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Jovian (emperor)

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Grey coin depicting man with diadem facing left
Bronze coin of Emperor Jovian
Roman emperor
Reign27 June 363 – 17 February 364
SuccessorValentinian I
Singidunum (Belgrade, Serbia)
Died17 February 364 (aged 33)
Dadastana (in Anatolia)
SpouseCharito, still alive c. 380
IssueTwo sons, one named Varronianus (consul in 364)
Flavius Jovianus
ReligionNicene Christianity

Jovian (Latin: Flavius Jovianus; 331 – 17 February 364) was Roman emperor from June 363 to February 364. As part of the imperial bodyguard, he accompanied Emperor Julian on his campaign against the Sasanian Empire and following the latter's death, Jovian was hastily declared Emperor by his soldiers. With the army exhausted, provisions running low, and unable to cross the Tigris, he sought peace with the Sasanids on humiliating terms. After his arrival at Edessa, Jovian was petitioned by bishops over doctrinal issues concerning Christianity. His return to Constantinople would be cut short by his death at Dadastana. Jovian reigned eight months.


Jovian was born at Singidunum (today Belgrade in Serbia) in AD 331, the son of Varronianus,[1] the commander of Constantius II's imperial bodyguards (comes domesticorum).[2] He also joined the guards and in this capacity in 361, escorted Constantius' remains to the Church of the Holy Apostles.[2] Jovian was married to Charito and they had two sons, Varronianus, and another whose name is unknown.[3]

Jovian accompanied the Emperor Julian on the Mesopotamian campaign of the same year against Shapur II, the Sasanid king. At the Battle of Samarra, a small but decisive engagement, Julian was mortally wounded,[4] and died on 26 June 363.[5] The next day,[6][7][8] after the aged Saturninius Secundus Salutius, praetorian prefect of the Orient, had declined their offer for Emperor,[9] the army elected, despite Julian's reinstitution of paganism, the Christian Jovian, senior officer of the Scholae, as Emperor.[9][10]


On the very morning of his accession, Jovian resumed the retreat begun by Julian.[9] Though harassed by the Sasanids, the army succeeded in reaching the city of Dura on the banks of the Tigris.[11] There the army came to a halt, hoping to cross the Tigris to reach the Empire on the western bank. When the attempt to bridge the river failed, he was forced to sue for a peace treaty on humiliating terms.[11] In exchange for an unhindered retreat to his own territory, he agreed to a thirty-year truce,[12] a withdrawal from the five Roman provinces, Arzamena, Moxoeona, Azbdicena, Rehimena and Corduena, and to allow the Sasanids to occupy the fortresses of Nisibis, Castra Maurorum and Singara.[11] The Romans also surrendered their interests in the Kingdom of Armenia to the Sasanids.[13] The king of Armenia, Arsaces II (Arshak II), was to receive no help from Rome.[11] The treaty was widely seen as a disgrace.[14]

After crossing the Tigris, Jovian sent an embassy to the West to announce his elevation.[15] With the treaty signed, Jovian and his army marched to Nisibis.[11] The populace of Nisibis, devastated by the news their city was to be given to the Sasanids, were given three days to leave.[11]

In September 363 Jovian arrived at Edessa where he issued two edicts.[12] The first, a limitation on the distance a soldier could be sent for straw, was to indicate an end to the war with Sasanid Persia.[12] The second was the restoration of estates of the res privata to the Imperial finances following Julian's incorporating them to pagan temples.[12]

Jovian's arrival at Antioch in October 363, was met with an enraged populace.[16] Faced with offensive graffiti and insulting authorless bills (famosi) throughout the city,[17] he ordered the Library of Antioch to be burned down.[a][17][18] Jovian left Antioch in November 363,[b] making his way back to Constantinople.[17]

By December 363 Jovian was at Ancyra proclaiming his infant son, Varronianus, consul.[20] While en route from there to Constantinople, Jovian was found dead in his tent at Dadastana, halfway between Ancyra and Nicaea,[21] on 17 February 364.[c] His death, which went uninvestigated,[19] was possibly the result of suffocating on poisonous fumes seeping from the newly painted bedchamber walls by a brazier.[10][19][20][22][d] Jovian died aged 33 and was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople,[23][24] in a porphyry sarcophagus.[e] He was succeeded by two brothers, Valentinian I and Valens, who subsequently divided the empire between them.[26]

