The term _TETRARCHY_ (from the Greek : τετραρχία,
_tetrarchia_, "leadership of four ") describes any form of government
where power is divided among four individuals, but in modern usage
usually refers to the system instituted by
293, marking the end of the
Crisis of the Third Century
Crisis of the Third Centuryand the
recovery of the
Roman Empire. This tetrarchy lasted until c. 313,
when internecine conflict eliminated most of the claimants to power,
leaving Constantine in control of the western half of the empire, and
Liciniusin control of the eastern half.
* 1 Terminology
* 2 Creation
* 3 Regions and capitals
* 4 Public image
* 5 Military successes
* 6 Demise
* 7 Timeline
* 7.1 286–293
* 7.2 293–305
* 7.3 305–306
* 7.4 306–307
* 7.5 307–313
* 7.6 313–324
* 7.7 324
* 8 Others
* 8.1 1.
Tetrarchyuntil 1 May 305
* 8.2 2.
Tetrarchyuntil July 306
* 8.3 3.
Tetrarchyuntil 16 May 307
* 8.4 4.
Tetrarchyfrom 18 November 308 to the beginning of May 311
* 8.5 5.
Tetrarchyfrom May 311
* 8.6 (6.)
Tetrarchyafter 8 October 316 to the end of 316
* 8.7 (7.)
Tetrarchyfrom 1 March 317 to 18 September 324
* 9 Legacy
* 10 Other examples
* 11 See also
* 12 Notes
* 13 Citations
* 14 References
* 15 External links
Although the term "tetrarch" was current in antiquity, it was never
used of the imperial college under Diocletian. Instead, the term was
used to describe independent portions of a kingdom that were ruled
under separate leaders. The tetrarchy of Judaea , established after
the death of
Herod the Great, is the most famous example of the
antique tetrarchy. The term was understood in the
Latinworld as well,
Pliny the Elderglossed it as follows: "each is the equivalent
of a kingdom, and also part of one" (_regnorum instar singulae et in
As used by the ancients, the term describes not only different
governments, but also a different system of government from the
Diocletianic arrangements. The Judaean tetrarchy was a set of four
independent and distinct states, where each tetrarch ruled a quarter
of a kingdom as they saw fit; the Diocletianic tetrarchy was a college
led by a single supreme leader. When later authors described the
period, this is what they emphasized: Ammianus had Constantius II
admonish Julian for disobedience by appealing to the example in
submission set by Diocletian's lesser colleagues; Julian himself
compared the Diocletianic tetrarchs to a chorus surrounding a leader,
speaking in unison under his command. Only
Lactantius, a contemporary
Diocletianand a deep ideological opponent of the Diocletianic
state, referred to the tetrarchs as a simple multiplicity of rulers.
Much modern scholarship was written without the term. Although Edward
Gibbon pioneered the description of the Diocletianic government as a
"New Empire", he never used the term "tetrarchy"; neither did Theodor
Mommsen . It did not appear in the literature until used in 1887 by
schoolmaster Hermann Schiller in a two-volume handbook on the Roman
Empire (_Geschichte der Römischen Kaiserzeit_), to wit: "_die
diokletianische Tetrarchie_". Even so, the term did not catch on in
the literature until
Otto Seeckused it in 1897.
The first phase, sometimes referred to as the
two"), involved the designation of the general
co-emperor—firstly as _Caesar _ (junior emperor) in 285, followed by
his promotion to _Augustus _ in 286.
Diocletiantook care of matters
in the eastern regions of the empire while
charge of the western regions. In 293,
Diocletianthought that more
focus was needed on both civic and military problems, so with
Maximian's consent, he expanded the imperial college by appointing two
_Caesars_ (one responsible to each _Augustus_)—
In 305, the senior emperors jointly abdicated and retired, allowing
Galeriusto be elevated in rank to _Augustus_. They in
turn appointed two new Caesars — Severus II in the west under
Constantius, and Maximinus in the east under
creating the second Tetrarchy.
REGIONS AND CAPITALS
Map of the
Roman Empireunder the Tetrarchy, showing the
dioceses and the four tetrarchs' zones of influence.
The four tetrarchs based themselves not at
Romebut in other cities
closer to the frontiers, mainly intended as headquarters for the
defence of the empire against bordering rivals (notably Sassanian
Persia) and barbarians (mainly Germanic, and an unending sequence of
nomadic or displaced tribes from the eastern steppes) at the Rhine and
Danube. These centres are known as the tetrarchic capitals. Although
Romeceased to be an operational capital,
Romecontinued to be nominal
capital of the entire Roman Empire, not reduced to the status of a
province but under its own, unique
Prefectof the City (praefectus
urbis , later copied in Constantinople).
