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He appointed fellow officer Maximian as Augustus, co-emperor, in 286.Diocletian delegated further on 1 March 293, appointing Galerius and Constantius as Caesars, junior co-emperors.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.The first forty years of his life are mostly obscure.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.
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.
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.
By March 284, Numerian had only reached Emesa (Homs) in Syria; by November, only Asia Minor.
Although effective while he ruled, Diocletian's tetrarchic system collapsed after his abdication under the competing dynastic claims of Maxentius and Constantine, sons of Maximian and Constantius respectively.
The Diocletianic Persecution (303–11), the empire's last, largest, and bloodiest official persecution of Christianity, failed to eliminate Christianity in the empire; indeed, after 324, Christianity became the empire's preferred religion under its first Christian emperor, Constantine. 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.