Following Jovian's death, Valentinian and Valens removed any threats to their position.[27] Jovian's son Varronianus was blinded to ensure he would never inherit the throne.[27] According to John Chrysostom, Jovian's wife Charito lived in fear the remaining days of her life.[27]

Restoration of Christianity[edit]

Jovian was met at Edessa by a group of bishops, including Athanasius.[f][29] The Semi-Arian bishops received a poor greeting, but Athanasius, newly returned from exile,[30] delivered a letter to Jovian insisting on the Nicene Creed and the rejection of Arianism.[30] Having restored Athanasius to his episcopal duties,[31] Jovian allowed Athanasius to accompany him to Antioch.[29]

Upon arriving at Antioch, Jovian received a letter from the Synod of Antioch, imploring for Meletius' restoration as bishop of Antioch.[32] By September 363, Jovian restored the labarum ("Chi-Rho") as the army's standard[26] and revoked the edicts of Julian against Christians, but did not close any pagan temples.[33][g] He issued an edict of toleration, to the effect that his subjects could enjoy full liberty of conscience,[33] but he banned magic and divination.[35] Despite supporting the Nicene doctrines, he passed no edicts against Arians.[26] Philostorgius, an Arian church historian, stated, "The Emperor Jovian restored the churches to their original uses, and set them free from all the vexatious persecutions inflicted on them by the Apostate Julian."[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eunapius states that Jovian was incited by his wife to burn the library of Antioch.[18] Ammianus Marcellinus, Zonaras and Philostorgius make no mention of the burning of the library during Jovian's stay.[18]
  2. ^ Curran states Jovian left Antioch in late October 363.[19]
  3. ^ Socrates gives 17 February,[8] while the Consularia Const. gives 19 February.[6] Most scholars use Socrates' date.[1]
  4. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus suggests his death was due to strangulation.[19]
  5. ^ This sarcophagus was described in the 10th century by Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus in the De Ceremoniis.[25]
  6. ^ Eusebius states Athanasius was summoned by Jovian.[28]
  7. ^ Curran cites Athanasius's Historia Acephala for a claim that Jovian made Christianity the official religion of the empire,[19] but Salzman indicates that the notice is mistaken.[34]


  1. ^ a b Jones, Martindale & Morris 2001, p. 461.
  2. ^ a b Heather 1999, p. 94.
  3. ^ Drijvers 2018, p. 234.
  4. ^ Curran 1998, p. 76.
  5. ^ Browning 1976, p. 243.
  6. ^ a b Consularia Constantinopolitana s.a. 363.
  7. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus, XXV.
  8. ^ a b Socrates Scholasticus, III.
  9. ^ a b c Curran 1998, p. 78.
  10. ^ a b Treadgold 1997, p. 62.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Curran 1998, p. 79.
  12. ^ a b c d Elton 2018, p. 120.
  13. ^ Ostrogorsky 1995, p. 51.
  14. ^ Barker 1966, p. 114.
  15. ^ Lenski 2002, p. 17.
  16. ^ Lenski 2002, p. 17–18.
  17. ^ a b c Lenski 2002, p. 18.
  18. ^ a b c Rohmann 2016, p. 240.
  19. ^ a b c d e Curran 1998, p. 80.
  20. ^ a b Lenski 2002, p. 19.
  21. ^ Lenski 2002, p. 19–20.
  22. ^ Baynes 1967, p. 86.
  23. ^ Moffatt & Tall 2012, p. 811.
  24. ^ Tougher 2018, p. 887.
  25. ^ Vasiliev 1948, p. 9.
  26. ^ a b c d Vasiliev 1980, p. 78.
  27. ^ a b c Lenski 2002, p. 20.
  28. ^ Eusebius 2016, p. 434.
  29. ^ a b Frend 2003, p. 169.
  30. ^ a b Gwynn 2012, p. 51.
  31. ^ Anatolios 2004, p. 32.
  32. ^ Elm 2012, p. 424.
  33. ^ a b Watts 2015, p. 116.
  34. ^ Salzman 2002, p. 328, n. 32.
  35. ^ Jones 1986, p. 150.


