Similar means of compelling stability were used in industry. Labor was “frozen” to its job, forbidden to pass from one shop to another without governmental consent. Each collegium or guild was bound to its trade and its assigned task, and no man might leave the guild in which he had been enrolled. Membership in one guild or another was made compulsory on all persons engaged in commerce and industry; and the son was required to follow the trade of his father. When any man wished to leave his place or occupation for another, the state reminded him that Italy was in a state of siege by the barbarians, and that every man must stay at his post.
In the year 305, in impressive ceremonies at Nicomedia and Milan, Diocletian and Maximian abdicated their power, and Galerius and Constantius Chlorus became Augusti, emperors respectively of the East and the West. Diocletian, still but fifty-five years of age, lost himself in his immense palace at Spalato, spent there the remaining eight years of his life, and saw without interference the breakdown of his tetrarchy in civil war. When Maximian urged him to return to power and end the strife, he replied that if Maximian could see the excellent cabbages he was growing in his garden he would not ask him to sacrifice such content for the pursuit and cares of power. He deserved his cabbages and his rest. He had ended a half century of anarchy, had re-established government and law, had restored stability to industry and security to trade, had tamed Persia and stilled the barbarians, and, despite a few murders, had been, all in all, a sincere legislator and a just judge. It is true that he had established an expensive bureaucracy, had ended local autonomy, had punished opposition harshly, had persecuted the church that might have been a helpful ally in his healing work, and had turned the population of the Empire into a caste society with an unlettered peasantry at one end and an absolute monarch at the other. But the conditions that Rome faced would not permit liberal policies; Marcus Aurelius and Alexander Severus had tried these and failed. Confronted by enemies on every side, the Roman state did what all nations must do in crucial wars; it accepted the dictatorship of a strong leader, taxed itself beyond tolerance, and put individual liberty aside until collective liberty was secured. Diocletian had, with more cost but under harder circumstances, repeated the achievement of Augustus. His contemporaries and his posterity, mindful of what they had escaped, called him the “Father of the Golden Age.” Constantine entered the house that Diocletian built.