DIOCLETIAN PERIOD (RULED A.D 284-305)
Diocletien Diocletian and the Tetrarchy (ruled A.D 284-305) brought some stability back to the Roman government by restoring imperial control over the military. Abandoning the tradition of a citizen king, Diocletian elevated himself above the masses by initiating imperial ceremonies and requiring his subjects to prostrate themselves in his presence.
Diocletian ended the Olympics. He proclaimed merchants as “avaricious” and established price controls on practically everything. He proposed a single Europe currency but the idea didn't catch one. Charlemagne's son, Pépin the Short, later created a single currency but it didn't last for long.
Ralph W. Mathisen of the University of South Carolina wrote: “The Emperor Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus (A.D. 284-305) put an end to the disastrous phase of Roman history known as the "Military Anarchy" or the "Imperial Crisis" (235-284). He established an obvious military despotism and was responsible for laying the groundwork for the second phase of the Roman Empire, which is known variously as the "Dominate," the "Tetrarchy," the "Later Roman Empire," or the "Byzantine Empire." His reforms ensured the continuity of the Roman Empire in the east for more than a thousand years. [Source: Ralph W. Mathisen, University of South Carolina ]
Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ;
“Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; Lacus Curtius penelope.uchicago.edu;
The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans;
The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ;
Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu;
De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org;
British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ;
Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art;
The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ;
Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu;
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com
Diocletian, Constantine, and the Late Empire (284–476 A.D.)
The accession of Diocletian brings us to a new era in the history of the Roman Empire. It has been said that the early empire of Augustus and his successors was an absolute monarchy disguised by republican forms. This is in general quite true. But the old republican forms had for a long time been losing their hold, and at the time of Diocletian they were ready to be thrown away entirely. By the reforms of Diocletian and Constantine there was established a new form of imperialism—an absolute monarchy divested of republican forms. Some of their ideas of reform no doubt came from the new Persian monarchy, which was now the greatest rival of Rome. In this powerful monarchy the Romans saw certain elements of strength which they could use in giving new vigor to their own government. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]
According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Finally, Diocletian (r. 284–305 A.D.) emerged as an able and strong ruler. He ensured the protection and reorganization of the empire by creating new, smaller provinces, making a clear distinction between the duties of military commanders and civil governors, and sharing overall control with colleagues—effectively dividing the empire into two halves, West and East. He established the tetrarchy (293 A.D.), naming Maximianus as co-Augustus, and Galerius and Constantius as two subordinate Caesars. This experiment in power-sharing lasted only a short time. Constantius' son, Constantine (the Great), with dynastic ambitions of his own, set about defeating his imperial rivals and eventually reunited the Western and Eastern halves of the empire in 324 A.D. He then founded a new capital on the Bosphorus at Byzantium, which was renamed Constantinople in his honor in 330 A.D. [Source: Christopher Lightfoot, Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2000, metmuseum.org \^/]
“As political power shifted to Constantinople, the church gradually replaced the declining civil authority at Rome. Meanwhile, the Germanic tribes, who lived along the northern borders of the empire and who had long been recruited to serve as mercenaries in the Roman army, began to emerge as powerful political and military forces in their own right. In the 370s, the Huns, horsemen from the Eurasian steppe, invaded areas along the Danube River, driving many of the Germanic tribes—including the Visigoths—into the Roman provinces. What began as a controlled resettlement of barbarians within the empire's borders ended as an invasion. The emperor Valens was killed by the Visigoths at Adrianople in 378 A.D., and the succeeding emperor, Theodosius I (r. 379–95 A.D.), conducted campaigns against them, but failed to evict them from the empire. In 391 A.D., Theodosius ordered the closing of all temples and banned all forms of pagan cult. After his death in 395 A.D., the empire was divided between his sons, Honorius (Western Roman emperor) and Arcadius (Eastern Roman emperor). The West, separated from the East, could not long survive the incessant barbarian invasions. The Visigoth Alaric sacked Rome in 410 A.D. and, in 476 A.D., the German Odovacer advanced on the city and deposed Romulus Augustulus (r. 475–76 A.D.), commonly known as the last Roman emperor of the West. Odovacer became, in effect, king of Rome until 493 A.D., when Theodoric the Great established the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy. The eastern Roman provinces survived the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 A.D., developing into the Byzantine empire, which itself survived until the Ottoman capture of Constantinople in 1453.
Diocletian's Early Life and Reign
Diocletian was in many respects a remarkable man. Born of an obscure family in Dalmatia (part of Illyricum, modern-day Croatia), he had risen by his own efforts to the high position of commander of the Roman army in the East. It was here that he was proclaimed emperor by his soldiers. He overcame all opposition, assumed the imperial power, and made his residence not at Rome, but in Nicomedia, a town in Asia Minor. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]
Ralph W. Mathisen of the University of South Carolina wrote: “Diocletian was born ca. 236/237 on the Dalmatian coast, perhaps at Salona. He was of very humble birth, and was originally named Diocles. He would have received little education beyond an elementary literacy and he was apparently deeply imbued with religious piety. [Source: Ralph W. Mathisen, University of South Carolina ^|^]
“During Diocletian's early life, the Roman empire was in the midst of turmoil. In the early years of the third century, emperors increasingly insecure on their thrones had granted inflationary pay raises to the soldiers. The only meaningful income the soldiers now received was in the form of gold donatives granted by newly acclaimed emperors. Beginning in 235, armies throughout the empire began to set up their generals as rival emperors. The resultant civil wars opened up the empire to invasion in both the north, by the Franks, Alamanni, and Goths, and the east, by the Sassanid Persians. Another reason for the unrest in the army was the great gap between the social background of the common soldiers and the officer corps. ^|^
