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The term "tetrarchy" (from the Greek: τετραρχία, tetrarchia, "leadership of four [people]")[a] describes any form of government where power is divided among four individuals, but in modern usage usually refers to the system instituted by Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
Diocletian
Diocletian
in 293, marking the end of the Crisis of the Third Century
Crisis of the Third Century
and the recovery of the Roman Empire. This tetrarchy lasted until c. 313, when mutually destructive conflict eliminated most of the claimants to power, leaving Constantine in control of the western half of the empire, and Licinius
Licinius
in control of the eastern half.

Contents

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. Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
until 1 May 305 8.2 2. Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
until July 306 8.3 3. Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
until 16 May 307 8.4 4. Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
from 18 November 308 to the beginning of May 311 8.5 5. Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
from May 311 8.6 (6.) Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
after 8 October 316 to the end of 316 8.7 (7.) Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
from 1 March 317 to 18 September 324

9 Legacy 10 Other examples 11 See also 12 Notes 13 Citations 14 References 15 External links

Terminology[edit] 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 Latin
Latin
world as well, where Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
glossed it as follows: "each is the equivalent of a kingdom, and also part of one" (regnorum instar singulae et in regna contribuuntur).[1] 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 of Diocletian
Diocletian
and a deep ideological opponent of the Diocletianic state, referred to the tetrarchs as a simple multiplicity of rulers.[2] 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 Seeck
Otto Seeck
used it in 1897.[3] Creation[edit] The first phase, sometimes referred to as the Diarchy
Diarchy
("rule of two"), involved the designation of the general Maximian
Maximian
as co-emperor—firstly as Caesar (junior emperor) in 285, followed by his promotion to Augustus in 286. Diocletian
Diocletian
took care of matters in the eastern regions of the empire while Maximian
Maximian
similarly took charge of the western regions. In 293, Diocletian
Diocletian
thought 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)— Galerius
Galerius
and Constantius Chlorus.[4] In 305, the senior emperors jointly abdicated and retired, allowing Constantius and Galerius
Galerius
to 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 Galerius
Galerius
— thereby creating the second Tetrarchy. Regions and capitals[edit]

Map of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
under the Tetrarchy, showing the dioceses and the four tetrarchs' zones of influence.

The four tetrarchs based themselves not at Rome
Rome
but 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 Rome
Rome
ceased to be an operational capital, Rome
Rome
continued to be nominal capital of the entire Roman Empire, not reduced to the status of a province but under its own, unique Prefect
Prefect
of the City (praefectus urbis, later copied in Constantinople). The four tetrarchic capitals were:

Nicomedia
Nicomedia
in northwestern Asia Minor
Asia Minor
(modern Izmit
Izmit
in 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 enemy, Sassanid Persia, became the pretorian prefecture Oriens, 'the East', the core of later Byzantium. Sirmium
Sirmium
(modern Sremska Mitrovica
Sremska Mitrovica
in the Vojvodina
Vojvodina
region of modern Serbia, and near Belgrade, on the Danube
Danube
border) was the capital of Galerius, the eastern Caesar; this was to become the Balkans-Danube prefecture Illyricum. Mediolanum
Mediolanum
(modern Milan, near the Alps) was the capital of Maximian, the western Augustus; his domain became "Italia et Africa", with only a short exterior border. Augusta Treverorum
Augusta Treverorum
(modern 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 Eboracum
Eboracum
(modern York, in northern England near the Celtic tribes of modern Scotland and Ireland), were also significant centres for Maximian
Maximian
and Constantius respectively. 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 Prefect, 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 Roman province. In the West, the Augustus Maximian
Maximian
controlled the provinces west of the Adriatic Sea and the Syrtis, and within that region his Caesar, Constantius, controlled Gaul
Gaul
and Britain. In the East, the arrangements between the Augustus Diocletian
Diocletian
and his Caesar, Galerius, were much more flexible. However, it appears that some contemporary and later writers, such as the Christian author Lactantius, and 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 emperors.

