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Diocletian 

During the years 284 to 305 AD where he can be found listed on the Bible Timeline with World History, Diocletian served as the emperor of Rome. While his family was not of great nobility, he was able to rise and gain success when he pursued a career in the military. Under the reign of Emperor Carus, Diocletian served as a cavalry commander. When Carus died, Diocletian started his rule as the new emperor. Although Carinus, the son of Carus, tried to claim this position, he died from his defeat during the Battle of the Margus. Hence, Diocletian decided to strengthen his empire, and this ended the “Crisis of the Third Century“.

In 293 AD, Diocletian decided to appoint some people to be his co-emperors including Constantius and Galerius. He wanted each of his co-emperors to rule over the empire’s four divisions. Emperor Diocletian decided to secure the borders of the Roman Empire further and prevent rebels from penetrating it. He was successful in defeating the Carpi and Sarmatians, which occurred in his campaigns during 285 or 299 AD. Other victorious fights were against Egypt and Alamanni.

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Diocletian_Palace
‘Reconstruction of the Palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian in its original appearance upon completion in 305, by Ernest Hébrard’

With the help of Galerius, Diocletian was able to succeed in fighting against Sassanid, Persia. Ctesiphon, its capital, was also conquered by the empire through the initiatives of Diocletian. In fact, he was able to make certain negotiations with his opponents, and this allowed him to gain long-term peace in his empire. Eventually, Diocletian decided to separate the military and civil services of the empire, and this helped strengthen while improving the different aspects of the Roman Empire’s bureaucratic government. Various places also had their own administrative centers including Trier, Antioch, Mediolanum and Nicomedia, these centers were now much closer to the frontiers of the empire. Thus, the emperor became more focused on becoming an autocrat. He did everything he could to promote the success of the empire through more construction projects, engaging in more campaigns, and promoting military and bureaucratic growth. Imperial taxation during his reign also became standardized beginning about 297 AD.

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‘The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883)’

Challenges

There were some challenges that made it difficult for Diocletian to undertake all of his plans. For instance, his Edict on Maximum Prices ended up being counterproductive which failed to achieve positive results that he expected. Furthermore, the tetrarchic system that Diocletian established soon collapsed. Lastly, the Diocletianic Persecution that took place in 303 to 311 AD was not able to gain any success in destroying the Christian community of the empire. This was the largest and most gruesome persecution directed to Christians. In fact, the empire took Christianity as its preferred religion under the rule of Constantine.

Although there were failures along the way, Diocletian had several reforms that delivered massive changes on the imperial government of Rome. These changes also made the empire’s economy and military become more stable and stronger.

In 305, Diocletian decided to leave the imperial office due to a severe illness. He was the very first Roman emperor in history who left the position voluntarily.

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