History, Facts and Information about Diocletian
The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about the Emperor Diocletian and the all-powerful Caesars who ruled the empire of Ancient Rome. The word "Caesar" was originally the name of the famous aristocratic patrician family of ancient Rome and became synonymous with the Roman Emperors. Refer to the comprehensive List of Roman Emperors for the names of the most famous Romans, their dynasties and the historic eras of all the Roman Emperors and usurpers. Read about the life of Diocletian who can be described or remembered as:
"The Emperor who split the Roman Empire..."
Short Biography about the life of Diocletian
Short Biography profile and facts about one of the most famous Romans of all, in the life of Diocletian, Emperor of Rome and provinces of the Roman Empire.
- Name commonly known as: Diocletian
- Latin Roman Name: Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus
- Reigned as Roman Emperor / Caesar: November 20, 284 – April 1, 286 (alone) April 1, 286 – May 1, 305 (as Augustus of the East, with Maximianus (Maximian) as Augustus of the West)
- Appointed two Caesars to assist in the control of the Empire: Galerius who controlled the legions of the Danube and Constantius who controlled Britain, Spain and Gaul
- Usurpers during the reign of Diocletian: Carausius, Allectus and Domitius Domitianus
- Dynasty / Historical Period: In 285 the Roman Empire was split in half by Diocletian - The Western Roman Empire and the other half became known as the Eastern Roman Empire or the Byzantine Empire.
- Place and Date of Birth: Diocletian was born December 22, 244 in Dioclea, near Salonae (near Split)
- Name of previous Emperor: His predecessor or the Emperor before Diocletian was Carinus
- Family connections / Genealogy - Diocletian was the son of slaves
- Place and Date of Death: Diocletian died on December 3, 311in the port of Spalatum (Split, Croatia) where Diocletian had retired in 305
- Name of next Emperor: The successors to Diocletian were Constantius Chlorus and Galerius
The Legend of Diocletian
The legend surrounding the rise of Diocletian is as follows: A Dalmatian soldier named Diocles had been told by a witch that he should become Emperor by the slaughter of a boar. He became a great hunter, but no wild boar that he killed seemed to bring him nearer to the purple, till, when the army was fighting on the Tigris, the Emperor Numerianus died, and an officer named Aper offered himself as his successor. Aper is the Latin for a boar, and Diocles, perceiving the scope of the prophecy, thrust his sword into his rival's breast, and was hailed Emperor by the legions. He lengthened his name out to Diocletianus (later shortened to Diocletian), to sound more imperial.
Interesting facts about the life of Diocletian
Obtain a fast overview of the times of the Roman Emperor Diocletian from the following facts and information about his life. Why was Diocletian famous? Accomplishments, achievements and important events. Diocletian began to reign A.D. 284 and once more revived the declining Roman empire. His parents had been the slaves of a Roman Senator and he had himself risen from this low station to the highest positions in the army. Diocletian acted with generosity toward the servants of the former emperor Carinus, not only allowing them to remain in safety under his rule, but even to retain their offices. Diocletian introduced an Eastern pomp into his court, assumed the titles of "Lord and Emperor," and wore a diadem set with pearls. His robes were of silk and gold. He required his subjects to prostrate themselves before him, and to adore him as a divinity.
Diocletian - The Roman Empire is split into East and West - The Diarchy
Finding the empire too large to be governed by a single ruler, Diocletian selected as his colleague General Maximian, a brave, but fierce and ignorant soldier, who, like himself, had risen to a high rank in the army. He therefore created the Diarchy ('the rule of two'). Maximian, however, always admitted the intellectual superiority of Diocletian. The emperor assumed the title of Jovius, and Maximian that of Herculius.
Diocletian - The Tetrarchy
A Tetrarchy (Greek meaning "leadership of four people") is a system of government where power is divided between four individuals. The first Tetrarchy was instituted by Emperor Diocletian in 293 and lasted until c. 313. Diocletian appointed two Caesars, Constantius and Galerius, to aid Diocletian and his co-emperor in the defence of the empire. Augustus Diocletian and his Caesar, Galerius controlled the East. Augustus Maximian and his Caesar, Constantius controlled the West. The Roman Empire was divided between the four princes, the Tetrarchy.
