to Constantinople to consolidate his position.
He died on 17 February 364 after a reign of only eight months. During his return to Constantinople Jovian was found dead in bed in his tent at Dadastana, halfway between Ancyra and Nicaea. A surfeit of mushrooms or the poisonous carbon monoxide fumes of a charcoal warming fire have been assigned as the cause of death.
He was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.
Sources and references
- Banchich, Thomas, "Jovian", De Imperatoribus Romanis.
- Ammianus Marcellinus, xxv. 5-10
- J. P. de la Bleterie, Histoire de Jovien (1740)
- Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chapters xxiv., xxv.
- Gibbon, Edward, 1737-1794. The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. (NY : Knopf, 1993), v. 2, pp. 517 - 529.
- G. Hoffmann, Julianus der Abtrünnige, 1880
- J. Wordsworth in Smith and Wace's Dictionary of Christian Biography
- H. Schiller, Geschichte der römischen Kaiserzeit, volume ii. (1887)
- A. de Broglie, L'Église et l'empire romain au IVe siècle (4th ed. 1882).