“Diocletian sought his fortune in the army. He showed himself to be a shrewd, able, and ambitious individual. He is first attested as "Duke of Moesia" (an area on the banks of the lower Danube River), with responsibility for border defense. He was a prudent and methodical officer, a seeker of victory rather than glory. In 282, the legions of the upper Danube proclaimed the praetorian prefect Carus as emperor. Diocletian found favor under the new emperor, and was promoted to Count of the Domestics, the commander of the cavalry arm of the imperial bodyguard. In 283 he was granted the honor of a consulate. ^|^
“In 284, in the midst of a campaign against the Persians, Carus was killed, struck by a bolt of lightning which one writer noted might have been forged in a legionary armory. This left the empire in the hands of his two young sons, Numerian in the east and Carinus in the west. Soon thereafter, Numerian died under mysterious circumstances near Nicomedia, and Diocletian was acclaimed emperor in his place. At this time he changed his name from Diocles to Diocletian. In 285 Carinus was killed in a battle near Belgrade, and Diocletian gained control of the entire empire. ^|^
Prisca, Galeria Valeria, and Candidianus
Diocletian’s wife Prisca and a daughter Valeria both reputedly were Christians. Michael DiMaio, Jr. of Salve Regina University wrote: “Prisca was the wife of the Emperor Diocletian. She bore him a daughter named Valeria, who was apparently the second wife of the Emperor Galerius. Although she was a Christian or favorably disposed to Christianity, she was forced to sacrifice to the gods during the Great Persecution of 303. Her husband had built her a home in Nicomedeia. When Galerius died in 311, she and her daughter were exiled to Syria by the Emperor Maximinus Daia . She was later arrested and beheaded by the Emperor Licinius in 315. [Source: Michael DiMaio, Jr., Salve Regina University]
“Valeria, like her mother a Christian or Christian sympathizer, seems to have married Galerius in 293 and, perhaps in November 308, was raised to the rank of Augusta and Mater Castrorum. Her husband named a province after her. She adopted Candidianus, Galerius's illegitimate son, as her own child; he was betrothed to the daughter of Maximinus Daia . Valeria and her mother Prisca fled from Licinius , to whose care they had been entrusted, to the realm of Daia after Galerius died in 311. When Valeria did not accede to Daia's wishes to marry him, the emperor took possession of all her property and exiled Valeria and her mother to Syria. When he died, Licinius sentenced her to death. Valeria escaped from his clutches and survived in hiding for over a year. Licinius eventually captured her and had her put to death ca. 315 along with Candidianus. ^|^
Reforms of Diocletian
Dr Jon Coulston of the University of St. Andrews wrote for the BBC: “The denigration of the imperial office through a vicious cycle of usurpations and assassinations was halted long enough by Diocletian (ruled 284 - 305 AD) and his co-emperors for stable rule to be re-established. He established a 'college' of four emperors - two senior men with the title 'Augustus' who appointed two junior 'Caesars' - called the Tetrarchy. This ensured stability of succession and meant that four men could handle simultaneous crises on widely-spread frontiers. [Source: Dr Jon Coulston, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]
“Military and civil (judicial and financial) administrations were entirely separated for enhanced security against rivals. Currency reforms, regularisation of army supply, enlargement of the army, and successful operations against usurpers and foreign enemies contributed to internal stability. New legions were raised and new, imposing designs in fortifications were applied across the empire. A programme of regime propaganda and harnessed traditional cults enhanced loyalty to the state.” |::|
The general result of the new policy of Diocletian was to give to the empire a strong and efficient government. The dangers which threatened the state were met with firmness and vigor. A revolt in Egypt was quelled, and the frontiers were successfully defended against the Persians and the barbarians. Public works were constructed, among which were the great Baths of Diocletian at Rome. At the close of his reign he celebrated a triumph in the old capital. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]
“Diocletian attempted to use the state religion as a unifying element. Encouraged by the Caesar Galerius, Diocletian in 303 issued a series of four increasingly harsh decrees designed to compel Christians to take part in the imperial cult, the traditional means by which allegiance was pledged to the empire. This began the so-called "Great Persecution." ^|^
Diocletian's Military Reforms
Ralph W. Mathisen of the University of South Carolina wrote: “As emperor, Diocletian was faced with many problems. His most immediate concerns were to bring the mutinous and increasingly barbarized Roman armies back under control and to make the frontiers once again secure from invasion. His long-term goals were to restore effective government and economic prosperity to the empire. Diocletian concluded that stern measures were necessary if these problems were to be solved. He felt that it was the responsibility of the imperial government to take whatever steps were necessary, no matter how harsh or innovative, to bring the empire back under control. [Source: Ralph W. Mathisen, University of South Carolina ^|^]
“Diocletian was able to bring the army back under control by making several changes. He subdivided the roughly fifty existing provinces into approximately one hundred. The provinces also were apportioned among twelve "dioceses," each under a "vicar," and later also among four "prefectures," each under a "praetorian prefect." As a result, the imperial bureaucracy became increasingly bloated. He institutionalized the policy of separating civil and military careers. He divided the army itself into so-called "border troops," actually an ineffective citizen militia, and "palace troops," the real field army, which often was led by the emperor in person. ^|^
“Once the army was under control, Diocletian could turn his attention to other problems. The borders were restored and strengthened. In the early years of his reign, Diocletian and his subordinates were able to defeat foreign enemies such as Alamanni, Sarmatians, Saracens, Franks, and Persians, and to put down rebellions in Britain and Egypt. The easter frontier was actually expanded. ^|^
Diocletian’s Oriental-Style Monarchy
Abandoning the tradition of a citizen king, Diocletian elevated himself above the masses by initiating imperial ceremonies and requiring his subjects to prostrate themselves in his presence.
