Archaeologists working on a site on a private property in the centre of Bulgaria’s second city Plovdiv have found a stone with an inscription praising Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was in power from 284 to 305 CE.
In unofficial translation, the inscription reads: “To our master, the most devout Gaius Valerius Diocletianus, a happy, invincible Augustus. Dedicated by the sublime Emilius Alexander, governor of the province of Thrace, devoted to his divinity”.
Archaeologist Elena Bozhinova of Plovdiv’s Regional Archaeological Museum told local media that the inscription had been on a massive block, “probably a pedestal of a very large statue, perhaps the emperor on a horse”.
In time, however, this act of brown-nosing the imperial boss would have a less splendid place. In mediaeval times, the stone was recycled to be used as a part of a wall. Sic transit gloria mundi, and all that.
Emilius Alexander was rather keen on letting various emperors know how enthusiastic he was about them. Other inscriptions dedicated to emperors have been found at the Augusta Trayana site in Stara Zagora, and in the early 20th century, at the village of Voden.
Emperor Diocletian was born, in humble circumstances, in the year 244 in Salona, in what today is Croatia. As emperor, he conducted a number of successful military campaigns, though two of his campaigns were doomed to failure – one, an edict against inflation, the other, a notoriously brutal campaign from 303 to 311 against Christians. Thirteen years after Diocletian’s death, one of his successors, Constantine, became the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. Not only that, Diocletian’s mausoleum was converted into a Christian church, the cathedral of St Domnius, which still stands today in the Croatian city of Split.
Diocletian abdicated in 305, on the grounds of ill-health, and retired to his native Dalmatia. He died at the age of 66 in Aspalathos, today’s Split.