The Reforms of Diocletian – History Essay
In 284 A.D. after nearly two-hundred years after Augustus had almost completely rebuilt the Roman State, Diocletian was face with that same task. Diocletian was face with a much more difficult task than Augustus. The
decline of the empire was much worse, and therefore his reforms were more dramatic. Diocletian replaced Augustus’ constitutional monarchy with what was basically a totalitarian dictatorship.
“The essence of Diocletian’s cure for the chronic ills of the third-century Roman world can be simply put, more government.” Diocletian started his governmental reforms by forming what would be deemed as the Tetrarchy. Diocletian recognized that the problems of the Roman Empire were much too great for only one man to deal with. He divided the empire into four parts, each portion of the empire would be under the power of a different emperor.
In addition to dividing the empire itself, he also subdivided each of the four separate parts, putting more administrative officers in power in each province. By the time Diocletian had finished there were about 30,000 paid civil servants in the Roman Empire accounting for a population of approximately 50 million. Therefore for about every 1,700 Roman citizens there was one civil servant, still a very low number. Unfortunately all these new civil servants had to be paid and the citizens were burdened with new and higher taxes. The people aren’t generally happy with tax hikes, but during this time there was an economic depression. Inflation had become a huge problem and Diocletian’s Edict of Prices did not help the issue. His Edict attempted to combat inflation by issuing more currency and setting a maximum price for over a thousand goods that were the most highly coveted goods in the empire; including food, jewelry, clothing and furniture.
Diocletian had a very difficult task in reconstructing the Roman Empire. Some of his reforms were successful such as his formation of the Tetrarchy, establishing a more bureaucratic system, but other reforms like the Edict of Prices were very unsuccessful. Many people suffered economically because of this Edict.