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The History of Roman Emperor Diocletian


Diocletian was born in the year 236 AD and reigned as a Roman emperor between the years 284-305 AD during which, his reign was faced with many changes in the Roman Kingdom. Before his reign as a roman emperor, Diocletian was an army commander before becoming a consulate. During his reign, he brought to an end many disastrous happenings that had adversely affected the entire kingdom; many of which were the numerous attacks from the neighboring kingdoms. The Diocletian’ reforms are believed to be the most significant in the Roman Kingdom, which continued in the kingdom for many years (Barnes. 1982, 111-124).

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An examination of the rule and reforms of Diocletian

During his time as an emperor, Diocletian encountered many problems the major ones being to bring the outraged Roman armies back under control and to seek on how to restore the kingdom’s economic conditions. In the long-run, Diocletian longed to restore the kingdoms economic and governance conditions, which had gone too far beyond his predecessors’ control. More precisely, Diocletian sought for the prosperity of the kingdom in all aspects; and this made him to be very focused on the key factors that would initiate prosperity (Barnes. 1982, 111-124).

To be able to achieve these reforms he longed for: Diocletian first instilled a policy which was meant to separate civil careers from military ones, by dividing the army in to various defense troops. These troops were further divided into two groups where we had the ones at the border and the ones at the palace whose lead was the emperor in the reign (Arnheim. 1972, 200-230).

Diocletian also noted that the kingdom being too large and complex to be led by one emperor; needed to be divided further into smaller groups so as to provide for imperial presence throughout the entire kingdom. Following this, Diocletian introduced the ‘Rule by Four’ policy and followed the appointment of various lieutenants to rule over the entire four regions. One of the ‘lieutenants was Maximianus Caesar’ who was allocated the western portion of the territory in the time period of 285 AD.

As it came out, both Diocletian and Caesar were very religious and adopted the ruling in Religious matters. The other lieutenants were Jupiter and Hercules but were not as significant as Maximianus during the reign of Diocletian. Maximianus found favor in the eyes of Diocletian and was promoted to the rank of senior emperor, in the year 286 AD after which he nominated two new Caesars (Arnheim. 1972, 200-230).

To describe how Diocletian brought order to the Roman Empire in the late third century and the various reforms he instituted to shore up the Roman state.

Diocletian developed a very orderly way of ensuring that, all what he had planned to accomplish was fulfilled. This is shown on him targeting the key factors that could have led to such reforms effectively; whereby in his case he considered the army as the first to initiate his reforms. Once the army was properly put under control, Diocletian then followed to solve the other problems that had been facing the entire kingdom before his reign (Herald. 1935, 54-98).

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The first was the governance style, which had constantly led to failure of his predecessors as the kingdom was too large to be under one controller. This led to him dividing the kingdom into four main regions, under which he appointed Caesars to be in charge of the regions. This was successfully achieved whereby afterwards, he followed to solve the other key problem which had constantly affected the kingdom’s success in all the other aspects. The problem that needed a very immediate reform was the economic conditions, which were very pathetic during the time Diocletian came to power (Herald. 1935, 54-98).

This economic problem had gone too far to prevent any prosperity of all the other aspects in the kingdom. The currency value during that time had depreciated too much that the entire kingdom lacked the power to trade with other regions of the world, which would have enhanced positive change in the entire Roman Kingdom (Barnes. 1982, 111-124).

Various policies were formulated including ‘the maximum price edit’ whose main role was to prevent any further inflation in the kingdom. The tax systems were also reviewed and necessary revision over such systems was made. More so, barter trade was also introduced in the kingdom which led to less use of money, at which most of the civil servants and the soldiers were paid in material things (Barnes. 1982, 111-124).

Lastly Diocletian seemed to be very much interested in religion, which he believed would be an important element to bring unity within the entire kingdom. He thus actively involved and compelled Christians to take active roles in the running of state affairs, as it’s shown by him appointing various Caesars (Arnheim. 1972, 200-230).

Do you believe these reforms led to the eventual breakup of the Roman empire? Why or why not?

Diocletian reforms led to the eventual break-up of the Roman Kingdom as shown by various aspects he initiated; after which the Roman Empire did not remain the same again. Considering that, he issued very harsh laws to the Christians during that time where he was encouraged by Caesar Galerius leading to the subsequent cause of the great persecution of Christians, which started in the year 303 AD. This actually led to the lack of unity in the kingdom following its subsequent fall afterwards (Arnheim. 1972, 200-230).


Emperor Diocletian was one the major emperors in the roman kingdom who led to great reforms within the kingdom. His reign was marked by the significant inducement of various policies, which led to complete reforms of the Roman kingdom which followed its subsequent fall and break-up afterwards.

Reference List

Arnheim, Thomas. The Senatorial Aristocracy in the Later Roman Empire. Oxford: Oxford Press, 1972.

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Barnes, Timothy. The New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Herald, Hickers. The State of the Imperial Treasury at the Death of Diocletian. New York: Sutherland Publishers, 1935.

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