The four tetrarchic capitals were:
Izmitin Turkey), a
base for defence against invasion from the Balkans and Persia's
Sassanids was the capital of Diocletian, the eastern (and most senior)
Augustus; in the final reorganisation by Constantine the Great, in
318, the equivalent of his domain, facing the most redoubtable foreign
Sassanid Persia, became the pretorian prefecture Oriens, 'the
East', the core of later Byzantium.
Sremska Mitrovicain the
Serbia, and near
Belgrade, on the
Danubeborder) was the
capital of Galerius, the eastern Caesar; this was to become the
Milan, near the Alps) was the capital of
Maximian, the western Augustus; his domain became "Italia et Africa",
with only a short exterior border.
Trier, in Germany) was the capital of
Constantius Chlorus, the western Caesar, near the strategic Rhine
border; it had been the capital of Gallic emperor
Tetricus I. This
quarter became the prefecture Galliae.
Aquileia, a port on the Adriatic coast, and
in northern England near the Celtic tribes of modern Scotland and
Ireland), were also significant centres for
In terms of regional jurisdiction there was no precise division
between the four tetrarchs, and this period did not see the Roman
state actually split up into four distinct sub-empires. Each emperor
had his zone of influence within the Roman Empire, but little more,
mainly high command in a 'war theater'. Each tetrarch was himself
often in the field, while delegating most of the administration to the
hierarchic bureaucracy headed by his respective Pretorian
each supervising several
Vicarii, the governors-general in charge of
another, lasting new administrative level, the civil diocese . For a
listing of the provinces, now known as eparchy , within each quarter
(known as a praetorian prefecture), see
In the West, the Augustus
Maximiancontrolled the provinces west of
the Adriatic Sea and the Syrtis, and within that region his Caesar,
Gauland Britain. In the East, the
arrangements between the Augustus
Diocletianand his Caesar, Galerius,
were much more flexible.
However, it appears that some contemporary and later writers, such as
the Christian author
Sextus Aurelius Victor(who
wrote about fifty years later and from uncertain sources),
misunderstood the tetrarchic system in this respect, believing it to
have involved a stricter division of territories between the four
Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs
Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs_, a porphyry sculpture looted
from a Byzantine palace in 1204, now standing at the southwest corner
of St Mark\'s Basilica ,
Although power was shared in the tetrarchic system, the public image
of the four emperors in the imperial college was carefully managed to
give the appearance of a united empire (_patrimonium indivisum_). This
was especially important after the numerous civil wars of the 3rd
The tetrarchs appeared identical in all official portraits. Coinage
dating from the tetrarchic period depicts every emperor with identical
features—only the inscriptions on the coins indicate which one of
the four emperors is being shown. The Byzantine sculpture _Portrait of
the Four Tetrarchs _ shows the tetrarchs again with identical features
and wearing the same military costume.
One of the greatest problems facing emperors in the Third Century
Crisis was that they were only ever able to personally command troops
on one front at any one time. While
Aurelianand Probus were prepared
to accompany their armies thousands of miles between war regions, this
was not an ideal solution. Furthermore, it was risky for an emperor to
delegate power in his absence to a subordinate general, who might win
a victory and then be proclaimed as a rival emperor himself by his
troops (which often happened). All members of the imperial college, on
the other hand, were of essentially equal rank, despite two being
senior emperors and two being junior; their functions and authorities
were also equal.
Tetrarchya number of important military victories were
secured. Both the Dyarchic and the tetrarchic system ensured that an
emperor was nearby to every crisis area to personally direct and
remain in control of campaigns simultaneously on more than just one
front. After suffering a defeat by the Persians in 296, Galerius
Narsehin 298—reversing a series of Roman defeats throughout
the century—capturing members of the imperial household and a
substantial amount of booty and gaining a highly favourable peace
treaty, which secured peace between the two powers for a generation.
Similarly, Constantius defeated the British usurper
Maximianpacified the Gauls, and
Diocletiancrushed the revolt of
_ Constantine at the battle of the Milvian Bridge _, fresco by
Raphael, Vatican Rooms. Main article:
Civil wars of the Tetrarchy
When in 305 the 20-year term of
abdicated. Their Caesares,
Galeriusand Constantius Chlorus, were both
raised to the rank of Augustus, and two new Caesares were appointed:
Maximinus (Caesar to Galerius) and
Flavius Valerius Severus(Caesar to
Constantius). These four formed the second tetrarchy.