  • Anatolios, Khaled (2004). Athanasius. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415202039.
  • Barker, John W. (1966). Justinian and the Later Roman Empire. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0299039448.
  • Baynes, Norman H. (1967). "Constantine's Successors to Jovian: And the Struggle with Persia". In Gwatkin, H.M.; Whitney, J.P. (eds.). The Cambridge Medieval History. I. Cambridge at the University Press. pp. 55–86. ISBN 9781463690311.
  • Browning, Robert (1976). The Emperor Julian. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03731-6.
  • Curran, John (1998). "From Jovian to Theodosius". In Cameron, Averil; Garnsey, Peter (eds.). The Cambridge Ancient History: The Late Empire, A.D. 337-425. XIII (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 78–110. ISBN 978-0521302005.
  • Drijvers, Jan Willem (2018). "Jovian between History and Myth". In Burgersdijk, Diederik W.P.; Ross, Alan J. (eds.). Imagining Emperors in the Later Roman Empire. Brill. pp. 234–256. ISBN 9789004370890.
  • Elm, Susanna (2012). Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church: Emperor Julian, Gregory of Nazianzus, and the Vision of Rome. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520269309.
  • Elton, Hugh (2018). The Roman Empire in Late Antiquity: A Political and Military History. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521899314.
  • Eusebius (2016). History of the Church. Translated by Amidon, Philip R. The Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 9780813229027.
  • Frend, W.H.C. (2003). The Early Church: From the Beginnings to 461. SCM Press. ISBN 978-0334029090.
  • Gwynn, David M. (2012). Athanasius of Alexandria: Bishop, Theologian, Ascetic, Father. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199210954.
  • Heather, Peter (1999). "Ammianus on Jovian: history and literature". In Drijvers, Jan Willem; Hunt, David (eds.). The Late Roman World and Its Historian: Interpreting Ammianus Marcellinus. Routledge. p. 93-103. ISBN 0-415-20271-X.
  • Jones, Arnold Hugh Martin (1986). The Later Roman Empire, 284-602: A Social Economic and Administrative Survey. Volume 1 (2nd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0801833533. |volume= has extra text (help)
  • Jones, A. H. M.; Martindale, J. R.; Morris, John (2001). The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire: AD 260-395. Volume 1 (5th ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-07233-6. |volume= has extra text (help)
  • Lenski, Noel (2002). Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520-23332-4.
  • Moffatt, Ann; Tall, Maxeme (2012). Constantine Porphyrogennetos - The Book of Ceremonies. Brill. ISBN 978-18-76-50342-0.
  • Ostrogorsky, George (1995). History of the Byzantine State (4th ed.). Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0813505992.
  • Rohmann, Dirk (2016). Christianity, Book-Burning and Censorship in Late Antiquity. Walter de Gruyter GmbH. ISBN 978-3-11-048445-8.
  • Salzman, Michele Renee (2002). The Making of a Christian Aristocracy: Social and Religious Change in the Western Roman Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00641-0.
  • Tougher, Shaun (2018). "Jovian". In Nicholson, Oliver (ed.). The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866277-8.
  • Treadgold, Warren (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804726306.
  • Vasiliev, A. A. (1948). "Imperial Porphyry Sarcophagi in Constantinople" (PDF). Dumbarton Oaks Papers. 4: 3–26. doi:10.2307/1291047. JSTOR 1291047.
  • Vasiliev, Alexander (1980). History of the Byzantine Empire. Vol. I (2nd ed.). The University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-80925-0. |volume= has extra text (help)
  • Watts, Edward J. (2015). The Final Pagan Generation. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-28370-1.

Further reading[edit]

  • Kettenhofen, Erich (2009). "JOVIAN". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). Encyclopædia Iranica, Volume XV/1: Joči–Judeopersian communities of Iran V. Qajar period (1786-1925). London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 74–77. ISBN 978-1-934283-14-1.
  • 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).

External links[edit]

Media related to Jovian at Wikimedia Commons

Regnal titles
Preceded by Roman emperor
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Roman consul
with Varronianus
Succeeded by