Diocletian (actually Diocles , ancient Greek Διοκλῆς ; full name Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus ; * between 236 and 245 in Dalmatia ; † around 312 in Spalatum ) was Roman emperor from 284 to 305 . The Diocletian era begins with his accession to the throne .
Diocletian introduced reforms through which the Roman Empire finally overcame the imperial crisis of the 3rd century and the time of the soldier emperors ended. The most important reforms were carried out in the area of administration, including a major reform of the provincial system. Diocletian introduced the tetrarchy model of rule . While the administrative reforms led to a bureaucratization that persisted and even increased throughout the rest of late antiquity , the tetrarchical system collapsed soon after Diocletian's abdication.
With the reign of Diocletian, ancient historical research traditionally connects a turning point due to his extensive reform work, which was continued and completed by Constantine : the era of the Principate ends and late antiquity begins.
Early Years and the Establishment of the Tetrarchy
Diocletian was born around 240 in the Latin-speaking part of Illyria (perhaps in Dioclea near Solin ); There are different statements between 236 and 245. He apparently came from a simple background; according to Eutrop , he was either the son of a scribe or the freedman of a senator named Anullinus. The latter also indicates the Epitome de Caesaribus , which also states that Diocletian graced his maiden name - probably Diocletius after mother or place of birth - in Diocles (Graium nomen) . He was married to Prisca .
Diocletian had served himself up to commander of the guard unit protectores domestici (the imperial bodyguard) in the army when he was proclaimed Roman emperor on November 20, 284 in Nicomedia , after Emperor Numerian had mysteriously met his death. He then changed his name to Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus . Immediately after being proclaimed imperator and elevated to princeps , he is said to have killed his rival Aper with his own hand. In the spring of 285 he met the army of the legitimate Emperor Carinus , the older brother and co-emperor of his predecessor Numerian, in the Battle of Margus . Although Diocletian's army was defeated, Carinus was murdered by his own people after the battle for unclear reasons. With his death, Diocletian was the undisputed ruler of the empire - and was now confronted with its problems.
The Roman Empire was ravaged by crises in the 3rd century (especially around 260) . In spite of Aurelian's successes , the foreign policy situation was still alarming, especially since one ruler alone could not possibly be in all hot spots at the same time. The soldiers tended to proclaim victorious generals as emperors, which had led to numerous usurpations . Diocletian responded to these problems by establishing the system of rule of tetrarchy , in which two senior emperors ( Augusti ) and two lower emperors ( Caesares ) ruled over a separate part of the empire, but laws were passed on behalf of the entire college. In this way a member of the imperial college could always stay near the fighting troops on the Rhine, the Danube and the Euphrates, which reduced the danger of usurpation.
Diocletian developed this system step by step. In 285 (when exactly is controversial) he appointed his old comrade Maximian as Caesar , and on April 1, 286, finally as Augustus . Maximian was supposed to rule the west while Diocletian ruled the east. However, Diocletian was the senior partner and Maximian was superior to auctoritas . Diocletian took the name Iovius (roughly synonymous with "descendant of the god Jupiter "), while Maximian called himself Herculius . Thus the empire was also sacred cemented, with Diocletian emphasizing his leadership role. Research has disputed whether the further expansion to the rule of four was already planned at this point in time. The accusation, partly expressed in older research, that Diocletian founded the principle that the emperor is dominus et deus (“Lord and God”) is incorrect, however, since the address was given earlier, among others by Domitian , shows up. It is correct, however, that Diocletian emphasized the sacred dignity of the emperor and emphasized his absolute claim to power.
In 293 two Caesares were appointed as sub-emperors: Constantius Chlorus for the west, Galerius for the east. Both were adopted by the Augusti , and Galerius married Diocletian's daughter, Galeria Valeria . The choice was practical: both Constantius and Galerius were experienced soldiers and were able to do their job of securing the external borders of the empire. Constantine , the son of Constantius, was supposed to end the system of tetrarchy and return to the dynastic principle, which also had many followers in the army (as Constantine's rising as the emperor shows), without, however, abandoning the concept of multiple emperorship.
