By Dr Jon Coulston
Last updated 2011-02-17
Reforms of Diocletian
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.
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.
Civil wars did occur after Diocletian's death, but they were less frequent and destabilising than before.
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