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  • Diogenes of Sinope › Who Was
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Diocletian › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Donald L. Wasson
published on 02 February 2014
Roman Emperor Diocletian (Carole Raddato)
Diocletian was Roman emperor from 284 to 305 CE. After the defeat and death of the Roman emperor Philip the Arab in 249 CE, the empire endured over three decades of ineffective rulers. The glory days of Augustus, Vespasian and Trajanwere long gone and the once powerful empire suffered both financially and militarily. There were constant attacks along the Danube River as well as in the eastern provinces. Finally, in 284 CE a man rose to the imperial throne who would completely change the face of the empire. His name was Diocletian.


Diocles, who would become known to history as Diocletian, was born of humble origins on December 22, 245 CE in the Balkan province of Dalmatia. Like many of those who preceded him, after entering the military, he rose quickly through the ranks, eventually becoming a member of an elite corps within the Illyrian army. Later, his abilities were rewarded when he became an army commander in Moesia, a northern Balkan province located just west of the Black Sea. In 283 CE he accompanied the Roman emperor Carus to Persia where he served as part of the imperial bodyguard or protectores domesticis, a position he would continue under Carus' successor and son Numerian - unlike many who preceded him, Carus' death in 283 CE was due to natural causes.
The young emperor's reign would be short-lived. Although some suspect Diocletian of having a role in Numerian's death in 284 CE, the Praetorian Guard commander Arrius Aper, Numerian's father-in-law, shouldered the blame; he realized his son-in-law was incompetent and hoped to secure the imperial throne for himself. His plans, however, backfired. Diocletian would avenge the emperor's death by killing Aper in front of his own troops. After Diocletian was proclaimed emperor in November of 284 CE, he crossed the Strait of Bosporus into Europe where he met and defeated Carinus, Numerian's co-emperor and brother, at the Battle of River Margus - the young emperor was supposedly murdered by his own troops. With this victory, Diocletian gained complete control of the empire, assuming the name Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletian.



Diocletian understood that a major problem in ruling a territory of the extent of the Roman Empire was its immense size. It was far too large to be ruled by just one person, so one of the first actions taken by the new emperor was to split the empire into two parts. Lacking an heir, in November of 285 CE, shortly after securing the imperial throne for himself, he named an Illyrian officer (who happened to be his son-in-law) named Maximian as Caesar in the west. The new Caesar, who would be promoted to Augustus one year later, immediately assumed the name Marcus Aurelius Valerius. Diocletian, who was never very fond of the city of Rome, would remain emperor in the east. The appointment of Maximian afforded Diocletian the time to deal with the continuing problems in the east, however, despite Maximian's position as co-emperor, Diocletian considered himself to be the senior emperor (something to which Maximian agreed), retaining the ability to veto any of Maximian's decisions. Gone was Augustus's principate; in its place was the dominate.
Unfortunately for both Diocletian and Maximian, peace in the empire could not be kept for long. The difficulties that had plagued the empire for the past several decades remained. As with his predecessors, problems soon erupted along the Danube River in Moesia and Pannonia. For the next five years, Diocletian would spend most of that time campaigning throughout the eastern half of the empire. An eventual victory in 286 CE would bring him not only a long awaited peace but the title of Germanicus Maximus. Diocletian demonstrated similar skills in Persia by defeating the Sarmatians in 289 CE and Saracens in 292 CE.
Peristyle of Diocletian's Palace

