Jovian - Encyclopedia




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JOVIAN (FLAVIUS JOVIANUS) (c. 332-364), Roman emperor from June 363 to February 364, was born at Singidunum in Moesia about 332. As captain of the imperial bodyguard, he accompanied Julian in his Persian expedition; and on the day after that emperor's death, when the aged Sallust, prefect of the East, 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 Jovian, chief notary, 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. Jovian at once continued the retreat begun by Julian, and succeeded, continually harassed by the Persians, in reaching the banks of the Tigris, where a humiliating treaty was concluded with the Persian king, Shapur II. Five provinces which had been conquered by Galerius in 298 were surrendered, together with Nisibis and other cities. The Romans also gave up all their interests in the kingdom of Armenia, and abandoned its Christian prince Arsaces to the Persians. During his return to Constantinople Jovian was found dead in his bed at Dadastana, halfway between Ancyra and Nicaea. A surfeit of mushrooms or the fumes of a charcoal fire have been assigned as the cause of death. Under Jovian, Christianity was established as the state religion, and the Labarum of Constantine again became the standard of the army. The statement that he issued an edict of toleration, to the effect that, while the exercise of magical rites would be severely punished, his subjects should enjoy full liberty of conscience, rests on insufficient evidence. Jovian entertained a great regard for Athanasius, whom he reinstated on the archiepiscopal throne, desiring him to draw up a statement of the Catholic faith. In Syriac literature Jovian became the hero of a Christian romance (G. Hoffmann, Julianus der Abtriinnige, 1880).

See Ammianus Marcellinus, xxv. 5-10; J. P. de la Bleterie, Histoire de Jovien (1740); Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chs. xxiv., xxv.; J. Wordsworth in Smith and Wace's Dictionary of Christian Biography; H. Schiller, Geschichte der romischen Kaiserzeit, vol. II. (1887); A. de Broglie, L' Eglise et l'empire romain au IV° siecle (4th ed. 1882).

For the relations of Rome and Persia, see PERSIA: Ancient History.
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