Jovian was born in 330 (or 331 ) in Singidunum (present-day Belgrade ) in the family of the Comites Domestica. Pagan authors, following the ancient tradition, lead the prophetic dreams of his father, which prompted Jovian power.
In the fate of the future emperor, the merits of his father played an important role. Jovian did not achieve any significant success, he was not endowed with any outstanding qualities and was known in the army thanks to Warronian. He made himself a career in the imperial guard, being a protector-domestic ( lat. Protector domesticus ) under Constantius II and Julian, and rising in the latter to primiterium domesticism ( lat. Primicerius domesticorum ) – chief of the guard. In Christian sources, the version that Jovian II was dismissed from service as Julian II for his commitment to Christianity became widespread. This legend is recognized by modern researchers as having no real basis. Jovian accompanied Emperor Julian II in his Persian campaign against Shapur II as the head of the imperial bodyguards.
In the area of foreign policy, Julian was determined to end the long-lasting war with the Persians. Having equipped an army at the beginning of 363, he moved to Persia. The campaign was originally successful, Julian defeated the Persian army and took several fortresses. However, not daring to besiege the capital of the Sassanids, Ctesiphon, Julian was tricked by the Persians into the desert by deceit, and in the battle he received a mortal wound.
Election by the Emperor
When the higher ranks of the army gathered to select the successor of the deceased Julian (since he did not leave the official heir), Jovian gained power (June 27, 363), although he could not hope for it before. Ammianus writes in the most detail about the acquisition of power by him. The historian reports that the army commanders in the election process were divided into two parties.
It is not known exactly how the internal struggle was going on regarding the choice of emperor, it is only known that the title was offered to the prefect Pretoria Secunda Sallusty, to a pagan in religion and a colleague of Julian, who was under Julian in fact the second person in the state. He, however, refused, citing his age. Since the army was in a critical situation – in the desert, retreating before the persistent Persians, it was necessary to quickly make some decision as Ammianus writes.
After gaining power, Jovian continued the retreat of the army, especially since Shapur II learned from the defector about the death of Julian and became even more oppressed by the Romans. Pressed by the Persians from all sides, the Roman army retreated first to Sumera, and then to Kharh, where it was surrounded by the enemy. Exhausted by poor nutrition, the soldiers began demanding an immediate crossing of the Tigris, despite the fact that at that time the river had spilled a lot, and the opposite bank was occupied by the enemy. In order to calm the soldiers, the emperor ordered the Gallic and German soldiers, numbering about five hundred, to force the river. This adventure proved successful and the Roman squad took the opposite bank. However, it was not possible to quickly build a ferry and transfer the bulk of the troops.
Under these conditions, King Shapur offered the world on difficult conditions for the Romans. In exchange for the passage of the Roman troops and the conclusion of peace for 30 years, the Persian king was to receive five regions behind Tigris: Arzachen, Moksoen, Zabditsen, Regimen and Corduen with fifteen fortresses, and also the city of Nisibis, Castra Mavrorum and Singara. The emperor also had to abandon the alliance with the Armenian king Arshak II.
Iovian was deeply concerned about the rumors that, before going on the march, Julian left his imperial cloak of purple to his relative Procopius and bequeathed to seize power in the event of his death, Julian. Fearing for his position, Jovian accepted all the conditions of Shapur, stipulating only that the residents should leave the cities before handing over Nizibis. This decision caused a sharp condemnation from his contemporaries. Even Christian writers who extolled Jovian recognize the disadvantage of the concluded contract, noting, however, its necessity, and sometimes directly presenting it as an achievement. Pagan authors – Ammianus, Zosim, Eutropius – directly condemn the emperor for him. Especially since he was imprisoned, in Ammian’s opinion, not in such a hopeless situation; Jovian needed him, because Augustus was afraid of the performance of some usurper in Gaul or Illyricum. In the warning of hostile actions, the parties exchanged hostages. Despite this, the Persians, according to Ammianus, planned to attack the backward Romans, but were exposed in their intentions and abandoned them. During the retreat, many warriors died of starvation, drowned in the river at the crossing or, lagging behind, were captured by the Persians. Peace between the Empire and the Persians was concluded for thirty years.
