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Emperor of the Roman Empire
Reign 27 June 363 -
17 February 364
Predecessor Julian the Apostate
Successor Valentinian I
Spouse Charito, still alive c. 380
Two sons, one named Flavius Varronianus (consul in 364), possibly still alive c. 380
Full name
Flavius Jovianus (from birth to accession);
Flavius Jovianus Augustus (as emperor)
Father (Flavius?) Varronianus (comes domesticorum to Emperor Constantius II)
Born 331 (aged 32)
Died 17 February 364

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 favored religion of the Empire.


Rise to power

Jovian was born at Singidunum (today Belgrade, Serbia) 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 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 favoured 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. [1] The Labarum of Constantine the Great again became the standard of the army.[2] He issued an edict of toleration, to the effect that, while the exercise of magical rites would be punished, his subjects should enjoy full liberty of conscience[3].

However, in 363 he issued an edict ordering the Library of Antioch to be burnt down[4], and another on 11 September subjecting the worship of ancestral gods to the death penalty, which, on 23 December, he also applied to participation in any pagan ceremony (even private ones)[5]. Jovian entertained a great regard for Athanasius, whom he reinstated on the archiepiscopal throne,[1] 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 in 1453.


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 his 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 widely seen as a disgrace and Jovian rapidly lost popularity.

After arriving at Antioch, Jovian decided to rush to Constantinople to consolidate his political position there.

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 has been assigned as the cause of death.

Jovian was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.

See also


  1. ^ a b Philologic Results
  2. ^ Reigns Of Jovian, Valentinian and the Division of the
  3. ^ CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Flavius Claudius Jovianus
  4. ^ Michael von Albrecht, and Gareth L. Schmeling, A history of Roman literature (1997), page 1744
  5. ^ Vlasis Rassias, A history of unconditional love (2005); currently in publication only in Greek, as Μια ιστορία αγάπης

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).
  • This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain. [1]

External links

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Roman Emperor
Succeeded by
Valentinian I and Valens



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