Securing the empire
Galerius finally took action against the New Persian Sassanid Empire , Rome's great opponent in the east. After a first setback, after which the angry Diocletian allegedly let his Caesar cover a distance on foot, he was able to decisively defeat the Sassanids in 297 (according to others only 298) at Satala , whereupon Great King Narseh had to ask for peace. The peace of Nisibis brought Rome rich territorial expansion in Mesopotamia with Nisibis and five provinces on the other side of the Tigris , whereby the Roman Mesopotamia was secured with fortifications. Whether the Romans really behaved as modestly with this treaty as many researchers believe is questionable. For the Persians, the Roman advance over the Tigris was unacceptable in the long run, only after the abandonment of these areas as a result of the Treaty of 363 the situation should calm down again (see also the Roman-Persian Wars in general ).
While Galerius fought against the Sassanids, Diocletian was able to put down a revolt in Egypt . The leaders of this rebellion were Lucius Domitius Domitianus and a man named Achilles . Almost nothing is known about both of them, but Diocletian was only able to end this uprising, which perhaps had broken out as a result of the new tax edict, by drawing together large contingents of troops; Alexandria probably capitulated in the spring of 298. Because of the threat to the southern border of Egypt from the Blemmyes , Diocletian moved the border back to the first cataract ; then he went back to the Persian border. The special importance of Africa for Diocletian is also shown in the fact that after the unification of the Roman coin system with a few motifs on the reverse (the obverse showed the portraits of the emperors), coins were minted that commemorate his visit to Carthage , on which one personified Carthage holds fruits or fruit baskets in both hands.
All in all, the system of tetrarchy had proven itself; It was a great success after the empire had seen a new emperor every two and a half years on average for the previous half century and had been constantly on the brink of civil war and had had difficulty in warding off the dangers of foreign policy. Successes were also recorded on the Rhine, for example against the Alamanni , Franks and other Germanic tribes, although the sources hardly give any details. Britain, which had briefly broken away from the empire (see Carausius ), was regained in 296.
Diocletian initiated far-reaching reforms. Many of them, however, can not accurately determine whether they do not just by his successors, especially I. Constantine , were carried out. Among other things, the provinces were made smaller in an administrative reform , which almost doubled their number, and the system of dioceses (large contiguous administrative units) was introduced. The civil administration was consistently separated from the military, a division that was typical of the whole of late antiquity. The new tax system of the Capitatio-Iugatio was also introduced. There was a stronger bond between the peasants and their land (clod bond), which was probably no reason for the uprisings of the so-called Bagauden , as these had already broken out earlier (around 270).
Overall, there was increased tax pressure and a centralization and bureaucratization of the administration, which was completely untypical for the principate , which is why the late antiquity as a whole wanted to stamp the label of a “coercive state” ( Dominat ), but this is not tenable in this sharpness . From an objective point of view, this “bureaucratization” was very moderate compared to modern states; The complaint in the sources about the increasing tax pressure is likely to be at least partly subjective. Above all, the reforms were supposed to guarantee better administration and flowing tax revenues, without which securing the empire was unthinkable: Since the external conditions had changed, the empire had to adapt to them.
The army was also reformed: the number of legions was increased from 33 to around 70, but at the same time their team strength was reduced to a maximum of 2000. Most of the legions were sometimes only around 1000 strong. The borders were systematically fortified. In addition, Diocletian perhaps expanded the proportion of the movement army ( Comitatenses ), the importance of the cavalry increased and was further promoted under Constantine.
All of these measures earned Diocletian the reputation of being the great reformer of the Roman state who stabilized the empire after the imperial crisis. He deserves this praise with good reason: His administrative reform was groundbreaking and laid the foundation for the late Roman state. However, it was probably less about creating something completely new than about putting the old on a new basis and securing it.
