After Jovian had reigned about eight months, he died suddenly at Dadastana, a town of Bithynia, while on his road to Constantinople. Some say that his death was occasioned by eating too plentiful a supper; others attribute it to the dampness of the chamber in which he slept; for it had been recently plastered with unslaked lime, and quantities of coals had been burnt in it during the winter for a preventive; the walls had become damp and were exceedingly moist.
On the arrival of the troops at Nicæa in Bithynia, they proclaimed Valentinian emperor. He was a good man and capable of holding the reins of the empire. He had not long returned from banishment; for it is said that Julian, immediately on his accession to the empire, erased the name of Valentinian from the Jovian legions, as they were called, and condemned him to perpetual banishment, under the pretext that he had failed in his duty of leading out the soldiers under his command against the enemy. The true reason of his condemnation, however, was the following: When Julian was in Gaul, he went one day to a temple to offer incense. Valentinian accompanied him, according to an ancient Roman law, which still prevails, and which enacted that the leader of the Jovians and the Herculeans (that is to say, the legions of soldiers who have received this appellation in honor of Jupiter and of Hercules) should always attend the emperor as his body-guard. When they were about to enter the temple, the priest, in accordance with the pagan custom, sprinkled water upon them with the branch of a tree. A drop fell upon the robe of Valentinian; he scarcely could restrain himself, for he was a Christian, and he rebuked his asperser; it is even said that he cut off, in view of the emperor, the portion of the garment on which the water had fallen, and flung it from him. From that moment Julian entertained inimical feelings against him, and soon after banished him to Melitine in Armenia, under the plea of misconduct in military affairs; for he would not have religion regarded as the cause of the decree, lest Valentinian should be accounted a martyr or a confessor. Julian treated other Christians, as we have already stated, in the same manner; for, as was said before, he perceived that to subject them to hazards only added to their reputation, and tended to the consolidation of their religion. As soon as Jovian succeeded to the throne, Valentinian was recalled from banishment to Nicæa; but the death of the emperor in the meantime took place, and Valentinian, by the unanimous consent of the troops and those who held the chief positions in the government, was appointed his successor. When he was invested with the symbols of imperial power, the soldiers cried out that it was necessary to elect some one to share the burden of government. To this proposition, Valentinian made the following reply: |It depended on you alone, O soldiers, to proclaim me emperor; but now that you have elected me, it depends not upon you, but upon me, to perform what you demand. Remain quiet, as subjects ought to do, and leave me to act as an emperor in attending to the public affairs.|
Not long after this refusal to comply with the demand of the soldiery, he repaired to Constantinople, and proclaimed his brother emperor. He gave him the East as his share of the empire, and reserved to himself the regions along the Western Ocean, from Illyria to the furthest coasts of Libya. Both the brothers were Christians, but they differed in opinion and disposition. For Valens, when he was baptized, employed Eudoxius as his initiator, and was zealously attached to the doctrines of Arius, and would readily have compelled all mankind by force to yield to them. Valentinian, on the other hand, maintained the faith of the council of Nicæa, and favored those who upheld the same sentiments, without molesting those who entertained other opinions.