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    Mediterranean Chronology

    The Emperor Diocletian



    Much of the evidence on the early life of Diocletian has been regarded with skepticism because of the poor credibility of early sources, and because of the false teachings presented by various historians.a What we do know about this Roman Emperor was that he spent much of his life in military camps and rose in the ranks of the Roman Army until he was connected with the co-emperors of Rome, Carinus and Numerian. Some sources state that he was the commander of the emperor's personal bodyguard.b

    Regardless of specific position, Diocletian rose to power through interesting circumstances. During a war with the Persians, Numerian was killed and Diocletian was made Emperor by the troops of the Roman Army. The man who supposedly killed the Emperor went by the name of Aper, which means "boar". This was significant for Diocletian because as a young soldier a prophesy was made that he would be made emperor after he had killed a boar. Thus, Diocletian felt this vision legitimated his rule as Emperor. Though Numerian was dead, Carinus still stood in Diocletian's way of becoming Emperor. However, Carinus's own troops turned on him and killed him. Thus, in 285 AD, Diocletian became the sole Emperor of Rome.

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    When Diocletian became ruler, the empire had been the product of many years of chaos and instability. Diocletian sought to change this. Through political restructuring and reform, he began to re-establish partial balance and peace in the Empire.

    Diocletian's first order of business was to restructure the current form of political rule. While the Roman Empire was too large to govern alone, Diocletian formed a tetrarchy. His first co-emperor was Maximian, whom he regarded as a faithful friend and military leader.a Both Emperor's adopted the title "Augustus", with Maximian ruling the Western half of the Empire. Two "Caesars", Constantius and Galerius, were assigned to rule their designated areas and would be under the authority of the Augustusi.c

    Once the political system had been set in place, Diocletian began to structure economic, social, military, and religious reform. Diocletian realigned the military and reduced an individuals term to 20 years of service. He centralized mobile troops in the capital and sent local troops out to the fringes of the Empire. Economically, Diocletian began to restore coinage as well as institute new taxes on both property and individuals. He began to contract many new buildings and various architects.d Socially, he tried to preserve ancient Roman virtues and sought to institute some morality in family and marriage relationships. Diocletian also placed great emphasis on justice and truth and the process by which one achieved these things. Along with these social reforms, Diocletian began religious reform which manifested itself in the persecution of the Christian faith. He sought to restore the Roman religion and found Christianity to be a threat to the peace of the Roman state.a This desire to stamp out the Christian religion caused him to issue edicts in AD 303 calling for the destruction of all Christian places of worship and written materials as well as the execution of Christians. This persecution of the Christian faith seemed to be a catalyst for the religion to spread even more rapidly. e

    In 305 Diocletian abdicated his throne and lived the remainder of his life at his palace at Split on the Croatian Coast. He died there in December of 316 A.D. He had lived his career as emperor instituting new reforms and more permanent political strategies. Though the Roman Empire was about to fall away within the next 100 years Diocletian did his best to perpetuate the Empire during his profitable reign.a



    bDiocletian, Roman Emperor A.D. 284-305.

    cDe Imperatoribus Romanis.

    dDiocletian the Builder, and the Decline of Agriculture.

    eThe Ecole Glossary.

    Illustration from Jay's Roman History, Coins, and Technology Back Pages


    Diocletian. http://cyberschool.4j.Lane.edu/About/History/1995-1996/GlobalHistory/GlobalHistoryMaterials/Cybertexts/Dioc

    Diocletian, Roman Emperor A.D. 284-305. http://myron.sjsu.edu/romeweb/EMPCONT/E176.HTM

    De Imperatoribus Romanis. http://www.salve.edu/~dimaiom/dioclet.html

    Diocletian the Builder, and the Decline of Agriculture.http://www.uiuc.edu/SDG/Experimental/split/builder.html

    The Ecole Glossary. http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/~ecoleweb/glossary/diocletian.html

    Medieval Sourcebook:Diocletian:Edicts Against the Christians.http:www.iupui.edu/~kcutler/351rdg03.html

    Diocletian, 245-313 A.D. http://interoz.com.egypt.33dyn16.htm

    Edited by: Laura D. Kuster
    Researched by: Jane K Karlsson
    Written by: Kara E Bettin
    May 7, 1998

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