Europe 361: Death of Constantius II
Despite Julian’s revolt, Constantius II continued his campaign against Persia until Shapur II backed down in the summer of 361. Finally free to deal with Julian, Constantius began marching west, only to unexpectedly die of fever in November.
360 Julian’s Attuarii Campaign▲
In the summer of 360 Julian crossed the Rhine near Clivia (Cleves) and surprise attacked the Attuari, a Frankish tribe who had been raiding Gaul. The Attuari were swiftly defeated and agreed to peace, after which Julian traveled up the Rhine to Vesontio (Besançon), inspecting garrisons and expelling other raiders along the way. With the campaign season now ending, Julian marched across Gaul to winter at Vienne.
360 Siege of Singara▲
In the late summer of 360 Shah Shapur II of Persia crossed the Tigris with a large, siege-equipped army and besieged the fortified Roman city of Singara. Defended by a garrison of two legions, a body of native troops, and a division of auxiliary cavalry, Singara held out for many days until the Persians brought forward a great battering ram, which smashed through a tower in the face of Roman fire attacks. With the walls breached, the city quickly fell to the Persians, who sent the surviving inhabitants back east as slaves.
360 Shapur II’s Siege of Bezabde▲
In the fall of 360 Shapur II marched from Singara to besiege the Roman fortress of Bezabde, which was defended by three legions and large body of local archers. After several days of inconclusive fighting in which a number of siege weapons were burned, the Persians used a large battering ram covered in wet bull’s hides to knock down a tower and gain entrance into the town. After massacring much of the population, and taking others as prisoners, Shapur II rebuilt Bezabde’s walls and placed a strong garrison there before departing.
Little is known about the situation in inland Cyrenaica in the centuries that followed the defeat and alleged extermination of the Nasamones by the Romans in c. 85 AD. However, by the reign of Jovian (r. 363–364) and probably earlier, the Austoriani—apparently the then dominant sub-tribe of the Laguatan—emerged from the Libyan Desert to raid Roman-ruled Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. The Romans would not decisively defeat these raiders until the 540s.
Oct–?? 360 Constantius II’s Siege of Bezabde▲
In 360 Constantius II marched through Anatolia to face the Persians, reaching the Persian-held fortress of Bezabde a few weeks after the autumnal equinox. Despite using multiple siege techniques—including deploying a great and ancient battering ram that the Persians themselves had used to take Antioch a century earlier—the Roman attacks on the fortress were repeatedly beaten back. Eventually the winter rains arrived and turned the ground to mud, convincing Constantius to abandon his efforts and return west to Antioch.
Mar–?? 361 Vadomar’s Revolt▲
Allegedly under orders from Constantius II, King Vadomar of the Alemanni broke his treaty with Julian and began raiding around Tirol. After Vadomar destroyed a Roman expeditionary force at Bad Säckingen, Julian sent Philagrius with another force to the region and successfully contrived to arrest Vadomar without bloodshed. Julian then crossed the Rhine unexpectedly, catching many Alemanni by surprise, and reimposed peace over the tribes.
??–Jul 361 Julian’s Illyrian Campaign▲
After defeating the Alemanni in spring 361, Julian divided up his army to invade Illyricum in three columns: one marching through the Black Forest then traveling down the Danube with the emperor himself; one marching through Tirol north of the Alps; and one crossing Italy. Constantius II’s supporters fled before the advancing armies and, at the waning of the moon in July, Julian entered Sirmium, catching the magister equitum Lucillianus completely by surprise. Having conquered Italia and Illyricum—but not loyalist Africa—Julian secured his holdings by occupying the pass of Succi (Gate of Trajan).
Aug 361–Feb 362 Revolt of Aquileia▲
After taking Sirmium in July 361, Julian sent three of Constantius II’s former units—two legions and a troop of archers—west towards Gaul, but when they reached the well-fortified Italian city of Aquileia they were incited to mutiny by Nigrinus, the tribune of a squadron of cavalry. Supported by the local populace, the troops held out for many months against Julian’s forces, fending off numerous assaults. Eventually Julian, by this time wintering victoriously at Constantinople, sent in the respected magister peditum Agilo, who convinced the garrison that Constantius was now dead and that further resistance was pointless.
3 Nov 361 Death of Constantius II▲
Despite Julian’s usurpation, Constantius II remained in the East to ward off the Persians until the late summer of 361, when Shah Shapur II decided to withdraw his army from the Tigris. With the situation in Mesopotamia now stable, Constantius marched west to deal with his rebellious cousin, only to come down with a fever in Tarsus. Pushing on to nearby Mopsuestia, the emperor allegedly named Julian as his successor before succumbing to death.