The Full Wiki

Diocletian: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Emperor of the Roman Empire
Diocletian bust.png
Laureate bust of Diocletian.
Reign 20 November 284 – 1 April 286 (alone)
1 April 286 – 1 May 305 (as Augustus of the East, with Maximian as Augustus of the West)[1]
Full name Diocles (full name unknown) (from birth to accession);
Caesar Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus Augustus (as emperor)[2]
Born c. 22 December 244[3]
Birthplace Dioclea [4]
Died 3 December 311 (aged 66)[5]
Place of death Spalatum (now Split, Croatia)
Predecessor Numerian
Successor Constantius Chlorus and Galerius
Consort to Prisca
Offspring Valeria

Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus (c. 22 December 244[3] – 3 December 311[5]), born Diocles (Greek: Διοκλῆς) and commonly known as Diocletian (pronounced /ˌdаɪ.ɵˈkliːʃən/), was Roman Emperor from 20 November 284 to 1 May 305. Born to an Illyrian family of low status, he rose through the ranks of the military to become cavalry commander to the emperor Carus. After the deaths of Carus and his son Numerian on campaign in Persia, Diocletian was acclaimed emperor by the army. A brief confrontation with Carus' other surviving son Carinus at the Battle of the Margus removed the only other claimant to the title. With his ascension to power, he ended the Crisis of the Third Century. Diocletian appointed fellow-officer Maximian his Augustus, his senior co-emperor, in 285. He delegated further on 1 March 293, appointing Galerius and Constantius as Caesars, junior co-emperors. Under this "Tetrarchy", or "rule of four", each emperor would rule over a quarter-division of the empire. In campaigns against Sarmatian and Danubian tribes (285–90), the Alamanni (288), and usurpers in Egypt (297–98), Diocletian secured the empire's borders and purged it of threats to his power. In 299, Diocletian led negotiations with Sassanid Persia, the empire's traditional enemy, and achieved a lasting and favorable peace.

Diocletian separated and enlarged the empire's civil and military services and re-organized the empire's provincial divisions, establishing the largest and most bureaucratic government in the history of the empire. He established new administrative centers in Nicomedia, Mediolanum, Antioch, and Trier, closer to the empire's frontiers than the traditional capital at Rome had been. Building on third-century trends towards absolutism, Diocletian styled himself an autocrat, elevating himself above the empire's masses with imposing forms of court ceremonial and architecture. Bureaucratic and military growth, constant campaigning, and construction projects increased the state's expenditures, and necessitated a comprehensive tax reform. From at least 297 on, imperial taxation was standardized, made more equitable, and levied at generally higher rates.

Not all Diocletian's plans were successful; the Edict on Maximum Prices (301), Diocletian's attempt to curb inflation via price controls, was unsuccessful, counterproductive, and quickly ignored. Although effective while he ruled, Diocletian's Tetrarchic system collapsed after his abdication under the competing dynastic claims of Maxentius and Constantine, sons of Maximian and Constantius respectively. The Diocletianic Persecution (303–11), the empire's last, largest, and bloodiest official persecution of Christianity, did not destroy the empire's Christian community; indeed, after 324 Christianity became the empire's preferred religion under its first Christian emperor, Constantine. In spite of his failures, Diocletian's reforms fundamentally changed the structure of Roman imperial government and helped stabilize the empire economically and militarily, enabling an empire that had seemed near the brink of collapse in Diocletian's youth to remain essentially intact for another hundred years. Weakened by illness, Diocletian left the imperial office on May 1, 305, and became the first Roman emperor to voluntarily abdicate the position. He lived out his retirement in his palace on the Dalmatian coast, tending to his vegetable gardens. His palace went on to become the core of the modern day city of Split.


Early life

Diocletian was probably born near Salona in Dalmatia (Solin in modern Croatia), some time around 244.[3] His parents named him Diocles, or possibly Diocles Valerius.[6] The modern historian Timothy Barnes takes his official birthday, 22 December, as his actual birthdate. Other historians are not so certain.[7] Diocles' parents were of low status, and writers critical of him claimed that his father was a scribe or a freedman of the senator Anullinus, or even that Diocles was a freedman himself. The first forty years of his life are mostly obscure.[8] The Byzantine chronicler Joannes Zonaras states that he was Dux Moesiae,[9] a commander of forces on the lower Danube.[10] The often-unreliable Historia Augusta states that he served in Gaul, but this account is not corroborated by other sources, and is ignored by modern historians of the period.[11]

Rise to power


Death of Numerian

Map of the Roman Empire ca. 400

Carus' death left his unpopular sons Numerian and Carinus as the new Augusti. Carinus quickly made his way to Rome from Gaul, and arrived by January 284; Numerian lingered in the East.[12] The Roman retreat from Persia was orderly. Since the Persian King Bahram II was still struggling to establish his authority, he could not field any armies against them. The Romans left the country unopposed.[13] By March 284 Numerian had only reached Emesa (Hims) in Syria; by November, only Asia Minor.[14] In Emesa he was apparently still alive and in good health (he issued the only extant rescript in his name there),[15][notes 1] but after he left the city, his staff, including the prefect Aper, reported that he suffered from an inflammation of the eyes. He traveled in a closed coach from then on.[17] When the army reached Bithynia,[12] some of Numerian's soldiers smelled an odor reminiscent of a decaying corpse emanating from the coach.[13] They opened its curtains. Inside, they found Numerian, dead.[18]

Aper officially broke the news in Nicomedia (İzmit) in November.[19] Numerianus' generals and tribunes called a council for the succession, and chose Diocles as emperor,[20] in spite of Aper's attempts to garner support.[19] On 20 November 284, the army of the east gathered on a hill 5 km (3.1 mi) outside Nicomedia. The army unanimously saluted their new Augustus, and Diocles accepted the purple imperial vestments. He raised his sword to the light of the sun, and swore an oath disclaiming responsibility for Numerian's death. He asserted that Aper had killed Numerian and concealed it.[21] In full view of the army, Diocles drew his blade and killed Aper.[22] According to the Historia Augusta, he quoted from Virgil while doing so.[23] Soon after Aper's death, Diocles changed his name to the more Latinate "Diocletianus",[24] in full Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus.[25]

Conflict with Carinus

After his accession, Diocletian and Lucius Caesonius Bassus[26] were named as consuls.[27] They assumed the fasces in place of Carinus and Numerianus. Bassus was a member of a Campanian senatorial family, a former consul and a proconsul of Africa. He had been chosen by Probus for signal distinction.[28] He was a man skilled in areas of government where Diocletian, presumably, had no experience.[19] Diocletian's elevation of Bassus as consul symbolized his rejection of Carinus' government in Rome, his refusal to accept second-tier status to any other emperor,[28] and his willingness to continue the long-standing collaboration between the empire's senatorial and military aristocracies.[19] It also tied his success to that of the Senate, whose support he would need in an advance on Rome.[28]

Diocletian was not the only challenger to Carinus' rule; the usurper M. Aurelius Julianus, Carinus' corrector Venetiae, took control of northern Italy and Pannonia after Diocletian's accession.[29] He minted coins from the mint at Siscia (Sisak, Croatia) declaring himself as emperor and promising freedom. It was all good press for Diocletian, and aided in his portrayal of Carinus as a cruel and oppressive tyrant.[30] Julianus' forces were weak, however, and were handily dispersed when Carinus' armies moved from Britain to northern Italy. As leader of the united East, Diocletian was clearly the greater threat.[31] Over the winter of 284–85, Diocletian advanced west across the Balkans. In the spring, some time before the end of May,[32] his armies met Carinus' across the river Margus (Great Morava) in Moesia. In modern accounts, the site has been located between the Mons Aureus (Seone, west of Smederevo) and Viminacium,[28] near modern Belgrade, Serbia.[33]

Despite having the stronger army, Carinus held the weaker position. His rule was unpopular; it was subsequently alleged that Carinus had mistreated the Senate and seduced the wives of his officers.[34] It is possible that Flavius Constantius, the governor of Dalmatia and Diocletian's associate in the household guard, had already defected to Diocletian in the early spring.[35] When the Battle of the Margus began, Carinus' prefect Aristobulus also defected.[19] In the course of the battle, Carinus was killed by his own men. Following Diocletian's victory, both the western and the eastern armies acclaimed him emperor.[36] Diocletian exacted an oath of allegiance from the defeated army and departed for Italy.[37]

Early rule

Diocletian may have become involved in battles against the Quadi and Marcomanni immediately after the Battle of the Margus. He eventually made his way to northern Italy and made an imperial government, but it is not known whether Diocletian visited the city of Rome at this time.[38] There is a contemporary issue of coins suggestive of an imperial adventus (arrival) for the city,[39] but some modern historians state that Diocletian avoided the city, and that he did so on principle; the city and its Senate were no longer politically relevant to the affairs of the empire, and needed to be taught as much. Diocletian dated his reign from his elevation by the army, not the date of his ratification by the Senate,[40] following the practice established by Carus, who had declared the Senate's ratification a useless formality.[41] If Diocletian ever did enter Rome shortly after his accession, he did not stay long;[42] he is attested back in the Balkans by November 2, 285, on campaign against the Sarmatians.[43]

Diocletian replaced the prefect of Rome with his consular colleague Bassus. Most officials who had served under Carinus, however, retained their offices under Diocletian.[44] In an act the epitomator Aurelius Victor denotes as unusual act of clementia,[45] Diocletian did not kill or depose Carinus' traitorous praetorian prefect and consul Ti. Claudius Aurelius Aristobulus, but confirmed him in both roles,[46] and later gave him the proconsulate of Africa and the rank of urban prefect.[47] The other figures who retained their offices might have also betrayed Carinus.[48]

Maximian made co-emperor

Maximian's consistent loyalty to Diocletian proved an important component of the Tetrarchy's early successes.[49]

Recent history had demonstrated that sole rulership was dangerous to the stability of the empire. The assassinations of Aurelian (r. 270–75) and Probus testified to that truth.[19] Conflict boiled in every province of the empire, from Gaul to Syria, from Egypt to the lower Danube. It was too much for a single person to control, and Diocletian needed a lieutenant.[50] At some time in 285 at Mediolanum (Milan, Italy),[notes 2] Diocletian raised his fellow-officer Maximian to the office of Caesar, making him co-emperor.[53]

The concept of dual rulership was nothing new to the Roman Empire. Augustus, the first emperor (r. 27 BC–AD 14), had shared power with his colleagues, and more formal offices of co-emperor had existed from Marcus Aurelius (r. 161–80) on.[54] Most recently, the emperor Carus and his sons had ruled together, albeit unsuccessfully. Diocletian was in a less comfortable position than most of his predecessors, as he had a daughter, Valeria, but no sons. His co-ruler had to be from outside his family. He could not, therefore, be easily trusted.[55] Some historians state that Diocletian, like some emperors before him, adopted Maximian as his filius Augusti, his "Augustan son", upon his appointment to the throne.[56] This argument has not been universally accepted.[57]

The relationship between Diocletian and Maximian was quickly couched in religious terms. Circa 287 Diocletian assumed the title Iovius, and Maximian assumed the title Herculius.[58] The titles were probably meant to convey certain characteristics of their associated leaders; Diocletian, in Jovian style, would take on the dominating roles of planning and commanding; Maximian, in Herculian mode, would act as Jupiter's heroic subordinate.[59] For all their religious connotations, the emperors were not "gods" in the tradition of the Imperial cult—although they may have been hailed as such in Imperial panegyrics. Instead, they were seen as the gods' representatives, effecting their will on earth.[60] The shift to divine sanctification from military acclamation took the power to appoint emperors away from the army. Religious legitimization elevated Diocletian and Maximian above potential rivals in a way military power and dynastic claims could not.[61] After his acclamation, Maximian was dispatched to fight the rebel Bagaudae in Gaul. Diocletian returned to the East.[62]