Diocletian made himself an Oriental, or at least Persian-style, monarch. He assumed the diadem of the East. He wore the gorgeous robes of silk and gold such a were worn by eastern rulers. He compelled his subjects to salute him with low prostrations, and to treat him not as a citizen, but as a superior being. In this way he hoped to make the imperial office respected by the people and the army. The emperor was to be the sole source of power, and as such was to be venerated and obeyed. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]
Ralph W. Mathisen of the University of South Carolina wrote: ““Following the precedent of Aurelian (A.D.270-275), Diocletian transformed the emperorship into an out-and-out oriental monarchy. Access to him became restricted; he now was addressed not as First Citizen (Princeps) or the soldierly general (Imperator), but as Lord and Master (Dominus Noster) . Those in audience were required to prostrate themselves on the ground before him. [Source: Ralph W. Mathisen, University of South Carolina ^|^]
Some of their ideas of reform no doubt came from the new Persian monarchy, which was now the greatest rival of Rome. In this powerful monarchy the Romans saw certain elements of strength which they could use in giving new vigor to their own government. \~\
Mary Ann Sullivan of Bluffton University wrote: “In 293 Diocletian established a tetrarchy with himself as the Eastern ruler (Augustus of the East) and Maximian as ruler of the West. Each had a caesar, a vice-ruler, who was his heir. This political solution and attempt to retain order in the Roman Empire failed after Diocletian retired in 305. Carved in porphyry, a hard purple stone used primarily for imperial objects, these four emperors symbolize the equality of their rule. No individualized features are represented; they are dressed identically, even to their swords, and they are of equal height. Their embraces also indicate their unity. The staring eyes, squatty forms, and absract quality are characteristic of much late Roman sculpture, where symbolism is more important than realism and individuality. [Source:Mary Ann Sullivan, Bluffton University]
Ralph W. Mathisen of the University of South Carolina wrote: “Diocletian also concluded that the empire was too large and complex to be ruled by only a single emperor. Therefore, in order to provide an imperial presence throughout the empire, he introduced the "Tetrarchy," or "Rule by Four." In 285, he named his lieutenant Maximianus "Caesar," and assigned him the western half of the empire. This practice began the process which would culminate with the de facto split of the empire in 395. Both Diocletian and Maximianus adopted divine attributes. Diocletian was identified with Jupiter and Maximianus with Hercules. In 286, Diocletian promoted Maximianus to the rank of Augustus, "Senior Emperor," and in 293 he appointed two new Caesars, Constantius (the father of Constantine I ), who was given Gaul and Britain in the west, and Galerius, who was assigned the Balkans in the east. [Source: Ralph W. Mathisen, University of South Carolina ^|^]
“By instituting his Tetrarchy, Diocletian also hoped to solve another problem. In the Augustan Principate, there had been no constitutional method for choosing new emperors. According to Diocletian's plan, the successor of each Augustus would be the respective Caesar, who then would name a new Caesar. Initially, the Tetrarchy operated smoothly and effectively.” ^|^
Diocletian's Efforts to Improve the Economy
Ralph W. Mathisen of the University of South Carolina wrote: “Another problem was the economy, which was in an especially sorry state. The coinage had become so debased as to be virtually worthless. Diocletian's attempt to reissue good gold and silver coins failed because there simply was not enough gold and silver available to restore confidence in the currency. A "Maximum Price Edict" issued in 301, intended to curb inflation, served only to drive goods onto the black market. Diocletian finally accepted the ruin of the money economy and revised the tax system so that it was based on payments in kind . The soldiers too came to be paid in kind. [Source: Ralph W. Mathisen, University of South Carolina ^|^]
“In order to assure the long term survival of the empire, Diocletian identified certain occupations which he felt would have to be performed. These were known as the "compulsory services." They included such occupations as soldiers, bakers, members of town councils, and tenant farmers. These functions became hereditary, and those engaging in them were inhibited from changing their careers. The repetitious nature of these laws, however, suggests that they were not widely obeyed. Diocletian also expanded the policy of third-century emperors of restricting the entry of senators into high-ranking governmental posts, especially military ones. ^|^
Diocletian's Price Controls
Bruce Bartlett wrote in the Cato Institute Journal: “By the end of the third century, Rome had clearly reached a crisis. The state could no longer obtain sufficient resources even through compulsion and was forced to rely ever more heavily on debasement of the currency to raise revenue. By the reign of Claudius II Gothicus (268—270 A.D.) the silver content of the denarius was down to just .02 percent. As a consequence, prices skyrocketed. A measure of Egyptian wheat, for example, which sold for seven to eight drachmaes in the second century now cost 120,000 drachmaes. This suggests an inflation of 15,000 percent during the third century. [Source: Bruce Bartlett, “How Excessive Government Killed Ancient Rome,” Cato Institute Journal 14: 2, Fall 1994, Cato.org /=]
“Finally, the very survival of the state was at stake. At this point, the Emperor Diocletian (284—305 A.D.) took action. He attempted to stop the inflation with a far-reaching system of price controls on all services and commodities.’° These controls were justified by Diodetian’s belief that the inflation was due mainly to speculation and hoarding, rather than debasement of the currency. As he stated in the preamble to his edict of 301 A.D.: ‘For who is so hard and so devoid of human feeling that he cannot, or rather has not perceived, that in the commerce carried on in the markets or involved in the daily life of cities immoderate prices are so widespread that the unbridled passion for gain is lessened neither by abundant supplies nor by fruitful years; so that without a doubt men who are busied in these affairs constantly plan to control the very winds and weather from the movements of the stars, and, evil that they are, they cannot endure the watering of the fertile fields by the rains from above which bring the hope of future harvests, since they reckon it their own loss if abundance comes through the moderation of the weather.’ /=\
“Despite the fact that the death penalty applied to violations of the price controls, they were a total failure. Lactantius (1984: 11), a contemporary of Diocletian’s, tells us that much blood was shed over “small and cheap items” and that goods disappeared from sale. Yet, “the rise in price got much worse.” Finally, “after many had met their deaths, sheer necessity led to the repeal of the law.” /=\
Diocletian: Prices Edict, 301, Preamble: “For who is so hard and so devoid of human feeling that he cannot, or rather has not perceived, that in the commerce carried on in the markets or involved in the daily life of cities immoderate prices are so widespread that the unbridled passion for gain is lessened neither by abundant supplies nor by fruitful years; so that without a doubt men who are busied in these affairs constantly plan to control the very winds and weather from the movements of the stars, and, evil that they are, they cannot endure the watering of the fertile fields by the rains from above which bring the hope of future harvests, since they reckon it their own loss if abundance comes through the moderation of the weather.”
Diocletian's Economic Reforms
As part of their efforts to make the empire secure, Diocletian and Constantine I both instituted economic polices with the goal of stabilizing prices and ensuring social stability. These tasks have proved beyond the means of modern governments with millions of employees available to implement policy: it is certain that the very small corps of administrators in the Roman Empire could have had chance of imposing such rules. At all events, these regulations do not seem to have worked.
