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He defeated the Sarmatians and Carpi during several campaigns between 285 and 299, the Alamanni in 288, and usurpers in Egypt between 297 and 298.
Galerius, aided by Diocletian, campaigned successfully against Sassanid Persia, the empire's traditional enemy. Diocletian led the subsequent negotiations and achieved a lasting and favorable peace.
In spite of these failures and challenges, Diocletian's reforms fundamentally changed the structure of Roman imperial government and helped stabilize the empire economically and militarily, enabling the empire to remain essentially intact for another 150 years despite being near the brink of collapse in Diocletian's youth.
Weakened by illness, Diocletian left the imperial office on 1 May 305, and became the first Roman emperor to abdicate the position voluntarily.
Augustus, the first Emperor, had nominally shared power with his colleagues, and more formal offices of Co-Emperor had existed from Marcus Aurelius on.
Most recently, Emperor Carus and his sons had ruled together, albeit unsuccessfully.
Diocletian dated his reign from his elevation by the army, not the date of his ratification by the Senate, However, Diocletian was to offer proof of his deference towards the Senate by retaining Aristobulus as ordinary consul and colleague for 285 (one of the few instances during the Late Empire in which an emperor admitted a privatus as his colleague) The concept of dual rulership was nothing new to the Roman Empire.
From at least 297 on, imperial taxation was standardized, made more equitable, and levied at generally higher rates.
Not all of Diocletian's plans were successful: the Edict on Maximum Prices (301), his attempt to curb inflation via price controls, was counterproductive and quickly ignored.
He lived out his retirement in his palace on the Dalmatian coast, tending to his vegetable gardens.
His palace eventually became the core of the modern-day city of Split in Croatia.
Diocles' parents were of low status, and writers critical of him claimed that his father was a scribe or a freedman of the senator Anullinus, or even that Diocles was a freedman himself.