The Third Century Crisis has it all. Assassinations, plotting, uprisings by the people, military, and nobles alike. Burning and looting. And a year where there were 6 emperors all at the same time. We will be covering Aurelian and Diocletian, we promise. But first we need to set up the backstory for how these two managed to staple the Roman empire back together. And we'll cover the 14 emperors leading up to Aurelian. One whose death might seem... familiar.
Aurelian came from... well, we don't really know where exactly. But boy did he leave his mark on Roman history. While ancient Rome was being gripped by the Third Century Crisis and most emperors could rarely last for a year, Aurelian became emperor and managed to claim several titles, including Restitutor Orbis, restorer of the world. Quite a hefty title, that. We cover his battles with the German tribes, the Goths, and Zenobia.
A messy and petty assassination plot kills Aurelian after 5 years of ruling. Would Rome be doomed to start the crisis a new? At first, it seemed like it. Emperors rose and fell and were assassinated, died in accidents, etc. Definitely not by the elite commander Diocletian though. Even if Diocletian benefited greatly from the crisis. Like becoming the new Emperor of Rome. Now the civil war and conga line of assassinations and political plotting might make it sound like Diocletian is just another horse on the merry go round of absolute chaos Rome had become. But this new Emperor had BIG ideas.
The Third Century Crisis becomes manageable under Diocletian, but the emperor still faces many problems, and not all of them as exciting as assassination. The rampant devaluing of currency and lack of formal tax system makes it very difficult for the state to accumulate wealth. So Diolcletian will overhaul the tax system and that will become his most long-lasting achievement. But his more famous invention is the tetrarcy, Rome's imperial boy band who will work to stabilize the massive empire.
Diocletian worked hard to pull together the Roman Empire from the brink of collapse but remember, his strategy was to return the Empire to some mythic past that really never existed in the first place. But that meant something had to be done about this new pesky religion that had shown up, one that centered an executed criminal. Something must be done about Christianity. Thus began The Great Persecution and the Cult of Martyrs that would grow to become the practice of saints. But even without the religious troubles, there was unrest brewing in the empire. Diocletian and Maximius retired, only for their sons to throw the empire back into civil war.