Bruce Bartlett wrote in the Cato Institute Journal: “ “Diocletian’s other reforms, however, were more successful. The cornerstone of Diocletian’s economic policy was to turn the existing A.D. hoc policy of requisitions to obtain resources for the state into a regular system.” Since money was worthless, the new system was based on collecting taxes in the form of actual goods and services, but regularized into a budget so that the state knew exactly what it needed and taxpayers knew exactly how much they had to pay. [Source: Bruce Bartlett, “How Excessive Government Killed Ancient Rome,” Cato Institute Journal 14: 2, Fall 1994, Cato.org /=]
“Careful calculations were made of precisely how much grain, cloth, oil, weapons or other goods were necessary to sustain a single Roman soldier. Thus, working backwards from the state’s military requirements, a calculation was made for the total amount of goods and services the state would need in a given year. On the other side of the coin, it was also necessary to calculate what the taxpayers were able to provide in terms of the necessary goods and services. This required a massive census, not only of people but of resources, especially cultivated land. Land was graded according to its productivity. As Lactantius (1984: 37) put it, “Fields were measured out clod by clod, vines and trees were counted, every kind of animal was registered, and note taken of every member of the population.” /=\
“Taxable capacity was measured in terms of the caput, which stood for a single man, his family, his land and what they could produce.’ The state’s needs were measured in terms of the annona, which represented the cost of maintaining a single soldier for a year. With these two measures calculated in precision, it was now possible to have a real budget and tax system based entirely on actual goods and services. Assessments were made and resources collected, transported and stored for state use. /=\
Although an army on the move might still requisition goods or services when needed, the overall result of Diocletian’s reform was generally positive. Taxpayers at least knew in advance what they were required to pay, rather than suffer from A.D. hoc confiscations. Also, the tax burden was spread more widely, instead of simply falling on the unlucky, thus lowering the burden for many Romans. At the same time, with the improved availability of resources, the state could now better plan and conduct its military operations. In order to maintain this system where people were tied to their land, home, jobs, and places of employment, Diocletian transformed the previous ad hoc practice. Workers were organized into guilds and businesses into corporations called collegia. Both became de facto organs of the state, controlling and directing their members to work and produce for the state.” /=\
Roman Empire Splits Under Diocletian
After unifying the Roman Empire once again Diocletian split the empire into eastern and western empires to make administration of the vast territory easier, and then divides it again into four parts---Gaul (France, Spain and England), Italy (including North Africa and present-day former Yugoslavia), Illyricum (Greece, Romania and Bulgaria) and the Orient (Asia Minor, Syria, Israel and Egypt).
The Roman leadership during the Dioclotian period was known as the Tetrarchy (four rulers). Dioclotian ruled the Orient provinces from the eastern capital of Nicomedia (Izmit, Turkey, near Istanbul). His co-emperor Maximus ruled the Italian provinces from Milan. Later, two deputy Caesars--- Constantius and Galerius---were appointed as rulers of Gaul and Illyricum. Constantius ruled Gaul from Treveri and Galerius ruled Illyricum from Thessalonica (in present-day Greece). The tetrarchy collapsed into civil wars soon after Diocletian retired in A.D. 305.
The “Augusti” and “Caesars.”—Diocletian saw that it was difficult for one man alone to manage all the affairs of a great empire. It was sufficient for one man to rule over the East, and to repel the Persians. It needed another to take care of the West and to drive back the German invaders. He therefore associated with him his trusted friend and companion in arms, Maximian. But he was soon convinced that even this division of power was not sufficient. To each of the chief rulers, who received the title of Augustus, he assigned an assistant, who received the title of Caesar. The two Caesars were Galerius and Constantius; and they were to be regarded as the sons and successors of the chief rulers, the Augusti. Each Caesar was to recognize the authority of his chief; and all were to be subject to the supreme authority of Diocletian himself. The Roman world was divided among the four rulers as follows: [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]
Diocletianic Persecution of Christians
Diocletian himself was not a cruel and vindictive man, and was at first favorably disposed toward the Christians. But in the latter part of his reign he was induced to issue an edict of persecution against them. It is said that he was led to perform this infamous act by his assistant Galerius, who had always been hostile to the new religion, and who filled the emperor’s mind with stories of seditions and conspiracies. An order was issued that all churches should be demolished, that the sacred Scriptures should be burned, that all Christians should be dismissed from public office, and that those who secretly met for public worship should be punished with death. The persecution raged most fiercely in the provinces subject to Galerius; and it has been suggested that the persecution should be known by his name rather than by the name of Diocletian. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]
The Diocletianic Persecution (303–11) was Roman Empire’s last, largest, and bloodiest official persecution of Christianity. It failed to eliminate Christianity in the empire; indeed, after 324, Christianity became the empire's preferred religion under its first Christian emperor, Constantine. “Of the Manner in which the Persecutors Died” is a pamphlet listing the various persecutors of Christians, and how they died. It was written by Lactantius (A.D. c.240-c.320 CE) and addressed to Donatus, (318 CE?). Here are some excerpts related to the Diocletianic Persecution period:
There are two authorities for the ten year period of the most intense persecution against the Christians, that initiated under Diocletian: Eusebius and Lactantius. These two men were contemporaries and eye-witnesses, the former in Phoenicia and Egypt, and the latter in Nicomedia. From them we get many details of the events leading up to the persecution edicts and decrees, as well as of the horrors and cruelty that took place once the persecution began.
Diocletian: Edicts of Persecution
Diocletian: Edicts Against The Christians: “(Hist. Ecc viii 2.) This was the nineteenth year of the reign of Diocletian in Dystrus (which the Romans call March), when the feast of the Saviour's passion was near at hand, and royal edicts were published everywhere, commanding that the churches Should be razed to the ground, the Scriptures destroyed by fire, those who held positions of honor degraded, and the household servants, if they persisted in the Christian profession, be deprived of their liberty. [Source: Eusebius: Hist. Ecc., Book VIII, ch. 2, ch. 6 at end, and De Mart. Palest. ch- 3, ch. 4, and ch. 9 (ed. Dindorf, Vol. IV, p. 351, 357, 386, 390, 402). translated in University of Pennsylvania. Dept. of History: (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press [1897?-1907?]), Vol 4:, 1, pp. 26-28.]
“And such was the first decree against us. But issuing Other decrees not long after, the Emperor commanded that all the rulers of the churches in every place should be first put in prison and afterwards compelled by every device to offer sacrifice.
“(Hist Ecc. viii 6.) Then as the first decrees were followed by others commanding that those in prison should be set free, if they would sacrifice, but that those who refused should be tormented with countless tortures; who could again at that time count the multitude of .martyrs throughout each province, and especially throughout Africa and among the race of the Moors, in Thebais and throughout Egypt, from which having already gone into other cities and, provinces, they became illustrious in their martyrdoms.