Diocletian's spirit of reform is also evident in the area of legislative development. At his instigation, two legal books were created which remained of great importance well beyond late antiquity, the codices Gregorianus and Hermogenianus . Both found their way into the Justinian legislation ( Codex Iustinianus , Digest ) and ultimately flowed into the later so-called Corpus iuris civilis . They not only gave up outdated legal institutions (especially the form process ) and replaced them with modern legal and judicial instruments , but also entire legal class systems, such as the iura honorarium and gentium , which originated from republican times. On the other hand, Diocletian took a tradition-conscious point of view, because he respected the highly developed, especially high-class , legal literature very much. However, he put a stop to excessive legal opinions and restricted them to a few authorities .
Diocletian's great reforms also included his coin reforms, especially the first in AD 294. The monetary system was standardized for the entire empire. The so-called provincial coins , such as those for the province of Egypt ( Alexandrian coins ), were abandoned. At the same time, a completely new coin system was introduced. The main coin, which is now known as the Antoninian , was replaced by a coin which is now known as the Follis or Nummus. The follis was a much larger coin that was supposed to counteract the previous inflation by constantly reducing its size and weight. Parts of the follis were also embossed. The major coin reform of AD 294 was followed by a smaller one, in which the ratio of the follis to the larger denominations , the argenteus and the aureus, was readjusted. Standardized markings were now minted on the coins, with which it was possible to verify where, when and by whom the respective coins were minted in order to ensure a uniform standard. The variety of motifs on the coins continued to decline. While the earlier Antoniniane often showed the Concordia on the reverse , from which Diocletian received a globe, the new Folles predominantly show the Roman genius with a sacrificial bowl and a cornucopia in his hands.
The inflation turned Diocletian his Edict on Maximum Prices contrary. The edict issued at the end of 301, in which maximum prices were set for goods and labor, is inscribed. It determined uniform prices for agricultural products, handicrafts and services for the entire empire. Violation of these price and wage regulations could face the death penalty. The lowest daily wages were set for shepherds and farm laborers.
There is controversial debate among researchers as to whether the edict achieved its goal or represented a defeat for Diocletian: Since the prices for handicrafts were very high, the poorer population in particular suffered from the edict. Since neither the different economic conditions in the individual provinces nor the transport routes were taken into account, the edict soon lost its importance and had no greater overall effect. It has never been formally overridden.
However, some researchers suspect that the edict was only intended to serve one limited goal from the outset, such as stabilizing market prices by preventing rampant price increases. This is underpinned by the fact that the specified maximum prices were partly above the then current market prices. In connection with the coin reforms of 293 and 301, it can also be viewed as successful.
Today, "by far the most important inscription of late antiquity" is an important source for economic history.
On February 23, 303 Diocletian initiated the last and most brutal wave of the Roman persecution of Christians in the new imperial capital Nicomedeia in Asia Minor by proclaiming an edict of persecution. The persecution of Christians was probably primarily due to the political theology of the tetrarchy: according to the traditional Roman view, state and religion were inseparable. A claim to exclusivity as in Christianity was therefore not accepted.
The persecution, which was pursued with varying degrees of intensity by the individual emperors (less harsh in the west than in the east), lasted until 311 and ended with the recognition of Christianity when it became clear that this could not be eliminated. Likewise was Manichaeism of Diocletian tackle. Since he saw the divinely derived authority of interpretation only with the emperor, he did not want to leave ideological attempts at explanation to the Manichaeans and took legal action against them. His Manichean edict threatened the followers with death if the doctrine spread and the subsequent confiscation of their property. The rescript was successively inlet to the Codex Gregorianus and besides preface to the Mosaicarum et Romanarum legum collatio , so it gives precise information today.