Conflict with Sarmatia and Persia

Diocletian progressed slowly. By November 2, he had only reached Citivas Iovia (Botivo, near Ptuj, Slovenia).[63] In the Balkans during the autumn of 285, he encountered a tribe of Sarmatians who demanded assistance from the emperor. The Sarmatians requested that Diocletian either help them recover their lost lands or grant them pasturage rights within the empire. Diocletian refused and fought a battle with them, but was unable to secure a complete victory. The nomadic pressures of the European Plain remained, and could not be solved by a single war; soon the Sarmatians would have to be fought again.[64] He wintered in Nicomedia.[notes 3] There may have been a revolt in the eastern provinces at this time, because Diocletian brought settlers from Asia to populate emptied farmlands in Thrace.[66] He visited Judea the following spring.[notes 4] He probably returned to Nicomedia for the winter. Diocletian's stay in the East saw diplomatic success in the conflict with Persia: in 287, Bahram II granted him precious gifts, declared open friendship with the empire, and invited Diocletian to visit him.[69] Roman sources insist that the act was entirely voluntary.[70]

Around the same time, perhaps in 287,[71] Persia relinquished claims on Armenia and recognized Roman authority over territory to the west and south of the Tigris. The western portion of Armenia was incorporated into the Roman empire and made a province. Tiridates III, Arsacid claimant to the Armenian throne and Roman client, had been disinherited and forced to take refuge in the Roman empire after the Persian conquest of 252/3. In 287, he returned to lay claim to the eastern half of his ancestral domain. He encountered no opposition.[72] Bahram II's gifts were widely recognized as symbolic of a victory in the ongoing conflict with Persia; Diocletian was hailed as the "founder of eternal peace". The events might have represented a formal end to Carus' eastern campaign, which probably ended without an acknowledged peace.[73] At the conclusion of discussions with the Persians, Diocletian re-organized the Mesopotamian frontier and fortified the city of Circesium (Buseire, Syria) on the Euphrates.[74]

Maximian made Augustus

Maximian's campaigns were not proceeding as smoothly. The Bagaudae had been easily suppressed, but Carausius, the man he had put in charge of operations against Saxon and Frankish pirates on the Saxon Shore, had begun keeping the goods seized from the pirates for himself. Maximian issued a death-warrant for his larcenous subordinate. Carausius fled the Continent, proclaimed himself Augustus, and spurred Britain and northwestern Gaul into open revolt against Maximian and Diocletian.[75] Spurred by the crisis, on April 1, 286,[76][notes 5] Maximian took up the title of Augustus.[80] Maximian's appointment is unusual in that it was impossible for Diocletian to have been present to witness the event. It has even been suggested that Maximian usurped the title, and was only later recognized by Diocletian in hopes of avoiding civil war.[81] This suggestion is unpopular, as it is clear that Diocletian meant for Maximian to act with a certain amount of independence.[82]

Carausius, rebel emperor of Roman Britain. Most of the evidence for Carausius' reign comes from his coinage, which was of generally fine quality.[83]

Maximian realized that he could not immediately suppress the rogue commander, and so, for the whole campaigning season of 287, campaigned against tribes beyond the Rhine instead.[84] The following spring, as Maximian prepared a fleet for an expedition against Carausius, Diocletian returned from the East to meet Maximian. The two emperors agreed on a joint campaign against the Alamanni. Diocletian invaded Germania through Raetia while Maximian progressed from Mainz. Each emperor burned crops and food supplies as he went, destroying the Germans' means of sustenance.[85] The two men added territory to the empire and allowed Maximian to continue preparations against Carausius without further disturbance.[86] On his return to the East, Diocletian managed what was probably another rapid campaign against the resurgent Sarmatians. No details survive, but surviving inscriptions indicate that Diocletian took the title Sarmaticus Maximus after 289.[87]

In the East, Diocletian engaged in diplomacy with desert tribes in the regions between Rome and Persia. He might have been attempting to persuade them to ally themselves with Rome, thus reviving the old, Rome-friendly, Palmyrene sphere of influence,[88] or simply attempting to reduce the frequency of their incursions.[89] No details survive for these events.[90] Some of the princes of these states were Persian client kings; a disturbing fact in light of increasing tensions with that kingdom.[91] In the West, Maximian lost the fleet built in 288 and 289, probably in the early spring of 290. The panegyrist who refers to the loss suggests that its cause was a storm,[92] but this might simply be the panegyrist's attempt to conceal an embarrassing military defeat.[93] Diocletian broke off his tour of the Eastern provinces soon thereafter. He returned with haste to the West, reaching Emesa by May 10, 290,[94] and Sirmium on the Danube by July 1, 290.[95]

Diocletian met Maximian in Milan in the winter of 290–91, either in late December 290 or January 291.[96] The meeting was undertaken with a sense of solemn pageantry. The emperors spent most of their time in public appearances. It has been surmised that the ceremonies were arranged to demonstrate Diocletian's continuing support for his faltering colleague.[88] A deputation from the Roman Senate met with the emperors, renewing that body's infrequent contact with the imperial office.[97] The choice of Milan over Rome further snubbed the capital's pride. But then it was already a long established practice that Rome itself was only a ceremonial capital, as the actual seat of the imperial administration was determined by the needs of defense. Long before Diocletian, Gallienus (r. 253–68) had already chosen Milan as the seat of his headquarters.[98] If the panegyric detailing the ceremony implied that the true center of the empire was not Rome, but where the emperor sat ("...the capital of the Empire appeared to be there, where the two emperors met"[99]), it simply echoed what had already been stated by the historian Herodian in the early third century: "Rome is where the emperor is".[98] During the meeting, decisions on matters of politics and war were probably made, but they were made in secret.[100] The Augusti would not meet again until 303.[88]


Foundation of the Tetrarchy

Triumphal Arch of the Tetrarchy, Sbeitla, Tunisia

Some time after his return, and before 293, Diocletian transferred command of the war against Carausius from Maximian to Flavius Constantius. Constantius was a former governor of Dalmatia and a man of military experience stretching back to Aurelian's campaigns against Zenobia (272–73). He was Maximian's praetorian prefect in Gaul, and the husband to Maximian's daughter, Theodora. On March 1, 293 at Milan, Maximian gave Constantius the office of Caesar.[101] In the spring of 293, in either Philippopolis (Plovdiv, Bulgaria) or Sirmium, Diocletian would do the same for Galerius, husband to Diocletian's daughter Valeria, and perhaps Diocletian's praetorian prefect.[notes 6] Constantius was assigned Gaul and Britain. Galerius was assigned Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and responsibility for the eastern borderlands.[103]

This arrangement is called the Tetrarchy, from a Greek term meaning "rulership by four".[104] The Tetrarchic emperors were more or less sovereign in their own lands, and they travelled with their own imperial courts, administrators, secretaries, and armies.[105] They were joined by blood and marriage; Diocletian and Maximian now styled themselves as brothers. The senior co-emperors formally adopted Galerius and Constantius as sons in 293. These relationships implied a line of succession. Galerius and Constantius would become Augusti after Diocletian and Maximian's departure. Maximian's son Maxentius, and Constantius' son Constantine would then become Caesars. In preparation for their future roles, Constantine and Maxentius were taken to Diocletian's court in Nicomedia.[106]

Conflict in the Balkans and Egypt

A Trajanic temple on the island of Philae, the newly established border between the Nobatae and Blemmyes and Roman Egypt[107]

Diocletian spent the spring of 293 traveling with Galerius from Sirmium to Byzantium (Istanbul, Turkey). Diocletian then returned to Sirmium, where he would remain for the following winter and spring. He campaigned against the Sarmatians again in 294, probably in the autumn,[108] and won a victory against them. The Sarmatians' defeat kept them from the Danube provinces for a long time. Meanwhile, Diocletian built forts north of the Danube,[109] at Aquincum (Budapest, Hungary), Bononia (Vidin, Bulgaria), Ulcisia Vetera, Castra Florentium, Intercisa (Dunaújváros, Hungary), and Onagrinum (Begeč, Serbia). The new forts became part of a new defensive line called the Ripa Sarmatica.[110] In 295 and 296 Diocletian campaigned in the region again, and won a victory over the Carpi in the summer of 296.[111] Afterwards, during 299 and 302, as Diocletian was then residing in the East, it was Galerius' turn to campaign victoriously on the Danube.[112] By the end of his reign, Diocletian had secured the entire length of the Danube, provided it with forts, bridgeheads, highways, and walled towns, and sent fifteen or more legions to patrol the region; an inscription at Sexaginta Prista on the Lower Danube extolled restored tranquilitas at the region.[113] The defense came at a heavy cost, but was a significant achievement in an area difficult to defend.[114]

Galerius, meanwhile, was engaged during 291-293 in disputes in Upper Egypt, where he suppressed a regional uprising .[115] He would return to Syria in 295 to fight the revanchist Persian Empire.[116] Diocletian's attempts to bring the Egyptian tax system in line with imperial standards stirred discontent, and a revolt swept the region after Galerius' departure.[117] The usurper L. Domitius Domitianus declared himself Augustus in July or August 297. Much of Egypt, including Alexandria, recognized his rule.[116] Diocletian moved into Egypt to suppress him, first putting down rebels in the Thebaid in the autumn of 297,[108] then moving on to besiege Alexandria. Domitianus died in December 297,[118] by which time Diocletian had secured control of the Egyptian countryside. Alexandria, whose defense was organized under Diocletian's former corrector Aurelius Achilleus, held out until a later date, probably March 298.[119]

Bureaucratic affairs were completed during Diocletian's stay:[120] a census took place, and Alexandria, in punishment for its rebellion, lost the ability to mint independently.[121] Diocletian's reforms in the region, combined with those of Septimus Severus, brought Egyptian administrative practices much closer to Roman standards.[122] Diocletian travelled south along the Nile the following summer, where he visited Oxyrhynchus and Elephantine.[121] In Nubia, he made peace with the Nobatae and Blemmyes tribes. Under the terms of the peace treaty Rome's borders moved north to Philae and the two tribes received an annual gold stipend. Diocletian left Africa quickly after the treaty, moving from Upper Egypt in September 298 to Syria in February 299. He met up with Galerius in Mesopotamia.[107]

War with Persia

Invasion, counterinvasion

Military issue coin of Diocletian

In 294, Narseh, a son of Shapur who had been passed over for the Sassanid succession, came to power in Persia. Narseh eliminated Bahram III, a young man installed in the wake of Bahram II's death in 293.[123] In early 294, Narseh sent Diocletian the customary package of gifts between the empires, and Diocletian responded with an exchange of ambassadors. Within Persia, however, Narseh was destroying every trace of his immediate predecessors from public monuments. He sought to identify himself with the warlike kings Ardashir (r. 226–41) and Shapur (r. 241–72), the same Shapur who had sacked Roman Antioch and skinned the Emperor Valerian (r. 253–260) to decorate his war temple.[124]

Narseh declared war on Rome in 295 or 296. He appears to have first invaded western Armenia, where he seized the lands delivered to Tiridates in the peace of 287.[125] Narseh moved south into Roman Mesopotamia in 297, where he inflicted a severe defeat on Galerius in the region between Carrhae (Harran, Turkey) and Callinicum (Ar-Raqqah, Syria)[126] (and thus, the historian Fergus Millar notes, probably somewhere on the Balikh river).[127] Diocletian may or may not have been present at the battle,[128] but he quickly divested himself of all responsibility. In a public ceremony at Antioch, the official version of events was clear: Galerius was responsible for the defeat; Diocletian was not. Diocletian publicly humiliated Galerius, forcing him to walk for a mile at the head of the imperial caravan, still clad in the purple robes of the emperor.[129][notes 7]

Detail of Galerius attacking Narseh on the Arch of Galerius at Thessaloniki, Greece, the city where Galerius carried out most of his administrative actions[131]

