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Ancient Rome – Who is Diocletian?
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  8/29/12
By: Yona Williams

Diocletian.jpg
Some rulers in Rome were continuously wicked and uncaring of the people, while others accomplished some good before leaving a bad taste in the mouths of their subjects. In this article, you will learn about Diocletian, who started a respectable reign as an ancient Roman emperor, but did not leave this earth on a good note.

When Diocletian became the emperor of Rome, it was the end of the Crisis of the 3rd Century. He served as ruler from 284 to 305. He was born into a family of low status in the Roman province of Dalmatia. Diocletian was successful in rising through the military ranks – eventually becoming cavalry commander to the Emperor Carus. When Carus and his son died while campaigning in Persia, Diocletian was proclaimed the new emperor. Before he fully assumed power, he had to battle Carus' other surviving son, Carinus, who he defeated in the Battle of the Margus.

There were good points to the leader, such as stabilizing and improving the military and economy of the empire when he first came into power, but his worst accomplishments far outweighed any of the good he did. Diocletian has gone down in history as being the worst persecutors of Christians.

In 303, he issued a handful of edicts that took away all the rights of Christians until they agreed to embrace the Roman religion. The Christians refused to convert, and suffered a period of harsh consequences that occurred from 303 to 311. At least 3,000 Christians were martyred during this time. In the beginning, those who did not convert were sent to prison, but over time, those who opposed were beheaded or crucified. A campaign was created to seek out Christian churches all over the empire so that they could burn them to the ground and loot their possessions. Christian senators were also stripped of their job titles, sent to prison, and then executed.

The persecution of the Christians did not have the impact on the people that Diocletian expected. The Christians responded by going into hiding and still spreading the word of their religion. Diocletian came up with a plan to make the persecution of Christians a form of entertainment, and began advocating for torture-filled shows in the Circus Maximus and Colosseum that saw many Christians being tossed to the lions. The Roman citizens that worshipped the Roman gods would gather and watch this spectacle in glee.
The murdering of Christians did not cease until Constantine rose to absolute power in 324.

The reforms and changes that Diocletian was responsible for early in his career helped the Empire stabilize on an economic and military level. This contribution helped Rome stay ahead of the rest for another 100 years. Illness struck Diocletian and he left the imperial office in 305. He would become known as the only Roman emperor to voluntarily abdicate the position.  Retiring to his palace on the Dalmatian coast, he was content spending the rest of his days tending to his vegetable garden.


 

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