Violet at Reclusive Leftist writes in an article entitled, "Dreaming of Diocletian":
When the Roman Empire was broken, Diocletian fixed it. He completely revamped the imperial government, discarding centuries of tradition in favor of a new organizational structure designed to meet the challenges of the day. You can do stuff like that when you're an emperor. It was sort of a one-man Constitutional Convention.
I think of Diocletian whenever I contemplate the political mess in this country.
Let's make sure we understand what Diocletian did. What she calls "fixing the Roman Empire" was in fact the imposition of a new level of autocracy. The best modern equivalent would be if Putin were reunify the old Soviet Union through military force and repression. Would we celebrate this? No? Then why do we celebrate when it happened 18 centuries ago?
Certainly since Augustus, the Empire had been ruled autocratically, but there were checks on the Emperor's power, not the least of which was the fact that the Empire simply didn't have the bureaucracy or communications for real command and control governance. Further, the Emperors had at least maintained a facade, and sometimes a reality, of being a servant of the people - calling themselves Princeps , or something like the "first man."
Diocletian changed all of that. He demanded people call him Dominus and Deus, meaning Lord and God. But Lord is a poor translation of Dominus - literally dominus meant master to a slave. The Empire became a nation of slaves with one master, Diocletian. Any who approached Diocletian for audience had to approach on hands and knees with face averted. If Diocletian ruled in ones favor, he was allowed to crawl on hands and knees and kiss the hem of the Emporer's tunic.
Diocletian was faced with an enormous economic problem - the debasement of a currency by generations of emperors who spent more than they had (sounds familiar). Instead of forcing the hard changes to re-establish a sound currency, Diocletian dealt with the rampant inflation from the debased currency by setting maximum prices for every good and service in the Empire, with violations punishable by death.
When the inevitable shortages occurred (as happen whenever the government enforces a price ceiling), Diocletian dealt with the shortages by forcing key businessmen (bakers, sausage makers, etc.) to remain in business (can you say directive 10-289?) Further, he mandated that all children of these men must remain in the same profession perpetually. If your father was a baker, by law you were to be one as well. He also did this for a number of underpaid government jobs that no one wanted - making them hereditary so people of the future would be forced to fill them.
Diocletian also had a tax problem. Much of his taxes came from property taxes on farm land. The tax was attached as a fixed amount to certain pieces of land. When those values got too high, the occupants abandoned the land and moved to the city, and no one was there to pay the tax. Diocletian took a census and forced peasants to return to the land of their birthplace, and forced them to remain in perpetuity on certain plots of land and then pay the taxes on that land to the government (eventually these taxes morphed into rents to the local government noble in charge).
If you see the origins of much of the worst of the middle ages in all of this -- serfs tied to the land, paying rents to the master, with hereditary professional guilds in the towns -- you are not far off.
When I dream of Diocletian, all I get is a nightmare.
PS- Which is really what the quoted author wants, some sort of fascism by females.