“(De Mart. Pal. ch. 3.) During the second year the war against us increased greatly. Urbanus was then governor of the province and edicts were first issued to him, in which it was commanded that all the people throughout the city should sacrifice and pour out libations to the idols.
“(De Mart. Pal. ch. 4.)...For in the second attack upon us by Maximinus, in the third year of the persecution against us edicts of the tyrant were issued for the first time that all the people should offer sacrifice and that the that the rulers of the city should see to this diligently and zealously. Heralds went through the whole city of Caesaream by the orders of the governor, summoning men, women and children to the temples of the idols, and in addition the chiliarchs were calling upon each one by name from a roll.
“(De Mart. Pal. ch. 9). All at once decrees of Maximinus again got abroad against everywhere throughout the province. The governors, and in addition the military prefects, incited by edicts, letters and and public ordinances the magistrates, together with generals and the city clerks in all the cities, to fulfill the imperial edicts which commanded that the altars of the idols should be rebuilt with all zeal and that all the men, together with the women and children, even infants at the breast, should offer sacrifice and pour out libations ; and these urged them anxiously, carefully to make the people taste of the sacrifices ; and that the viands in the market should be polluted by the libations of the sacrifices ; and that watches should be stationed before the baths, so as to defile those who washed in these with the all-abominable sacrifices.”
Seizure of Christian Books by the Romans in A.D. 395
The historian William Stearns Davis wrote: “In the great persecution started by Diocletian, a special effort was made to seize all copies of the Christian scriptures, in the hope of depriving the persecuted sect of the means of preserving and propagating its doctrines. The following tells how the search for the books was conducted in Cirta, an important city of Numidia. [Source: William Stearns Davis, ed., “Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources,” 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, 289-290]
On “How the Romans Tried to Seize Christian Books”, the “Deeds of Zenophilus” (A.D. 395) reports: “When the magistrates and a policeman, guided by the apostatizing secretaries of the bishop, came to the house of Felix the tailor, he brought out five books, and when they came to the house of Proiectus he brought out five big and two little books. Victor the schoolmaster brought out two books, and four books of five volumes each. Felix the "Perpetual Flamen" said to him: "Bring your scriptures out: you have more." Victor the schoolmaster said, "If I had had more I should have brought them out."
“When they came to the house of Eutychia who was a Caesarian [i.e., in the government service], the flamen said, "Bring out your books that you may obey the law." "I have none," he replied. "Your answer," said Felix the flamen, "is taken down."At the house of Coddeo, Coddeo's wife brought out six books. Felix said "Look and see if you have not got some more." The woman said, "I have no more." Felix said to Bos, the policeman, "Go in and see if she has any more." The policeman reported "I have looked and found none."
Of the Manner in which the Persecutors Died
Chapter X of “Of the Manner in which the Persecutors Died”by Lactantius reads: “Diocletian, as being of a timorous disposition, was a searcher into futurity, and during his abode in the East he began to slay victims, that from their livers he might obtain a prognostic of events; and while he sacrificed, some attendants of his, who were Christians, stood by, and they put the immortal sign on their foreheads. At this the demons were chased away, and the holy rites interrupted. The soothsayers trembled, unable to investigate the wonted marks on the entrails of the victims. They frequently repeated the sacrifices, as if the former had been unpropitious; but the victims, slain from time to time, afforded no tokens for divination. At length Tages, the chief of the soothsayers, either from guess or from his own observation, said, "There are profane persons here, who obstruct the rites." Then Diocletian, in furious passion, ordered not only all who were assisting at the holy ceremonies, but also all who resided within the palace, to sacrifice, and, in case of their refusal, to be scourged. And further, by letters to the commanding officers, he enjoined that all soldiers should be forced to the like impiety, under pain of being dismissed the service. Thus far his rage proceeded; but at that season he did nothing more against the law and religion of God. After an interval of some time he went to winter in Bithynia; and presently Galerius Caesar came thither, inflamed with furious resentment, and purposing to excite the inconsiderate old man to carry on that persecution which he had begun against the Christians. I have learned that the cause of his fury was as follows. [Source: “Of the Manner in which the Persecutors Died”by Lactantius (A.D. c.240-c.320 CE) addressed to Donatus, (318 CE?), J. Vanderspoel, Department of Greek, Latin and Ancient History, University of Calgary]
Chapter XI: “The mother of Galerius, a woman exceedingly superstitious, was a votary of the gods of the mountains. Being of such a character, she made sacrifices almost every day, and she feasted her servants on the meat offered to idols: but the Christians of her family would not partake of those entertainments; and while she feasted with the Gentiles, they continued in fasting and prayer. On this account she conceived ill-will against the Christians, and by woman-like complaints instigated her son, no less superstitious than herself, to destroy them. So, during the whole winter, Diocletian and Galerius held councils together, at which no one else assisted; and it was the universal opinion that their conferences respected the most momentous affairs of the empire. The old man long opposed the fury of Galerius, and showed how pernicious it would be to raise disturbances throughout the world and to shed so much blood; that the Christians were wont with eagerness to meet death; and that it would be enough for him to exclude persons of that religion from the court and the army. Yet he could not restrain the madness of that obstinate man. He resolved, therefore, to take the opinion of his friends. /
“Now this was a circumstance in the bad disposition of Diocletian, that whenever he determined to do good, he did it without advice, that the praise might be all his own; hut whenever he determined to do ill, which he was sensible would be blamed, he called in many advisers, that his own fault might be imputed to other men: and therefore a few civil magistrates, and a few military commanders, were admitted to give their counsel; and the question was put to them according to priority of rank. Some, through personal ill-will towards the Christians, were of opinion that they ought to be cut off, as enemies of the gods and adversaries of the established religious ceremonies. Others thought differently, but, having understood the will of Galerius, they, either from dread of displeasing or from a desire of gratifying him, concurred in the opinion given against the Christians. Yet not even then could the emperor be prevailed upon to yield his assent. He determined above all to consult his gods; and to that end he despatched a soothsayer to inquire of Apollo at Miletus, whose answer wa such as might be expected from an enemy of the divine religion. So Diocletian was drawn over from his purpose. But although he could struggle no longer against his friends, and against Caesar and Apollo, yet still he attempted to observe such moderation as to command the business to be carried through without bloodshed; whereas Galerius would have had all persons burnt alive who refused to sacrifice.” /
