Diocletian was Emperor of Rome from November 20 284 to March 1, 305, when he abdicated due to illness. As Emperor he was known as Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus Augustus but was born with the name Diocles, near Spalatum (modern Split) in Dalmatia. His father was the scribe for a wealthy senator and may have been a freedman.
Diocletian rose through the ranks of the Roman military, eventually becoming Emperor along with a junior co-ruler Maximian. His importance as a figure in Church history is as the instigator of a the Great Persecution of Christians which produced many martyrs. His wife, knwon historical as Prisca but in Christian tradition Alexandra, was among these martyrs. He increased the cult of the Emperor, calling himself the son of Jove, and tried to revive the worship of the Roman gods.
In about 297 an edict was made that all soldiers and Imperial officials must sacrifice to the gods - failure to do so resulted in dismissal.
Diocletian issued four edicts against Christian. The first, issued on February 24 303, forbid Christian assemblies, order the Church buildings and Holy Scriptures to be burned. Christians in the Roman government were reduced to slavery and pagan sacrifice required to be done at court. Any Christians who resisted were to subjected to torture and imprisonment. The second edict was issued in summer of that year ordering all Christian clergy to sacrifice on pain of torture and imprisonment. The third edict was issued on the 20th November (Diocletian's Vicennalia). Diocletian promised amnesty to any Christian who performed a pagan sacrifice. The fourth and final edict was issued early the following year (304 A.D.) and demanded that all inhabitants of the Roman Empire were to offer sacrifice or else suffer torture and death.