Public image[edit]

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, Venice

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 century. 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. Military successes[edit] 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 Aurelian
Aurelian
and 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. Under the Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
a 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 crushed Narseh
Narseh
in 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 Allectus, Maximian pacified the Gauls, and Diocletian
Diocletian
crushed the revolt of Domitianus in Egypt. Demise[edit]

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 Diocletian
Diocletian
and Maximian
Maximian
ended, both abdicated. Their Caesares, Galerius
Galerius
and Constantius Chlorus, were both raised to the rank of Augustus, and two new Caesares were appointed: Maximinus (Caesar to Galerius) and Flavius Valerius Severus
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, Galerius
Galerius
promoted 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 in 307. Maxentius
Maxentius
and Maximian
Maximian
both then declared themselves Augusti. By 308 there were therefore no fewer than four claimants to the rank of Augustus (Galerius, Constantine, Maximian
Maximian
and Maxentius), and only one to that of Caesar (Maximinus). In 308 Galerius, together with the retired emperor Diocletian
Diocletian
and the supposedly retired Maximian, called an imperial "conference" at Carnuntum
Carnuntum
on the River Danube. The council agreed that Licinius
Licinius
would become Augustus in the West, with Constantine as his Caesar. In the East, Galerius
Galerius
remained Augustus and Maximinus remained his Caesar. Maximian
Maximian
was to retire, and Maxentius
Maxentius
was declared an usurper. This agreement proved disastrous: by 308 Maxentius
Maxentius
had become de facto ruler of Italy and Africa
Africa
even 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 Augustus Licinius
Licinius
as 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. Galerius
Galerius
died naturally in 311. Maxentius
Maxentius
was defeated by Constantine at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge
Battle of the Milvian Bridge
in 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 Licinius
Licinius
in 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 Empire
Roman Empire
and declare himself sole Augustus. Timeline[edit]

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)

286–293[edit]

A chart of the diarchy of 286-293 and subsequent tetrarchy of 293-305.

Augusti Oriens Diocletian
Diocletian
(286–293) Occidens Maximian
Maximian
(286–293)

293–305[edit]

Augusti Oriens Diocletian
Diocletian
(286–305) Italia et Africa
Africa
Maximian
Maximian
(286–305) Caesars Illyricum Galerius
Galerius
(293–305) Gallia et Hispaniae Constantius Chlorus
Constantius Chlorus
(293–305) Usurpers Leaders of the Bagaudae in Gaul
Gaul
Amandus and Aelianus (285–286) Africa
Africa
Zeugitana Sabinus Julianus
Sabinus Julianus
(c. 285–293) Britannia Carausius
Carausius
(286–293) Britannia Allectus
Allectus
(293–296) Aegyptus Domitius Domitianus (296–297) Aegyptus Aurelius Achilleus (297–298) Syria Coele
Syria Coele
Eugenius (303/304)

305–306[edit]

A chart of the tetrarchy from 305 to 306, after the retirement of Diocletian
Diocletian
and his colleague Maximian, and the accession of Constantius and Galerius.

Augusti Illyricum Galerius
Galerius
(305–306) Gallia, Hispaniae et Britannia Constantius Chlorus
Constantius Chlorus
(305–306) Caesars Oriens Maximinus Daia
Maximinus Daia
(305–306) Italia et Africa
Africa
Flavius Valerius Severus
Flavius Valerius Severus
(305–306)

306–307[edit]

A chart of the tetrarchy from 306 to 307. After the usurper Maxentius declared himself Caesar, Augustus Severus marched on Rome
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 Galerius
Galerius
(306–307) Italia et Africa
Africa
Flavius Valerius Severus
Flavius Valerius Severus
(306–307) Caesars Oriens Maximinus Daia
Maximinus Daia
(306–307) Gallia, Hispaniae et Britannia Constantine I
Constantine I
(306–307) Roma Maxentius
Maxentius
(307)

307–313[edit]

Maximianus joined the secessionist regime of his son, Maxentius, in Italy. Constantine joined the secessionist alliance by marrying Maximianus' daughter, Fausta, and by supporting Maxentius
Maxentius
in Italy. However, Constantine remained neutral with Galerius, but he still took the title of Augustus in the secessionist regime.

Augusti Illyricum Galerius
Galerius
(307–311) Gallia, Hispaniae et Britannia Constantine I
Constantine I
(307–…) Thracia et Pontus to Taurus Licinius
Licinius
(308–…) Italia Maxentius
Maxentius
(307–312) Oriens from Taurus to Aegyptus Maximinus Daia
Maximinus Daia
(310–313) Italia Maximian
Maximian
(307–310)

Caesars Oriens from Taurus to Aegyptus Maximinus Daia
Maximinus Daia
(307–310)

Usurpers Africa
Africa
Domitius Alexander
Domitius Alexander
(308–311)

313–324[edit]

Augusti Oriens Licinius
Licinius
(313–324) Occidens Constantine I
Constantine I
(313–324) Oriens Sextus Martinianus
Sextus Martinianus
(324)

Caesars Italia Bassianus (313–314) Illyricum Valerius Valens
Valerius Valens
(314–316) Oriens Licinius
Licinius
the Younger (317–324) Occidens Crispus
Crispus
(317–326)

324[edit]

Augustus Constantine I

Others[edit] 1. Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
until 1 May 305[edit]

West East

Augusti Maximian Diocletian

Caesares Constantius Chlorus Galerius

2. Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
until July 306[edit] After the retirement of the two Augusti succeed the both previous Caesares and appoint two new Caesares. Maximinus Daia
Maximinus Daia
is the nephew of Galerius
Galerius
Galerius.

