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Carinus quickly made his way to Rome from his post in Gaul as imperial commissioner and arrived there by January 284, becoming legitimate Emperor in the West. The Sassanid king Bahram II could not field an army against them as he was still struggling to establish his authority.

Born to a family of low status in Dalmatia, Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become Roman cavalry commander to the Emperor Carus.After the deaths of Carus and his son Numerian on campaign in Persia, Diocletian was proclaimed emperor.Building on third-century trends towards absolutism, he styled himself an autocrat, elevating himself above the empire's masses with imposing forms of court ceremonies and architecture.Bureaucratic and military growth, constant campaigning, and construction projects increased the state's expenditures and necessitated a comprehensive tax reform.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.

Diocletian separated and enlarged the empire's civil and military services and reorganized the empire's provincial divisions, establishing the largest and most bureaucratic government in the history of the empire.

He established new administrative centres in Nicomedia, Mediolanum, Sirmium, and Trier, closer to the empire's frontiers than the traditional capital at Rome.

Diocletian may have become involved in battles against the Quadi and Marcomanni immediately after the Battle of the Margus.

He eventually made his way to northern Italy and made an imperial government, but it is not known whether he visited the city of Rome at this time.

He lived out his retirement in his palace on the Dalmatian coast, tending to his vegetable gardens.