Soon after Diocletian's retreat into private life on May 1, 305 - he was the only Roman emperor to leave office voluntarily - it turned out that the system of tetrarchy had been held together primarily by his authority. As early as 306, after the death of Constantius, the first problems appeared. In 308 Diocletian had to intervene again in politics: In Carnuntum , under his chairmanship, an imperial congress between the Augusti Maximian and Galerius took place in order to end the disputes that had broken out, but without lasting success. The successors waged several civil wars in the following years, until in 324 with Constantius' son Constantine again a single chief emperor ( Augustus ) was able to prevail. However, Constantine also held fast to the principle of multiple empire by raising his sons to Caesares . Until the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476/80, there was almost always more than one emperor in the Roman Empire . The Diocletian system of tetrarchy, however, was not renewed.
The fact that his help was sought in 308 shows that Diocletian enjoyed the highest esteem ( auctoritas ) even after 305 . Apparently he continued to claim the insignia of an emperor. He spent the last years of his life in a huge palace that he had built near his birthplace Aspalathos (today Split / Spalato ) in Dalmatia. He probably died in 312 or soon after - in the sources 312, 313 and 316 are mentioned - thus survived his three former co-emperors Constantius († 306), Maximian († 310) and Galerius († 311).
The sources of the Diocletian-Constantinian period in general are rather poor. Contemporary works of profane history are completely absent. It is known, however, that the Egyptian Soterichos , for example, wrote an enkomion for Diocletian , which has been lost except for a few fragments. It is possible that Diocletian was also mentioned in the works of Bemarchios and Praxagoras of Athens , which are also lost today ; At least in the case of Praxagoras this should be probable, if one follows the summary of the Byzantine scholar Photios . Above all, it is questionable whether a rich historiography was pursued in the Diocletian-Constantinian period; the majority of research does not assume, at least for the Latin West, even though Bruno Bleckmann did not rule out that this picture is based on the traditional history and that Latin histories were written that have not survived. The loss of later historical works in which the tetrarchy was dealt with (such as the corresponding parts in Ammianus Marcellinus and Virius Nicomachus Flavianus , who presumably dealt with the imperial period) makes a reconstruction much more difficult.
The representations of contemporary Christian authors, especially Lactantius ( De mortibus persecutorum ) and Eusebius of Caesarea ( Historia ecclesiastica ), are negatively colored due to the anti-Christian policy pursued by Diocletian, but contain not unimportant material. The various late antique breviaries (such as Aurelius Victor , Eutropius , Rufius Festus and the Epitome de Caesaribus ), which have drawn on a common source, the so-called Enmann Imperial History, offer brief and useful information . A brief, anonymous historical work from the 4th century has also been preserved, the so-called Anonymus Valesianus (first part), which contains very valuable and reliable material and at least deals with the final phase of the tetrarchy. The part relating to Diocletian in the history of Zosimos , who relied on Eunapios of Sardis for this , has been lost. Some later Byzantine historians , such as Theophanes and Johannes Zonaras , are still of importance, some of whom were able to fall back on works that have been lost today.
In the corresponding panegyrici, there is also valuable information, despite the genre-typical oversubscription. Other non-literary sources include the relevant laws, archaeological evidence and coins.
- Timothy D. Barnes : The New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine. Harvard University Press, Cambridge / MA-London 1982, ISBN 0-674-61126-8 .
- Alan K. Bowman : Diocletian and the first tetrarchy, AD 284-305 . In: Alan K. Bowman et al. a. (Ed.): The Cambridge Ancient History 12. The Crisis of Empire, AD 193-337 . Cambridge 2005, ISBN 0-521-30199-8 , pp. 67ff.
- Filippo Carlà-Uhink : Diocleziano. Il Mulino, Bologna 2019, ISBN 978-88-15-28311-5
- Nenad Cambi: The image of Diocletian between reality and transcendence. Artistic, iconographic and sociological aspects / Dioklecijanov lik između realnosti i transcendencije: artistički, ikonografski i sociološki aspekti. Split 2017, ISBN 978-953-163-452-6 .
- Alexander Demandt , Andreas Goltz, Heinrich Schlange-Schöningen (ed.): Diocletian and the tetrarchy. Aspects of a turning point . Berlin u. a. 2004, ISBN 3-11-018230-0 . (Collection of essays discussing several research problems; see specialist review at H-Soz-u-Kult .) ( Google.books )
- Alexander Demandt: The late antiquity . 2nd expanded edition. Beck, Munich 2007.