Galerius was reinforced, probably in the spring of 298, by a new contingent collected from the empire's Danubian holdings.[132] Narseh did not advance from Armenia and Mesopotamia, leaving Galerius to lead the offensive in 298 with an attack on northern Mesopotamia via Armenia.[133][notes 8] It is unclear if Diocletian was present to assist the campaign; he might have returned to Egypt or Syria.[notes 9] Narseh retreated to Armenia to fight Galerius' force, to Narseh's disadvantage; the rugged Armenian terrain was favorable to Roman infantry, but unfavorable to Sassanid cavalry. In two battles, Galerius won major victories over Narseh. During the second encounter, Roman forces seized Narseh's camp, his treasury, his harem, and his wife.[137] Galerius continued moving down the Tigris, and took the Persian capital at Ctesiphon before returning to Roman territory along the Euphrates.[138]

Peace negotiations

Narseh sent an ambassador to Galerius to plead for the return of his wives and children in the course of the war, but Galerius had dismissed him.[139] Serious peace negotiations began in the spring of 299. Diocletian and Galerius' magister memoriae (secretary) Sicorius Probus were sent to Narseh to present terms.[139] The conditions of the peace were heavy;[140] Armenia returned to Roman domination, with the fort of Ziatha as its border; Caucasian Iberia would pay allegiance to Rome under a Roman appointee; Nisibis, now under Roman rule, would become the sole conduit for trade between Persia and Rome; and Rome would exercise control over the five satrapies between the Tigris and Armenia: Ingilene, Sophanene (Sophene), Arzanene (Aghdznik), Corduene (Carduene), and Zabdicene (near modern Hakkâri, Turkey). These regions included the passage of the Tigris through the Anti-Taurus range; the Bitlis pass, the quickest southerly route into Persian Armenia; and access to the Tur Abdin plateau.[141]

A stretch of land containing the later strategic strongholds of Amida (Diyarbakır, Turkey) and Bezabde came under firm Roman military occupation.[142] With these territories, Rome would have an advance station north of Ctesiphon, and would be able to slow any future advance of Persian forces through the region.[140] The Tigris was said to have become the boundary between the two empires, but what this means is unclear, as the satrapies listed all lie on the far side of the river. Millar suggests that the satrapies might have been held under a loose Roman hegemony, without military occupation.[142] At the conclusion of the peace, Tiridates regained both his throne and the entirety of his ancestral claim.[139] Rome secured a wide zone of cultural influence, which led to a wide diffusion of Syriac Christianity from a center at Nisibis in later decades, and the eventual Christianization of Armenia.[140]

Religious persecutions

Early persecutions

At the conclusion of the peace, Diocletian and Galerius returned to Syrian Antioch.[143] At some time in 299, the emperors took part in a ceremony of sacrifice and divination in an attempt to predict the future. The haruspices were unable to read the entrails of the sacrificed animals, and blamed Christians in the imperial household. The emperors ordered all members of the court to perform a sacrifice to purify the palace. The emperors sent letters to the military command, demanding the entire army perform the required sacrifices or face discharge.[144] Diocletian was conservative in matters of religion, a man faithful to the traditional Roman pantheon and understanding of demands for religious purification,[145] but Eusebius, Lactantius and Constantine state that it was Galerius, not Diocletian, who was the prime supporter of the purge, and its greatest beneficiary.[146] Galerius, even more devoted and passionate than Diocletian, saw political advantage in the politics of persecution. He was willing to break with a government policy of inaction on the issue.[147]

Antioch was Diocletian's primary residence from 299 to 302, while Galerius swapped places with his Augustus on the Middle and Lower Danube.[148] He visited Egypt once, over the winter of 301–2, and issued a grain dole in Alexandria.[147] Following some public disputes with Manicheans, Diocletian ordered that the leading followers of Mani be burnt alive along with their scriptures. In a March 31, 302 rescript from Alexandria, he declared that low-status Manicheans must be executed by the blade, and high-status Manicheans must be sent to work in the quarries of Proconnesus (Marmara Island, Turkey) or the mines of Phaeno in southern Palestine. All Manichean property was to be seized and deposited in the imperial treasury.[149] Diocletian found much to be offended by in Manichean religion: its novelty, its alien origins, the way it corrupted the morals of the Roman race, and its inherent opposition to long-standing religious traditions.[150] Manichaeanism was also supported by Persia at the time, compounding religious dissent with international politics.[151] Excepting Persian support, the reasons why he disliked Manichaenism were equally applicable, if not more so, to Christianity, his next target.[152]

Catacomb of Saints Marcellinus and Peter on the Via Labicana. Christ between Peter and Paul. To the sides are the martyrs Gorgonius, Peter, Marcellinus, Tiburtius

Great Persecution

Diocletian returned to Antioch in the autumn of 302. He ordered that the deacon Romanus of Caesarea have his tongue removed for defying the order of the courts and interrupting official sacrifices. Romanus was then sent to prison, where he was executed on November 17, 303. Diocletian believed that Romanus of Caesarea was arrogant, and he left the city for Nicomedia in the winter, accompanied by Galerius.[153] According to Lactantius, Diocletian and Galerius entered into an argument over imperial policy towards Christians while wintering at Nicomedia in 302. Diocletian argued that forbidding Christians from the bureaucracy and military would be sufficient to appease the gods, but Galerius pushed for extermination. The two men sought the advice of the oracle of Apollo at Didyma.[154] The oracle responded that "the just on earth"[155] hindered Apollo's ability to provide advice. These "just", Diocletian was informed by members of the court, could only refer to the Christians of the empire. At the behest of his court, Diocletian acceded to demands for universal persecution.[156]

On February 23, 303, Diocletian ordered that the newly built church at Nicomedia be razed. He demanded that its scriptures be burned, and seized its precious stores for the treasury.[157] The next day, Diocletian's first "Edict against the Christians" was published.[158] The edict ordered the destruction of Christian scriptures and places of worship across the Empire, and prohibited Christians from assembling for worship.[159] Before the end of February, a fire destroyed part of the imperial palace.[160] Galerius convinced Diocletian that the culprits were Christians, conspirators who had plotted with the eunuchs of the palace. An investigation was commissioned, but no responsible party was found. Executions followed anyway, and the palace eunuchs Dorotheus and Gorgonius were executed. One individual, Peter, was stripped, raised high, and scourged. Salt and vinegar were poured in his wounds, and he was slowly boiled over an open flame. The executions continued until at least April 24, 303, when six individuals, including the bishop Anthimus, were decapitated.[161] A second fire occurred sixteen days after the first. Galerius left the city for Rome, declaring Nicomedia unsafe.[160] Diocletian would soon follow.[161]

Although further persecutionary edicts followed, compelling the arrest of the Christian clergy and universal acts of sacrifice,[162] the persecutionary edicts were ultimately unsuccessful; most Christians escaped punishment, and even pagans were generally unsympathetic to the persecution. The martyrs' sufferings strengthened the resolve of their fellow Christians.[163] Constantius and Maximian did not apply the later persecutionary edicts, and left the Christians of the West unharmed.[164] Galerius rescinded the edict in 311, announcing that the persecution had failed to bring Christians back to traditional religion.[165] The temporary apostasy of some Christians, and the surrendering of scriptures, during the persecution played a major role in the subsequent Donatist controversy.[166] Within twenty-five years of the persecution's inauguration, the Christian emperor Constantine would rule the empire alone. He would reverse the consequences of the edicts, and return all confiscated property to Christians.[167] Under Constantine's rule, Christianity would become the empire's preferred religion.[168] Diocletian was demonized by his Christian successors: Lactantius intimated that Diocletian's ascendancy heralded the apocalypse,[169] and in Serbian mythology, Diocletian is remembered as Dukljan, the adversary of God.[170]

Later life

Illness and abdication

Diocletian entered the city of Rome in the early winter of 303. On November 20, he celebrated, with Maximian, the twentieth anniversary of his reign (vicennalia), the tenth anniversary of the Tetrarchy (decennalia), and a triumph for the war with Persia. Diocletian soon grew impatient with the city, as the Romans acted towards him with what Edward Gibbon, following Lactantius, calls "licentious familiarity".[171] The Roman people did not give enough deference to his supreme authority; it expected him to act the part of an aristocratic ruler, not a monarchic one. On December 20, 303,[172] Diocletian cut short his stay in Rome and left for the north. He did not even perform the ceremonies investing him with his ninth consulate; he did them in Ravenna on January 1, 304 instead.[173] There are suggestions in the Panegyrici Latini and Lactantius' account that Diocletian arranged plans for his and Maximian's future retirement of power in Rome. Maximian, according to these accounts, swore to uphold Diocletian's plan in a ceremony in the temple of Jupiter.[174]

From Ravenna, Diocletian left for the Danube. There, possibly in Galerius' company, he took part in a campaign against the Carpi.[172] He contracted a minor illness while on campaign, but his condition quickly worsened and he chose to travel in a litter. In the late summer he left for Nicomedia. On November 20, he appeared in public to dedicate the opening of the circus beside his palace. He collapsed soon after the ceremonies. Over the winter of 304–5 he kept within his palace at all times. Rumors alleging that Diocletian's death was merely being kept secret until Galerius could come to assume power spread through the city. On December 13, he seemed to have finally died. The city was sent into a mourning from which it was only retrieved by public declarations of his survival. When Diocletian reappeared in public on March 1, 305, he was emaciated and barely recognizable.[175]

Galerius arrived in the city later in March. According to Lactantius, he came armed with plans to reconstitute the Tetrarchy, force Diocletian to step down, and fill the imperial office with men compliant to his will. Through coercion and threats, he eventually convinced Diocletian to comply with his plan. Lactantius also claims that he had done the same to Maximian at Sirmium.[176] On May 1, 305, Diocletian called an assembly of his generals, traditional companion troops, and representatives from distant legions. They met at the same hill, 5 km (3.1 mi) out of Nicomedia, where Diocletian had been proclaimed emperor. In front of a statue of Jupiter, his patron deity, Diocletian addressed the crowd. With tears in his eyes, he told them of his weakness, his need for rest, and his will to resign. He declared that he needed to pass the duty of empire on to someone stronger. He thus became the first Roman emperor to voluntarily abdicate his title.[177]

Most in the crowd believed they knew what would follow; Constantine and Maxentius, the only adult sons of a reigning emperor, men who had long been preparing to succeed their fathers, would be granted the title of Caesar. Constantine had traveled through Palestine at the right hand of Diocletian, and was present at the palace in Nicomedia in 303 and 305. It is likely that Maxentius received the same treatment.[178] In Lactantius' account, when Diocletian announced that he was to resign, the entire crowd turned to face Constantine.[179] It was not to be: Severus and Maximin were declared Caesars. Maximin appeared and took Diocletian's robes. On the same day, Severus received his robes from Maximian in Milan. Constantius succeeded Maximian as Augustus of the West, but Constantine and Maxentius were entirely ignored in the transition of power. This did not bode well for the future security of the Tetrarchic system.[180]

Retirement and death

Diocletian retired to his homeland, Dalmatia. He moved into the expansive palace he had built on the Adriatic near the administrative center of Salona. Maximian retired to villas in Campania or Lucania.[181] Their homes were distant from political life, but Diocletian and Maximian were close enough to remain in regular contact with each other.[182] Galerius assumed the consular fasces in 308 with Diocletian as his colleague. In the autumn of 308, Galerius again conferred with Diocletian at Carnuntum (Petronell-Carnuntum, Austria). Diocletian and Maximian were both present on November 11, 308, to see Galerius appoint Licinius to be Augustus in place of Severus, who had died at the hands of Maxentius. He ordered Maximian, who had attempted to return to power after his retirement, to step down permanently. At Carnuntum people begged Diocletian to return to the throne, to resolve the conflicts that had arisen through Constantine's rise to power and Maxentius' usurpation.[183] Diocletian's reply: "If you could show the cabbage that I planted with my own hands to your emperor, he definitely wouldn’t dare suggest that I replace the peace and happiness of this place with the storms of a never-satisfied greed."[184]

