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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Jovianus Flavius, Christian Emperor

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Jovianus (1), Flavius, Christian emperor from June 27, 363, to Feb. 16, 364. The authorities for the Life of Jovian are generally the same as those for that of Julian. The fifth oration of Themistius, and certain tracts printed among the works of St. Athanasius, are important for the special points of his edict of toleration and dealings with the Arians. There is a useful Life of Jovian by the Abbé J. P. R. de la Bléterie (Paris, 1748, 2 vols., and 1776, 1 vol.), containing also a translation of some of Julian's works.

Life. —Jovian was born c. A.D. 331. His father, the count Varronianus, was an inhabitant of the territory of Singidunum (Belgrade) in Moesia, the country which gave birth to so many emperors (Victor, Epit. 68). At the time of his unexpected elevation he was the first of the imperial bodyguard, a position of no very great distinction (Amm. xxv. 5, 4).

Julian died of a wound at midnight, between June 26 and 27, 363, in the midst of his retreat from Persia, leaving his army surrounded by active enemies. Early in the morning the generals and chief officers met to choose an emperor. Saturninus Secundus Sallustius, the prefect of the East, a moderate heathen, who was respected also by Christians, was elected; but he refused the dangerous honour, and Jovian was chosen.

The new emperor was a Christian and a firm adherent of the Nicene faith. He had, indeed, some claim to the honours of a confessor under his predecessor, but Julian, it is said, did not wish to part with so good an officer (Socr. iii. 22). He was in other respects a man of no very marked ability (Amm. xxv. 5, 4; Eutropius, x. 17). He was a generous, bluff, and hearty soldier, popular with his companions, fond of jest and merriment, and addicted to the pleasures common in the camp (Vict. Epit. 6; Amm. xxv. 10, 15). He had a bright and open face, always cheerful, and lighted with a pair of clear grey eyes. His figure was extremely tall and his gait rather heavy, and it was long before an imperial wreath could be found to fit him. He was only a moderate scholar, and in this and many other points was a strong contrast to Julian (Amm. l.c. ).

Though he was a sincere believer, we cannot credit the statement of Rufinus that he would not accept the empire till he had obliged all his soldiers to become Christians (H. E. ii. 1). But the greater part of the army did, no doubt, return without difficulty to the profession of faith to which they had been accustomed under Constantius. The labarum again became their standard; and Jovian's coins present, besides the [image]

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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Jovianus Flavius, Christian Emperor'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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Thursday, November 26th, 2020
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