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The Reorganization Of The Empire

After a period of anarchy Diocletian (284-305) undertook a reorganization
of the Empire for the sake of greater efficiency. Following a precedent of
earlier successful emperors, he shared (285) the imperial authority with a
colleague, Maximianus, who in 286 became Augustus of the West. As the
greatest danger seemed to lie in the East, Diocletian retained the Eastern
part of the Empire, and having already abandoned Rome as the imperial
residence (284), he settled in Nicomedia in Bithynia. To provide for a
succession to the throne more efficient than the chance succession of
natural heirs, two Caesars were appointed in 293, Constantius Chlorus for
the West, and Galerius, the son-in-law of Diocletian, for the East.
Constantius at once became the son-in-law of Maximianus. These Caesars were
to ascend the throne when the Augusti resigned after twenty years'
reign. The scheme worked temporarily for greater efficiency, but ended in
civil war as the claims of natural heirs were set aside in favor of an
artificial dynasty. At the same time the system bore heavily upon the
people and the prosperity of the Empire rapidly declined.

Bibliography in Cambridge Medieval History, London and New York,
1911, vol. I.

Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum, 7. (MSL, 7:204.)

When Diocletian, the author of crimes and deviser of evils, was ruining
all things, not even from against God could he withhold his hand. This
man, partly by avarice and partly by timidity, overturned the world. For
he made three persons sharers with him in the government. The Empire was
divided into four parts, and armies were multiplied, since each of the
four princes strove to have a much larger military force than any emperor
had had when one emperor alone carried on the government. There began to
be a greater number of those who received taxes than of those who paid
them; so that the means of the husbandmen were exhausted by enormous
impositions, the fields were abandoned, and cultivated grounds became
woodlands, and universal dismay prevailed. Besides, the provinces were
divided into minute portions and many presidents and prefects lay heavy on
each territory, and almost on every city. There were many stewards and
masters and deputy presidents, before whom very few civil causes came, but
only condemnations and frequent forfeitures, and exactions of numberless
commodities, and I will not say often repeated, but perpetual and
intolerable, wrongs in the exacting of them.

Next: The Diocletian Persecution

Previous: The Last Great Persecution

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