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Headword: Dioklêtianos
Adler number: delta,1156
Translated headword: Diocletian
Vetting Status: high
Emperor of the Romans. During his reign[1] and that of his in-law Maximian[2] a horrific persecution against the Christians occurred.[3] For they gave the order by territory and city that the churches of Christ be destroyed and their sacred writings burnt, and that any Christians discovered be forced to worship pagan deities. Overwhelmed by the number of Christians seized, they made an ordinance that any Christians who were discovered should have their right eye gouged out, not only for the pain, but for the dishonor and the mark and the distinction from the Roman way of life. Divine justice came upon them and justly struck them down: the one had his throat slit by the Senate, the other was strangled.[4]
This mad and Christ-hating man, angry in his memory of those who had plotted trouble concerning the empire, did not seek to rule in Egypt moderately or gently, but rather he went there defiling [the land] with proscriptions and murders of the notables. After seeking out the books written by the ancient [Egyptians] concerning the alchemy of gold and silver, he burned them so that the Egyptians would no longer have wealth from such a technique, nor would their surfeit of money in the future embolden them against the Romans.[5]
In regard to his character he was capricious and evil, but with his sharp and intelligent mind he often covered up the shortfalls of his inner nature, and blamed each hard act on other people. But he was careful and quick when it came to applying what had to be done and he transformed many aspects of devotion to the emperor to something far more presumptuous than had been the ancestral custom for the Romans.[6]
[It is said] that Diocletian and Maximian gave up their imperial positions and returned to private life.[7] Diocletian went to an Illyrian city named Salonai, whereas Maximian went to the territory of the Leucanians.[8] And whereas Maximian came to regret this out of longing for his rule, Diocletian grew old peacefully for three years, demonstrating his abundant virtue, though not completely abandoning Hellenic religion.[9]
Greek Original:
Dioklêtianos, basileus Rhômaiôn. epi toutou kai Maximianou gambrou autou diôgmos kata Christianôn ekinêthê phrikôdestatos: prosetaxan gar kata chôran kai polin tas Christou ekklêsias katastrephesthai kai tas theias autôn graphas katakaiesthai, tous de Christianous heuriskomenous anankazesthai thuein tois daimosin. hêttêthentes de tôi plêthei tôn anairoumenôn Christianôn exethento dogma hôste tous heuriskomenous Christianous exoruttesthai ton dexion ophthalmon, ou monon dia to odunêron, alla dia to atimon te kai prodêlon kai tês tôn Rhômaiôn politeias allotrion: hous hê theia dikê endikôs metelthousa dikaiôs exekopse: kai ho men esphagê hupo tês sunklêtou, ho de apênxato. houtos ho anous kai misochristos mnêmêi kai orgêi tôn peri tên archên neôteristhentôn peri tên Aigupton ou metriôs oude hêmerôs tôi kratein apechrêsato, alla prographais te kai phonois tôn episêmôn miainôn epêlthe tên Aigupton. hote dê kai ta peri chêmeias argurou kai chrusou tois palaiois autôn gegrammena biblia diereunêsamenos ekause pros to mêketi plouton Aiguptiois ek tês toiautês periginesthai technês mêde chrêmatôn autous tharrountas periousiai tou loipou Rhômaiois antairein. ên de to êthos poikilos tis kai panourgos, tôi de lian sunetôi kai oxei tês gnômês epekalupte pollakis ta tês oikeias phuseôs elattômata, pasan sklêran praxin heterois anatitheis. epimelês de homôs kai tachus en tais tôn prakteôn epibolais kai polla tôn tês basilikês therapeias epi to authadesteron para ta kathestêkota Rhômaiois patria meteskeuasen. hoti Dioklêtianos kai Maximianos tên basileian aphentes ton idiôtên metêlthon bion. kai ho men es Salônas, polin Illurikên, ho de es tên Leukanôn aphiketo. kai ho men Maximianos pothôi tês archês es metameleian êlthe, Dioklêtianos de en hêsuchiai kategêra en etesi trisin, huperballousan aretên endeixamenos, tês de Hellênikês thrêskeias oud' holôs apostas.
See web address 1 and web address 2: entries on Diocletian and Maximian at the de imperatoribus Romanis sites. The present material, drawn from the Suda's preferred sources for late imperial history (George the Monk, John of Antioch, et al.), contains several inaccuracies; see below, nn.2 and 4.
[1] 284-305 CE.
[2] 286-305. (But the two were not, in fact, related by marriage.)
[3] The Great Persecution began in 303 CE.
[4] Up to this point, the proximate source is Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De virtutibus et vitiis 1.146.13-14. The first two sentences occur in the Chronicon of George the Monk. Actually Diocletian seems to have died of an illness (or possibly voluntary suicide), while Maximian was eventually forced to commit suicide. See further below, n. 8.
[5] cf. chi 280.
[6] e.g. with limited access, requirement of prosku/nhsis. From John of Antioch fr. 165, also in Constantine Porphyrogenitus De virtutibus et vitiis.
[7] May 1 305 CE.
[8] Salona(i) is present-day Split, on the Croatian coast; Lucania is in southern Italy. (These retirements occurred some 5-6 years before their deaths, on which see above, n. 4.)
[9] John of Antioch fr. 251.
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2
Keywords: biography; Christianity; chronology; economics; ethics; geography; historiography; history; medicine; military affairs; religion; science and technology
Translated by: Ross Scaife ✝ on 7 November 2002@08:00:58.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (modified translation; augmented notes and keywords) on 7 November 2002@08:50:14.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 3 October 2005@09:50:34.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 4 December 2005@08:57:50.
David Whitehead (more keywords; tweaks and cosmetics) on 12 July 2012@04:42:37.
Catharine Roth (reduced links) on 25 August 2013@20:54:42.
David Whitehead (expanded some notes) on 11 November 2015@03:18:02.
Catharine Roth (expanded source notes) on 2 September 2016@23:19:07.
Catharine Roth on 2 September 2016@23:22:51.
Catharine Roth on 3 September 2016@01:08:02.


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