He lived on for three more years, spending his days in his palace gardens. He saw his Tetrarchic system implode, torn by the selfish ambitions of his successors. He heard of Maximian's third claim to the throne, his forced suicide, his damnatio memoriae. In his own palace, statues and portraits of his former companion emperor were torn down and destroyed. Deep in despair and illness, Diocletian may have committed suicide. He died on December 3, 311.[5][185]


Tetrarchic and ideological

Modern view of Diocletian's Palace near Salona (in Split, Croatia)

Diocletian saw his work as that of a restorer, a figure of authority whose duty it was to return the empire to peace, to recreate stability and justice where barbarian hordes had destroyed it.[186] He arrogated, regimented and centralized political authority on a massive scale. In his policies, he enforced an imperial system of values on diverse and often unreceptive provincial audiences.[187] In the imperial propaganda from the period, recent history is perverted and minimized in the service of the theme of the Tetrarchs as "restorers". Aurelian's achievements are ignored, the revolt of Carausius is backdated to the reign of Gallienus, and it is implied that the Tetrarchs engineered Aurelian's defeat of the Palmyrenes; the period between Gallienus and Diocletian is effectively erased. The history of the empire before the Tetrarchy is portrayed as a time of civil war, savage despotism, and imperial collapse.[188] In those inscriptions that bear their names, Diocletian and his companions are referred to as "restorers of the whole world",[189] men who succeeded in "defeating the nations of the barbarians, and confirming the tranquility of their world".[190] Diocletian was written up as the "founder of eternal peace".[191] The theme of restoration was conjoined to an emphasis on the uniqueness and accomplishments of the Tetrarchs themselves.[188]

The cities where emperors lived frequently in this period—Milan, Trier, Arles, Sirmium, Serdica, Thessaloniki, Nicomedia, and Antioch—were treated as alternate imperial seats, to the exclusion of Rome and its senatorial elite.[192] A new style of ceremony was developed, emphasizing the distinction of the emperor from all other persons. The quasi-republican ideals of Augustus' primus inter pares were abandoned for all but the Tetrarchs themselves. Diocletian took to wearing a gold crown and jewels, and forbade the use of purple cloth to all but the emperors.[193] His subjects were required to prostrate themselves in his presence (adoratio); the most fortunate were allowed the privilege of kissing the hem of his robe (proskynesis, προσκύνησις).[194] Circuses and basilicas were designed to keep the face of the emperor perpetually in view, and always in a seat of authority. The emperor became a figure of transcendent authority, a man beyond the grip of the masses.[195] His every appearance was stage-managed.[196] This style of presentation was not new—many of its elements were first seen in the reigns of Aurelian and Severus—but it was only under the Tetrarchs that it was refined into an explicit system.[197]


In keeping with his move from an ideology of republicanism to one of autocracy, Diocletian's council of advisers, his consilium, differed from those of earlier emperors. He destroyed the Augustan illusion of imperial government as a cooperative affair between emperor, army, and Senate.[198] In its place he established an effectively autocratic structure, a shift later epitomized in the institution's name: it would be called a consistorium ("consistory"), not a council.[199][notes 10] Diocletian regulated his court by distinguishing separate departments (scrina) for different tasks.[201] From this structure came the offices of different magistri, like the Magister officiorum ("Master of offices"), and associated secretariats. These were men suited to dealing with petitions, requests, correspondence, legal affairs, and foreign embassies. Within his court Diocletian maintained a permanent body of legal advisers, men with significant influence on his re-ordering of juridical affairs. There were also two finance ministers, dealing with the separate bodies of the public treasury and the private domains of the emperor, and the praetorian prefect, the most significant person of the whole. Diocletian's reduction of the Praetorian Guards to the level of a simple city garrison for Rome lessened the military powers of the prefect, but the office retained much civil authority. The prefect kept a staff of hundreds and managed affairs in all segments of government: in taxation, administration, jurisprudence, and minor military commands, the praetorian prefect was often second only to the emperor himself.[202]

Altogether, Diocletian effected a large increase in the number of bureaucrats at the government's command; Lactantius was to claim that there were now more men using tax money than there were paying it.[203] The historian Warren Treadgold estimates that under Diocletian the number of men in the civil service doubled from 15,000 to 30,000.[204] The classicist Roger Bagnall, based on data produced by A.H.M. Jones, estimated that there was one bureaucrat for every 5–10,000 people. (By comparison, the ratio in twelfth-century China was one bureaucrat for every 15,000 people.)[205]

To avoid the possibility of local usurpations,[206] to facilitate a more efficient collection of taxes and supplies, and to ease the enforcement of the law, Diocletian doubled the number of provinces from fifty to almost one hundred.[207] The provinces were grouped into twelve dioceses, each governed by an appointed official called a vicarius, or "deputy of the praetorian prefects".[208] Some of the provincial divisions required revision, and were modified either soon after 293 or early in the fourth century..[209] Rome herself (including her environs, as defined by a 100-miles-radius perimeter around the City itself) was kept outside the system, as she was to be administered by a City Prefect of senatorial rank - the sole prestigious post with actual power reserved exclusively for senators.[210] The dissemination of imperial law to the provinces was facilitated under Diocletian's reign, because Diocletian's reform of the empire's provincial structure meant that there were now a greater number of governors (praesides) ruling over smaller regions and smaller populations.[211] Diocletian's reforms shifted the governors' main function to that of the presiding official in the lower courts:[212] whereas in the early empire military and judicial functions were the function of governor, and procurators had supervised taxation; under the new system vicarii and governors were responsible for justice and taxation, and a new class of duces ("dukes"), acting independently of the civil service, had military command. These dukes sometimes administered two or three of the new provinces created by Diocletian, and had forces ranging from two thousand to more than twenty thousand men.[213] In addition to their roles as judges and tax collectors, governors were expected to maintain the postal service (cursus publicus) and ensure that town councils fulfilled their duties.[214]

This curtailment of governors' powers as the emperors' representatives may have lessened the political dangers of an all-too-powerful class of imperial delegates, but it also severely limited governors' ability to oppose local landed elites. On one occasion, Diocletian had to exhort a proconsul of Africa not to fear the consequences of treading on the toes of the local magnates of senatorial rank,[215] If a governor of senatorial rank himself felt these pressures, one can imagine the difficulties faced by a mere praeses.[216]


A 1581 reprint of the Digestorum from Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis (527–534). The Corpus drew on the codices of Gregorius and Hermogenian, drafted and published under Diocletian's reign.

As with most emperors, much of Diocletian's daily routine rotated around legal affairs—responding to appeals and petitions, and delivering decisions on disputed matters. Rescripts, authoritative interpretations issued by the emperor in response to demands from disputants in both public and private cases, were a common duty of second- and third-century emperors. Diocletian was awash in paperwork, and was nearly incapable of delegating his duties. It would have been seen as a dereliction of duty to ignore them. Diocletian's praetorian prefects—Afranius Hannibalianus, Julius Asclepiodotus, and Aurelius Hermogenianus—aided in regulating the flow and presentation of such paperwork, but the deep legalism of Roman culture kept the workload heavy.[217] Emperors in the forty years preceding Diocletian's reign had not managed these duties so effectively, and their output in attested rescripts is low. Diocletian, by contrast, was prodigious in his affairs: there are around 1,200 rescripts in his name still surviving, and these probably represent only a small portion of the total issue.[218] The sharp increase in the number of edicts and rescripts produced under Diocletian's rule has been read as evidence of a thoroughgoing effort to realign the whole empire on terms dictated by the imperial center.[219]

Under the governance of the jurists Gregorius, Aurelius Arcadius Charisius, and Hermogenianus, the imperial government began issuing official books of precedent, collecting and listing all the rescripts that had been issued from the reign of Hadrian (r. 117–38) to the reign of Diocletian.[220] The Codex Gregorianus includes rescripts up to 292, which the Codex Hermogenianus updated with a comprehensive collection of rescripts issued by Diocletian in 293 and 294.[209] Although the very act of codification was a radical innovation, given the precedent-based design of the Roman legal system,[221] the jurists themselves were generally conservative, and constantly looked to past Roman practice and theory for guidance.[222] They were probably given more free rein over their codes than the later compilers of the Codex Theodosianus (438) and Codex Justinianus (529) would have. Gregorius and Hermogenianus' codices lack the rigid structuring of later codes,[223] and were not published in the name of the emperor, but in the names of their compilers.[224]

After Diocletian's reform of the provinces, governors were called iudex, or judge. The governor became responsible for his decisions first to his immediate superiors, as well as to the more distant office of the emperor.[225] It was most likely at this time that judicial records became verbatim accounts of what was said in trial, making it easier to determine bias or improper conduct on the part of the governor. With these records and the empire's universal right of appeal, imperial authorities probably had a great deal of power to enforce behavior standards for their judges.[226] In spite of Diocletian's attempts at reform, the provincial restructuring was far from clear, especially when citizens appealed the decisions of their governors. Proconsuls, for example, were often both judges of first instance and appeal, and the governors of some provinces took appellant cases from their neighbors. It soon became impossible to avoid taking some cases to the emperor for arbitration and judgment.[227] Diocletian's reign marks the end of the classical period of Roman law. Where Diocletian's system of rescripts shows an adherence to classical tradition, Constantine's law is full of Greek and eastern influences.[228]


See also: Late Roman army: Diocletian

It is archaeologically difficult to distinguish Diocletian's fortifications from those of his successors and predecessors. The Devil's Dyke, for example, the Danubian earthworks traditionally attributed to Diocletian, cannot even be securely dated to a particular century. The most that can be said about built structures under Diocletian's reign is that he rebuilt and strengthened forts at the Upper Rhine frontier (where he followed the works made under Probus's reign, both along the Lake Constance-Basel as well as along the Rhine–Iller–Danube line[229]), in Egypt, and on the frontier with Persia. Beyond that, much discussion is speculative, and reliant on the broad generalizations of written sources. Diocletian and the Tetrarchs had no consistent plan for frontier advancement, and records of raids and forts built across the frontier are likely to indicate only temporary claims. The Strata Diocletiana, which ran from the Euphrates to Palmyra and northeast Arabia, is the classic Diocletianic frontier system, consisting of an outer road followed by tightly spaced forts followed by further fortifications in the rear.[230] In an attempt to resolve the difficulty and slowness of transmitting orders to the frontier, the new capitals of the Tetrarchic era were all much closer to the empire's frontiers than Rome had been:[231] Trier sat on the Rhine, Sirmium and Serdica were close to the Danube, Thessaloniki was on the route leading eastward, and Nicomedia and Antioch were important points in dealings with Persia.[232]

Lactantius criticized Diocletian for an excessive increase in troop sizes, declaring that "each of the four [Tetrarchs] strove to have a far larger number of troops than previous emperors had when they were governing the state alone".[233] The fifth-century pagan Zosimus, by contrast, praised Diocletian for keeping troops on the borders, rather than keeping them in the cities, as Constantine was held to have done.[234] Both these views had some truth to them, despite the biases of their authors: Diocletian and the Tetrarchs did greatly expand the army, and the growth was mostly in frontier regions, although it is difficult to establish the precise details of these shifts given the weakness of the sources.[235] The army expanded to about 580,000 men from a 285 strength of 390,000 men. The growth was smaller in the East, which only expanded from 250,000 men to 310,000 men, most of whom manned the Persian frontier. The navy's forces increased from approximately 45,000 men to approximately 65,000 men.[236][notes 11]

Diocletian's expansion of the army and civil service meant that the empire's tax burden would rise. Since military upkeep took the largest portion of the imperial budget, any reforms here would be especially costly.[239] The proportion of the adult male population serving in the army increased from roughly 1 in 25 to 1 in 15, an increase judged excessive by some modern commentators. Official troop allowances were kept to low levels, and the mass of troops often resorted to extortion or the taking of civilian jobs.[240] Arrears became the norm for most troops. Many were even given payment in kind in place of their salaries.[241] Were he unable to pay for his enlarged army, there would likely be civil conflict, potentially open revolt. Diocletian was led to devise a new system of taxation.[240]



