Procopius (usurper)
Procopius was a Roman usurper
Roman usurper
Usurpers are individuals or groups of individuals who obtain and maintain the power or rights of another by force and without legal authority. Usurpation was endemic during roman imperial era, especially from the crisis of the third century onwards, when political instability became the rule.The...

 against Valens
Valens was the Eastern Roman Emperor from 364 to 378. He was given the eastern half of the empire by his brother Valentinian I after the latter's accession to the throne...

, and member of the Constantinian dynasty
Constantinian dynasty
The Constantinian dynasty is an informal name for the ruling family of the Roman Empire from Constantius Chlorus to the death of Julian in 363. It is named after its most famous member, Constantine the Great who became the sole ruler of the empire in 324...



According to Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus was a fourth-century Roman historian. He wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity...

, Procopius was a native and spent his youth in Cilicia
In antiquity, Cilicia was the south coastal region of Asia Minor, south of the central Anatolian plateau. It existed as a political entity from Hittite times into the Byzantine empire...

, probably in Corycus
Corycus was an ancient city in Cilicia Trachaea, Anatolia, located at the mouth of the river called Şeytan deresi; the site is now occupied by the town of Kızkalesi , Mersin Province, Turkey.-The city:...

. On his mother's side, Procopius was related, a maternal cousin, to Emperor Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

, since their maternal grandfather was Julius Julianus
Julius Julianus
Julius Julianus was a politician of the Roman Empire, related to the Constantinian dynasty.- Life :He served Licinius as praetorian prefect from at least spring 315 to September 324, until Constantine I definitively defeated Licinius...

. His first wife was probably Artemisia, having married secondly the dowager Empress Faustina
Faustina (empress)
Faustina was an Empress of the Roman Empire and third wife of Emperor Constantius II. The main source for her biography is the account of historian Ammianus Marcellinus. Her origins and other names are unknown.-Marriage:...

, while the Roman general of the 5th century Procopius
Procopius (magister militum)
Procopius was a general and politician in the Eastern Roman Empire; he was the father of the Western Roman Emperor Anthemius.-Biography:...

 and his son, the Emperor Anthemius
Procopius Anthemius was Western Roman Emperor from 467 to 472. Perhaps the last capable Western Roman Emperor, Anthemius attempted to solve the two primary military challenges facing the remains of the Western Roman Empire: the resurgent Visigoths, under Euric, whose domain straddled the Pyrenees;...

, were among his descendants, the first being the son of his son Procopius.

In 358, during Constantius II
Constantius II
Constantius II , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. The second son of Constantine I and Fausta, he ascended to the throne with his brothers Constantine II and Constans upon their father's death....

 reign, he was sent with Lucillianus as an envoy to the Sasanid court; in this period he was tribunus and notarius.

Procopius entered in Julian's retinue and took part in his campaign against the Sasanids, in 363. Together with Sebastianus, he was entrusted with controlling the upper Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

 with 30,000 men and, if possible, joining King Arsaces II of Armenia and march southward, to reach Julian's army in Assyria. However, Julian died and, when Procopius reached the main Roman army near Thilsaphata, between Nisibis
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

 and Singara
Singara was a strongly fortified post at the northern extremity of Mesopotamia, which for a while, as appears from many coins still extant, was occupied by the Romans as an advanced colony against the Persians...

, he met the new emperor, Jovian.

According to Zosimus
Zosimus was a Byzantine historian, who lived in Constantinople during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I . According to Photius, he was a comes, and held the office of "advocate" of the imperial treasury.- Historia Nova :...

, Julian had given Procopius an imperial robe, explaining his act only to him. When Jovian was acclaimed Emperor, Procopius gave him the robe, revealed him Julian's intention, and asked the new Emperor of being allowed to retire to private life; Jovian accepted, and Procopius and his family retired to Caesarea Mazaca.

Ammianus, who based part of his account on the testimony of Strategius, tells that a baseless rumor spread, according to which Julian had ordered Procopius to take the purple in case of his death. Fearing Jovian's wrath, who had caused the death of another army candidate to the throne (Jovianus), Procopius went into hiding, but later supervised the transport of Julian's body to Tarsus
Tarsus, Mersin
Tarsus is a historic city in south-central Turkey, 20 km inland from the Mediterranean Sea. It is part of the Adana-Mersin Metropolitan Area, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Turkey with a population of 2.75 million...

 and its subsequent burial, and only later went to Caesarea with his family.

After Jovian's death, the new emperors, Valentinian I
Valentinian I
Valentinian I , also known as Valentinian the Great, was Roman emperor from 364 to 375. Upon becoming emperor he made his brother Valens his co-emperor, giving him rule of the eastern provinces while Valentinian retained the west....

 and Valens
Valens was the Eastern Roman Emperor from 364 to 378. He was given the eastern half of the empire by his brother Valentinian I after the latter's accession to the throne...

, sent some soldiers to arrest Procopius. 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
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 and later to the Tauric Chersonese, where they hid. However, Procopius feared a betrayal, and decide to go to Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, to ask to Strategius for help.

Procopius immediately moved to declare himself Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

. He bribed two legions that were resting at Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 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
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

, and later Bithynia
Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosporus and the Euxine .-Description:...


Valens was left with the task of dealing with this rebel, and over the next months struggled with both cities and units that wavered in their allegiance. Eventually their armies met at the Battle of Thyatira
Battle of Thyatira
The Battle of Thyatira was fought in 366 at Thyatira, Phrygia , between the army of the Roman Emperor Valens and the army of the usurper Procopius, led by his general Gomoarius....

, and Procopius' forces were defeated. He fled the battlefield, but was betrayed to Valens by two of his remaining followers. Valens had all three executed 27 May 366.

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