West East

Augusti Constantius Chlorus Galerius

Caesares Severus Maximinus Daia

3. Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
until 16 May 307[edit] After the death of Constantius his legions proclamate his son Constantine to be the new Augustus, but Galerius
Galerius
elevates Severus to be the new junior Augustus and compensates Constantin with the grade of Caesar.

West East

Augusti Severus Galerius

Caesares Constantine Maximinus Daia

4. Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
from 18 November 308 to the beginning of May 311[edit] After the death of Severus it isn't Constantine who moves up in the higher title. In the emperor's conference of Carnutum Diocletian decides that Licinius
Licinius
will be the new Augustus of the West.

West East

Augusti Licinius Galerius

Caesares Constantine Maximinus Daia

5. Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
from May 311[edit] After the death of Galerius
Galerius
he was succeeded by Maximinus Daia
Maximinus Daia
in 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.

West East

Augusti Licinius Maximinus Daia

Caesares Constantine vacant

(6.) Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
after 8 October 316 to the end of 316[edit] Shortly before the turn of the year 316/317 for a short-term exists the situation, that Augustus Constantine appointed a Caesar, while Licinius
Licinius
briefly appointed one of his officers, Valerius Valens, as the third Augustus, as apparent from coins, though the latter apparently was inferior to Licinius
Licinius
- who soon executed him. Even the chronology is unclear, as the date stamping could also be the turn of the year 314/315.

West East

Augusti Constantine Licinius
Licinius
and Valerius Valens

Caesares Bassianus

(7.) Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
from 1 March 317 to 18 September 324[edit] The tetrarchic system is at its end. Both Augusti appoint their own sons to co-emperors, restoring a dynastic system. Constantine even appoints two of his sons. However, before of his end Licinius
Licinius
appoints the General Martinianus
Martinianus
on 3. July 324 as Augustus, in name only, as Martinianus
Martinianus
was intended to replace Constantine in the west.

West East

Augusti Constantine I Licinius

Caesares Crispus
Crispus
and Constantine II Licinius
Licinius
II

Legacy[edit] 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. Other examples[edit]

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v t e

Tetrarchies in the ancient world existed in both Thessaly
Thessaly
(in northern Greece) and Galatia
Galatia
(in central Asia Minor; including Lycaonia) as well as among the British Cantiaci. The constellation of Jewish principalities in the Herodian kingdom
Herodian kingdom
of Judea
Judea
was known as a tetrarchy; see Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
(Judea). In the novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Pevensie siblings rule Narnia as a tetrarchy of two kings and two queens.

See also[edit]

Notitia dignitatum, a later document from the imperial chancery

Notes[edit]

^ Historian David Potter translates the term as "gang of four". See idem., Constantine the Emperor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 1.

Citations[edit]

^ 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.

References[edit]

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 0-521-30199-8.  Corcoran, Simon (2000). The Empire of the Tetrarchs, Imperial Pronouncements and Government AD 284–324. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-815304-X.  Kolb, Frank (1987). Diocletian
Diocletian
und die Erste Tetrarchie. Improvisation oder Experiment in der Organisation monarchischer Herrschaft?, Berlin: de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-010934-4 Kuhoff, Wolfgang (2001). Diokletian und die Epoche der Tetrarchie. Das römische Reich zwischen Krisenbewältigung und Neuaufbau (284–313 n. Chr.), Frankfurt am Main: Lang. ISBN 3-631-36792-9 Leadbetter, William Lewis (2009). Galerius
Galerius
and the Will of Diocletian. London and New York: Routledge. Rees, Roger (2004). Diocletian
Diocletian
and the Tetrarchy. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-1661-6. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tetrarchy.

A detailed chronology of the tetrarchy from Diocletian
Diocletian
to Constantine A chart showing the tetrarchy from Diocletian
Diocletian
to Constantine

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