Diocletian introduced an extensive new tax system based on heads (capita) and land (iuga) and tied to a new, regular census of the empire's population and wealth. Census officials traveled throughout the empire, assessed the value of labor and land for each landowner, and joined the landowners' totals together to make city-wide totals of capita and iuga.[242] The iugum was not a consistent measure of land, but varied according to the type of land and crop, and the amount of labor necessary for sustenance. The caput was not consistent either: women, for instance, were often valued at half a caput, and sometimes at other values.[241] The city would provide animals, money, and manpower in proportion to its capita, and grain in proportion to its iuga.[242][notes 12]

Most taxes were due on each year on 1 September, and levied from individual landowners by decuriones (decurions). These decurions, analogous to city councilors, were responsible for paying from their own pocket what they failed to collect from the populace.[244] Diocletian's reforms also increased the number of financial officials in the provinces: more rationales and magistri privatae are attested under Diocletian's reign than before. These offices were to manage imperial properties and to supervise the collection of revenue.[209] Despite the instability of the coinage, most taxes were either levied in or convertible into money. Rates shifted to take inflation into account.[242] In 296, Diocletian issued an edict reforming census procedures. This edict introduced a general five-year census for the whole empire, replacing prior censuses that had operated at different speeds throughout the empire. The new censuses would keep up with changes in the values of capita and iuga.[245]

In the interests of securing a generally egalitarian tax system, Italy, which had long been exempt from taxes, was exempt no longer. From 290/291 on, most of Italy would now be taxed on the same level as any other province.[246] The city prefecture of Rome itself and the surrounding Suburbicarian diocese (where Roman senators held the bulk of their landed property), however, remained exempt.[247]

Diocletian's edicts emphasize the common liability of all taxpayers. Public records of all taxes were established to enhance the transparency of the operation, so that taxpayers would know exactly how much their neighbors paid.[248] The position of decurion had long been an honor sought by wealthy aristocrats, but under Diocletian its tax-collecting requirements became much more rigorous. Decurions and the city treasury could be bankrupted if production figures fell.[244] The effects of the new tax system were deeply felt: boundary-markers (necessary for tax administration) dating from the Tetrarchic period make relatively frequent appearances in Near Eastern towns, even in remote country districts like Sakkaia in the northern Hauran.[249] The Roman populace, long accustomed to irregular and ineffective tax collection, went through an uncomfortable period of adjustment to Diocletian's reforms. But even the lower classes were able to pay this burden.[250] The benefits of the new system were clear: taxes were predictable, regular, and fair, and the population was now free from fear. Citizens of the fourth century, safe behind the frontiers established and paid for by their taxes, no longer had to fear foreign occupation.[251]

Currency and inflation

A fragment of the Edict on Maximum Prices (301), on display in Berlin
Part of the prices edict in Greek in its original area built into a medieval church, Geraki, Greece

By the early 280s, market forces had created a stable exchange rate between gold and the copper antoninianus, more or less stabilizing commodity prices. The antoninianus, which had become the standard medium, however, remained a serious issue:[252] In spite of attempts to wean the nation off metal currency by converting governmental taxes and salaries to annonary payments in kind, metal currency remained in wide circulation.[253] In the wake of a brief period of re-inflation, Diocletian began a more comprehensive reform of the currency in 293.[254] The new system consisted of five coins: the aureus/solidus, a gold coin weighing, like its predecessors, one-sixtieth of a pound; the argenteus, a coin weighing one ninety-sixth of a pound and containing ninety-five percent pure silver; the follis, sometimes referred to as the laureatus A, which is a copper coin with added silver struck at the rate of thirty-two to the pound; the radiatus, a small copper coin struck at the rate of 108 to the pound, with no added silver; and a coin known today as the laureatus B, a smaller copper coin struck at the rate of 192 to the pound.[255][notes 13] Since the nominal values of these new issues were lower than their intrinsic worth as metals, the state was minting these coins at a loss. This practice could be sustained only by requisitioning precious metals from private citizens in exchange for state-minted coin (of a far lower value than the price of the precious metals requisitioned).[253]

By 301, however, the system was in trouble, strained by a new bout of inflation. Diocletian therefore issued his Edict on Coinage, an act re-tariffing all debts so that the nummi, the most common coin in circulation, would be worth half as much.[256] In the edict, preserved in an inscription from the city of Aphrodisias in Caria (near Geyre, Turkey), it was declared that all debts contracted before 1 September 301 would be repaid at the old standards, while all debts contracted after that date would be repaid at the new standards.[257] It appears that the edict was made in an attempt to preserve the current price of gold and to keep the empire's coinage on silver, Rome's traditional metal currency.[258] This edict risked giving further momentum to inflationary trends, as had happened after Aurelian's currency reforms. Soon the Tetrarchic government could see no better solution to its monetary woes than a series of price freezes.[259]

The Edict on Maximum Prices (Edictum De Pretiis Rerum Venalium) was issued two to three months after the coinage edict,[252] somewhere between 20 November and 10 December 301.[257] The best-preserved Latin inscription surviving from the Greek East,[260] the edict survives in many versions, on materials as varied as wood, papyrus, and stone.[261] In the edict, Diocletian declared that the current pricing crisis resulted from the unchecked greed of merchants, and had resulted in turmoil for the mass of common citizens. The language of the edict calls on the people's memory of their benevolent leaders, and exhorts them to enforce the provisions of the edict, and thereby restore perfection to the world. The edict goes on to list in detail over one thousand goods and accompanying retail prices not to be exceeded. Penalties are laid out for various pricing transgressions.[262]

In the most basic terms, the edict was ignorant of the law of supply and demand: it ignored the fact that prices might vary from region to region according to product availability, and it ignored the impact of transportation costs in the retail price of goods. In the judgment of the historian David Potter, the edict was "an act of economic lunacy".[263] Inflation, speculation, and monetary instability continued, and a black market arose to trade in goods forced out of official markets.[264] The edict's penalties were applied unevenly across the empire (some scholars believe they were applied only in Diocletian's domains[265]), widely resisted, and eventually dropped, perhaps within a year of the edict's issue.[266] Lactantius has written of the perverse accompaniments to the edict; of goods withdrawn from the market, of brawls over minute variations in price, of the deaths that came when its provisions were enforced. His account may be true, but it seems to modern historians exaggerated and hyperbolic,[267] and the impact of the law is recorded in no other ancient source.[268]


The historian A.H.M. Jones observed that "It is perhaps Diocletian's greatest achievement that he reigned twenty-one years and then abdicated voluntarily, and spent the remaining years of his life in peaceful retirement."[269] Diocletian was one of the few emperors of the third and fourth centuries to die naturally, and the first in the history of the empire to retire voluntarily.[270] Once he retired, however, his Tetrarchic system collapsed. Without the guiding hand of Diocletian, the empire frequently broke into civil war. Only in 324, when Constantine alone emerged triumphant, did stability return.[271] Under the Christian Constantine, Diocletian was maligned. Constantine's rule, however, validated Diocletian's achievements and the autocratic principle he represented:[272] the borders remained secure, in spite of Constantine's large expenditure of forces during his civil wars; the bureaucratic transformation of Roman government was completed; and Constantine took Diocletian's court ceremonies and made them even more extravagant.[273]

Constantine ignored those parts of Diocletian's rule that did not suit him. Diocletian's policy of preserving a stable silver coinage was abandoned, and the gold solidus became the empire's primary currency instead.[274] Diocletian's paganism was repudiated in favor of an imperially sponsored Christianity, and his price controls were ignored. But even Christianity would be tied to the state structure of the empire in an autocratic way, and Constantine would claim to have the same close relationship with the Christian God as Diocletian claimed to have with Jupiter.[275] Most importantly, Diocletian's tax system was preserved and tightened.[276] Aided by the new state machinery introduced by Diocletian, the Byzantine Empire would last for over one thousand years after his death.[277]


  1. ^ Coins are issued in his name in Cyzicus at some time before the end of 284, but it is impossible to know whether he was still in the public eye by that point.[16]
  2. ^ Barnes and Bowman argue for July 21,[51] Potter for July 25.[52]
  3. ^ He is placed there by a rescript dated March 3, 286.[65]
  4. ^ He is attested there in a rescript dated May 31, 287.[67] The Jewish Midrash suggests that Diocletian resided at Panias (present-day Banias) in the northern Golan Heights.[68]
  5. ^ The chronology of Maximian's appointment as Augustus is somewhat uncertain.[77] Some suggest that Maximian was appointed Augustus from the beginning of his imperial career, without ever holding the office of Caesar;[78] others date the assumption of the Augustan title to March 1, 286.[79] April 1, 286 is the most common date used in modern histories of the period.[76]
  6. ^ The suggested dates for Galerius' appointment are March 1 and May 21. There is no consensus on which is correct.[102]
  7. ^ It is possible that Galerius' position at the head of the caravan was merely the conventional organization of an imperial progression, designed to show a Caesar's deference to his Augustus, and not an attempt to humiliate him.[130]
  8. ^ Faustus of Byzantium's history refers to a battle that took place after Galerius set up base at Satala (Sadak, Turkey) in Armenia Minor, when Narseh advanced from his base at Oskha to attack him.[134] Other histories of the period do not note these events.
  9. ^ Lactantius criticizes Diocletian for his absence from the front,[135] but Southern, dating Diocletian's African campaigns one year earlier than Barnes, places Diocletian on Galerius' southern flank.[136]
  10. ^ The term consistorium was already in use for the room where council meetings took place.[200]
  11. ^ The Byzantine author John Lydus provides the extraordinarily precise troop numbers for Diocletian's armed forces: 389,704 for the army and 45,562 for the navy.[237] His precision has polarized modern historians. Some believe the figures are taken from official documents, and are largely accurate; others believe Lydus fabricated them.[238]
  12. ^ The manpower tax was called the praebitio tironum, and conscripted a part of each landowner's tenant farmers (coloni). When a capitulum extended across many farms, farmers would provide the funds to compensate the neighbor who had supplied the recruit. Landowners were soon able to commute the tax with a payment in gold (the aurum tironicum).[243]
  13. ^ The denarius was dropped from the imperial mints,[252] but the values of new coins continued to be measured in reference to it.[254]


Chapters from The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XII: The Crisis of Empire are marked with a "(CAH)".