Brutal Crackdown During the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians
Chapter XII” of “Of the Manner in which the Persecutors Died”by Lactantius reads: “A fit and auspicious day was sought out for the accomplishment of this undertaking; and the festival of the god Terminus, celebrated on the sevens of the kalends of March, was chosen, in preference to all others, to terminate, as it were, the Christian religion. “That day, the harbinger of death, arose, First cause of ill, and long enduring woes....of woes which befell not only the Christians, but the whole earth. When that day dawned, in the eighth consulship of Diocletian and seventh of Maximian, suddenly, while it was yet hardly light, the prefect, together with chief commanders, tribunes, and officers of the treasury, came to the church in Nicomedia, and the gates having been forced open, they searched everywhere for an image of the Divinity. The books of the Holy Scriptures were found, and they were committed to the flames; the utensils and furniture of the church were abandoned to pillage: all was rapine, confusion, tumult. That church, situated on rising ground, was within view of the palace; and Diocletian and Galerius stood, as if on a watch-tower, disputing long whether it ought to be set on fire. The sentiment of Diocletian prevailed, who dreaded lest, so great a fire being once kindled, some part of the city might he burnt; for there were many and large buildings that surrounded the church. Then the Pretorian Guards came in battle array, with axes and other iron instruments, and having been let loose everywhere, they in a few hours levelled that very lofty edifice with the ground. [Source: “Of the Manner in which the Persecutors Died”by Lactantius (A.D. c.240-c.320 CE) addressed to Donatus, (318 CE?), J. Vanderspoel, Department of Greek, Latin and Ancient History, University of Calgary /]
Chapter XIII: “Next day an edict was published, depriving the Christians of all honours and dignities; ordaining also that, without any distinction of rank or degree, they should be subjected to tortures, and that every suit at law should be received against them; while, on the other hand, they were debarred from being plaintiffs in questions of wrong, adultery, or theft; and, finally, that they should neither be capable of freedom, nor have right of suffrage. A certain person tore down this edict, and cut it in pieces, improperly indeed, but with high spirit, saying in scorn, "These are the triumphs of Goths and Sarmatians." Having been instantly seized and brought to judgment, he was not only tortured, but burnt alive, in the forms of law; and having displayed admirable patience under sufferings, he was consumed to ashes. /
Chapter XIV: “But Galerius, not satisfied with the tenor of the edict, sought in another way to gain on the emperor. That he might urge him to excess of cruelty in persecution, he employed private emissaries to set the palace on fire; and some part of it having been burnt, the blame was laid on the Christians as public enemies; and the very appellation of Christian grew odious on account of that fire. It was said that the Christians, in concert with the eunuchs, had plotted to destroy the princes; and that both of the princes had well-nigh been burnt alive in their own palace. Diocletian, shrewd and intelligent as he always chose to appear, suspected nothing of the contrivance, but, inflamed with anger, immediately commanded that all his own domestics should be tortured to force a confession of the plot. He sat on his tribunal, and saw innocent men tormented by fire to make discovery. All magistrates, and all who had superintendency in the imperial palace, obtained special commissions to administer the torture; and they strove with each other who should be first in bringing to light the conspiracy. No circumstances, however, of the fact were detected anywhere; for no one applied the torture to any domestics of Galerius. He himself was ever with Diocletian, constantly urging him, and never allowing the passions of the inconsiderate old man to cool. Then, after an interval of fifteen days, he attempted a second fire; but that was perceived quickly, and extinguished. Still, however, its author remained unknown. On that very day, Galerius, who in the middle of winter bad prepared for his departure, suddenly hurried out of the city, protesting that he fled to escape being burnt alive. /
Chapter XV: “And now Diocletian raged, not only against his own domestics, but indiscriminately against all; and he began by forcing his daughter Valeria and his wife Prisca to be polluted by sacrificing. Eunuchs, once the most powerful, and who had chief authority at court and with the emperor, were slain. Presbyters and other officers of the Church were seized, without evidence by witnesses or confession, condemned, and together with their families led to execution. In burning alive, no distinction of sex or age was regarded; and because of their great multitude, they were not burnt one after another, but a herd of them were encircled with the same fire; and servants, having millstones tied about their necks, were cast into the sea. Nor was the persecution less grievous on the rest of the people of God; for the judges, dispersed through all the temples, sought to compel every one to sacrifice. The prisons were crowded; tortures, hitherto unheard of, were invented; and lest justice should be inadvertently administered to a Christian, altars were placed in the courts of justice, hard by the tribunal, that every litigant might offer incense before his cause could be heard. Thus judges were no otherwise approached than divinities. Mandates also had gone to Maximian Herculius and Constantius, requiring their concurrence in the execution of the edicts; for in matters even of such mighty importance their opinion was never once asked. Herculius, a person of no merciful temper, yielded ready obedience, and enforced the edicts throughout his dominions of Italy. Constantius, on the other hand, lest he should have seemed to dissent from the injunctions of his superiors, permitted the demolition of churches,&emdash;mere walls, and capable of being built up again,&emdash;but he preserved entire that true temple of God, which is the human body. /
Seizure of Christian Scriptures During Diocletianic Persecution
William Stearns Davis wrote: “ In the great persecution started by Diocletian, a special effort was made to seize all copies of the Christian scriptures, in the hope of depriving the persecuted sect of the means of preserving and propagating its doctrines. The following tells how the search for the books was conducted in Cirta, an important city of Numidi” [Source: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, 289-290, sourcebooks.fordham.edu].
Deeds of Zenophilus: How the Romans Tried to Seize Christian Books, c. A.D. 395: “When the magistrates and a policeman, guided by the apostatizing secretaries of the bishop, came to the house of Felix the tailor, he brought out five books, and when they came to the house of Proiectus he brought out five big and two little books. Victor the schoolmaster brought out two books, and four books of five volumes each. Felix the "Perpetual Flamen" said to him: "Bring your scriptures out: you have more." Victor the schoolmaster said, "If I had had more I should have brought them out."
“When they came to the house of Eutychia who was a Caesarian [i.e., in the government service], the flamen said, "Bring out your books that you may obey the law." "I have none," he replied. "Your answer," said Felix the flamen, "is taken down." At the house of Coddeo, Coddeo's wife brought out six books. Felix said "Look and see if you have not got some more." The woman said, "I have no more." Felix said to Bos, the policeman, "Go in and see if she has any more." The policeman reported "I have looked and found none."”
