Chapter I.—Of the reign and piety of Jovianus
After Julian was slain the generals and prefects met in council and deliberated who ought to succeed to the imperial power and effect both the salvation of the army in the campaign, and the recovery of the fortunes of Rome, now, by the rashness of the deceased Emperor, placed to use the common saying, on the razor edge of peril. 665 But while the chiefs were in deliberation the troops met together and demanded Jovianus for emperor, though he was neither a general nor in the next highest rank; a man however remarkably distinguished, and for many reasons well known. His stature was great; his soul lofty. In war, and in grave struggles it was his wont to be first. Against impiety he delivered himself courageously with no fear of the tyrants power, but with a zeal that ranked him among the martyrs of Christ. So the generals accepted the unanimous vote of the soldiers as a divine election. The brave man was led forward and placed upon a raised platform hastily constructed. The host saluted him with the imperial titles, calling him Augustus and Cæsar. With his usual bluntness, and fearless alike in the presence of the commanding officers and in view of the recent apostasy of the troops, Jovianus admirably said “I am a Christian. I cannot govern men like these. I cannot command Julians army trained as it is in vicious discipline. Men like these, stripped of the covering of the providence of God, will fall an easy and ridiculous prey to the foe.” On hearing this the troops shouted with one voice, “Hesitate not, O emperor; think it not a vile thing to command us. You shall reign over Christians p. 108 nurtured in the training of truth; our veterans were taught in the school of Constantine himself; younger men among us were taught by Constantius. This dead mans empire lasted but a few years, all too few to stamp its brand even on those whom it deceived.” 666
The common proverbial saying, from Homer downwards; ἐπὶ ξυροῦ ἱσταται ἀκμῆς ὅλεθρος ηὲ βιῶναι. Il. 10. 173.108:666
Jovianus, son of Count Varronianus of Singidunum (Belgrade), was born in 330 or 331 and reigned from June 363 to February 364. His hasty acceptance by a part of the army may have been due to the mistake of the sound of “Jovianus Augustus” for that of “Julianus Augustus” and a belief that Julian survived. “Gentilitate enim prope perciti nominis, quod una littera discernebat, Julianum recreatum arbitrati sunt deduci magnis favoribus, ut solebat.” Amm. xxv. v. 6.
“Jovian was a brilliant colonel of the guards. In all the army there was not a goodlier person than he. Julians purple was too small for his gigantic limbs. But that stately form was animated by a spirit of cowardly selfishness. Jovian was also a decided Christian,” but “even the heathen soldiers condemned his low amours and vulgar tippling.” Gwatkin, “Arian Controversy,” 119.