W. Europe Giants 6
The Viking giant then advised Tostig that if he had known this Harold of England would now be a dead man.
"It is true, lord, that he acted incautiously, and I saw that it might have been as you said; but when he came to offer me peace and great power, I should have been his slayer if I had betrayed who he was. I acted thus because I will rather suffer death from my brother, than be his slayer, if I may choose."
After this the two sides joined in battle. With characteristic recklessness, the English charged the wall of Viking shields. Spears and swords on both sides soon reddened with gore. Finally the English were repulsed. The exultant Vikings broke their wall to pursue. Having on no coats of mail, however, the Northmen now became easy targets for the deadly accurate English archers. Seeing so many of his Vikings falling around him, King Harald went berserk. As the English commenced another head-on attack, he charged like an enraged Ajax in advance of his men. Fighting two-handed, he cut with wide sweeps of his sword a path through the English ranks. Inspired by such boldness, his men rallied. Now the English began to fall back. But just then an English arrow whizzed through the air and sank its shaft deep in the giant's unprotected throat.
Harold of England had no time to celebrate his great triumph. On September 28,1066, William of Normandy landed near Pevensey in Sussex with his sixty-five thousand Viking warriors. With his depleted, battle-weary army, Harold rushed to meet him. A few days later, at the famous Battle of Hastings, an arrow struck Harold through his eye. As the blinded king wandered about the battlefield, the Normans hacked him to death.
Strange to say, but most think the young Jovian, or Jovianus, as he was also called, won his crown through a misidentification or misunderstanding. Early in A.D. 363, the commander of the imperial guard accompanied the pagan Emperor Julian on his ill-fated military expedition against Persia. With this invasion, Julian intended to eliminate Persia as a threat to the Roman Empire and reduce it to a vassal state. He came well prepared. His forces numbered one hundred thousand veteran soldiers, not counting the auxiliaries from Armenia. He also brought with him a powerful river flotilla, one thousand transports, fifty war galleys, fifty pontoons, and a perfected artillery. His well-laid strategy was to strike at Persia on two fronts, with Procopius, his top general, commanding the other invading unit. After these initial campaigns, they planned to meet on the left bank of the Tigris and join their armies for a conquest of the interior.92
In every engagement, Julian's soldiers inflicted severe losses upon the defending forces. During these battles, the Persian emperor Sapor lost two of his best generals, fifty of his satraps, a substantial number of his soldiers, and nearly all of his mounted elephant unit. But when victory seemed a sure thing for the Romans, a couple hitches developed in Julian's plan. Procopius tarried. His army, having marched through upper Mesopotamia and thence south along the left bank of the Tigris, still remained some distance off. While Julian waited for Procopius to come up, the badly beaten Persians regrouped and launched a series of guerrilla attacks. During one of these raids, the Roman ruler, while fighting alongside his men, received a mortal wound in his side.
Julian's death so demoralized the Roman army that its effectiveness as a fighting force noticeably deteriorated. To resolve this crisis, the generals met in the imperial command tent on the morning of June 27 and offered the purple to Sallust, an able candidate. Citing his age and infirmities, however, the Praetorian prefect declined the honor. After a short break, the generals resumed deliberations. As the huge Jovian walked through a crowd of soldiers to reenter the tent, a small number began chanting his name, saluting him "who was no more than first of the domestics, with the names of Emperor and Augustus."93
Inside the tent the generals put forward some other candidates. But being unable to agree among themselves, they decided to proceed no farther until Procopius arrived with his army. About this time, however, the small group of Jovian supporters just outside the tent resumed their chant for the giant commander of the imperial guard.94 Some other soldiers who stood nearby, possibly thinking that the chant was for another Jovian, the chief of the notarii, who also had some support for the imperial office, joined in. Then, according to Ammianus Marcellinus, an eyewitness, the Gauls in the outer ranks, confusing the name Jovian with Julian and believing that the emperor had miraculously recovered from his wound, took up the cheer.95 This tumultuous acclamation passed, within a couple minutes, to the extremities of the line. "The new prince, astonished with his own fortune, was hastily invested with the Imperial ornaments, and received an oath of fidelity from the generals."96
Marcellinus adds that when this ceremony was concluded and the new emperor stood up, even those soldiers in the rear ranks could see by his great height that he was not the one they thought they were cheering for, and many "gave vent to tears and lamentations."97
After his election, the giant emperor, beset by supply problems and "facing constant harassment by a mobile and elusive enemy," retreated all the way to the banks of the Tigris. Here he began negotiations with Sapor, and here occurred one of the strangest truce agreements of all time. The wily Persian emperor, having been informed by a deserter of the disorder in the Roman camp, kept pressing Jovian for concessions. During these peace talks, Sapor persuaded the new emperor to abandon the Roman conquests made in the time of Diocletian. This giveaway cost the empire all its five provinces beyond the Tigris. It included the fortresses of Mesopotamia and Armenia, which had served as "the advanced guards of the Roman power in the East."98 The treaty of Jovian, says Victor Duruy, "was nothing less than a capitulation, and Sapor so under-stood it: 'It is your ransom,' he said to this army which he had never once defeated."99
So brief was Jovian's rule that he accomplished little. He reigned only seven months. On the night of February 16, 364, in Dadastana, a village of Bithynia, the giant came to his end, a victim of asphyxiation from a charcoal fire he had built to dispel the dampness in his room. (See Maximilian; Maximinus; also see Charlemagne)
"Arguing from the proportion that the same bone in other men bears to their height," Dr. Molyneux wrote in the Philosophical Transactions for 1685-86 and 1700, "it must follow that the man to whom this os frontis belonged was more than twice the height that men usually are, according to the common course of nature. And setting down, as the most modest computation, but five and a half feet for the height of a man, he to whom this bone belonged must have been more than eleven or twelve feet in height."