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Diocletian secured the empire's borders and purged it of all threats to his power.
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.
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.
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.
Bureaucratic and military growth, constant campaigning, and construction projects increased the state's expenditures and necessitated a comprehensive tax reform.
From at least 297 on, imperial taxation was standardized, made more equitable, and levied at generally higher rates.
The first time Diocletian's whereabouts are accurately established, in 282, he was made by the newly Emperor Carus commander of the Protectores domestici, the élite cavalry force directly attached to the Imperial household – a post that earned him the honor of a consulship in 283.
After the deaths of Carus and his son Numerian on campaign in Persia, Diocletian was proclaimed emperor.
The title was also claimed by Carus' other surviving son, Carinus, but Diocletian defeated him in the Battle of the Margus.
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.