Roman Emperors Julian and Jovian died in quick succession. Valens assumed the imperial throne in 364. However, he discovered a member of Julian’s entourage decided to declare himself emperor as well. Procopius brilliantly manipulated public opinion in Constantinople to garner support for his claim. Emperor Valens failed to snuff out the threat, witnessed major troop defections, and even lost territory to the usurper. Eventually, Valens recruited a large army, crushed the insurrection and secured his power.
Julian the Apostate needlessly invaded the Sassanid Empire. Procopius joined the invasion in 363 with orders to link up with the emperor in Assyria. Julian died during the campaign leaving Jovian as emperor. Jovian extracted the Romans from an impossible military situation and retreated. Meanwhile, Procopius moved into retirement. However, rumors swirled that Jovian named Procopius his successor. Although untrue, the rumors forced Procopius into hiding for fear of his life. He felt that if Jovian did not kill him for threatening the throne, one of the emperor’s rivals might. Despite the fears, Procopius outlived Jovian. Valens assumed the throne when the emperor died mysteriously. The new eastern emperor, and his western counterpart, Valentinian, ordered Procopius’ arrest. He surrendered, but later escaped to Constantinople.
Upon reaching Constantinople, Procopius had few options. He could commit suicide, continue to run, or lead a revolt. The usurper quickly bribed two legions and seized control of the eastern capital. He proclaimed himself emperor on September 28, 365 A.D. The citizenry looked on warily. In response, Procopius closed the city to outside news, minted coins with his face inscribed on it, spread rumors that Valentinian had died, and used propaganda to legitimize his reign.
While Procopius consolidated his power, Valens sputtered. The true emperor considered suicide or abdication, but eventually gathered himself for the offensive. The insurrection occurred while Valens was campaigning in Syria. As a result, he could not simply turn around and march on the usurper. Instead, Valens deployed two regions to remove Procopius. They switched sides and Procopius managed to capture two entire provinces.
Despite the troubles in the east, Valentinian refused to release troops to assist Valens. As a result, it took several months for the eastern emperor to recruit enough men to attack Procopius. In 366, Valens defeated the usurper army at the Battle of Thyatira in modern Turkey. Procopius survived and met Valens, but watched as his troops deserted to the true emperor. Valens executed the usurper and shipped his head to Valentinian to verify the death.
Procopius Revolt occurred as the Emperor Valens campaigned in the east. The usurper proved adept at propaganda, convinced his rival’s troops to change sides, and captured territory. Valens military situation made it difficult to adequately move on the usurper with alacrity. As a result, it took time to bring his power to bare. Eventually, Valens swept Procopius aside and consolidated his own power.