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Diocletian, detail of a bust in the Capitoline Museum, Rome.—Alinari/Art Resource, New York
(born AD 245, Salonae?, Dalmatiadied 316, Salonae) Roman emperor (284–305). He was serving under the emperor Carinus (r. 283–285) when the co-emperor, Carinus's brother Numerian, was killed. Diocletian's army declared him emperor, but his domain was restricted to Asia Minor and possibly Syria. Carinus attacked Diocletian (285) but was assassinated before achieving victory, allowing Diocletian to become sole emperor. He sought to remove the military from politics and established a tetrarchy (four-ruler system) to spread his influence and combat rebellions throughout the empire. Proclaiming himself and his corulers as gods, he added the trappings of a theocracy to the reign. His fiscal, administrative, and military reorganization laid the foundation for the Byzantine empire in the east and briefly strengthened the fading empire in the west. In 303–304 he issued four edicts decreeing the last great persecution of Christians. He abdicated in 305.
Variants of DIOCLETIAN
Diocletian Latin Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus orig. Diocles
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Diocletian, visit Britannica.com.