Peristyle of Diocletian's Palace

Maximian was plagued by similar problems in the west. A rogue officer named Carausius, the commander of the Roman North Sea fleet, seized control of Britain and part of northern Gaul, proclaiming himself as emperor. He had been awarded his command after helping Maximian defeat the renegade Bagaudae in Gaul. Later, when it was learned that he was keeping much of the “spoils of war ” for himself, he was declared an outlaw and a death warrant was issued by Maximian. But, like many of the men who proclaimed themselves emperor, he met his death at the hands of someone under his own command, in this case his finance minister Allectus.
The concept of a divided empire was apparently working. However, a situation that had faced every emperor since Augustus had to be addressed and that was succession. Diocletian's solution to this age-old problem was the tetrarchy - an idea that preserved the empire in its present state, with two emperors, but allowing for a smooth transition should an emperor die or abdicate. The new proposal called for two Augusti - Diocletian in the east and Maximian in the west - and a Caesar to serve under each emperor. This “Caesar” would then succeed the “Augustus” should he die or resign. Each of the four would administer his own territory and have his own capital. Although the empire remained split, each Caesar was answerable to both Augusti. To fill these new positions, Maximian adopted and then named his praetorian commander Constantius as his Caesar. Constantius had gained a reputation for himself after he led a number of successful campaigns against Carausius.Diocletian chose as his Caesar Galerius who had served with distinction under Emperors Aurelian and Probus.
This new arrangement was soon put to the test when trouble erupted in both Persia and North Africa. In Africa a Berber Confederation, the Quinquegentanei, encroached upon the imperial frontier. In Persia power was seized from the client-king Teredates in 296 CE, and the invading army advanced towards the Syrian capital of Antioch. Unfortunately, in his retaliation Galerius used poor judgment and suffered an embarrassing defeat by the Persians. For this humiliation, he was publicly rebuked by Diocletian. Fortunately, he was able to gather reinforcements and defeat the Persians and their leader Narses in Mesopotamia - a favorable treaty was negotiated. In Egypt an insurrection was led by Lucius Domitius Domitianus who, of course, declared himself emperor. His death - a possible assassination in December of 297 - brought Aurelius Achilleus to the “throne.” In 298 CE Diocletian defeated and killed the would-be emperor at Alexandria. Maximian's eventual success in North Africa, Constantius's victories in the west and the reacquisition of Britain as well as victories by Galerius against the Carpi along the Danube brought peace to the empire.
Plan of the Baths of Diocletian

Plan of the Baths of Diocletian


These victories finally allowed time for Diocletian to turn his attention to another project - domestic affairs. Although his greatest achievement would always be the tetrarchy, he also reorganized the entire empire from the tax system to provincial administration. In order to reduce the possibility of revolts in the outlying provinces, the emperor doubled the number of provinces from fifty to one-hundred. He then organized these new provinces into twelve dioceses ruled by vicars who had no military responsibilities. These duties were assigned to military commanders. The military system was also reorganized into mobile field forces, the comitantenses, and frontier units, the limitanei.
Unlike previous emperors, Diocletian avoided the patronage system, appointing and promoting individuals who were not only qualified but people he could trust. Unfortunately, as the importance of imperial Rome decreased and the center of power shifted to the east, many members of the Senate in Rome lost much of their influence on administrative decisions. Because of the influence of Greece and Greek culture, the true center of the empire shifted to the east. This would become more prominent under Emperor Constantine, for he would turn a small Greek town, Byzantium, into a shining example of culture and commerce, New Rome. Rome was never either emperor's choice for a capital. Reportedly, and despite such grand projects as the new Roman baths - the largest in the Roman world on completion in 305 CE, Diocletian would only visit the great city once and that was just prior to his abdication. Even Maximian preferred Mediolanum (Milan). To Diocletian the capital was wherever he was; however, he eventually selected Nicomedia as his capital.
The empire's finances had always been a point of contention for most emperors, and since more money was necessary to fund the provincial reorganization and expanded military, the old tax system had to be scrutinized. The emperor ordered a new census to determine how many lived in the empire, how much land they owned and what that land could produce. In order to raise money and stem inflation Diocletian increased taxes and revised the collection process. Individuals were compelled to remain in the family business whether that business was profitable or not. To stop runaway inflation he issued the Edict of Maximum Prices, legislation that fixed the prices of goods and services as well as wages to be paid; however, this edict proved to be unenforceable.


Aside from the continued problems with finance and border security, Diocletian was concerned with the continuing growth of Christianity, a religion that appealed to the both the poor and the rich. The Christians had shown themselves to be a thorn in the side of an emperor since the days of Nero. The problem grew worse as their numbers increased. Diocletian wanted stability and that meant a return to the more traditional gods of Rome, but Christianity prevented this. To most of the emperors who preceded Diocletian, Christians offended the pax deorum or “peace of the gods.” Similarly, since the days of Emperor Augustus, there existed the imperial cult - the deification of the emperor - and Jews and Christians refused to consider any emperor a god.
However, part of the problem also stemmed from Diocletian's ego. He began to consider himself a living god, demanding people prostrate themselves before him and kiss the hem of his robe. He wore a jeweled diadem and sat upon a magnificent, elevated throne. In 297 CE he demanded that all soldiers and members of the administration sacrifice to the gods; those who would not were immediately forced to resign. Next, in 303 CE he ordered the destruction of all churches and Christian texts. All of these edicts were encouraged by Galerius. However, throughout this Great Persecution the Christians refused to yield and sacrifice to the Roman gods. Leading members of the clergy were arrested and ordered to sacrifice or die and a bishop in Nicomedia who refused was beheaded. Finally, any Christian who refused was tortured and killed. At long last, the persecution came to an end in 305 CE.
Diocletian's Mausoleum