Eusebius: Martyrs of Palestine During the Early Diocletianic Persecution
Eusebius of Caesarea (A.D. c.260-340) in Palestine ,sometimes known as 'Pamphilus' or the 'son of Pamphilus,' was born a little after A.D. 260, became bishop of Caesarea about 313 and lived there until his death in 339. He seems to have taken quite an interest in martyrs; his history offers many examples treated at length. His “Martyrs of Palestine” was written in several editions over a period of years. [Source: J. Vanderspoel, Department of Greek, Latin and Ancient History, University of Calgary]
Eusebius wrote in “Martyrs of Palestine”: “It was in the nineteenth year of the reign of Diocletian, in the month Xanthicus, which is called April by the Romans, about the time of the feast of our Saviour's passion, while Flavianus was governor of the province of Palestine, that letters were published everywhere, commanding that the churches be leveled to the ground and the Scriptures be destroyed by fire, and ordering that those who held places of honor be degraded, and that the household servants, if they persisted in the profession of Christianity, be deprived of freedom. Such was the force of the first edict against us. But not long after other letters were issued, commanding that all the bishops of the churches everywhere be first thrown into prison, and afterward, by every artifice, be compelled to sacrifice.
Chapter I: “The first of the martyrs of Palestine was Procopius, who, before he had received the trial of imprisonment, immediately on his first appearance before the governor's tribunal, having been ordered to sacrifice to the so-called gods, declared that he knew only one to whom it was proper to sacrifice, as he himself wills. But when he was commanded to offer libations to the four emperors, having quoted a sentence which displeased them, he was immediately beheaded. The quotation was from the poet: "The rule of many is not good; let there be one ruler and one king." It was the seventh day of the month Desius, the seventh before the ides of June, as the Romans reckon, and the fourth day of the week, when this first example was given at Caesura in Palestine.
“Afterwards, in the same city, many rulers of the country churches readily endured terrible sufferings, and furnished to the beholders an example of noble conflicts. But others, benumbed in spirit by terror, were easily weakened at the first onset. Of the rest, each one endured different forms of torture, as scourgings without number, and rackings, and tearings of their sides, and insupportable fetters, by which the hands of some were dislocated. Yet they endured what came upon them, as in accordance with the inscrutable purposes of God. For the hands of one were seized, and he was led to the altar, while they thrust into his right hand the polluted and abominable offering, and he was dismissed as if he had sacrificed. Another had not even touched it, yet when others said that he had sacrificed, he went away in silence. Another, being taken up half dead, was cast aside as if already dead, and released from his bonds, and counted among the sacrificers. When another cried out, and testified that he would not obey, he was struck in the mouth, and silenced by a large band of those who were drawn up for this purpose, and driven away by force, even though he had not sacrificed.
“Of such consequence did they consider it, to seem by any means to have accomplished their purpose. Therefore, of all this number, the only ones who were honored with the crown of the holy martyrs were Alphaeus and Zacchaeus. After stripes and scrapings and severe bonds and additional tortures and various other trials, and after having their feet stretched for a night and day over four holes in the stocks, on the seventeenth day of the month Dius, — that is, according to the Romans, the fifteenth before the Kalends of December, — having confessed one only God and Christ Jesus as king, as if they had uttered some blasphemy, they were beheaded like the former martyr.
Chapter III: “In the course of the second year, the persecution against us increased greatly. And at that time Urbanus being governor of the province, imperial edicts were first issued to him, commanding by a general decree that all the people should sacrifice at once in the different cities, and offer libations to the idols. In Gaza, a city of Palestine, Timotheus endured countless tortures, and afterwards was subjected to a slow and moderate fire. Having given, by his patience in all his sufferings, most genuine evidence of sincerest piety toward the Deity, he bore away the crown of the victorious athletes of religion. At the same time Agapius and our contemporary, Thecla, having exhibited most noble constancy, were condemned as food for the wild beasts. But who that beheld these things would not have admired, or if they heard of them by report, would not have been astonished?
“For when the heathen everywhere were holding a festival and the customary shows, it was noised abroad that besides the other entertainments, the public combat of those who had lately been condemned to wild beasts would also take place. As this report increased and spread in all directions, six young men, namely, Timolaus, a native of Pontus, Dionysius from Tripolis in Phoenicia, Romulus, a sub-deacon of the parish of Diospolis, Paesis and Alexander, both Egyptians, and another Alexander from Gaza, having first bound their own hands, went in haste to Urbanus, who was about to open the exhibition, evidencing great zeal for martyrdom. They confessed that they were Christians, and by their ambition for all terrible things, showed that those who glory in the religion of the God of the universe do not cower before the attacks of wild beasts. Immediately, after creating no ordinary astonishment in the governor and those who were with him, they were cast into prison. After a few days two others were added to them. One of them, named Agapius, had in former confessions endured dreadful torments of various kinds. The other, who had supplied them with the necessaries of life, was called Dionysius.
“All of these eight were beheaded on one day at Caesarea, on the twenty-fourth day of the month Dystrus, which is the ninth before the Kalends of April. Meanwhile, a change in the emperors occurred, and the first of them all in dignity, and the second retired into private life, and public affairs began to be troubled. Shortly after the Roman government became divided against itself, and a cruel war arose among them. And this division, with the troubles which grew out of it, was not settled until peace toward us had been established throughout the entire Roman Empire. For when this peace arose for all, as the daylight after the darkest and most gloomy night, the public affairs of the Roman government were re-established, and became happy and peaceful, and the ancestral good-will toward each other was revived. But we will relate these things more fully at the proper time. Now let us return to the regular course of events.”
Eusebius on Torture and Cruelty During the Diocletianic Persecution
In Chaper IV of “Martyrs of Palestine”, Eusebius wrote: Eusebius wrote: “Maximinus Caesar having come at that time into the government, as if to manifest to all the evidences of his reborn enmity against God, and of his impiety, armed himself for persecution against us more vigorously than his predecessors. In consequence, no little confusion arose among all, and they scattered here and there, endeavoring in some way to escape the danger; and there was great commotion everywhere. But what words would suffice for a suitable description of the Divine love and boldness, in confessing God, of the blessed and truly innocent lamb, I refer to the martyr Apphianus, — who presented in the sight of all, before the gates of Caesarea, a wonderful example of piety toward the only God? He was at that time not twenty years old. He had first spent a long time at Berytus, for the sake of a secular Grecian education, as he belonged to a very wealthy family. It is wonderful to relate how, in such a city, he was superior to youthful passions, and clung to virtue, uncorrupted neither by his bodily vigor nor his young companions; living discreetly, soberly and piously, in accordance with his profession of the Christian doctrine and the life of his teachers....
