Gold solidus of Procopius minted in Constantinople
Roman emperor
Reign26 September 365 –
27 May 366
(against Valens and Valentinian I)
PredecessorJovian /
Valens and Valentinian I
SuccessorValens and Valentinian I
(modern-day Turkey)
Died27 May 366
  • Artemisia
MotherSister of Basilina[1]

Procopius (Ancient Greek: Προκόπιος; c. 325/326 – 27 May 366 AD) was a Roman usurper against Valens.


Procopius was a native of Cilicia[2] born in Corycus.[3] On his mother's side, Procopius was a Greek, a maternal cousin, to Emperor Julian, since their maternal grandfather was Julius Julianus. His first wife was probably Artemisia.[4] The Roman general of the 5th century Procopius and his son, the Emperor Anthemius, were among his descendants, the first being the son of his son Procopius.[5]

During the reign of Constantius II, he served as tribunus et notarius for a long period of time. By 358, the emperor trusted him enough to send him with Lucillianus as an envoy to the Sassanid court.[5] His career granted him the opportunity to build many important connections, as well as to help him understand the structure of the imperial government.[6]

Procopius entered Julian's retinue and took part in his campaign against the Sassanids in 363.[7] Together with Sebastianus he was entrusted with controlling the upper Tigris with 30,000 men and, if possible, joining King Arsaces II of Armenia and marching southward, to reach Julian's army in Assyria.[8] However, Julian died and, when Procopius reached the main Roman army near Thilsaphata, between Nisibis and Singara, he met the new emperor, Jovian.

Though Julian had died without naming a successor,[9] a rumor spread that he had ordered Procopius to take the purple in case of his death.[7] Fearing Jovian's wrath, which had caused the death of another army candidate to the throne (Jovianus),[10] Procopius went into hiding, but later supervised the transport of Julian's body to Tarsus and its subsequent burial,[11] and only later went to Caesarea with his family.[12][5]

After Jovian's death, the new emperors, Valentinian I and Valens, sent some soldiers to arrest Procopius.[13] He surrendered, but asked to meet his family; he had his captors dine and drink, and then seized the opportunity to flee with his family, first to the Black Sea and later to the Tauric Chersonese, where they hid.[14] However, Procopius lived in constant fear of betrayal or exposure, and decided to go to Constantinople to ask Strategius for help.[5]

Becoming aware of discontent caused by the policies of Valens’ father-in-law Petronius,[14][15] Procopius decided to declare himself Emperor. He bribed two legions which were then resting at Constantinople to support his efforts, and took control of the imperial city. Shortly after this he proclaimed himself Emperor on September 28, 365, and quickly took control of the provinces of Thrace, and later Bithynia.[16] Procopius promoted himself as an educated philosopher, well versed in the Greek language of the Eastern Empire, and highlighted Valens' weakness in this area, to gain the support of the Hellenized Eastern aristocrats.[17] He also emphasized his link to the Constantinian dynasty by appearing in public with Constantius II’s widow Faustina and their daughter Constantia, an act which Ammianus considered to have earned him greater support.[18]

Though Valens initially despaired of subduing the rebellion, and was inclined to come to terms with the usurper, he quickly rallied, guided by the counsels of Salutius and Arintheus, and the superior ability of his generals prevailed in two battles at Thyatira and Nacolia where Procopius' forces were defeated.[19] He fled the battlefield, and was for a while a fugitive in the wilds of Phrygia, but was soon betrayed to Valens due to the treachery of his two generals Agilonius and Gomoarius, he was captured. Valens had his rival executed on 27 May 366[5] through beheading.[20][21]

See also


  1. ^ Hughes 2013, p. 17.
  2. ^ Van Dam 2002, p. 103.
  3. ^ Elton 2018, p. 127.
  4. ^ Jones, Martindale & Morris, p. 111-112.
  5. ^ a b c d e Jones, Martindale & Morris, p. 742-743.
  6. ^ Hughes 2013, p. 39.
  7. ^ a b Curran 1998, p. 89.
  8. ^ François Paschoud, Zosime. Histoire Nouvelle (Paris: Société d'édition "Les Belles Lettres," 1979), II.1, n. 33, pp. 106–109.
  9. ^ Potter 2004, p. 518.
  10. ^ Jones, Martindale & Morris, p. 460-461.
  11. ^ Hughes 2013, p. 18.
  12. ^ According to Philostorgius, since his wife could not bear their escape, Procopius went to Caesarea, but to live in one of Eunomius' properties (Historia Ecclesiastica 9.5).
  13. ^ Potter 2004, p. 522.
  14. ^ a b Hughes 2013, p. 40.
  15. ^ Jones, Martindale & Morris, p. 691.
  16. ^ Curran 1998, p. 90.
  17. ^ Lenski 2003, p. 92-96.
  18. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae XXVI.9.3
  19. ^ Edward Gibbon,The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, (The Modern Library, 1932), chap. XXV., p. 852, 853
  20. ^ Curran 1998, p. 91.
  21. ^ Potter 2004, p. 525.