- Frank Kolb : Diocletian and the First Tetrarchy. Improvisation or experiment in the organization of monarchical rule? . Berlin / New York 1987.
- Wolfgang Kuhoff : Diocletian and the epoch of the tetrarchy. The Roman Empire between crisis management and rebuilding (284–313 AD) . Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-631-36792-9 . (Extensive, but difficult to read illustration.)
- Bill Leadbetter: Galerius and the will of Diocletian. Routledge, London / New York 2009.
- Byron Nakamura: When did Diocletian die? New Evidence for an old Problem . In: Classical Philology 98 (2003), pp. 283-289.
- William Seston: Dioclétien et la tétrarchie 1. Guerres et reformes (284-300) . Boccard, Paris 1946. (Older study, nevertheless worth reading.)
- Roger Rees: Diocletian and the Tetrarchy (Debates and Documents in Ancient History Volume XV) . Edinburgh 2004, ISBN 0-7486-1661-6 . (Useful introduction with translated excerpts from sources.)
- Umberto Roberto: Diocleziano , Rome 2014.
- Alfons Städele: The death of Diocletian and the murders of Licinius. In: Markus Janka (Ed.): Enkyklion Kēpion. On poetry, history and specialist literature from antiquity. KG Saur, Munich / Leipzig 2004, ISBN 978-3-598-73017-7 , pp. 223–244.
- Stephen Williams: Diocletian and the Roman Recovery . Routledge, New York 1985. (Readable and informative overall presentation.)
- Literature by and about Diocletian in the catalog of the German National Library
- Ralph W. Mathisen: Short biography (English) at De Imperatoribus Romanis (with references).
- Brief presentation by Wolfgang Kuhoff for Archeology Online
- On the unofficial prenomen of Marcus cf. L'Année épigraphique 1965, 315: Αύτοκράτορα Καίσαρα Μᾶρκον Αύρήλιον Γάϊον Ούαλέριον Διοκλητιανόν Εύσεβῆ Εύτυχῆ Σεβαστόν.
- The place of birth is not certain, cf. Wilhelm Enßlin: Valerius Diocletianus , in: RE 7 A, 2 (1948), Sp. 2419ff., Here Sp. 2420f.
- Eutrop, Breviary 9.19.
- Epitome de Caesaribus 39.1; on the naming problem, see Nenad Cambi: Tetrarchic Practice in Name Giving. In: Alexander Demandt , Andreas Goltz , Heinrich Schlange-Schöningen (eds.): Diokletian and the tetrarchy. Aspects of a turning point . Berlin u. a. 2004, pp. 38-46.
- July 21, 285 is often assumed for the elevation to Caesar , but the interpretation of the sources is problematic; in more recent research this is also often considered at the beginning of December 285, cf. the overview in Demandt (2007), p. 58f., note 9, and Simon Corcoran: The Empire of the Tetrarchs . Oxford et al. a. 1996, p. 273f. Also controversial in this context is whether Diocletian had intended when Maximian was elevated to Caesar to later raise him to Augustus , cf. the considerations in Kolb (1987), pp. 27ff.
- Kolb suspected this again in recent times.
- For the date and place see Demandt (2007), p. 59, note 17.
- Kampmann, The coins of the Roman Empire, Regenstauf 2004, p. 371 No. 119.91 and 92; Beier, The coinage of the Roman Empire, Regenstauf 2009, p. 294
- General, but with a partly new interpretation of the chronology, see Timothy D. Barnes: Imperial Campaigns, AD 285–311 . In: Phoenix 30 (1976), pp. 174-193.
- See the general and summarizing overview in Rees (2004). However, the reforms are dealt with in every current scientific presentation at the time of Diocletian; see also Alexander Demandt: Diocletian as a reformer . In: Demandt, Goltz, Schlange-Schöningen (2004), pp. 1ff.