Upon arriving at Roman territory, Jovian appointed his father-in-law Lucillian to become master of cavalry and infantry, and commanded him to go to Milan in order to prevent possible attempted coup d’état. Jovian sent messengers to distant parts of the empire, so that they would clarify the sentiments of the governors and, if possible, would prevent the appearances of the disgruntled. These messengers were ordered to report to the provinces that the Persian campaign ended successfully. These propaganda measures were supplemented with corresponding inscriptions – both on the mile pillars and on the coins (on which the expressions “RESTITVTOR REIPVBLICAE” – “Restorer of the Republic”, “VICTORIA AVGVSTI” – “Victory of August” and “VICTORIA ROMANORVM” – “Victory Romelan” and the like).
When the retreating army approached Nisibis, the emperor did not enter the city, but ordered to set up camp outside its walls, as he was ashamed to surrender the impregnable city to the enemy during his own stay there. The inhabitants of Nisibis asked the emperor to give them the opportunity themselves, without the help of the army, to defend their city, but the emperor refused them and ordered them to leave within three days.
Augustus tried his best to eliminate possible rivals – this is how his namesake, the primiterium of the notaries Jovian, was killed, in whose favor several voices were heard during the elections. In order to strengthen his position, Jovian gave command to the well-known commander Malarich of the troops in Gaul, but he refused the honor given.
At the same time, Prokopy was sent with a part of the army forward, to Tarsus, a relative of Julian, with orders to bury the latter near this city (as Julian himself ordered during his life). After the funeral, Procopius disappeared, and appeared only after the death of Jovian, trying to seize power.
Jovian spent some time in Antioch-on-Oronte, where he resolved religious issues. Here he was visited by the delegation of the Constantinople Senate. Residents of the city, according to some reports, rather unwelcomingly greeted the new emperor — apparently because Antioch was always under the threat of an Persian invasion, and the loss of the key to the East — Nisibis — was perceived by the inhabitants very disturbingly. The mood of the inhabitants of the city was obviously influenced by the fact that Iovian ordered (prompted by his wife, as John of Antioch writes) to burn the pagan temple, built under Adrian, which Julian turned into a library. The hostility of the inhabitants of the city to Jovian was so great that they, having learned later about his death, rebelled and ravaged the estates of the Censorius of Dacian, an official close to the emperor. However, the Antiochians rarely had good relations with the emperors: they had been in conflict with both Julian II and his brother Caesar Gall. Jovian did not stay long in Syria, and hurried to the West, seeking to be in Constantinople rather. Passing Tarsus, in which he defiantly took care of decorating the grave of Julian, the emperor arrived in Cappadociathe city of Tian, where some of the messengers he had sent earlier to the West arrived to him. In particular, he was informed that his father-in-law, Lutsillian, who had gone to Germany after Mediolan, died as a result of a riot in Rems, which caused his untimely actions. Augusta was informed about this by Valentinian, the future emperor, who managed to escape during a riot. In addition to these unpleasant news, Jovian was also informed that the legions in Gaul recognized him.
Augustus moved on, and, arriving at Ankira, he entered the consulate along with his young son Varronian, about which a large speech was given to him and the whole court by the famous rhetoric Themistius, in which he strongly praised the new Augustus.
There are few laws left over from the time of Jovian. The period of his reign in the code of Theodosius marked 6 laws (of which three are designated as belonging to the emperor Julian, two – Valentinian and Valent), in the code of Justinian – 1 law marked as belonging to Valentinian and Valent. At the same time, researchers consider the law belonging to Jovian, marked by the compilers of the Theodosius Code as his, but with the date February 19, 364 (that is, two days later than the most mentioned date of death). The greatest attention of modern scholars is attracted by laws related to the emperor’s religious policy.
Religious Policy & Death
Jovian’s activity in religious matters was rather cautious. Despite his obvious sympathies for Christianity, he did not immediately begin to take any drastic actions in favor of this religion after coming to power. Moreover, according to Ammianus Marcellinus, he began his rule by addressing the Haruspexes, who performed fortune-telling on the guts.
This event occurred on February 17, 364. The investigation of his death was not carried out, which is emphasized separately by Ammianus Marcellinus. The most common in the sources version of the natural death of the emperor, but already in antiquity appeared version of his murder.
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