Who Was Diocletian?

Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus

Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus famously known as Diocles was born on 22nd December AD 240 in Dalmatia, present day Croatia.  He was born in a poor family that had low status in the community. It is believed that his father was a former slave. However, this did not deter his determination to succeed in life and uplift the status of his family.

In fact, after the death of the Emperor Carus and his son Numerian, Diocles achieved a high position in the military. He was appointed as the successor of Numerian and ruled from 284 to 305 AD. Previously, he was the cavalry commander of Emperor Carus and his son. He was the commander of the imperial bodyguard.

He was thus seen as the most appropriate person to revenge the death of Numerian in November AD 284, during a campaign in Persia. Numerian death was caused by Arrius Aper. Under his command, Diocles sentenced Aper to death and even personally executed him before his troops. However, Diocles Emperor Title did not go uncontested. Carus’s other son, Carinus, also claimed the title. He argued that it was rightfully his by birth. Both fought for the title at the Battle of Margus, where Diocles won.

Under his command, Diocles led his empire to subsequent negotiations that resulted to favorable and lasting peace. He established stability to the disarray in the Roman Empire. In addition, Diocletian introduced ‘tetrarchie’ way of ruling into the empire (three people sharing the same ruling power so as to curb one person having too much power). He was thus referred to as ‘restorer of the world’ and the ‘soldier emperors’.

What Led to His Fame?

Under his reign Diocletian initiated a series of reforms, which enabled him to successfully rule his empire. His first reform included the division of the Roman Empire into two sections (Eastern and Western led by two Augusti), which were further subdivided to be ruled by Caesars. This perfectly aided in execution of appropriate administrative, as well as succession rule.

As a result, Diocletian was able to curb civil war that had previously plagued the empire since 191 AD, preventing its development. The civil war was caused by lack of an appropriate mechanism to elect the preceding Augustus and Caesar. However with the division of the empire, after the death of an Augustus, Caesars would take their position and then select a preceding Caesar of their choice.

Next, Diocletian reformed the army. He divided it into two parts; a garrison army filled by auxiluries and field army filed by legions. This resulted to a better interaction and relationship between the legions and auxiluries. In addition, he changed some of the equipment and armor used by the army to make them more mobile and thus easier to handle. In respect to the low population, Diocletian lowered the standards of filling the army ranks so as to attain the appropriate numbers.

Also, Diocletian managed to stop the economic rot that had grappled the Roman Empire. To achieve this he had to freeze the structure of the society. He bound farmers to their lands by ensuring the farmers and their children stuck to that occupation. The same case applied to other professions, craftsmen and their children were tied to their trade. Whatever occupation fathers’ were indulged in, their children too had to follow the same line of career. This played a big role in ensuring economic stability.

Furthermore, he set standards that determined the price of products in the market including food stuff, as well as wages. Skilled tradesmen, humbled laborers, senior managers and craftsmen each were paid wages in respect to their line of duty. On the same hand, he heavily taxed people and debased the coinage. People were supposed to exchange their gold, silver, copper and bronze coinage with the debased coinage. This enabled the empire to make more money and acquire more wealth. In a nut shell, Diocletian restored the prestige of the Roman Emperor, improved its economy, built bureaucracy, established Tetrarchy to insure a line of succession for emperor and supervised law courts.

Lastly, Diocletian is highly known for leading the most severe persecution against Christians. In fact, the persecution was so intense that Christians decided to burn down his place (though he survived the incident). In 305 AD Diocles retired to a villa he had built at Stalapo, which was heavily fortified. It was designed in a square shape. The radiance of it beauty attracted a mammoth of visitors. In 311 Ad Diocles died leaving behind an unbreakable legacy.

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