- Detlef Liebs : The jurisprudence in late antique Italy (260-640 AD) , Freiburger Rechtsgeschichtliche Abhandlungen, New Series, Volume 8, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1987, pp. 134-137.
- Fritz Sturm : Ius gentium. Imperialist whitewashing of Roman jurists , in: Römische Jurisprudenz - Dogmatik, Tradition, Reception / Festschrift for Detlef Liebs on his 75th birthday, ed. by Karlheinz Muscheler , Duncker & Humblot, Berlin (= Freiburger Rechtsgeschichtliche Abhandlungen. New series, volume 63), pp. 663–669.
- Ursula Kampmann, The Coins of the Roman Empire, 1st edition, Regenstauf 2004, p. 367
- Ursula Kampmann, The Coins of the Roman Empire, 1st Edition, Regenstauf 2004, p. 369 no.119.25 and p. 371 no.119.84
- So Alexander Demandt: Diocletian as a reformer . In: Alexander Demandt, Andreas Goltz, Heinrich Schlange-Schöningen (eds.): Diokletian and the tetrarchy. Aspects of a turning point . Berlin u. a. 2004, p. 8.
- Karl Bücher : The Diocletian Tax Order from the year 301 , in: Journal for the entire political science , 50, 1894, pp. 189 ff. And 672 ff .; Siegfried Lauffer Diocletian's price edict. de Gruyter, Berlin 1971 (= texts and commentaries. An ancient science series. ), Olof Gigon , Felix Heinimann , Otto Luschnat (eds.), Volume 5, Introduction p. 5 Rnr. 17 (reference to the authorship).
- See in summary Hartwin Brandt : Renewed Thoughts on Diocletian's Price Edict . In: Demandt, Goltz, Schlange-Schöningen (2004), p. 47
- Following the presentation of Eusebius of Caesarea , four edicts have been assumed so far. In 1994, however, Schwarte plausibly demonstrated through text analyzes that there was probably only one edict going back to Diocletian, see Karl-Heinz Schwarte: Diokletian's Christian Law . In: R. Günther, S. Rebenich (eds.): E fontibus haurire. Contributions to Roman history and its auxiliary sciences . Schöningh, Paderborn 1994, pp. 203-240.
- The Coptic calendar counts the years since Diocletian to this day. The first day of the so-called martyr era begins on New Year's Day , the 1st tout of the Coptic year 1 (= 29 August 284 AD). Since the Coptic calendar year has exactly 365.25 days, the Coptic New Year's Day today corresponds to the Gregorian September 11th.
- Marie Theres Fögen : The expropriation of fortune tellers. Studies on the imperial monopoly of knowledge in late antiquity . Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1993, ISBN 3-518-58155-4 , p. 26 ff.
- Bill Leadbetter: Galerius and the will of Diocletian. London / New York 2009, p. 146.
- On the date of death cf. just under Demandt (2007), p. 73, note 141. See also Städele, Der Tod Diokletian , who pleads for 311 (like Timothy Barnes), but also considers 312 possible (Städele, p. 235).
- General information on the following statements is provided by the various articles in Gabriele Marasco (Ed.): Greek and Roman Historiography in Late Antiquity. Fourth to Sixth Century AD Leiden u. a. 2003, although some are not without problems.
- Bruno Bleckmann: Thoughts on Enmann's imperial history and the formation of historical traditions in Tetrarchic and Constantinian times . In: Giorgio Bonamente, Klaus Rosen (eds.), Historiae Augustae Colloquium Bonnense . Bari 1997, pp. 11-37.
- Comprehensive information in Kuhoff, Diokletian ; concise but useful hints also from Reese, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy .
|Maximian and Galerius|
|ALTERNATIVE NAMES||Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus; Diocles|
|BRIEF DESCRIPTION||Roman emperor (284-305)|
|DATE OF BIRTH||between 236 and 245|
|PLACE OF BIRTH||Dalmatia|
|DATE OF DEATH||at 312|
|Place of death||Spalatum in today's Split|