  1. ^ Barnes, New Empire, 4.
  2. ^ Barnes, New Empire, 4. For full imperial titulature, see: Barnes, New Empire, 17–29.
  3. ^ a b c Barnes, New Empire, 30, 46; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 68.
  4. ^ Barnes, New Empire, 31; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 68; Williams, 237–38.
  5. ^ a b c Barnes, "Lactantius and Constantine", 32–35; Barnes, New Empire, 31–32.
  6. ^ Aurelius Victor 39.1; Potter, 648.
  7. ^ Barnes, New Empire, 30; Williams, 237–38; cf. Rees, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 86: "We do not even know when he was born..."
  8. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 4; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 68; Potter, 280; Williams, 22–23.
  9. ^ Zonaras, 12.31; Southern, 331; Williams, 26.
  10. ^ Mathisen, "Diocletian"; Williams, 26.
  11. ^ SHA, Vita Carini 14–15; Williams, 26.
  12. ^ a b Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 4.
  13. ^ a b Southern, 133.
  14. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 4; Leadbetter, "Numerianus."
  15. ^ Codex Justinianus 5.52.2; Leadbetter, "Numerianus"; Potter, 279.
  16. ^ Roman Imperial Coinage 5.2 Numerian no. 462; Potter, 279–80.
  17. ^ Leadbetter, "Numerianus."
  18. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 4; Leadbetter, "Numerianus"; Odahl, 39; Williams, 35.
  19. ^ a b c d e f Potter, 280.
  20. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 4; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 68; Williams, 35–36.
  21. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 4–5; Odahl, 39–40; Williams, 36–37.
  22. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 4–5; Leadbetter, "Numerian"; Odahl, 39–40; Williams, 37.
  23. ^ SHA, Vita Cari 13, cited in Averil Cameron, The Later Roman Empire (Glasgow: Fontana, 1993), 31.
  24. ^ Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 39.
  25. ^ Barnes, New Empire, 31; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 68–69; Potter, 280; Southern, 134; Williams, 37.
  26. ^ Fully, L. Caesonius Ovinius Manlius Rufinianus Bassus.
  27. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 5; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 69; Potter, 280; Southern, 134.
  28. ^ a b c d Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 5.
  29. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 5; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 69; Leadbetter, "Carinus"; Southern, 134–35; Williams, 38. See also Banchich.
  30. ^ Southern, 134–5; Williams, 38.
  31. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 5; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 69; Leadbetter, "Carinus."
  32. ^ Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 69; Potter, 280.
  33. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 5; Odahl, 40; Southern, 135.
  34. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 5; Williams, 37–38.
  35. ^ Potter, 280; Williams, 37.
  36. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 5; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 69; Odahl, 40; Williams, 38.
  37. ^ Southern, 135; Williams, 38.
  38. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 5; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 69.
  39. ^ Roman Imperial Coinage 5.2.241 no. 203–04; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 5, 287; Barnes, New Empire, 50.
  40. ^ Williams, 41.
  41. ^ Aurelius Victor, De Cesaribus, 37.5, quoted in Carrié & Rousselle, L'Empire Romain, 654
  42. ^ Southern, 135, 331.
  43. ^ Potter, 281.
  44. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 5–6; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 69; Barnes, New Empire, 113; Williams, 41–42.
  45. ^ Aurelius Victor, 39.15, qtd. in Leadbetter, "Carinus."
  46. ^ Barnes, "Two Senators," 46; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 5–6; Leadbetter, "Carinus"; Southern, 135; Williams, 41
  47. ^ Leadbetter, "Carinus."
  48. ^ Barnes, "Two Senators," 46; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 5–6; Leadbetter, "Carinus."
  49. ^ Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 40.
  50. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 6; Southern, 136.
  51. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 6; New Empire, 4; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 69.
  52. ^ The Roman Empire at Bay, 280–81.
  53. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 6; Barnes, New Empire, 4; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 69; Bleckmann; Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 40; Potter, 280–81; Williams, 43–45.
  54. ^ Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 40. See also: Williams, 48–49.
  55. ^ Potter, 280; Southern, 136; Williams, 43.
  56. ^ Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 69; Odahl, 42–43; Southern, 136; Williams, 45.
  57. ^ Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 69; Southern, 136.
  58. ^ Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 70–71; Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 40; Liebeschuetz, 235–52, 240–43; Odahl, 43–44; Williams, 58–59.
  59. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 11–12; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 70–71; Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 40; Odahl, 43; Southern, 136–37; Williams, 58.
  60. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 11; Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 172.
  61. ^ Williams, 58–59. See also: Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 171.
  62. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 6; Southern, 137.
  63. ^ Codex Justinianus 4.48.5; Fragmenta Vaticana 297; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 6; Barnes, New Empire, 50; Potter, 281.
  64. ^ Southern, 143; Williams, 52.
  65. ^ Fragmenta Vaticana 275; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 6; Potter, 281, 649.
  66. ^ Panegyrici Latini 8(5)21.1; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 6.
  67. ^ Codex Justinianus 4.10.3; 1.51.1; 5.17.3; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 6; Barnes, New Empire, 50–51; Potter, 281, 649.
  68. ^ Bereishis Rabbah, Ed. Vilna, Parashas Toledos 63:8.
  69. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 6; Millar, 177.
  70. ^ Southern, 242.
  71. ^ Barnes, New Empire, 51; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 73.
  72. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 6; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 73; Potter, 292, 651; Southern, 143; Williams, 52.
  73. ^ Southern, 242, 360–61.
  74. ^ Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 73; Millar, 180–81; Southern, 143; Williams, 52.
  75. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 6–7; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 70–71; Potter, 283–84; Southern, 137–41; Williams, 45–47.
  76. ^ a b Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 6–7; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 69; Potter, 282; Southern, 141–42; Williams, 47–48.
  77. ^ Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 40; Southern, 142.
  78. ^ Potter, 281; Southern, 142; following De Caesaribus 39.17.
  79. ^ Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 69; following BGU 4.1090.34.
  80. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 7; Bleckmann; Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 40; Potter, 282; Southern, 141–42; Williams, 48.
  81. ^ Potter, 649.
  82. ^ Potter, 282; Williams, 49.
  83. ^ Southern, 140.
  84. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 7; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 71; Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 40.
  85. ^ Rees, Layers of Loyalty, 31; Southern, 142–43; Williams, 50.
  86. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 7; Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 40; Southern, 143.
  87. ^ Barnes, New Empire, 255; Southern, 144.
  88. ^ a b c Potter, 285.
  89. ^ Williams, 63.
  90. ^ Southern, 144.
  91. ^ Williams, 78.
  92. ^ Panegyrici Latini 8(5)12.2; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 7, 288; Potter, 284–85, 650; Southern, 143; Williams, 55.
  93. ^ Southern, 143; Williams, 55.
  94. ^ Codex Justinianus 9.41.9; Barnes, New Empire, 51; Potter, 285, 650.
  95. ^ Codex Justinianus 6.30.6; Barnes, New Empire, 52; Potter, 285, 650.
  96. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 8; Barnes, New Empire, 52; Potter, 285.
  97. ^ Panegyrici Latini 11(3)2.4, 8.1, 11.3–4, 12.2; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 8, 288; Potter, 285, 650; Williams, 56.
  98. ^ a b Elsner, Imperial Rome, 73.
  99. ^ Panegyrici Latini 11(3)12, qtd. in Williams, 57.
  100. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 8; Potter, 285, 288.
  101. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 8–9; Barnes, New Empire, 4, 36–37; Potter, 288; Southern, 146; Williams, 64–65.
  102. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 8–9; Barnes, New Empire, 4, 38; Potter, 288; Southern, 146; Williams, 64–65.
  103. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 8–9; Williams, 67.
  104. ^ Southern, 145.
  105. ^ Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 45–46; Williams, 67.
  106. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 8–9.
  107. ^ a b Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 17–18.
  108. ^ a b Odahl, 59.
  109. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 17; Williams, 76–77.
  110. ^ Williams, 76.
  111. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 17; Odahl, 59; Southern, 149–50.
  112. ^ Carrie & Rousselle, LEmpire Romain, 163-164
  113. ^ Carrié & Rousselle, L'Empire Romain, 164
  114. ^ Williams, 77.
  115. ^ Carrié & Rousselle, L'Empire Romain, 163
  116. ^ a b Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 17.
  117. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 17. See also Southern, 160, 338.
  118. ^ DiMaio, "Domitius".
  119. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 17; DiMaio, "Domitius".
  120. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 17–18; Southern, 150.
  121. ^ a b Southern, 150.
  122. ^ Harries, 173.
  123. ^ Potter, 292; Williams, 69.
  124. ^ Williams, 69–70.
  125. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus 23.5.11; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 17; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 81; " Potter, 292; Southern, 149.
  126. ^ Eutropius 9.24–25; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 17; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 81; Millar, 177–78.
  127. ^ Millar, 177–78.
  128. ^ Potter, 652.
  129. ^ Eutropius 9.24–25; Theophanes, anno 5793; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 17; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 81; Potter, 292–93.
  130. ^ Rees, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 14.
  131. ^ Rees, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 14; Southern, 151.
  132. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 18; Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 81; Millar, 178.
  133. ^ Millar, 178; Potter, Roman Empire at Bay, 293.
  134. ^ Bowman, "Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy" (CAH), 81.
  135. ^ Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 9.6.
  136. ^ Severus to Constantine, 151, 335–36.
  137. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 18; Potter, 293.
  138. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 18; Millar, 178.
  139. ^ a b c Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 18.
  140. ^ a b c Potter, 293.
  141. ^ Millar, 178–79; Potter, Roman Empire at Bay, 293.
  142. ^ a b Millar, 178.
  143. ^ Southern, 151.
  144. ^ Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 10.1–5; Barnes, "Sossianus Hierocles", 245; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 18–19; Burgess, "Date of the Persecution", 157–58; Helgeland, "Christians and the Roman Army", 159; Liebeschuetz, 246–8; Odahl, 65.
  145. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 20; Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 51; Odahl, 54–56, 62.
  146. ^ Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 10.6, 31.1; Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 8, a1, 3; Constantine, Oratio ad Coetum Sanctum 22; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 19, 294.
  147. ^ a b Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 19.
  148. ^ Barnes, New Empire, 49; Carrié & Roussele, L'Empire Romain, 163-164
  149. ^ Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 660; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 20.
  150. ^ Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 33.1; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 20; Williams, 83–84.
  151. ^ Williams, 78–79, 83–84.
  152. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 20.
  153. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 20–21.
  154. ^ Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 10.6–11; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 21; Odahl, 67.
  155. ^ Eusebius, Vita Constantini 2.50.
  156. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 21; Odahl, 67; Potter, 338.
  157. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 22; Odahl, 67–69; Potter, 337; Southern, 168.
  158. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 22; Williams, 176.
  159. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 22; Liebeschuetz, 249–50.
  160. ^ a b Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 24; Southern, 168.
  161. ^ a b Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 24.
  162. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 23–24.
  163. ^ Treadgold, 25.
  164. ^ Southern, 168.
  165. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 39.
  166. ^ Tilley, xi.
  167. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 48–49, 208–213.
  168. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 208–213.
  169. ^ Lactantius, Divinae Institutiones 7.16–17; cf. Daniel 7:23–25; Digeser, 149–50.
  170. ^ Š. Kulišić, P. Ž. Petrović, and N. Pantelić, Српски митолошки речник (Belgrade: Nolit, 1970), 111–12.
  171. ^ Gibbon, Decline and Fall, I, 153 and 712, note 92
  172. ^ a b Potter, 341.
  173. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 24–25.
  174. ^ Panegyrici Latini 7(6)15.16; Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 20.4; Southern, 152, 336.
  175. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 25; Southern, 152.
  176. ^ Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 18.1–7; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 25; Southern, 152.
  177. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 25–27; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine," 60; Odahl, 69–72; Potter, 341–42.
  178. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 25–26.
  179. ^ Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 19.2–6; Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 26; Potter, 342.
  180. ^ Lenski, "Reign of Constantine," 60–61; Odahl, 72–74; Southern, 152–53.
  181. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 27; Southern, 152.
  182. ^ Southern, 152.
  183. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 31–32; Lenski, 65; Odahl, 90.
  184. ^ Aurelius Victor, Liber de Caesaribus 39.6.
  185. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 41.
  186. ^ Potter, 294–95.
  187. ^ Potter, 298.
  188. ^ a b Potter, 296–98.
  189. ^ Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 617, qtd. in Potter, 296.
  190. ^ Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 641, qtd. in Potter, 296.
  191. ^ Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 618, qtd. in Potter, 296. See also Millar, 182, on Tetrarchic triumphalism in the Near East.
  192. ^ Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 44–45.
  193. ^ Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 43; Potter, 290.
  194. ^ Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 171–72; Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 43; Liebeschuetz, 235–52, 240–43.
  195. ^ Potter, 290.
  196. ^ Southern, 163.
  197. ^ Southern, 153–54, 163.
  198. ^ Southern, 162–63.
  199. ^ Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 171–72; Southern, 162–63; Williams, 110.
  200. ^ Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 172, citing the Codex Justinianus 9.47.12.
  201. ^ Southern, 162–63; Williams, 110.
  202. ^ Williams, 110.
  203. ^ Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 7.3, cited in Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 173.
  204. ^ Treadgold, A History of the Byzantine State and Society, 19.
  205. ^ Roger S. Bagnall, Egypt in Late Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 66, and A.H.M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire, 284–602: A Social, Economic and Administrative Survey (Oxford: Blackwell, 1964), 594, cited in Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 173.
  206. ^ Carrié & Rouselle, L'Empire Romain, 678
  207. ^ As taken from the Laterculus Veronensis or Verona List, reproduced in Barnes, New Empire, chs. 12–13 (with corrections in T.D. Barnes, "Emperors, panegyrics, prefects, provinces and palaces (284–317)", Journal of Roman Archaeology 9 (1996): 539–42). See also: Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 9; Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 179; Rees, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 24–27.
  208. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 9; Rees, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 25–26.
  209. ^ a b c Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 10.
  210. ^ Carrié & Rousselle, L'Empire Romain, 655/666
  211. ^ Potter, 296.
  212. ^ Harries, 53–54; Potter, 296.
  213. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 9–10; Treadgold, 18–20.
  214. ^ Rees, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 25, citing Simon Corcoran, The Empire of the Tetrarchs: Imperial Pronouncements and Government A.D. 284-324 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 234–53.
  215. ^ Codex Justinianus 2.13.1, qtd. by Carrié & Rousselle, l"Empire Romain, 678.
  216. ^ Carrié & Roussele, L'Empire Romain, 678
  217. ^ Williams, 53–54, 142–43.
  218. ^ Johnston, "Epiclassical Law" (CAH), 201; Williams, Diocletian. 143.
  219. ^ Potter, 296, 652.
  220. ^ Harries, 14–15; Potter, 295–96.
  221. ^ Potter, 295–96.
  222. ^ Harries, 21, 29–30; Potter, 295–96.
  223. ^ Harries, 21–22.
  224. ^ Harries, 63–64.
  225. ^ Harries, 162.
  226. ^ Harries, 167.
  227. ^ Harries, 55.
  228. ^ Johnston, "Epiclassical Law" (CAH), 207.
  229. ^ Carrié & Rousselle, L'Empire Romain, 166
  230. ^ Campbell, "The Army" (CAH), 124–26; Southern, 154–55. See also: Rees, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 19–20; Williams, 91–101.
  231. ^ Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 171; Rees, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 27.
  232. ^ Rees, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 27.
  233. ^ Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 7.2, qtd. in Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 46.
  234. ^ Zosimus, 2.34 qtd. in Corcoran, "Before Constantine", 46.
  235. ^ Southern, 157; Treadgold, 19.
  236. ^ Treadgold, 19.
  237. ^ De Mensibus 1.27.
  238. ^ Rees, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 17.
  239. ^ Southern, 158; Treadgold, 112–13.
  240. ^ a b Southern, 159; Treadgold, 112–13.
  241. ^ a b Southern, 159.
  242. ^ a b c Treadgold, 20.
  243. ^ Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 173. See also: Rees, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 18.
  244. ^ a b Southern, 160; Treadgold, 20.
  245. ^ Potter, 333.
  246. ^ Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 9, 288; Rees, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 28–29; Southern, 159.
  247. ^ Carrié & Rousselle, l"Empire Romain, 187–188.
  248. ^ Williams, 125.
  249. ^ Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum VII, no. 1055; Millar, 193–96.
  250. ^ Brown, Rise of Christendom, 57; Williams, 123.
  251. ^ Williams, 124.
  252. ^ a b c Southern, 160.
  253. ^ a b Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 176.
  254. ^ a b Potter, 392.
  255. ^ Potter, 392–93.
  256. ^ Potter, 334, 393; Southern, 160.
  257. ^ a b Potter, 334–35.
  258. ^ Potter, 393.
  259. ^ Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 176–77.
  260. ^ Potter, 336.
  261. ^ Southern, 160, 339.
  262. ^ Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 177–78; Potter, 335; Southern, 161.
  263. ^ Potter, 335.
  264. ^ Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 178.
  265. ^ Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 177.
  266. ^ Potter, 336; Southern, 161.
  267. ^ Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum 7.6–7, cited in Cascio, "The New State of Diocletian and Constantine" (CAH), 178, and Southern, 161.
  268. ^ Potter, 336; Williams, 131–32.
  269. ^ Jones, Later Roman Empire, 40.
  270. ^ Williams, 228–29.
  271. ^ Williams, 196–98.
  272. ^ Williams, 204.
  273. ^ Williams, 205–6.
  274. ^ Williams, 207–8.
  275. ^ Williams, 206.
  276. ^ Williams, 208.
  277. ^ Williams, 218–19.