“For in the second attack upon us under Maximinus, in the third year of the persecution, edicts of the tyrant were issued for the first time, commanding that the rulers of the cities should diligently and speedily see to it that all the people offered sacrifices. Throughout the city of Caesarea, by command of the governor, the heralds were summoning men, women, and children to the temples of the idols, and besides this, the chiliarchs were calling out each one by name from a roll, and an immense crowd of the wicked were rushing together from all quarters. Then this youth fearlessly, while no one was aware of his intentions, eluded both us who lived in the house with him and the whole band of soldiers that surrounded the governor, and rushed up to Urbanus as he was offering libations, and fearlessly seizing him by the right hand, straightway put a stop to his sacrificing, and skillfully and persuasively, with a certain divine inspiration, exhorted him to abandon his delusion, because it was not well to forsake the one and only true God, and sacrifice to idols and demons. It is probable that this was done by the youth through a divine power which led him forward, and which all but cried aloud in his act, that Christians, who were truly such, were so far from abandoning the religion of the God of the universe which they had once espoused, that they were not only superior to threats and the punishments which followed, but yet bolder to speak with noble and untrammeled tongue, and, if possible, to summon even their persecutors to turn from their ignorance and acknowledge the only true God.
“Thereupon, he of whom we are speaking, and that instantly, as might have been expected after so bold a deed, was torn by the governor and those who were with him as if by wild beasts. And having endured manfully innumerable blows over his entire body, he was straightway cast into prison. There he was stretched by the tormentor with both his feet in the stocks for a night and a day; and the next day he was brought before the judge. As they endeavored to force him to surrender, he exhibited all constancy under suffering and terrible tortures. His sides were torn, not once, or twice, but many times, to the bones and the very bowels; and he received so many blows on his face and neck that those who for a long time had been well acquainted with him could not recognize his swollen face. But as he would not yield under this treatment, the torturers, as commanded, covered his feet with linen cloths soaked in oil and set them on fire. No word can describe the agonies which the blessed one endured from this. For the fire consumed his flesh and penetrated to his bones, so that the humors of his body were melted and oozed out and dropped down like wax. But as he was not subdued by this, his adversaries being defeated and unable to comprehend his superhuman constancy, cast him again into prison. A third time he was brought before the judge; and having witnessed the same profession, being half dead, he was finally thrown into the depths of the sea.
“But what happened immediately after this will scarcely be believed by those who did not see it. Although we realize this, yet we must record the event, of which to speak plainly, all the inhabitants of Caesarea were witnesses. For truly there was no age but beheld this marvelous sight. For as soon as they had cast this truly sacred and thrice-blessed youth into the fathomless depths of the sea, an uncommon commotion and disturbance agitated the sea and all the shore about it, so that the land and the entire city were shaken by it. And at the same time with this wonderful and sudden perturbation, the sea threw out before the gates of the city the body of the divine martyr, as if unable to endure it. Such was the death of the wonderful Apphianus. It occurred on the second day of the month Xanthicus, which is the fourth day before the Nones of April, on the day of preparation
Chapter V: “About the same time, in the city of Tyre, a youth named Ulpianus, after dreadful tortures and most severe scourgings, was enclosed in a raw oxhide, with a dog and with one of those poisonous reptiles, an asp, and cast into the sea. Wherefore I think that we may properly mention him in connection with the martyrdom of Apphianus. Shortly afterwards, Aedesius, a brother of Apphianus, not only in God, but also in the flesh, being a son of the same earthly father, endured sufferings like his, after very many confessions and protracted tortures in bonds, and after he had been sentenced by the governor to the mines in Palestine. He conducted himself through them all in a truly philosophic manner; for he was more highly educated than his brother, and had prosecuted philosophic studies. Finally in the city of Alexandria, when he beheld the judge, who was trying the Christians, offending beyond all bounds, now insulting holy men in various ways, and again consigning women of greatest modesty and even religious virgins to procurers for shameful treatment, he acted like his brother. For as these things seemed insufferable, he went forward with bold resolve, and with his words and deeds overwhelmed the judge with shame and disgrace. After suffering in consequence many forms of torture, he endured a death similar to his brother's, being cast into the sea. But these things, as I have said, happened to him in this way a little later.
Diocletian's Resignation and Death
After a reign of twenty-one years Diocletian voluntarily gave up his power, either on account of ill health, or else to see how his new system would work without his own supervision. He retired to his native province of Dalmatia, and spent the rest of his days in his new palace at Salona on the shores of the Adriatic. He loved his country home; and when he was asked by his old colleague Maximian to resume the imperial power, he wrote to him, “Were you to come to Salona and see the vegetables which I raise in my garden with my own hands, you would not talk to me of empire.” But before he died (A.D. 313) Diocletian saw the defects of the system which he had established. Rivalries sprang up among the different rulers, which led to civil war. At one time there were six emperors who were trying to adjust between themselves the government of the empire. Out of this conflict arose Constantine, a man destined to carry on and complete the work of Diocletian. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]
Ralph W. Mathisen of the University of South Carolina wrote: “On 1 May 305, wearied by his twenty years in office, and determined to implement his method for the imperial succession, Diocletian abdicated. He compelled his co-regent Maximianus to do the same. Constantius and Galerius then became the new Augusti, and two new Caesars were selected, Maximinus (305-313) in the east and Severus (305- 307) in the west. Diocletian then retired to his palace at Split on the Croatian coast. In 308 he declined an offer to resume the purple, and the aged ex-emperor died at Split on 3 December 316. [Source: Ralph W. Mathisen, University of South Carolina ^|^]
After Diocletian abdicated in A.D. 305, Galerius became the leader in the east. In A.D. 311, he issued an edict permitting Christians to worship as they pleased. Civil wars did occur after Diocletian's death, but they were less frequent and destabilising than before.Prolonged civil wars that broke out after Diocletian's death were brought to an end when Constantine finally emerged as the supreme leader in A.D. 324.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP and various books and other publications.
Last updated October 2018