However, the system broke down very quickly thereafter. When
Constantius died in 306,
Galeriuspromoted Severus to Augustus while
Constantine , Constantius' son, was proclaimed Augustus by his
father's troops. At the same time,
Maxentius, the son of Maximian,
who also resented being left out of the new arrangements, defeated
Severus before forcing him to abdicate and then arranging his murder
Maximianboth then declared themselves Augusti.
By 308 there were therefore no fewer than four claimants to the rank
of Augustus (Galerius, Constantine,
Maximianand Maxentius), and only
one to that of Caesar (Maximinus).
In 308 Galerius, together with the retired emperor
supposedly retired Maximian, called an imperial "conference" at
Carnuntumon the River Danube. The council agreed that
become Augustus in the West, with Constantine as his Caesar. In the
Galeriusremained Augustus and Maximinus remained his Caesar.
Maximianwas to retire, and
Maxentiuswas declared an usurper. This
agreement proved disastrous: by 308
Maxentiushad become _de facto_
ruler of Italy and
Africaeven without any imperial rank, and neither
Constantine nor Maximinus—who had both been Caesares since 306 and
305 respectively—were prepared to tolerate the promotion of the
Liciniusas their superior.
After an abortive attempt to placate both Constantine and Maximinus
with the meaningless title _filius Augusti_ ("son of the Augustus",
essentially an alternative title for Caesar), they both had to be
recognised as Augusti in 309. However, four full Augusti all at odds
with each other did not bode well for the tetrarchic system.
Between 309 and 313 most of the claimants to the imperial office died
or were killed in various civil wars. Constantine forced Maximian's
suicide in 310.
Galeriusdied naturally in 311.
by Constantine at the
Battle of the Milvian Bridgein 312 and
subsequently killed. Maximinus committed suicide at Tarsus in 313
after being defeated in battle by Licinius.
By 313, therefore, there remained only two emperors: Constantine in
the West and
Liciniusin the East. The tetrarchic system was at an
end, although it took until 324 for Constantine to finally defeat
Licinius, reunite the two halves of the
Roman Empireand declare
himself sole Augustus.
This list (which may have dates, numbers, etc.) MAY BE BETTER IN A
SORTABLE TABLE FORMAT. Please help improve this list or discuss it on
the talk page . (November 2016)_
_ A chart of the diarchy of 286-293 and subsequent tetrarchy of
293-305. Augusti Oriens _
Diocletian(286–293) _Occidens _
Augusti _Oriens _
Diocletian(286–305) _Italia et
Maximian(286–305) Caesars _Illyricum _
et Hispaniae _
Constantius Chlorus(293–305) Usurpers _Leaders of
Gaul_ Amandus and Aelianus (285–286) _Africa
Sabinus Julianus(c. 285–293) _Britannia_ Carausius
Domitianus (296–297) _
_ A chart of the tetrarchy from 305 to 306, after the retirement
Diocletianand his colleague
Maximian, and the accession of
Galerius. Augusti Illyricum_ Galerius
(305–306) _Gallia, Hispaniae et Britannia_ Constantius Chlorus
(305–306) Caesars _Oriens_
Maximinus Daia(305–306) _Italia et
Flavius Valerius Severus(305–306)
_ A chart of the tetrarchy from 306 to 307. After the usurper
Maxentiusdeclared himself Caesar, Augustus Severus marched on Rome
but was defeated when his troops deferred to
Maxentius. Severus was
later executed in the same year, 307. Maxentius, and his father and
former Augustus, Maximianus (
Maximian), declared themselves Augusti
later that year. Augusti Illyricum_
Flavius Valerius Severus(306–307) Caesars _Oriens_
Maximinus Daia(306–307) _Gallia, Hispaniae et Britannia_
Constantine I(306–307) _Roma_
_ Maximianus joined the secessionist regime of his son, Maxentius
, in Italy. Constantine joined the secessionist alliance by marrying
Fausta, and by supporting
However, Constantine remained neutral with
Galerius, but he still
took the title of Augustus in the secessionist regime. Augusti
Galerius(307–311) _Gallia, Hispaniae et Britannia_
Constantine I(307–…) _Thracia et Pontus to Taurus_ Licinius
Maxentius(307–312) _Oriens from Taurus to
Maximinus Daia(310–313) _Italia_
Caesars _Oriens from Taurus to Aegyptus_
Licinius(313–324) _Occidens_ Constantine I
Sextus Martinianus(324) Caesars _Italia_
Bassianus (313–314) _Illyricum_
Valerius Valens(314–316) _Oriens_
Liciniusthe Younger (317–324) _Occidens_
1. TETRARCHY UNTIL 1 MAY 305
2. TETRARCHY UNTIL JULY 306
After the retirement of the two _Augusti_ succeed the both previous
_Caesares_ and appoint two new _Caesares_.