See also


Primary sources

Secondary sources

  • Banchich, Thomas M. "Iulianus (ca. 286–293 A.D.)." De Imperatoribus Romanis (1997). Accessed March 8, 2008.
  • Barnes, Timothy D. "Lactantius and Constantine." The Journal of Roman Studies 63 (1973): 29–46.
  • Barnes, Timothy D. "Two Senators under Constantine." The Journal of Roman Studies 65 (1975): 40–49.
  • Barnes, Timothy D. Constantine and Eusebius. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981. ISBN 978-0674165311
  • Barnes, Timothy D. The New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982. ISBN 0783722214
  • Bleckmann, Bruno. "Diocletianus." In Brill's New Pauly, Volume 4, edited by Hubert Cancik and Helmut Schneider, 429–38. Leiden: Brill, 2002. ISBN 9004122591
  • Bowman, Alan, Averil Cameron, and Peter Garnsey, eds. The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XII: The Crisis of Empire. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-521-30199-8
  • Brown, Peter. The Rise of Western Christendom. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0-631-22138-7
  • Burgess, R.W. "The Date of the Persecution of Christians in the Army". Journal of Theological Studies 47:1 (1996): 157–158.
  • Carrié, Jean-Michel & Rousselle, Aline. L'Empire Romain en mutation- des Sévères à Constantin, 192-337. Paris: Seuil, 1999. ISBN 2-02-025819-6
  • Corcoran, Simon. The Empire of the Tetrarchs, Imperial Pronouncements and Government AD 284–324. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. ISBN 0-19-814984-0
  • Corcoran, Simon. "Before Constantine." In The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine, edited by Noel Lenski, 35–58. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Hardcover ISBN 0-521-81838-9 Paperback ISBN 0-521-52157-2
  • Digeser, Elizabeth DePalma. Lactantius and Rome: The Making of a Christian Empire. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-8014-3594-2
  • DiMaio, Jr., Michael. "L. Domitius Domitianus and Aurelius Achilleus (ca. 296/297–ca. 297/298)." De Imperatoribus Romanis (1996c). Accessed March 8, 2008.
  • Elliott, T. G. The Christianity of Constantine the Great. Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press, 1996. ISBN 0-940866-59-5
  • Elsner, Jas. Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-284201-3
  • Gibbon, Edward. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Chicago, London & Toronto: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1952 (Great Books of the Western World coll.). In two volumes.
  • Harries, Jill. Law and Empire in Late Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Hardcover ISBN 0-521-41087-8 Paperback ISBN 0-521-42273-6
  • Helgeland, John. "Christians and the Roman Army A.D. 173-337." Church History 43:2 (1974): 149–163, 200.
  • Jones, A.H.M. The Later Roman Empire, 284–602: A Social, Economic and Administrative Survey. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1964.
  • Leadbetter, William. "Carus (282–283 A.D.)." De Imperatoribus Romanis (2001a). Accessed February 16, 2008.
  • Leadbetter, William. "Numerianus (283–284 A.D.)." De Imperatoribus Romanis (2001b). Accessed February 16, 2008.
  • Leadbetter, William. "Carinus (283–285 A.D.)." De Imperatoribus Romanis (2001c). Accessed February 16, 2008.
  • Lewis, Naphtali, and Meyer Reinhold. Roman Civilization: Volume 2, The Roman Empire. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-231-07133-7
  • Liebeschuetz, J. H. W. G. Continuity and Change in Roman Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979. ISBN 0-19-814822-4.
  • Mackay, Christopher S. "Lactantius and the Succession to Diocletian." Classical Philology 94:2 (1999): 198–209.
  • Mathisen, Ralph W. "Diocletian (284–305 A.D.)." De Imperatoribus Romanis (1997). Accessed February 16, 2008.
  • Millar, Fergus. The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.–A.D. 337. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993. Hardcover ISBN 0-674-77885-5 Paperback ISBN 0-674-77886-3
  • Odahl, Charles Matson. Constantine and the Christian Empire. New York: Routledge, 2004. Hardcover ISBN 0-415-17485-6 Paperback ISBN 0-415-38655-1
  • Potter, David S. The Roman Empire at Bay: AD 180–395. New York: Routledge, 2005. Hardcover ISBN 0-415-10057-7 Paperback ISBN 0-415-10058-5
  • Rees, Roger. Layers of Loyalty in Latin Panegyric: AD 289–307. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-19-924918-0
  • Rees, Roger. Diocletian and the Tetrarchy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-7486-1661-6
  • Rostovtzeff, Michael. The Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966. ISBN 978-0198142317
  • Southern, Pat. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine. New York: Routledge, 2001. ISBN 0-415-23944-3
  • Tilley, Maureen A. Donatist Martyr Stories: The Church in Conflict in Roman North Africa. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1996.
  • Treadgold, Warren. A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8047-2630-2
  • Williams, Stephen. Diocletian and the Roman Recovery. New York: Routledge, 1997. ISBN 0-415-91827-8

External links

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Numerian and Carinus
Roman Emperor
Served alongside: Maximian
Succeeded by
Constantius Chlorus and Galerius
Political offices
Preceded by
Carus, Carinus
Consul suffectus
284, with Bassus
Succeeded by
Carinus, T. Claudius M. Aurelius Aristobulus
Preceded by
Carus, Numerian
Consul suffectus
Succeeded by
Marcus Iunius Maximus, Vettius Aquilinus
Preceded by
Marcus Iunius Maximus, Vettius Aquilinus
287, with Maximian
Succeeded by
Maximian, Pomponius Ianuarianus
Preceded by
Marcus Magrius Bassus, Lucius Ragonius Quintianus
290, with Maximian
Succeeded by
Gaius Iunius Tiberianus, Cassius Dio
Preceded by
Afranius Hannibalianus, Julius Asclepiodotus
293, with Maximian
Succeeded by
Constantius, Galerius
Preceded by
Nummius Tuscus, Gaius Annius Anullinus
296, with Constantius
Succeeded by
Maximian, Galerius
Preceded by
Sextus Anicius Faustus Paulinus, Virius Gallus
299, with Maximian
Succeeded by
Constantius, Galerius
Preceded by
Constantius, Galerius
303, with Maximian
Succeeded by
Diocletian, Maximian
Preceded by
Diocletian, Maximian
304, with Maximian
Succeeded by
Constantius, Galerius
Preceded by
Maximinus (in the East); Maximian and Constantine (in the West)
Consul in the East and the West
308, with Galerius
From 307 to 313, different consuls are attested in the regions administered by Galerius (the East), Constantine (the West), and Maxentius (Italy). Diocletian is attested only in the domains of Constantine and Galerius.
Succeeded by
Licinius and Constantine (in the East); post consulatum X et VII (in the West)

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

DIOCLETIAN (GAIUS AURELIUS VALERIUS DIOCLETIANUS) (A.D. 245-313), Roman emperor 284-305, is said to have been born at Dioclea, near Salona, in Dalmatia. His original name was Diocles. Of humble origin, he served with high distinction and held important military commands under the emperors Probus and Aurelian, and accompanied Carus to the Persian War. After the death of Numerianus he was chosen emperor by the troops at Chalcedon, on the 17th of September 28 4, and slew with his own hands Arrius Aper, the praefect of the praetorians. He thus fulfilled the prediction of a druidess of Gaul, that he would mount a throne as soon as he had slain a wild boar (aper). Having been installed at Nicomedia, he received general acknowledgment after the murder of Carinus. In consequence of the rising of the Bagaudae in Gaul, and the threatening attitude of the German peoples on the Rhine, he appointed Maximian Augustus in 286; and, in view of further dangers and disturbances in the empire, proclaimed Constantius Chlorus and Galerius Caesars in 2 93. Each of the four rulers was placed at a separate capital - Nicomedia, Mediolanum (Milan), Augusta Trevirorum (Trier), Sirmium. This amounted to an entirely new organization of the empire, on a plan commensurate with the work of government which it now had to carry on. At the age of fifty-nine, exhausted with labour, Diocletian abdicated his sovereignty on the 1st of May 305, and retired to Salona, where he died eight years afterwards (others give 316 as the year of his death). The end of his reign was memorable for the persecution of the Christians. In defence of this it may be urged that he hoped to strengthen the empire by reviving the old religion, and that the church as an independent state over whose inner life at least he possessed no influence, appeared to be a standing menace to his authority. Under Diocletian the senate became a political nonentity, the last traces of republican institutions disappeared, and were replaced by an absolute monarchy approaching to despotism. He wore the royal diadem, assumed the title of lord, and introduced a complicated system of ceremonial and etiquette, borrowed from the East, in order to surround the monarchy and its representative with mysterious sanctity. But at the same time he devoted his energies to the improvement of the administration of the empire; he reformed the standard of coinage, fixed the price of provisions and other necessaries of daily life, remitted the tax upon inheritances and manumissions, abolished various monopolies, repressed corruption and encouraged trade. In addition, he adorned the city with numerous buildings, such as the thermae, of which extensive remains are still standing (Aurelius Victor, De Caesaribus, 39; Eutropius ix. 13; Zonaras xii. 31).

