Diocles' parents were of low status, and writers critical of him claimed that his father was a scribe or a freedman of the senator Anullinus, or even that Diocles was a freedman himself.
The first forty years of his life are mostly obscure.
Julianus minted coins from the mint at Siscia (Sisak, Croatia) declaring himself as emperor and promising freedom.
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Although effective while he ruled, Diocletian's tetrarchic system collapsed after his abdication under the competing dynastic claims of Maxentius and Constantine, sons of Maximian and Constantius respectively.
The Diocletianic Persecution (303–11), the empire's last, largest, and bloodiest official persecution of Christianity, failed to eliminate Christianity in the empire; indeed, after 324, Christianity became the empire's preferred religion under its first Christian emperor, Constantine.
He raised his sword to the light of the sun and swore an oath disclaiming responsibility for Numerian's death.
He asserted that Aper had killed Numerian and concealed it.
He appointed fellow officer Maximian as Augustus, co-emperor, in 286.
Diocletian delegated further on 1 March 293, appointing Galerius and Constantius as Caesars, junior co-emperors.
Diocletian separated and enlarged the empire's civil and military services and reorganized the empire's provincial divisions, establishing the largest and most bureaucratic government in the history of the empire.
He established new administrative centres in Nicomedia, Mediolanum, Sirmium, and Trier, closer to the empire's frontiers than the traditional capital at Rome.
He lived out his retirement in his palace on the Dalmatian coast, tending to his vegetable gardens.
His palace eventually became the core of the modern-day city of Split in Croatia.
In spite of these failures and challenges, Diocletian's reforms fundamentally changed the structure of Roman imperial government and helped stabilize the empire economically and militarily, enabling the empire to remain essentially intact for another 150 years despite being near the brink of collapse in Diocletian's youth.