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Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletian (245-313), born Diocles, was Roman Emperor from November 20, 284 to May 1, 305.

An Illyrian of low birth, Diocles rose through the ranks to the consulship. He was chosen by the Army on November 20, 284 to replace Numerian and after the assassination of Carinus in July, 285 became sole ruler of the Roman Empire. He changed his name to Diocletian upon his ascension.

Diocletian felt that the system of Roman imperial government was unsustainable in the face of internal pressures and a military threat on two fronts. He gave Maximian the title of Caesar, which was the traditional form in which an emperor (Augustus) designated a successor. However, Diocletian soon made Maximian an Augustus as well. The imperial power was now divided between two people. Diocletian's sphere of influence was the east, and Maximian's the west.

The two men established separate capitals, neither of which was at Rome. The ancient capital was too far removed from the places where the empire's fate was decided by force of arms. While improving the ability of the two emperors to rule the empire, the division of power further marginalized the Senate, which remained in Rome.

In 292, Diocletian and Maximian each appointed a Caesar (Galerius and Constantius, respectively). However, these were not merely successors - each was given authority over roughly a quarter of the empire. This form of government is known to historians as the Tetrarchy.

Considering that during the half-century preceding Diocletian's ascension the empire had been in a constant state of simmering civil war, with (according to one scholar) a new emperor every two and a half years on average, it is remarkable that the Tetrarchy did not immediately fall apart due to the greed of any one of the four emperors. The opportunistic nature of Roman imperial politics did eventually cause the disintegration of the Tetrarchy and the reinstitution of one-man rule, but this was not until the 320s.

In 301, Diocletian attempted to curb the rampant inflation of the 3rd century, and issued his Edict on Maximum Prices. This Edict fixed prices for over a thousand goods, fixed wages, and threatened the death penalty to merchants who overcharged. It was unable to stop the inflation and was eventually ignored, but it is an important document for an understanding of Roman economics.

In 303, the last and greatest persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire began, although Galerius carried it out more avidly than Diocletian himself. This wave of persecution lasted until 311.

In 305, Diocletian retired to his palace near the administrative center of Salona on the Adriatic Sea. The palace later became the seed of modern Split, Croatia. He was the only Roman emperor to remove himself from office; all of the others either died of natural causes or were removed by force.

Dioceses of Diocletian

Name Territories
Oriens Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Cilicia
Pontus Cappadocia, Armenia Minor, Galatia, Bithynia
Asia (Asiana) Asia, Phrygia, Pisidia, Lycia, Lydia, Caria
Thrace Moesiae Moesia Inferior, Thrace
Moesia Moesia Superior, Dacia, Epirus, Macedonia, Thessaly, Achaea, Dardania
Africa Tripolitana, Africa Proconsularis, Numidia, part of Mauretania
Hispania Mauretania Tingitana, Baetica, Lusitania, Tarraconensis
Prov. Viennensis Narbonensis, Aquitania, Viennensis, Alpes Maritimae
Gallia Lugdunensis, Germania Superior, Germania Inferior, Belgica
Britannia Britannia, Caesariensis
Italia Liguria, Venetia, Alpes Cottiae, Alpes Graiae, Raetia
Pannonia Pannonia Inferior, Pannonia Superior, Noricum, Dalmatia
Suburbicaria Umbria, Campania, Sicilia, Corsica, Sardinia

External links

Preceded by:
Roman Emperor
with Maximian
Succeeded by:
Constantius Chlorus
and Galerius'''