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Diocletian and the Roman Recovery (Roman Imperial Biographies) [Paperback]

Stephen Williams
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 10, 1996 0415918278 978-0415918275 Reprint
First published in 1997. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.

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Diocletian and the Roman Recovery (Roman Imperial Biographies) + The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine + Aurelian and the Third Century (Roman Imperial Biographies)
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Editorial Reviews


"Stephen Williams is not a professional Roman historian, but he is certainly an expert, and his view of Diocletian is original and convincing. ... [He] is an equitable and balanced historian and I think one can rely on him." -- Peter Levi

"This biography is never dull, for the author writes with considerable style, and he has the ability to turn a neat phrase." -- James E. Seaver History Reviews of New Books

"This is the first biography of Diocletian in English and is written both for students of history and politics and for general readers." -- The Bloomsbury Review USE

"[Williams] has performed a valuable service for the profession as well as for the general reader ... his judgment of particular matters is invariably sound, and the book is a well-written synthesis." -- American Historical Review USE

About the Author

Stephen Williams is a freelance writer. His most recent book is Theodosius: The Empire at Bay.

Product Details

  • Series: Roman Imperial Biographies
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; Reprint edition (December 10, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415918278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415918275
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,373,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful July 30, 2000
The first English language biography on Diocletion and a very well written one at that. Stephen Williams is not a professional Roman historian instead he is a professor of philosophy and therin lays the books strength. Williams writes for the enthusiastic Roman buff and the general reader. Instead of quoting ancient historians ad nauseum and going off on tangents he gets to the meat of the matter. How Diocletion and his fellow emperors were able to pull the empire back from total collapse. He gives detailed explanations as to what was occurring in the Empire during the 3rd Century and why. He isn't afraid to offer his own theories where our knowledge of events are sketchy and he always keeps the book moving along at a brisk pace. I especially enjoyed the final chapter where he covers the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century. It's well written with a detailed description of what occurred and why. He also contrast the collapse of the West with the survival of the Eastern Empire. Wonderful book for the layman, student, and perhaps even the expert.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LOTS of Information May 13, 2003
This is a well-written, fact-filled book that should be considered a must-read to any serious student of the Late Roman Empire. Diocletian has been given scant attention by Classical scholars but his stabilization of the Empire was vital for two reasons: it preserved the entire Empire for nearly 170 years after his retirement and laid the foundations for the Eastern Empire that survived until 1453 c.e.
There is also great attention given to Diocletian's separation of himself as Emperor from the Roman Army and Roman politicians. Williams lucidly points out this is the beginning of Western Civilization's "Divine Right of Kings," and the foundation of Medieval kingship. Diocletian established this separation order to secure his personal safety.
Diocletian's retirement is also given considerable attention. His retirement palace at Split is discussed in some detail. Also, the attempt of Galerius and Maximian to drag him back into politics, which he completely refused. Finally, the rather sad depiction of him as a marginalized relic who had to ask old army friends for favors in order to help secure temporary safety for his family (who were eventually murdered).
This is a great book but its great detail may overwhelm the arm-chair historian. Williams deserves many cudos for his work in bringing about the first English biography of Diocletian in some time.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read! March 16, 2000
I read this for my History of the Roman Empire class and found to be an excellent book. Williams has an exceptionally clear writing style that is very easy to follow. He uses both modern and classical sources to bring to life the reign of Diocletian, an Illyrian general who through sheer personality and military discipline was able to restore the old boundries of the Roman Empire. Williams' explanations of the economic reforms of Diocletian, as well as the restructuring of the old Roman provinces into military diocese that were able to contain the unromanized barbarians is the best explanation of these events I've read. I checked this book out from the library and I'm still considering buying a copy, I enjoyed it so much. If only all history books were this well written!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I bought this book as an afterthought. I ordered the book on Septimius Severus,and something prompted me to get this one too. I must say, after trying to grind through the book on Severus, I picked this one up and flew right through it. It is well written, and easy to follow. It explains many questions I had about the later days of the Empire. I have since given it to my well read mother, and she enjoyed it as well. If you want to understand Constanine, and the start of the Roman Catholic Church, you must read about Diocletian.

Diocletian was an amazing man. He was able to stabilize the Empire under the utmost strain. He really shouldnt have been successful, but through force of character, he was.

He reminded me of George C. Marshall of all people. Strong, solid, wise and very well respected by all around him. A man so serious and mature, that all those around him stopped and listened. Only such a man could have done what he did.

It also explains the persecution of Christians under his watch. A dark side of his rule. A very enjoyable book.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
I enjoyed this book. I came away from it with a radically new appreciation of Diocletian's contributions to preserving the Roman empire. The structural reforms set in motion by this soldier emporer laid the foundations not only for an empire that continued until the fall of Constantinople, but for a church whose triumph absolutely depended on them. The book left me wondering who the brains behind these important constitutional, governmental, economic and military reforms were. Obviously Diocletian must be credited with approving these innovations, and for seeing them solidly put in place. However, I doubt if the emperor, busy with beating back enemies on all frontiers, is solely responsible for such complex and far reaching reforms. Matthews ignores this aspect of Diocletian's reforms. I was turned off by the author's seeming flights of fancy regarding the inmost thoughts and motives of his hero. Matthews would have served this reviewer better by keeping to the facts and by extrapoliting from them without excessive creativity. This book is well written and researched. It is not an academic exercise, but a stimulating analysis of a man maligned by christians ever since, but to whom they owe the earthly glory of their church.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely first-rate popular history of a turning point
This is one of the best Roman history books I have ever read and I have read a lot of them. It analyses in great, yet never exhaustively boring, detail, what a fundamental... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Robert J. Crawford
4.0 out of 5 stars Diocletian the Recoverer
I found this book to be a well written book about Diocletian and the rulers of the first Tetrarchy. The book is essentially structured in five parts: The first part is how... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Marcel Dupasquier
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on Diocletian I've yet read
Because Paul's Greek meter in Ephesians 1:10 focuses on Diocletian as the cause of Constantine and Constantine as the cause of Roman Catholicism (long story why, I'm doing videos... Read more
Published on June 20, 2012 by brainout
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent account of a much maligned Emperor, of his troubled times...
First posted on on 28 December 2012

This is certainly one of the best biographies of a Roman Emperor that I have ever read, but it is also much more than... Read more
Published on March 9, 2012 by JPS
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
I like this book,gr8 analysis,i tried to search for the biography of the writer,but i couldn't find.
Published on November 2, 2010 by Mira
5.0 out of 5 stars KINDLE DIOCLETIAN
Diocletian Needs recognition and I believe Kindle would be very helpful.
I sell Diocletian Coins and his coins have started to literally disappeared. Read more
Published on August 14, 2010 by A. Kalman
4.0 out of 5 stars A Solid analysis of a complex time
The calamitous third century almost saw the collapse of the Roman Empire. Not only did the emerging Sassanid Empire become a dominant threat, even capturing Antioch in the first... Read more
Published on June 7, 2009 by CRT
4.0 out of 5 stars Great piece of history
Diocletian is probably not the most popular of the Roman emperors, but definitely one of the most influential. Read more
Published on August 16, 2008 by Massimo Carli
2.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read
Like Williams' Theodosian work, this book is an easy read that more or less sums up what previous scholarship without new analysis. Read more
Published on July 31, 2001 by "drhathoway"
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