Diocletian's Mausoleum


In 303 CE after his only trip to Rome, Diocletian became seriously ill, eventually forcing him to abdicate the throne in 305 CE and take retirement in his huge palace-fortress in Spalatum (modern-day Split in Croatia). The huge walled complex included colonnaded streets, reception rooms, a temple, mausoleum, bath house and extensive gardens. Diocletian also persuaded Maximian to step down as well. This joint abdication enabled Constantius and Galerius to succeed as the new augusti.Maximinus and Severus were appointed as the new Caesars. Although he would briefly come out of retirement in 308 CE, the old emperor remained in his palace raising cabbages until his death in October of 311 CE.
Unfortunately, Diocletian's vision of a tetrarchy would eventually fail. After years of war between successors, Constantius' son Constantine reunited the empire after the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 CE. He would rule from a city that would one day bear his name, Constantinople. And, in a decision that would have made Diocletian cry out, he gave Christianity the recognition it deserved, even becoming a Christian himself. In 476 CE with the fall of the empire in the west, the east, while still bearing some resemblance to the Old Rome, would be reborn as the Byzantine Empire.

Diogenes of Sinope › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 02 August 2014
Diogenes of Sinope (Wikipedia User: Singinglemon)
Diogenes of Sinope (c. 404-323 BCE) was a Greek Cynic philosopher best known for holding a lantern (or candle) to the faces of the citizens of Athens claiming he was searching for an honest man. He was most likely a student of the philosopher Antisthenes (445-365 BCE) and, in the words of Plato (allegedly), was “A Socrates gone mad.” He was driven into exile from his native city of Sinope for defacing currency (though some sources say it was his father who committed the crime and Diogenes simply followed him into exile).


Diogenes came to Athens where he met Antisthenes who at first refused him as a student but, eventually, was worn down by his persistence and accepted him. Like Antisthenes, Diogenes believed in self-control, the importance of personal excellence in one's behavior (in Greek, arete, usually translated as `virtue'), and the rejection of all which was considered unnecessary in life such as personal possessions and social status. He was so ardent in his beliefs that he lived them very publicly in the market place of Athens. He took up residence in a large wine cask (some sources claim it was an abandoned bathtub), owned nothing, and seems to have lived off the charity of others. He owned a cup which served also has a bowl for food but threw it away when he saw a boy drinking water from his hands and realized one did not even need a cup to sustain oneself.


This much can be said with more or less assurance but any other details become increasingly uncertain owing to the many fables which grew up around Diogenes and his time in Athens. Even the claim that he was Antisthenes' student has been challenged as a fable. It seems clear, however, that Diogenes believed what people called `manners' were simply lies used to hide the true nature of the individual. He was known for brutal honesty in conversation, paid no attention to any kind of etiquette regarding social class, and seems to have had no problem urinating or even masturbating in public and, when criticized, pointed out that such activities were normal and that everyone engaged in them but hid in private what he did openly.
According to Diogenes society was an artificial contrivance set up by human beings which did not accord well with truth or virtue and could not in any way make someone a good and decent human being; and so follows the famous story of Diogenes holding the light up to the faces of passers-by in the market place looking for an honest man or a true human being. Everyone, he claimed, was trapped in this make-believe world which they believed was reality and, because of this, people were living in a kind of dream state. He was not the first philosopher to make this claim; Heraclitus, Xenophanes, and, most famously, Socrates all pointed out the need for human beings to wake from their dream state to full awareness of themselves and the world. Plato's famous Allegory of the Cave is devoted to this very theme. Diogenes, however, confronted the citizens of Athens daily with their lifelessness and shallow values, emulating his hero Socrates whom he never met but would have learned of from Antisthenes. Although it seems many people thought he was simply mentally ill, Diogenes would have claimed he was living a completely honest life and others should have the courage to do the same.


