Diocletian’s Utopia: The Tetrarchy Of The Roman Empire (285 – 325 AD)

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Battle Scene with a Roman Army Besieging a Large City by Juan de la Corta (17th century) (Public Domain)

Diocletian’s Utopia: The Tetrarchy Of The Roman Empire (285 – 325 AD)

When Roman General Diocletian was designated Emperor by his army in 284, he followed suit of many General-Emperors before him and engaged in war against the legitimate Emperor in place in order to replace him. This violent change of reign thus resembled most of those that characterized the Military Anarchy period of the Roman Empire during the third century. However, what differed this time was that the victorious Diocletian was now in the presence of a favourable socio-political climate that had not existed for 50 years.

Consequently, Diocletian had the opportunity to assert his qualities in the context of instituting a centralized monarchial regime dubbed the Dominate. By doing so, he was successful in establishing a legacy that would correspond to a rebirth of Roman military might and a return of an invigorating economic dynamism for the Roman world. One of Diocletian’s most significant contributions to the establishment of this new order was the institution of the Tetrarchy. This well envisioned experiment of a new system of government was instituted mainly with the intent of mitigating potential successions’ tribulations such as those that plagued the third century, yet if faced a demise less that 40 years later.

Statue head of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD) Istanbul - Archaeological Museum (G.dallorto / CC0)

Statue head of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD) Istanbul - Archaeological Museum (G.dallorto / CC0)


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