A coin of Diocletian shows him as a heroic but non-military figure, depicted in the classical tradition.
The statue shows a different view of Diocletian and his fellow Tetrachs: depending on your preconceptions, they look "barbaric" or "medieval." We should remember, however, that at the beginning of the fourth century, it was Rome that set military fashions in the "barbarian" world, and not vice-versa.
An important aspect of the statuary portrait is that it was designed to demonstrate the soldierly solidarity of Rome's ruling junta. The peace of the later Roman world rode on the unanimity of the imperial college. Division among the emperors was the greatest danger facing the state.
Coin portrait of Diocletian
Statuary group of the Tetrachs in military dress
Back to text.