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A PROPHECY FULFILLED
SEVERAL other emperors succeeded Tacitus at short
intervals, and all died violent deaths after very brief
reigns. Finally the army called Diocletian, an
Illyrian soldier, to the throne.
It seems that a northern priestess had once foretold
that Diocletian would gain the Roman throne when he
had "killed the boar." All the people at this time
were more or less superstitious, so Diocletian spent
much time hunting. But, although he killed many
boars, he was not for a long time named Emperor.
Now the two emperors who came before Diocletian were
murdered by a burly soldier named Aper, a Latin
 word meaning "boar." Some of the legions then elected
Diocletian to this office; and he, wishing to punish
the murderer for his double crime, struck Aper down
with his own hand.
His soldiers were familiar with the prophecy of the
priestess, and they now cried that he would surely gain
the throne, because he had killed the Boar. True
enough, Diocletian's only rival was soon slain, and he
was declared emperor by all the Romans.
Diocletian, however, found that the Roman Empire was
too large and hard to govern for a single ruler. He
therefore made his friend Maximian associate
emperor. Then he said that Galerius and
Constantius should be called Cæsars, and gave them
also a portion of the empire to govern. These four
Roman rulers had their capitals at Nicomedia, Milan,
Sirmium, and Treves; and now a new epoch begins, with
Rome no longer the central point of the government.
Diocletian remained the head and acknowledged leader
and adviser of the other rulers. But his reign was
troubled by invasions of the barbarians, a war in
Persia, and a persecution of the Christians,—the
worst and bloodiest that had yet been known.
A lover of solitude and simplicity, Diocletian soon
tired of the imperial life. Therefore, when he felt
that his strength no longer permitted him to serve the
people, he withdrew to a quiet retreat in his native
city of Salona, where he spent his last eight years
in growing vegetables for his amusement.
As Maximian had retired at the same time as Diocletian,
the Roman Empire was now divided between Galerius and
 Constantius, who were known as emperors of the East and
of the West, respectively. Constantius, having
obtained the West for his share, went to Britain to
suppress a revolt. He died at York, and his son
Constantine became emperor in his stead.
Constantine's claim to the empire was disputed by
several rivals; but the strongest among them was
Maxentius, who ruled Italy and had a large army. On
his way to meet him, Constantine became a Christian,
thanks to a miracle which the ancient writers relate
about as follows.
At noontide, on the day before his battle with
Maxentius, Constantine and his army were startled by a
brilliant cross, which suddenly appeared in the sky.
Around the cross were the Greek words meaning, "By this
 Constantine was so moved by this vision that he made a
vow to become a Christian if he won the victory. He
also ordered a new standard, called a Labarum, which
bore the cross, and the inscription he had seen in the
skies. This was always carried before him in battle.
Arch of Constantine.
The two armies met near Rome. Maxentius was defeated,
and Constantine entered the city in triumph. In memory
of his victory a fine arch was built, which is standing
still, and is always called the Arch of Constantine.