Northern Africa 361: Julian vs Constantius II
In 353 Constantius II reunited the Roman Empire after sixteen years of civil war and proceeded to reign unchallenged until 360, when his nephew Julian claimed the throne in Gaul. While reluctantly marching west to face the usurper the following year, Constantius died, leaving the empire in Julian’s hands. However, the pagan Julian would not last long, dying while on campaign in Persia less than two years later.
350? Ballana Culture▲
Following the Aksumite sack of Meroë in 350, the 1400-year-old Kushite state collapsed. Although the south was soon either abandoned or overrun by barbarians, some Kushite traditions continued in the north, where Kushite-style burials would be found at Ballana during excavations in 1928–31. At the time, these findings were a complete surprise and categorized under the anonymous term “X-Group Culture”, but most modern historians now consider them to be the remnants of early Nobatia, which had expanded into former Kushite lands in the 4th–5th centuries.
3 Jul 353 Battle of Mons Seleucus▲
In the summer of 353 Constantius II crossed from Italy into Gaul to face the usurper Magnentius. Emerging through the Alps, he found his opponent’s army at Mons Seleucus (La Bâtie-Montsaléon) and decisively defeated him. Magnentius fled to Lugdunum (Lyon), where he took his own life by falling on his sword in early August.
6 Nov 355 Julian Caesar▲
Learning of the Germanic invasions of Gaul, Constantius II appointed Julian—his cousin and last surviving male relative—as Caesar in Mediolanum (Milan) on 6 November 355. Barely twenty-three, and until this point a scholar of philosophy, Julian was married to Constantius’ sister Helena a few days later and on 1 December he was dispatched, with the advisors Marcellus and Sallustius, across the Alps to Gaul. Arriving in Vienne some weeks later, he settled down for winter and prepared for the next year’s campaign.
360? Fourth Himyarite Central Arabian campaign▲
In c. 360 the Himyarite Kingdom defeated the Azdi factions of Sudayyan and Rasan, destroying the Kingdom of Azd. Also at around this time, give or take a year, Himyar launched the last of its four campaigns into Central Arabia. Yet again the Himyarites attacked Ma’ad, this time striking at the tribes of ’Abd al-Qays.
Feb 360 Usurpation of Julian▲
In early 360 a tribune arrived in Gaul, commanding Julian to immediately dispatch four regiments and 300 picked troops to support Constantius II against the Persians. Although Julian made moves to obey these orders, his troops were reluctant to travel to the East. Instead, as they mustered in Lutetia (Paris), they proclaimed the 28-year-old Julian as Augustus and raised him atop a shield for all to see.
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.
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.