Jovian (emperor)

Jovian (Latin: Flavius Jovianus Augustus; Greek: Ἰοβιανός; 331 – 17 February 364) was Roman Emperor from 363 to 364. Upon the death of emperor Julian during his campaign against the Sasanid Empire, Jovian was hastily declared emperor by his soldiers. To save his army, he sought peace with the Persians on humiliating terms and reestablished Christianity as the state religion. His reign lasted only eight months.

Solidus of emperor Jovian
Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign27 June 363 – 17 February 364
SuccessorValentinian I
Singidunum (modern Belgrade, Serbia)
Died17 February 364 (aged 33)
Dadastana (in Anatolia)
IssueTwo sons, one named Varronianus (consul in 364), c. 380
Full name
Flavius Jovianus
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Flavius Jovianus Augustus

Rise to power

Jovian was born at Singidunum (today Belgrade in Serbia) in 331 AD, the son of Varronianus,[1] the commander of Constantius II's imperial bodyguards (comes domesticorum).[2] He also joined the guards and by 363 had risen to the same command that his father had once held.[3] In this capacity, he escorted Constantius' remains to the Church of the Holy Apostles.[2] Jovian accompanied the Emperor Julian on the Mesopotamian campaign of the same year against Shapur II, the Sassanid 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, after the aged Saturninius Secundus Salutius, praetorian prefect of the Orient had declined the purple,[6] the army elected, despite Julian's reinstitution of paganism, the Christian Jovian, senior officer of the Scholae, as Emperor.[6][7]


On the very morning of his accession, Jovian resumed the retreat begun by Julian.[6] Though harassed by the Persians, the army succeeded in reaching the city of Dura on the banks of the Tigris.[8] 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.[8] In exchange for an unhindered retreat to his own territory, he agreed to withdraw from the five Roman provinces, Arzamena, Moxoeona, Azbdicena, Rehimena and Corduena, and to allow the Persians to occupy the fortresses of Nisibis, Castra Maurorum and Singara.[8] The Romans also surrendered their interests in the Kingdom of Armenia to the Persians. The king of Armenia, Arsaces II (Arshak II), was to receive no help from Rome.[8] The treaty was widely seen as a disgrace.[9]

With the treaty signed, Jovian and his army marched to Nisibis.[8] The populace of Nisibis, devastated by the news their city was to be given to the Sasanids, were given three days to leave.[8]

Upon Jovian's arrival at Antioch in October 363,[10] his treaty with the Sasanids had enraged the populace causing offensive graffiti and insulting authorless bills(famosi) throughout the city,[11] which, in turn, caused him to order the Library of Antioch to be burned down.[lower-alpha 1][12][11] Jovian left Antioch in November 363,[lower-alpha 2] making his way back to Constantinople.[11]

By December Jovian was at Ancyra and had his infant son, Varronianus, proclaimed consul.[14] While en route from there to Constantinople, Jovian was found dead in his tent at Dadastana,[14] halfway between Ancyra and Nicaea. His death, which went uninvestigated,[13] was possibly the result of poisonous fumes seeping from the newly painted bedchamber walls by a brazier.[14][lower-alpha 3] Jovian was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.[15]

Restoration of christianity

Jovian reestablished Christianity as the state religion.[13] Upon arriving at Antioch, he revoked the edicts of Julian against Christians, but did not close any temples opened by him.[16] Jovian issued an edict of toleration, to the effect that his subjects could enjoy full liberty of conscience.[16]

See also


  1. Eunapius states that Jovian was incited by his wife to burn the library of Antioch.[12] Ammianus Marcellinus, Zonaras and Philostorgius make no mention of the burning of the library during Jovian's stay.[12] Zonaras states Jovian returned the exiled Christian priests to Antioch and adorned Julian's memorial, indicating a lack of hostility towards Julian.[12]
  2. Curran states Jovian left Antioch in late October 363[13]
  3. Ammianus Marcellinus suggests his death was due to strangulation.[13]


  1. Jones, Martindale & Morris 2001, p. 461.
  2. Heather 1999, p. 94.
  3. Lenski 2002, p. 15.
  4. Curran 1998, p. 76.
  5. Browning 1976, p. 243.
  6. Curran 1998, p. 78.
  7. Treadgold 1997, p. 62.
  8. Curran 1998, p. 79.
  9. Barker 1966, p. 114.
  10. Lenski 2002, p. 17.
  11. Lenski 2002, p. 18.
  12. Rohmann 2016, p. 240.
  13. Curran 1998, p. 80.
  14. Lenski 2002, p. 19.
  15. Moffatt & Tall 2012, p. 811.
  16. Watts 2015, p. 116.


  • Barker, John W. (1966). Justinian and the Later Roman Empire. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0299039448.
  • 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. p. 78-110. ISBN 0 521 30200 5.
  • 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, 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.
  • 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.
  • Browning, Robert (1976). The Emperor Julian. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03731-6.
  • Rohmann, Dirk (2016). Christianity, Book-Burning and Censorship in Late Antiquity. Walter de Gruyter GmbH. ISBN 978-3-11-048445-8.
  • Treadgold, Warren (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804726306.
  • Watts, Edward J. (2015). The Final Pagan Generation. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-28370-1.

Further reading

  • 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).

Media related to Jovian at Wikimedia Commons

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Roman Emperor
Succeeded by
Valentinian I and Valens
Political offices
Preceded by
Julian IV,
and Flavius Sallustius
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Varronianus
Succeeded by
Valentinian I,
and Valens
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