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Building on third-century trends towards absolutism, he styled himself an autocrat, elevating himself above the empire's masses with imposing forms of court ceremonies and architecture.
Bureaucratic and military growth, constant campaigning, and construction projects increased the state's expenditures and necessitated a comprehensive tax reform.
Augustus, the first Emperor, had nominally shared power with his colleagues, and more formal offices of Co-Emperor had existed from Marcus Aurelius on.
Diocletian dated his reign from his elevation by the army, not the date of his ratification by the Senate, However, Diocletian was to offer proof of his deference towards the Senate by retaining Aristobulus as ordinary consul and colleague for 285 (one of the few instances during the Late Empire in which an emperor admitted a privatus as his colleague) The concept of dual rulership was nothing new to the Roman Empire.
Born to a family of low status in Dalmatia, Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become Roman cavalry commander to the Emperor Carus.
After the deaths of Carus and his son Numerian on campaign in Persia, Diocletian was proclaimed emperor.
Diocletian may have become involved in battles against the Quadi and Marcomanni immediately after the Battle of the Margus.
He eventually made his way to northern Italy and made an imperial government, but it is not known whether he visited the city of Rome at this time.