Life: AD 330 – 364
- Name: Flavius Jovianus
- Born in AD 330 at Singidunum.
- Became emperor in June AD 363.
- Died in Dadastana, winter AD 363/4.
Born in AD 330 at Singidunum, Jovian was the son of the commander of imperial bodyguard (comes domesticorum) of Constantius II.
Jovian began his career as a member of that very same force, serving first Constantius II, then Julian. By AD 363, following his father’s example, he rose to become commander of the guards.
At the death of emperor Julian in June AD 363 the throne was offered to the praetorian prefect Saturninus Secundus Salutius, who declined reasoning he was too old and ill to hold such elevated position. And so instead the troops acclaimed the commander of the imperial guard, Jovian, emperor.
As the news reached the Persian king Sapor II (Shapur II), that a the new Roman emperor was only a second choice, it only encouraged him to further increase his attacks on the Roman force in Mesopotamia.
Jovian lost his nerve and sued for peace, agreeing to withdraw from the five provinces beyond the Tigris annexed by Diocletian, and leaving to the Persians the fortresses of Nisibis, Castra Maurorum and Singara as well as a large part of Armenia.
Understandably this treaty was seen as a disgrace, the result of a weak and feeble emperor who could not bear the pressures of office.
No sooner was Jovian back on Roman soil, he condemned his predecessor Julian’s pagan faith and restored Constantine’s subsidies to the Christian church.
Jovian sought urgently to get back to Constantinople, being well aware of just how insecure his position was as long as he remained away from the capital in the east. Particularly after his humiliating treaty with Sapor II.
And so Jovian left Antioch in mid-winter, seeking to make his way across Asia Minor (Turkey).
But in the town of Dadastana on the border of Bithynia and Galatia he was found dead in his bed on morning. The accounts on his death vary, ranging from suggestions about poisonous fumes from the room’s fresh plaster, fumes from the fire or severe indigestion after having eaten too much.
The reasons of Jovian’s death therefore seem unclear, though there is no real suggestion of a violent death.
Historian Franco Cavazzi dedicated hundreds of hours of his life to creating this website, roman-empire.net as a trove of educational material on this fascinating period of history. His work has been cited in a number of textbooks on the Roman Empire and mentioned on numerous publications such as the New York Times, PBS, The Guardian, and many more.