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I have always been impressed by the elegance, symmetry (and relative modesty) of the tetrarchy founded by Roman emperor Diocletian (245 - 316). Is it something that was invented at the time or does the system draw directly on earlier precedent?

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The Judean tetrachy is something completely different - it's just a Roman term for a division of a big independent country to smaller principalities whose rulers are easier to control. These rulers do not form a college and are just a set of puppets for the central Roman authority. – Felix Goldberg Oct 14 '13 at 9:03
@FelixGoldberg Yes, that's also my reading of the Wikipedia article. Please feel free to edit the question if you feel this should be further emphasized (based on the linked article or other sources). – Drux Oct 14 '13 at 9:48
I'd rather omit mention of Judea altogether - are you ok with that? – Felix Goldberg Oct 14 '13 at 10:08
That's fine with me. I had put it in to preclude answers that would just lift it from the Wikipedia article. – Drux Oct 14 '13 at 10:13

I don't know of any other college of leadership without any ties of family anywhere else in Roman history or any other culture. It would seem to have been Diocletian's creation, fit to the conditions of the crisis of the time, so that the other three leaders would be too busy sustaining the empire to worry about anything else.

The virtually instant collapse of the system on Diocletian's retirement is a good indicator that it needed both Diocletian and the crisis to work. Once both were even slightly out of the picture it did nothing but encourage a series of civil wars.

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The virtually instant collapse is evidence that ancient governments, like modern governments, were adroit at establishing solutions that bore no relation to the problem, relied on the charisma and leadership of the governors, and created a new class of problems that could only be solved by more, larger, governments. However Diocletion did manage to come up with an economic system that was a disaster unmatched for several millenia. – Mark C. Wallace Nov 7 '13 at 18:55
I wouldn't go that far - the Tetrarchy was enirely successful at solving the problem it was created to solve. The long term issues would have been moot if the Empire had collapsed 200 years earlier than it actually did. It isn't like the 'economic system' of the Dark Ages was any better. – Oldcat Nov 7 '13 at 19:02
I disagree - the economic system of the dark ages was vastly superior. Diocletion's economic system is the only system that I think is worse than the gold standard. Multiple, legally non-convertable currencies, unmanaged devaluation of the currency, and a vision far beyond the ability of the existing bureaucracy to fulfill. Diocletion planned his governance and his economics for a world full of Diocletians; we live in a world full of lesser beings. – Mark C. Wallace Nov 7 '13 at 20:08
So no currency, no trade and a bunch of German invaders taking your land by force is way better? – Oldcat Nov 7 '13 at 21:33
LOL. did you forget about consuls? – Anixx Nov 8 '13 at 2:59

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