This behavior of Diogenes was informed in part by the belief that if an act is not shameful in private then it should not be shameful in public. The rules by which people lived, then, were non-sensical in that they forced people to behave in a way different from how they would naturally have behaved. Manners and etiquette were both regarded by him as staples of the false life in the dream world and should not be indulged in. Accordingly, he insulted his social superiors regularly, including Plato and Alexander the Great. When Plato defined a human being as "a featherless biped", and was praised for the cleverness of the definition, Diogenes plucked a chicken, brought it to Plato's Academy, and declared, "Behold - Plato's human being." Plato then added "with broad, flat, nails" to his definition. This is not the only time Diogenes insulted Plato publicly but is the best known incident.
Diogenes of Sinope

Diogenes of Sinope

In the case of Alexander the Great, both Diogenes Laertius and Plutarch relate how, when Diogenes was living in Corinth, Alexander came to the city and was very interested in meeting the philosopher. He found Diogenes resting in the sunlight, introduced himself, and asked if there was anything he could do for him. Diogenes replied, "Yes. Get out of my sunlight."Alexander admired his spirit and said, "If I were not Alexander, I would wish to be Diogenes" to which Diogenes replied, "If I were not Diogenes, I would also wish to be Diogenes." On another occasion, when some people were discussing a man named Callisthenes and the fine treatment he received from Alexander, Diogenes said, "The man then is wretched, for he is forced to breakfast and dine whenever Alexander chooses." Another time, at a banquet for some Athenian elites, some of the guests threw Diogenes some bones and referred to him as a dog; so he lifted his leg and urinated on them. In spite of, or because of, his outrageous behavior, the Athenians loved him and, Laertius relates, when a boy broke Diogenes' cask, the people had the boy beaten and replaced the broken cask. It is unlikely, however, that Diogenes cared very much for the cask or what state it was in; to him, possessions were a trap.
To be truly free, and live a virtuous life of complete awareness, was the ultimate meaning of one's existence. As Diogenes Laertius writes,
On one occasion he was asked, what was the most excellent thing among men; and he said, `Freedom of speech.' He was in the habit of doing everything in public, whether in respect of Venus or Ceres; and he used to put his conclusions in this way to people: `If there is nothing absurd in dining, then it is not absurd to dine in the market-place. But it is not absurd to dine, therefore it is not absurd to dine in the market-place'.
This was in reference to the prohibition on eating in the Agora (the public market) which, like all such prohibitions, Diogenes ignored.


For Diogenes, a reasonable life is one lived in accordance with nature and with one's natural inclinations. To be true to oneself, then, no matter how `mad' one may appear, was to pursue a life worth living. Whether true or another fable, the tale of Diogenes' capture by pirates and his being sold into slavery in Corinth bears testimony to the strength of his convictions. When asked what talent he had he replied, “That of governing men” and then demanded to be sold to Xeniades saying, “Sell me to that man; for he wants a master.” Even though he was a slave at this point, and in no position to demand anything, he believed so completely in himself that others felt compelled to listen to him and do what he said. Xeniades, for example, placed Diogenes in charge of tutoring his young sons and, in time, the philosopher became part of the family. He lived in Corinth with Xeniades' family for the rest of his life and died there at the age of ninety. His cause of death has been given as either severe food poisoning from eating a raw ox's foot, rabies from a dog bite, or suicide by holding his breath. The citizens of Corinth, like those of Athens, had come to greatly admire the philosopher and buried him in honor by the city gate, erecting a monument over his grave. This would have amused Diogenes who, when asked what he wished done with his body after his death, replied that it should be thrown outside the city for the dogs to feed on. A statue of him stands in modern-day Sinop, Turkey, depicting him holding out his lantern with a dog sitting by his side.

Gregory the Great & His Pastoral Care › Who Was

Ancient Civilizations

by John S. Knox
published on 12 July 2016
Pope Gregory I

Pope Gregory I


One of Pope Gregory's most famous literary works is the treatise, Pastoral Care (also known in Latin as Liber Regulae Pastoralis ), a four-book exposition that offers quintessential guidelines for priests and bishops on how to wisely and biblically lead their churches and how to morally manage their lives. In this writing, Gregory presents his papal opinion on the qualifications, attitudes, choices, and activities of being a good pastor, or, as he terms it, "physicians of the heart." (Book I, Ch. 2.)
For Gregory, the office of pastor existed for the benefit of his flock, not the reverse, which he saw happening far too often in medieval society. MacCulloch remarks,
Gregory the former monk saw that this active ministry in the world might afford clergy the chance to make greater spiritual progress than in a monastery, precisely because it was so difficult to maintain contemplative serenity and an ability to expound good news amid the messiness of everyday life. (328-329)


Gregory begins Pastoral Care by pointing out, "Wherefore, let fear temper the desire; but afterwards, authority being assumed by one who sought it not, let his life commend it." (Book I, introduction) The medieval church pastor position was extremely influential; by word or by deed, a pastor could cause spiritual and physical harm to a parishioner (or even lead them to their death), intentionally or unintentionally. Thus, a contemplative, beneficial attitude of servant leadership had to be maintained.Much like the care and concern a physician has in dealing with the health and wellness of his or her patient, in Gregory's mind, the pastor must be protective and preservative in his treatment of his church flock.