- Diocletian was Augustus of the East: Ruling Asia, Egypt and Thrace
- Galerius: Controlled the legions of the Danube
- Maximian was Augustus of the West: Ruling Italy and Africa
- Constantius: Britain, Spain and Gaul
Diocletian - Reasons for creating the Tetrarchy
The Tetrarchy was created by Diocletian for the following reasons:
To provide a stronger foundation for the rule of the co-emperors
To govern and manage the huge Roman Empire
To limit any possible fighting over the succession to the throne
Diocletian - The Split of the Roman Empire
The split of the Roman Empire provides a clear view of the immense extent of the Roman power and how its commanders were, almost at the same moment, struggling successfully against its enemies in Africa, Britain, Germany, and the East. The four rulers seemed to have worked together in harmony, but the establishment of four courts in different parts of the empire obliged them to increase the taxes, and every province suffered under new impositions. Even Italy, which had always been favored in regard to taxes, was now heavily burdened, and everywhere lands were abandoned and left uncultivated because their owners could not pay the taxes.
Diocletian, Rebellions and Usurpers
In A.D. 287 a rebellion occurred in Gaul, which was suppressed by Maximian; soon after, Carausius, having become master of Britain, and possessing a considerable fleet, defied the power of the emperor; but when Constantius was appointed Caesar he prepared to reduce the island to subjection. In A.D. 294 Carausius was put to death by Allectus, a new usurper. Constantius now crossed the Channel and recovered the island, which, after a separation of ten years, was once more reunited to the empire. During this reign the Goths, Vandals, and other northern barbarians wasted their strength in destructive contests with each other; but whenever, in intervals of peace, they invaded the Roman territory, they were driven back by the strength of the two Caesars. In 296 AD Galerius, added Persia including Mesopotamia to the Roman empire
Diocletian and Egypt
Maximian, in the mean time, subdued a revolt in Africa and Diocletian himself suppressed one of those seditions to which Egypt was constantly exposed. The emperor besieged Alexandria for eight months, cut off the aqueducts which conveyed water to the city, and, having taken it, put many thousands of its citizens to death. One remarkable edict which he now published forbade the study of alchemy in Egypt, and ordered all books upon that subject to be burned. He also made a treaty with the Nubians, in order to protect the frontiers of Egypt.
Diocletian - The Last Triumph
The two emperors returned to Rome and celebrated their Triumph November 20, A.D. 303, the last spectacle of the kind which the world has witnessed. In the last triumph, the two emperors were attended by the spoils of Africa and Britain, of the East and the West.
The Persecution of the Christians and the Edict of Diocletian
The Emperor Diocletian mounted some of the fiercest Christian persecutions of the early Church especially in the East of the Empire. Diocletian passed laws or Edicts to force people who lived in the Roman Empire to worship the ancient gods of the Romans. The persecution of Christians began A.D. 303, and continued for nearly ten years. The laws eased in 311 when the general edict of toleration was issued. The following link provides details of the Edicts of Diocletian and the persecution of Christians.
Persecution of Christians
So many Christians perished that the emperors boasted that they had totally eliminated the sect. Many Christian Martyrs were later canonised. Details of these Saints, their tortures and deaths are detailed in the following section:
Lives and Deaths of Catholic Saints
The Abdication of Diocletian
In A.D. 305 Diocletian decided to abdicate his power, having persuaded his colleague Maximian to do the same: he lived in retirement for nine years, and amused himself cultivating his garden. "I wish you would come to Salona" (Spalatro), Diocletian wrote to Maximian, who sought to draw him from his retirement, "and see the cabbages I have planted: you would never again mention to me the name of empire." But the close of his life was embittered by the ingratitude of Constantine and Licinius, and the dangers of the empire. It is not known whether Diocletian died by disease or by his own hand. Upon the abdication of Diocletian and his colleague, the two Caesars, Constantius and Galerius, assumed the title of Augustus.
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Map of the Roman Empire c395AD illustrating the power of the Emperor