See A. Vogel, Der Kaiser Diocletian (Gotha, 1857), a short sketch, with notes on the authorities; T. Preuss, Kaiser Diocletian and seine Zeit (Leipzig, 1869); V. Casagrandi, Diocleziano (Faenza, 1876); H. Schiller, Gesch. der riimischen Kaiserzeit, ii. (1887); T. Bernhardt, Geschichte Roms von Valerian bis zu Diocletians Tod (1867); A. J. Mason, The Persecution of Diocletian (1876); P. Allard, La Persecution de Diocletien (1890); V. Schultze in Herzog-Hauck's Realencyklopcidie fiir protestantische Theologie, iv. (1898); Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chaps. 13 and 16; A. W. Hunzinger, Die Diocletianische Staatsreform (1899); O. Seeck, "Die Schatzungsordnung Diocletians" in Zeitschrift fiir Socialand Wirthschaftsgeschichte (1896), a valuable paper with notes containing references to sources; and O. Seeck, Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt, vol. i. cap. 1. On his military reforms see T. Mommsen in Hermes, xxiv., and on his tariff system, Diocletian, Edict Of.

<< Dio Chrysostom

Edict of Diocletian >>

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki


Roman Emperor and persecutor of the Church, b. of parents who had been slaves, at Dioclea, near Salona, in Dalmatia, A.D. 245; d. at Salona, A.D. 313.

He entered the army and by his marked abilities attained the offices of Governor of Mœsia, consul, and commander of the guards of the palace. In the Persian war, under Carus, he especially distinguished himself. When the son and successor of Carus, Numerian, was murdered at Chalcedon, the choice of the army fell upon Diocletian, who immediately slew with his own hand the murderer Aper (17 Sept., 284). His career as emperor belongs to secular history. Here only a summary will be given. The reign of Diocletian (284-305) marked an era both in the military and political history of the empire. The triumph which he celebrated together with his colleague Maximian (20 Nov., 303) was the last triumph which Rome ever beheld. Britain, the Rhine, the Danube, and the Nile furnished trophies; but the proudest boast of the conqueror was that Persia, the persistent enemy of Rome, had at last been subdued. Soon after his accession to power Diocletian realized that the empire was too unwieldy and too much exposed to attack to be safely ruled by a single head. Accordingly, he associated with himself Maximian, a bold but rude soldier, at first as Cæsar and afterwards as Augustus (286). Later on, he further distributed his power by granting the inferior title of Cæsar to two generals, Galerius and Constantius (292). He reserved for his own portion Thrace, Egypt, and Asia; Italy and Africa were Maximian's provinces, while Galerius was stationed on the Danube, and Constantius had charge of Gaul, Spain, and Britain. But the supreme control remained in Diocletian's hands. None of the rulers resided in Rome, and thus the way was prepared for the downfall of the imperial city. Moreover, Diocletian undermined the authority of the Senate, assumed the diadem, and introduced the servile ceremonial of the Persian court. After a prosperious reign of nearly twenty-one years, he abdicated the throne and retired to Salona, where he lived in magnificent seclusion until his death.

Diocletian's name is associated with the last and most terrible of all the ten persecutions of the early Church. Nevertheless it is a fact that the Christians enjoyed peace and prosperity during the greater portion of his reign. Eusebius, who lived at this time, describes in glowing terms "the glory and the liberty with which the doctrine of piety was honoured", and he extols the clemency of the emperors towards the Christian governors whom they appointed, and towards the Christian members of their households. He tells us that the rulers of the Church "were courted and honoured with the greatest subserviency by all the rulers and governors". He speaks of the vast multitudes that flocked to the religion of Christ, and of the spacious and splendid churches erected in the place of the humbler buildings of earlier days. At the same time he bewails the falling from ancient fervour "by reason of exccessive liberty" (Hist. Eccl., VIII, i). Had Diocletian remained sole emperor, he would probably have allowed this toleration to continue undisturbed. It was his subordinate Galerius who first induced him to turn persecutor. These two rulers of the East, at a council held at Nicomedia in 302, resolved to suppress Christianity throughout the empire. The cathedral of Nicomedia was demolished (24 Feb., 303). An edict was issued "to tear down the churches to the foundations and to destroy the Sacred Scriptures by fire; and commanding also that those who were in honourable stations should be degraded if they persevered in their adherence to Christianity" (Euseb., op. cit., VIII, ii). Three further edicts (303-304) marked successive stages in the severity of the persecution: the first ordering that the bishops, presbyters, and deacons should be imprisoned; the second that they should be tortured and compelled by every means to sacrifice; the third including the laity as well as the clergy. The atrocious cruelty with which these edicts were enforced, and the vast numbers of those who suffered for the Faith are attested by Eusebius and the Acts of the Martyrs. We read even of the massacre of the whole population of a town because they declared themselves Christians (Euseb., loc. cit., xi, xii; Lactant., "Div. Instit.", V, xi). The abdication of Diocletian (1 May, 305) and the subsequent partition of the empire brought relief to many provinces. In the East, however, where Galerius and Maximian held sway, the persecution continued to rage. Thus it will be seen that the so-called Diocletian persecution should be attributed to the influence of Galerius; it continued for seven years after Diocletian's abdication. (See PERSECUTIONS.)

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.
This article needs to be merged with DIOCLETIAN (Jewish Encyclopedia).

Simple English

Diocletian (Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus, ~245 to ~312) was Roman Emperor from 20 November 284 to 11 May 305. Diocletian ended the period known as the Crisis of the Third Century (235–284). He worked to return Rome to its former glory by making changes in key areas.

Religion: He persecuted Christians, crucifying more than any other emperor, and imposed the traditional polytheistic religion of the Romans.

Economy: Recognizing a gold drain from the western Mediterranean to the east, he tried to stop the inflation of the region by legislation. He decreed that coins could only be made of gold or silver, stopping the trend of using lead in their creation.

Military: Diocletian changed the army from the traditional garrison defense to one that placed small ouposts of soldiers permanently at the border. He recurited local soldiers from the border regions along the Rhine and Danube rivers. These soldiers farmed and lived with their families in a village atmosphere, and lit signal fires on signal towers to warn other outposts of possible incursion of Germanics from across the border. The received regular pay from Rome for their services. He allowed soldiers to move up through the ranks by the accrual of "military credits" earned by years of loyal service and by distinguishing one's self on the field of battle.


Political structure

Diocletian established a form of government known as the tetrarchy. In this, the Empire was organised into four parts, each ruled by a co-emperor. Diocletian took charge of the eastern empire. The senior co-emperor was Maximian Augustus, a fellow officer. He took charge of the western empire. Later, two junior co-emperors were added: Galerius and Constantius Chlorus.

Finally, in 305, the two senior emperors abdicated and retired, and the two juniors rose to the rank of Augustus. They in turn were supported by two juniors: Severus II in the west under Constantius, and Maximinus in the east under Galerius. In this way, the Tetrarchy showed how it could reproduce itself.


These men were from the Roman province of Illyria, several in the city of Sirmium, which would become one of the four capitals under this system. From the time of Domitian (81–96), when over half the Roman army was deployed in the Danubian regions, the Illyrian provinces had been the most important recruiting ground of the auxilia and later the legions.

In the 3rd century, Romanised Illyrians came to dominate the army's senior officer echelons. Ultimately, the Illyrian officer class seized control of the state itself.

Regions and capitals

The four Tetrarchs based themselves not at Rome but in other cities closer to the frontiers, mainly intended as headquarters for the defence of the empire against bordering rivals (notably Sassanian Persia) and barbarians (mainly Germanic, and an endless procession from the eastern steppe; many nomadic or elsewhere chased tribes) at the Rhine and Danube. These centres are known as the 'Tetrarchic capitals'.

Although Rome ceased to be the operational capital, it was still the nominal capital of the entire empire. It had its own Prefect of the City, an idea later copied in Constantinople.

The four Tetrarchic capitals were:

  • Nicomedia in northwestern Asia Minor (modern Izmit in Turkey), a base for defence against invasion from the Balkans and Persia's Sassanids was the capital of Diocletian, the eastern (and most senior) Augustus. In the final reorganisation by Constantine the Great, in 318, the domain, facing Sassanid Persia, became the pretorian prefecture Oriens 'the East', the core of later Byzantium.
  • Mediolanum (modern Milan, near the Alps) was the capital of Maximian, the western Augustus; his domain became "Italia et Africa", with only a short exterior border.
  • Augusta Treverorum (modern Trier, in Germany) was the capital of Constantius Chlorus, the western Caesar, near the strategic Rhine border, it had been the capital of Gallic emperor Tetricus I; this quarter became the prefecture Galliae.

Aquileia, a port on the Adriatic coast, and Eboracum (modern York, in northern England near the Scottish tribes), were also significant centres for Maximian and Constantius respectively.

In terms of regional jurisdiction there was no precise division between the four Tetrarchs, and this period did not see the Roman state actually split up into four distinct sub-empires. Each emperor had his zone of influence within the Roman Empire, but little more, mainly high command in a 'war theatre'. Each Tetrarch was himself often in the field, while delegating most of the administration to the hierarchic bureaucracy headed by his respective Praetorian Prefect, each supervising several Vicarii, the governors-general in charge of another, lasting new administrative level, the civil diocese. For a listing of the provinces, now known as eparchy, within each quarter (known as a praetorian prefecture), see Roman province.

In the West, the Augustus Maximian controlled the provinces west of the Adriatic Sea and the Syrtis, and within that region his Caesar, Constantius, controlled Gaul and Britain. In the East, the arrangements between the Augustus Diocletian and his Caesar, Galerius, were much more flexible.

Retirement and death

Diocletian's reforms fundamentally changed the structure of Roman imperial government, and stabilized the empire economically and militarily. This helped the empire to remain intact for another hundred years, despite having seemed near the brink of collapse in Diocletian's youth.

Weakened by illness, Diocletian left the imperial office on 1 May 305, and became the first Roman emperor to voluntarily abdicate the position.[1] He lived out his retirement in his palace on the Dalmatian coast, tending to his vegetable gardens. His palace eventually became the core of the modern-day city of Split.

Maximian attempted to return to power. Diocletian ordered him to step down permanently. Finally, Maximian was forced to commit suicide, and the tetrarchy began to unravel. Diocletian died in despair.

Other websites


  1. Barnes, Timothy D. 1981. Constantine and Eusebius. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-16531-1 25–27; Lenski, "Reign of Constantine," 60; Odahl, Charles Matson. 2004. Constantine and the Christian Empire. New York: Routledge. Hardcover ISBN 0-415-17485-6 Paperback ISBN 0-415-38655-1 69–72; Potter, David S. 2005. The Roman Empire at bay: AD 180–395. New York: Routledge. Hardcover ISBN 0-415-10057-7 Paperback ISBN 0-415-10058-5 341–42.


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address