Furthermore, even though supposedly a holy physician, a careless pastor might "foul the [same] water," (Book I, Ch. 2.) instead of offering a clear spiritual or biblical solution to the problem besetting the hurting church member. Without proper education and training, the ignorant or worldly pastor could become a stumbling block of destruction rather than the good shepherd leading the sinner to the Good News. Gregory encouraged his readers to find the healthy balance between leadership authority and leadership egomania, being neither too lenient nor too harsh with the suffering parishioner. He writes,
For care should be taken that a ruler show himself to his subjects as a mother in loving-kindness, and as a father in discipline. And all the time it should be seen to with anxious circumspection, that neither discipline be rigid nor loving-kindness lax. (Book II, Ch. 6.)
Trust was another important factor for Gregory concerning pastors and their church, especially considering the number of people dependent upon him. Gregory states,
[A pastor should be] pure in thought, exemplary in conduct, discreet in keeping silence, profitable in speech, in sympathy a near neighbor to everyone, in contemplation exalted above all others, a humble companion to those who lead good lives, erect for his zeal for righteousness against the vices of sinners. (Book II, Ch. 1.)
The pastor should be above reproach so that no obstacles block the approach of his parishioners. People should be eager and willing to receive advice and assistance from their faithful pastor. Moreover, he must perform key pastoral duties and not become arrogant with power and self-righteousness. He writes,
The ruler should be, through humility, a companion of good livers, and, through the zeal of righteousness, rigid against the vices of evil-doers; so that in nothing he prefer himself to the good, and yet, when the fault of the bad requires it, he be at once conscious of the power of his priority; to the end that, while among his subordinates who live well he waives his rank and accounts them as his equals, he may not fear to execute the laws of rectitude towards the perverse. (Book II, Ch. 6.)
Time and time again in Pastoral Care, Gregory expands upon the dangers of over-emphasizing clerical authority and ego, pointing to it as both dangerous and a perversion of human reality. Gregory states,
But since often, when preaching is abundantly poured forth in fitting ways, the mind of the speaker is elevated in itself by a hidden delight in self-display, great care is needed that he may gnaw himself with the laceration of fear, lest he who recalls the diseases of others to health by remedies should himself swell through neglect of his own health; lest in helping others he desert himself, lest in lifting up others he fall. (Book IV)


Beneath the clerical robes and priestly authority, the pastor was still filled with the same sinful nature as his parishioners. This demanded great self–awareness and internal evaluation so that the pastor's deeds were performed out of genuine love of neighbor rather than the pastor's love of self. Gregory admonishes,
That they should first shake themselves up by lofty deeds, and then make others solicitous for good living; that they should first smite themselves with the wings of their thoughts; that whatsoever in themselves is unprofitably torpid they should discover by anxious investigation, and correct by strict animadversion, and then at length set in order the life of others by speaking; that they should take heed to punish their own faults by bewailings, and then denounce what calls for punishment in others; and that, before they give voice to words of exhortation, they should proclaim in their deeds all that they are about to speak. (Book III, Ch. 40.)
As he understood ministry, a pastoral calling was given to help deliver sinners from their vices, not to dominate or exploit or condemn them, the common worldly abuses of his age. Hiestand and Wilson advocate for this very same concept when they write, "As a pastor, [one] should consider everything in light of the needs of your church." (121) Thus, Gregory's personal papal challenge to all Christian leaders was that they should continuously examine their own lives, personal vices, and failings before criticizing the lives and behaviors of others in their ministerial positions.
Ultimately, it was Gregory's hope that in contemplating and applying the truths of Pastoral Care, pastors would "rejoice not to be over men, but to do them good. For indeed our ancient fathers are said to have been not kings of men, but shepherds of flocks." (Book II, Ch. 6.)


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