Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus (245-316 CE) brought an end to decades of crisis and anarchy in the Roman Empire when he became emperor in 284.

He was born somewhere on the Dalmatian coast in humble conditions. Originally his name was Diocles. The times were chaotic with ever changing emperors, and Diocles sought a career in the military. He was a able and successful commander, and in 284 he was acclaimed emperor by the soldiers. He changed his name into Diocletian at that occasion.

Diocletian started what was basically a military despotic rule. He introduced the tetrachy with two emperors with the title “Augustus”, one for the east and one for the west, and each adopted a successor, with the title “Caesar”. This scheme was intended to assure the empire would never be without emperor and that the line of succession would be certain and indisputable. The co-emperor of Diocletian was Maximianus Herculius, and the Caesars were Constantius (father of Constantine I) and Galerius. This divistion of powers led to the de facto division of the empire.

The tetrachy worked well, and in line with its intentions Diocletian retired in 305 and forced his co-ruler Maximianus Herculius to do the same, and power passed to the Caesars who in turn elected new Caesars. Diocletian went to live the last years of his life in a palace he had constructed near Split in Dalmatia.


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