Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Diocletian Lesson

One of my interests is Roman history. On a whim, I recently examined different accounts of the death of Diocletian, an emperor who stepped down from power to go off and grow cabbages in the countryside. Some say he died of illness. Others hint that he committed suicide. I also recall reading that he'd been beheaded by rivals who feared that he may return to power.

Hmm. There is a big difference between dying of illness and being beheaded.

Diocletian's story is a small example of the danger of trusting only one source. If students learn anything in school about research, it should be that a strong skepticism regarding sources is usually wise. You expect to get differing interpretations of events but even those facts which you might expect to be relatively solid can be illusive.


Dan Richwine said...

All of the sources are correct. Diocletian had an illness of the mind which made him commit suicide with the absurd assumption that, once having wielded absolute power, he could step down without fear from his rivals, both former and future, thereby allowing his assassination to be accomplished with ease.

Michael Wade said...