Did Diocletian Support Christianity

History of Diocletian

Diocletian was Roman Emperor from AD 284 to AD 305. He was the first ruler to be entrusted with absolute power and the most powerful of all Roman emperors. He reigned during a period of crisis for the empire and during a period of religious tension between Christianity and paganism. His reign was notable for various military reforms and administrative systems that he introduced. He brought together many aspects of the Roman Empire, from taxation to military organization, and restored its unity. He was also responsible for the construction of the Diocletianic Palace in Split, Croatia, where he retired after his abdication.

Diocletian and Christianity

Diocletian is often regarded as a persecutor of Christianity. Before his rise to power, he was known to be a follower of the pagan gods, as was common at the time. However, contrary to popular belief, Diocletian himself was not a direct persecutor of Christians. He believed in religious tolerance, and supported the established religions of the time, which included Christianity. He believed that religious division led to a disunited people, and he was confident that religious tolerance would help to unite the people, and promote political and social stability.

The Great Persecution of 303–304

Although Diocletian’s policy was one of religious tolerance in general, his reign was witness to the Great Persecution of 303–304–the first empire-wide persecution of Christians on a massive scale. This event marked a major shift in the Roman Empire’s attitude towards Christianity, as it had been largely tolerated prior to this point. Diocletian was likely aware of and complicit in the persecution, but it is unclear whether he initiated it himself. He may simply have allowed local authorities to act as they saw fit. In any case, the Great Persecution was a pivotal event, and led to further wars and divisions between the Christian and pagan populations throughout the Roman Empire.

The Edict of Milan

Diocletian’s successor, Constantine I, was more favorably disposed towards Christianity. In AD 313, he issued the Edict of Milan, which effectively ended the Great Persecution and granted religious toleration to Christians throughout the empire. Contrary to popular belief, the Edict of Milan was not a charter for religious freedom; it was instead an imperial proclamation of religious toleration, which officially recognized Christianity as one of the empire’s many religions. Despite this, it led to a major shift in the empire’s attitude towards Christianity, as it had previously been largely persecuted and demonized. In time, Christianity pervaded the empire, and eventually became the state religion.


Diocletian was the first Roman Emperor to be entrusted with absolute power and the most powerful of all Roman emperors. He is often thought of as a persecutor of Christianity but he was actually an advocate of religious tolerance and his reign saw the beginnings of religious pluralism in the Roman Empire. While he did not initiate the Great Persecution of 303–304, he was aware of and complicit in it, and his successor Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan which ended it and granted Christian religious toleration throughout the Empire. Over time, Christianity became the state religion and it still has a major presence today.

Influence on Christianity Worldwide

The Edict of Milan marks a major shift in the Roman Empire’s attitude towards Christianity, from persecution to religious toleration. As Constantine I was the first Christian emperor, this also laid the foundation for the spread of Christianity throughout the empire, and eventually beyond its boundaries. The Edict of Milan is seen by some as the beginning of the spread of Christianity in its modern form, with its influence extending far beyond the borders of the Roman Empire. It continues to be the most dominant religion worldwide, and the influence of the Edict of Milan on its spread is undeniable.

Persecution of Non-Christians

Despite the Edict of Milan granting religious toleration to Christians, it did not extend to other religions. As Christianity became the state religion under Constantine I, other religions were either diminished or started to be persecuted. This was especially true of Pagans and other non-traditional religions; in many cases, they faced violence and oppression. This led to a further division between religions, and the effects are still felt today in many parts of the world.

Legacy of Diocletian

Despite his own religious tolerance, Diocletian is often remembered for his role in the Great Persecution. Nevertheless, his reign as Emperor of the Roman Empire was a period of great change and progress. He was responsible for many administrative reforms, as well as military and financial reorganizations. He also initiated the construction of the Diocletianic Palace in Split, Croatia, which is still standing today. In many ways, his reign set the stage for the further development of the Empire, and has left an indelible mark on history.

Impact of Christianity on Roman Society

The spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire had a profound impact on Roman society. It became engrained in every aspect of daily life, from art and literature to politics and economics. Its teachings provided new moral guidance on a wide range of topics, from slavery to gender relations. It also provided an organized system of belief and a sense of community, both of which had been lacking in the Roman Empire. In this way, Christianity played a major role in the further development of the Empire, and its influence is still felt today.

Role of Church Leaders

The spread of Christianity was facilitated by the emergence of powerful church leaders. These leaders helped shape the teachings of Christianity and provided structure and guidance for its followers. As such, these church leaders hold a great deal of authority and influence, both during and after the Roman Empire. They remain important figures in the history and development of Christianity, helping to maintain its popularity and relevance in modern times.

Societal Impact of Religion

As Christianity spread and took root in the Roman Empire, it had a profound impact on the structure and values of Roman society. It provided a foundation for many of the laws and customs which continue to influence western society today. For example, the Christian concept of sanctity of life is reflected in the way that societies view death and murder. Another example is the Christian view of marriage, which is still the basis of most modern legal definitions of marriage.

Persecution of Minor Christian Sects

As Christianity grew, so did its schisms and divisions. New Christian denominations were formed and these were often on the fringes of the established denominations and were sometimes seen as heretical or blasphemous. The Church and state alike would often persecute such minor sects in an effort to maintain “orthodoxy”. This persecution often led to prejudice, fear and even death, depending on the severity of the punishment. In this way, Christian sects which diverged from mainstream Christianity often met with harsh resistance.

Jennifer Johnson is an experienced author with a deep passion for exploring the spiritual traditions of different cultures and religions. She has been writing about religion and spirituality for the past ten years in both print and digital platforms, engaging readers in meaningful dialogue about the soul's journey through this life. With degrees in Comparative Religion and English Literature, she brings an insightful perspective to her work that bridges the gap between traditional knowledge and modern theories. A lifelong traveler, Jenn has lived in multiple countries exploring various paths to understanding faith, and her dedication to learning new things is palpable in every piece she creates.

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