Diocletian: Dude That Saved the Empire

I have a rather long commute to work.  Forty-five minutes to work, and forty-five minutes back home.  An hour and a half in sum.  That’s a lot of time to idle away thinking about nothing.

In comes The Great Courses to save the day!

I’m not sure I’d survive the commute without being able to listen to these lectures.  As I’m a bit of a history buff, I’ve been using my commute time to enrich my admittedly pedestrian knowledge of bygone ages.

At any rate, currently I’m listening to “Early Middles Ages” by Professor Philip Daileader.  It covers the vicissitudes of western civilization from about 300 AD to 1000 AD, or as it used to be called, The Dark Ages.

For various reasons, scholars no longer use this pejorative term, and refer to it as the Early Middle Ages, or Late Antiquity.

So, many of my upcoming blog posts will be about interesting things I’ve learned in this course.

Without further ado, let’s learn a bit about Diocletian: Dude That Saved the Empire.

Istanbul_-_Museo_archeol._-_Diocleziano_(284-305_d.C.)_-_Foto_G._Dall'Orto_28-5-2006Diocletian was born in 244 AD and died in 311 AD. He was not born into an aristocratic family.  His father may have been a scribe or a freedman.  However, Diocletian quickly rose in the ranks of the Roman army and became Emporor in 286 AD.

At the time of his ascension, the Roman Empire was falling apart.  Inflation was rampant, and the borders of the empire were beset by all manner of enemies, both Persian and Barbarian.  Diocletian was a formidable general and he was able to shore up the borders, after which he instituted his reforms.

He greatly expanded both the military and the bureaucracy of the Roman Empire.  An efficient bureaucracy was needed to collect additional taxes, which were needed to fund the army.

He instituted the Tetrarchy, which divided the Empire into eastern and western halves.  Each half was to be ruled by an Augustus (Diocletian himself became Augustus of the eastern half; he named Maximian Augustus of the western half).  Furthermore, each Augustus was to name a protégé called a Caesar.  The Caesar was to learn the ropes of running an empire, and eventually take the reigns when his Augustus retired.

Diocletian retired in 305 AD to pursue his love of growing cabbages, and convinced Maximian to also retire.  His Tetrarchal system didn’t really endure exactly as Diocletian envisioned, although the idea became the seed for the eventual split of the empire into two halves.

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