Maximinus Daiais the
3. TETRARCHY UNTIL 16 MAY 307
After the death of Constantius his legions proclamate his son
Constantin to be the new _Augustus_, but
Galeriuselevates Severus to
be the new _junior Augustus_ and compensates Constantin with the grade
4. TETRARCHY FROM 18 NOVEMBER 308 TO THE BEGINNING OF MAY 311
After the death of Severus it isn't Constantine who moves up in the
higher title. In the emperor's conference of Carnutum Diocletian
Liciniuswill be the new _Augustus_ of the West.
5. TETRARCHY FROM MAY 311
After the death of
Galeriushe was succeeded by
Maximinus Daiain the
rank of an _Augustus_ of the East, but is crowded by Licinius, who
wants to have the status of the _senior Augustus_. Maximinus appoints
firstly no new _Caesar_, although it was assumed, that this position
should later on be filled out with the son of Severus, Flavius
Severianus , or at least he was scheduled for this position.
(6.) TETRARCHY AFTER 8 OCTOBER 316 TO THE END OF 316
Shortly before the turn of the year 316/317 for a short-term exists
the situation, that both _Augusti_ Constantin and
again a _Caesar_. If both want to give the appearance of a continuity
Tetrarchyis also unclear as the date stamping which could also
be the turn of the year 314/315.
(7.) TETRARCHY FROM 1 MARCH 317 TO 18 SEPTEMBER 324
The tetrarchic system is at its end, the dynastic system has won.
Both _Augusti_ appoint their own sons to co-emperors, Constantin even
two of his sons. Short before of his end
Liciniusappoints the General
Martinianuson 3. July 324 to his co-emperor.
Crispusand Constantine II
Although the tetrarchic system as such only lasted until 313 CE, many
aspects of it survived. The fourfold regional division of the empire
continued in the form of Praetorian prefectures , each of which was
overseen by a praetorian prefect and subdivided into administrative
dioceses , and often reappeared in the title of the military
supra-provincial command assigned to a magister militum .
The pre-existing notion of _consortium imperii _, the sharing of
imperial power, and the notion that an associate to the throne was the
designated successor (possibly conflicting with the notion of
hereditary claim by birth or adoption), was to reappear repeatedly.
The idea of the two halves, the east and the west, re-emerged and
eventually resulted in the permanent de facto division into two
separate Roman empires after the death of
Theodosius I, though it is
important to remember that the empire was never formally divided, the
emperors of the eastern and western halves legally ruling as one
imperial college until the fall of Rome's western empire left
Byzantium, the "second Rome", sole direct heir.
Part of a series of articles on
Divine right of kings
Divine right of kings
Mandate of Heaven
* Birth of the
* Foundation of the Ottoman Empire
First French Empire
First French Empire
Second French Empire
Second French Empire
* German unification
5 October 1910 Revolution
5 October 1910 Revolution
* Proclamation of the Republic in Brazil
Siamese revolution of 1932
* Birth of the Italian Republic
Spanish transition to democracy
Spanish transition to democracy
Nepalese Civil War
* Tetrarchies in the ancient world existed in both
northern Greece) and
Asia Minor; including
Lycaonia) as well as among the British
* The constellation of Jewish principalities in the Herodian kingdom
Judeawas known as a tetrarchy; see
* In the novel
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe_, the Pevensie
siblings rule Narnia as a tetrarchy of two kings and two queens.
Notitia dignitatum, a later document from the imperial chancery
* ^ Historian David Potter translates the term as "gang of four ".
See idem., _Constantine the Emperor_ (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
* ^ Qtd. and tr. Leadbetter, _Galerius_, 3.
* ^ Leadbetter, _Galerius_, 3.
* ^ Leadbetter, _Galerius_, 3–4.
* ^ The chronology has been thoroughly established by Kolb,
_Diocletian_, and Kuhoff, _Diokletian_.
* Barnes, Timothy D. (1984). _Constantine and Eusebius_. Harvard
University Press . ISBN 0-674-16531-4 .
* Bowman, Alan (2005). _The Cambridge Ancient History Volume 12, The
Crisis of Empire, AD 193–337_.
Cambridge University Press. ISBN
* Corcoran, Simon (2000). _The Empire of the Tetrarchs, Imperial
Pronouncements and Government AD 284–324_.
Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press.
ISBN 0-19-815304-X .
* Kolb, Frank (1987). _
Diocletianund die Erste Tetrarchie.
Improvisation oder Experiment in der Organisation monarchischer